June 07, 2012
Chief Meg roars out HP's future at Discover
While the HP Discover party animals rock out to Don Henley and Sheryl Crow tonight, a swan song rings in their ears. HP CEO Meg Whitman sang off the grow-to-be-big era of Hewlett-Packard at the annual show of HP and its partners. About 10,000 were on hand in Vegas, but only a modest fraction of them heard the notes of a coda to consumerization strategy. HP will pivot to IT pros even while its consumer operations retract. It will be quite an act to observe, worthy of anything in the zoo of Madagascar, to see the needed cash emerge for overdue R&D.
HP will still sell its products to the world at large. Whitman said he loves HP's printers, and she decided to hang onto the PC unit after HP tested the concept of a spinoff. But she's calling a tune that leads Hewlett-Packard back to business computing. The company is so far off that track that Whitman is calling the new strategy a turnaround, one that's going to take years to finish. Longer than your average Dreamworks animated feature takes to draw and render, using HP's systems.
Meg's keynote, complete with a finale from a cartoon lion, wasn't viewed live by all that many working on the busy expo floor, each trying to connect with as many prospects as the three days would allow. CEO speeches are given for big customers who don't need to see things at an expo, the analysts who tell these customers what to think and buy, and user group officers and volunteers. They shouldn't expect overnight change, which may disappoint the investors who put money behind a company that has been getting bigger for being the sake of No. 1, ever since Carly Fiorina became the first non-HP CEO in 1999.
"Most turnarounds in American industry are anywhere between four and five years," Whitman said. "And we’re at the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey." HP's been bleeding new business and seen its stock at five-year lows at the start of that turnaround. The shares are down 8 percent since she took over nine months ago. This was her first HP Discover keynote.Patrick Thibodeau, covering the show for Computerworld, quoted Whitman's speech in his article as a credo of confidence.
"The kind of turmoil that HP has had at the top of the company can take a toll on companies, employees, shareholders," said Whitman. "But I've been surprised at the resilience of HP people -- HP is a remarkably resilient company." As the wall-to-wall screens displayed a large flock of birds literally darkening the sky, Whitman said "HP will darken the skies with the magnitude of our response."
Thibodeau, who covered the 3000's ouster from HP's product line for Computerworld, had the classic press experience during Whitman's talk. He sat next to a customer and watched what they took down for notes, then asked afterwards how they felt. Most of them didn't think the future of Itanium was of any express concern. But the enterprise manager still using HP products has a different scope of future than most of us. One manager who runs a NonStop system -- HP bought up this business when it acquired Tandem -- thought even half a decade away from too soon to weather changes in his server. He called it "the Tandem." This gives an idea of the loyalty HP bought into when Tandem become NonStop. It all runs on Itanium now.
Arens said the coming layoffs are a concern, but HP, the company, seems solid. His main worry is about Itanium. A platform change, if it were to happen, would be at least five years off. But even that time frame would make him "a little nervous."
"There's too much on the Tandem that is mission-critical [and] to jump out of it five years from now would be crazy," said Arens.
Whitman didn't address specific product lines in her speech. We're reminded of the direct shout-out HP managers forced onto Carly in 2000, when a CEO speech assured the users at HP World the server had a certain future in HP's plans. What sort of future was revealed about a year later.
HP's Services unit, now working to justify its 140,000 headcount, came in for special mention in Whitman's speech. "That's our future," she said. "The power of hardware, software and services, delivered as solutions." HP will play out its comeback with the pieces it's got left on the game board. No more consumer-aimed tablets, no devotion to making a reseller model built for printers do the job on enterprise business. That last one was former board director Dick Hackborn's dream, after building a massive printer empire that made HP a household name in ink.
The one hour of Meg's keynote is online. It's complete with a visit from the lion Alex of Madagascar 3, the summer film opening tomorrow that the studio's Jeffrey Katzenberg said wouldn't be possible without HP computing. "Don't worry," Meg said after Alex was onstage. "Alex is one lion that Jeffrey and I can both handle."
The roar of a reboot of HP is another kind of beast that can't be herded onto the stage of the future so easily. HP wants to capture the future with its cloud concepts. That's going to take as long as the company's comeback, so Whitman wants time to discover how to make users disregard massive layoffs and focus on big product ideas.
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May 24, 2012
Why HP Financials Should Remain Relevant
File this article under News You Can Use. I'm about to make a case for why the quarterly reports of Hewlett-Packard -- a company posting more than $125 billion in annual sales -- should still matter to you. If your job is to plan IT resource deployment, like who's learning what skill or where investments go in 2013 and beyond, HP's reports remain relevant.
We've been dividing ourselves into two camps since late 2001: those leaving the 3000 and those remaining. For the ones who are leaving, or have a migration right behind them in the rear-view, HP's profile in 2012 is even more important than it was a decade ago. Hewlett-Packard is probably driving your technology and services choices. The success of adopting its products in Unix, Linux, servers or even the cloud gets reflected in HP sales numbers. And HP still announces strategies when it talks to securities analysts.
As an example, the CEO Meg Whitman told employees in a letter yesterday, prior to the quarterly results release, that this round of 27,000 layoffs is going to be different from layoffs of 2005. "Another difference from years past is what we plan to do with the savings," she said in her letter. "The majority of savings [via employee cutbacks] this time around will be invested in the business. We'll be investing to drive leadership in the three strategic pillars – cloud, security and information optimization."
HP drove its previous layoff savings right out to the shareholders, not the customers. As a continuing customer of HP products, these words of investing are finally those that you want to hear. Cloud has little to do with HP's consumer business. Same for security and information optimization. This is an enterprise play on a field where HP is way behind, by Whitman's own scoring.
Even though HP stock hit a 52-week low before her comments, today it's having a relatively good day. The investors just got told they won't see direct profit increases because of HP's changes, and its okay with them. Like you, the majority of them have got a long-term relationship with Hewlett-Packard. Of course if that's not true for you, then getting your homesteading choice reinforced makes the quarterly results relevant, too.The 3.5 percent rebound the stock's enjoying today is about finance, not company futures. "HP beats estimates on earnings," the headlines go, playing the forecasting card about expected profits -- instead of the downward trend since last year.
Whitman knows, like you do, that "Our business is still declining," in part because customers like homesteaders are not with HP anymore. And the migration segment of the 3000 populace has left HP-centric alternatives behind, in the majority. Whitman said HP still needs to "invest to drive R&D and innovation in our core businesses of servers, storage and networking." It's work that's undone, and now the company will be taking what's special about its Unix and delivering it to the Linux market, pretty much without reward.
The Gartner Group looked over the exit-Itanium Odyssey Project and found that it's going to level the sales playing field for Linux at HP. That's what happened to the HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard back in the early 1990s. Eventually the product that had less in common with HP's innovation (read: MPEand IMAGE) and had to march uphill. The trend from the top managers in HP servers remains the same as it was: follow the sales. Gartner thinks Odyssey is good for HP -- to the extent it can stop the steep decline of the HP Unix business. But it's inevitable.
As these enhancements roll out, Gartner believes HP will be more inclined to market and sell Linux on an even playing field to Unix, which will add more market momentum to Linux and greater decline of Unix. As this decline occurs, HP will be able to delay migrations or reinforce HP-UX user loyalty by diverting its generally loyal base to a strong mission-critical alternative and viable replacement for Itanium. By accelerating the pace of x86 adoption for mission-critical workloads, HP will drive down the margins that it has traditionally enjoyed as a vendor of large-scale, non-x86 Unix servers. Although BCS only represents 10% of HP's server, storage and networking revenue, the margins are at a much higher proportion.
Those italics are ours, not Gartner's. With that language, any companies no longer doing business with HP can hear an echo of their chaos and trauma over the last 10 years. Although the HP 3000 represented a small part of the company's server revenue, its margins were at a much higher proportion. Now this kind of profitable business is ebbing away even more. HP's not going to chase PC business like it once did. (It's got a project in place now to examine the value of the Compaq brand it acquired in 2001.) But it's more than one annual buying cycle away from generating hope of innovation, much less a fresh value for companies who want integration -- or as HP likes to call it now, convergence.
You might have left HP behind years ago, but need to defend that decision as a homesteader. Or your choice going forward is the success of HP's strategy. Either position needs current information, the kind that can be tracked over time and pinned to a point of profits, sales and plans.
May 23, 2012
HP to cut 27,000 jobs, reports 24% profit dip
Hewlett-Packard watched two indicators drop during its latest quarter, and then pushed a third number downward on its own. Company revenues fell 3 percent in HP's Q2 of 2012, while profits dropped 24 percent versus last year's second quarter. So while HP dispensed the sour news of its quarterly report, it also announced it would cut 27,000 jobs over the next two years. That's 8 percent of its workforce, the largest cut since the 10 percent layoff of 2005 when 14,500 jobs went on the block.
The company said it will save up to $3.5 billion yearly by the time these layoffs are complete in October, 2014. HP's current yearly revenue rate is about $120 billion, so the 8 percent job cuts will yield savings of less than 3 percent of revenues. But that $3.5 billion is a chunk of money equal to 40 percent of last year's profits. The company says it will invest in "research and development to drive innovation and differentiation across its core printing and personal systems businesses, as well as emerging areas." HP said the moves are a "multi-year restructuring to fuel innovation and enable investment."
The cutbacks are going to cost HP in the short run, a total of $1.7 billion within the next six months. The last time the company cut back this deeply, it was an enterprise of 144,000 employees. In spite of those 2005 job losses, Hewlett-Packard now employs close to 350,000 people worldwide. CEO Meg Whitman said these cuts "are necessary to improve execution and to fund the long term health of the company."
The enterprise computing operations at HP, which include replacement systems for migrating HP 3000 customers, came in for special mention in the layoff announcement. The company plans to drive some of the saved money into more R&D.
Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) will invest to accelerate its research and development activities to extend its leading portfolio of servers, storage and networking. Together these assets create a Converged Infrastructure which is the foundation for top client initiatives such as cloud, virtualization, big data analytics, legacy modernization and social media.
Wall Street analysts were noting that the company beat earnings estimates for the second quarter, a development that can sometimes impress investors. The stock closed at $21.08 just before the restructuring announcement and quarterly results were released. After-hours trading was pushing the stock back above $23. For the first half of fiscal 2012, HP's profits are about half of where they were in 2011.
The last time HP announced a cut this deep in its workforce, it also froze pensions and retiree's medical programs. This year the company is offering an early retirement program to entice some staff to leave.
Business Critical Systems -- the Itanium-based business that's been under siege from Oracle's Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt campaign -- registered another drop of 23 percent in its sales. Overall, the ESSN unit's revenue declined 6 percent year over year. Even Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 6 percent.
After purchasing Autonomy's software operations for $10.2 billion last year, HP Software sales were up 22 percent. It's about a $170 million sales increase. HP will "help improve Autonomy's performance" by replacing Autonomy's founder Mike Lynch with Bill Veghte, HP's chief strategy officer and executive VP of HP Software.
May 22, 2012
A 3000 plucked barren of IMAGE never flew
"Options offering a lower-priced version of the Series 920 server, without database software, are available on the July HP price list."
With those words, HP went to war on the wings of a bundled database. IMAGE was not only the heart of the 3000's value. IMAGE had become the rocket fuel of the 3000, a constant in a formula that produced better transaction values than anything offered by Hewlett-Packard. Or elsewhere in the industry.
But HP didn't know how to sell it. You can read as much at hpmuseum.net, where a July Channels newsletter about the "confusion" over 3000 pricing was being cleared up. Sort of. "Our objective is to price the HP 3000 systems at a price/performance advantage for transaction processing over our HP 9000 family." Fair enough. But then "We anticipate that much of the confusion regarding price/performance may have been caused by the higher prices of the HP 3000 version of a PA-RISC processor."
Except there was no such version. The same chip was used in both 3000 and 9000 server. HP had just locked the 3000's software to the higher prices. There was a version of prices that was higher, to be sure. So HP looked around for what it could clip from the 3000 value. It tried IMAGE for a month or so, until its partners and customers revolted in public, in the lap of the industry press.
