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.
Get e-mail notice when the NewsWire blog gets a new entry. Just say "Blog Me" in a message to email@example.com.
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.
January 17, 2013
Battleship HP clears the $17 waterline
Hewlett-Packard's share price opened and remained above $17 per share today for the first time in more than three-and-a-half months. The last $17 day was October 2, when CEO Meg Whitman delivered a devastating report to investors and analysts about profits and sales for HP's year to come.
HP shares fell 13 percent on that day, one marked by the admission that Hewlett-Packard's profits would sink by 10 percent in fiscal 2013. Rock bottom for the darkest quarter in HP history came about six weeks later, when the news of fiscal shenaigans by the acquisition of Autonomy drove shares below $12.
That rugged news now behind HP still must be balanced by the company's Q1 performance. Sales close in two weeks, HP's first full quarter without the FUD of Oracle's pullout from the Itanium server line. Stronger sales in the Business Critical Server unit will signal a better investment target for migrating customers -- at least the ones who want to choose HP-UX for the systems to replace HP 3000s.
The HP quarterly Earnings Conference Call will take place on February 21. HP hasn't released any signal that it will spin out its enterprise business from PC operations, a move which investors are calling for.
January 11, 2013
What If: Fault lay not in the 3000, but in HP?
In the early years of my HP reporting career, the company tried to sell PCs against IBM. It had innovative technology in touchscreen HP 150s with strong links to enterprise office software via those PCs. HP's ad slogan began with an invitation to a customer to imagine something more connected to the customer than IBM: "What If?"
It's a good question today, nearly 30 years later, especially when used to evaluate HP 3000s. HP lopped off its futures with the server in 2001, less than a year before it attacked the PC market by purchasing Compaq. Some products had to go, if HP hoped to convince institutional shareholders that a $25 billion acquisition was good business.
So the 3000 was derided and deprecated by HP. The server had a failing ecosystem. Customers wanted other HP products, like PCs for businesses, running Windows. Over a few more years, HP acquired even more love of outside products. It changed itself as a company, while it fled from the challenge of asking customers what if about its unique technology like the HP 150. Now there are calls for HP to return to the company that it was before it became a consumer-obsessed, low-touch customer service juggernaut that's careened into a financial ditch.
What if the fault lay not in the HP 3000's starry design, but in HP's leaders themselves? When Steve Jobs takes a walk through the neighborhood of Palo Alto to counsel an ousted CEO of HP, you can be pretty sure that a great deal had changed for HP, and none of it for the better. And that walk took place more than two years ago. Jobs believed that Mark Hurd should've never left HP.
That's how completely Hewlett-Packard had faulted from its enterprise line. A leader who slashed R&D, and rubber-stamped even more pell-mell pursuit of the consumerist strategy, was now the bulwark. Proof enough HP had changed completely, and offered in a story this week from the Apple community.If the HP 3000 were a sound product -- and it has been HP that's grown unsound since that 2001 Fall of the Compaq and MPE disasters -- perhaps we can hear a "What If" about the indelible value in the 3000 concept. A computer whose intellectual property, from silicon to software, is controlled by its creator. A system built on the use-it-forever designs of PA-RISC, rather than the churn of commodity systems.
Today I interviewed a former 3000 manager at Dayton T. Brown, the largest and most thoroughly equipped independent engineering and testing laboratory in the U.S. They purchased a Series 917 and a Series 937 in 1994. They stopped using them completely in 2007. That's 13 years at a major US business running on servers built to last. By way of contrast, that was a typical kind of enterprise product. When Dayton T. Brown bought their 9x7 systems in the early 1990s, only HP's printers were commodity items driving enterprise IT.
In the Apple world, this lifespan is the equivalent of desktops from 2003 still running the largest printer and mailing house in Austin. iMacs from a decade ago are still on the job in shipping, planning, even design at Touchpoint. Apple controls all of that intellectual property in those Macs, just as HP once did with the 3000.
The story circling in the 3000 community this week about Steve Jobs has him imploring Mark Hurd to return to HP. Hewlett-Packard was an essential part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Losing another CEO -- Carly Fiorina had left five years earlier -- was going to be bad for HP. MacRumors reports that Bloomberg Businessweek is telling this story about that fear of HP's faults.
Three days after he’d resigned as CEO under pressure from the company’s board of directors, Hurd received an e-mail from Steve Jobs. The Apple founder wanted to know if Hurd needed someone to talk to.
Hurd met Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, according to people who know both men but did not wish to be identified, compromising a personal confidence. The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around the tree-lined neighborhood. At numerous points during their conversation, Jobs pleaded with Hurd to do whatever it took to set things right with the board so that Hurd could return. Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP’s directors and to call them up one by one.
The BusinessWeek article takes a look at how HP fell from its dominating position in tech. and if new CEO Meg Whitman can pull it out of the ditch. She's hearing many analysts say a split of HP -- into what it once was in the 3000 days, and another part of what it became afterward -- is the only way.
What if Hewlett-Packard wasn't right for the HP 3000 anymore, by 2001? The company had let its board fall under the spell of consumerist forces which made printers the primary profit engine. PCs were a natural product to follow a printer, and Compaq owned a dominant part of that market. That's why HP bought them -- to become number one and overtake Dell.
By now, the advice that's become rampant among investors -- the same audience that cheered HP into buying Compaq -- is that enterprise systems like the 3000, or Integrity, will continue to fail when paired with PCs.
And at Dayton T. Brown, no more HP servers run the largest labs in the US. Dell's servers, running Microsoft's Windows, have replaced the Hewlett-Packard products from the old HP Way. If HP wasn't right for the 3000 anymore -- instead of the other way around -- there's hope in a future where the gleaming heart of the system, MPE, can live beyond anything that HP might become over the coming year. As Shakespeare might have told the HP board and braintrust, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves."
January 08, 2013
How to Make HP's Diagnostics Free on MPE
More than two years ago when HP officially closed its formal HP 3000 support, the vendor left its diagnostics software open for use by anybody who ran a 3000. Throughout the years HP sold 3000 support, CSTM needed a password only HP's engineers could supply. But the CSTM diagnostics tools started to run on January 1, 2011 without any HP support-supplied password.
However, managers need a binary patch to free up the diagnostics. Support providers who've taken over for HP know how to enable CSTM. The community has a former Hewlett-Packard engineer to thank, Gary Robillard, for keeping the door to the diagnostics open. Robillard says he is "the engineer who, last worked on CSTM for MPE/iX when I was still a contractor at HP back in 2008."
A 3000 site must request a patch to get these expert tools working. HP arranged for 3000 sites to get such patches for free at the end of 2010. We tracked the procedure in a Newswire story, just in case that HP link above goes dark.
One such patched version of CSTM needs a binary patch. This month Robillard was revisiting his binary patch fix, which can be a part of using these diagnostics, with the HP patch ODINX19A noted below.
Versions of CSTM [patched] with ODINX19A or ODINX25A allow the expert tools with no licensing, but you still have to issue the HLIC command.
If you install ODINX25A/B/C (6.5,7.0,7.5) you won't need to do anything except issue the hlic command with any password. The HLIC command might say it was not accepted, but the license is activated anyway.
At the end of 2010, Robillard said his patch corrects the problem with ODINX19A -- and gives 3000 managers access to these system diagnostics -- for servers running the 6.5, 7.0 or 7.5 versions of CSTM.
If you have installed ODINX19A, you need to do the following:
Logon as MANAGER.SYS. It's safest to create an input file to sompatch.
1. Run editor.pub.sys
2. Add the following three lines EXACTLY. The sompatch will only work if the instruction at offset 268 matches 86a020c2. The message "Error: Old value does not match" is displayed and no changes are made)
Here are the contents of BINPCHIN file (You will want to copy and paste these);
~~~~~The 3 lines are below~~~~~~~
; Fix problem in DIAGMOND after 12/19/2010
modify ms_init_manage_sys + 268,1 86a020c2|08000240
~~~~The 3 lines are above~~~~~~~~
• Make sure DIAGMOND is not running (run STMSHUT.DIAG.SYS)
• copy /usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond,DIAGMOND
• run sompatch.pub.sys;stdin=BINPCHIN;INFO='DIAGMOND'
• copy DIAGMOND,/usr/sbin/stm/uut/bin/sys/diagmond;YES
• Restart DIAGMOND (run STMSTART.DIAG.SYS)
After a few minutes, a "SHOWPROC 1;TREE;SYSTEM" should show the DIAGMOND process, and either the mapping processes, or memlogd, diaglogd and maybe cclogd (on A/N Class 3000s only).
