March 05, 2014
What does a performance index represent?
I know this may be a tough question to answer, but thought I'd at least give it a try.
I'm doing an analysis to possibly upgrade our production 959KS/100 system to a 979KS/200, and I see the Hewlett-Packard performance metric chart that tells me we go from a 4.6 to 14.6. What does that increase represent? For instance, does each whole number (like 4.0 to 5.0) represent a general percentage increase in performance? I know it varies from one shop to another, so I'm just looking for a general guideline or personal experience -- like a job that used to take 10 hours to run now only takes 7 hours. The "personal experience" part of this may not even be appropriate, in that the upgrades may not be close to the metrics I am looking at.
Peter Eggers offers this reply, still worthy after several years
Those performance numbers are multiples of a popular system way back when, based on an average application mix as determined by HP after monitoring some systems and probably some system logs of loads on customer systems. No information here as to where you are on the many performance bell curves. The idea is to balance your system resources to match your application load, with enough of a margin to get you through to the next hardware upgrade.
People mention system and application tuning. You have to weigh time spent tuning and expected resource savings against the cost of an upgrade with the system and applications as is. Sometimes you can gain amazing savings with minor changes and little time spent. Don't forget to add in time to test, QA, and admin time for change management.
There are a many things to consider: CPU speed and any on chip caching; memory cache(s) size and speed; main memory size and speed; number of I/O channels and bandwidth; online communication topography, bandwidth, and strategy; online vs. batch priorities, and respective time slices; database and file design, access, locking, and cache hit strategies; application efficiency, tightening loops to fit memory caches, and compiler optimizations; and system load leveling.
Since you didn't understand the performance numbers, you might hire a good performance consultant that knows the HP 3000. Of course, look for the "low hanging fruit" fruit first for the biggest bang for the buck, and continue "up the tree" until you lose a net positive return on time invested.
You'll also hear it mentioned that adding memory won't help if the system is IO-bound. That is typically not the case, as more memory means more caching which can help eliminate IOs by retrieving data from cache, sometimes with dramatic improvements. This highlights the need for a good performance guru -- as it is easy to get lost in the details, or not be able to see "the big picture" and how it all fits together.
Aside from Eggers' advice, we take note of the last time HP rated its 3000 line.
At HP World in 2002, it announced the final new 3000 systems, all based upon the PA-8700 processors. At the high end, HP announced a new N-Class system based upon the 750 MHz PA-8700 processor. The new N4000-400-750 was the first HP e3000 to achieve an MPE/iX Relative Performance Units (MRPU) rating of 100; the Series 918 has an MRPU of 1.
HP contends that the MRPU is the only valid way to measure the relative performance of MPE systems. In particular, they maintain that the MHz rating is not a valid measure of relative performance, though they continue to use virtual MHz numbers for systems with software-crippled processors. For example, there are no 380 MHz or 500 MHz PA-RISC processors. Unfortunately, the MRPU does not allow for the comparison of the HP e3000 with other systems, even the HP 9000.
HP has changed the way it rates systems three times over the life of the HP 3000. During the middle years, the Series 918 was the standard with a rating of 1. In 1998, HP devised a new measurement standard for the systems it was introducing that no longer had the Series 918 at 1. It is under this new system that the N4000-400-750 is rated at 100. Applying a correction factor, AICS Research has rated the N4000-400-750 at 76.8 relative to the Series 918’s rating of 1.
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February 27, 2014
Unix-Integrity business keeps falling at HP
Numbers reported by Hewlett-Packard for its just-ended quarter show the company's making something of a rebound in some areas. One analyst said to CEO Meg Whitman that she'd been at the helm of the company for three-and-a-half years, and she had to correct him during the financial briefing last week.
"Actually, I've been here two-and-a-half years," Whitman said. "Sometimes it feels like three-and-a-half, but I've been here two-and-a-half years."
It's been a long 30 months with many changes for the vendor which still offers migration solutions to 3000 customers making a transition. But one thing that hasn't changed a bit is the trajectory of the company's Unix server business. Just as it has over each of the previous six quarters, sales and profits from the Business Critical Systems fell. Once again, the BCS combination of Integrity and HP-UX reported a decline in sales upwards of 15 percent from the prior fiscal year's quarter. This time it was 25 percent lower than Q1 of 2013. That makes 2014 the fourth straight year where BCS numbers have been toted up as lower.
"We continued to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex.
"We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future."In a small victory among the runaway slide of HP-UX and Integrity sales, Whitman predicted that HP will pick up two points of market share in the business critical system marketplace.
"Listen, we are turning the enterprise group around," Whitman said. "You can see it in the success in ISS revenues, as well as networking and storage. We've still got more work to do on the margins. When you consider the significant headwind of the declining BCS business, the technology services operating profit performance was strong. Business critical systems continues to be impacted by a declining Unix market. BCS revenue declined 25 percent year-over-year, to $228 million."
As a marker of how small a slice that's become at HP, consider that the profits alone from HP's lending operations were more than $100 million. And the ISS revenues are 15 times higher than Integrity, at $3.2 billion.
Total HP revenues for the quarter were $28.2 billion, down 0.7 percent year-over-year and up 0.3 percent in constant currency. Total profits were HP's been stuck on $28 billion quarters since 2013. Whitman said the company has been in pivot mode "to the new style of intellectual property, around investment in innovation."
I think we've been hard at work on doing a lot of things that are going to position us as this industry continues to go through some very challenging changes. The pace of change and the magnitude of change here is as great as I've seen in my career. I think we're reasonably well positioned take advantage of those changes.
Changes in business are dictating new outlooks for older businesses at HP. It's always been that way at the vendor which cut off its 3000 futures during a post-merger closeout of product lines.
"We have businesses that are declining businesses," Whitman told the analysts, who were sometimes complimentary of where she's leading the company over the two-plus years. "We understand where the declining businesses are, we understand what we need to do with them. We've got businesses that are holding in terms of revenue, and then we've got growth businesses."
What's growing at HP will be getting whatever investment and energy the company can manage. "We have pivoted investment," Whitman said. "We've pivoted people. We've pivoted go-to-market to those growth areas in the company."
January 31, 2014
The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard
It's the final day of HP's Q1 for 2014, so in about three weeks we'll know how the company has fared in its turnaround. Analyst sites are rating the stock as a hold, or giving the company a C+ rating. It's instructive to see how much has changed from the final quarter when 3000 customers sent measurable revenues to Hewlett-Packard.
That would be the Q1 of 2009, including the final two months of HP's regular systems support sales of November-December of 2008. At the end of '08 HP closed its MPE/iX and 3000 lab. And without a lab, there was no way business critical support would offer much of an incentive to keep HP's support in a 3000 shop's IT budget.
The customers' shake-off of HP's support revenue didn't happen immediately, of course. People had signed multi-year contracts for support with the vendor. But during the start of this financial period of five years ago, there was no clear reason to expect HP to be improve for MPE/iX, even in dire circumstances. Vintage support was the only product left to buy for a 3000 through the end of 2010.
In Q1 of 2009, HP reported $28.2 billion in total sales. In its latest quarter, that number was $29.1 billion. Nearly five years have delivered only $900 million in extra sales per quarter, despite swallowing up EDS and its 140,000 consultants and billions in sales, or purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of outside companies like Autonomy.
In January of 2009, HP 3000 revenues were even more invisible than the Business Critical Systems revenues of today. But BCS totals back then were still skidding by 15-20 percent per quarter, 20 quarters ago. And even in 2009, selling these alternatives to an HP 3000 was generating only 4 percent of the Enterprise Server group's sales. Yes, all of enterprise servers made up 2.5 percent of the 2009 HP Q1. But that hardware and networking is the short tail of the beast that was HP's server business, including the 3000. Support is the long tail, one that stretched to the end of 2008 for MPE, more than seven years HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans.
It's easy to say that the HP 3000 meant a lot to HP's fortunes. In a way it certainly did, because there was no significant business computing product line until MPE started to get stable in 1974. But the profits really didn't flow off the hardware using that 20th Century model. Support was the big earner, as the mob says of anybody who returns profits to the head of the organization. HP 3000 support was always a good earner, right up to the time HP closed down those labs and sent its wizards packing, or into other company divisions.
It had been a small business all along, this HP 3000. A billion dollars was a great quarter's worth, and the 3000 division never came close. But all of HP's business critical servers together only managed $700 million in sales -- five years ago. The profits from such customers were only significant because of support relationships. This is why those contracts were the last thing HP terminated.
This eventually became a good thing for the stalwart support companies that remained by the 3000 manager's side. At least there was no HP to quote against a company like Pivital Solutions that specializes in real MPE/iX support, for example. No vendor claims of "we can engineer a patch or software fix" that a system vendor uses to retain a customer. By January of '09, HP Support took on the remaining 3000 operations and briefed customers but offered no clue on how much contact the community might expect from support. HP's community liaison to the 3000, its business manager and lab experts departed.
The final months of 2008, which made up that very last HP 3000 quarter, capped a year with many months of no information whatsoever from the vendor. HP didn't appear eager to address much except the migration nuances still available to companies leaving the platform. To nobody's genuine suprise, Hewlett-Packard wasn't winning much migration business from 3000 customers making a transition.
We know that's true because of a report from Stromays during 2010. Sometime during 2008, HP re-established contact with the only company that made a concerted effort to emulate an HP 3000. According to Stromasys CTO Dr. Robert Boers, three out of every four departing 3000 sites chose a non-HP environment. And without MPE/iX to support, the only money a former 3000 owner would be sending -- if they were pragmatic, and not incensed -- would've been for HP's Intel-based Proliants, running Windows.
The quarters of 2009 and 2010 might have eked out a bit of revenue from 3000 owners. Some were determined to purchase the HP support that had no hope of fixing problems via new engineering. But HP was not encouraging this by the final months of Q1, 2009
HP strongly recommends that customers request all available PowerPatches and SW Media that they may need for the remainder of the life of their e3000 systems, before December 31, 2008. Customers under Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering (MPS w/o SE) can still request PowerPatches and SW Media during the remainder of the Limited Support Extension, through their local HP Representative or Contract Administrator; however, processing and delivery time may vary.
The one and only source of revenue today from the HP 3000 community to HP -- something that will comprise a scant trickle of cash -- is the $432 license transfers, still in place after five years to enable an emulator to replace a 3000.
The HP Software License Transfer process will continue to be used in the event an HP customer wishes to transfer an existing MPE/iX Right-To-Use (RTU) license from a valid e3000 system to an emulation platform of the customer’s choice that runs on other licensed HP products. It will be a system-to-system transfer, regardless of the number of CPUs on the destination platform.
Even in the situation of forcing companies off a server that was working, Hewlett-Packard attempted to keep them on hardware "that runs on other licensed HP products." Classy to the end. HP signed off in January of 2009 with a thanks for all the fish message, urging everybody to get to a lifeboat. But few of the boats would be flying an HP flag, despite these lyrical hopes.
Finally, we want to take this opportunity to thank OpenMPE, Interex, Encompass, and Connect for their dedication to customer advocacy over the years, our HP e3000 ISVs, tools, and support partners that have contributed a rich set of products and services on top of MPE/iX for our customers, and our migration service and tools partners for their invaluable services and products in assisting our customers with their migrations to other HP solutions. Most of all, our sincere thanks to our valued customers. HP looks forward to continuing to provide our customers the best-in-class services and the opportunity to serve you with other HP products.
January 13, 2014
HP to surf legacy OS onto new platform
HP's Unix customers aren't so lucky, but the companies that rely on the NonStop OS have been told they're getting an x86-ready version of their fault-tolerant environment.
“No matter what HP NonStop hardware architecture you choose, you will continue to get 100 percent NonStop value that makes what you do truly matter,” CEO Meg Whitman explained to the installed base. It's a message that might make an HP-UX customer wonder if what they're doing, strictly on Itanium hardware, will truly matter.
What matters to HP is the stickiness of the NonStop customer. They demonstrate the same kind of product and company loyalty that the 3000 customer did, at least until HP announced the end of its MPE business. Technically, there are possibilities for c7000 blades to run the environment first released when Jim Treybig left HP to form Tandem.
There are no promises here, and no roadmap for release of this transitional product. It's much further out than the reality of running MPE/iX on Intel servers -- and that Stromasys solution won't require special Intel hardware from HP. But it's more of a future than the OpenVMS and HP-UX enterprise customers are facing.NonStop is in heavy use in the banking industry, and the dollars it brings to Hewlett-Packard are rich with profits. There's never been a transition that HP has managed to sweep a legacy -- sorry, proprietary -- OS like NonStop onto the wave of commodity hardware. MPE/iX got its marching papers, HP-UX was kept on the Itanium leash, OpenVMS was leashed until last year -- when its customers learned the OS was going to freeze on the current generation of Itanium chips.
But it's possible that this vendor is finally seeing a way to model another kind of migration, one that delivers more options to a customer instead of declining levels of support and relevance. A broad-brush HP document that waves the flag toward the future is online. NonStop is about three years younger than MPE/iX, and it's been a part of HP since the Compaq acquisition of 12 years ago.
This is what choice might have looked like for three other HP-owned operating systems. It's also the first significant product announcement that could have an impact on the careening fortunes of the Business Critical Systems group. If there's going to be a migration in the future for this group of business computer customers, HP would rather see the transition from one set of hardware with an HP badge to another.
December 30, 2013
2013 emboldened 3000 changes for both migration and homesteading practices
As a service to readers who crave summary and broad strokes, we hearby sketch what the year 2013 meant to the 3000 community. It's too much of a cliche to say that the previous 12 months were driven by change. That's been an essential element for the community since 2001. But a dozen years has now spread changes onto the migrating community member, as well as those who have made their mission one to homestead.
The HP 3000 CHARON emulator from Stromasys showed more promise this year, but some of its impact lay in the way it held migrations in check without even being deployed. Another factor came from the economy. By year's end the markets were flying at an all-time high, but the recovery has its blind spots, according to some 3000 users. Couple the proposed savings in keeping MPE apps virtual with with an uncertain future for HP's replacement solutions, and the movement away from the 3000 slowed.
Even with that evidence, some shutdowns of systems stood out. A major installation of 3000s that had been serving the airline industry saw their work moved to .NET replacements, as Open Skies became New Skies. We also saw Hewlett-Packard closing down its own internal HP 3000 operations at long last, powering off the final four systems, just 12 years after advising its customers to do the same.
The year also offered a chance to see what remained on the field a decade after the community marked the World Wide Wake of 2003. The server got its first iPad app when a terminal emulator emerged for iOS, even as other experts found other ways to get an MPE console onto a tablet. And the exit of expertise continued throughout our 3000 world, even as some stalwart resources remained online.HP set the pieces in place long ago for its 3000 strategy to evolve away from the need for physical hardware. The Apps on Tap strategy that led to the Open Skies offering -- where networked 3000s serve up apps to customers who don't have servers onsite -- is now being echoed in Software as a Service.
Sites that moved off HP 3000 installations for ecommerce software watched their vendor get acquired, then see the open version of their software slip into a 140-product lineup. It was an example of how migrations became a part of life at those 3000 sites that had already left MPE behind. Even among the sites where server migration hasn't occurred, data migration is already afoot. Customers are now looking at a migration off of Windows XP for their users, and some are facing the same reluctance and lack of budget they saw for 3000 diaspora.
Hewlett-Packard had its share of problems to overcome, from shuffling the pathways to MPE documentation online to keeping its enterprise mission critical business from evaporating. Each of the four quarters of revenues for its BCS group posted a 20 percent sales decline from the previous year's numbers. It was a continuation of a 2012 trend. The company's CEO and CFO called the Unix server business a formerly growing venture. Then there was the announcement of curtailing another HP business OS, OpenVMS, starting in 2015 when new Integrity systems won't run on the environment. Things got so critical for BCS and its bretheren that HP reorganized the whole enterprise server operation into a single unit, then removed its executive VP from the job.
Emulator news emerged from two fronts. Stromasys built out its management for the CHARON product and opened the doors on its North American rollout with a May Training Day event. The latter was the first 3000-specific event in almost two years. In the snows of February in Europe, a similar event for CHARON recalled HP's final organized event for the 3000, nine years earlier. Early in the fall, a group of freeware developers was trying to create a not-for-commerce version of what it called a simulator of HP 3000 hardware. Successful booting remained elusive.
In the meantime, the offering of an emulator had customers checking HP's rules and processes for license transfers, some three years after the company shut down all other 3000 operations. It helped to be able to ask for the right process, and ask the right person.
Another trend emerged in the longevity of the 3000 expert. Outlasting the 3000 server was a duel that some experts were giving up. One company in LA made a shift to Windows because its IT staff for the 3000 was aged 67 and 72. But among those who continued to keep the MPE lamp lit, techniques to continue 3000 operations still emerged. Replacing HP's disks with third party alternatives got detailed to swap in fresh hardware for decade-old drives. Moving store to disk files with attributes intact is possible with newer open source archiving software.
The year showed that change itself has changed for the community. The long run of the HP 3000 unreels into the dark of the as-yet-unlit future. There was even a careful examination of the costs of remaining on the 3000 for 5-10 years.
December 02, 2013
While you were away, what HP put into play
We're back after a 4-day holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday period can be interesting times for watchers of Hewlett-Packard. We count ourselves among that group, even though the company has little to do with the lives of homesteading 3000 users. (But not nothing at all -- we heard last week that HP Support contracts for 3000-connected HP peripherals have been altered. End-of-support-life dates have been adjusted, according to our source. Check your contract; indie providers are available as an alternative.) HP announced the Odyssey program to give a Linux future path for Unix customers during the week. Of course, the 3000 exit notice took place just a week before Thanksgiving in 2001.
However, much broader items than tactical details of contracts surfaced over this holiday weekend. The most splashy was the news that Hewlett-Packard is now the company providing infrastructure for the US Healthcare.gov website. That's the site that turned away about 80 percent of users during October because of technical and bandwidth problems.
HP signed a $38 million contract with the US Health and Human Services agency this summer, but Terraform (a subsidiary of Verizon) had built out the website hosting that blocked many an attempt to use it. Over the weekend, healthcare.gov doubled its bandwidth and can now reportedly serve 50,000 users simultaneously. That sounds like a lot, but about 800,000 citizens tried to open an account. (Just as a note, as of 2 PM today, we registered an account and shopped for the first time online.)
The largest simultaneous user count we've ever heard reported for a single HP 3000 server was 2,200. Consider that was a single server, built with PA-RISC (two generation-old chips) using SCSI IO. Redundancy has been an essential high-volume aspect of 3000s since Quest Software built its NetBase/Shareplex replication solution in the 1980s. Quest, now a division of Dell, still supports HP 3000 sites using the product, according to John Saylor there.The problem at healthcare.gov has been its architecture, rather than the horsepower of the iron. HP seems to have little to lose in taking over this contract. By the accounting at the Wall Street Journal, 36 states rely on application through healthcare.gov and just under 27,000 people were able to enroll in a plan during the first month. The 14 state exchanges enrolled 79,391 people during the same period.
The Journal article says the government has been aware of "certain problems with the Terremark hosting service since late 2010." HHS moved its Medicare and Medicaid service centers to Terremark during a two-year hosting contract. These service centers oversee Healthcare.gov.
The details in the WSJ report include an oversight, which if true, would be laughable in a standard HP 3000 environment: "Its design didn't include a full backup version of the site in a different data center. Healthcare.gov is still housed with a single data center." The HP 3000s which Hewlett-Packard unplugged from its own datacenter in October had backups in Austin. HP also got a $4 million contract in September for healthcare.gov DR services.
On the company valuation trail, HP played out a Q4 2013 report that Buys Time, Not Triumph according to a WSJ analysis. "Tech Giant Arrested Its Slide in Some Key Areas, but Pressures Will Intensify. One good quarter doesn't equal a turnaround." But the numbers which included dreary figures for HP's Unix operations still managed to push HP's stock to a two-year high as of this morning.
The markets were not spooked by the prospect of business critical server sales dipping once more.
HP also opened up access to its board of directors in a vote during the Thanksgiving week. A vote by a simple majority of shareholders will be enough to change HP rules governing the nomination of directors or the size of the board. Previously, a two-thirds supermajority was required. "The change doesn't immediately let activists storm the boardroom, but could lower the gates that keep them out," said a Journal article.
HP got its current board chairman, Ralph Whitworth, when its rules changed in 2011 to admit that principal at "an activist hedge fund Relational Investors LLC."
Right now, you've got to own at least 3 percent of HP's stock for three years to nominate a director. The Journal said only three people have owned that much sstock since the end of 2012. This makes nomination of new directors an insider affair today.
November 27, 2013
HP quarter beats analyst estimates, but Integrity solutions' profit, sales slide again
HP has managed to eke out a penny more than business analysts estimated for its 2013 fourth quarter earnings. These days such a "beat," as the analysts call it, is essential to avoiding a selloff after a report like yesterday's. But the positive news did not extend to the business group which builds and engineers the Unix Integrity servers -- a significant share of the migrated HP 3000 installed base.
More than once during the one-hour report to financial analysts, HP CEO Meg Whitman and her CFO Cathie Lesjak talked about Unix like it's a market whose growth days have been eclipsed by steady erosion of sales and profits. "We have more opportunity to improve our profitability," Whitman said about a quarter where the overall GAAP earnings were 83 cents a share. That's $1.82 billion of profit on sales of $29.1 billion in sales. Revenues declined 1 percent against last year's Q4.
But R&D, so essential to improving the value of using HP-created environments like HP-UX, has seen its days of growth come to halt, and then decline at the Business Critical Systems unit. Lesjak said the company's year-over-year decline in R&D was a result of "rationalization in Business Critical Systems." In particular, the company's Unix products and business can't justify R&D of prior quarters and fiscal years.