Unbundling databases became the norm for the classic business computing vendors, even through the HP 250 Business minicomputer included a version of IMAGE when HP brought it out in 1979. A good thing, too, for current business computer users who are planning or deploying a move away from the 3000. The HP 250 gave wings to Michael Marxmeier and his Eloquence database, starting in 1987. It's the only drop-in replacement for the 3000's IMAGE, using its TurboIMAGE compatibility mode. Eloquence is also getting a turbocharged full-text search ability this summer. The open beta test program for 8.20 just started; full release is in July.In a summer more than 20 years ago, one thing that seemed fast to IMAGE users was HP's move to strip it out of the 3000's value. By August of 1990 IMAGE had been part of every HP 3000 sale for 14 years. This was the period that built the MPE application base. Companies invested in applications that used IMAGE underneath, or they bought tools that relied on IMAGE to roll their own apps. Languages like COBOL, Speedware and Powerhouse called IMAGE directly through intrinsics. Or developers used software that improved upon this common coin of a database, such as Suprtool and Adager.
In spite of customer devotion, at the Boston Interex show of 1990 HP felt heat beyond the summertime swelter of New England. Vendors and consultants and members of Special Interest Groups organized passionate meetings at the show around the HP unbundling scheme. They rose up to lash HP in a public forum, complaining bitterly in front of a host of reporters from national IT weeklies like Computerworld and InformationWeek.
HP lost face at the meeting while its top enterprise management tried to defend the business re-arrangement. IMAGE remained an included part of the 3000. A bonus from this revolt -- some called it the Boston Tea Party -- was extra investment in the SQL interface for IMAGE. The database went from being called TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL over the next two years. That SQL capability delivered opportunity for Open DataBase Connectivity middleware between IMAGE and outside tools on desktops and elsewhere. MB Foster's ODBCLink became part of the 3000's bundle in an simplified SE version.
This year Foster is hosting a three-day conference on the newest querying tool for Eloquence. July 25-27 will deliver training for developers and application architects on the latest enhancements for the database that's more than two decades mature and still improving. Even though HP won't be making IMAGE any better, there's 25 years of development on Eloquence so far. Marxmeier has shipped upgrades to Eloquence every year since before HP shuttered its MPE labs. He made a sound case for flying toward technology advances on Linux, Windows and even HP-UX -- the places that Eloquence operates.
Eloquence keeps evolving. Even for 3000 emulator users, there’s a good question to be answered. There might be some workarounds to implement some of the technology changes like PCI and encryption -- but does it make sense? Can you afford to miss all those changes that the outside world might be demanding from your business and your application?
We want to show the value that makes sense for applications. What’s important about this full text indexing in Eloquence 8.20 is that it will look like Google, where you it gets you a million results within a fraction of a millisecond. Eloquence was always designed to support IMAGE applications. Our original customers used IMAGE, too. Eloquence is a second- or third-generation IMAGE, I believe.
May 21, 2012
HP runs ahead and behind, then and now
The iconic entity called Interex emerged this month 28 years ago. HP had announced it would catch up to 32-bit computing with Spectrum. And the vendor whose sales still didn't exceed $7 billion said in 1984 that touchscreens were the most intuitive interface. Being ahead and behind all at once is a sign that you're still developing, making leadership while you catch up your customers
Hewlett-Packard used the 1980s in your community to push out new ideas. Touch-based personal computing hit the market in the HP 150, one of the Series 100 PCs that transformed the International Association of Hewlett-Packard Computer Users. Before HP cast its seeds of PC innovation, Interex didn't exist. In a May column from executive director Bill Crow in InterACT magazine, the user group renamed itself "to define the association's independence" from HP.
Although that user group has been in the grave more than six years, its members' insights haven't evaporated. An era of ink on paper (click above for detail) has preserved milestones like HP running more than 25 years ahead of the industry with touchscreens. It's easy to forget your community was reaching for a breakthrough office experience even while it was dragging along chips devised a decade earlier.
Ed McCracken, a GM of HP's Business Development Group, announced in early '84 the seven basic principles guiding HP's "office automation strategy:
1. The workstation is the most important component, followed by the distributed data processing system (DDS)
2. All workstations will be personal computers
3. The touchscreen is the most intuitive interface
4. Workstations will not tie directly to mainframes but to an intermediate DDS
5. A pragmatic approach to open architecture is required
6. High quality is essential
7. There must be an intuitive integration linking managers' workstations, secretarial workstations, and the other components of the system.
Number 3 is the most striking of the guides offered by McCracken, the man who drove the genius of bundling the rising DDS of the 3000 with a crack database. But in '84 HP was already considering IMAGE a database that needed a successor. The vendor was following in IBM's wake, right down to a new partnership with a small company built by an IBM ex-pat. Interex also recognized that Alfredo Rego -- "the man behind Adager" -- was on par HP's CEO, John Young. Both gave 1984 user conference speeches, but Rego recognized that IMAGE was to remain the force behind the 3000's success.
It wasn't going to come through a new processor family -- although the Spectrum project's 32 bits were critically overdue. Like today, software mattered more than hardware like Itanium. Oracle's database, built upon the same IBM roots, will determine the fate of the last remaining OS that HP ever built with its own R&D. Databases are lynchpins.HP saw as much when it partnered with Esvel Inc. The firm founded by Kapali Eswaran, one of the founding members of the IBM System R relational DB product, would develop "scalable database architecture for HP." The next product turned out to be Allbase, but HP already wanted a common database among its real-time, scientific (HP-UX) and office systems.
Like then, the vendor's reaching for some commonality with its Itanium futures. Last year Intel was announcing new underwear for the chip the industry forgot, promising that Xeon architecture would share base elements with Itanium. HP wants to have it both ways -- a market in a the commodity space along with the power of software built on proprietary hardware. You've still got that kind of power in your MPE-IMAGE world. Because Oracle's got HP by the scruff of its enterprise neck, the software still calls the plays. But now HP doesn't control the database -- to the point of seeing customers define themselves as Oracle shops. Oracle's not leaving HP computing. It's departing the computing most profitable to HP.
Esvel was the first step that HP took toward embracing an industry standard for its enterprise business. Back in 1984 the little company had already delivered the seeds of DB2 to IBM. HP was chasing Big Blue in every field but instruments back then. The vendor which created the HP 3000 believed in a pragmatic approach to open architecture: standards were less important than reliable value. In less than seven years HP didn't believe that anymore, driving the Open Enterprise with open systems.
Allbase earned a few footholds in the Open Enterprise, but IMAGE ruled the 3000's roost. Just like Oracle does today, HP's database had become the common coin of computers for HP business. You couldn't switch over billions of records without a lot of magic in 1984. Hewlett-Packard had the right idea about touch interfaces, but the wrong technology and message. This May the message is in the hands of the software providers, not the hardware makers. HP used have R&D enough to be both, which is what still makes the 3000 value durable beyond all accepted wisdom.
May 18, 2012
Rising Sun, setting Unix: HP's next migration unfolds in secret slides, emails
Ever wonder what the demise of the 3000 inside HP looked like? The event that reshaped all of our careers surfaced suddenly for some. For other community members, the vendor's departure was inevitable, given the indicators they followed. The week the US courts lifted the inevitable veil off HP-UX. Hewlett-Packard used its business acumen to decide the lifespan of its 3000 business. Now we can see what that kind of review looked like, thanks to Oracle and a fired HP CEO.
There is little explanation for how Oracle knew which secret emails and slides to uncover but one -- Mark Hurd and his leave-behinds at HP had these maps in hand. They knew exactly what to request in the discovery phase. It's unprecendented, to my eye. I saw an HP purchase order for $22 million per quarter paid to one vendor. If you wonder what something like an $88 million annual PO looks like, click on the graphic above. HP was spending like this for years, all to ensure that Intel would keep developing and creating Itanium processors. It wasn't spending anything to migrate HP-UX to a non-Itanium, commodity chip. Before long, these Unix customers -- plus ones using VMS, NonStop and more -- will do that migration instead. Linux on Intel. I can't even guess what NonStop or VMS will do.
These are the heart of HP's remaining proprietary computing environments. NonStop, OpenVMS and HP-UX use Itanium as crucially as a liver in a human body. Pull out Itanium from HP's futures and you have no more reason for any customer to leave their apps on these operating systems. Because the OSs don't run anywhere else. HP knew this and talked about it, both in its internal meetings as well as high tension negotiations with Intel. It's just that HP was saying something very different to the public. So was Intel. Anybody who believes Intel has other ideas about Itanium futures needs to read a few of the released emails.
If you don't have time for that, just scan the PowerPoint slides. There's a stunning one below from 2007, mapping steep declines to zero for the Itanium computers. (Click it for details.) You can look at the "Blackbird" proposal from an exhibit, too -- the one where HP sized up the pros and cons of buying Sun. (View the Blackbird)
A reporter from All Things D, the tech website run by the conservative Wall Street Journal, posted these emails and slides that were once secret, but now released by the court hearing lawsuits. Arik Hesseldal's article is must-reading for anyone who needs to plan an IT architecture or report on futures to CEOs or VPs of Finance. Hesseldal sums up HP's own view of the future of the company's only single-vendor 3000 migration target.
Key phrase: HP-UX, its version of Unix developed specifically for Itanium servers, “is on a death march” because of Itanium’s inevitable demise.
Why care, if you're already migrated off the 3000? It's as simple as an ostrich. If you've put your company's money on the HP-UX platform -- and think it's got a good run left in it -- you're hiding in the sand. It pains me to have to acknowledge anything that Larry Ellison's Oracle asserts. But there's no other reason to believe this won't work out the same as the 3000's evaporation off HP PowerPoints, strategy statements or price lists. The end is more than near. It's nearly here.
Update: HP's also dropped its own stink-bomb of documents, later in the same day, several emails plus pages of text message transcriptions between Oracle salesmen and execs. Most notable: an email from Lorraine Bartlett last March, just days before Oracle's pullout from Itanium. Bartlett, VP of Marketing for the HP-UX host Business Critical Systems, is effusive in praising her company's message about HP-UX futures. HP's "Kinetic" strategy, shared with analysts in March that was "a big hit, and really resonated," included messages about "HP-UX unbound" and a common socket design that Intel was announcing to give Itanium chips the same underwear as Xeon chips. The texts between Oracle sales people and managers have a college frat-boy tone to them -- but seem to be in HP's bomb only to show that Oracle knew the HP-UX competitor Solaris was "a pig with lipstick." (Warning, salty language there.)How close is the HP-UX end? Five years ago HP planned to end its Itanium revenues by 2013. Yeah, next year. Even that decision was costing the vendor $488 million over four years. HP spent it to keep its customers on HP-UX and the other OSs. All along, HP insisted again and again that Intel was doubling down on Itanium's future. It has even gotten some veteran customers to dig heads into the sand. That's easy to explain. Like concussion stats in US football, reports of HP leaving proprietary environments threaten long-time careers. Plus clients the size of Amtrak and McGraw-Hill.
At least now our community's customers can now see examples of the language and philosophy and schemes that made up the 3000's departure. "Don't possibly signal to world end of roadmap..." versus "We'll have roadmap updates in the future." A product relies on growth from the outside market, plus the technology becomes too costly for HP's budget. That's the 3000's story from HP's view. No different, except in number of customers, from today's Itanium story. Five years ago HP worked up an estimate of the price to move HP-UX to the commodity Xeon chips. About $100 million, it learned, to make the Itanium dead-end go away. But HP opted for a $88 million per year alternative with a short future for its commodity environments. It propped up the chip instead of reinvesting in development its own OS products. It made those decisions while its CEO slashed R&D budgets below the bone.
And that CEO continues to determine the future of HP-UX, even after HP fired him. See, Mark Hurd got himself hired by a company working to kill off HP's Unix. Larry Ellison called the board's ouster of Hurd -- after Hurd's creepy and sad debacle of chasing a reality TV actress, instead of his wife -- one of the worst decisions HP ever made. With the release of these secret emails, it looks like HP made a decision even worse. To a customer who uses HP's Unix, VMS or NonStop, HP never should have let a competitor in the Unix market hire Hurd.