December 27, 2012
2012 top losses: Itanium's future, HPQ value
By Ron Seybold
Second in a series
During 2012 the recent legacy of Hewlett-Packard pulled down the company's futures and values openly for the first time. The company's 73 years of business had devolved in full. A lawsuit exposed completely the new wart of borrowing R&D dollars, over a full decade, to boost HP revenues via mergers and buy-ups. The future of competition was mortaged for commodity computing. The same lack of R&D appetite that'd left the HP 3000 out in the cold after acquiring Compaq business computing now showed HP was bereft of enterprise intellectual property. Nowhere did the cupboard look more bare than the tech choice that had dumped its MPE/iX futures: Itanium.
It became plain that the VP of the BCS Unix-Itanium unit, Martin Fink, pushed a plan that might have grown HP-UX stronger just as 3000 sites were getting serious about investing in Unix. The decline of HP 3000 support contracts was even noted in a 2010 document, one that tried to prove that moving Unix to x86 would benefit HP -- by way of sparking new Integrity sales and stronger support revenues for the last OS developed by Hewlett-Packard, HP-UX. One that remained utterly tied to a single chip, Itanium -- until the HP Odyssey emerges from development.
Concocted as a replacement for Intel x86 chips in 1992, the processor that powers all HP Unix servers was uncovered as a product reduced to earning support profits for HP, while taking earnings out of its partner Intel's pockets since 2007. Oracle did lose its lawsuit to halt Itanium releases. But the magnum of evidence uncorked by Oracle -- hundreds of emails that spoke an astounding honesty about the final HP-built enterprise tech environment -- overflowed in the press as well as the courtroom.
Damages to HP from the Oracle lawsuit may fall on the database maker, but the wreckage will not be measured by HP's greatest loss: company valuation. HP sloughed off 43 percent of its market cap during 2012, the largest US slide for the year and a loss attributed to failed mergers fueled by R&D cuts and layoffs. The evidence from HP emails and slides in 2012 made its case of losing up to $4 billion yearly in Itanium-related profits -- even while the company knew, and withheld, facts from its own sales regions about the dire futures of the chip family. The BCS unit continued its slide as of the November financial report (see p. 7 of HP's PDF).
I revisited the turning point of HP's 3000 and MPE/iX exit, but written much larger -- hundreds of thousands of servers put at risk because HP didn't control its own intellectual property for chips anymore. Intel would have to be satisfied, or paid off. In 2012 we learned the latter plan was picked by a board that was still fleeing R&D in 2010.
I wrote a host of articles during 2012 to keep driving home points about investments in HP's Unix. Most of the analysis meant to show that the customers who transitioned HP dollars from MPE to Unix were re-investing in a technology no longer growing (like HP's measure of the 3000 in 2001), one that needed hundreds of millions of HP R&D to keep moving forward.
Even the company's new transition strategy, HP Odyssey, admitted the marketplace had stopped investing in Integrity servers. The business earned profits for HP in the same way that HP collected earnings from MPE/iX. Support contracts, which HP called Technical Services (TS) monies in confidential emails and slides, had dyed Itanium ink from red to black. All was revealed in court exhibits, dumped by Oracle and catalogued by an All Things D reporter for the marketplace to see. Business Critical Systems including HP-UX continued a sales slide -- and a lack of R&D contributed to a decline of vision the markets could now see.
In the email and PowerPoint slide court exhibits listed on Scribd as Oracle Itanium Exhibits Chronological, (a dynamite browse), an urgent HP management story spilled out. Itanium was dying, Intel wasn't cutting HP's minimum purchase requirements, and the sales force and customers were being kept in the dark. In 2009 while the company was trumpeting the advent of a new Integrity system line, Business Critical Systems VP Martin Fink explained in one email that his BCS mission wasn't motivating HP salespeople to keep Itanium-Integrity growing. Not even Intel could be persuaded to help HP discount those Integrity-based systems to make attractive margins.
From the regions' viewpoint, what they see is that
• we have a non-competitive chip
• we are delayed by more than a year, and
• we get no funding relief from Intel to help with margins and keep us in deals.
In short, they're not very impressed with the BCS worldwide team's ability to drive Intel. The Itanium situation is one of our most closely guarded secrets, and we have not wanted to let the region/field know about it, since all it would do is give them another reason not to sell.
There was another way forward for Itanium and HP's Unix, a concept that required the vendor to acquire Sun's Solaris Unix.
Or if only, Fink figured in 2010, HP could invest in an x86 Unix at a cost of $487 million. It could keep Unix revenues stable into 2018. HP considered saving its Unix business in another way in 2009; Fink exhorted its board of directors to buy struggling Sun Microsystems. Oracle acted more decisively on that buy-up, one which HP code-named "Blackbird." (See slide above from early 2009.)
Oracle swept in to snatch the HP Unix competitor. It left HP facing a reality of selling a second-tier Unix on chips that it was paying Intel $88 million a year just to keep developing -- all while the TS support profits declined, from 3000s right down to Integrity servers. (Click on 2010 slide below for details on perhaps the last HP management slide to mention the HP 3000 and its revenues.)
We learned in 2012 that HP knew it had nothing left in its R&D property cupboard to help Unix. Text from the slide below showed HP knew in 2009 that x86 chips would "fulfill all aspects of RISC within 5 years."
Strategic Rationale - Current Situation
• HP-UX is on a death march due to inevitable Itanium trajectory
• Companion Technical Services attach business declines precipitously but with a longer tail than the product business
-- No replacement for 45% revenue and 60% of GM for the TS business
-- TS Value is tied to HP-UX and we do not have a go-forward
• x86 is on a credible trajectory to fulfill all aspects of RISC within 5 years
• Going forward, HP will not own the software IP stack upon which to build value -- the hardware stack gets commoditized
Fink went on to be named as the head of the storied HP Labs during 2012 -- the least technically-proven and most business-savvy leader the labs have ever had. He became a direct report to HP CEO Meg Whitman, who's been given the same kind of save-the-company assignment that Steve Jobs faced at Apple in 1996. In this Chicago Tribune article, note the junk bond status, a rating where HP's debt paper began to drift toward in the fall of 2012.
Already Apple's debt has prompted both Moody's Investors Service Inc. and Standard & Poor's to rate the company's bonds at levels so low that analysts such as Chicago-based Carol Levenson of the Gimme Credit bond industry newsletter are calling them "junk."
Obviously, a third fiscal quarter with a $500 million cash drain would take the company down to the near-zero mark and thus be catastrophic. This, you will recall, is how one goes into bankruptcy.
The Tribune article added that "the fight is far from over" at Apple. But it took a revival of innovative design, over more than a decade, to elevate Apple to a state so powerful it could release tablets which would erase HP's laptop sales growth. A proposed split of HP, to spin off enterprise computing from those laptops, came out in 2012 reports from analysts like Therese Poletti at Market Watch.
December 26, 2012
A virtual 3000 leads the top stories of 2012
Analysis by Ron Seybold
First in a series
When summing up the last year of 3000 community news and developments, the story which appears the biggest covered the first 3000 which a manager could no longer see.
Emulator news from Stromasys, whether about ship dates and demonstration, adoption for production, or a free version including HP's MPE/iX, pulled the system's future into the present day. The Charon HPA/3000 became an installed reality at production sites and a free download for the widest share of the community. At the same time, HP's Unix platform shed the FUD from Oracle, thanks to the courts, and cloud hosts clambered into the server picture.
A dozen stories floated to the top of my news view during the past year, some of them related to another, others standing alone in their importance. The year didn't carry a marker like the 2010 end of all HP support for MPE, or the first-decade anniversary of the HP pullout (and subsequent HP3000 Reunion) of 2011. But 2012 marked 10 years of serious migration plans and actions, and we looked for evidence that the greatest share of migrations were ended. Whether a vendor or a customer was homesteading or making its transition, the year delivered that constant element of any IT calendar: change.
Emulator solution: from demo, to adoption, to freeware -- A virtualized MPE server, working as a 3000 emulator, made the transition from alpha test to a springtime beta demo, and finally a production and freeware reality. The last state of existence emerged as a target in mid-year when Stromasys announced new plans for a 2-user freeware version of HPA/3000. It took more than four months to create a evaluator and hobbyist version of the software. Stromasys referenced production status at an Australian company in October. A public webinar demonstration in April showed how an LDEV 1, acting like the entire HP 3000 cradled on a beefy laptop, could be virtualizated in a disk image file -- to reduce the need for further HP iron to preserve MPE/iX.
Oracle is forced to shed its HP Unix doubt-fest -- The 18 months of lawsuits and a trial between HP and its enterprise rival (and database ally) Oracle came to an end with an HP victory. Oracle was tagged for damages to HP's business in an amount still to be specified, after the database giant produced evidence that the Itanium HP Unix platform had a future in severe doubt over the past five years inside HP.