As you look at the year-over-year declines in R&D, that was really driven by two primary things. One is the rationalization of R&D, specifically in the Enterprise Group's Business Critical Systems -- so we really align the R&D investment in that space with the long-term business realities of the Unix market. We did get some of what we call R&D value-added tax subsidy credits that came through. Those basically offset some of the R&D expense.
Business Critical Systems revenue declined 17 percent in the quarter to $334 million, due to "a declining Unix market." On the current run rate, BCS represents 1 percent of HP sales. And BCS sales have been dropping between 15 and 30 percent for every quarter for more than six quarters. HP posted an increase in its enterprise systems business overall, mostly on increased sales of the Linux and Windows systems in its Industry Standard Servers unit.
HP said it expects "continued traction in converged storage, networking, and converged infrastructure," for its enterprise business. But somehow, as the entire Unix market shrinks, HP said it's maintaining market share in that space. R&D at BCS will not be part of HP's planned growth for research and development in 2014, though.
She explained that R&D is down "due to streamlined operations across the Enterprise Group and lower R&D expenses, specifically within BCS." Long term, we remain focused on investing in innovation across the organization, and in fact, we've added headcount in engineering in FY13." In 2011 HP announced an initiative to add Unix features to its Linux environments in the biggest R&D project driven by Martin Fink, then-GM of BCS.
"We saw improved sales in our mainstream server business, but we need to improve our pricing discipline and profitability," Lesjak said. "Although revenue continued to decline in Business Critical Systems, we expect to hold or gain share in calendar Q3. And we have announced plans to bring a 100 percent fault-tolerant HP NonStop platform to the x86 architecture."
HP-UX and OpenVMS have no such plans. BCS revenues, including NonStop operations, dropped 26 percent from 2012 to 2013. This even includes an accounting for last year's deadly Q4, when HP had to report a $6 billion loss overall.
HP finished 2013 with $112 billion in sales, down five percent, and $6.5 billion in profits before taxes. The company restructured its way to about 13,000 fewer jobs during the fiscal year. Almost 25,000 people have exited HP since the program began in 2011.
Two organizational repositions were mentioned during the briefing. Robert Mao, chairman of a new China Region for HP's business, reports directly to Whitman. She also noted that Fink, who was named head of HP Labs last year -- a post that once was a full-time job -- has now added duties of leading the HP Cloud business as its General Manager. HP Cloud competes with Amazon Web Services among others. Whitman said Fink "will significantly accelerate our cloud business."
"Martin is a true technology visionary who brings tremendous understanding of the enterprise hardware and software space, extensive experience in platform development," Whitman said, "and he literally wrote the book on Open Source."
Whitman was referring to a 2002 book of Fink's, The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. The book which is out of print got a glowing back-cover blurb from Tim O'Reilly. But the publisher of textbooks Prentice Hall now touts bestsellers such as How to Succeed with Women and the How to Say It series.
The strategy in Fink's book came from an era when one positive review said, "Linux and Open Source is not 'just' for geeks any more." Linux -- and not the HP-UX and VMS markets where Fink managed before his Labs post -- is what's driving the modest growth in HP server business.
November 14, 2013
4,383 days for an ecosystem to slip, survive
It's November 14 once again, a date plenty of people don't consider special. I was part of a telephone-only CAMUS user group meeting today. While we chatted before our meet began, I asked if anyone knew the significance of the date. It took a few minutes of hinting before someone -- Cortlandt Wilson of Cortsoft -- said this was the day HP ended its future vision for a 3000 business.
At the time HP said it was worried about the fate of the MPE and 3000 ecosystem. It had good reason to worry. It was about to send a shock wave that would knock out many denizens in that ecosystem. The losses to customers can be counted many ways, and we have done that every year since that fateful day. This is the 12th story I've written about the anniversary of the HP exit. The day remains important to me when I count up what's been pushed to extinction, and what has survived.
Companies come to mind this year. The photo at right shows the vendor lineup for our printed November 3000 Newswire in 2001. (Click it for details.) It was a healthy month, but not extraordinary. Almost 30 vendors, including three in our FlashPaper, had enough 3000 business to make budget to advertise. We'll get to the ones who remain in business after a dozen years. But let's call the roll to see what HP's ecosystem exit pruned or hacked away.
3KWorld.com was a worldwide 3000 website operated by Client Systems. It was large enough to draw its own advertising and used all of the content of the Newswire under a license agreement. It's gone. Client Systems has hung on, though.
Advanced Network Systems (web software circa 2001) and Design 3000 (job scheduling) and Epic Systems (hardware resales) are all gone, too. Interex went out of business in 2005 in a sudden bankruptcy; OmniSolutions (MPE interface software) and TechGroup (consulting) and WhisperTech (a programmer's suite) and COBOL JobShop (programmer services) are all gone, too.
Believe it or not, out of a list of 29, those are the only complete extinctions. Some of the rest have changed their colors like a chameleon, blending into the IT business of 2013. And many have gotten too pared down to consider the broad business outreach they felt confident about in 2001.Still serving under their same flag after all these years? Count on 3K Associates, Adager, Computer Solutions, Genisys, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Minisoft, Nobix, Open Seas, Orbit Software, RAC Consulting, Robelle, ROC Software, Robust Systems, and The Support Group.
A few others have evolved but remain alive after being absorbed. WRQ is now deep inside Attachmate, so deep the WRQ name is no longer part of the corporation. Quest Software slipped into Dell this year. Both of these acquired companies still sell, or support, MPE clients. The same is true of Speedware, which rebranded as Fresche Legacy while it's now honing in on IBM AS/400 clients.
And then there's Hewlett-Packard. Ah, the hand that threw the switch that sent a shock to the ecosystem. Within six months of November 14, the dominant Compaq managers were led by a CEO in her third year to erase HP's Way. Bill Hewlett's son Walter lost a proxy fight so legendary that it's the example used on the Wikipedia entry for proxy fight.
It's coincidental that the departure of 3000 products from HP's future happened at the same time as the vendor's decade-plus slide. The company has reported profits each year. HP became Number 1 in sales by adding billions in PC business. But the rest of the company's heritage has become a specter. Some community members take some bitter solace in knowing that the HP which believed in their computer died its own death less than a year later in a courtroom, where that proxy fight had its finale.
People must weather change as a regular part of life. One friend of mine took note a personal shift in business opportunity, on the heels of a decline, and uttered the prayer of the pivoting hopeful player: "The only constant is indeed change."
The tally of 3000 pros and resources pushed into extinction after these 12 years isn't limited to the Newswire's November 2001 lineup. Other extinguished companies from the Interex side include Hi Comp (backup software) plus the lineup of Interex conferences including HP World, the HP e3000 Solutions Symposium, and one of the hardest-working technical meetings, SIG/3000. A meeting in person is a high-risk opportunity to learn and grow. The Web filled in, at a rate we couldn't imagine in 2001.
Oh, the irony of that November. We wrote a lead story for our Flash Paper that reported a record month for 3000 sales at the US distributor of the server. We then had to fold over another sheet of paper at presstime, an Extra, to explain that HP said it only started a two-year period of "business as usual," to quote the impossible spin of the vendor's marketing chief. "There really was no other choice," said the company's general manager of the time about the exit scheme.
There was another choice, but HP didn't make it for the 3000. Get over it, or forget it, or take the time to make a good transition -- these were all responses that changed tens of thousands of lives and careers. We don't know of many people who left IT altogether for another career since then. Some have retired, or at least planned to do so.
Through those dozen years I've tried to put the most reasonable face on the inevitable trend that HP started. The vendor said its decision to talk about its walkout on this market was "about concluding it's time to advise customers about the long-term trend." It's certainly been a longer term than HP could imagine in 2001. More than twice as long if the remaining vendors and customers count for anything. I believe they do -- representing sage management of a resource, or the prospect for a transition-migration services company and vendors of products for the same.
If 20 out of those 29 advertising partners are still in business, the impact of that trend is limited to what two-thirds of them have done next, or what they've done with what's left. Downsized with layoffs and canceled projects. Consolidated product lines and froze enhancements. Launched new products into different, crowded markets. Found a buyer or a senior partner to infuse cash and new commerce in a new direction. Timed their own exit with enough fortune to retire.
Unlike these companies -- some so small their operating budget wouldn't buy coffee service for a single HP sales region -- Hewlett-Packard didn't want to be the last person to leave the MPE party. Lead onward to Unix, it figured, telling customers on Transition Day No. 1 that free licenses for HP-UX were available. Six years later, according to Dr. Robert Boers of 3000 emulator vendor Stromasys, HP told them that 75 percent of former 3000 owners were using something other than HP servers.
It's a story with potential to be a rousing case study by business graduates, the exit of a vendor that could bank on more than 25 years of business selling a proprietary product. But it can be debated that a simple roll call of survivors tells just the most public part of the story. The career changes and chameleon shifts, the evolution of the elder generation of computer wizards can only be told one story at a time. If there are any less than 4,383 stories like that to tell, I'd be surprised. But we've all lived though a dozen years of surprises throughout that inevitable trend. I'm still here to tell stories, about survival as well as slippage. Try to permit next year's November -- the 40th year of MPE -- contain a memory of the day your ecosystem changed.
November 05, 2013
3000 transfers receive special HP treatment
Customers who are making a transfer of their HP 3000-MPE licenses get special treatment from HP when moving to the virtualized server product from Stromasys. Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative said he had to rely on Stromasys to help him find the right person -- and explain things -- during a recent license transfer.
"Unfortunately, the transfer experience was not as smooth as I would have hoped," Elmer said. "Ultimately, it's not a big deal to do the transfer, but you do need to find the right person to talk to. I filled out forms and exchanged e-mail with Erick. The best advice I would give anyone would be to ask Stromasys for help."
By the time a customer is ready to transfer a license to an emulator, of course, Stromasys will be a familiar contact. The company recently added HP 3000 consultant Doug Smith to its staff, bringing even more MPE familiarity to the operation. Paul Taffel, who's been blazing the 3000 trails since 2011 for Stromasys, sent us a note about the same exception to transfer rules we'd found in our October, 2012 story about software licensing.
About our story yesterday, Taffel said, "You missed one important thing, which we've put into our new User Guide. The last paragraph might be [most] important:
Emulator MPE/iX software transfer licenses are available from HP for (at the time of writing) $400. For more information, email the appropriate HP Software License Transfer department:
Specify that you wish to obtain an HP3000 Emulator Transfer License, and that your request is for an internal company transfer. HP has agreed to create an exception for HP3000 Emulator Transfer Licenses, as their license transfer process normally only applies to transfers between different companies.
Indeed, the $400 figure is current on the HP webpages we referenced yesterday. It's more crucial to get someone who knows about the 3000's special exception in the AMS Software License Transfer unit of the Hewlett-Packard Development Company. HPDC is the owner of Hewlett-Packard's intellectual property, which includes MPE/iX licenses.
The exception is that a customer gets to sign both the originating and receiving lines of the transfer document. Usually, those are two different signatures, for seller and then for buyer. As of this year, it takes some explaining to receive permission to do this. There's at least one person in HP Americas SLT, Erick, who's done this by now -- for Elmer. But you might not be able to ask for him by name.
"I'm hoping that Erick will spread the word about emulator transfers within HP," Elmer said.
November 04, 2013
HP 3000 software license transfer: still $400
Earlier this month, a famous manufacturer of aircraft had its HP 3000 director checking up on software license transfer processes. This SLT is not the one that a system manager cuts for rebuilding your MPE/iX directories, but the fee HP charges to move your MPE to another system. Well, the fee and the required documentation. In this case, licenses for an A-Class server and a Series 979 4-way are in the on-deck circle, wating to go to bat on the Stromasys virtual HP 3000, CHARON HPA/3000.
Just as the 3000's Transition Era was getting underway in earnest, this was being called an Emulator License. HP's Mike Paivinen and others at the vendor arranged for such a license, with a suggested cost of $500. In 2004, nobody knew what an emulator would look like once it emerged. Strobe Data sells an HP 1000 emulator that includes a hardware board plugged into a desktop server. Strobe couldn't move forward with a 3000 version of that product, and by 2012 CHARON was finally into the marketplace.
HP's process for putting MPE legally onto CHARON follows the same steps as if a customer purchased a newer or more powerful Hewlett-Packard brand of iron. There are five parts to a software right-to-use license transfer: the Request, the Proof, the Transfer Fee, the Software License Terms and the Authorization. Each of these five parts must be in place before HP will grant a right-to-use license, taking MPE/iX off HP's 3000 servers in a way that will satisfy any auditor.
HP's Jennie Hou told us last fall that emulator-based license transfers within a customer's site present no problem for the current process. We looked into the license transfer process when the personal 1-user freeware version of the Stromasys emulator was rolling out -- and the download included an instance of MPE/iX.Last year's information included the word immediate in our headline, but that's no report on the speed of any process inside HP (or at a customer site, for that matter; budget approvals can take time.) Hou was telling us last year that HP expected any freeware user to be making a transfer once they started to use that 1-person emulator to test CHARON.
Stop snickering. You know how much HP loves its MPE/iX licenses. Just because de-licensing a production 3000 seems hasty, when you're still checking out CHARON, doesn't mean you can't do it. Most emulator customers, however, are taking a more prudent route while replacing their older HP iron. Older is a relative term: the Series 979 hardware was built at least a decade ago, as was the A-Class machine. If an MPE/iX application is to have another five years or more of service, operating on something newer seems safer. It depends on how well that HP iron has been maintained, especially disk drives, power supplies, and CPU boards.
The phone number to HP's SLT operation in the Americas is 408-447-4418. (In Europe, it's +48 22 3060152.) If you haven't been to HP's webpage for SLT in the Americas, it's listed under an HP-UX name. To better understand the process, and get more detailed contact information and specifics for a transfer, visit hp.com/softwarereleases/releases-media2/slt/americas/sltprocesshpux.html
That's right -- the MPE/iX license transfer operations are holed up with HP's Unix system adminstrator information. That's a connection that might be appropriate several years from now, if an HP Integrity emulator is ever needed, or built for HP's Unix customers.
October 24, 2013
Crime keeps non-3000 platforms most busy
HP has sponsored a new edition of the Ponemon study of crime commited via computers. The results are trending in the direction everyone expects: upward, with cyber-crime now topping $11 million per typical breach in the US. The chart above tracks the frequency of the type of crime committed. Malware, viruses, worms and trojans are on just about every company's report. Where the cyber-attack takes place -- the location of the webserver -- makes a difference in the cost of the breach.
We found that US companies are much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious code, denial of service and web-based incidents. Similarly, Australia is most likely to experience denial of service attacks. In contrast, German companies are least likely to experience malicious code and botnets. Japanese companies are least likely to experience stolen devices and malicious code attacks.
HP worked hard in the late 1990s to establish Web server capability for the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. At first there was a product for sale from HP. A few years later, with little success of selling it, HP gave it away as part of the MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System. But even in FOS, serving web pages never caught on. Web page services, of course, are the top way to distribute malware, bots and other costly disruptors.
In a way, the lack of a Web capability has made the HP 3000 one of the least-attacked environments. But even a 3000 connected to the Internet in any way is susceptible to a hack. It's just tougher to steal something worth fencing, plucked out of an OS built with a ring of privilege at its heart. Not impossible, never. Because like the Ponemon report says, the most costly cyber-crime happens from within datacenter operations.
The report, which HP has sponsored for several years, calls those attacks from within "malicious insiders." They're the most costly of all kinds of cyber-attacks, based on 234 companies that Ponemon has surveyed. But the second- and third-most costly kinds of attacks are unlikely to be unleashed on MPE/iX systems: Denial of Service (DOS) and Web-based attacks.
The most expensive attacks are malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. In the context of our study, malicious insiders include employees, temporary employees, contractors and, possibly, business partners.
Detecting an attack and recovering from one make up the biggest chunk of the expense of cyber-crime. 54 percent of the cost comes from "productivity loss and direct labor." The latter segment is IT man-hours. The former might well include IT operations that need to be deferred or delayed while crime cleanup goes on. On average, a malicious insider attack takes about six weeks to recover from, according to the survey.
Software to protect computer systems from crime is complex, and according to a Network Computing article, requires significant care and feeding after it's been deployed in a company. The Ponemon report calls this software Security Intelligence Systems. Another common name for it is a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) product. HP sells one that's well-regarded, ArcSight. Longtime HP 3000 vendor Quest Software has moved into the field with its own product.
The greatest target for cyber-crime appears to be Windows-based environments, since they're the most widely used in the world. It's also reflected in an InformationWeek study that shows Symantec's SIEM software is most-installed.
HP 3000s which are still serving credit card usage, or dealing with healthcare records, are the most likely candidates for these kinds of software solutions. The InformationWeek report said that e-commerce and HIPAA drove one out of every four SIEM deployments.
Those turn out to be some of the most likely 3000s to be used in an open-to-the-public setting, too. The costs go beyond the software's expense, of course.
Many SIEM products are expensive, but the full cost isn’t just the software or hardware. These products require extensive system integration to realize their potential. That means you must account for staff hours (or pay consultants) for installation and configuration, as well as integration with other products. SIEM products rely on databases for event and log analysis, which means database administrator resources must also be considered, not only for the ini- tial configuration of the product but also on- going maintenance and tuning. And of course, IT and security teams will need to be trained to use the product. These factors af- fect your total SIEM cost. As one respondent said, “Total cost of acquisition and operating is elusive. When you purchase a SIEM solution, the work is just beginning."
Return on investment for deploying security intelligence is small, at 21 percent. But the cost is reasonable compared to the attack's aftermath -- company reputation, fines and restitution. Ponemon's survey said
Companies deploying security intelligence systems experienced a substantially higher ROI at 21 percent than all other technology categories presented. Also significant are the estimated ROI results for companies that extensively deploy encryption technologies and advanced perimeter controls.
Most 3000s have a perimeter to defend, if nothing else. Keeping a system useful means putting it on a network, and any outside-facing network is going to require defense. If numbers from an outside source can be useful in getting funded for this kind of defense, Ponemon summed up the take-aways.
- Cyber crimes are costly. We found that the average annualized cost of cyber crime for 234 organizations in our study is $7.2 million per year, with a range of $375,387 to $58 million. This represents an increase in cost of 30 percent from the consolidated global results of last year’s cyber cost study.
- Cyber attacks have become common occurrences. The companies in our study experienced 343 successful attacks per week and 1.4 successful attacks per company per week. This represents an increase of 20 percent from last year’s successful attack experience. Last year’s study reported 262 successful attacks on average per week.
- The most costly cyber crimes are those caused by malicious insiders, denial of service and web-based attacks. Mitigation of such attacks requires enabling technologies such as SIEM, intrusion prevention systems, application security testing and enterprise governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) solutions.
Many smaller companies use HP 3000s, and Ponemon's research shows that this size of organization seems to be most susceptible to the kind of attack rarely seen on an MPE/iX system.
Smaller organizations (below the median of enterprise seats) experience a higher proportion of cyber crime costs relating to viruses, worms, trojans, phishing, malware and botnets. In contrast, larger organizations (above the median) experience a higher proportion of costs relating to denial of services, malicious insiders, web-based attacks, stolen devices and malicious code.
October 14, 2013
Support paywall can seem to hide manuals
We're investigating another point of confusion between HP's MPE/iX and 3000 manuals and the 3000 community. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors who heard HP's promise to keep these manuals available to the general public, emailed us this report.
It appears that HP has cut off public access to the MPE manuals. If you use HP's link through its Business Support Center, and go thru a couple of clicks... you'll eventually be asked for support credentials.
In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case for MPE manuals (since, after all, who has HP's MPE support anyhow?). HP agreed to continue to allow access to the MPE things (including patches) when they vendor was negotiating with OpenMPE.
Hofmeister noted that the patches are still available for free. The good news is that the 3000 community has been compiling the manuals outside HP's servers, just to ensure the vendor kept its promise of open access to 3000 documentation. And there is a more concealed path into the manuals today. Just not through the front door Hofmeister was using.
Straight to the point, things are changing in the HP support operations and its access for users. A support contract might be required, in HP's confusion over the 3000's place on the website, if you head in through the wrong address. Or read a recent HP email.Last week the HP enterprise computer users received an email that proclaimed the patches and other support materials for servers like the Integrity line and its operating environments would only be available to users who had a current support contract with HP. Hewlett-Packard doesn't support the 3000 or MPE anymore -- a fact the vendor reminded users about constantly in the months leading to the end of support in December, 2010.
So there's no way to pay for support that would deliver access to MPE materials. Which is why HP told OpenMPE and the 3000 community the access would be free.
Independent support companies, third parties and adept managers have been squirreling away the manuals for years by now. In addition to a core set of manuals at yet another HP website address, linked to by Applied Technologies via a direct link off mpe-opensource.org, MM Support has a wide array of these manuals for download. MM Support, a group of 3000 veterans who created the MM/3000 ERP software, says it's hosting these documents, organized by function as well as alphabetically, because of "the great love we have for the HP 3000."
The following list is a beginning. We have laid the HP 3000 MPE Manuals out in a manner that is friendly to use. We will try and have both HTML and PDF format for the HP3000 Manuals.
As we've noted, MPE patches seem to be available without support credentials. Hofmeister says you need a lot of patience. You're likely to get asked about the HP 3000 latex printer a few times.
I'm still sending people to HP to get patches. Last one was maybe a month ago. The process seems to work, although I always caution them to be prepared to be patient. Getting through the front-line call handlers can be difficult :-(
I suspect many people downloaded all the patches while the FTP site was still available. But in my opinion, they'd be well advised to at least be very careful about who they give these patches to, since HP seems to be in a litigious mood.
October 11, 2013
The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill
Comment sections of blogs are usually tar pits of abusive and misdirected retorts. I feel lucky that comments on the Newswire's blog have been otherwise, for the most part. On many tech blogs the comments that follow a story devolve at lightning pace into rants about the NSA, partisan politics, the insulting disappointments of Windows/Apple/Google, or the zen koan of climate change.