A few months ago a respected tech icon in the NonStop market wrote about the future of HP-UX. Dr. Bill Highleyman thought that the forecast which I'd offered on Itanium was dubious -- that announcing an Odyssey project to get the best of HP's Unix onto Linux meant the end of Itanium, therefore also HP-UX -- and it was nearby. I would invite Dr. Highleyman, plus anyone in our community who remembers losing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of MPE business, to have a look at the archive of documents that's been curated by All Things D.
Some of the least fortunate customers will now have to migrate away from HP's Unix. Or they can live in the fine-tuned OS afterlife beyond HP. Given the health of Hewlett-Packard's business these days, maybe that post-HP afterlife will seem more lively.
At the least, life in the afterlife will honor the economic advantage of an OS built for a chip the vendor owns, like MPE and PA-RISC. Unix planners are being invited on an HP Odyssey to commodity computing. How anybody can cost-justify that journey, instead of a genuine commodity solution -- well, that feels like a well-kept secret. What's going to be out in the open in the lawsuit trial is more muck, and murk, around the genuine future of the last proprietary OS that HP's ever going to build.
May 17, 2012
Emails show HP studied Itanium's end in '07
Oracle released a thick sheaf of HP emails this week to prove HP-UX has a dim future. Oracle sells an alternative to HP's Unix, Solaris, a campaign led by former HP CEO Mark Hurd. There's juicy goo in these pages that shows how a loyal customer base using an HP product gets treated during that product's downturn.
In Oracle's campaign to convince customers that HP's been managing an Itanium demise for years, lawsuit emails are the ammo. The two companies are at legal war by now, dueling lawsuits that will go to trial later this year. HP wants a database for its Itanium server customers. Oracle wants to quit maintaining development for the Integrity machines. Being ever-eager to do battle, Oracle released documents for the public to "use in deciding who's right about Itanium's future." You can look over the originals online. The emails are from HP executives and are part of the lawsuit evidence.
Over and over, in emails between the GM of Business Critical Systems Martin Fink and others at the top of HP's computing food chain, the messages show that Itanium -- and the future of HP's Unix -- has long had an inevitable end. One that HP has seen clearly and communicated less so. HP has been pressing Intel to continue with Itanium development for almost five years by now. While Hewlett-Packard hasn't been planning the end of HP-UX, the end of Itanium amounts to nearly the same thing -- because HP's Unix won't ever be ported to the Xeon/x86 Intel processors.
The flood of HP's email from Oracle offers a look into HP's corporate plan to hang onto enterprise customers who use a proprietary HP enterprise platform. It's a situation similar to the one HP 3000 users faced in 2001, when Hewlett-Packard made an internal decision to stop developments on MPE/iX and to shift onto the Itanium hardware. HP held all the cards in that decision: OS, PA-RISC chip design and manufacture, even the database. This Email-Gate, however, shows how relying on Intel and Oracle for the Unix chip and database left HP with a "binodal" choice, according to a 2007 company email to HP's Executive Council. At that time HP was a strong supporter of converting your HP 3000 to a Unix system.
Binodal, for anyone not familiar with thermodynamics, is "the boundary between the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for the system to be fully mixed, and the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for it to phase separate." HP had a point in '07 where Intel told the vendor that carrying Itanium further required core redesign. Costly, in the set of conditions to rebuild. Or Intel could crash-land the processor family, and move away from the wreckage.
"The choices appear binodal," said the email from Joe Lee in Sept. '07 about Itanium strategy. "An expensive plan vs. a crash landing. [Intel CEO] Paul [Otellini] added that we need to address the inevitable on the future of Itanium, stressed that Intel cannot keep losing money on the product line, and asserted that what's really needed is a compelling migration story."
That would be a migration from the Itanium-driven Integrity servers to the HP ProLiant systems run by the Xeon family of chips. HP didn't tell Intel it was developing a project called Octane, a next-gen mission-critical business system to be run on AMD chips. "[CTO] Shane [Robison] says they are most freaked about Octane," Lee wrote, "but discovering that we weren't porting HP-UX rocked their world. Shane wants the data on what it will take to port HP-UX to x86."
That's a port that Fink just told the world wouldn't be happening. Itanium's leash looked so short in '07 that both sides thought it wouldn't be alive in 2014. HP might have had a reason to move its Unix forward, if they'd bought Sun like they proposed in 2009. There's a fascinating PowerPoint deck that describes that proposal, too. HP figured it might help prolong Itanium's lifespan.
The HP documents released by Oracle are online in a Scribd storage area for anyone to read. One PowerPoint deck says that HP-UX "is on a death march" because of Itanium's demise. But HP was more worried about IBM at that point than about Oracle. IBM might have bought Sun, and "it [then] isolates and exposes HP-UX as 3rd tier player, accelerates our decline (product/service) as customers look to consolidate vendors." HP threw its money into supporting extra Intel manufacture and design of Itanium's 9300 and Poulson series, while Oracle gambled on the Sun Unix. The lawsuit's outcome might help determine who won in the short run.
May 11, 2012
Smiles, but less joking at 2012's HP Discover
HP's announced its executive keynote lineup for the June HP Discover 2012 show, the biggest HP-centric conference for the year. At the last HP Discover the company was still debating with Oracle over the future of the database on HP servers, but it stood on the verge of a splash into the tablet marketplace. That was just two months before the TouchPad belly-flop and one quarter in front of the ouster of a second CEO in as many years.
Current CEO Meg Whitman will speak on Making Technology Work for You, "focusing on the challenges that enterprises face today, and the breadth and depth of HP solutions that help them to address those challenges." The conference runs June 4-7 in its usual location on the Las Vegas strip, this time at the Venetian Hotel and Sands Convention Center. A SWSMYT code at registration earns a $300 discount.
Like last year, another Discover keynoter has a strong entertainment platform. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will be onstage with Whitman and later hosts an exclusive preview of DreamWorks' Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Less obvious comedy won't be on the stage this year, after Jake Johannsen opened for CEO Leo Apotheker in 2011. One ironic Johannsen joke that's not likely to be recycled: "As a comic, it seems to me there'd be a joke I could make about HP's last CEO... but there's not."
Whitman might not see the humor in such a barb, but the commentary on HP's show -- produced with the aid of the Connect user group -- may run just as unfettered. Last year the vendor hosted a raft of bloggers in a new program to earn more notice for the conference. Geekzone made the conference a feature on its tech blog, and the longest keynote of that show was an HP Cloud marathon full of boardroom-level buzzwords for IT planners. HP's putting the buzz on after-hours with a closing show a bit less legendary than last year's Sir Paul McCartney concert. The closing celebration sponsored by Intel starts with Sheryl Crow and finishes with the founder of the Eagles, Don Henley.The executive VP of HP's enterprise computing business is now Dave Donatelli, more entrenched than ever after HP kicked Ann Livermore into the company's board of directors suite. Donatelli leads the list which HP offered of its key executives speaking at the show. Todd Bradley appears, now executive vice president of both Printing and Personal Systems, even after that TouchPad debacle. Others include Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and EVP for HP Software; Mike Lynch, executive vice president, Information Management; and John Visentin, executive vice president for the company's support and consulting arm, Enterprise Services.
HP's Q2 '12 quarterly results report (on May 23) will be about two weeks behind in the rear view mirror when HP Discover opens up. This has always been a show aimed at an audience well below the financial analyst crowd. The company discounts professional certification for IT workers who attend. Last year's show had more than 10,000 attendees and 1,000 partners on hand, the vendor reported.
Discovering something to hear before the gentle humor of Madagascar or the dulcet tones of Crow can be planned using the online session discovery tool at the event's website. Three months ago, only four sessions were listed online as being delivered from customers. Now that wing of content is beefed up to 160 with the likes of a strategy review from Brian O'Reilly of the Las Vegas Sands, who's giving a case study to show "how Las Vegas Sands (Venetian) accelerated its IT transformation program." IT managers from Royal Bank of Canada, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and payroll provider Paychex will also speak.
April 13, 2012
HP's 3000 managers, generally, find futures beyond the designs of HP
I had an afternoon this week that felt like a ride in a time machine. I was turning the pages of a glossy user group magazine, devoted to HP server products. The HP 3000 was even mentioned in its opening pages. And there on an introductory page, right after an HP print ad, was an HP general manager who was bidding his customers farewell, moving out of a division.
But I only had to blink to notice the differences. The magazine was The Connection, 36 pages plus its covers devoted to the world of NonStop servers, the ones you might know as Tandems. The print ad was not devoted to HP iron, but to time software for the NonStop's OS. And that general manager, you may have guessed, was Winston Prather, saying farewell to another of his server customer bases.
Six men have been general managers of HP's 3000 business since the middle 1980s, but Prather is the only one who's remained at HP. Some of the rest have retired to private practices (Rich Sevcik, now an ardent evangelist in the classic sense of that word; Harry Sterling, enjoying a life in real estate) or have simply left HP for the next chapter of their business lives. Dave Wilde, the last fellow to hold the job, even was welcomed at last fall's HP 3000 Reunion. That was a conference which another of the ex-GMs expressed an interest in and best wishes toward: Glenn Osaka left HP before Prather even took his job, and is now working at Juniper Networks.
Networks hold the next opportunity for Prather, an executive best known for the "it was my decision" to end the 3000's futures at HP. This time he's left the NonStop group in the hands of an engineer who's tackling his first GM job at HP. That's the exact position Prather assumed in 1999 -- before he and others at the vendor gave your storied server the paddling it never deserved.In his farewell Connection column where he passed on leadership of another Business Critical Systems unit, this one to Ric Lewis, Prather bubbled with familiar platform enthusiasm as he headed back to engineering management. With "mixed feelings" he wrote about enjoying his days in the NonStop family.
As NonStop customers and partners, you know that NonStop has been providing unique value for over 35 years. The products have evolved to keep up with the times: modern hardware, open standards and development environments. As I move on to the next stage of my career, let me leave you with a few thoughts. NonStop is truly a special business. You can see it in the products. You can see it in the dedication of the employees. And mostly you can see it in the statements that you, our customers and partners, make about how you depend on NonStop.
The customers' dependence on an HP product was not an element in his 3000 decision -- unless he was counting the number of customers. Prather, unlike the community's most-admired 3000 GM Sterling, is moving out of general manager work into HP's Networking unit, one of the few places where HP's still showing profitability growth. He's now Global VP of Engineering there, a management assignment not entirely unlike the R&D Manager job that he toiled at under Sterling in the 3000 division.
Olivier Helleboid, the GM who helmed the 3000 group as we started the 3000 NewsWire, has gone on to become VP of Product Management at Intuit. His encouragement gave us the green light to launch the publication. Sure, that era of mid-90s -- and even before, in the simplicity of the '80s -- might be adequately summed up in the language Prather chose while leaving yet another HP server group. This latest one, he says, can outlive his tenure because it has modern hardware, open standards and development environments. With the notable exception of living beyond his career aspirations, that all sounds familiar.
When Prather cut off the 3000, its PA-RISC hardware -- when unhobbled by management's OS decisions -- was as fast as any other server HP sold; Itanium didn't even have a worthy system to ship. The 3000 was struggling toward adopting modern backplane tech, projects that languished as Prather led the 3000 lab. Y2K was too much stress for those labs, and the new PCI-based servers were as seriously late as the first PA-RISC 3000s were in the '80s. Very little sold as new systems in the years around Y2K. Sales were stymied by the "its coming soon" drumbeats about the N and A Classes. Back in the '80s on the cusp of new RISC tech, the 3000 had management champions to pull the engineering oxcart out of the ditch. No champions could be found at the very end of the '90s. Marching in place with his proscribed headcount was Prather's path into a declining future.
It was his future vision that killed HP's business. In those days MPE, which had been turned toward its Unix features under Osaka's watch, had the same then-current calibre of open standards that NonStop enjoys today. As a GM Prather's predecessor Sterling made sure the division was devoted to the Internet; it captured its first set of open source tools. Development of partner apps had drawn to a standstill after one year of Prather's decisions, something that was due to marketing responses, product delivery and commodity competition. At that point Prather told us that as a GM it wasn't his job to sell 3000s -- just to deliver the right server to the customer from HP's many choices. Later that year he ended HP's 3000 life.