In the end, a judge in California ruled that the software vendor -- whose hardware unit is run by former HP CEO Mark Hurd -- must keep developing for Itanium hosts like the Integrity servers. The news lifted a shadow off HP's only single-vendor alternative being offered to migrating 3000 sites. Without the court victory, HP would've suffered critical wounds to the only platform for HP-UX. At the same time, HP carried its message of an Odyssey for Unix customers outward, one that could bring HP Unix growth to a standstill.
Cloud destinations emerge for migrations -- In a blend of the stories of migration and emulation, the rise of cloud hosting took significant steps forward for 3000 owners on the move. Solutions as complex as manufacturing systems got enthusiasm and serious looks from longtime 3000 vendors. HP's own cloud solution, HP Cloud, went from beta test to SLA status during 2012, with veteran Terry Floyd also eager to make it serve as a host for the freeware emulator. HP Cloud supports Linux (and Windows, but not HP-UX) to give it the penguin cradle needed for HPA/3000. Kenandy Software pulled from the best of MANMAN designs for a 2.0 release of its social ERP solution. At the same time, cloud outages from Amazon Web Services prompted a closer look at system availability.
December 13, 2012
HPQ fights its way back, but riding Icahn?
Hewlett-Packard stock prices made their way out of the $11 range and back into the $14.50 territory this week. The backing for the vendor which makes the migration target environment HP-UX saw a rally of 26 percent over the last 15 trading sessions. That's the period since HP last made a comment or a report on its Autonomy debacle, or the second straight quarter of red ink overall.
After trading 154 million shares during that rock-bottom November 20, HP's fortunes have risen. But for what reason, the analysts are asking. Not on the strength of the HP Discover announcements in Germany last week. HP didn't push above $14 a share until Monday. Its appointment of new EVP Mike Nefkens to lead HP Enterprise Services emerged a week earlier. Its beefed-up Converged Cloud Portfolio made its debut December 4. No seemingly plausible connection there, either.
HP announced its bedrock quarterly dividend of $.13.2 a share as usual, payable to stockholders of record as of Dec. 12. That would have helped get the cart out of the trading ditch this week. But another rumor about the maker of Integrity-Itanium servers emerged over the last few days. Takeover king Carl Icahn might be purchasing HP stock.
Or not, since the 5 percent purchase of outstanding shares threshhold hasn't been triggered yet. Once a stock gets a buyer at that rate, SEC rules kick in and the curtain is pulled away. Nobody knows if Icahn could make a difference to a company whose printer business has stopped growing and whose PCs are now running behind Lenovo's. And some are asking if the legendary activist investor even wants to shake up HP's board.Insider Monkey's Marshall Hargrave thinks that the outstanding HP shares, even at $14, are too big of a bite for even Icahn's tastes. Icahn would have to purchase $1.4 billion of HP stock to set off the 5 percent report.
Although the initiatives and far reach of HP makes it a compelling long-term value play, it does appear to be a bit out of Icahn’s scope and size. While it might not be likely that Icahn is backing HP, we believe that investors can buy in at a relatively reasonable price. HP trades at the cheapest forward P/E (4.1x) compared to Dell (6.2x), Microsoft (8.4x) and Apple (9.3x). Assuming HP can initiate key savings, it very well could trade in line with Dell on a P/E basis given its market share dominance.
Therese Poletti at Market Watch notes that some investors would like to see pressure to spin off HP's server business, including that Itanium line that HP 3000 customers follow -- at times -- when they turn off their MPE servers.
An outside investor like Icahn -- or someone else -- could argue that the corporate business, which includes services, servers, and software, does not need to be attached to PCs and printers. Other have argued, however, that the company gets more purchasing power when buying for all the hardware businesses at once.
HP has argued that "we sell more servers when we sell everything" over the last two years, while its fortunes skidded. Post-Mark Hurd, the value of such a consolidated HP has fallen 70 percent.
It's encouraging to see Hewlett-Packard rally itself, if only to protect the futures of its technology from a takeover sell-off. One of the last things HP divested itself of, tech-wise, was the WebOS environment for tablets. HP-UX is unlikely to ever suffer such a fate as being declared open software. If HP couldn't do it for MPE/iX, just imagine how a product serving big customers will fare.
December 03, 2012
HP Cloud adds SLA as prices drop on Amazon's, Google's cloud services
HP customers who have been patient with the vendor's ramp-up of cloud services are being rewarded one last time this month. The HP Cloud service is moving from a beta period that started in May to a full Service Level Agreement (SLA) version, starting on January 1.
Terry Floyd of the MANMAN services company The Support Group said he received a notice over the weekend that HP is "particularly grateful for your business and feedback as we build HP Cloud Services' portfolio and service offerings. In appreciation of your engagement through the Beta period, we continue to offer the service at a 50% discount off the list price through December 31, 2012. The full list prices shall apply starting January 1, 2013."
Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Floyd said, might be a logical place to host an instance of the HP 3000 emulator, or experiment with the forthcoming freeware version. (We're still listening for news of when that freeware will be an available download.) On the other hand, a cloud instance could be a useful place for a test environment of a new platform for migrating customers. Migration partners such as MB Foster see a future where it will be the rare small- to medium-sized business that hosts its own hardware.
But even while HP muscles up to a 99.95 percent uptime SLA, its competition is racing to a lower bottom line. These aren't small competitors, either: Amazon and Google have been in the cloud longer than HP. Amazon is finishing up its sixth year offering virtual infrastructure.Using the HP Cloud with that SLA will still keep you offline no more than 30 minutes per month. A Medium (4GB RAM, 2 vCPUs, 120GB disk) install costs $116.80/month starting in January, after the discount ends; a Large (8GB RAM, 4 vCPUs, 240GB disk) costs $233.60/month for a Linux installation. Stromasys HPA/3000 runs under Linux. Windows installs cost about 50 percent more. HP-UX isn't supported in the HP Cloud.
Google's cloud IaaS, Google Compute Engine, already costs about 2 cents less with hour compared to HP's rates. Google adjusted its prices downward by 5 percent last month; it will also offer a cloud service with no SLA for 30 percent less.
Amazon cut its AWS cloud pricing for the 21st time as of last month, keeping just below Google's prices with a $0.13/hour rate. AWS is the leader in the cloud field in both customers as well as longevity of its solution, which launched in 2006.
November 30, 2012
It's time to admit that IBM won at being No. 1
It's taken more than 10 years for all of the votes from the business community to be counted. But after HP launched into a campaign to become the world's largest computer company, by buying Compaq in 2001, the enterprise IT legend that HP's chased has finished at No. 1.
Not in company sales, of course. As Kane's financial manager Mr. Bernstein says in Citizen Kane, "Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money." The trick HP wanted was to make a lot of profit while increasing shareholder's value. This week we received two pieces of news about that odyssey to be No. 1. Both suggest the game is over, and HP will need to try to win the next, different game.
First, the bond rating service Moody's has downgraded the value of HP's debt paper to just three steps above junk bonds. HP's debt carries the steepest risk ever at a Baa1 rating. This didn't matter as much when HP held so little long-term debt. That's not the case today. About $25 billion in debt is affected, Moody’s said.
Second, the price of HP's stock has taken a tumble all through 2012. It's dropped so low in company valuation that Public Storage of America, a $1.8 billion storage unit renter, is now just below HP's valuation. Hewlett-Packard is the diving blue dot in the valuation chart, and PSA is the green. HP now needs 330,000 employees and $130 billion a year in sales to keep up with a storage unit company's value. HP lost that valuation that's charted there in a little more than one quarter. There seems little chance of regaining it while HP's built the way it is today. 2013's February 21 looks like a genuine fork in the road. HP reports its Q1 results that day.
In this week's New York Times, an op-ed piece written by a CEO contemporary of the Bill-and-Dave HP says it's time to split up Hewlett-Packard. Not to improve its valuation. To save the company, says Bill George, now a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.Immediate salvation is required, if you read the business press. You could talk about the HP leadership of this era by pointing at articles like "Why HP Won't Fire Meg Whitman (At Least Not Right Away)." If they do, that would be the fourth straight CEO fired by HP. The last CEO who held the job through a peaceful resignation was also the final CEO groomed from within HP's ranks. Wow, Lew Platt: who among us ever thought he'd look like a powerful business leader?
But Platt wasn't made of the stuff that sent HP sniffing after every computer business where it didn't have a lead and wanted it, all in the chase to make a lot of money. That $22 billion to buy Compaq was Carly Fiorina's first brainstorm, but the profits didn't rain down on the company. Then there was the $14 billion spent on EDS, just so HP could puff itself up with a 144,000-employee headcount and compete with IBM's Services business. This too was recently written down.