Tim O'Neill has lifted up the reputation of commenting to an enabling art. The manager of a 3000 system in Maryland, he's become prolific in his messages that echo or take a counterpoint to the stories we run here. His comment count is running at 15 over just the past five months. For our unique but modest-sized outpost of 3000 lore and learning, that's a lot. He's got a comment for almost one in every five stories.
HP's actions of 12 years ago are still a sore point with some 3000 managers. Count O'Neill among them. We ran a story yesterday about HP's best case scenario for 2014: it will lose sales more slowly than this year. Some new products will get R&D focus. Pockets of sales growth will pop up. Overall, less revenue, for yet another year.
O'Neill shot off a comment within an hour of our story.
This does not sound too hopeful, if the best they can promise is slowing the rate of revenue decline while at the same time spending $3B on R&D. At the same time, they have essentially no cutting-edge mobile products (and no WebOS,) a stagnant flagship OS (HP-UX, no new releases in about a decade) a second flagship OS sentenced to death (OpenVMS -- HP finally kills the last of the DEC that they hated for decades) and shuttered sales and support offices (relying on VARs and the Web for sales, instead of interpersonal interaction.)
O'Neill never fails to note that a retained 3000 business would be helping HP, even today. "Meanwhile, the long-ago-jilted MPE lives on, ancient LaserJets continue to crank out print jobs and make money for toner refillers (I still have LJ 2000 and 4000 series printer in service,) and digital signal generators (HP, not Agilent) still generate signals. They do still make nice new printers. Maybe they should buy Blackberry to get into the smartphone business."
It's great to have a chorus behind you when reporting on one 3000 news item after another. It's even better when there's a consistently different-sounding voice on webpages. If there was an Andy Rooney position on the 3000 Newswire's stable of contributors, O'Neill could fill that post.When my story this week noted that a few N-Class servers, to be mothballed at HP's datacenter next week, would be available for purchase, O'Neill took another tack.
Customers should not be buying cast-off 3000s if they can help it. Instead, they should be ramping up for the future and buying Stromasys-ready hardware.
O'Neill has left fat pitches for other readers to comment upon. "I wonder if anybody still has an HP 150?" Or "Does anybody remember the name of the company that was marketing a wireless 3000 terminal in the late 1980s?" Then there are these comments below, in response to articles about the HP Computer Museum needing older computers, or a new iPad app that gives the 3000 user a wireless terminal for apps or console work.
Well I think the Terminal-on-a-Tablet is a great idea, and gosh we could have really used that and a wireless link 10 years ago when we needed to constantly interact with MPE. I can see great usefulness for people who are using MPE actively, e.g for inventory. It gives one more reason to stay with MPE and one more reason to buy Stromasys boxes on which to run MPE.
Gosh, I wonder if anyone still has a HP 150? It was coolest thing! But people here only used it for a terminal!
O'Neill can also find a silver lining in a report about two 3000 experts replacing themselves (due to age) and moving off an app built long ago.
This article amply demonstrates that: 1) MPE is extremely good at OLTP and business management processes, and is not easily replaced 2) MPE is very cost-effective (e.g. this company had to increase staff after MPE, and 3) "Migration" is incorrect terminology, and vendors made a lot of money, once, by doing it. Now, "if only" a consortium such as a modern-day OpenMPE or OSF could be created, to take command!
Not too many readers remember, or can put into context, the aims of the OSF (the Open Software Foundation) as they related to the HP 3000. OSF was about putting common software platforms in place across Unix servers from many vendors. HP did hope that Posix on MPE would help port some software to the 3000. Both projects fell short of such hopes. O'Neill is hopeful in a way I've rarely seen about the prospects for a rebound of MPE.
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
He has observations on the differences in vendors serving his company, sparked by news that HP's taken a dive out of the Dow 30.
"Dive" is being kind. They were thrown out. As an example of their inablity to market themselves, the following is illustrative. Next week Dell Computer will host a technical day at our facility. This will be the second such day in the past six months. Customers go and hear the latest. HP has equal opportunity to rent the space, purvey the lunch, and pitch their wares to willing listeners. HP does not do it. Too few sales people spread too thin?
It's been nice to be noticed, but as you can see from the comment string off our front page, not all of it has been complimentary. Recent reporting on OpenMPE got rapped by a pair of principals who were onstage at the end of the organization's activity. But the rarest of things, outright praise for memories, appeared after I wrote about what we all miss from the August HP conferences of our past years.
It is poignant and evocative, meaning if I were an emotional person, it would have brought me to tears. I actually attended the [August] 1996 show in Anaheim! There I had the privilege of speaking with Fred White, who predicted the demise of MPE while on the sidewalk outside the convention center, as well as the subsequent demise of HP-UX. (When was the last new release of HP-UX? Years ago, right?) You wrote that Interex (later HP World) always left people "invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up." True. "Rededicated" rhymes with "medicated" which, nowadays, we HP 3000 people feel as though we need to be! It will be interesting to see how Stromasys emulation will work with VMWare, of which we are heavy users.
I invite you to write a comment for your own pleasure and our information. Whether you shoot this messenger or toss kudos, it will make its way into our shared story.
October 10, 2013
HP hopes for slower sales declines in 2014
In a typical response to the above news, investors bought in on Hewlett-Packard's vision of the future yesterday. Market analysts who advise the pension plans -- and the rest of the 75 percent of institutional-owners of HP shares -- found this lump of non-dire news under HP's carpet. CEO Meg Whitman said they predicted there would be 1 percent more profit than the analysts' predictions. One estimate bested another by a trace amount, and so hope rose up among shareholders.
None of this has happened yet; even HP's fiscal 2013 still has three weeks left to play out, let alone the realities of 2014. "Pockets" of growth in HP's sales have been promised, although the company cannot say where those pockets will appear. They might be in tablets, where HP could manage revenue growth with sales that become measurable. Or the growth might occur in enterprise servers and software, a prospect with much longer odds.
"Stabilizing revenue declines" are the brightest outlook HP can promise for the year to come. That HP had to promise continuing declines shows how tough its IT sales market has become. People who were buying laptops for business are now investing in tablets or working via smartphones, both of which are more mobile. HP's offerings in both segments are years behind market leaders, echoes of cheaper solutions, or invisible (in the case of the phones).
Mobile computing is one of the many sectors of computing products where HP's got big issues to resolve. One analyst said after yesterday's meet that it wouldn't be a great investment to buy HP stock, given the "growth challenges the company is facing in nearly every product category." Investment in buying HP's products is another matter, but it's the one which determines that growth challenge.
HP's fiscal numbers for its latest quarter won't surface for more than a month. But Whitman's cheerleading came during a two-day meeting with those analysts. HP earned a $2 share bump on a forecast that put its 2014 profits 3 cents a share higher than a $3.62 forecast. Whitman said HP will focus on new products and services next year -- a category that may not include HP's Unix, its Integrity-based servers, or other solutions from the combined enterprise unit that has been producing steady HP 3000 platform replacements.
Whitman said HP is recommitted to smarter innovation, with R&D spending expected to be in excess of $3 billion for the fiscal year that ends in three weeks.
“While there is a lot more work to be done, I am confident about the progress we are making,” said Whitman. “We’re producing tangible results, strengthening our balance sheet and delivering innovative products across all our key segments. We are implementing the changes needed to support our multi-year turnaround journey, reaffirm HP’s leadership position, and create enduring value for customers as well as for our shareholders”
HP says the core of its strategy for 2014 is focused on “providing unique technology solutions for the ‘New Style of IT.’ "
October 09, 2013
HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later
One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business.
There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.
But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.
Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006."The last 4 internal HP 3000s located at the HP Austin (Old Tandem) datacenter will go lights-out October 16th," said our source. "No special events are planned, since no one within HP understands the significance anymore."
At one point in the 3000's not-too-distant history -- okay, less than 20 years back -- more than 600 3000s were driving company operations. In 1996 we reported that every sales transaction flowed through the HEART application, hosted on 3000s. HEART was replaced by SAP software early in the 21st Century, a switchover that had enough bumps to draw notice in HP's own investor reports at the time.
The Austin datacenter, which can be managed remotely, is actually two physical sites with mirroring capability. One is in the Tandem facility, and the other is at a site 15 miles south which once operated the Freescale (nee Motorola) wafer fabrication operations. We're just guessing here, but it's possible those 3000s going lights-out are replicated in some way at the Freescale building.
If there remains a value policy at HP that would retain MPE apps for a dozen years, it's a good bet these N-Class boxes are going onto the used hardware market soon. The vendor has proven they're a good investment -- having used them for nearly three years beyond its own legendary "end of life" deadline for the server.
October 07, 2013
Patches remain a revenue producer at HP
HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.
HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:
HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers. We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts. Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.
It's not the first time HP has told its enterprise customers that vendor support is not an optional part of their ownership budget. Hewlett-Packard's labs are still turning out patches for it Unix and VMS systems. Patches are free for many other computer systems, but enterprise servers are becoming an exception.
Beginning October 2013, Hewlett-Packard Company will change the way operating system patches on HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 are accessed. Patches for these operating systems will only be accessible on HP Support Center to customers with an active support agreement linked to their HP Support Center User ID and for the specific products being updated. We encourage you to review your current support coverage to ensure you have the appropriate coverage to maintain uninterrupted patch access for these operating systems.
The support agreement must have a relevant software product number belonging to one of the following product series:
HP-UX Operating Systems
HP OpenVMS Operating Systems
Tru64 UNIX Operating Systems
In addition, the support agreement must have one of the following Software Update or Previous Version Support offers:
HP Software Updates Service
HP License Subscription Service
HP SW Media and Documentation Updates Service
PVS with sustaining engineering
PVS without sustaining engineering
MPS with sustaining engineering
MPS without sustaining engineering
However, IT managers for 3000s might consider themselves lucky to have a guide from an independent support provider, one to be able to locate the MPE/iX patches that remain a free service for 3000 sites. Plenty has moved around on HP's support servers, from manuals to so much more.
October 03, 2013
HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000
Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.
Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.
When HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.
Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.At the Fresche Legacy site -- known as hpmigrations.com -- a white paper on a Posix scanner is among the software listed.
A Posix scanner? It's a toolkit "that is useful to analyze an application you may want to port to the HP3000. In two steps, external functions called by the code are collected and then reduced into a report showing which functions are or are not available on MPE/iX."
Perhaps of more use to those who aren't porting to MPE is the VT3K software, which links a 3000 with a server HP was calling an HP 9000. That 9000 should be running HP-UX 10.20, a genuinely antique release of HP's Unix.
VT3K allows you to establish a Virtual Terminal connection from a HP9000 to a HP3000. This version of VT3K is being made available to those HP3000 users that are planning on using HP OpenView IT/Operations to manage their HP3000 systems. This version of VT3K is supported on HP-UX servers running 10.20. VT3K is required in order to install the IT/Operations MPE agent on the HP3000.
Fresche isn't responsible for the condition of the links to HP's documentation on the 3000 however, those listed under Jazz at its server. www.docs.hp.com/mpeix/all returns nothing but 404 Not Found connections. The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment.
But at the Jazz sites you can find SETDATE, which alters the date in a current session under MPE/iX. The sell-by date for HP's links is in such a state that a support company guide might be the only way to uncover what used to be open and hosted by the 3000's creator. Any link that can deliver a document from the licensed independent companies is operative. But a wall of inscrutable web links appears in any reference to HP's own websites.
September 23, 2013
Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise
When something fresh or different enters your IT landscape, it's a good business practice to make time to understand it. A new software application, a different way of defining your networks, the scorecard on your vendor's turnaround. Those first two items are easier to analyze than the third, but a vendor's business news is not noise.
Few communities understand this listening better than the customers who own HP 3000s and run MPE. Their status might be homesteading, or migrating, or homesteading until a migration is possible. But when Hewlett-Packard ended its futures in the 3000 market, it did so because of what it called trouble in the "ecosystem." That's not a jungle of plants and animals outside HP's corporate HQ. The ecosystem is the collection of companies doing business for a platform's users. HP didn't like the look of its 3000 ecosystem. It couldn't do anything more about it, so the vendor pulled up stakes and closed its lab.
The world-rocking difference in that case was HP's business decision, not a technical shortfall. That vendor didn't tick off the missing elements of software (it had skipped out on doing a 64-bit MPE) or the hardware (slim and cheaper servers for Unix customers, but not MPE users). HP talked about the rest of the world's businesses and what it planned to do about connecting with them. It was consistent about choice: Unix, Windows, and other things not crafted by HP.
That's news, but in some quarters HP's business conditions are being labeled noise. The Chief Marketing Officer for the Connect user group Nina Buik not only believes that "the media earns its keep by making noise," she advising members to tune out news like HP's departure from the Dow Jones Industrials. Not important, she wrote this month. The drop from the Dow is symbolic, but it won't change things overnight. Few customers pick a vendor on the basis of its Dow membership. Investors do, and that impacts working capital and profits and growth funding. Dow is interesting, but Buik calls it noise compared to the HP message about becoming monolithic.
That's not really news, except in the latest five-year plan to execute it. Hewlett-Packard has been trying to act as a single company since the moment it started selling PCs in the 1980s. Its quest to monolithic futures is as constant as the direction of rain. Rain falls downward, as it always has.
News and noise can be confused, or just overlooked on purpose. If you don't want to include your vendor's business condition, you might be surprised -- like some of HP's OpenVMS users were -- when the futures run out. You'd want to hear the warnings about that, wouldn't you?Ah, but it's so much simpler, more sweeping to say that since HP's turnaround message is consistent, it's a conversation, instead of noise. Buik shared that view on the user group's website
Of course news about HP, its customers and partners are of special interest to me, because it may or may not be something that impacts our members... noise or conversation?
Recently, I read that the Dow dropped HP and replaced it with financial giant, Visa. While it was newsworthy, I put it in the noise bucket. HP’s Meg Whitman is very focused on her plan to turn the company around and back into the world’s leader of enterprise technology and innovation. Now THAT is a conversation! Adding to that conversation is the notion of ONE HP. I’ve heard this a lot over the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing the monolith come together and sell to customers in a unified, efficient and strategic manner. Otherwise ONE HP becomes noise. After all, there is only ONE HP!
There are many HPs. Some of them require a lot of overhead and generate a thick forest of partners, but scant profits. Another HP is focused on changes in IT shops -- HP works to earn profits as a provider of change services. Then there's the HP that created enterprise servers in focused markets. It's become a very small HP. Some of those markets have fallen from HP's turnaround plan. Others will follow. You don't turn things around by doing the same things, unless those things are profitable and offer growth.
What’s more important is the fact that the first 18 months at the helm, her focused message about who HP is its financial strength, its core focus areas, mutual trust, and the value of the enterprise ecosystem, consistent and crystal clear. Now that’s a conversation.
Those are only conversations when a vendor is responsive to your business needs, flexible about cost of ownership and capital expense, and ready to sustain value in a customer's investment. You'll read about stakeholders sitting with IT and talking about what to buy or build to grow a business. That's important, but those are also talks in private. A user group can do good work when it encourages members to share the best practices from such talks.
Failing that opportunity, you hope to get smarter by finding new information about such practices elsewhere. You'd like the practices to be sized for your organization, too. HP is still in the business of telling the world about its biggest deals, as if it that makes them a better vendor for any size of customer. Sometimes there's news about technology coming from the vendor's marketing group. Just listen to HP's news.
"HP today unveiled a suite of stylish consumer PCs, tablets and services including the world’s first notebook PC with integrated Leap Motion technology." Now, LeapMotion is a gesture-driven technology that's a candidate for replacing some trackpad functions. Noise or news? As always, it depends on whatever's important to the business units which you serve as an IT pro.
You can decide if part of your IT planning includes your vendor's business reports. If you'd like to hear what HP says in specific about its business plans, anyone can access a webpage to listen every 90 days to CEO Meg Whitman. She answers questions, live. It's recorded for later listening, too. It's the only regular conversation you'll hear from HP's leader. It happens because business analysts demand answers, because they want to process and parse new developments. And Whitman's recent answers have included notes about how its Unix servers have stopped being a growth business. The whole BCS unit has stopped growing.
The last time HP took notice of a server business and its growth forecasts, it was the 3000's. This summer the OpenVMS departure clock began to tick. If HP's among your preferred vendors, don't kid yourself. Business matters take a front seat in your vendor's plans. People don't make decisions about IT based entirely on a turnaround CEO's message, no matter how consistent. People using HP servers were once called programmer analysts. They might not program much any more, but they still need to analyze. You need information that's current to do that. A consistent message is important to a turnaround mantra, but probably doesn't keep pace with change.
September 11, 2013
HP dives out of the Dow Jones average
It was a pretty good run for awhile -- 16 years of Hewlett-Packard stock being part of the greatest run-up in Wall Street securities history. But this week the Dow Jones organization announced the biggest shake-up in the average in a decade, removing Hewlett-Packard's shares. The stock lost half of its value, then regained nearly all of it, in a turbulent 18 months that ushered it out of the best-known average.
The change takes effect with the close of trading on Sept. 20, and was "prompted by the low stock price of the companies slated for removal, and the Index Committee's desire to diversify the sector and industry group representation of the index," according to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, the company that oversees the Dow. Alcoa Aluminum and Bank of America are also being removed.
HP's shares are not trading much lower than in 1997 when it joined the average. In that year, HP traded at $25.75 a share, just $3 higher than today's price. It became only the second computing company to join the 1997 Dow; Johnson & Johnson, Travelers Group and WalMart were added to the index that year as well. All but HP remain part of the index of international business. The Dow average was about 6700 when HP was added. Today it's above 15,000.
The HP of 1997 had no significant Internet presence, playing catch-up to Sun. Hewlett-Packard also was scurrying to adopt Windows as an enterprise solution, having gambled heavy on Unix through the 1990s instead. That year's Hewlett-Packard also sold HP 3000 Series 9x9 servers, a solution that was just gaining its first open source software programs as well as dropping the Classic CISC-based servers that ran MPE V. HP was a $43 billion company that year with a workforce of 121,000.
But many things have changed along with HP's overall futures and fortunes. In the summer of 1997, 3000 division manager Harry Sterling, in just his first full year on the job, announced that the HP 3000 would be gaining a 64-bit MPE, with designs aimed at using the newest HP chips.Unix came in for specific mention in HP's annual report of 1997, as did Windows NT and a splash about running Barnes & Noble's website with HP gear. (Amazon, still not making a profit, was driven by Linux and Sun systems.) But while the HP of that year pointed to its commodity-grade environments during an era when an OS meant as much as application availability, the HP 3000's future was painted in bright shades at an HP World conference on a steamy Navy Pier in Chicago.
"The growth of the HP 3000 is secure well into the 21st century," Sterling said. "Our engineers are working on a new generation of HP 3000s based on the 64-bit PA-8200 chip." HP said that a new 200MHz, 8200-based system would arrive in the lineup first as a midrange system.
More importantly, HP said it re-evaluated its 1996 decision to wait on delivering a 64-bit implementation of MPE/iX. The new MPE version will "fully exploit the power of the PA-8000 processors. After better understanding your needs, our completed investigations have convinced me that we need to move forward on this front," Sterling said.
HP stalled on its 64-bit MPE/iX program in the years that followed, delivering its final roadmap with a 3000 future on it during an HP World conference in Chicago again, four years later.
Visa International is replacing HP in the Dow Average, the Index Committee reports. Also joining the 30 companies in the average: Nike and Goldman Sachs. The index is designed to represent a broad spectrum of businesses and has included former companies such as ATT and GM. The biggest shift in its membership since the HP removal came in 2004, when "Too Big to Fail" AIG, Pfizer and Verizon replaced ATT, Kodak and International Paper. AIG was dropped in 2008.
Computing firms in the Dow are now represented by IBM, Microsoft and Intel. The latter two vendors joined the average just two years after HP arrived.
September 06, 2013
History tells us to mind the futures gap
Hewlett-Packard's Millenial Version (2001.0) kicked out the 3000 a dozen summers ago. But your community still talks about that breakup, something like the girlfriend a fellow lost after she was so close that she knew your team's football players. (There's an allusion that might play on both sides of the Atlantic, now that our sports called football are both apace this weekend.) It's a worthy subject. A gap between futures talks and vendor reality must always be considered. This is the season of 2014's planning, after all.
The latest discussion about 2001 came out of a corner of the community's online outposts. Over in an exclusive sector, people talked about whether HP 2001.0 had ever violated regulations when it went to that summer's HP World show, talking up 3000 futures to anybody within the sound of the HP voices of Dave Snow and Winston Prather.
Timeline: Chicago hosts that summer's show in late August. All seems well on the slides and futures talks. Two and a half months later, the big Acme safe (Warner Brothers cartoon-style) gets dropped on the heads of users, managers and vendors everywhere. Was Carly Fionia's HP-Invent fibbing about the 3000's futures?
This week the chatter amounts to just speculations, unless an HP manager (that might be former GM Prather, or someone higher up) wants to reveal the internals. Yup, Winston's still at HP.
But I may as well concoct a scenario that might permit HP to make its presentations that summer and not break the rules. In this tale, HP hopes there's a lot of revenue growth coming soon for the 3000. Either that, or it's gonna go away. Fiorina was well-known for cracking the whip on revenue growth.
So after July meetings with big customers, here comes that August HP World conference. At the time, there's no lack of verbal assurances about 3000 futures from HP. Things in writing, or on a slide, are a lot more fuzzy. There's no date-certain about Itanium for MPE at that meeting in Chicago, either. One VAR I interviewed about the meeting said, "That's when we knew the writing was on the wall" about MPE. It wasn't going forward, he said.
So perhaps HP was hoping against hope they'd get a balloon-full of orders, or something to lift revenue growth. Mind you, the year's sales that led up to the 2001 meeting were plenty encouraging and on the rise -- this despite having nothing to sell but a behind-schedule refresh of the 3000 lineup. The refresh yielded A-Class and N-Class servers, but shipping only at mid-2001. Yeah, right around that crucial summer.