Now that HP is losing ground in such unique server markets, the GM who tolled HP's death knell for its 3000 unit has moved into a commodity unit, Networking. He's rid of the decisions about what to build next, because a higher level of manager will approve the calls that were his to make for the 3000 business. Being tied to a proprietary environment business is becoming a burden for career growth, where execs are measured by revenue increases and rising partner counts. Prather has gotten himself paroled from HP's proprietary jail.
It took a 3000 manager to sum up the last five years of Prather's career, a summary that invoked HP 3000 work on Prather's watch. Connect President Steve Davidek, who we interviewed in a 2010 Q&A, thanks "Winston for his support while at the NonStop Enterprise Division." Davidek said the move "is great news for Winston."
I first met Winston while I was giving the World Wide Advocacy Survey results to HP. Winston was still managing the HP 3000 division at the time. The survey results showed HP that, again, they loved their 3000s but the HP contracts were still a pain.
There was a lot more HP pain to come for Prather's customers and partners. He drank deep from HP's proposals for Unix, predicting at an Interex meeting in February, 2002 that more than 80 percent of the customers would be migrated within a few years. Instead, HP lost two of every three departing customers to other vendors. But HP had an enterprise unit to streamline after buying up Compaq's DEC business. Prather got his bosses to approve the elimination of a unit that was shipping current technology, bearing standards support and boasting a partner network more than 30 years old.
Those components are not enough to survive in HP when your leadership dedicated to the vendor, rather than the customer. Five other men found a circuit beyond HP's changing ways. It's telling to see that only Prather stays plugged in today.
April 04, 2012
HP's 3000 support clears away for indies
Even though HP this week announced its Insight Online enhancement for enterprise support, the changes won't be of help to 3000 owners. The remote management technology, designed to improve response times, is another example of new support products HP won't deliver to the MPE sites it's retained over the eight years since the server's sales ended.
After a full year of absence from the HP 3000 community, the support arm of Hewlett-Packard has been disappearing from customer choices for 3000 maintenance. Hardware is the only public offer that the company pushes on its old clients, according to reports from the field. But HP hasn’t retracted its reach entirely for the insurance-only support dollars backed by a declining set of resources.
“Most people have aligned themselves with an independent provider at this point,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. His shop that’s completely devoted to supporting MPE/iX and HP 3000 systems runs across straggler accounts when customers say they’re in the last 18 months of a migration and therefore stick with HP. But it’s a rare encounter by now, at least in public.
“It’s not as much as it had been,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. “In this new year I had two customers come to me that they never received a message from HP on support renewal — for the first time ever. In other cases I’ve continued to see HP.”
The departure of HP support options still comes as news to a few customers. Last month a manager running 3000s at fuel-pump manufacturer Gilbarco queried the 3000 newsgroup for an update. "Our HP 3000 maintenance contract is up for renewal on June 30th, but HP have told us that they will not be renewing the contract," he said. "Is this commonplace across the globe?"It might be commonplace, but HP's exit isn't yet universal. Suraci adds that when Pivital does run across HP trying to sell 3000 support, “it’s on a sales office-by-sales office basis, because that’s who’s doing support at this point. When you get your supported equipment list from HP today, there’s three things on it. HP’s being very selective about what they’re actually covering.”
Software support for the systems is just about non-existent, at least on a public basis, Suraci said. “It’s really just been limited to hardware aspects of support.”
Newer CPUs and chassis are most likely to make it onto HP’s supported devices list. N-Class or A-Class servers might be offered from a local sales office as supportable items. MOD 20 storage units are another example of cherry-picked items that would match only a small part of an independent support vendor’s coverage lineup.
But that HP coverage can be wildly uneven. “A lot of times they’re supporting the disk arrays, but not the drives in the arrays,” Suraci said. HP offered to support just one of the two internal disk drives in a customer’s Series 928, and not the internal tape drive.
In a case such as that, a service call could devolve into determining which disk drive may have failed, with the case ending with a report of unsupported devices. Lower-end 3000 systems are rarely on an HP support account by now. Higher-end accounts are more likely to fall into the HP folds after years of more extensive attention.
April 01, 2012
3000 community awaits business simulation
Owners and suppliers of HP 3000 systems were counting down today to the rollout of the Hewlett-Packard Business Simulator, the first application designed to turn server clocks back to pre-Y2K settings to normalize enterprise operations. The software-hardware combination, scheduled to roll out in 2007, makes its debut this year, triggered when the vendor's Legacy Calendars Division corrected a five-year timing error in embedded HP 3000 history chips.
CEO Meg Whitman, corrected last month on the age of the company by shareholders old enough to know better, said her executive staff deployed the Day Runner app technology in WebOS to learn that the long-awaited simulator was just as overdue as the 70th anniversary of the company.
"We never meant to fall this far behind on the HP-BS app," Whitman said in a brief statement at the end of March. "We were timing it to coincide with our 70th birthday, which turns out to have been a few years ago." Whitman said the New-News architecture of the chips was thrown off by the four-year delay in retiring HP's 3000 operations, which were scheduled to expire just before HP's actual 70th anniversary. Division R&D manager Oltston Rather said that when the 3000 ops continued to operate, the BS app remained in streaming mode.
The simulator is designed to recreate business opportunities that existed when Hewlett-Packard was selling four vendor-designed enterprise environments, including MPE/iX. The Y2K date was chosen to match the last period when HP stock was trading high enough to split, while new 3000 sales still boosted the company's top as well as bottom lines.
Rather said that instead of installing the BS app in datacenters, customers will recreate the Y2K conditions in the HP Cloud. A new HP Cloud Discovery Workshop demystifies and simplifies this complex world by using human-sized displays which lay out strategies to utilize this new computing environment.
"It's a pie in the sky condition we're generating," Rather said. "Customers would prefer to work in a time when our business and financial success was more in line with our innovative R&D. As profit-sharing employees, so would we."
March 30, 2012
Ordering a Hamburger, HP-Style
This Friday might be a day of heavy lifting for your IT department, with it being the final week of March as well as the end of the first quarter. Even though that HP 3000 will be running reports, it's good to have some oversight ready. You might be eating lunch at your desk -- or supper, if anything needs attention. Maybe something as simple as a hamburger.
But a classic style to HP hamburger ordering -- one that might be as old as the eldest 3000 in your shop -- could leave you dizzy. Not long ago, your community shared this gem. One manager said "I remember telling my HP Sales rep that you needed a PhD to read the configuration manual. The sales rep took the manual from my hand to explain to me how wrong I was. After a 30-minute tutorial, the rep decided it was best if he could call me from his office with the answer."
On a day when you might need a smile from satire, the Hamburger Guide follows after the jump. As the late, great Warren Zevon advised, "Enjoy every sandwich."
By Stephen Harrison and Noel Magee
This is the story of a different kind. No melting CPUs, no screaming disc drives, just the kind of psychological torture that scars a man for life.
I had a nine o'clock meeting with my sales rep. I needed to buy an entire Series 70, the works. He said it'd take about an hour. Three hours later, we'd barely got the datacomm hardware down on paper, so he invited me downstairs for lunch.
This was my first experience in an HP cafeteria. Above the service counter was a menu which began
|MMU's (Main Menu Units)|
|0001A||Burger. Includes sesame-seed bun.
Must order condiments 00110A separately.
|002||Expands burger to two patties.|
|00020A||Double Cheeseburger, preconfigured.
Includes cheese, bun condiments.
|002||Delete second patty.|
|003||Replaces second patty with extra cheese.|
|00021A||Burger Upgrade to Double Cheeseburger.|
|001||From Single Burger.|
|002||From Double Burger.|
|003||Return credit for bun.|
Includes 00010A, 00210A and 00310A.
|001||Substitute root beer 00311A for cola 00310A.|
My eyes glazed over. I asked for a burger and a root beer. The waitress looked at me like I was an alien.
"How would you like to order that, sir?"
"Quickly, if possible. Can't I just order a sandwich and a drink?"
"No, Sir. All our service is menu driven. Now what would you like?" I scanned the menu.
"How big is the 00010 burger?"
"The patty is rated at eight bites."
"Well, how about the rest of it?"
"I don't have the specs on that, Sir, but I think it's a bit more."
"Eight bites is too small. Give me the Double Burger Upgrade."
My sales rep interrupted. "No, you want the Single Burger option 002 'expands burger to two patties.' The Double Burger Upgrade would give you two burgers."
"But you could get return credit on the extra bun," the waitress chimed in, trying to be helpful, "although it isn't documented."
I looked around to see if anybody was staring at me. There was a couple in line behind us. I recognized one of them, a guy who nearly mowed me down in the parking lot with his cherry-red '62 Vette. He was talking to some woman who was waving her arms around and looking very excited.
"What if... we marketed the bacon cheeseburger with the vegetable option and without the burger and cheese? It'd be a BLT!"
The woman charged off in the direction of the telephone, running steeplechases over tables and chairs. My waitress tried to get my attention again. "Have you decided, sir?"
"Yeah, give me the Double Burger--excuse me, I mean the 00020A with the option 001. I want everything on it." She put me down for the Condiment Expansion Kit, which included mayonnaise, mustard and pickles with an option to substitute relish.
"Ketchup?" I hated to ask. "I want ketchup on that, too." "That's not a condiment, Sir, it's a Tomato Product." My sales rep butted in again. "That's not a supported configuration." "What now?" I kept my voice steady. "Too juicy. The bun can't handle it." "Look. Forget the ketchup, just put some lettuce and tomatoes on it."
The waitress backed away from the counter. "I'm sorry, sir, but that's not supported either. The bun can take it but the burger won't fit in the box." The sales rep defended himself. "Just not at first release." "It is being beta-tested, sir," added the waitress.
I checked the overhead screen. Fries, number 000210A, option 110. French followed by option 120, English. "What the hell are English Fries?" I turned to the sales rep. "Chips they call them. We sell a lot of them."
I gave up. "OK, OK just give me a plain vanilla Burger Bundle." This confused the waitress profoundly. "Sir, Vanilla as an option is configured only for series 00450 Milkshakes." My sales rep chuckled. "No, Ma'am, he just wants a standard 00220A off the shelf." I wondered how long it had been on the shelf. I didn't ask.
"Very good, sir." The waitress breathed a sigh of relief. "Your meal is now on order. Now how would you like it supported?" "Supported?" She directed me to the green shaded area at the bottom of the menu, and I began a litany with my sales rep that I'll never forget.
"You get a waiter."
"You tell him how hungry you are and he tells you what to eat."
"Response Center Support?"
"He brings it to your table."
"You get refills."
I shoved some money at the waitress and told her to take it. She gave me my check on three sheets of green-bar paper. I studied it on my way to the table, and decided it'd pass as an emergency napkin.
Table? My sales rep had been bright enough to order us a table. He hadn't been bright enough to check on a delivery date. The table waiter, slouching in his corner surveyed the crowded room, looked at me and said, "Two weeks. But I can get you a standalone chair by the window right away."
I handed him the tray. A woman rushed up to me with two small cups of chili and sauerkraut for the hot dog somebody else had ordered. The room began to grow dim, my eyesight faded....
I woke up clutching the water-glass at my bedside table. It was 5 a.m., four hours till my meeting with HP. I had had a vision; I did what it told me to do. I dialed my office, and I called in sick.
March 26, 2012
Unix futures take Odyssey to good enough
Customers who are being wooed toward Unix from the HP 3000 have some good right-now reasons to choose HP-UX. The power of virtualization and ability to exploit an OS+hardware solution make the HP Unix an enterprise-grade choice -- one of the reasons that HP and its partners work to sell AS/400 and IBM mainframe sites on this switch. If just as with the HP 3000, you have an integrated value in the IT center, software built for specialized hardware like Itanium makes sense today.
The future might not be great, but good enough. HP's Odyssey project wants to bring "hardened" features to Linux, an OS more 3000 sites are now choosing when they move. Europ Assistance is the latest 3000 site we've learned about that's adopting Linux. HP doesn't want to be left out of the Linux currents. While there's a clear five-year future of HP-UX, the years beyond that are less defined. Since companies like Europ Assistance are going to take multiple years to make a migration, few of them want a future shorter than a decade.
Even the friends of HP's enterprise strategies see HP's Unix as an early casualty of the Odyssey. Dr. Bill Highleyman edits the High Availability Journal and judged the prospects of Odyssey success.