All that Platt seemed to know how to do was lead an HP that was still investing in enterprise technology. His was the last CEO term where the sensible 10 percent R&D expense was safe on the HP books. R&D grows value in companies, especially ones like HP that can't carry off an Apple turtleneck cool or maintain IBM's ediface reputation.
The only thing that's succeeded in the HP march toward bigness, is, well, bigness. An employee force so large that it could lay off 75,000 workers over a decade and still be larger than it ever has been, paycheck-wise. IBM dropped its PC business at about the same time HP bought up billions of Compaq sales. Add in $10 billion of Autonomy (another writedown, with a swindle story in play) and HP's gotten what it wanted to be. Very big.
But while it drifted from the HP Way, the company watched Apple pass it to become the largest technology company in sales. HP has struggled because it wanted to be IBM and Apple at the same time. Each of these companies outflanks HP in size that matters: valuation and profitability. By factors of 10, or more.
George, who was CEO of Medtronic before he moved to the Harvard business faculty, pointed out that HP's quest to be No. 1 has been costly.
With 330,000 employees and $120 billion in revenue, HP has become too big to manage.
It is really two businesses: a commodity personal computer and printer business and an enterprise systems, services and software business. The characteristics of these businesses are entirely different.
And so while you've been assuming that a very large vendor could deliver very large value, HP's R&D and management have been taken from pillar to post, from PC to IT. That thrashing means that now a storage unit company is worth just slightly less than the creator of the MPE/iX, PA-RISC, Superdome, IMAGE, and ink-jet printing.
Whitman -- for as long as she lasts after a scary 2012 where shares tumbled as steeply as the chart at right shows -- should be tossing in the towel on this fight to be No. 1. She's got to try to bail out a listing ship. George points out in his article that HP's enterprise business demands heavy R&D, "including very sophisticated software (an area where HP is sorely lagging behind IBM, Oracle and SAP), high touch customer service, and an expensive support structure to meet its customers’ complex needs."
In its current form, Hewlett-Packard is a wasting asset, whose value to customers, employees and shareholders is steadily declining. It is time for the board to move quickly to restore its former status as a company everyone can admire, one that can compete successfully in two very different global markets.
There's a game where HP can finish on top, perhaps. It lies on a different field from trying to run a company large enough to be No. 1, while trying to beat two wildly different rivals at the same time. Whenever HP starts playing that new game -- cleaving itself into a $60 billion IT company and a $60 billion PC company -- its enterprise users can look away from this blowout loss that's taken a decade to sink in, after chasing No. 1.
November 28, 2012
As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows
Within the next week, HP's going to ship a new generation of Itanium-based servers. Using the Poulson chipset known as the Itanium 9500, these blade-based systems are going to outperform the current generation of Integrity servers by a factor of 3.29, according to HP.
The engineering gains are impressive. HP tested the new Integrity blades that use the 9500 series against the Itanium 9300-powered servers. Blades start at $6,490 for the 9500-based systems. "For those remaining committed to Itanium and its attendant OS platforms, notably HP-UX, this is unmitigated good news," said Forrester's analyst Richard Fichera. HP's building these new servers exclusively in Singapore, so it can offer three times the computing speed at about the same price.
But even with all that improvement, HP needed to remind the market that these gains were also heading to its Intel x86 Xeon systems. The reason for that reminder: more of HP's customers, such as those leaving the 3000 in migrations, are moving to Windows.
We're not hearing nearly as many reports of migrations which landed on HP-UX systems. The latest news arrived today from Bob Thorpe of National Wine and Spirits. At the Detroit-area IT center, this 3000 pro turned migrator said their customized system is being moved, COBOL and all, to Windows.
"We are in process of having our in-house designed app (using COBOL, IMAGE, and VIEW) converted to NetCOBOL," he said. "We will migrate to a Windows Server platform by March or April next year."
It doesn't matter so much that it took NWS 12 years to leave MPE/iX. What seems more meaningful is that in spite of the Itanium speed-ups, HP couldn't lock NWS into its single-vendor, OS-plus-Itanium environment during those dozen years.The newest Itanium muscle will arrive a little more than two years after HP's 9300-generation Integrity boxes rolled out to customers. These newer blades consume 21 percent less power, led by a new entry-level server, the Energy Star-certified Integrity rx2800 i4.
But dropping the cost of ownership for Itanium has mostly been a pleasure for the existing HP-UX customer. Oracle cast a year's worth of doubt over the chip's future until the courts made the vendor cease, and pledge to support HP-UX and the other operating systems which rely on Itanium. That's one reason HP reminds the market about Itanium's advances and where the improvements will end up: Xeon systems.
With advancements in availability and reliability, HP’s mission-critical Converged Infrastructure will continue to enhance established HP Integrity platforms supporting HP-UX, HP NonStop and OpenVMS operating systems. Over time, these advancements will cascade to mission-critical x86 platforms delivering a single, unified infrastructure for Unix, Windows Server and Linux environments.
That means this "i4" line of Itanium-9500, with its new server blades of a two-socket BL860c i4, the four-socket BL870c i4, and the eight-socket BL890c i4 -- all of these are simply pilot units for the inevitable transfer away from Itanium. How inevitable depends on the customer's trajectory. Windows-bound sites like NWS don't much care how much Itanium can outperform Xeon.
At TechWeek Europe, one writer there interviewed the European head of HP's Integrity business. The website's Peter Judge didn't hear HP expecting to sway many new customers.
According to VP of Business Critical Systems for EMEA Mark Payne, customers still see plenty of performance benefits in the Itanium platform, and would not move across until the x86 platform can match that. Itanium-based systems like Integrity have better mission-critical performance, and users won’t move away until, at the very least, x86 can equal that, said HP.
Unix systems are obviously changing their role in the datacentre, and no one at HP actually suggested they would start to win back business against x86 servers. However, there was a clear expectation that the end of the Oracle lawsuit and the new chips would unlock demand from uncertain customers.
Judge compared the Unix vs. mainframe battles to the future facing the installed HP-UX base. "When we hear that the Unix ecosystem is doomed, we should take some perspective, and expect a similar process to occur. There seems every reason to expect Unix to last as long as the mainframes it failed to dislodge."
HP's message off its own Itanium website shows that it considers "legacy systems" to be its own older Integrity servers. A business case study of manufacturer Steelcase started with the company's use of the Tru64 OS and PA-RISC, then movement to Superdome Integrity. HP seems just as enthused about seeing fewer Oracle licenses needed in the more powerful configuration.
Itanium once had a clear power disadvantage against the PA-RISC chips that drove the ultimate HP generation of 3000s. It took as many as three years for Itanium to catch PA-RISC after the Intel-based systems began to ship. Somewhere in the future of HP's migration campaign, customers like NWS will be hearing more about Xeon systems than Itanium servers. Windows Server, not the Integrity server, is luring migrations.
November 20, 2012
CEO Leo's defeat now complete with loss
HP's stock dove 10 percent this morning on the news that its last big-ticket acquisition lied about its net worth during the 2011 buyup of Autonomy. Aside from the spectacular flame-out of the HP TouchPad and its subsequent fire sale -- and the loss of WebOS futures -- Autonomy was about the only other thing Leo Apotheker could manage while CEO. Manage, it appears, being a term used hopefully.
Now comes the news that HP believes the UK British company it bought for $9.7 billion lied about its finances. Current CEO Meg Whitman didn't call it fraud, but the undervaluation triggered an $8.8 billion write-down of the value of the UK maker of big data software.
Whitman said in a statement there were "serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation PLC." The former CEO denied the charges, but the Associated Press ran a story this morning that tallied the tricks that Automony used to fool HP.
How bad is the strikeout? This time HP is asking the SEC and Britain's Serious Fraud office to look into criminal charges. The inevitable HP lawsuit, this time against its own operating unit, is in the wings. The AP story said Whitman revealed "a senior Autonomy executive volunteered information about the accounting shenanigans, prompting an internal investigation." The internal investigator? None other than PricewaterhouseCoopers. HP tried to buy PWC during the Carly Fiorina spree, but the boardroom held that one in check. HP got EDS instead, along with another $9 billion writedown.
The result is the second straight quarter of losses for HP, a first in the company's history. The maker of replacement systems for migrated HP 3000s is having a dark chapter in its turnaround story. Now it heads into a winter season where tablets -- a product HP failed to launch under Apotheker -- will be bleeding sales off the PC business which HP has been using to generate cash, if not many profits.