Y2K had held the customer base in place. Something shipping right away as an upgrade, a computer which used a more modern PCI bus and had a nice performance boost -- well, it might have netted sales to satisfy the "it's growing or it's going" execs inside HP. I leave it an exercise to the reader to remember which HP manager was driving 3000 R&D when N-Class systems were being developed. (Hint: I've mentioned the name more than once already.)
As I said, it's conjecture until someone who was inside those planning meetings, responding to CEO-level directives, opens up. I will probably live to see the tale told. But I'm only 56, and it's only been 12 years this summer since those meetings.
Some vendors believe that a shift away from HP-crafted environments could be regarded as inevitable. Considering how the rest of the OS-centric HP enterprise business has fared since then, it's possible that for Hewlett-Packard, the company's misreading of 3000 durability was the only thing that made MPE the canary in HP's mineshaft of enterprise server business.
[Ref: Canary in the mineshaft: a caged bird carried down to warn miners of a leak of dangerous gas. If the bird keeled over, the miners left the tunnels immediately. Gas = new go-go growth demands from HP business. See: Merger with Compaq.]
Some of the veterans in our community believe that those 3000 futures decisions were being made on the basis of personal growth. Career growth, that is. Rather than keep the faith in futures of the 3000, some were giving their HP career more priority. Alas, at last count, HP has released-retired-fired more than 80,000 employees since that summer. So much for making HP careerism a priority.
The veterans acknowledge there's no graceful way to pre-announce that a product is going away. Many people got 30 days' warning, pre-November. I don't know about SEC regulations, but the 3000 business was never called out in any quarterlies. You could hardly find the Business Critical Systems numbers in statements circa 2001. There was a lot less public information, and certainly no webcast analyst presentations, as there are today.
Internally to HP, CSY was a line of business. I am imagining that the public trading rules regarding reports are executed this way: SEC regulations would not be disturbed if HP said something different in Chicago, 2001 besides, "the future looks great." It's been HP's habit, however, to say everything's great in public, until they make an announcement like the one in Las Vegas this June about OpenVMS.
The difference: HP had the stones to talk about OpenVMS going away during its annual conference this year. And now, during this month that's just begun, HP will face the music from the installed base at VMS Boot Camp. I recall the timing with the 3000 was quite different. First, announce the 3000 shutdown just before a big holiday period, when IT budgets for 2002 were already set. Then, not face a big customer conference for another 10 months. HP World LA was rowdy, but by then the customers had time to cool off. Nobody was migrating, however. Not in September of 2002.
August 23, 2013
Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg
Hewlett-Packard has announced another skid in its fortunes for the servers designed to replace HP 3000s. This time around, the results were so disappointing that the Enterprise business unit had its Executive VP removed from the job.
It's not that the numbers for this period were out of line with the last eight quarters. (Details above) But the malaise of the sales at Business Critical Systems -- where the Integrity servers have been losing revenue and profit -- has spread to the sales of the ProLiant systems as well. BCS, which still gets its own baggage to carry in the HP quarterly reports, dropped another 26 percent of sales versus 2012's Q3.
How small has BCS become? It's a question which can be answered at last. HP reported that sales of the Integrity systems' unit represented 4 percent of the total $6.8 billion of the Enterprise group. That's $272 million in sales of HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS servers and related peripherals for a 3-month period. Less than 1 percent of HP's sales, or a run rate of just over $1 billion a year. Except that it's been running downhill since 2011, and Dave Donatelli was all but fired for the results.
HP's CEO Meg Whitman reported that Donatelli -- who came to HP in a contested job change from EMC -- will be "on special assignment," instead of running the futures and fortunes of HP's Enterprise servers. The group includes Industry Standard Xeon-based ProLiants. The whole unit dropped another $600 million in sales during Q3. Like so many of the dropping units on the HP report, the group was listed as working in a "tough compare" to the 2012 business.
Which would make for a good explanation, until you remember HP reported a record loss for last year's Q3. Analysts said after the call that the HP results show, as Mad Money's Jim Cramer brayed, "HP needs three things: new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck."The only part of the HP third quarter that didn't slip was the Software group. No growth, but no decline in sales, either. All of the declining -- from the steep 26 percent at BCS, to the smallest of 4 percent in Printing --was against the Q3 of 2012. While sales were off by 8 percent company-wide, HP reported a total of $1.7 billion in profits overall after it took its writedowns and amortizations. The Enterprise Group, home to HP Servers, still contributed $1 billion to that total profit. The Enterprise profits dropped 20 percent in real dollars from last year, however.
The company has been maintaining its overall profitability by shaving down costs. Whitman, like her predecessor Mark Hurd, calls this becoming more efficient. The solutions in the business servers unit will run to things like investment in the support of the sales force and operations. Or getting better organized in marketing and product management. Growth is supposed to come from leveraging accounts between Enterprise Services -- another slipping unit -- and Enterprise Servers group.
The slipping results didn't shake out to the bottom line of profits because of those cost savings. HP eliminated another 3,800 jobs in the period. That's a small percentage of the 22,000 it's shaved away for the last 18 months. HP still employs about 300,000 people worldwide.
The actual numbers came out early on August 22, eight hours before the explanations from Whitman and CFO Cathie Lesjak. All day the stock got sold down, losing 14 percent of its value and driving down the Dow by five points all by itself. There was no bounceback during the trading day that followed, which is unusual. A Dow Jones company that takes a swoon like this often gets bought up in the aftermath at the lower prices. HPQ shares recovered just 18 cents.
That might be due to the adjustment of analyst expectations. While HP might have avoided a nose-dive by beating profit estimates, it's become "The Incredible Shrinking Company" (Seeking Alpha) or "headed for an abyss" (ValueWalk). At MarketWatch, John Shinal wrote, "Far from engineering a turnaround, Whitman is overseeing what looks more and more like a voyage to the bottom of the sea." One analyst house shifted its advice from "hold" to "sell" after the report's numbers came out.
Customers care about more the numbers in pricing, however. The forecasts of recovery are often left to business journalists, analysts, and fund managers to fret over. At the Motley Fool, author Anders Bylund noted that "HP never resorted to the ultimate panic strategy of deep discounts in the hunt for revenue targets. Product prices remained firm." That means that despite the loss of business, HP didn't lower pricing for customers and prospects. The stock has "just about matched the Dow's one-year returns." HP's got the advantage of rebounding off an $11.65 nadir last fall. Anything in the $20s seems better.
However, a computer supplier needs to be on a mission to do more than protect its share price and return cash to investors. HP's biggest number on its own infographic touted $283 million returned to shareholders. That counts share buybacks as well as dividends. The fine print for Q3: HP curtailed its share buyback program for "material, non-public information that prevented us from [repurchasing stock]." Nobody asked what that meant during a one-hour analyst call, so it must not be important to financial experts.
The fine print on the infographic was reserved for the percentage in lost sales.
Whitman said more than once that she's satisfied with the progress of what she calls a five-year turnaround project. "We have re-ignited innovation at HP," she said. Then she allowed that more acquisitions, which Whitman halted at first, would have to help spark new products. "We’re very focused, but acquisitions are going to have to be a part of this turnaround," she told analysts in her call. (You can listen for yourself at HP's investor website. Full numbers are at the main page of that site, too.)
Later on, Whitman said that "HP is the product of many acquisitions," going back to the Compaq purchase that triggered the HP 3000 pullout. She added that not all of the acquisitions have been integrated fully.
"We have more work to do," she said. While noting that HP's in a happy place for cash: paying off a $1.2 billion note, buying stock, paying dividends -- Whitman said that an overall increase in sales for 2013 wouldn't be happening. Pockets of the company will see sales increases.
Which pockets increase might have an effect on the fortunes of futures for some products. Whitman said HP's got three segments of businesses, and its "heavily weighted now toward declining businesses."
August 15, 2013
HP wins suit on strength of weak standard
This week a Federal judge ruled that HP won't have to pay lawsuit damages after a CEO violated a code of conduct for the company's workers. The alleged harrassment by Mark Hurd was not studied as closely as that code of conduct for Hewlett-Packard.
Though HP's standards brochure contained provisions like, "We are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings," District Judge Jon Tigar found that such comments aren't material statements. The wording in the code was vague enough that some major shareholders, led by the Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund, don't get to collect damages in a lawsuit because the judge called the HP code "puffery."
It's not shocking that a sexual harassment case, one that been broadcast in a lurid story, wouldn't end in jail time for Hurd, or a fine against HP. Those are big players with great legal representation. Hurd's amorous advances earned him a spot at Oracle selling Sun servers, so well that the Business Critical Systems division hasn't had a good quarter since he left HP.
It's probably not even surprising that a current HP code has a vague wording. Somehow, it took more than 18 months to decide that in a District Court matter. What is genuinely surprising is that any corporation code would be considered a cut above a prayer or an advertisement. The old Hewlett-Packard -- the company that current CEO Meg Whitman says remains in the new HP's DNA -- would see a code as a promise. It worded the copy of the HP Way clearly enough that it could defend its practices. Corporate-level creeds such as standards brochures are low bars to clear. Nothing as concrete, so to speak, as "profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives."
That's the old HP, considered benevolent and collegial, talking there in the HP Way. Profit was the biggest goal. Today HP takes its commitment to green manufacturing and the environment more seriously than corporate officer accountability. This is important to remember when choosing a systems vendor for a migration project.The District Court ruled this week that "Adoption of the [shareholder] argument would still render every code of ethics materially misleading, whenever an executive commits an ethical violation following a scandal." Scandal has no impact on a code of ethics in 2013. A shareholder cares more about this than a customer, unless the scandal leads to a weaker pipeline of products and services.
One of the things that can weaken a pipeline is a stronger competitor. Nobody will argue Oracle isn't stronger than it was in 2010, when Mark Hurd was testifying about his romantic advances. (He said he didn't have any, that it was all a misunderstanding.)
HP tried to block releasing the letter of allegations that attorney Gloria Allred filed about those encounters. Whether they are true in their entirety, or just in parts, there's a lot of detail in an account that asserts "You told her to be quiet because there were bodyguards in a room next door [to your hotel room.]"
Accountability from a corporation is a matter of trust. An IT director can be pragmatic, even a cynic, and say you'd better not expect much from any entity that's said for more than 50 years, "We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives." So long as those objectives are carrying you to the next IT platform, HP's a good choice for a partner. Just beware of the puffery. It can show up in places like a corporate speech or a conference, as well as in a Code of Ethics.
August 12, 2013
HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You
Even after HP stopped making HP 3000s in 2003, it did not stop selling the servers. No, not those holdover orders placed at the end of '03, computers which were not delivered until the spring of 2004. Cast your memory back to 2005 and 2006, when servers and their MPE licenses were advertised from the company's used computer unit, HP Renew.
Now there's another chapter to this song of sayonara. Customers using OpenVMS systems built on Integrity can buy older machines from HP Renew. "HP Renew helps you to develop, migrate or augment your IT infrastructure at your own pace, without impacting efficiency," says its website. The Integrity 9300 series i2 blades and rackmount servers are on sale, only slightly used.
HP 3000s are not offered in HP Renew any longer. They once were, at the same time as independent resellers and brokers sold this iron. HP iron is "the monkey on your back," according to virtualization vendor Stromasys. You get the monkey off by going to Intel servers that run Linux, and then MPE in that cradle. The monkey is PA-RISC servers.
But the vendor still sells HP 9000 PA-RISC systems through HP Renew, servers built with identical hardware as the HP 3000 iron. There's an HP-UX license sold with these HP 9000s, computers that are 10 years behind HP's latest HP-UX Integrity servers. Today the HP 3000 iron, with its discs of varying age, comes from the resale markets. You get them from vendors like Pivital Solutions (one of the last authorized 3000 resellers), or the MPE Support Group, or even on eBay. HP's turned away from the 3000 customer, as it will for nearly all of them except those who use industry standard environments. Right now that looks like it will be Linux and Windows -- but we're not that certain about the latter, for the longest run.
Whatever the length of its promises which have passed away, the current HP CEO has passed on an ideal that HP never did lose its customer focus. At a recent conference, Meg Whitman gave a speech that concocted a company that would never leave a customer out of its heart. OpenVMS users have already been told their OS will be left off of the next generation of Itanium. There's no other chip that runs OpenVMS, just like no other iron will run HP-UX. Oh, except those 10-year-old PA-RISC systems. Is that resold iron better than nothing when a customer needs a replacement system?Speaking as the keynoter at the Nth Generation Symposium -- at Disneyland, no less -- the CEO said
Customers have always been at the heart of HP. We're one of the only companies, maybe the only company, equally strong in devices, infrastructure and services.
But the unraveling of strong strands with customers has already begun for VMS. HP is demonstrating it's not strong enough to pull OpenVMS into the next generation of Itanium. It's a path similar to the one the vendor took for MPE and the HP 3000, failing to keep a HP-created business server relevant.
Relevance is even more important than being at the heart of HP. Relevance is like being in the soul of a vendor's futures, maybe even in its DNA. The HP 3000 was probably only at HP's heart for about 7 years -- that period before the rise of Windows and Unix, when a customized and proprietary OS was the way to keep customers strong. Like IBM's continued to do with its System i. You might know it as AS/400, as its loyal customers do.
But such vendor-loyal customers aside, then the rest of the HP customers are "at the heart of HP." She said that HP's focus on customers was always a part of the corporate DNA, something she said came from Bill and Dave. "Despite the acquisitions, the boardroom drama, it's hard to kill the culture," she said. And then added that since the company was founded, it is hard to kill the DNA of its founders.
That's an ideal that would be a genuine way for HP to Renew.
August 02, 2013
Migration servers live together at new HP
Quietly this year, HP reorganized its server operations. Under the cover of an announcement of a Converged Systems group, Hewlett-Packard combined its Intel Xeon-based server business with the specialized Intel Itanium-based server products. The new unit hasn't reported its results yet; the reorg took place just at the end of the second HP quarter of fiscal 2013. Randy Meyer has been named as the GM of many products.
Numbers for this business won't appear for a few more weeks -- HP closed its third quarter on Wednesday, July 31. However, Hewlett-Packard says the combination of these groups will quicken the pace of something the vendor calls "the speed of transformation of the server industry."
While the un-migrated 3000 customer evaluates platform options, they've been watching a transformation that probably didn't seem to require more speed. Business Critical Servers (BCS), the home of Integrity/Itanium operations, has been on a speedy path to a slimmer profile at HP for nearly two years. Integrity servers have become a tough sell to new customers, but a preferred path for existing companies that have a lot invested already in HP's Unix, for example.
Obviously, the 3000 site that hasn't made a move yet won't have much invested in HP-UX or Integrity. Unless that company already has operations elsewhere that use Unix and Integrity boxes. It might be the place where Integrity can still claim some fresh datacenter real estate, but those won't be new customers.HP started talking to Integrity customers about this at its HP Discover event this summer. That message was brimming with more detail on the level of management change inside Hewlett-Packard's server group.
In a note to NonStop users (also captive to the Integrity line), VP and GM of Integrity Servers Randy Meyer said HP's compression of servers has no impact on its level of committment.
I can assure you that while there's been a change in leadership, there is no change in the focus and commitment to the NonStop business, and no change to what people care about. We are an important part of the HP Server organization, and we'll continue to deliver the quality and value that you depend upon to run your business.
It's all true, but the NonStop customer has now seen Winston Prather (long ago, the HP 3000 GM) leave NonStop, and then the recently-promoted Ric Lewis depart as GM of NonStop. Now Lewis "has moved up, but he's not moving very far. He still owns the NonStop business, and is still deeply invested in its success," Meyer reported.
Perhaps it's a good thing that NonStop-using Integrity customers no longer have their own general manager. And it might even be an improvement to have NonStop -- and for that matter, HP-UX -- inside of a new Enterprise Servers Business Segment. Even as a slice of HP's server industry, HP's packed a lot of business in there.
Within Enterprise Servers, we have created an Integrity Servers business focused on HP's mission critical portfolio include NonStop systems, Integrity server, and HP-UX and OpenVMS operating environments.
This is a better explanation of the what that speedy transformation produces: fewer managers, combined resources and operations, and a single line on the HP quarterly report. It now says Integrity Servers, not BCS. Earlier this year HP's CEO said that BCS was once a big business. Now HP's resizing it and aligning it with the rest of its enterprise server offerings that use a popular intel architecture. When these were Industry Standard and Servers and Business Critical Systems, BCS took all the heat. Now the word Integrity will supplant BCS in the financial reports, and one GM will lead all these products into the future.
July 12, 2013
Glossary to the Future: SDN
Editor's Note: Some HP 3000 IT managers and owners are preparing for a world where the old terms and acronymns lose their meaning -- while newer strategies and technologies strive to become more meaningful. This series will examine the newer candidates to earn a place in your datacenter glossary.
Server virtualization is going to change the way computing resources are delivered. In many shops in the HP 3000 world, virtualization is already at work. What's more, with the rise of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator, a virtualized HP 3000 server will become another resource, one that extends the life of MPE applications.
But for the company that's designing its move into commodity computing, there's another level of virtualization which is in its early days: Software Defined Networking. Its architecture is detailed above. HP explains the SDN technology this way in a white paper.
With SDN, you're using commodity server hardware (typically on top of or within a virtualization hypervisor) to manage, control, and move your network's data. This is different from the pre-SDN approach of running management and control software on top of purpose-specific specialty chips that move the bits to and fro. SDN means you can deploy entire new network components, configure them, and bring them into production without touching a screwdriver or a piece of sheetmetal, thanks to SDN.
HP's technology to deliver SDN to a commodity server network near you is called OpenFlow. Its relationship to the HP 3000 of legend is slight. But a company that will use virtualization to full potential will want to make plans for SDN, and if your vendor of choice is HP, then OpenFlow.Like a lot of HP's newest technology, OpenFlow is pitched as a tool to ramp up agility. The vendor says "aging networking environments" hold down innovation.
Enterprise network design and architectures have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. While applications and systems have evolved to meet the demands of a world where real-time communications, rich-media, and mobility are the norm, the underlying network infrastructure has not kept pace.
HP 3000 IT managers will recognize the tone of "what you've got is holding you back," but in the case of deploying more virtualization resources, SDN could have a role to play for any company heading to the cloud.
Enterprise network design and architectures have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. While applications and systems have evolved to meet the demands of a world where real-time communications, rich-media, and mobility are the norm, the underlying network infrastructure has not kept pace.
A new paradigm in networking is emerging. SDN represents an evolution of networking that holds the promise of eliminating legacy human middleware and paves the way for business innovation. With SDN, IT can orchestrate network services and automate control of the network according to high-level policies, rather than low-level network device configurations. By eliminating manual device-by-device configuration, IT resources can be optimized to lower costs and increase competitiveness.
The desire for automated and dynamic control over network resources is not new. However, with the emergence of technologies such as OpenFlow, the ability to implement SDN to increase agility has never been simpler.
It's early days for SDN, according to several articles from Infoworld. Switch and router vendors such as Cisco are grappling with how to offer their purpose-specific, hardware-based networking devices at the same time as SDN software starts to take the lead in network management. But Infoworld's Matt Prigge says that "SDN is most certainly the way of the future, especially as more and more on-premises networks move into the cloud, where the technology is nearly ubiquitous."
HP touts its lineup of SDN-ready network hardware (above) such as the HP 3500 Intelligent Switch, while it shows the end-to-end SDN solutions vision (at right; click on either graphic for more detail). HP says that since virtualization has redefined how apps, servers, and storage are deployed, it's now heading toward the network. "Once a brittle bottleneck standing in the way of dynamic IT, the network’s future is one of greater agility, scalability, and security. Now is the time to make that future a reality."
July 09, 2013
What Kind of UPS Best Protects Your 3000
Editor's Note: ScreenJet's founder Alan Yeo wraps up his investigation of UPS units, having had a pair fail and then take two HP 3000s offline recently. Here he explains what sort of UPS to buy to avoid a failure that knocked solid 3000s offline, by way of dirty transfers during the all-important Transfer Time (TT) window.
By Alan Yeo
Last in a series
First off, the answer to the problem: Double Conversion UPS units are what you want. They are more expensive than Line Interactive ones, but it is claimed they are cheaper in the long run, due to increased battery life. I’ll let you know in a few years. The HP 3000
Whilst a Line Interactive UPS claims that attached equipment shouldn't be at risk during the TT window, as far as I can read it can be before it is disconnected from the mains. APC for example have a compensation scheme which wouldn't be required if this wasn't possible. Note: It's interesting that APC only offer this protection policy on 120V products, for those of us using 220/240V supplies the risk is obviously deemed to be too great to cover. The fine print:
If your electronic equipment is damaged by power line transients on an AC power line (120 volt) while directly and properly connected to a standard APC 120 volt product covered by the Equipment Protection Policy (EPP), you can file a claim with APC for compensation of your damages. Coverage of damages is determined by the limits of the EPP.
TT seems to be related to the Sensitivity Level: High, Medium or Low. And the Sensitivity Levels can be altered by how you configure the UPS, for example on many UPS's you can adjust at what upper and lower input voltages it should transfer to/from battery. On 120V UPS's this range is typically 127-136 at the upper end, and 97-106 at the lower end. In High Sensitivity mode the TT is something like 2 milliseconds and if set Low around 10 milliseconds. Switching to/from battery frequently is bad for battery life, as is protracted running from the battery on a Line Interactive UPS. So the compromise is between High Sensitivity with possibly frequent but low TT, and Low Sensitivity with less frequent but longer TT.