If Project Odyssey is wildly successful, it may drive a huge competitive advantage for HP. However, if HP customers embrace the move to highly reliable standard operating systems, HP-UX may be the first to go, since migrating Unix applications to Linux is a reasonable task.
It's commonplace to find HP-UX administrators on the LinkedIn forums who see Linux as their natural evolution path. But those companies are already enjoying the value of Unix, instead of paying for the move. It takes unusual features in an OS to protect it from this kind of wild success -- and as HP 3000 customers know, even a tech solution that is great can be overrun by good enough.Odyssey can't deliver as much as HP's proprietary environments, such as MPE. Highleyman noted in his article that the fault-tolerance -- 3000 customers would call it reliability and planned-only downtime -- in HP's operating systems won't make the Odyssey.
Achieving the fault tolerance provided by NonStop systems and OpenVMS Split-Site Clusters is probably not in the cards. Sadly, if the reliability provided by hardened Linux and Windows systems is good enough, the market may see a declining need for great, continuously available systems. Let’s hope that great triumphs over good enough!
In the same way, the Odyssey analysis at the High Availability Journal hopes that IBM's multi-OS mantra will mean success at HP.
IBM’s proprietary operating system zOS has survived living alongside a hardened Linux. Hopefully this is an indication that the HP proprietary operating systems will survive alongside HP’s hardened Linux and Windows.
But HP's Business Critical Systems GM Martin Fink points out the differences in the HP and IBM enterprise strategies for Linux, not their similarities.
IBM’s strategy is not at all like Project Odyssey. IBM’s Linux is a proprietary Linux. Applications have to be recompiled to run on the mainframe. IBM’s strategy is to extend the reach of the mainframe, and its proprietary Linux has not been all that successful. Project Odyssey is radically different because we do everything with one open platform.
HP 3000 customers have heard this single-platform pledge before, when the Spectrum Project was supposed to span three operating systems with a single hardware architecture. By the time it was released, one of the OS's was on its heels (RTE) while the other two fought it out for dominance in HP's strategy. The more popular and standards-based OS won. We're still looking for a reason why Linux won't do the same to HP-UX, the least fault-tolerant of HP's environments.
March 22, 2012
How old is HP, anyway? Now its CEO knows
Computerworld is reporting this morning on another element in HP's annual shareholder meeting. Yesterday the company announced its Global Sales group is now part of an uber-unit including enterprise servers. Oh, and PCs and printers now come from the same group. But the gathering of officers and investors, some less institutional and older than its CEO, included a history lesson. The newest CEO apparently didn't know the age of HP.
Meg Whitman, who's been on the HP board even longer than her seven-month tenure as CEO, has been telling the world HP celebrates its 70th birthday in 2014. HP's one of the few Silicon Valley companies that old, she brags. Except that birthday already arrived almost three years ago. In 2014, HP will be 75, "according to the company's website," Computerworld said in its story. Of the "70 in 2014," it said
The Computerworld story also noted questions from the shareholders about why HP couldn't be as successful as Apple (whose market valuation is now 10 times HP's). Or why there couldn't be HP stores, like Apple's, to get a product repaired, instead of a three-week shipment of a replacement printer across the US. In her Apple replies, Whitman acknowledged the genius of Steve Jobs -- a fellow whose brief history of HP employment occured less than 40 years ago.
It's a line Whitman's been using for the past few months as she tries to drum up enthusiasm for the new, reinvigorated HP she hopes to build. The only trouble is, it appears to be wrong, as an elderly shareholder gently pointed out to her.
"I believe HP was founded in 1939," he said during the question-and-answer session after her talk. Wouldn't that make HP 75 in 2014?
"For three or four months I've been telling people we're going to set HP up for the next 70 years because we're 70 years old, and you're the first person to correct me on that, so thanks very much," Whitman said.
There will be fewer sales people employed at HP soon, based on a reading of what Whitman said at the meeting. Adding sales executives didn't produce extra sales, she said, "so we're going to reorganize ... and make sure we get our costs back in line with our revenues."
March 21, 2012
HP shuffles to protect print-ink, server biz
Remember when the HP printer business drove the company's profits and revenues? As recently as 2003, the Imaging and Printing Group generated 55 percent of HP's income, an amount that led one IBM speaker at a 3000 conference to call HP "Inky." Today HP poured its printer and ink business -- which spews its profits from those $20 cartridges -- into the company's PC bucket.
At the same time that the declining fortunes of printing triggered this sea change, Hewlett-Packard sent its Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) group into a much broader new segment, called the HP Enterprise Group. ESSN joins HP Technology Services (think consulting and cloud) and Global Accounts Sales -- which will be getting a new sales chief. Jan Zadak, a Czech EE with a Ph.D. from the Czech Technical University, is stepping down as Sales EVP after 10 years at HP. He arrived in the Compaq merger. David Donatelli, who joined HP in 2009 from EMC in a contested hiring, will lead Sales, Tech Services, and ESSN .
Few sales efforts in HP have battled headwinds as hard as the ones buffeting ESSN. It sells Linux and Windows servers based on the popular Intel Xeon family with some success, but also the HP-UX, NonStop and VMS environments that are subsisting on an existing base. Hewlett-Packard is working the IBM markets for new Unix installs. But that ex-mainframe business tends to go to Windows when HP succeeds, as it did at Yale-New Haven Hospital not long ago. The hospital wasn't replacing its HP 3000s, by the way.
The slackening sails of printer and ink sales pulled EVP Vyomesh Joshi into retirement. Known as VJ during his 32 years at HP, the executive also arrived with an EE degree, going to work in R&D. He's on the Yahoo board of directors.
Todd Bradley, who joined HP from Palm Computing and took over PCs in 2005, now takes the helm on an HP vessel that analysts are calling "trailing business." It's market-speak for products in decline, and for the moment the decline is around printing -- selling at 2005 levels by now -- rather than PCs. But HP hasn't shown any more PC growth in the last three years than anyone else in the business not named Apple. PCs have been flat to declining. Bradley now is the king of the consumer end of HP, the one that former director Dick Hackborn puffed up through the '90s with retailed ink and printers, and in the early Oughts with PCs. The days of HP-branded music players, TVs and cameras as leading businesses are over. A single camera pops up on the HP website today, and the HP flatscreens are history, too.HP still says it's the leader in PC and printer fields, and by market share this is true. "This combination will bring together two businesses where HP has established global leadership,” said CEO Meg Whitman. “By providing the best in customer-focused innovation and operational efficiency, we believe we will create a winning scenario for customers, partners and shareholders."
It's not the first time the businesses have been combined. Carly Fiorina pushed the move through just a few weeks before HP ousted her in 2005. The replacement CEO Mark Hurd reversed the move soon after he arrived.
HP portrayed the combination of the ESSN business with Sales and Services as a way to "streamline certain key business functions." It's making these moves to "speed decision making, increase productivity and improve efficiency, while providing a simplified customer experience." HP still must cut its expenses to feed the refreshed R&D spending that Whitman said the company needs immediately. Streamlining can be corporate code for headcount reductions. A simpler customer experience can be handled by fewer employees in sales when there's less being sold.
The impact on the 3000 community from the HP moves will be limited to any sites which are still in the process of migrating their enterprise servers. Hewlett-Packard hopes the new setup will make it simpler to shift from HP 3000s to Integrity servers, for example. Or simply update storage and networking; the latter is one of the few spots that showed year over year growth in the latest HP report.
February 28, 2012
Some 3000 peripherals still connected at HP
Hewlett-Packard continues to operate a webpage to help 3000 customers learn about compatibile HP peripherals. The information at this webpage doesn't change any compatibility which a 3000 already enjoys with the XP line of disks (48, 512 and more). Since there's been no change in the 3000's OS or hardware since 2007, whatever's working will continue to perform.
But the devices listed on the HP page are much more recent in their vintage. HP still sells them. The XP10000 and XP12000 arrays are on display at HP e3000 Storage Products. For a company that's claimed to be out of the 3000 market, HP's after-market products have become persistent. Support contracts might be available for these devices from HP, too. But a support contract from an independent company is even more likely to include HP's XP and VA devices. A link called Fibre Channel Switches on HP's webpage leads to a gateway page crowded with Storage Networking products. Networking, by the way, was the only part of HP's Enterprise group which posted sales gains for Q1.
Also listed on the Storage Products page, along with a raft of StorageWorks devices, is the essential SCSI-Fibre Channel Router A5814A, available in two models. This device in its -003 flavor is used to attach the 3000 -- using a Brocade 2400 or 2800 switch for Fibre -- with the XP storage units and HP's Virtual Arrays, like the VA7410 used at Hostess Brands. (Click on the graphic above for more detail.) Those HP StorageWorks and XP devices sport links that arrive at active HP product pages. The A5814A does not, a signal that the used marketplace is now the only spot to find a replacement unit. There's also the parts depot of your support provider, sp long as that indie firm actually operates its own depot.Connecting an older 3000 like the Series 969 at Hostess with a more modern array is a proven method to extend the power and utility of an HP 3000. Each of these Fibre routers is attached to its own Host Bus Adapter in the 3000 as shown in HP's diagram. HP 3000s of the Series 900 vintage were not built to connect directly with Fibre Channel.
When a customer needs to connect the HP e3000 to a native Fibre Channel mass storage disk array, the SCSI-FC Fabric Router (A5814A-003) is used. Only one SCSI-FC Router is required between the host server and the mass storage device. The SCSI-FC Router converts from SCSI-2 at the host to Fibre Channel Arbitrated-loop for connection to Fibre Channel mass storage devices.
The magic of the -003 version of the HP router can't be applied after the fact to the more commonplace model of the device, HP says.
5814A SCSI-Fibre Channel extender uses microcode revision 7.60 or later. A5814A-003 SCSI-Fibre Channel Fabric Router configuration uses microcode revision 8.01.0A or later. The A5814A SCSI-Fibre Channel Extender is not field upgradeable to the A5814A-003.
We've stashed away a PDF copy of this HP field guide to Fibre Channel-SCSI routing here at our blog, in case it becomes tough to find it in the HP web empire. But we're surprised to see these references to HP StorageWorks products still allied with the 3000 -- a server HP hasn't sold for more than eight years by now.
February 27, 2012
3000 support demands spare inventory
Independent service providers have signed up most of the 3000 homesteaders by now, according to Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci. The CEO still runs across the occassional shop served by HP out of habit. A big share of the available service contracts have already been passed to independent companies, however, according to an article in our in-the-mail February NewsWire print issue.
But using an independent firm for support is a smart deal only if the provider has ample spare parts allocated to your site, Suraci said. A system administrator who manages the Series 969 at Hostess Brands (how's that for a large homesteading company -- Twinkies anyone?) needed an HP A5418A fiber router (at left) to replace a blown device. The indie support company serving Hostess didn't have one, so Joe Barnett went looking on the 3000-L mailing list himself. He needed to maintain connectivity to his VA7410 array, or face rebuilding the array from backup tapes.
Solutions and suggestions trickled in -- including the purchase of one 5814A for sale on eBay "that might not rewritable," because it wasn't the MPE -003 model. What's more, that vanilla unit ships on 4-14 days delivery time, according to the eBay listing. Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed at a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP router.
The easy questions to answer for a client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"
How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.
But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions. "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware doesn't break down much in the 3000 world. But a fiber router is not a 3000-specific HP part. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of reasons, but one constant reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in the HP supply chain.
The economy has recovered a bit, Suraci said, so he suggested now's the time to ask these hard questions. "It might be time for everyone to review their support provider, and maybe look a little deeper than what they charge for service," he said. "In many cases, you get what you pay for. Response time, parts availability, and legitimate HPSUSAN updates all need to be addressed in advance of signing on the dotted line. It's one thing to be budget conscious, and a whole other to be blinded by it."
Even when a last-minute email could solve a parts problem -- and it looked like Barnett might have gotten lucky on locating a spare router -- that's not a reliable support plan. One suggestion was a Crossroads SA-40 switch, but Craig Lalley notes that you can't boot a 3000 via the Crossroads device. He had to hook up a Mod 20 storage unit for boot-ups only.