The turnaround story will have to start in earnest come mid-February. No one knows what it would mean to see HP fail to turn a profit for nine consecutive months. While its cancelled HP 3000 business didn't deliver enough cash to survive the company's new wave, at least HP knew the valuation of the 3000 for certain. After it cleared Y2K, that year was the start of HP's era of buying companies like Autonomy which triggered moves like easing the 3000 out of HP's future.HP's board of directors has been swinging and missing at the business plate for many years. But many of the whiffs were covered by profitable HP Services business and the thrum of PC's meager profits off massive sales. There was a deep count -- lots of foul balls to prolong the outcome, in baseball terms. But eventually that thin-profit cavalcade of PC consumer business is heading back to the bench. HP's PCs are already so desperate for acceptance they're rolling out as knockoffs of Apple's Macs.
Now HP has spent each of the last two quarters writing down massive companies which it purchased. In a flurry of ill-advised and shortsighted moves, the years from 2000 to 2011 were spent shucking off product lines where HP owned everything, including legacy sales, in order to step into areas where billions were peeled off to buy competitors (Compaq), businesses built on a model totally different from HP (EDS, which never tried to sell its own systems at the same time it did outsource work, but needed almost 150,000 people to do it) or software companies whose hopeful rise or valuation turned out to be fever dreams or worse (Mercury Interactive, Autonomy, and other).
There have been some things HP has done from its heart -- R&D -- and done well. Enterprise servers starting with the HP 3000, and then because the 3000 was a winner, enterprise Unix. Its Labs cooked up innovations in printing which remain a revenue firewall against HP's torched-up trials like Autonomy. When you go back to what made HP into a $130 billion computing powerhouse, the most potent return on starter money came from anything which Hewlett-Packard built itself. (Unless you count NewWave software or the HP Touchscreen, efforts that surely didn't cost even 1 billion dollars to fail in the 1980s.)
With the latest news, it's doubtful HP's got any other course going forward but to build. To run the baseball analogy into the ground, it's become a company that can only go out to its minor league farm system: brilliant wizards who cost less than $10 billion pseudo-stars. Purchasing free-agent players like Autonomy is beyond HP's budget, and nobody knows who's smart enough on the board to approve a winning deal anyway. Unless the markets recant, the forthcoming Q1 of 2013 could determine how hard HP's got to run to avoid being chased down in an acquisition.
All of this might not end up affecting the future of those migration platforms. Analysts are saying HP's headed for a split of the company, a spinoff that might right the listing ship to give the vendor time to focus on its own technology and its enterprise legacy. A migrated customer is usually watching cost of ownership or a tech roadmap while making a futures plan.
But the company's Project Odyssey, announced just one year ago this week, is a costly venture designed to preserve that migrated business -- at least the part that went to HP's Unix. There's a limit to how much HP will have on hand to pay for R&D in the coming year. Something like Odyssey might stanch the flow of enterprise business away to commodity Linux computing. Odyssey represents the most likely future for the migrator who wants to stick with HP's technology and heritage.
The former is the most tangible asset HP seems to muster, along with the hundreds of thousands of IT customers who will be hearing the alleged shenanigans and red-ink news. That latter heritage looks worn down this morning. The companies who left HP behind -- even to homestead on its shunned 3000 -- could be forgiven for feeling a bit vindicated on the woeful news. The migrators will supply hope of better management, plus a cheery outlook from Wall Street in the months to come
November 14, 2012
What day is it? Oh, it's THAT day
It's November 14 in the US for awhile longer. If the date isn't significant to you anymore, or you never knew why the middle of this month represented a visionary cliff for HP, let us bring you up to speed. HP announced a five-year plan to the HP 3000's end of life on this date. Eleven years ago.
I know, you must be confused. You've probably looked over at the 3000 in your server closet or the office and had a thought. Hey, this machine has already had it's end of life. How can I still be using it? Didn't HP promise dire consequences and risks galore for anybody using that computer after December, 2006? If the maker didn't kill it off, who's in charge of that anyway?
To assist in marking the anniversary of HP's jump off the cliff, we've assembled a short FAQ.
Who was in charge at HP when they made this decision?
Good question, although it doesn't matter much because everybody's moved on. The CEO, Carly Fiorina, wrote a hardcover book and ran for US Senate after leading HP around for six years. She had a "it's growing or it's going" mantra once the company wanted to buy up Compaq. The high-growth march left HP's 3000 plans on the cutting room floor.
Wasn't it some general manager who decided to end HP's 3000 life?
It was, but don't let anybody tell you it was anyone but Winston Prather. On the strength of a promise to preserve the jobs of people in his division, he told the world "it was my call" to chop off the futures of the HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard. He might have been the first GM in the company's history to kill off his own product line without any involvement from above. Or, there might have been a series of elaborate PowerPoint slides presented to the VPs who had some access to Fiorina. The CEO wasn't fond of giving much authority away. Prather took the credit for the hit, but he wasn't the single shooter. It's tough to imagine a 28-year-old product line with 25,000 servers worldwide, including some inside of HP's own datacenter, being slashed by a general manager who'd held his job for less than two years.
Prather has taken on work outside of product general management at HP. Christine Martino, the marketing manager whose job involved selling 3000s in marketing, has hung on in something you might have heard of called cloud services. The HP Cloud is up against Amazon's, so there's got to be some real deja vu going on there against another Goliath.
The last general manager who tried to grow the 3000 was Harry Sterling, and the last marketing manager to truly try to sell it was Roy Breslawski. His successor told us that putting Oracle 8 onto the 3000 wasn't going to help, because IMAGE was enough, and advertising wasn't part of her job, either. Things didn't get better for new business on the 3000 from there -- unless you count the dot-com boom that created scores of new high-profile customers in retail and catalog sales. You hadn't heard about those? That doesn't come as a surprise. Nordstrom's just turned off their HP 3000 last year.
I heard the 3000 was dead anyway, and the Nov. 14 stuff just killed it. Doesn't it die in 15 years because of its software?
There are a lot of things that will be dying in 2027, but that 3000 isn't one of them. What will happen depends on how much you need a correct calendar year representation in your software. On Jan. 1, 2028, very novel things will happen to the 3000's timekeeping. But it will continue to keep 60 seconds to the minute, 60 minutes to the hour, 365 days to the year. You just will have to get used to the year looking like "1900," even though it's 2028.
So it doesn't have 15 years or so left?
There's some disk drives that won't survive into the start of the next US Presidential campaign. But what we know as the HP 3000 is really MPE/iX and TurboIMAGE. Aside from that odd calendar year, there's nothing else that's broken enough to consider this a mortal wound. Sorry to say it, but the computer whose life HP was eager to begin finishing off is going to outlive some of the people who tried to kill it.
What about that decision to not move MPE/iX to Itanium -- didn't that doom the 3000?
You probably have heard a lot about Itanium from Oracle. HP's spent a lot of money calling Oracle a liar about its Itanium promises. But in 2012, Itanium doesn't look like it would have provided much help for the HP 3000. OpenVMS got an Itanium port by 2005 or so, but pack a lunch and thick hiking shoes while you look for a VMS owner who feels good about their Itanium protection.
Wasn't there an ecosystem HP was worried about in 2001, so they wanted to warn us?
HP certainly did warn everybody about that shaky ecosystem. Except for some of the biggest software vendors who made up the friendly forest of 3000 tools and apps. There was a problem with the 3000's ecosystem at the time. The real trouble began on Nov. 14, when HP took a public sip of the system's growth prospects and yelled out, "This milk's gone sour." The company had lost its taste for the nectar of the cash cow that was tens of thousands of companies paying for support they didn't use.
What's the big deal about all this anyway? Isn't what HP says about a software's future the way it goes?
Let us refer you to WebOS, from just last year, powering the now elusive HP TouchPads. HP's history in predicting the value of software, and ensuring the same, is not exactly spot-on. Just as the company has promoted and invested in software that didn't stand a chance against entrenched competition, it has also let good technology wither to satisfy larger partners who want to operate smaller development staffs.
So if I have an HP 3000 today, am I running on borrowed time? Whatever happened to that five-year plan?
It became a nine-year plan, with exceptions for customers who still wanted HP to support the 3000. The ecosystem suffered because software companies lost customers who'd lost faith in HP. But a wider array of support providers emerged over those nine years. HP predicted a bubble that would burst. It turned out to be the company's valuation. R&D, the kind of magic that built the 3000's innards, was not a favorite line item in the budgets of HP's CEOs for more than a decade.
Now you're back on years again, so I still don't get it: what keeps that 3000 year machine from running as expected? I heard there was a "sheer volume of application and store data" relying on it.
This is a phenomenon known as the Spectre Temporal Memory Displacement. The 3000 is just a spectre by now, goes the theory. So by the time its calendar runs out of genuine years, it isn't supposed to matter. Except for that "sheer volume" of data, which all will somehow remain crucial and vital. You're supposed to remember at one moment the 3000 is evaporating. At the same time, there's a massive volune of data still important to customers.