Theoretically during the TT there is no power going to the connected equipment, so long TT's may be a problem for some equipment, also if transfers are frequent equipment may see a pulsed power supply.Keeping it clean On-Line
If Line Interactive UPS technology can fail, what should you use? On-Line or Double Conversion technology seems to be the answer. These can be hard to spot as the word “Online /On-Line” is used to describe a mode of virtually any UPS: i.e. a Line Interactive UPS is described as being in online mode when it is feeding mains direct to the attached equipment. So it's probably best to use the term Double Conversion, as this is less misleading. In a Double Conversion UPS the equipment is always fed from the inverter, which has tandem input supplies, one from the battery and one from a mains fed rectifier. This means that the equipment never sees “Mains” power, and there is never any TT as the supply from the inverter is continuous regardless of which power source it is using.
Double Conversion UPS's are more expensive to buy than Line Interactive ones, but it is claimed they are cheaper in the long run due to increased battery life. I'll let you know in a few years.
In just checking a few facts I have just discovered that Wikipedia has a great page that clearly covers the different types of UPS technology. So much so that I wish I had found it before, and also hadn't bothered trying to write this explanation. So if you want more info, or are totally confused by my description, try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uninterruptible_power_supply . There is also a great white paper, The Seven Types of Power Problems in PDF format on the Web.
Wow, are we an HP customer again?
Surprise, Surprise. Apart from the odd printer cartridge, we haven't bought anything HP since 2001, and I couldn't see much likelihood that we would. But we have just bought a new HP UPS! It appears that as a result of the “Invent” phase (which I understand has now been terminated) HP are one of the leaders in advanced UPS technology, and they do a range of Double Conversion units. We were fortunate and picked up a really nice HP unit, plus a huge auxiliary battery pack (we now have an estimated 2 hours full load uptime) for less than the cost of a smaller new APC Line Interactive. Okay, they were customer returns due to damaged packaging, but were brand new and unopened.
The sad part for HP is why we got it so cheap! I had to ask the UPS reseller why the HP one was a lot cheaper than other makes of similar Double Conversion UPS's he had for sale, especially as the new list price was as high or higher than the others. His answer surprised me.
“They are difficult to sell, because nobody recognises HP as a UPS supplier.” He told me that customers who ran data centers with HP Servers would buy new HP UPS's, but that in his experience nobody else did. So if they got returns or cancelled orders, they found them very hard to shift unless they discounted them heavily. He did say that in his opinion that it really was nicely-made equipment, and that we were getting a great deal (well he is a salesman!).
It's an ill wind that blows no good
Well the wind may have caused this, but its certainly blown away a few misconceptions we had about how protected we were and how good our backup recovery strategy was. I think we had OK strategies for either total loss, or losing a single Server to a specific problem. But I don't think we had anticipated multiple (but not total) failures at the same time, or an HP 3000 outage that was caused by multiple problems that could only be discovered in a serial manner. Our total recovery time was days, not hours! The upside is that we are now better protected, have less kit running and plans for even less (feet on the ground, head in the cloud) and are now working on a recovery/disaster plan that encompasses what we have learnt.
Hopefully this saga may be a warning to others to pull out the manual for your UPS and see if it really meets your needs and expectations.
Oh by the way, on the Saturday after the outage I had a visit from an engineer from the local power distribution company, to check out our voltage that had been running earlier that day at about 264V (standard here in the UK is 240). He said our problem spikes were probably caused by a commercial neighbour with a badly-configured backup generator setup. Or it could have been the power company themselves using one to fill in a hole in the grid due to downed lines. But that we would never be able to prove it! Anyway to finish, here’s a couple of nice quotes I found at the APC site:
How large can a surge be?
Electrical industry standards indicate that electrical power surges inside a building can reach levels up to 6,000 volts and 3,000 amperes, which could deliver up to 90 joules of energy.
How often do electrical surges occur?
Very large surges could occur a few times a year in medium exposure areas or as often as 40 times a year in high exposure areas. All of which may be storm induced. Beyond storm induced electrical disturbances, normal equipment operation can also produce surges, some over 1,000 volts. These surges may occur several times a day.
About that Dual Conversion claim of increased battery life, I’ll let you know in a few years. HP 3000s are certain to still be running by then!
Alan Yeo is a developer and entrepreneur at ScreenJet, which delivers the TransAction any-platform replacement for Transact, as well as ScreenJet software, plus interface modernization services for HP 3000s which rely on VPlus today.
July 02, 2013
Latest HP exiting outrage may be delayed
HP won’t leave their customers hanging, and although going through a migration may not be on the horizon, it appears that support will be around for many years to come. In many ways you can look at it as job security, because that operating system talent you have supports a vital niche market.
That message was delivered from the CEO of the Connect User Group, Kristi Elizondo. She wasn't talking about MPE or the HP 3000, but you could be forgiven if you'd seen that sentiment from early in 2002, from another user group. Elizondo -- many more in the HP community know her as Kristi Browder -- has advocated for DEC systems and VMS users for much of her career. She was making her case that although HP won't extend the lifespan of VMS to what's probably the last generation of Itanium, things don't look that bad.
In fact, some users came together at last month's HP Discover conference in a Special Interest Group devoted to OpenVMS. There was no rancor or outrage at the meeting, by her blog report. The customers were in the room to learn something. Elizondo said that for the last 30 years she'd selected and promoted VMS "because I can sleep at night" knowing it's at work. Those OpenVMS customers were searching for hope that their nights wouldn't become sleepless on the way to 2020.
"Anything past 2012 is a bonus," read her post on the user group website. Some customers who may feel differently were not in that HP Discover room. So hers is a conciliatory approach to getting HP's assistance after its latest platform exit. Anyone back home who expected a leader with deep OpenVMS roots to challenge an HP business decision was observing the new user group mantra: getting along means going along, and everything goes away anyway.
Which sort of makes you wonder about the concept of a vendor-focused user group. Chuck Piercey, the executive director of Interex, asked the same question in 1998. If the IT world accepts that everything gets replaced, what's the point of coming together? If it's all paved over in favor of industry standard choices, what's the career benefit of being in a group?
Vendors used to listen to customers as a group. Now they'll listen as long as the customers aren't outraged and want to find a new way to get a good night's rest. While they don't disturb the vendor's business plans.Just like in the HP 3000 edition of this exiting saga, the customers who could ask HP questions didn't get many answers. Or none that were reported in a 650-word blog post.
The OpenVMS SIG meeting was a small meeting of some very concerned customers and partners. This group was present to make recommendations, not attack HP about the decisions. HP was there to listen. One suggestion was to make Virtual Machine an option. There were also several questions about licensing. Will operating system licenses transfer with the hardware if bought off the gray market? When are they going to end of life the sale of licenses?
Licensing? Those are the questions that last the longest. Just ask anyone in the MPE world today, a decade later. Unlike many in the 3000 community of 2002, Elizondo can be pragmatic about what to expect from Hewlett-Packard. She has the benefit of seeing a decade of HP shedding any business which has profits on the decline.
"It is no surprise to me that there is not a lot of high margin in these systems and the lifetime of a system goes on forever and the party never ends," she wrote. "HP has to make money, and investing in systems that have no planned obsolescence forces some hard decisions. You have to applaud that the systems will be supported until 2020."
That's a glass-half-full approach, but the glass is emptying year by year in a community that was 10 times the size of the 3000 world in 2001. Even now it's likely to be more than double the 3000's size at the time HP cut its 3000 futures. None of that size is large enough to propel outrage from current era of user group leadership. Interex took a similar approach in 2002 and onward, making a platform for the "get off very soon" messages from the vendor. Then came 2004, when HP made it very clear that the roundtable whipping posts of the 1990s Interex meetings were not going to be installed at the new HP-sponsored conferences.
By that time, Interex had chosen to run in an independent direction, and walk away from a user group alliance that became Connect in a few years. Interex didn't last another full year after it chose to walk a path separate from HP's going-my-way trail.
So if the outrage manages to surface in a community like VMS, it will be delayed by months if not years. An OpenVMS bootcamp that won't happen until sometime in 2014 will bring out customers who might not restrain their attacks. They can look toward a marketplace where their specialized skills don't bring so many offers of interviews. They'll need the interviews when an organization follows HP, as well as the user group leadership, away from the computer environment which let the customer sleep well at night.
Elizondo's report was far from the top of the latest Connect Now online newsletter. But she left readers a message that would let them sleep better. Not her sign-off of "So while I expected to attend a funeral at this meeting, it was not even a wake," or even, "Keep the passion -- we can support this together." The most prophetic words came in an explanation of why HP's proprietary OS always let her sleep at night.
"And in reality, we all know that since these systems never die, they will never die." HP hasn't started to use "end of life" language to describe OpenVMS. That will come soon enough, but it will arrive later than the outrage -- which used to boil up at user group management roundtables.
June 14, 2013
How 8 Years of Web Reports Changed Lives
This week the Newswire celebrates the 8-year-mark on our blog reporting. Starting with a eulogy for fallen 3000 savant Bruce Toback -- taken too early, by a heart attack -- we wrote about the nascent and uncertain era of transition in June of 2005. The Interex HP conference was still a possibility, HP was still creating some patches for MPE/iX -- many things that had gone on for years continued to roll along.
IMAGE jumbo datasets were supposed to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP was fixing a critical bug in LFDS and needed beta testers, something that was harder to come by for HP. LargeFiles remain less robust than jumbos for most customers. LFDS repairs consumed precious resoures in the database lab, all while HP tried to fix a data corruption problem.
HP sold off more than 400 acres in South Texas as layoffs started to mount up. CEO Mark Hurd set aside $236 million in severance pay. Sun offered up a open source program for Solaris, begging the question about when open source practices could be applied to MPE/iX. This week OpenVMS managers examined what stood in the way of VMS becoming open source.
Even though parts of MPE/iX are well outside of HP's labs, the whole wooly bunch of source, millions of lines, isn't a candidate for open source like the Sun project. But it might be, someday.
We looked at whether a transition era demanded the same rigorous HP testing of beta enhancements and patches. "We heard HP say they'd be satisfied with one site's beta test report, a comment offered when HP engineers discussed the lack of beta-test sites last summer at HP World." we reported. "When the labs closed in 2008, software that languished in Patch Jail was bailed out. HP was seeking beta testers "who want to try out the new networked printing enhancements for the HP 3000."June of 2005 began the period when HP said it would decide about making MPE source available outside of HP. "No source means no more patches. Is that a problem? Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions, a third party supporting 3000s, talked about this in 2004. "Can we find workarounds?," Suraci said. "Almost always. We haven’t run into a situation yet where we haven’t been able to get a customer back up and running."
More than three years later, Suraci's shop licensed MPE/iX source code to produce patches and workarounds. Six other licensees got what the Sun customers seemed to want: source. Gilles Schipper of GSA, one of the longest-tenured support providers, said HP code was not key.
"I don't think [access to HP's source] is a necessary thing for the 3000 to maintain its reliability," Schipper told us. "I'd like to see it happen, because it may allay the concerns of some customers out there."
That's a lesson that the OpenVMS customer might embrace, with all the direct talk of parts of the OS built by third parties or created in HP Labs.
We've been so grateful for the support of the community, especially our sponsors, in keeping the blog the leading source of HP 3000 community news and experience. Thanks for making us a pick to click in the 3000 world since before the days of a user group bankruptcy.
June 13, 2013
The Last 5 Percent, and Toughest Surprises
For more than 10 weeks now, the offices and headquarters of the 3000 Newswire have been under siege. We're doing battle with a project, the largest one that Abby and I have ever faced together -- since launching the Newswire, at least. We're re-engineering our home with a whole-house remodel. This afternoon, our general contractor said "Well, you're basically rebuilding your home, except for two rooms."
It started more simply, of course. A little patch of the house, which serves as a yoga studio and writing classroom, had its older wood floor ruined in a flooding rain nearly two years ago. The rot crept in and so it became time to replace it. This might be the kind of "it's broken" event that triggered a migration or two -- back in the days when living in the comfy house of MPE built by HP was still an option. When Hewlett-Packard tossed its pail of water onto the floor of your community, the vendor started off its campaign with success stories about transitions.
Sadly, these were as disingenuous as the ones HP offered to VMS customers this week. At the same time it was tolling the bell for its VMS business, HP's added that OpenVMS is great enough to power Accuweather and the Singapore Stock Exchange. Except the vendor doesn't want Accuweather to run on OpenVMS more than seven years longer -- because the OS support is not scheduled to survive beyond 2020, according to HP's decree. Perhaps just long enough to collect support money for another seven years. After one VMS user noted that Accuweather was an old story placed in odd context, said Neil Rieck,
We heard similar stories in 2002 about the likes of Ceridian and even Summit Technologies' Spectrum credit union software. Neither company was on the timeline of the 3000 community, but yes, they had done migrations. One company started six years before HP's announcement, and the other began more than two years earlier and then didn't finish for another three years. Meanwhile, 3000 server sales continued apace. People bought new HP 3000s even after HP's announcement, because their floors of IT with antique servers were rotted. They wanted to stop at that level of their project, however.
Yes, that Accuweather blurb in the middle of the announcement was very much like a corporate version of the Jedi-hand-wave ("These are not the droids you are looking for.") In HP's case "we have no intentions of spending another cent on OpenVMS, but continue feeling good while running a has-been OS." What I'd be more interested in finding out is how the Singaporean stock exchange --- which only a few months ago moved to VMS --- is feeling right now.
So here at Newswire Headquarters we're weathering the last five percent of a project that will require more than three months of displacement, losses and unexpected expense. Unlike the efforts that migrators are making, all we're doing is working to keep open three businesses' offices -- the Newswire and our Something Elses, Heartfelt Yoga and the Writer's Workshop. The project was something that we asked for, which makes it easier to bear than any migration that might have been needed, but was never desired. As anyone who's done a migration or a Y2K project will concur, that last 5 percent of something large takes four times as much energy. You're worn down after weeks, or months, or even years.
Our salvation -- and perhaps yours and one for the VMS faithful -- is to act in phases.Our project came in at an astonishing initial budget. We could never hope to succeed with that kind of beginning, because anything this big only expands its expenses. There's the unforseen and under-estimated in improving anything beautiful, elegant and old. We loved the praise for our house's pre-transition look. Unique and purposeful and a statement about us as artists and creators: those are the things we rolled around in, when we thought of the value of our house.
So with a colossal budget at our start, we divided up the dreams. Like perhaps a lift-and-shift, and then a revitalization, and finally a re-engineering, we had Phases 1, 2 and 3. Master Suite, Kitchen, and All Else, they became known as, concurrent with a Phase independent of all, pool and landscape. Connecting all the interior parts was the flooring. Yes, the floor that started it all.
The VMS community, like yours that precedes it, will probably look out over the next 7 years and divide the time similarly. The period to stock up with the latest hardware. That's a time to start the analysis and inventory of what's running their companies, toting up every VMS system that's far less obvious than a weather forecasting website. Then the necessary effort of replacement, pushing their Itanium and PA-RISC servers into archival and emulated modes, respectively.
For some in the 3000 community, who are now homesteading as their best business choice, there will come a day when the pail of water hits their wood floors. They have the advantage of expertise from migration services companies, better tools than a decade ago, plus the sympathies and cautions of everyone who's already done it. It won't make the last 5 percent easy to accomplish. But knowing that others have survived a calculated calamity helps you sleep on the nights like this evening, when there are no doors hung on the jambs of our house, and the scent of oil paint is heavy in the air.
June 12, 2013
Newest HP song of server exits same as old
Now that there's another homesteading-migration movement afoot in the HP enterprise community, it's worth studying. What's different about the shutdown of the OpenVMS operations at Hewlett-Packard, versus the tale of the last decade from the 3000? Many moments and passions are similar. Slides not even six months old like the one below foretold of nothing but clear sailing. But with HP's 11 years of extra embrace for VMS, beyond the 3000 sayonara, things may be kinder for the VMS acolytes, those whose faith HP praised in an exit letter.
Within a day of posting the letter, the VMS community was trying to organize an effort to get the operating system source code from HP, re-licensed as open source. Perhaps they didn't take much heed of the 7-year quest by OpenMPE to win the rights to MPE/iX. First there was a set of legal proposals, followed by the logical proposals that the OS couldn't be worth anything to an HP which was casting it aside. I'm talking here about both the 3000 community, as well as those wounded in the world of OpenVMS.
"Is there no one who can free VMS from HP?" asked one member on the comp.os.vms newsgroup. Another member replied with an update from the group devoted to Rdb, the Digital database as vital to VMS as IMAGE is to MPE. He wanted to deal with Digital people in place before a controversial CEO served up the first sale, to Compaq, before HP.
Up on the Rdb list, Keith Parris raised the possibility of HP open-sourcing VMS. While I would prefer VMS to come from DEC before [former CEO Robert] Palmer, that is no longer an option. If done correctly, an open-source VMS might be better than no VMS. Perhaps HP should pay a peanuts-scale salary of, say, $150,000 so that someone can coordinate this full time.
Unless a revolt has pulled down the walls of HP's IP legal group, such license freedom sought by customers won't be forthcoming. HP got badgered into releasing MPE/iX source to a select group of licensees, who cannot improve upon the 7.5 release but use their code to create workarounds and patches. However, the VMS people do have the advantage of a thriving emulator company for any Digital VMS implementations which run on older, non-Itanium servers. The tech issues have been long-solved for Charon for VMS, but there are licensing issues that the Digital user will need to manage for themselves.
Here's where the HP 3000 community is a decade ahead of the drop-kicked Digital group. Stromasys reports that licensing hasn't been an issue in getting Charon HPA/3000 up and running in the early days of sales. HP's provided the MPE/iX license, and that just leaves the third party software.Stromasys reported last month that the license arrangements for the emulator have to be left to each customer who will transition to a virtualized 3000 server. You make your own deals.
But product manager Paul Taffel said that "There have been no problems with vendors. We finally figured out who you have to call in IBM to get the Cognos license, for example." That would be Charlie Maloney, at 978-399-7341.
What the Digital faithful do not see in place yet is a license arrangement from HP for OpenVMS on every platform -- including some that may not yet exist, like an Itanium emulator. In these earliest days, they at least can point to the emulator company that's arranged for such a thing in the past. But there are doubts and uncertainty to go along with fears.
"Are these emulators a serious option?" said one customer on the newsgroup. "The emulators could be a serious option, but what of them, if HP clams up and refuses to license VMS on them?"
The reply from another customer echoed right back to the earliest days of outrage over the 3000 transition. "This is why prying VMS from HP's clammy hands would be the first priority, and nothing else matters if that cannot be done."
Your community marshalled its forces in late 2001 and into 2002 to try to wrest the entire 3000 business from HP, at a price. Hewlett-Packard was not interested, but these are more interesting times. HP just won a lawsuit with Oracle, fighting over the future of Itanium. Oracle didn't want its software to run on Itanium anymore. Neither does HP want OpenVMS to run on Itanium. The wounded customers in the VMS world suggest that Oracle ought to sue to get back its judgement from the prior suit.
To demonstrate there's still value in working with Itanium, HP might be induced or coerced to smooth the OpenVMS path from HP product to community asset. Just like the 3000 odyssey of the previous decade, HP was assuring the VMS user in slide decks dated as recently as December.
Despite Oracle’s announcement to discontinue all software development on the Intel Itanium microprocessor, we remain committed to supporting you and your IT environment. We will continue to support OpenVMS on Tukwila-based and Poulson-based Integrity systems beyond the next decade.
As if that were not enough, another message came down from the man recently promoted to head HP's Labs. Martin Fink was formerly the head of the Business Critical Systems group where OpenVMS remains for sale until the end of 2015. In 2011, while HP battled Oracle in that suit, Fink found the moxie to make a rallying statement that will sound familiar to the 3000 customer. At least any who recall the mid-summer assurances of 2001 that preceded the November shutdown notice.
Fink told OpenVMS customers
Let me reassure you. HP plans to continue the development and innovation of Itanium-based Integrity NonStop and Integrity server platforms with our HP-UX and OpenVMS operating systems for more than 10 years.
At the bottom of each and every slide in these decks is the standard HP disclaimer that anything can change at any time. It's just this: until the song of departure is sung for you, it's hard to believe it HP would sing it to anybody as faithful as you've been.
June 11, 2013
HP tolls bell for penultimate enterprise OS
It took more than 11 extra years, but HP is finally swinging the axe on OpenVMS, the next to last HP-crafted OS for business. Customers in the DEC world got a pass for their OS onto the Itanium architecture in 2001, a route that HP blocked as it started to end its MPE business. But the OpenVMS customer base will die the death at HP from dozens of cuts, beginning with an end of Integrity i2 server sales for the OS at the close of 2015.
Server upgrades for the OS will end one year later, if HP keeps to its plan. The strategy was announced in a letter that began
For over 35 years, the HP OpenVMS operating environment has served as a mission-critical platform upon which you have built your IT infrastructure. We deeply appreciate our long partnership and also the loyalty you have shown HP during this time.
In WW II these were called Dear John letters, received at the front from a back-home sweetheart who was stepping out of a relationship. HP couched its news in the cloak of a "Mission-critical Roadmap Update," (click for detail) and the vendor used phrases like "at least" in front of dates for ending server sales. But an 8.5 version of OpenVMS is not on HP's map, just like an MPE/iX 8.0 evaporated from Hewlett-Packard futures slides in 2001. The equivalent of OpenVMS 8.5 would be needed to support the Poulson class of Itanium chips, processors HP will use in its newest Integrity i4 boxes.
For the most loyal and patient OpenVMS customers -- who view migrating their proprietary systems as kindly as 3000 folk did -- HP will continue supporting Integrity i2 server hardware through the end of 2020. That year aligns with the one picked by HP's expert witness when calculating how long Itanium would be an HP revenue generator. HP learned something from the 3000 market while ending a business line. OpenVMS users will get more than six years of continued HP support -- longer than the five that HP first imagined when it curtailed its MPE business.