Jack Connor, who does 3000 support work for Abtech, seconded Suraci's advice. "I couldn't agree more. Costing out the spares and having them available should be part of the contract."
February 24, 2012
Alternative Takes on HP Q1: Hope's on Tap
Yes, HP has reported Q1 results with sales down and profits eroded. It's true, the CEO has said the company has a long way to go to fix what's broken in the business. And oh yeah, the stock market stripped off about 5-10 percent of the HPQ share price after Meg Whitman spoke up.
But not all of that is spooking everybody about HP's futures for the next several years. It seems that the next few years will cover the period when migrations wind down, although I'm always surprised when a large corporation shows up on the homesteader roster. (Pfizer has been the latest homesteader, at least through 2010.)
Over in Good Morning Silicon Valley (siliconvalley.com), a Q1 reaction story notes that some analysts think HP's got a comeback saga that's being overlooked. If nothing else, Whitman said yesterday that she'll be at HP long enough to see that comeback through. If the board doesn't tire of her, we suppose. The GSVM story on the stock and comeback says
Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a note to clients Thursday morning, said that the key element in HP's earnings report was the victory in EPS, "showing the company is making progress. The company is an underappreciated turnaround story (which could improve) as investors get more comfortable with the company's improved focus and execution."
There's no ignoring the numbers that show Itanium BCS sales are tanking (watch out, Unix migrators). But the HP overall forecast may be a five-year renovation, one that finds enough cost savings to stock up the R&D armory once more. R&D used to be one of HP's most potent weapons. And since the company wants to build a hardened Linux for HP-UX migrators, better R&D spending can only help provide that future.
February 23, 2012
HP starts 2012 with a sinking quarter
Hewlett-Packard reported falling results in most of its computer areas yesterday, even though the company beat the estimates of analysts. Not even those modest suprises could prevent the markets from beating HP stock back into the $27 range after the Q1 2012 quarterly report. It's possible that the markets were looking at the darkest news out of HP's sales: the business that it's stopped winning in enterprise computing.
If HP's escaped your IT orbit, then the trevails of the Business Critical Systems (BCS) unit -- where the news is darkest -- won't matter at all. Except maybe to confirm that HP's an IT partner which belongs in your rear-view mirror. But if your migration plans include HP's more favored platforms like Unix, Linux or even Windows, the Q1 notes are worth considering. (Click on the above chart for more detail.) This doesn't seem to be a "everybody in the market is down" kind of report. Q1 is the second straight period where HP had to talk about sales sinking in nearly all of its businesses.
Just to recap, BCS is the unit where HP's Itanium servers and software products are sold. Just not so much anymore. BCS is a part of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit (ESSN). The bigger brother of BCS is Industry Standard Servers. Whether Proprietary like Itanium, or Standard like Xeon/x86, none of this stuff at HP is selling like it did just one year ago. Below is the summary straight from HP.
ESSN revenue declined 10 percent year over year, with an 11.2 percent operating margin. Networking revenue was flat, Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 11 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 27 percent, and Storage revenue was down 6 percent year over year.
What is selling as well as it did in ESSN? Networking. Outside this enterprise group, software revenues were up, since HP added the sales of Autonomy, its $10.2 billion acquisition. Services stayed even. Oh, and HP Finance posted gains, too. At least the debt business is on the upswing. It all flows down to a bottom line that took a 44 percent hit in profits in Q1. New CEO Meg Whitman isn't happy, kind of an odd response to results at an HP where she's been a director for more than a year. And for the first time, HP described its regular dividend in terms of what it costs the vendor in cash: $244 million to pay out for Q1. Apple's never paid a dividend. Now it looks like HP's legendary dividend might be rising beyond its new economic realities.Whitman said in remarks to analysts yesterday that Hewlett-Packard has underinvested in its business and become "too complex and too slow." It's not obvious how an HP is going to simplify a company that's clogged up with 100,000 EDS (Services) consultants, software that it cannot build and so must acquire along with headcount, plus a business lineup of industry-standard and in-house platforms. And her "slow" is not an encouraging review to make HP future seem secure.
It is possible to have a wide range of enterprise choices, both in software and servers. IBM does it, including the Series i systems you know as the AS/400. If you're wondering whether the AS/400 is still relevant, have a look at the retail screens at Costco the next time you're shopping for paper towels or party quiches. Yup, the screens are running the "Series i" at one of the best-performing retailers in the US.
The rest of the picture at HP included some finger-pointing at the economic miasma and cheery resolve to fix things up in the business strategy. Those hard-to-get disk drives hurt the company too, Whitman said. But the PC problems with suppliers are not the most essential woes to address, she explained.
HP's got to fix execution, she said. In PCs at least, it'll be cutting unnecessary models to make developing, selling and supporting products less complex. Whitman referred to "ongoing problems" with each of its business units. She wants to be investing in technology for the future and streamline processes and support services.
That's going to be hard to do while HP tries to keep its profits from disappearing. A 44 percent dive in a single quarter follows the 92 percent pratfall of Q4 in 2011. Whitman talked about "saving to invest," since the company's credit ratings have eroded and its debt is approaching some very interesting levels. How do you save to invest when your sales are dropping? You cut costs, we suppose. Whitman might be faced with the same plan that ousted ladies-man CEO Mark Hurd tried. And failed at, if you ask Whitman, since he spent five years dumping R&D investments to keep share prices and profits healthy.
A healthy vendor is essential to a secure and safe IT future. If a migrating company is keeping company with HP, these company quarterly results do add up.
February 20, 2012
Website reveals HP Discover 2012 sessions
HP and the user group Connect announced the opening of registrations for the world's largest annual Hewlett-Packard conference and expo. HP Discover 2012 is scheduled for the first week of June in Las Vegas. The meeting revolves around all things enterprise and HP, so it can be a mecca for migration training and information, and some instruction.
Connect and HP have improved a customer's ability to scout the schedule for the three days of talks and training. A search engine helps to discover sessions that are organized by tracks, subtracks, customer challenges addressed -- even type of presenter. That last search element yields a surprise today.
"At HP Discover we will have sessions presented by people with a variety of different backgrounds: Analysts, Customers/Clients, HP Employees, Partners and Sponsors," the website explains.
A total of five sessions are listed as being presented by customers or clients. Three talks on using and supporting cloud computing, plus one each on "an effective IT support contract" to minimize downtime, as well as IT energy management. Even back in the days six conferences ago in 2005, the content of the conference as well as attendance wore a heavy HP coat. The vendor is giving its partners even fewer chances for partners to engage customers in talks, too. A total of four pop up in today's Discover search engine. No talks are scheduled from analysts or sponsors.
I'd never again suggest that HP has too large a presence at a conference now called HP Discover. And some of the best technical sessions I've ever seen at an IT conference have been delivered by HP engineers right out of the labs. Mark Bixby is the first software engineer who comes to mind, giving a presentation on how to make great use of Perl on the HP 3000. (Yup, that's a PowerPoint slide link.)
But Bixby arrived in HP's labs after years of administering a customer site in a California college system. You don't need customer experience to deliver a meaningful and instructive session. But it helps to know what it's like to sit in the audience, wondering what you can take back to the jobsite to show value for the travel expenses.
In my experience sitting alongside those managers, the in-person bonus of hearing any talk live is the interaction that happens at the end. Questions and answers are much harder to share over a webpage. There are 165 HP sessions on the HP Discover schedule of 2012. A session like BB2125, "We know how much your applications cost to run. Do you?" -- that's got a sort of teach-y tone to it. Maybe the questions at the end will deliver some less-practiced but fully-useful answers.
You might want to schedule a healthy slice of time for the vendor expo area to create an interactive experience at HP Discover. There are some interesting gems among what the HP organizers describe as an 800-session conference. The abstract for "BYOD (Bring your own Device) – how to meet demands for streamlined client virtualization implementation" reads
In this session you will learn the trends in client virtualization, the architectures to consider, new solutions and services that you can leverage to reduce the complexity of planning, architecting and supporting client virtualization. We will cover organizational and technical considerations as well as best practices to reduce the time from architecture to deployment by 50 percent or more.
The conference has an official feel to its registration today. Policies on refunds are explicit so there's no confusion. But I don't recall language that reminds a manager HP can cancel a registration to a conference, even if it's had HP in the name of the show.
No HP Discover 2012 registration cancellations will be processed after 15 May, 2012. User Group memberships are not refundable. HP reserves the right to cancel an attendee's registration, conference price paid will be fully refunded.
It's $1,795 to attend HP Discover 2012 as an individual, but the Connect user group rate is $1,495. The price includes "all general sessions, breakout sessions, hands-on labs,certification testing, HP Discover Zone, track keynotes, one-to-one meetings with HP experts, demos, scheduled meals, conference receptions, and evening entertainment." Registration is active online today.
February 16, 2012
Taking a Glance at 3000s: where to get it
On a visit to the offices of The Support Group today, president David Floyd asked a great question. If a 3000 manager wanted to buy a copy of HP Glance, where would they go?
Readers probably know Glance as the HP-created performance measurement tool built for MPE-based servers. The product went through 20 years of upgrades and revisions before HP stopped enhancements in the late 1990s. At that point, performance measurement techniques of 3000s weren't about to change much. Reading and understanding the data from Glance always was the counterbalance to the copious detailed reports.
The answer to Floyd's question is Client Systems. This is the former HP 3000 North American distributor, once in lock-step with Hewlett-Packard while Client Systems configured and shipped many a 3000 sold through application-based resellers like Ecometry or Amisys. A few years back HP made its subsystem software available for sale in the market, even though nothing else remained on the price list.
You won't find a way to buy those subsystem product licenses in many places. OpenMPE ran a promotion with the aid of Client Systems starting in 2011 to help the advocacy group raise operating funds. (Website registries, servers, accounting -- it adds up). You can get in touch with an OpenMPE board member (Jack Connor was the last director to mention this offer) and ask for a copy of Glance/iX. HP discounted the prices to a more reasonable post-sales tier, via the deal that gets customers the tools and OpenMPE some assistance. "Client Systems has given OpenMPE pricing at cost," Connor said, "which will allow us to charge 50 percent of HP list for a product, with 10 percent going to OpenMPE."Why buy Glance now, in the post-HP era of 3000 ownership? Homesteaders and owners on a budget are still working to get the most out of server investments. If you use an independent support provider, Glance can give you more data to share with your experts on call -- whether they're the gurus at The Support Group or others in the field.
Glance was once so ubiquitous in the 3000 community that providers of alternative products like Lund's suite were bitter over the single-vendor advantage HP owned. Back in the days of the 1990s, an additional $8,000 charge for Glance on top of a $130,000 system sale didn't raise an eyebrow.
You may have avoided raised eyebrows if you're interested in getting Glance/iX for a 3000. In an arrangement between OpenMPE and Client Systems that been in place since April 2011, there's a means for anyone who wants to buy licensed HP software for their systems.
Connor can be contacted about subsystem software sales at InfoWorks@USA.net, or email to Dan Cossey at Client Systems directly. "Make sure to let Client Systems know this is a purchase via OpenMPE, to receive the discounted price," Connor said.
February 10, 2012
HP-UX users consider virtualized future
When HP opened its can of Odyssey for the HP-UX operating system, the vendor induced the labor of migration forcasts among its user base. The HP plan to move the best enterprise features of UX to a "hardened Linux" drew this comment from consultant Eric Billington (shown at left) on LinkedIn. Billington wonders if virtualization of hardware -- what many users call emulation -- is all but certain in the future of running HP's Unix.
Virtualization is very likely for many options, I suspect. I have a lot of respect for HP-UX and Itanium, but it is mostly about the third party software support for the platform, and the ongoing related legal battle between HP and Oracle. This may well be a Plan B, just in case.
Billington, who was a consultant for MB Foster as well as a 3000 migration planner for fellow-Platinum Migration services vendor Speedware, goes on to say that "HP is in a pickle, because Oracle has been promoting the Sparc/Oracle platform aggressively (sales is their thing after all), and at the same time pulling the rug out from under UX/Itanium by holding back on future Oracle product releases for the platform."
This would be a big problem for HP promoting UX/Itanium in the future for customers, unless this situation changes. Oracle's own "hardened Linux" is also Red Hat-based, so HP would likely have some assurance of support from Oracle for the Odyssey platform.