Humans are extraordinarily bad at predicting future happiness. It's not a malady that's limited to planning offices in Cupertino, California -- although by the time 2028 arrives, those HP offices will be replaced by already-aging Apple headquarters offices.The only thing keeping the 3000 from running a business in 2028 is a desire from a customer who will pay a wizard to adjust time. Around the year 2000 a product emerged that acted as a Time Machine. Or an HourGlass that you could tip over.
Never mind 15 years from now. About 15 years ago, companies sold products exactly by those names to adjust HP 3000 dating for Y2K testing. If the same wizards eat their vegatables and exercise and take plenty of naps, there's a fair chance that dating will become an online nirvana in the land of the 3000. One 3000 veteran, Terry Simpkins, suggests that if the MPE CALENDAR base year could be changed from 1900 to 1950, that might do the trick.
November 12, 2012
Intel takes Itanium towards Xeon's standard
HP has introduced a new generation of Integrity servers powered by the Itanium 9500 chips, computers which will start to ship in December. For the HP-UX adopter of migration platforms, the Integrity systems have been high-value, high-performing, and high-attraction computers. The servers are blazing fast and a good value for a high transaction box (something crucial to 3000 migrators). They've also been attractive as in sticky. Because taking steps down the HP Unix path has meant treading the tar-pit of Itanium. No other processor will run HP's Unix.
However, Intel is starting to take its own steps to open up the Itanium architecture. With the Intel 9500 announcement, the chipmaker added that there would be shared technology between Itanium and HP's acknowledged industry standard for processors, the Xeon family.
Future generations of Intel Itanium processors will adopt an innovative "Modular Development Model" that enables deeper commonality between Intel Itanium and the Intel Xeon processor E7 family, from shared silicon design elements to full-socket compatibility. This will provide a more sustainable path for Itanium development and greater design flexibility for Intel's partners.
HP itself calls the Xeon server business Industry Standard. When Intel starts to talk about taking steps to sustain Itanium development, it's a sign that the future being sold to HP customers was wearing thin. Oracle tried to prove as much in its attempted pullout from Itanium development, but a judge ruled against that ideal. However, the evidence submitted for the lawsuit trial showed HP's Project Redwood documents were aimed at shoring up Intel's Itanium interests. The project was proposed before Oracle bought Sun, and Itanium sales have gone nowhere but down since then. Those sales have the advantage, however, of still being far more profitable than all of HP's PC business.
This "but it's profitable" perch provided no safety for HP's 3000 plans during 2001. The 3000's sales and installed base were not growing to Carly Fiorina's satisfaction. And so the customers were given an "end of life announcement." In every company's product line, all products die one day -- at least a death of manufacturing. Then there's some loose cannons that cook up an emulator, and heaven knows when the 3000 will see an end of life.
Even if Itanium growth continues to decline, Intel's fresh plans will let the chipmaker keep developing new iterations of Itaniums. However, they're likely to be more incremental than innovative. Innovation requires marketplace growth. In HP's world, as well as Intel's, growth is Xeon's speciality.Yes, there are bona fide technical advantages to the Itanium designs. These are what make the processors a value for an HP customer who's all-in on Itanium. It's a chip family that's been competitive for about seven years by now. It took Itanium three years just to come even with the performance of PA-RISC chips, the ones which powered HP's ultimate edition of MPE/iX iron. The 3000s never got the PA 8900 chips that landed in HP's Unix servers.
Twelve years ago, HP was not yet announcing Itanium IA-64 plans for the 3000. At that time there wasn't even a clear case inside the vendor's 3000 labs, led by Dave Wilde, to get an 8900 into an MPE/iX box.
Do you think you’ll get to an PA-8900 processor in an HP 3000? That’s the last generation anybody’s willing to talk about in a slide. Will you need all that PA-RISC headroom as you watch IA-64 take shape?
We try to understand our customer needs and work hard to understand the HP roadmap, and work to put those together in a way that makes the most sense for our customers and the business. If an element of that is delivering an HP 3000 on a PA-8900, then that would be something we would obviously do. It’s a little early to talk about availability of the 3000 with that [processor]. Watching is exactly what we’re doing: what happens in the overall market, and what happens in the HP product roadmap.
By 2005, at last, a Unix user could finally adopt an Itanium box that could outperform even the 8900 PA-RISC server.
Easier for partners and vendors
However, when you tease apart that Intel announcement of the Itanium 9500 chip line, you'll see a reference to partners. That's software partners as in app builders, and hardware partners including Itanium in servers. Instead of needing to maintain a separate software design team for Itanium and Xeon (we're looking at you, Oracle), developers might reduce the amount of one-off work they do for an HP Unix application. Whenever Intel gets to "full-socket compatibility," then the Itanium chips have a chance -- not a very big one -- to find their way into the higher ends of non-HP product lines. Because when you get out of the HP and NEC product lines, it's the rare Itanium chip to be found on a system's motherboard.
As part of Intel's announcement of the 9500, it mentioned 15 years of alliance with NEC on the chip's designs. Software partners in the release were Oracle, SAP, SAS and more. But these companies also develop for a much larger customer base that uses Xeon systems. Those are computers which HP is also selling to its migrating 3000 customers: HP's ProLiant systems. By working on a melding of Itanium and Xeon, those software vendors may not be forced to choose between resources for Itanium (HP-UX) and resources for Xeon (Linux, Windows).
Make no mistake about who is acquiring whom in this tech merger. Xeon is the larger entity and so will dole out its tech essentials to the Itanium designers. Don't expect that socket compatibility to be an adoption of the Itanium designs, or the shared silicon designs to promote Itanium's nuances on top of a Xeon empire. The whole Intel enterprise will keep HP from being forced to commit to a port of HP's Unix to Xeon, perhaps. That's $147 million estimated by HP that it will save, and maybe drive into Project Odyssey. But the end result of Odyssey is Linux environments, secured better and hosted on Xeon-based hardware -- with all of your favorite characters from the world of HP-UX. Now that HP's promised the best of HP-UX in Odyssey, Intel's gone and promised the best of Itanium in the Xeon family.
These facts about the future are enough make a customer believe, if they're a HP Unix user who's migrated custom code to an Integrity box, that there's a migration waiting out there. We'd guess anytime after 2016, with a 10-year "end of life" countdown for HP-UX. MPE/iX got a nine-year countdown of that sort. Because every product will see an end of its life on a vendor's price list, after all. Perhaps its best elements will live on in emulation, or integration with newer architecture.
November 08, 2012
HP flies its Fink just as Poulson pokes up
Martin Fink because a lightning rod among HP enterprise users over the past year. The former general manager of the Business Critical Systems unit, which has led the HP enterprise sales slide for the last five quarters, was bumped into HP's top engineer spot this month. HP named the man who'd battled Oracle over Itanium, and won, the leader of HP Labs and the company's CTO. Those are two positions which have never been combined at HP until this month. Personnel moves at HP can spark head-scratching in 2012, but this one baffles me in a way that says something about the HP Way.
Fink took the reins of HP's R&D empire just as Intel rolled out its latest -- and maybe the last -- upgrade to the Itanium chipset. Poulson arrives as the Itanium 9500 Series for Mission-Critical Computing. Way back in the history of HP, the HP Labs once worked on the keystone of VLIW architecture, which it once called HP Wide Word. That work was turned over to the Intel Labs while the two companies partnered. Of late, the HP Labs output runs to the world's greatest device fans (and I'm not kidding about the greatness) and experimental designs for chips that couldn't be built in 10 years of continued research and design.
Although Fink's unit will likely spill even more sales blood in the figures to be released at the start of Thanksgiving Week, he's the man that HP's Board of Directors has assigned to lift up R&D in the company. The CEO Meg Whitman has spent much of 2012 saying HP ought to be building tech instead of buying it. Perhaps, since Fink's line of business relied upon a chip and an OS that were built out of HP's wizardry, he'll get the budget to demonstrate a new R&D gusto required for enterprises.
But to start off, he'll want to backpedal on one of his 2011 predictions on HP technology development. It may not be an HP Labs-caliber project, but you'd think he'd head for his engineering throne with a mission to make HP-UX run on Intel's Xeon chips which power the ProLiant series. In other words, to make HP's Unix an industry standard product. Long before Fink grew into a GM, HP-UX was touted as a standard by Hewlett-Packard. A migrating HP 3000 site would do a lot better with a Unix investment if it became a standard. HP calls the successful part of its enterprise lineup the Industry Standard Servers.Poulson is not a standard, not any more than its predecessors were. It might not be the final generation of Itanium, but it could be the last one that will get a chance to win a new customer or two for HP enterprise datacenters. Adoption of HP-UX in new sites is running close to nil, and so the denizens of VMS and NonStop lands (where there is least scant growth) are left to add customers to Itanium ranks. Like the user groups and HP marketers insisted all through the previous decade, technologists don't hold sway over the industry anymore. This is why Fink will go to lead the Labs following a far more technical set of predecessors.