The move leaves just one HP-created general purpose OS running on Itanium boxes, HP-UX. (NonStop, from Tandem in an acquisition, is aimed at a much narrower purpose.) Like HP's Unix, OpenVMS servers come from the embattled Business Critical Systems group, where the HP 3000 lived out its remaining HP days. HP promised more remaining sales cycles for VMS servers than the 3000 servers got, but only by a few months. VMS on Integrity will serve out "at least" a remaining 30 months on HP price lists; the 3000 got 24 extra monthly reports.HP's nod to customer loyalty in a letter from Ric Lewis, GM for the Enterprise Servers Business, was an echo of the letter HP sent to its MPE sites in 2001. It's never a good thing when HP starts off by saying your enterprise system "has served," as in the past tense.
The OpenVMS user has an advantage in its homesteading era which starts this week. The OS already has the benefit of an emulator company that's making a nice living in the DEC marketplace. Stromasys has 5,000 installations in 50 countries running its Charon products for VMS.
The road isn't fully cleared for any company to offer an emulator which will put Integrity onto Intel chips like Charon does with PA-RISC. A couple of redoubts remain. HP-UX and NonStop communities haven't gotten their letters yet. The Unix customers might slide sideways into Linux installations, but only with a level of pain and expense lower than the MPE community weathered.
The NonStop customer -- a group small enough to be unable to prop up Itanium design and improvements -- won't escape transition pain. This week would be the time to ask about HP's futures in NonStop, of course. One major difference from the 3000 wind-down: HP broke the news in the middle of its annual HP Discover show. Plenty of damage control would be on hand in Vegas this week.
HP's reaching out to support its less-independent OpenVMS customers with a "high level" of support as long as a company wants to pay Hewlett-Packard. The vendor is also equating transition with homestead support, the same kind of misunderstanding it held for 3000 customers.
We will continue to provide a high level of support to you through the lifetime of your OpenVMS environment. We have a full portfolio of servers, software, and solutions, including support for transitions to NonStop, HP-UX, Linux, and Windows environments.
None of those environments have much to offer that will make OpenVMS transitions less painful, but it's possible that Hewlett-Packard took some HP 3000 lessons to heart. That would mean that vendor-supplied transition tools will lead the way in the marketplace. But who might move from one HP proprietary OS to another? Just ask the companies which found replacement HP-UX apps for their MPE/iX applications over the last 11 years.
Hewlett-Packard doesn't consider these products proprietary, even though customer ecosystems have grown deep software roots into the operating systems' remarkable engineering. There's no significant profit that HP can make in selling servers for OpenVMS, HP-UX and NonStop. There's plenty of support profit, as there was for MPE/iX. So for at least five years after the last Integrity OpenVMS server is sold from HP, the vendor will collect support payments. This would align on the five-year mark HP that settled upon for the 3000. Sales ended in 2003, and HP's formal and full support -- including the MPE/iX lab -- shut down in December of 2008.
So even without letters to its last two Integrity environments, Hewlett-Packard demonstrates that the only future remaining for its most loyal Itanium customers will be 18 months of server sales, and 30 for upgrades.
HP called the update "a rolling (up to three-year) roadmap and is subject to change without notice." HP promised -- in the roadmap's fine print -- that what it's now calling Standard Support for OpenVMS won't be ended unless a customer is given 24 months notice.
A storm of indignity and dismay might arise in the OpenVMS community like the one we all watched here in ours. The revolt and rally might begin with the OpenVMS Boot Camp this fall, but that was never a meeting with vast exhibits and thousands of customers on hand.
VMS customers have already seen HP scuttle a business that was producing profits -- modest ones -- when Hewlett-Packard started its clock on the 3000, however. VMS managers might have made their plans accordingly. There's nothing like tolling the bell on hardware sales to spark migrations, as the 3000 community learned.
HP's making no promises about anything in the roadmap, either. "Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional representation or warranty or binding commitment upon HP. This is not a commitment to deliver any material, code or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions." That's language HP learned to use after its 3000-exit adventures more than a decade ago.
June 10, 2013
How shooting off Moonshot can hit your IT
Some HP 3000 customers are making a migration from a small installation. But for others, their systems are as big as MPE will let them become -- and those sites need even greater computing power. Power is a crucial element in the HP Moonshot server, whose 1500 chassis is a hot topic at this week's HP Discover conference.
HP is making the technology behind smartphones -- one IT manager calls those toys -- shoulder the load of serving up massive websites, or perform financial analysis. Any application with a growing base of users and the need for horsepower that will scale, independent of power needs, might be a good fit for Moonshot. Or as HP calls the product on the server's website, the HP ProLiant Moonshot Server. Look a little harder at this server and you'll see an x86 architecture that's driven by Intel's Atom processors. Atom has a life inside mobile devices like Lenovo and Motorola Android phones.
Not exactly the top tier of phone makers. Apple makes its own A6x. Many other phone makers use ARM chips. In a way, the Atom processor in the Moonshot is a repurposing of the CPU. Atom was built to burn less than 10 watts of power at a peak. HP says the Moonshot chews up 89 percent less energy than the same compute power driven by Intel's Xeon family, or the Intel Itanium. You know, the traditional servers.
HP's not aiming Moonshot at small to medium businesses. When its website says "Shop for Moonshot" you don't go to a Build To Order menu like you can for other ProLiant servers. "Find a reseller," it says underneath.
HP started building the Moonshot line in its labs four years ago. That was an era when R&D got no love at HP, but Moonshot stayed on target anyway. This was HP's entry into ultra-dense computing. For many customers relying on MPE, that's just a buzzword. But ultra-dense computers address a common 3000 need: reduced use of energy, in a small footprint, and cheaper than tradition. You have to go back to the 3000's Mighty Mouse Series 37, or the Series 918 PA-RISC server, to find something comparable in impact.HP is not entering this orbit early. IBM has been in the ultra-dense and software-defined server market far longer. But there's a need for something to drive big sites like web hosting companies, social networking providers and video warehouses without burning countless kilowatt hours. HP CEO Meg Whitman said that the equivalent in traditional servers could use as much power as 20,000 homes to keep up when applications scale up.
But that's at the high end of concerns. For someone who manages 3000s and thinks, as one IT manager wrote us,
If I could put a Moonshot in a workgroup of 8 or 10 people, and connect them to it with thin clients or Windows terminals, and call it their workgroup server, then I could significantly shrink the datacenter.
Not really what the server is built for, sadly. We're talking thousands of people in a workgroup. Running something that wants to be Facebook or Twitter, but is not yet. Or serving video like YouTube. But the sweet promise of Moonshot is that being software-defined, its something that enterprises can optimize based on specific workload needs.
As it has for a long time, HP is showing off its large-scale system offerings to medium-scale customers. Because everybody wants to be bigger. One way to do that is to use something smaller, like an ARM processor or even Intel's Atom, the latter being IA-32 and x86-64 compatible. The processors from those toys are gathering in racks of 1,000 to make high horsepower computing -- perhaps on the horizon for a migrator -- cost less and draw less power and footprint.
June 07, 2013
Find invention at Discover's web, or garages
The 3000 community recently took note of the MPE departures from HP's ranks. The revelation about what else everybody's doing elsewhere has triggered chatter about HP's ability to invent. This subject can be important to the migrating sites that are sticking with HP's platforms, whether those systems run HP's Unix, Linux, or Windows. Customer Delight can result from inventions, so the matter of whether HP invents anymore can be a part of an evaluation.
To nobody's surprise, the chatter judged HP harshly on its invention score since dropping the 3000 as well as those MPE experts. But HP's Jim Hawkins, one of the select employees still holding MPE skills in his toolbelt, came to his employer's defense. If you'd like to see HP's most recent inventions, he said, going to next week's HP Discover conference would be a good start.
Few 3000 migrators are going to Discover, however. HP recognizes that the majority of its customers can't swing a trip to Vegas and an $1,800 entry fee. So Hewlett-Packard, a company which for a time had the word "invent" bolted onto its logo, will put selected Discover talks on the Web starting June 11. Whether you'll consider those presentations inventive depends on a customer's definition.
"My understanding is that CNBC will be broadcasting live from the [Discover] floor, Hawkins offered up on 3000-L. "If you want to learn what HP is really up to, there's a good place." The engineer whose expertise lies in MPE's IO added that he'd been to a "poster fair" at Hewlett-Packard recently, a gathering of IT inventors who presented their HP Labs concepts for things like network innovation.
If only the customers who've been in IT for decades were an easier crowd to convince. They remember an HP that prized inventing which flowed from the Spirit of the Garage. Plenty of things look like iterations of concepts, rather than inventions. Even Apple and Android-ians are facing that comparison next week. To seek out garage inventing you need to go farther online than vendor websites and conferences, whether Apple's or HP's.While HP's hawking its advances at Discover, Apple will be presenting the best of its newest mobile software at the World Wide Developer Conference. WWDC sold out in under two minutes this year, at a cost of $1,700 per seat. Last year it took two hours. Even as Apple earned $9 million in 90 seconds or so, it still had to extend a promise of inventions applied to a white-hot mobile market. Registered Apple Developers can watch WWDC presentaations online, too.
"Apple is 'winning' because they're getting what they want in the (former) HP Way," said 3000 consultant Glenn Cole in the discussion. "They make a contribution, with millions of people able to take advantage of the attention to detail that Apple puts into their (still imperfect) products, and they get the cash to be able to invest in pushing the industry forward -- and also be everyone's personal computing design lab."
Computing design used to be paramount at that Hewlett-Packard of the HP Way. Everyone acknowledges that generation of HP is gone. But Hawkins mentioned inventions that won't be a part of Discover. These came from the HP Labs' poster fair. Whether HP's got the spark to market what follows is an answer to discover.
There were some really cool things like a no-glasses 3D display, and a method to determine co-location of devices without GPS or WiFi location information or any communication between the two devices. They use audio from device microphones to establish a pattern of -- background silence -- which is apparently better than the background noise [think two people listening to the same radio station in different locations]. That pattern information would be shared on a server and help you meet-up with people close by.
At the same time there were lots of other things which looked vaguely familiar to someone who's been in commercial computing for a while. There were ways to handle the change in the amount of data (tera-, exa-, pentabyte data sets), to structure unstructured data, to reduce the impact of the mismatch between CPU-to-memory-to-secondary storage.
As this HP-MPE engineer, still working at Hewlett-Packard, went on to examine the prospects of things like a system with memristor memory which could be permanent and as fast as your CPU, 3000 veterans grew quieter. One former reseller even expressed hope HP could return to its invention roots.
"I hope that HP can get back to blazing new trails to the future," said John Lee. The moving-off-MPE customer will likely hear a lot about HP Moonshot servers at Discover, as well as the newest, award-wining Software Defined Network products. "A conversation with HP chief technology officers." But Moonshot looks like a slimmed-down blade server to discerning eyes in the 3000 community
"It was difficult to tell what was innovative, unique or patentable about Moonshot," Lee said in reply to Hawkins' offering of Moonshot and SDN. "I'm not being critical, I'm giving a layman's opinion. HP looks the same as everyone else. Same with the SDN solution. I get product literature from IBM and they make the same claims."
Apple's invention looks just iterative to those who have no more affection for that vendor than the 3000 base does for HP. The Android-driven Samsung has the same problem with its clever Galaxy 4 phones. Waving at a screen to move items looks sexy, but might have its greatest value in a commercial. Skeptics don't like identifying things as inventive anymore.
If you're wondering what invention looks like in 2013, you'd be well served to go elsewhere online. You can find it at sites that serve up news coming from garages. Sites like hackaday.com or armageddon.com show off more than poster presentations. Inventions like an atmospheric water generator that extracts water from humid ambient air, or the Xprotolab portable oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and function generator. Or the biohacking work of Steve Mann, "a professor of electrical and computer engineering who has dedicated his career to inventing, implementing, and researching cyborg technologies, in particular, wearable computing technologies. Mann has been critical to advancing biohacking through his self-implementation of his inventions."
Much this technology got built in a garage, even the likes of the Rostock delta 3D robot printer. The passionate, rogue inventor might feel little comfort working in a corporation. But HP rose up out of a garage. Its first product was an oscilloscope innovation. There is hope for invention from a company so sophisticated that it hosts its own IT conference every June. Tim O'Neil, another 3000 manager, considers Discover the rebirth of the Interex conference. He sees hope in HP's pursuit of eyeballs for its latest products, though.
"After selling the HP chip design team to Intel, they are now going to lead the way towards flash storage and universal memory?" O'Neill said. "Nevertheless, it is encouraging that they actually want customers to attend."
June 04, 2013
Stromasys opens HP's way to Charon gates
The maker of the emulator solution for the HP 3000 community demonstrated the natural resting state for MPE applications during its recent training and brewhouse social. Dedicated community veterans, as well as some customers looking for a way to extend those applications, took note of a new alliance. HP's got the 3000 version of Charon on board.
Stromasys also announced it’s just been named a Gartner Group Cool Server Vendor for 2013, the freshest part of the news, plans and futures the company unspooled in its first North American Training and Social event for 3000 customers and allies. The room of the Computer History Museum on May 10 was full for the day-long briefing on company strategy, as well as Paul Taffel's extensive demonstration of the HPA/3000 model of Charon in action.
Stromasys is one of only seven vendors who’ve made the server technology cool list, just published by Gartner. The company showed off a product lineup that includes a pair of implementations that are designed to out-perform some N-Class HP 3000 hardware. General Manager Bill Driest said he’s seen his company's software run on a cutting edge HP DL380 server with a 4.4Ghz processor installed, a pre-release from Intel.
But the power promises may extend beyond hopes of matching high-end N-Class performance. HP's taken on the software as a potential solution for its customers. Stromasys hopes the 3000's will share the view that hardware is only a waystation to a virtualized platform.
Work is underway in the Stromasys labs to utilize extra cores on the DL380's processor for such servers. With each 4-core set available in Intel chips, HPA/3000 could emulate another HP 3000 processor. The 32-core limits of today could yield an 8-CPU MPE/iX machine. This is a configuration HP could never ship or officially support while it built and sold its 3000 servers. The HP top-end was 4 processors for its 750-Mhz.
Driest made his debut in front of a HP 3000 crowd during a morning session that outlined where Stromays is heading from its current position as the only virtualization solution in the PA-RISC space. One new wrinkle was the announcement that Charon HPA/3000 has made the cut onto HP’s Worldwide Reseller Agreement. Stromasys already has its product that emulate VAX and Alpha systems on that list.
A Worldwide Reseller Agreement gives HP the right to resell a product from a software supplier. Companies as large as security supplier McAfee have entered into such a deal. HP now has the mechanism to sell Charon HPA to customers who might want to remain as MPE/iX application users.
The Gartner announcement was a sneak peek at what Driest was describing as a way to earn its solution onto the Hype Cycle of Virtualization. Processor emulation is in the Expectations part of the curve, but Stromasys hopes to be securing a spot in the Trigger, a rising wave of the lifecycle.
“People like Gartner are talking to us, and there’s been a fundamental sea change,” Driest said. “They’re saying this: isn’t it conceivable that the end state of all legacy hardware is some kind of emulation or virtualization?”
Driest admitted that five years that was “so much of an early adopter message. There’s a fundamental pause as we ask, ‘On what platform do you believe we’ll run the last MPE production environment?’ Do you really think that it’s going to be on some refurb HP hardware?”
June 03, 2013
Touting Meg, HP says Discover's not too late
An email in today's in-box reminds me that "It's not too late to attend HP Discover." The 2013 edition of the HP conference, wrapped around all things Hewlett-Packard for enterprise, cloud and mobile computing, plays out next week, June 11-13 in Las Vegas.
HP's email promises a chance for direct interaction with its CEO Meg Whitman:
Engage directly with Meg Whitman and top HP executives to see how HP innovations shape the IT industry and help IT leaders like you succeed. Talk one-to-one with HP industry leaders via the HP Meeting Center and Partner Meeting Center. Book a tailored discussion of your choice.
Converged Cloud, Information Optimization, Mobility Security and Risk Management, plus Business and Technical sessions are HP's main tent poles at the show. Signing an NDA gets you "the chance for a sneak-peek at what's next from HP during our extremely informative confidential disclosure sessions."
In one public session, HP will tell us how a full one-eighth of its website operation is being run from its latest servers.HP Moonshot drives 12 percent of the HP.com website today, according to one session description from the conference catalog. HP's "eating its own dogfood" with this massive cluster of CPUs to make up one computer, built out of Atom processors and an HP original computer system. An original enterprise system -- that's news.
"In this in-depth technical session you will gain a understanding of how to deploy HP Moonshot System in a production environment," the catalog reports.
Savvis, "a leader in managed computing and network infrastructure for IT applications, will share the latest results of their testing on the Moonshot System."
The meeting at the Venetian on the Vegas Strip will also include two hours of talks on the OpenVMS environment, the closest thing HP's got to a 3000-loyal customer base. Plus, there's a Special Interest Group meeting. Another 692 talks and demonstrations are on hand. HP's keen enough on OpenVMS to schedule one demonstration for three separate 90-minute demos.
Typing the word "Unix" into the session catalog's search engine yields one result; there are dozens more for HP-UX. But HP is launching into HP-UX saying that you can "Pave the path for your mission-critical future with HP-UX and Integrity server innovation."
It's an ongoing battle trying to get ahead -and stay ahead- in business. Continuous innovation to your mission-critical IT infrastructure is vital to beat your competition. In this session you will learn about the newest ways to make your UNIX environment excel. We will cover the latest developments in Integrity systems, including increased flexibility and virtualization, along with new Serviceguard high availability features. Accelerate your critical IT to achieve better business results when you need continuous business.
As if that were not enough, there's HP's "Tectonic Shifts, where the future of convergence is taking us,” and where Martin Fink — the former head of the embattled Business Critical Systems group, and now HP CTO and Director of HP Labs, “will outline HP Labs' research in flash storage and universal memory, with an eye on where future technology might take us.”
$1,795 will take you to Discover this year.
May 29, 2013
Hardware Cherished, Hardware Valued
HP's 3000 hardware has been taking a free fall in market value for several years by now, a slide that's drawn even the biggest of servers into the low five-figures of price. This is the way of the world for every computer ever built. But it happens more slowly to the computers which are cherished, instead of just used.
A few messages out on the 3000 newsgroup highlighted that fact of our life in 2013. Tom Lang was forced to sell his Series 918RX, because he doesn't have room to use it in his new working space. He announced it was on offer at the end of February. Over "many weeks," as he reported, many enquirers asked lots of questions about the server. In mid-May, he reduced the price of the system to $1,100.
There are a lot of extras in Lang's package. These bonus parts don't show up in a lot of Series 918s. And the system has probably the best feature of all: a valid MPE/iX license. HP doesn't make those any longer, and nobody can emulate that element, either.
However, Lang heard from other 3000 owners and managers that four figures were at least one figure too many to sell a server that HP used as the 1.0 rating benchmark -- back when HP used to rate 3000 performance. For the record, the fastest 3000 ever produced, and sold for well over six figures at the time, ran at 49 times the power of a 918.
In ancient times, HP used a Series 37 Mighty Mouse as its 1.0 rating. The Series 37 did not outlast HP's MPE licensing business, however. Lang was told on the group that two Series 918s went directly to the scrap heap at one UK business. At another site, one manager said the price that seemed reasonable for a server that included a license was $200.
Until HP relents and begins to sell MPE/iX licenses to go with its Reseller Agreement for the Stromasys Charon 3000 emulator, $200 seems pretty low.
The operating system is the most durable part of a 3000, when you include its database in the valuation. If a customer has got their eyes on adding an emulated 3000 to their IT datacenter, these old servers are just the right piece for an audit-proof installation.
Some of the advice on the value of a 3000 was of a more gentle nature. "A rock solid machine," said Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions, "but sadly, not much of a market for it anymore."
Anderson knows of a company that paid about $8,000 for a 918 in 2003. It included a disc-array, DLT, DDS-3, 512 MB of RAM, and about 50Gb of disc. "They sent it to auction in 2007, and I got great deal on it, mostly because nobody at the auction knew what it was," Anderson explained. "It's been running for 5-plus years without any problems, during the same time period I've gone through three PCs. Apparently, now-a-days, it's not a good idea to manufacture products that keep working."
The HP 3000 was always sold at a premium compared to more popular systems. HP insisted that it protect the value (that means "pricing") of the servers sold earlier in the business life of HP's 3000. But the vendor didn't do much to protect the brand of MPE or the 3000 or IMAGE.
So the HP hardware's future and value is riding on the nature of being cherished, instead of its still-indelible durability that Anderson has chronicled. Not so long ago, a strategic analyst on the 3000 web-paths said that "people pay about twice as much for Apple systems as for others," and that Apple just put those extra dollars in its pockets. But being a brand which is cherished is one kind of asset, and being a brand that's cherished out loud by the industry's greatest marketing organization is quite another thing.
Never mind that you cannot find the jackalope of a Windows system priced at half of an Apple system, which will do the same work with equivalent components. Unless you can twist a Torx wrench, or know how to wear a static strap, whatever costs half as much will do less. I went to look for a new $575 SSD-based 11-inch laptop, built to Apple's Macbook Air standards and with the same horsepower. I gave up after about a half-hour. You can hunt for a jackalope a long time.
But the equation works in the other direction, if someone like Anderson is doing the shopping. A $500 Series 918 does so much more than any $1,000 PC, if your applications are already in MPEiX and use IMAGE. Stromasys can't sell MPE/iX licenses to make a copy of Charon HPA/3000 legal. Only HP can do that.
It will be worth watching to see if Hewlett-Packard can see its way to selling what will make an emulator truly legal. Before too much longer, HP is going to have to do that for HP-UX customers who'll use an emulator -- one that replaces an Itanium server. The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that's something you cannot virtualize. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software that Becomes Real. Maybe it's that way for MPE -- like the Skin Horse said about being Real, "it takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."
May 23, 2013
Business Critical System Q2 sales plummet
Hewlett-Packard announced a $1.1 billion profit on its fiscal Q2 today, but the figures were not buoyed by the HP segment which makes replacement systems for HP 3000 migrators. Business Criticial Systems -- the group where Itanium systems are sold, along with the HP-UX that runs only on that server -- saw its sales drop 37 percent from the Q2 of last year.