A few HP-UX users are learning that virtualization has a less common face: replicating hardware architecture on top of more popular chips such as Intel's Xeon line. While Stromasys is working on finding a market for its Charon HPA/3000, there's always been talk that the technology of Charon would be a foundation for emulating the chips that support HP's Unix servers. Nothing official from HP, of course. But the vendor won't even admit that the Odyssey is a path away from using HP-UX, either.HP keeps trying to push back on that idea, but it's not working. No matter how much HP says that HP-UX is so secure and robust enough that it doesn't need a migration path, now there's an Odyssey to put the best of that OS into a new environment -- this "hardened Linux" that is well-supported by Intel and Oracle, among others. If there's no need to go on an Odyssey, why did HP begin one? For those who like the HP-UX+Itanium mix, hardware virtualization now seems a certain destination, however distant.
But when you start to talk about virtualization in the Unix marketplace, the IT managers there immediately think of virtual instances of OS environments, instead of replicating the underlying hardware. Independent consultant Keith Dick did his wondering out loud.
To me, virtualization is what VMware or KVM do, and I don't see how that would be possible. I'm assuming that the processor in whatever system that would be running the virtualization would be a Xeon, or a successor to Xeon. I think that implies that the hardware instructions available would be x86-64 instructions, not IA64 instructions. That's why I say that what I know as virtualization would not be possible.
Billington pointed to the Stromasys technology as an example of how an emulator -- Stromasys likes to call its tech hardware virtualization -- will work to maintain the lifespan of HP-UX apps beyond the Itanium era. That era isn't limitless. As HP announces an Odyssey it has sparked talk of how long HP-UX and its apps that breathe life into the Itanium chips.
Emulation of a different processor architecture, on another machine architecture is what I am referring to. It can be done within a virtualized environment, if the OS in a VM is running on top of a machine level emulator in the VM. They do exist in the wild (www.stromasys.ch) but are not as common.
I agree a successor to the Xeon, incorporating some elements of the Itanium architectrure, seems to be the processor direction, but the OS running on it will be one written for the x86-64 instruction set / little endian data. I think the most likely outcome is that Itanium processor blades will be running alongside the newer Xeon blades in future servers using integrated VM management. This would allow the older HP OSs to run natively on the appropriate hardware, and allow workloads to be distributed appropriately.
That's HP-UX which Billington is calling "older." The environment does harken all the way back to the early 1980s in the HP lineup, after all.
February 03, 2012
Living with Licenses All Around (Tech) Life
It doesn't sound too sinister until you take a few moments to consider how much Google is likely to know about you. Some people are surprised to see a picture of their house when they punch in their address in the search engine. Others simply write it off to life in the New Century. The cynics celebrate the fact that Google even bothered to tell us the policies were changing.
HP spread the word about its RTU license changes, sort of, in 2007. The 3000 group worked hard to make sure we had the story details. HP posted the notices on its 3000 webpages. US Mail didn't carry the news to those who don't read their NewsWire or travel to HP's web property. Just like the Google change, however, HP meant for its new license policies to be retroactive to anything you'd signed in order to own your first HP 3000. All you had to do was use the 3000, HP said, once it changed the terms in 2007.
Google has a similar trigger. Once you sign in to anyplace on Google on March 1 or later, you will be tracked across all of Google's properties -- apps, Calendar, Mail, YouTube and more -- as if you signed into them all. These are End User License Agreements, the EULAs that New York Times columnist David Pogue noted in his list of "Things That Were Once Amazing, but Are Really Kind of Old News at This Point."The point of Pogue's report was that you ought to get used to having printer ink cost more than human blood, or software quit working because a vendor changes its mind. (On the latter topic, the 3000 customer might still feel the sting of HP's changed mind circa 10 years ago. Except MPE/iX didn't quit working, did it?) Pogue also takes a moment to show an example of licensing and how severe its language becomes in the hands of vendors.
These documents often contain astonishing language along the lines of this, from the original Google Chrome browser EULA: "By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services."
It certainly does sound appalling. And I really have no idea what the lawyers really mean by that.
At the same time, there’s never yet been a case where this "ownership" amounted to anything. Google never published a book, for example, based on stuff its customers have written on their blogs.
Since the last time HP flexed its 3000 license muscles was 1999, we don't really know what that License Time language means in today's post-HP world of the 3000. Hewlett-Packard probably won't follow Google's path away from such steamroller language. About six months later, the license for Chrome was backed down off the ledge and included this simple explanation about Section 11.
This section is included because, under copyright law, Google needs what's called a "license" to display or transmit content. So to show a blog, we ask the user to give us a license to the blog's content. (The same goes for any other service where users can create content.) But in all these cases, the license is limited to providing the service. In Gmail, for example, the terms specifically disclaim our ownership right to Gmail content.
So for Google Chrome, only the first sentence of Section 11 should have applied. We're sorry we overlooked this, but we've fixed it now, and you can read the updated Google Chrome terms of service. If you're into the fine print, here's the revised text of Section 11:
11. Content license from you
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.
And that's all. Period. End of section.
It will take a little time to propagate this change through the 40+ languages in which Google Chrome is available, and to remove the language in the download versions. But rest assured that we're working quickly to fix this. The new terms will of course be retroactive, and will cover everyone who has downloaded Google Chrome since it was launched.
Licenses are often about "just in case." Other times they're simply taking what a large company knows a small guy can't protect -- or a deal where you have no choice. Last year, you had to give up your name to be on TV with Oprah.
The recent derby to win a starring role in a new series on the Oprah Winfrey Network forced every entrant to sign a five-page legal document. In it, OWN said it would own your name that you'd use on the show in perpetuity, IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE. (The caps are on because that's how it appeared in the agreement. We can't be sure about any un-known universe, because we don't know about it.) But licenses only have the power, at first, that we grant them in our minds. If you don't mind the all-caps language, then they don't matter -- unless lawyers change your mind.
February 02, 2012
HP's 3000 License Time, Then and Now
Five years ago this week HP rolled out the first new 3000 product in more than four years. As it turned out the Right to Use (RTU) Software License Update was the last MPE/iX product ever placed on HP's corporate price list. And the lifespan of HP's interest in this product? Certainly less than two years. Even HP said it didn't expect measurable revenue from its bid to get additional money from owners more than five years into HP's 3000 afterlife.
Measured by the interest and behaviors of this February's market, the RTU seemed to be written to serve lawyers instead of IT managers. Many HP 3000s are sold today without regard for license validity. This is one reason you see a Series 9x8 on eBay for well under $1,000, until you don't see it, because it's been purchased. Sometimes a server like that -- which once had a valid license -- is being bought for parts. Some of the time this kind of 9x8 is being bought to replace an existing 9x8, or a 9x7 server. In that latter case, HP expected some RTU money to lift the license level.
It didn't make a difference to many companies, but some still want to stay inside the rules. HP said at the time it knew the RTU licenses would only make it into the budgets of some customers. Perhaps those who had internal auditing which would want to include system licenses. There are also resellers -- though not that many in this February -- who only sell licensed 3000s. It costs them some sales, but as Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions says, "I sleep better at night, knowing HP won't be calling to ask about the lost revenues."The likelihood of such a call gets slimmer with every February. At one point during the post-exit-notice era of HP's 3000, an engineer left a reseller with diagnostic internal manuals in hand. The kind of things that HP reserved for its own repair force. They were posted for sale to the open market, and in one report, didn't even draw a reaction from Hewlett-Packard. It's a very large corporation, and by 2007 the 3000 business had receded to support checks. So long as those manuals didn't ruffle feathers in HP Services, nothing would be done.
HP used to say, while it was drawing up this Update License and presenting it for sale, that a price on a used 3000 that seemed too good to be true probably was. The definition of truth was consistent for some of the really inexpensive systems: resellers have been candid from the start when selling 3000s sans-license. Others, not so much. No lying, but the unlicensed nature of a 3000 isn't part of the public offer. As it turns out, License Time has expired in a lot of 3000 shops. For a server the customer is migrating away from, a computer not sold or supported by the maker anymore? Even auditors could be induced to overlook that. It's a stopgap solution.
Those few years of License Time might turn out to be a very small percentage of the 3000's Afterlife, however. Migrations to SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials and worse take a long time. Often longer than planned, so hardware's got to be replaced. The systems not only have an Unlicensed discount now built in, they sometimes can be clocked up to the full speed of their processors. HP never had any license offered, five years ago or even 10, to let a 3000 N-Class use eight processors, or run the PA-RISC chip at full bore. The market has expanded to what we might call Simulated Licensing, as if HP has stopped the clock on License Time. Until we hear about the HP Development Company -- the owner of the 3000's patents, copyrights and licenses -- reaching out to bill for an unlicensed machine, we can assume the clock has stopped.
If License Time ever restarted, however, it might look like another February, the one in 1999. That was the month when HP was busy suing resellers accused of back-door switching HP 9000s to 3000s, or extending power and users beyond licenses. Some were cleared or negotiated settlements, while others lost their suits. Jail time was levied to a select few. A $15,000 server would genuinely cost $120,000 during License Time. Suraci says he's glad no time will ever arrive when he'll have to wonder how to raise a missing $105,000.
January 30, 2012
HP's not dumping Itanium apps, says editor
It's official: I've become an "industry pundit." The January/February edition of The Connection arrived in the mailbox while I was out covering Macworld, and I got myself put into an article about HP's Odyssey Project, in a footnote. It's a tale that like Sister Mary Ignatius, Explains It All For You. (Apologies to Christopher Durang's play, but I'm a lapsed Catholic boy and can feel a lecture in the air.)
At least I didn't get my knuckles rapped with a ruler. Dr. Bill Highleyman, managing editor of The Availability Digest and a past chair of the Tandem User Group, addressed the serious question about the future of Itanium in his rousing conclusion to The Connection article.
One industry pundit suggested that [HP VP] Markin Fink's reference to a "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future, probably meaning the end of the Itanium developments from Intel after its next two processor rollouts become a reality.
I remember writing that suggestion on November 25, indeed. There were a few other articles that followed it, but I'm not going to cry out "misquoted out of context." No journalist should ever bark that out, although I invite you to read my other article that immediately followed my punditry. If you consider how long it's going to take Intel to do its next two Itanium rollouts, customers will be in the territory of 2016, or even later. (The last two rollouts took a lot more than two years each.) Nobody at HP has shown a roadmap on the future of HP-UX beyond that date.
If Xeon hasn't "won out" already -- and those are Dr. Bill's words, since I'm no fan of racing metaphors -- it will surely represent a walloping majority of Intel's energy in four years. The end of proprietary tech at a vendor can come silently and quickly for no good technical reason. The HP 3000 did not officially lose HP's favor until a blind-side announcement. Right up to the late summer before MPE/iX got its HP dismissal, HP was still encouraging customers to ride that racehorse.
Dr. Bill quotes Pauline Nist of Intel in her company blog as saying
Intel remains equally committed to the Itanium and Xeon platforms, both of which represent our portfolio approach to bringing open standards-based computing to the mission-critical environment.
The next thing you know we'll be hearing how Itanium is "strategic to HP." Lessons from the 3000 division -- whose final GM, Winston "Coup de Grace" Prather, has become the Tandem/NonStop GM -- should make you want to race for the doors if strategic ever gets used to describe a product's future.Highleyman is sharp enough to know that it's the apps for Itanium which will be in jeopardy if anything strategic happens to the processor. So in his closing comments he reaches into the innards of statements from Business Critical Systems GM Martin Fink to try to find some assurance about the future of HP-UX.
"[A product marketing manager at BCS] said that 'HP is not now planning to port HP-UX to x86-based servers.' " But the article wonders, "Was the operative word 'now' intentional?" (I'm reminded of a semantic debate about the definition of "is.") Dr. Bill is ready with an answer, right now, from Mr. Fink.
Martin: [The HP rep] is basically saying, "Never say never." At this point there are no plans; 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.
These are all very sharp people. I wonder why everybody is missing this point: why you'd ever need to port HP-UX, or whatever this better model is supposed to do. My headline of Nov. 25 said HP was aiming Unix sites at x86 futures. It sure seems to me, as an industry pundit, that once you bring HP-UX's capabilities to Linux, those customers using the capabilities aren't going to be HP-UX users much longer. I might be confused -- because at the same time that one person in HP says "never say never," about a UX port to x86, another says "I predict it will never happen."