Just in my era covering HP, here's the list.
1984-1986 Joel Birnbaum: A pioneer in the development of distributed computer system architecture; real-time data acquisition, analysis and control systems, and Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture. Birnbaum joined HP Labs in 1980 and became director in 1984. He was a top-flight director plucked from IBM's R&D efforts at RISC.
1987-1991 Frank Carrubba: An inventor of Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture. Led work on the first single-chip implementation of HP's Spectrum precision architecture, which powered HP 3000s and HP 9000s for the next two decades.
1991-1999 Joel Birnbaum: Under his '84-'86 guidance the company further developed PA-RISC, the first commercial RISC processor, and the client-server architecture. In this later term of service, Birnbaum returned as senior VP of research and development. Researchers developed the architecture and much of the technology for pervasive computing, as well as the Wide-Word architecture that became the basis of a partnership with Intel.
1999-2007 Dick Lampman After 35 years at HP, Lampman took over the Labs to manage key research efforts as PA-Wide Word, which was the basis for Itanium, as well as the development of technologies like digital photography that launched new businesses for HP. Under his leadership, the lab played an integral role in transforming HP from an instrument- and hardware-based company to one focused on software, systems and services.
This was a period, however, when HP Software and Services didn't change the landscape the way those chips and environments had. HP's tech word turns away from very wide research, because by 2007 the Labs and HP R&D spending has been eviscerated by CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd. So HP Labs gets the message to stop inventing things that will change and direct alliances by putting Hewlett-Packard in a tech-leadership role which others want to follow. By 2007, the Labs are headed by a "serial entrepreneur."
Unlike his forebears, Prith Banerjeee (2007-present) became Labs leader as soon as he joined HP. He was "charged with reorganizing HP Labs to better align its research agenda with HP's overall business goals." And since those goals now deferred operating environments and computer architectures to outside companies, HP-UX and Itanium became minimized players in the tech world. Linux, Windows, Intel's Xeon -- all were preferred by the Board of Directors as enterprise choices. To create, the Labs went even further afield of what its everyday customers needed in research. Instead, Labs delivered "breakthroughs such as memristor research, sensing solutions (CeNSE), optical connections (photonics) and nanostores."
Whether any of that work makes its way into product lines might be Fink's challenge. The emphasis on software and cloud technology will doubtless occupy his plans. How HP promoted a general manager of a skidding business unit, with some unit-level R&D management, into a storied position of HP's DNA is boggling. You can say this much: winning that Oracle lawsuit didn't hurt. But since software is now HP's first love, and the customers Fink's left behind at BCS could really use an HP-UX port, perhaps he'll have an easy and early success at he called a $100 million project in furtive emails about Oracle's Itanium boycott.
It was a non-starter just a year ago by his reckoning. "At this point there are no plans," he said "and I predict that it will never happen. The big problem is the software support and the ISV support for the 5,000 current HP-UX ISV applications. The better model is to bring the HP-UX capabilities to Linux, rather than port HP-UX to x86." And what in the world will happen to those HP-UX ISVs? They'd better be porting to Linux, starting about last year.
HP's press release says that Fink will report directly to his CEO, and "as part of his role, Fink will be responsible for looking holistically at how innovation is created and commercialized at HP." It's not your father's Hewlett-Packard anymore, but that's not news for a 3000 community which might recall moments like Birnbaum's in 1987: When the Spectrum Series 930 3000 and MPE/XL was way overdue, Birnbaum stood in a circle of industry reporters and said that bugs and failures of the new-gen 3000s "will yield to engineering discipline." And not a word was said in reply after that, because HP'ers and even jaded reporters heard the resolve in his voice. Birnbaum was an IBMer before he served HP.
Fink doesn't arrive with zero HP experience like his predecessor Banerjeee. He's 27 years along on Hewlett-Packard assignments, but his battle scars trying to sell Itanium in a Xeon world are part of what his CEO likes about him in this research role.
“Martin’s experience on the front lines with customers combined with his experience in the business units will be invaluable as we work to focus our innovation agenda at HP,” said Whitman. “Martin will ensure that our research and development activity is aligned with our steady focus of anticipating and delivering on the future needs of our customers.”
Fewer memristors, and more engineering that will become distinguishing products. That's the best that the migrated customer now on HP-UX can hope for from a director who graduated with an EE degree from Canada's Loyalist College. By 1995 he'd made his way out of HP Canada and "a variety of positions in hardware and software support, consulting and telecom sales. In '95 he moved to HP’s Ft. Collins, Colo., site to work in HP OpenView telecom, where "he managed small business startup activities for HP OpenView telecom." Here's some R&D management in his CV: Verifone Software Business, and then the R&D manager in the Customer Solutions Organization, "with responsibility for HP-UX, Linux and the patch program."
HP reported on the current bio page for Fink -- it's still listing him as BCS chief -- that he's co-inventor on two patents related to online e-commerce and is the author of The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. If a customer had any doubts about what software research in HP Labs might lead toward, the title of that book would give a clue.
The company could use more R&D for enterprise customers, but not necessarily another boost of Realism and Domestication. It's a different world for technology creators that the one which Birnbaum, Carruba and Lampman led. But in the face of the WebOS flameout of just last summer, the need for software superiority seems more likely to revive HP than integrating inventions with commercial craving.
November 02, 2012
Manufacturing Projects with HP Cloud
Hewlett-Packard has been promoting the concept of cloud computing for more than three years, culminating in the opening of its own HP Cloud service this year. This month there's a special offer of 1 TB of extra storage in HP Cloud. It's available by signing up for a Team Account at Gladinet, a provider of cloud storage access solutions. In its simplest configuration, Gladinet is a shared and collaboration workspace like Dropbox for Teams, or Box.
HP Cloud will chip in 1 TB of space with a Gladinet Cloud signup in the deal. There's also a Gladinet Enterprise version that can be modified for more extensive work sharing. But the HP Cloud's got some other possible uses for enterprise customers, perhaps as a means to host the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in to ask about an update on the Personal HPA/3000. Floyd's company supports manufacturing sites running HP 3000s, as well as some non-3000 operations and prospects.
"I recently joined a free partner program for HP Cloud and can supposedly specify what kind of system I want, and deploy anything I can make fly on it… for just a little bit a month," he said. Floyd's working on calculations about how big HP's little bit of cost will be, "and what happens when I decide to pull everything off of it and stop paying." Cloud-based hosting poses this "take-my-stuff-back" issue, one which is new to the 3000 IT manager who's hosted everything locally up to now.
This morning Floyd reported that "I have not activated my HP Cloud space yet. It would take a phone call to them to get the configuration I want – it wasn’t among their standard offerings." One thing that's held Floyd at bay about HP Cloud is the sophistication of the Salesforce cloud offering. "HP Cloud is probably a long ways behind what Salesforce is doing," he said after attending the recent Dreamforce '12 conference.
Salesforce doesn't need the lift of attraction which HP Cloud requires at the moment. HP's Cloud opened for business just this spring, while the Force products have been doing remote hosting of app services for years. But through Nov. 24, the Gladinet trial allows you to access an extra 1 TB of HP Cloud Object Storage as if it were a local drive. HP says that "This makes it extremely easy to manage and share documents, images and videos."
The Team Edition of Gladinet is free for the first 30 days with a minimum of three users per account. Then it's $9.99/user/month. Extra fees are billed for any HP Cloud Object Storage exceeding 1 TB.
Coming from the Force environment, however, Floyd sees a lot more maturity. It's an aspect that will come into play when manufacturing enterprises consider a new ERP platform. Those might not be 3000 sites, but they're pretty likely to be modest-sized companies -- which has often been the profile of the 3000 customer.
The only purpose I had in mind for HP Cloud was the Stromasys Emulator and that’s just a whim. I’m crazy about Salesforce and how they provide security and assurance of zero data loss and very little (almost 0) downtime. At Dreamforce 12 in September, I learned a lot about the internals and cannot believe the depth of their services.
Making a business out of cloud offerings (including the Kenandy Social ERP) looks like it's still in the early days. "I assume it will be the way things are done in the future, therefore I’m trying the learn as much as possible. I learn best by doing something real, so I’ll learn a lot doing the Stromasys freeware emulator," Floyd said.
But cloud computing on such small scales is still competing with low-cost local hardware. For example, instead of using HP Cloud for the emulator, Floyd said, "I just bought a refurbishes HP Elitebook 8470w with 8GB of RAM on an i7 with 500GB of disc. It should do nicely for Personal HPA/3000."