The overall news was not as grim from the rest of HP Enterprise Group, the organization where Linux-capable ProLiant servers are sold along with networking gear. Enterprise Group revenue declined 10 percent year over year. Networking revenue was flat, but those Industry Standard Servers' revenue that drives Linux hosts was down 12 percent. Storage sales fell 13 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent year over year.
HP CEO Meg Whitman decided to shine the spotlight on HP's overall ability to beat the market's estimates for profits. The company posted a total of $27.6 billion in overall sales, which was a drop of 10 percent from 2012. Whitman had to point at the Non-Generally Accepted Accounting Pracitces numbers -- always more favorable -- to claim a win.
"We beat the upper end of our non-GAAP diluted [Earings Per Share] EPS outlook for the quarter by 5 cents per share, driven by better than expected performance in Enterprise Services and Printing, coupled with the accelerated capture of restructuring savings and improvement in our operations," said Whitman.
HP estimated its 2013 earnings to be in the range of $2.50 to $2.60, in line with HP's previously communicated outlook. For 2013, HP is accounting for after-tax costs of approximately $1 per share, "related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangible assets, restructuring charges and acquisition-related charges.
"I am encouraged by our performance in the second quarter, and I feel good about the rest of the year," added Whitman. "As I have said many times before, this is a multi-year journey. We have a long way to go, but we are on track to deliver on our fiscal 2013 non-GAAP diluted earnings per share outlook."
Support revenues showed just about the only significant uptick on the HP report. Support revenue was up 12 percent, while license revenue was down 23 percent and services revenue was down 5 percent year over year. Printing revenue declined 1 percent year over year. Total hardware units were down 11 percent year over year. Commercial hardware units were down 5% year over year, and Consumer hardware units were down 13 percent year over year.
Enterprise Services revenue declined 8 percent year over year. Application and Business Services revenue was down 10 percent year over year, and IT Outsourcing revenue declined 6percent year over year.
Software revenue was also down 3 percent year over year.
HP also announced its board of directors has declared a regular cash dividend of 14.52 cents per share on the company's common stock, which, as previously announced, reflects a 10 percent increase in amount compared to the previous quarterly dividend. The dividend, the third in HP's fiscal year 2013, is payable on July 3, 2013, to stockholders of record as of the close of business on June 12, 2013.
More information on HP's earnings, including additional financial analysis and an earnings overview presentation, is available on HP's Investor Relations website at www.hp.com/investor/home.
HP's Q2 FY13 earnings conference call is accessible via an audio webcast at www.hp.com/investor/2013Q2webcast.
May 21, 2013
Six Years of Insight on the Afterlife
Six years ago this month I revisited the site where I first heard of the "death of the HP 3000." HP wanted to call its exit from the 3000 community by that phrase in November, 2001. Instead we're thinking about the afterlife this month, in the wake of the North American sales force opening for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. Who needs this? At the Stromasys event, I heard from third party support companies that Hewlett-Packard continues to use MPE/iX applications -- which must be pretty crucial and costly to migrate.
It's a safe to say that the Worldwide Reseller Agreement for the emulator could be a benefit to HP's own operations. Such systems are usually scheduled for migration. But as Stromasys GM Bill Driest said at this month's Training Day, "I'm a quota-carrying salesman, and the phrase we use is "Liars are buyers.' "
In other words, a customer who says they'll migrate has a chance of being on the server longer than they expect. Does that make them liars when they say they'll be off the 3000? Maybe, but more likely it's a matter of timing and degree -- the same things that tamped down my panic when I heard in a phone booth in Lausanne's train station my distraught partner Abby telling me, "HP says the 3000 is going away. They're not going to make it anymore. They need to talk to you, before they announce."
I ponder the afterlife that's emerged because that's where I think my mom is today. We sent her off in a memorial service on Sunday, when three of us eulogized her with imaginations of her dancing in heaven, catching up my dad in the afterlife, or asserting, like I did (at 12:00 in the YouTube video), "They say nothing dies if it lives on in the hearts and minds of those who love it."
The MPE/iX OS, apps and IMAGE are doing more than living in hearts and minds. They live in companies like HP. The ecosystem was supposed to be the death of the 3000, according to the HP speaking in 2001. Instead, it's becoming a place where the customers who need help are getting supported. Even if they need an interim emulator to buy, so applications can remain where they lie.
The afterlife has a way of entrancing us all. I knew that HP's five-year time-frame for getting customers off the 3000 was outlandish, knew it even before I hung up the phone in that train station. But HP was writing the song that could've been presicent lyrics for the Squirrel Nut Zippers' song "Hell."
In the afterlife
You could be headed for the serious strife
Now you make the scene all day
But tomorrow there'll be Hell to pay
On that tomorrow in 2001, I bought a new notebook and rode the train back to Paris. I began to write 50 questions for my briefing with HP. At the top of the first page I wrote the seminal query, the one that fueled 49 more:
Tell me why it's going away.
Some of those 50 questions I wrote in a fever of inquiry, roaring onward to London on the under-the-Channel Eurostar train. Things like open source or sharing of MPE code with third parties, or a delivery channel of HP-driven 3000 services beyond 2008 — those got resolved. An emulator -- pretty much unheard of in HP's business line of computers -- was still four years away from being licensed and more that 11 years away from having a sales kickoff in Mountain View. The third parties didn't get much of HP's direct help for a homesteading customer -- unless you count the limited-use release of MPE source, and the concessions like that emulator license, wrenched from HP by OpenMPE.
Let's review how some of the 49 have shaken out, six years after I passed that phone booth where the afterlife started to emerge for 3000 owners.
Will the customers and development community get access to HP's internal compilers, to make changes to MPE/iX? Absolutely not, and they probably never will. MPE is as polished as it will ever be. However, seven companies do have source code to MPE/iX. They write patches and workarounds for the OS and the database. It's a compromise, but that source code is something to keep MPE/iX from having Hell to pay.
What are HP's plans for its own 600 internal HP 3000 systems? Five extra years into the afterlife, there are still some 3000 systems running HP company functions.
Are the PA-RISC customers in the HP 9000 customer base being given an obsolescence date as well? Not only is PA-RISC obsolete now, but HP's own expert witness in the Oracle lawsuit said the HP-UX processor's successor, Itanium, has about seven more years of life.
In 1998 HP committed to Itanium for the 3000. What has happened in the market to change that commitment? We heard of a decline of "the 3000's ecosystem." What declined was sales from HP and its resellers, working on a 2003 sales cutoff. But replacing hardware is not the name of the game anymore in 2013. Sustaining applications is the essence of the ecosystem. Virtualization is the end state of every hardware system.
Will there be a planned reduction in Response Center staff trained in MPE? There certainly was, but how planned is a matter of perspective. HP offered two Enhanced Early Retirement programs, plus moved its MPE staff onto concurrent support duties for other operating environments. Then sent most of the remaining support team away. Today, even 16-year vets like Bob Chase of the 3000 Escalation Center are out working for SMS Systems Maintenance Services as a Senior Technical Support Engineer. If you issue the magic transfer code 798 on an HP call, it gets 3000 sites to Response Center folks who know the 3000 is not a printer. You call for free patches. That's about all.
What are the possibilities of having solution providers take over some parts of MPE source, like the spooler or ODBC? Nobody is going to take over development of these parts of source, unless HP gets picked clean for parts in a takeover. Highly unlikely.
Is there any possibility of reviewing this decision? Customers still wish this was possible. Fewer all the time, though. Of those who wished for a reprieve, the ones who need a long-term MPE engine will look at the Stromasys emulator. The others have bitter memories and no hunger for anything HP-centric. Windows or Linux will do.
Is this decision in the best interest of the 3000 owner, and if so, how? HP said back then that ending its 3000 operations was in the customers' best interest, because HP felt it was risky to remain a 3000 customer. That ongoing ownership of a 3000 was influenced by the vendor's leadership and plans, however -- so HP's decision started the clock on the afterlife.
The Squirrel Nut Zippers' song does croon some hope for the afterlife, though. The truth and a clear picture emerges there -- like my mom dancing circles around my dad, scolding him for leaving too soon to see the great stuff to come.
Beauty, talent, fame, money, refinement , job skill and brain
And all the things you try to hide
Will be revealed on the other side.
Tomorrow afternoon HP will release its financials for its second quarter of 2013, a year when its CEO said "The patient is showing signs of recovering." People who wrote off HP as a split up company, PCs and enterprise IT, might turn out to have an outlook as hazy as HP's own about the 2013 ecosystem of the 3000. Of Luke Skywalker's friends's future in The Empire Strikes Back, he asked, "Will they die?"
"Difficult to tell," Yoga replied. "Always in motion is the future." As is the afterlife, from the way I see it in my seat this week, beyond that eulogy.
May 20, 2013
Making Headway with a Static OS
Stromasys has been selling its emulator products for more than a decade, and with significant success since HP's Digital group stopped the sale of Alpha and PDP servers. But VMS -- even while it's made a transition to OpenVMS over the years -- is still updated and supported by Hewlett-Packard. MPE/iX does not enjoy this status. There's a bit of irony by now, as it relates to the Stromasys product. You cannot order an MPE/iX server (with hardware and a fresh OS license) from HP any longer. But the Stromasys Charon HPA software is now part of HP's Worldwide Reseller Agreement.
Yes, this new software product that runs on industry-standard Intel hardware qualifies for HP resale status, unlike the server which it emulates. Go figure; nobody wants to be bothered with building hardware anymore.
But the lack of a supported OS as a keystone to a Stromasys emulator -- well, that seems novel. However, at the recent Training Day for the product, GM Bill Driest said selling a product with a vendor-curtailed OS is not all that unique, in his view.
"We don't see this market as fundamentally different from what we've done for a number of years now, to get 5,000 customers in 50 countries," Driest said on May 10 at the Training. "From a sales and marketing perspective, this is our US launch. I have a handful of customers in the US, so we are just embarking on this new market for us, worldwide. There are existing references and customers in Australia, New Zealand."
But from a tactical perspective, he said, those Digital system successes have taken place with an OS that's not available: the apps use versions of VMS that are locked in and not qualified for any extra engineering HP adds to that OS. This is, he believes, essentially the same situation as an MPE/iX market that can go no further than the 7.5 release.
While the replacement of aging hardware used to be the concern just five years ago, now the prospects for Charon in the 3000 world "are looking for partners, ISVs and consultants to take over more of the application administrator role. There's a revitalization of the important of the app to be done here. They'll be saving the hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars to rewrite that application."
It's a conscious decision to not let an app retire, Driest added. It's a choice so common up to now that the Digital customers start with a plan to emulate temporarily. Then the reality of replacing an app sets in.
"Customers say they just need their systems a couple more years, and they have a plan to migrate," he said. "But once the monkey's off their back, they realize they have other higher priorities for their IT resources. Rarely do you see them reinvesting in a multimillion dollar project once they realize they can run their application successly in an emulation on industry standard technology.
"They're not coming to us anymore and saying 'Can you fix my HP 3000 hardware?' That's what we thought they were saying five to 10 years ago. We understand that the value is in that application layer. We're just a new hardware refresh. And our average deal size has not been about onesy-twosy sale in testing or development. There's organic growth in legacy systems, new opportunities out there. I wouldn't have predicted that five years ago."
May 14, 2013
HP's 3000 virtualization was MOST-ly done
Nineteen springtimes ago, HP was offering an operating system to run alongside MPE on the same hardware. To say that HP's Multiple Operating System Technology was virtualization might be an overstatement. But the unreleased product gave Unix and MPE equal footing in a single hardware system. MPE was the cradle that Unix would rest in, much like Linux is the cradle where the PA-RISC virtualization rests in the Stromasys Charon product. The only reason it was not released might have been the horsepower demands on the hardware. MOST was not starved off the price list by a lack of HP desire from the 3000 division. But the daring of its engineering was on a battleground between HP's own products.
I worked on external communications for MOST for Hewlett-Packard in the spring of 1995. It was one of the biggest assignments I took on during the months that led up to creating the 3000 NewsWire. The audacity of putting a venerated OS in as a bootstrap system for HP-UX apps led me to believe HP was exploring every prospect to win any customer who was veering toward the market's magnetic pull of Unix.
HP showed off external specifications for MOST to key partners in '95. The product was scheduled to emerge in the fall of that year on Series 9x9 and 99X PA-RISC systems. These were the highest horsepower 3000s in the HP stable. MOST was to begin with two partitions, one for MPE/iX and the other for HP-UX. Or, a customer could run two separate instances of MPE on a single server. MPE was to be the primary partition, controlling the uptime of the hardware.
In one sense, this product wouldn't have been a 3000 -- because half of it would be dedicated to running Unix apps and processes. Independence, a white paper on the product stated, "is especially important, as the co-dependencies between the different OS should be as small as possible."
MOST might have been ahead of its time in hardware requirements, but it reminds me of the virtualization that nearly every operating system enjoys today. The Stromasys Charon lineup, the VMware partitions which run Windows, Linux, and Mac OS all at once -- all of these flow from the concept that drove MOST. Well, there's a major difference. HP didn't release MOST, even after a beta test period and surveys that showed most of the customers saw it as an evolutionary path to heterogenous computing.
"The future path is almost impossible to foresee," HP's briefing stated. "Windows or OS/2? WARP? Unix or NT? Once proprietary, but now open systems?"
The software would have realized the founding principle of PA-RISC engineering: "Eventually, any PA-RISC operating system will be able to operate concurrently and independently on the same hardware platform."
HP delivered on some of these promises many years later, employing its Superdome designs for high-end servers with flexible partitions. This was not strictly emulation, because the native hardware remained the same. It's a sad piece of history that by the time Superdome was rolled into the markets, MPE/iX was not an environment supported on the high-priced server.
The OS came closest to its rightful place as keystone of HP's business computing strategy with MOST, however. HP said that it "is a natural complement to the four strategic directions of the HP 3000:
- Reinforce HP 3000's strengths in mission critical OLTP environments
- Superior integration in a multi-platform environment
- Provide an evolution to client/sever computing
- Deliver innovative applications and services
The Hewlett-Packard of 1995 was looking for a way to "let customers add, test and develop new applications without purchasing a new Unix box." That might have been the downfall for MOST. A successful server, steered by MPE but also able to run Unix apps, would surely have been a roadblock to more HP 9000 server sales. HP bet hard on Unix in that era, a play that now seems to have run out of step with the Windows and Linux choices of today.
May 13, 2013
The magic code for licenses HP never sold
The meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum May 10, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than eight years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server.
But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.
Charon HPA product manager Paul Taffel uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC or Mac hardware. It's called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?
In short HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.
The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It made more sense than a jackalope. But the process to earn one of these licenses is not well known yet, which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.
Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.
However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.
This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At the Stromasys training event, general manager Bill Driest said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- or what the classic 3000 customer would call emulation.
"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," Driest said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."
So to recap, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said this emulator license would cost eight years ago, it's $400 -- the same fee HP wants to collect on any MPE/iX system transfer. You need to have a 3000 license to begin with, of course.
You don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems. Stromasys cannot sell you one. But a copy of MPE/iX does exist in the freeware download, model A202. It's just not licensed, because you attest you won't use this freeware for commercial use when you run through configuration. The licensed copy of MPE/iX in freeware -- the holy grail of open source pursued by OpenMPE for more than nine years -- is as much a mythical creature as an emulator license. This isn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers that it never did sell. But at least the previous one got into testing before it was killed off. More on that tomorrow.
May 08, 2013
Who'll Be Social and Train, and Why
We've been hearing from 3000 community members who are on the way to the Stromasys HP 3000 Social and Training. The official RSVP list is at Stromasys, but we've gotten some notice from people who want to ensure they meet up at the Tied House brewpub -- Thursday evening (tomorrow!) or at the Computer History Museum Friday 10-4.
On the same day I got notice from Doug Smith -- a 3000 consultant and developer and support provider -- that he'll be at the Stromasys event, HP tried again to wrap up the lifespan of Windows XP. The company that gave up on MPE and the HP 3000 might be just as misguided about XP's future as MPE's. It seems so simple to HP.
Let’s face it—reminiscing about old software programs 20 or so years from now won’t bring about nearly half as many warm memories as that 1967 Pontiac Firebird of your youth.
You could say that updating business software is akin to changing your toothbrush after it’s seen better days. Can you imagine running Windows 98 on your home PC? Then why would you fight tooth and nail, stubbornly looking into a variety of contingency plans and options to hold onto Windows XP?
The why of holding on is obvious. Smaller companies -- and some surprising large ones -- cannot make a good business case for putting their Firebird of a business server up on blocks. The math on an emulator solution, supplied in good stead with support for MPE and indie software tools -- holds up against projects that start in six figures and take at least a year to deploy.
The Tied House and the Computer History Museum will be places to learn why that toothbrush (the HP hardware) might be old, but the fresh toothpaste (MPE) is still worthy of plenty of extra years. Doug Smith thinks so. So does Walter Murray, who developed HP's COBOL products for the 3000 before exiting Hewlett-Packard to manage 3000s for the state of California. Then there's the contract programmers, and more, simply off our heads-up emails.There's Scott Hirsh, for example. He's the former chairman of SIGSYSMAN and said "Hey, why not stop at the pub and meet some people." Scott, a former Newswire columnist (Worst Practices) is now a storage expert at Dell. He started out managing 3000s for Rosenberg Capital Management in San Francisco, about 15 years before HP started bundling Windows XP.
Bruce Hobbs and Mike Watson are making the trip to the Training on Friday, flying up from Southern California and Colorado, respectively. Just for the day, to see the software in action. There's an opportunity to help out a customer or two, one who's got their own software, no license hurdles and little desire or budget to buy that disruptive toothbrush.
Tom McNeal will be at the Tied House tomorrow evening. He's a veteran of the kernel project when the first 3000 multiprocessor platform was released, in 1991. Tom's adding the brew pub visit to a busy night. You might be similarly inclined. "I thought I'd send this, which is signed by all the folks that worked in that lab."
We also had a dinner party commemorating our kernel product, and that was a lot of fun. Frank Ho was the project manager, and I worked on the memory manager, which was primarily developed by Marcia McConnell. The other, going clockwise from Marcia, were Simon Cutting, Peggy Chen, Craig Hada, Hung Nguyen, Kim Rogers, Vijay Bajaj, Dave Rubin, and Satya Mylavarabhatla. As far as I know, Marcia is the only one still working at HP.
Martin Gorfinkel, creator of 3000 software Fantasia for printing and an advocate for the community, says "I still get support calls for Fantasia. "Mostly I would like to have my editor and Fantasia for my own use. All that should work nicely within the limitations they place on the freeware emulation." He added that he needed to get a new PC to load it. The newest PC he had was about five years old. Gorfinkel will be at Friday's training session.
It's not tough to imagine that between a free pub evening and free lunch at the History Museum -- places where you can meet with 3000 legend Stan Sieler, who says "I'm hoping to be at the Thursday social, and present for most of some or most of Friday -- a 3000 user could network with people who've had firsthand experience with emulation, or are ready to share stories about how they hope Charon HPA/3000 will help them in an interim for migration, or as a hot archival system for MPE data.
I hope to see you there. I'm brining a fresh toothbrush, just to commemorate another run of years with something built as well as the toothpaste that's MPE.
April 10, 2013
HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane
Ray Lane was brought in to Hewlett-Packard's board to refocus HP on the software marketplace. The company could see that the era of hardware margins was fast declining, and all of the highest hopes were aimed at the non-physical product. The actions to purchase Palm for its WebOS, as well as Autonomy for five times as much as that $2 billion, were the realization of a long-time HP dream.
Back in 1990 I rode a tour boat into San Francisco harbor. As a reporter for The Chronicle, I was being hosted for the HP CIMinar, where the CIM stood for Computer Integrated Manfacturing. Hewlett-Packard had a press liasion, Charlie Preston, who told me that the company pined for a day when it would manufacture little to nothing.
"It's all in software and services, Ron," he said. The boat was having a hardware failure at the time, a total loss of power within sight of the famous San Francisco Embarcadero Pier. While we bobbed and they kept filling our glasses, Charlie explained that the real power of computing was in services, aided by software. "In 10 years we don't want to be manufacturing much, including computers," he said.
One extra decade later, HP seems to be taking steps away from a virtual computer resource. Last week's exit of board director Ray Lane from the HP Chairman's seat seems proof enough that software has had its bumpy road of acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard didn't get its cart in the ditch without some risk-taking leadership. Lane arrived after years of Oracle work, savvy and a kingmaker. He remains on the HP board, but new leadership will be launching about the same time as the newest of HP hardware, the Moonshot servers.These servers are evidence that HP R&D is still alive and striving to boost the company with proprietary advantages. This was the model that let the 3000 help the company get started in business computing.
The Moonshot 1500 -- yeah, half of the numeral used for MPE/iX hardware -- is driven by low-power, smartphone-caliber Atom chips, which usually go into mobile devices. A Moonshot is about the size of an envelope, and HP can pack hundreds of them together into a single system. It's a supercomputer that according to HP uses 89 percent less energy, takes up 80 percent less space, and costs 77 percent less than more traditional server designs. Whatever those are. It doesn't matter. HP is building servers again that don't mimic anything.
The HP Moonshot 1500 can work for the Web and cloud computing companies. Clouds need cheap, powerful hardware systems, and all along in HP's history that's been the golden chariot to carry software and spark services. Yes, applications drive enterprise choices. But app providers aim at platforms. The Moonshot represents HP's re-entry into an orbit that launched its enterprise computing business 40 years ago. Yup, with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. If only there was software that HP had built itself that would make that hardware reach the stars. Maybe the company has that fuel somewhere in its legendary Labs.
March 29, 2013
Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection
As a former Catholic altar boy, I learned a lot about resurrection during Springs in the 1960s. But the headline above isn't early April Fool's blasphemy. Some 3000 users -- more than a dozen, like disciples -- believe that an emulator in their market is a reason to believe in the server's revival.
They're somewhat correct, but how accurate is a revival of MPE/iX, versus the hardware to host it? Stromasys has accomplished the latter miracle with Charon HPA/3000. Servers as common as bottled water are running MPE/iX today, in production environments or proving the concept that PA-RISC systems have come back from a state of doom. Some are even succeeding with untested chips from AMD, somehow, rather than the approved Intel processors.
We've just approved a comment here on our blog that invests the emulator with these regenerative powers. HP would need a revival of its spirit to start to sell proprietary servers again, but at least there's powerful spirit among a few customers. None of them are paying HP any longer for the 3000. We'll get to that in a minute, and how it affects the salvation of critical MPE/iX applications. But to that prayer:
I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.
This manager doesn't want his name or company mentioned, but I assure you he's real and in charge of several HP 3000s. Third parties provide MPE and 3000 support at his site, and he runs HP's final low-end model of 3000, an A-Class. Although this is the season of miracles for hundreds of millions, marketing MPE/iX would demand a change of ownership at Hewlett-Packard. To kick-start it, people like our manager above would have to become customers of HP once more. The company took a conservative view of "customer" and "owner" five years ago this month. Nothing's changed there yet.
The issue of enabling Intel hardware to host MPE/iX is settled. Over and over, we've heard that the emulator runs the 3000's OS just as well as HP-built iron, the boxes HP stopped building nearly 10 years ago. The big rock to roll back is the status of software ownership. Many of the largest software companies take a dim view of operating their programs on fresh hardware. At least without any notice of the shift in platform.
Some companies -- and the 3000 veterans know who they are -- want a license fee upgrade if there's significant performance boosts on the new platform. The change that triggers this is the HPCPUNAME. Unless it still reports "Series 929" or somesuch, this emulated installation is a newer 3000.
Other software vendors are simply delighted their products will continue to work at customer sites. A customer site, however, is often defined as a company which pays a regular fee to maintain a relationship with the vendor. There's a lot of dropped-support software running out in your community. Vendors always have to live with this. Now there's a new wrinkle with the change of platform.
"If I was a paying customer of a software vendor, I'd keep quiet about using the emulator," one vendor said. He added that he's got no problems with his own customers using Charon. Any company prohibiting a switch "would be stupid, because you'd be losing revenue."
Earlier this week, however, I heard a statement that's true. "There's no application company yet which has approved a license for running software on the emulator." There's one story of Cognos permitting Quiz to run on a production emulator at an Australian insurance corporation. Warren Dawson, who plunged into the emulation pool, got it arranged by his Cognos reseller. Who's dealing with IBM these days, since Big Blue bought Cognos long ago.
IT managers can be lured into beliefs that run afoul of the computer vendor's catechism, however. Some managers believe they own their software once it's abandoned by the vendor. HP made its case that MPE/iX will always belong to HP, and always did, even while people were buying support from HP in 2008.
At a user meeting that year, the business manager of 3000 operations at HP Jennie Hou made HP's position clear.
Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP will cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exits the 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."
Several years ago, a European Union judge gave an advisory on a case about PC software. The judge said if a company walks away from a product, anybody has any right they'd like to use it in any way. There's a lot of defining to do to arrive at "walks away." It was only one judge. But things are changing very quickly in the world of intellectual property.
To see the cross that such hopeful disciples bear, look at what I wrote five years ago, after hearing HP's statement and seeing the slide below.
We were writing about independent support and source code -- which at the time wasn't released. Now MPE/iX source is in the hands of seven companies. One recently reported they'd used their source to create workarounds for support customers -- just the limit HP hoped for the use of its MPE/iX source.
I wrote in 2008
It's a mystery how HP can give any significant use of MPE/iX to third parties in the years after the vendor won't offer services for the 3000 community. A third party owns nothing under these rules, but should build a business model and employ experts on this basis? Risky business, that.
A third party will just have to hope to rely on access to MPE/iX source. And nothing else but hope. In any contract no better than a typical customer's, a support firm would own nothing but that Right To Use what HP owns. Support for the third party support supplier for MPE/iX from HP? Shut down, by 2010. Support suppliers could consider that deal a sketchy foundation to build a business upon.
The 3000 community can only hope that's not HP's intention for support providers: To make any alternative support for the 3000 community remain sketchy. HP retains its ownership, but the intention of this 2005 announcement was to "help partners" do support business. Here's that HP 2005 statement, as a reminder of Hewlett-Packard's intentions.
"When HP no longer offers services to address basic support needs of e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties — if partner interest exists at that time — to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners."
You generate partner interest with customer purchases, now that HP's made hardware emulation legal. Then you step out of the way and let licenses evolve. For the disciples, the back half of that resurrection is a revelation they must arrange on their own.
March 19, 2013
HP's expert estimates Itanium's end-date
We return you to California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the future of Itanium and HP-UX is already in progress. HP and Oracle continued their battle over the future and value of Itanium yesterday, with each side trying to wring dollars out of their dispute over whether Itanium is finished at HP. The lawsuit's final phase addresses damages. Oracle hopes to prove HP's public and partner strategies cost them sales of Sun servers where Integrity had already lost the business.
Oracle's expert estimated the company lost $95 million in profits, working on the premise that HP lied about the future of its only HP-UX processor line. The Integrity servers have been a popular platform for Oracle's database. A lawsuit that wrapped up in September forced Oracle to continue its development for the server line. The database vendor wanted to stop enhancing Oracle for HP's platforms including HP-UX, all tied to the Itanium chip.
HP's expert Jonathan Orszag of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon had to counter by estimating the lifespan of HP's Itanium business. Orszag said the ending date for Itanium looked to him like 2020. HP would have surely reviewed Orszag's testimony before he offered it to judge James Kleinberg. HP's expert witness in the damages phase of the suit said he based his testimony on Itanium road maps from HP as well its chip partner, Intel.
If Orszag and Hewlett-Packard are on target, then 2020 would mark about two decades of actual service to the enterprise computing customer. That's a mark that HP's initial chip family for the 3000 didn't achieve. But the period of 1974-1989 was nothing like the 21st Century. For one thing, Intel didn't have competing versions of an enterprise business processor on sale during the '70s and '80s. That split focus for Intel showed up again last month, when the chip maker announced a couple of downgrades to Itanium's future.
Those announcements looked like signals that Intel is shifting its R&D resources away from the only processor that drives HP-UX applications. Many migrated HP 3000 sites are using HP-UX. Those who have a migration in their future, nearby or otherwise, still have Itanium on their menu of choices.
Intel said in a modest post on a webpage that it won't be re-engineering Itanium to use the same sockets as the mainstream Intel chipset Xeon. HP's partner added that it will design and manufacture the Kittson family of Itanium using the 32 nanometer architecture that's in the current Poulson family. Intel has 28-nm designs in store for Xeon. Both the smaller architecture and the socket-compatible design have been withdrawn from Intel's Itanium plans.
Kittson will be manufactured on Intel’s 32-nm process technology and will be socket compatible with the existing Intel Itanium 9300/9500 platforms, providing customers with performance improvements, investment protection, and a seamless upgrade path for existing systems. The modular development model, which converges on a common Intel Xeon/Intel Itanium socket and motherboard, will be evaluated for future implementation opportunities.
Evaluated for future implementation opportunities means, in summary, that the engineering to bring Itanium closer to an assured position at Intel is halted. The HP-UX chip is still a unique design at Intel -- which might be okay if Itanium sales were growing, or even maintaining market share. HP says that's not true. The Intel decision forces HP to gamble that the installed base of Itanium users will buy enough to maintain HP's promises on the roadmap which Orszag used. Winning new customers gets harder with every improvement to Xeon which is denied to Itanium.
Hewlett-Packard was in a similar situation, with the then-fledgling Itanium designs, near the end of its HP 3000 futures. A few years before HP's MPE/iX "opportunities" ended, the 3000 division stood at the crossroads of adopting what was called IA-64. First the division would design toward IA-64 with future 3000s. Then it said it would wait, and make do with existing PA-RISC chip family.
The outcome of the California court's damages phase will result in a material impact on the futures of the Business Critial Systems operation at HP. Just not enough. Even if HP wins its $4.2 billion demand, the money would only provide $600 million a year in lost profits for the group. It would offset the losses BCS will post as it continues its spiral. HP CEO Meg Whitman said last month that BCS "was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]"
The bad news? HP's CEO now refers to BCS-Itanium business in the past tense.
Last year the entire Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit at HP -- whose BCS-Integrity line is a fraction of the Xeon-based Linux servers, ProLiant sales, disk sales and networking products -- posted just $2.1 billion in profit. Whitman noted that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
But those Hewlett-Packard and Intel roadmaps, plus the chip-maker's announcements, show the money is going elsewhere. Based on what Intel and that HP expert say about Itanium chip dies in the future, it looks like the final act has been scheduled at Hewlett-Packard. Is six more years enough for today's customers? Probably so -- if they don't arrive on HP-UX with 3000-like expectations for investment protection.
March 18, 2013
Still Patching After All These Years
HP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.
Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.
"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.
The number of HP contract-holding 3000 administrators has dropped since the 2007 date of patch MILNX10A. Most people are calling into HP's support line, then plowing through the confusion that arises when you ask for something related to HP and a 3000.
"If one has a functioning support center logon, then yes -- you can download the patch via the Web," said one indie support provider. "I find most people need to call the support line. I always tell them to take their patience with them, as it can be challenging to get past the initial call handlers. ("No…my 3000 is not a printer…") You’ll eventually get to the one (?) person still handling MPE patching requests."
We are told, by Allegro Consulting's Donna Hofmeister, that "the magic incantation when dealing with the Response Center folks is to use transfer code 798. That’ll get you to an MPE person."
MILNX10A is important enough to patch, especially on a 3000 that's got databases that are still growing. One traditional advisory in the 3000 community is that "there are three things that can happen when you apply a patch, and two of them are not good." So that limits an administrator's gusto for patching -- but this corruption problem was a big enough deal for HP to label that patch critical.
The patch repairs access to any in-house applications that have used Large Files, or do a sort with a temporary file that can exceed 4GB. If your app has not been modified since March 30, 2000, it's safe. That's when HP introduced the Large File feature.
Large Files has been engineering which HP worked to remove from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the 3000 converted to Jumbo files, much better engineered. Jumbos were at work where our consultant was arranging an audition for the emulator.
MILNX10A is not stageable because it requires a installation job. It is most easily installed by using HP's autopat. Autopat, at its conclusion, will say "stream this.job." A couple of blinks later, milli.lib.sys (and friends) is updated.
MILNX10A won't be enough to fix this corruption problem. HP's repair also requires MPENX11A. Unlike the millicode patch, MPENX11A is not stageable, as it is a patch that requires a reboot. A manager can use Patch/iX to get the patch staged and schedule a reboot.
If you don't know if you should apply this patch, contact your support provider. If you're patching, pay attention to when you run 'unpackp.' We'd love to hear any experience you might have while navigating the free phone support from HP for these patches.
February 28, 2013
A Thorough Chill of the OS Business
The consumer product maker LG has announced it's purchasing the webOS team, talent and tech from HP. This means a company whose lineup includes french door refrigerators now owns the most modern mobile OS in the world. As it turns out, great technology like webOS doesn't have much value in the hands of a company which can't create demand for the magic.
There's so little value left in webOS that the joint release about the sale says "HP and LG do not expect this transaction to have a material impact on either company's financial statements." And so, without even a report of what webOS cost, HP froze itself out of another OS product line.
Some operating systems not only have enduring value, but they are also drawing top talent to their community. It happened late last year for RedHat's Linux; Jeff Vance took his next step away from HP's 3000 guru days, when he made his transfer from K-12 vendor QSS to the Hat. Vance arrived at QSS with gusto for newer development environments and got to ply his passion for years there.
But the signals sent by selling off an innovative OS for "no material impact," well, they say a lot about how system makers create their value in 2013. The mobile OS that was going to unseat Apple made its HP departure with the same language as 3000 customers shared about MPE/iX. The end of the line wasn't really the end of the line, was it?
At webOS Nation, the site's editors watched HP turn to a commodity technology the vendor doesn't own. They asked "Is this the end of webOS, or just the end of HP and webOS? Is this news of an HP Android tablet a nail in the coffin of Open webOS -- or is it just a nail in the coffin of HP webOS?"
Just swap in MPE/iX in those questions and you can hear the echo of 2002-05. An avid vendor base wanted a further life for MPE/iX, but HP didn't even want to sell out of that OS. The company got asked, too, in the months that followed the 3000-exit decree from HP. "Sell us the 3000 business, since you're getting out," one MPE stalwart vendor offered. HP declined while it went cold on its most storied business OS -- one used at big sites, too.
However, knowing deep secrets of extraordinary technology still has its advantages, even today. An HP veteran of 31 years sat at the Old Austin Cafe next to us last night. My friend Scott Hirsh, formerly of the 3000 world's system manager leadership and now tackling tech presales at Dell, wanted an authentic Texas chicken-fried steak to enjoy with us. That HP fellow "couldn't help but overhear" us raving about history and HP and the 3000. A handshake later he was sharing colleagues-in-common with Scott.
The HP veteran had started out in sales at the Neely Region (the US West) and soon moved to 3000 sales in the Series III era. He'd held jobs as a CE and an SE in a company where software was designed to sell servers. Where even a Local Area Network offering became LAN/3000. Just because it was a standard tech didn't mean HP wanted to brand it.
"I miss the days of Bill and Dave," he said by way of introduction. We were all on the same team for awhile over our steaks. But he also was carrying the torch of tech in newer environments, installing 3Par storage with its many nuances for an HP site.
"These days I never see the inside of offices at HP," he said when we talked about changing technical structures. He's on the road 80 percent of the time, with the off days at his home office. An expert in the 3000's OS might find a similar future, if they can find customers who still value their operating system.
February 21, 2013
HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles
HP is likely to remain intact for a long time, based on the comments from its CEO Meg Whitman at the latest quarterly report briefing. "The patient shows signs of improvement," she told an audience of analysts and the press. "We did better than we expected we would, and I think we should be encouraged by that."
Even though the company halted its quarters of red ink at two — Q1 delivered a profit of $1.2 billion, compared to the loss of $8 billion in the previous quarter — the top management delivered a dire report on business server enterprises at HP. Sales dropped company-wide by 6 percent to $28.4 billion. Its Enterprise Group sales fell $245 million, led by the continuing troubles at the Business Critical Systems unit.
"Our server business has a particularly strong market position in EMEA," said CFO Cathy Lesjak, "and the economic backdrop of that [region] is still dismal. The Itanium challenges within BCS are also still with us. There are key challenges still out there."
Lesjak said the news from the PC group — which HP said it has no plans to spin off — couldn't even meet HP's hopes. "Frankly, the business deterioration we are seeing in Personal Systems — particularly in EMEA and with notebooks — is worse than we expected."
One analyst on the call noted that the profit margins for the Enterprise Group have dropped for nine straight quarters. He wanted to know why, and Whitman laid the first pile of blame upon Business Critical Systems, the unit where HP sold 3000s until it dropped the server 10 years ago.
"The negative factor is the decline of BCS," Whitman said. "It was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]" Whitman went on to note that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
"R&D is the lifeblood of this business," she said of HP's enterprise products such as HP-UX servers and storage. Whitman believes that the enterprise customers will bring along Technical Services business to improve HP profits overall.
So how did the company turn a profit for the period? It didn't have to write off the value of Autonomy this time around, or subtract the valuation (through a goodwill writedown) of its Enterprise Services Group. Those were multi-billion-dollar hits in the last two quarters, including $8.8 billion in the previous quarter alone.
Even though Whitman called 2013 "a fix and rebuild year," the company still expects to be delivering $3.40 a share in fiscal year profits. That amounts to $6.6 billion HP believes it will earn using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. These non-GAAP numbers are usually twice as high as accepted numbers. It still adds up to billions in profits for a year where HP says it's going to remain a single company.
"We have no plans to break up the company," Whitman said. "I feel quite strongly that we are better and stronger together." She believes that the past 10 years of business has built "the most valuable franchise in IT, particularly as we look forward to the most significant change in how IT is bought, paid for and consumed. We have a terrific set of assets, and we're going to drive that to really great business performance."
Even though HP's PC business contributes only 10 percent of the company's total profit, Whitman managed to spin that number into a positive. HP thinks pricing for PCs is going to be a problem, so it's glad that PCs only contribute a minimal share of earnings. The CEO thinks there's a better road ahead for an HP that remains intact.
"Customers want this company to be together," she stressed. "We heard that loud and clear on August 18, 2011." That was the day when HP released a quarterly report that it was studying a PC-Enterprise breakup. Shareholders sold down the stock that week on the news, along with the damage of dumping CEO Mark Hurd.
The return to black ink on HP's reports is a good sign about the company's futures, Whitman said. "The turnaround is on track. We have three more quarters to go in this year. We feel very confident about delivering the full year results. But we have to deliver, and we have to execute as an organization."
HP executed 3,500 employee departures in the first quarter, and it reduced its headcount by 11,800 in the fiscal year that ended in October. "We've now asked 15,300 people to leave the company," Whitman said. "We can actually see savings from that, and see a more streamlined and focused organization. This is the financial capacity we will need to hit our numbers. And it's the financial capacity we will need to invest."
February 19, 2013
HP aims at Enterprise ally uptick for 2013
Hewlett-Packard will be reporting about its past in a couple of days, briefing analysts at 5 PM EST Feb. 21 about the quarter just ended in January. But the company will be looking ahead at its fiscal quarters to come starting tomorrow, when it briefs HP allies at its 2013 Global Partner Conference.
Issues and opportunities for customers who are migrating, or have already moved, will dominate the conference. That almost goes without saying; HP's closed off all other 3000-related business including support. But HP is also going to share information that could be just as useful for those analysts, being briefed in the same week. HP's going to talk about its Oracle alliance at the meeting in Las Vegas (see the detail at left). The story might be the same for partners as analysts and the business press. Sales ally presentations will have an optimistic slant in Vegas. Eveyone wants to be hopeful in that town, at least when they arrive.
What HP sketches at this sales meeting -- the year's largest partner conference -- will shape what these partners say to customers about Oracle. The database vendor has been forced by the courts to keep working with HP on Itanium server technology. Nobody knows what that enforced alliance will yield yet. The court ruling and Oracle's capitulation only happened in September. Partners have fielded too many questions about the FUD that Oracle spread, and HP's said in previous quarterly reports that FUD choked off Enterprise business.
However, it's an article of faith: applications determine where a customer will go when they leave the 3000. But an application off the shelf always needs a database, and Oracle is underneath a lot of them, especially on HP-UX. If a migrating customer can ask an HP partner, "What's the database feeding that application?" then the answer -- leavened with this week's Oracle alliance message -- can shape a migration decision. You'd want to know if you were entering the Oracle enterprise airspace by migrating onto an app in Itanium, wouldn't you? Especially with a court order driving Oracle development.Application suppliers will sometimes overlook this kind of tech detail as they present to a customer's higher management. This is the sort of question that an IT manager, or a system architect, would be first to ask. For example, if you're moving your 3000 asset application for higher-ed to Banner on a Unix box, you won't see much reference to Oracle on the Banner webpages.
A migrating manager would have to go into the product roadmap pages at the website of Ellucian, the company that owns Banner after buying up Sungard. Sure enough, there in the PDF presentation for Banner is a twin track -- using Microsoft databases and using Oracle's.
Those columns represent Windows vs. Unix choices. You could probably assume if you're picking HP-UX for any application it'll be running Oracle. That's the same setup for the Ecometry Open migration solution for retailers.
Oracle still has a lot of clout in driving the migration choices for 3000 sites. Some want Windows for staffing reasons and lower hardware/support costs. They might also be choosing a path were the HP alliance with the database vendor isn't something that requires a briefing at a Partner Conference.
February 13, 2013
Where they've gone: TV George, on from HP
For awhile in the 1990s, George Stachnik was the equivalent of Ed McMahon for the HP 3000 world. He hosted the first set of telecasts, via satellite feed to HP offices, directed at improving the HP 3000 customer experience. You were likely to see him at Interex user group events. And then he had a reprise as HP's voice of migration advice in a series of Webinars, back when that was still a new medium.
This year Stachnik has made his exit from HP, after more than 29 years of service. He has joined the staff at Porter Consulting in the Bay Area. The company develops marketing programs, collateral material such as articles and white papers, enterprise marketing management, and content delivery via websites and mobile channels.
In summary, it's the same kind of work Stachnik did for HP for the past two decades and more. He made a transition from HP support engineer to marketing in 1991 and never looked back. After the era of educating customers via satellite and videotape ended, he trained customers for HP's NetServer Division. These were Windows enterprise servers. To the last of his HP days, Stachnik was an enterprising face in the 3000's cast. One of his wilder moments involved destroying an HP 3000. Or attempting to do so.To be fair, it wasn't Stachnik who pushed an HP 3000 off a two-story building's roof during the 1990s. But he narrated the stunt that the marketing group had designed to prove the system's durability.
It's part of HP 3000 lore, and a simple 7 MB download that opens in the world's tiniest web video player window (as a Quicktime file). We scooped it up when the Web was a lot newer and that 7 MB seemed like a big file. His audio, however, is bigger than the movie looks.
Stachnik was also a prolific writer, penning a series of more than 30 articles for Interact magazine that educated the novice IT pro on using the HP 3000. The articles first appeared in 1997, at the 25th anniversary of the system. The full extent of that series is available at Chris Bartram's 3k.com website, in the papers section.
We say congratulations to him for landing in a new spot after taking leave from HP. He was one of the last lights from the 1990s 3000 group who'd remained at the company, at least in a very public job. Some engineers remain, working in other divisions. But nobody who could narrate a Parachute Event for the HP 3000 Games is wearing an HP badge anymore.