Even the older 3000 iron -- which the HPA/3000 freeware will emulate -- offers a cheap alternative to the HP Cloud. "I could potentially move my EDI business (which is now done on the Series 928 in our datacenter) to Stromasys in the cloud someday," Floyd said. "But that 928 is very reliable, so there’s no hurry that I can come up with."
October 16, 2012
State of HP license transfers alive, kicking
Everyday purchases of used 3000 systems have included license transfers for many years by now. When there's a 3000 license to transfer, of course. Some customers have a host of old 928s they could transfer with legal paperwork. Some have just one server, but it's been in archive-only mode for awhile.
Taylor Lumpkin of Hire Experience is in one of the best license positions we've seen.
We are still a HP Partner, and HP have allowed us to have free MPE for over a decade now. We also own a small pile of 918s which all have legitimate HPSUSAN numbers with the HP license converted into our name by HP, back when they still did that.
But for others interested in a license transfer, the requirements from HP include a $400 fee (US dollars), plus a serious sheaf of documents, either to be signed or presented. The paperwork is no more extensive than it ever was during the post-1999 era. 1999 is the year that Hardware House and a few other brokers were sued by HP for illicit use of HPSUSAN numbers, all to create 3000s out of 9000s or upgrade the user limits. That was back in the day when MPE/iX came with user limits; those were dropped with the 7.0 release of the OS for the newer A-Class and N-Class 3000s.
But some prospective freeware emulator customers have more questions on the details. One veteran of the 3000 platform even wonders if an MPE V license will do for a transfer. After all, MPE is HP's property, but its vintage may not matter. Such stuff isn't covered in HP's webpage on SLTs.The Software License Transfer is an everyday operation that covers HP's Unix licenses as well as those of the NonStop and VMS worlds, in addition to the 3000's. In fact, when you seek out the webpage you'll find that the URL ends in the characters "sltprocesshpux." Perhaps there's a lot more HP-UX transferring occurring.
Chris Bartram, who still owns an HP 3000 or two after more than two decades of development, software sales of Netmail/3000 and more, plus consulting on the platform, wonders about the process.
What's the cost to transfer a license if you do have a legitimate system to transfer from? Is that still $500? How much of a (scrap) 3000 do you need to perform a transfer? Just the serial number and/or HPSUSAN? Can one perhaps transfer a legitimate license from an old MPE/V era system?
Onward to the HP cost details. Examples of the needed documentation, by the way, refer to HP 3000 models on this page.
A cost recovery fee of $400 USD, plus applicable sales tax, is charged per server, per EVA, or per batch of OpenView products on non-server platforms. Sales tax is required for all transfers into/within the US. Sales tax is based on the location of the Transferee/New Owner. The payment should come with the Transfer Request. We can accept checks, money orders, Visa, Master Charge or American Express.
There's no language on the page that addresses if the hardware is scrap -- so long as the license is still alive and un-transferred. This is the Proof that HP requires.
The proof must show the Product Number, Serial Number, User Levels and a list of the HP proprietary software to be transferred. This can be done in one of four ways.
- A copy of the INVOICE for purchase of the hardware and software from HP or an HP Authorized Reseller
- A copy of a complete HP hardware and software SUPPORT AGREEMENT/ CONTRACT
- A copy of an HP PACKING SLIP listing the hardware and software, OR
- If purchased as used, a copy of the SOFTWARE LICENSE TRANSFER AUTHORIZATION - Exhibit F00, signed by HP.
Finally, the details appear below on where to get more specific answers to questions like "What do I do if I transfer the license to the emulator for testing, and then decide I want to run my 3000 in parallel for testing?" We have a pretty good idea what the customers will do, but it's unknown what HP wishes in that instance. It might matter to a customer's auditor, after all.
MS: SLT 4061
19420 Homestead Road, Cupertino, CA 95014
October 15, 2012
HP insists emulator transfers be immediate
An HP 3000 emulator offered to the community for evaluation or personal use will require a license transfer right away, HP's Jennie Hou has confirmed.
A personal, freeware version of the Stromasys 3000 emulator product is coming very soon. It's a 1- E3000 PU horsepower instance, basically a Series 918. It's designed to help customers test the abilities of the emulator. Stromasys already distributes this kind of freeware for its VAX/Alpha emulator.
Hou said HP requires its customers to transfer an MPE license at the time they start to use this freeware product. "The one-to-one license transfer is required," Hou reported.
In 2004, HP outlined the terms for an emulator-only license of MPE/iX. An FAQ created in 2008 stated that 'If "a customer cannot transfer a license from an existing HP e3000" to an emulator installation, can they pay HP $500 for an RTU license to enable that emulator." By this year, however, the only licenses available are the Software License Transfer licenses from existing 3000 systems.The immediate-transfer intepretation of HP's licensing policies could stand in the way of any legal use of the Personal Freeware version of HPA/3000. The vendor's offer of $500 emulator RTU license "has expired and it’s no longer available," Hou said. That license never got used by the 3000 customer base -- because no emulator was ready to ship by the end of 2010, when HP's RTU offer expired.
Interpretations of the SLT process are Hou's responsibility. The vendor's SLT Process webpage states that "The person representing the Transferee cannot sign the Request Form." In the case of an emulator transfer, the person initiating the transfer will always be the transferee, one and the same. It's as if they're saying, "I'm transferring my legal copy of MPE to my new emulator."
But Hou said that emulator-based license transfers within a customer's site present no problem for the current process.
"What the SLT FAQ meant is that the transferor has to sign the request form," Hou said. "In the case of an emulator transfer, the transferor and the transferee could be the same person. Thus, that person can sign it."
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.
October 09, 2012
Now arriving: Calls for an HP breakup
Hewlett-Packard's stock took another tumble today, the latest bit of insult added to the injuries of the year 2012. Shares closed at $14.37, a low that HP hasn't seen in more than a decade. The sell-off was triggered by an HP analyst briefing you can watch for yourself on the Web. The financial experts are edging toward a consensus that HP ought to become two companies -- with just one of them focused on your enterprise dollars.
More than 150 million shares traded hands at the end of the last week -- Monday was a market holiday -- a volume that HP had seen only once in 50 years of trading: in the shadow of the Mark Hurd ouster of August 2010. All of the high-volume days of trading since then have hammered the stock into the mid-teens. HP has found a way out of this before -- by purchasing EDS and muscling its way into top spots for PCs and servers. Those services and PC plays are gone for good. That chart above only shows the stock slide from February onward.
The breakup calls include a remarkable one from an analyst who says even Bill and Dave would push for an HP dedicated only to enterprise computing. At the Forbes.com website, UBS analyst Steve Milunovich said that activist investors or private equity buyers are likely to split up HP.
In our view, full value won’t be realized by just improving operations -- structural change is required. Based on HP’s history, we think Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would support this approach.
But the current HP strategy is to try to reorganize its way out of a free fall dripping with quarterly red ink and slipping sales. A full split, Milunovich wrote, would at least push HP's shares to $20. Usually an analyst briefing like last week's produces a modest bounce in share prices. HP seemed to confirm just the opposite, even though its presentation included "The Great Things About HP."
In the past we've reported on HP's stock and fiscal woes with an eye toward warning buyers of HP's enterprise products. You might not want to invest strong in a company drifting into equity buyout or takeover territory. But if a full-on split between PCs, and products like Integrity and ProLiants, takes place then the enterprise might lift up its future at HP.
CEO Meg Whitman has already told the world HP is doing too much and needs to focus. A split up would inject dedication to the kind of customer who owned a 3000 and moved onto other HP platforms. When your only stream of operating income arrives from datacenter customers, their every need becomes a vendor's desire.
Without the split at hand, even Whitman had to admit these woes to the analysts:
- Lack of competitive focus.
- Cost structure not aligned with revenue trajectory
- Accountability and compensation linkage not optimized
- Significant underinvestment in R&D and IT impacting the businesses
- Direct and partner go-to-market model need renewed focus
HP's chief competitors seem to be Apple on the consumer and PC end, as well as IBM on the enterprise end. These companies have something in common. They don't try to spread themselves as thin as HP has. There's no certain floor for the stock at this point -- the rock bottom was $12.20 in the bleak quarter after 9/11. Bill and Dave might have steered clear of selling printers and PCs at all in this kind of competitive market. After all, the company was reluctant to sell computers in 1971, and it didn't discover Windows as an enterprise tool until the late 1990s.
A split-up HP might be selling $50 million less without PCs, and $70 million less if printers got spun off. But as things stand today, the lack of extra cash for R&D because of low-margin PC sales is dragging down enterprise innovations. Things like an Intel-based HP-UX would be a slam dunk for an enterprise-focused HP. Becoming smaller could be the first step to make its enterprise action bigger.