I prefer to take my lessons on soothsaying from Yoda. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke asks him if his friends Leia and Han will die. "Difficult to tell," says Yoda. "Always in motion is the future."
All I know for certain is that 2016 looks like a lot more robust year for Linux apps than for HP-UX apps. And if you're still smarting from the knuckle-rapping HP gave you when you last paid the vendor to run a proprietary hardware and software platform -- well, you might not like what Highleyman assures you with. He quotes Martin: "IBM's strategy is not at all like Project Odyssey." But then the Doctor adds this.
IBM's proprietary operating system zOS has survived living alongside a hardened Linux. Hopefully this is an indication that the HP proprietary operating systems will survive alongside HP's hardened Linux and Windows.
If the demand for these operating systems declines, will Itanium survive? Martin: This is not an issue. Most planning cycles are five years or less. Changes like this take a long time. As long as you and I are around, we'll be supporting HP-UX on Itanium.
That sounds like some swell whistling past the graveyard, as our old friend Wirt Atmar used to describe optimism about HP's 3000 intentions. Martin Fink is predicting that UX is never getting to x86 and that HP will support HP-UX on Itanium as long as you and I will be around. I'm only 54. Unix is past 60 and starting to slow in the market. Father Time wins every race, to fall back on that hoary metaphor. Nothing lasts forever, but now HP has defined a new future where a "hardened Linux" somehow apes the best of HP-UX but it doesn't supplant it. Wirt had a professorship in evolutionary biology. He could see how any vendor's product has a lifespan that includes death.
If HP customers' best bet is to believe that IBM's mainframe zOS business will be a model for HP-UX -- well, good luck with that. HP's never liked doing things the IBM way until they're forced into it. I can't predict if there will be enough distubance in The Force of Itanium users to force HP to make HP-UX outlive us youngsters. I can only suggest.
January 13, 2012
Eloquence smoothing UX-Linux migrations
The HP 3000 isn't the only Business Critical System that's weathering the winds of migration. Some companies are seeing the light at the end of their Unix tunnel and making the move onto an open source environment. Linux has been the choice for CASE, a maker of banking software which had a 3000-using customer base not so very long ago.
A recent chat on the mailing list devoted to the database Eloquence pointed to another HP-UX refugee. Rick Gilligan commented during a discussion about HP-UX future platforms that the company had dumped HP's Unix at the close of 2011. The applications made the move to Linux, where there was "Some minor amount of work in going to Linux on x86_64, to handle the [Big vs. Little] endian issues. Eloquence was the trivial part of the port to Linux on x86_64."
That's 64-bit Linux on Intel's Xeon lineup, usually presented to HP sites as a ProLiant server installation. Eloquence is a equal-opportunity database for 3000 migrators, operating on Linux, HP's Unix as well as Windows. HP's Unix, on the other hand, is locked into the bit-map Endian issues of Integrity/Itanium systems. HP-UX is Big-endian and the current Xeon hardware line is little-endian. That's where the Eloquence list chat began, when someone asked about a new Xeon-based BCS server for HP's Unix. Turns out there is no such thing, despite the hopes from HP's Unix market.HP does have a plan to move the best of its enterprise HP-UX features to Linux. There's no timetable on this plan, called Project Odyssey. But it's a migration destination point for the customer who won't be remaining on HP-UX or the Integrity servers for any reason -- including Oracle's decision to drop Itanium and HP-UX support.
So in one sense, Eloquence will be supporting the new platform for HP-UX features -- because the database is already supported on Linux and Intel Xeon systems.
Christian Scott of Softvoyage, a software company that used Speedware to create a travel agency app for 3000s and then moved to other environments, said "I wouldn't expect to see HP-UX on Xeon." He pointed out an HP webpage that answers questions about Project Odyssey. "And HP was pretty clear to me that there is no port of HP-UX to Xeon in their long term strategy. HP-UX has a roadmap of 10 years, so you can read between the lines."
As for the features that HP will be moving from HP-UX to Linux, Gilligan is skeptical. "So what are these HP-UX features they would bring to Linux? And are they going to only be on Linux running on HP hardware? If so, it's still a proprietary environment. There's nothing from HP-UX which we lost when moving to Linux, except for perhaps the high price."
January 11, 2012
HP's 3000 software practice once wide open
Over the past month, HP has released the source code for WebOS into the open source community (or at least announced its plan to do so). It's been called a watershed event for open source -- the first commercial mobile OS ever nudged onto the homebrew free software shelves. But software was once a passion at HP that invited much more design from users than software gets today. Instead of rising on the energy of volunteers after its lifespan, software once grew up on the power of the user experience. The HP 3000 used a different model than the built-inside, respond to the outside modification requests. One of its best examples was the creation of Transact, a reporting and language solution still working at some sites today.
David Dummer created Transact, software that became a part of HP's Rapid family of products. In that era of advanced productivity for programming, Rapid was Hewlett-Packard's entry. But HP bought Transact and Rapid from Dummer, a deal which gave him the rights to re-create it based on direct input from users. When this project rippled through HP 30 years ago, those users in a classroom were programmers who worked with many languages. "It was like having 35 design engineers in the room," said one ex-HP developer who shaped the product.
Over 16 days of meetings, these programmers discussed each feature in Transact. Dummer wouldn't take lunch, but go off and code up "some of the more simple changes" and bring them back to the users in the class. After-lunch and then overnight coding and tests produced a period "when the product was completely re-invented, and now feature rich enough to support most best practices that we all used to code by hand."
We're not talking about an era of worldwide networks or change management repositories. (HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. That was 27 years after Transact grew its robust features in a 16-day open development cycle.) Thanks to the open input on design, the dynamic data handling in Transact was built well enough that it served on 3000s for decades. Dummer went on to create DataExpress, the founding product for MB Foster's UDA Central. He wrapped up his 3000 career consulting on the 34-server Washington state community college migration to HP-UX. Besides using open input to create Transact, Dummer developed technology to move Transact apps to Unix or Linux.
And you can make a case for the length of the lifespan of Transact -- software that's going onward into Unix and Linux -- resulting from the open design that happened in that classroom.In 2003 ScreenJet's Alan Yeo brought Dummer out of semi-retirement to work on migration solutions for Transact. As Dummer told us in 2010, he developed a library of Transact functions written in a system development language and callable from a COBOL host program.
These functions manage the Transact stack handling and data access and map the results back into the static COBOL working storage. "As development proceeded it became apparent that to migrate Transact this library was going to have to do most of heavy work and that COBOL would provide the shell and procedural logic," Dummer said.
Now ScreenJet has a complete replacement for Transact, TransAction, that provides a dictionary and compiler to produce the host code to drive the function library. Transact users like those Washington colleges can move applications to Unix or Linux and continue to develop and maintain in the Transact language.
Dummer was fortunate enough to have been given free reign to enhance the original Transact as he was shown by users, employing his own development methods until a production release. That's old-school open source. What a pleasure to know that an HP 3000 product has benefitted from HP keeping an open mind about software -- three decades before WebOS gained its open source wings.
December 29, 2011
2011's Leading 3000 Stories: Even More
Yesterday we followed news tradition by pointing to the top stories for the 3000 community over the last year. Today we're adding to that list with a enough more topics to give you a baker's dozen, stories you will want to track and add to your research if you're concerned with anything related to the greatest business server: homesteading, migration away, or just the archival and inventory of enterprise computing assets.
Community needs upgrades to open source essentials: Open source software broke open the door of opportunity for the HP 3000 in the 1990s. The server gained file sharing (Samba) Web services (Apache) Internet abilities (DNS) and more, all though ports of open source solutions to MPE/iX. Some of that flurry of work hasn't been altered or updated much since then. A new public resource for free open source software packages went online this fall at MPE-OpenSource.org. It's a signal that the 3000 community's tech resources are still available, through the right portals. The needs for security software can be met with these kinds of solutions, too.
Reunion gives 3000 vets a loving linkup: Hosted in the apt setting of the Computer History Museum, the first HP3000 Reunion collected customers and veterans and friends of the 3000 from three continents during a weekend that included training, new product introduction and a community of old friends toasting their past and future. The three-day event was well-supported by a vendor and user group community that seems intent on repeating the Reunion.
Database alternatives advance beyond Oracle: With the world's largest database vendor declaring the HP enterprise hardware dead on its feet, Hewlett-Packard started telling its customers about Oracle alternatives like Mimer and EnterpriseDB. Meanwhile, the Eloquence database kept expanding its feature set while it continued to support both Itanium and x86 servers, ramping up to Linux popularity.
Robelle moves Suprtool into Window, Linux environments: When a bedrock IT management solution like Suprtool makes the jump from HP's Itanium and PA-RISC chips to the x86 support of Linux and Windows, it's a clear sign that enterprise solutions have started to embrace The Penguin for business needs.Customers holding on to their HP 3000 system IDs: Rene Woc of Adager confirmed that among the many HP 3000 sites his company continues to serve, there's been no problem with customers maintaining control of their HPSUSAN ID numbers. The identifiers remain a crucial element of upgrades and replacements of 3000s and CPU boards. But HP is not always a crucial element of the ID management -- which shows us that the community is taking full ownership of the systems it has purchased and continues to homestead
A Family Member Leaving the Lights on Longer: The Support Group's David Floyd is the youngest member of the top management of 3000 vendors club. Not yet 35, he represents a company that's likely to be one of the last to turn out 3000 lights, even while it works to embrace cloud computing alternatives and enterprise-grade open source apps.
Community counts into second decade of post-HP era: It's not exactly news when a state of success continues to exist, but we marked the end of the first 10 years beyond HP's 2001 exit announcement in a two series of articles, printed in both our blog, as well as in our separate printed issue. The HP move changed the community and its members for both good and ill, pushing developments while it edged veterans out of their jobs and comfort zones. The survivors shared great stories of their post-HP lives.
December 28, 2011
What You Might've Missed: 2011's Biggest
News tradition calls for a yearly roundup this week, and we're the kind of resource that loves community tradition. Here's a few stories that made 2011 an important year for 3000 managers, migrators and more.
Emulator taxis at Reunion for January take-off: We talked about it ever since the spring: the first and probably only software package that lets MPE/iX boot off Intel's hardware. HP couldn't even do that work while it was developing 3000s. The vendor skipped the migration of the 3000 to the Itanium Intel chips, and the x86 line wasn't even considered. It changes the lifespan of the 3000 from 2012 onward.
HP's Unix systems to get x86 transition path: Hewlett-Packard doesn't like to call the future of HP-UX a migration. But November's announcement that the best enterprise features of the OS will be migrated forward to Linux assured 3000 migrators they'd have a path to better performance, no matter what the future of the their Itanium-Integrity systems in 2016 and beyond. Not that anything like an end of life has been announced for HP-UX by HP, mind you. We're just saying, watch that space for what you might need to replace.
Customers taking support needs to independents: 2011 started the clock on indie-only support for about 98 percent of the 3000 market. There were still HP efforts to sign up some sites to contracts, but what we used to call third-party support became second-party service, now that HP won't establish new business for 3000 sites. What's available is cheaper and in many ways better than the caliber of 3000 support from HP. One consultant and support supplier said there are fewer than 12 people in HP who can still address a support question. Even if he's off by 100 percent, it's a number that's sparking uptake in non-HP service.HP opens up diagnostics, patches for 2011: For a community that's practicing self-support as well as indie service, these 3000 resources were a vital part of unbroken uptime. HP closed up its free-patch pipeline to charge for HP-UX patching. But MPE/iX managers, who got a promise of free software way back in 2008, enjoy an exemption -- even if they still needed to patch the CTSM utility themselves for diagnostics. At least HP's engineers shared the steps on how to fix the tool.
HP ousts its CEO, retains its PC line: There seemed no end to bad news from the HP boardroom from mid-2011 onward. Its board lost confidence in Leo Apothker's software vision, even while the new leader expressed nostalgia for an HP Way 2.0, restored profit sharing and unfroze pay raises. After a disastrous August announcement of killing off the new TouchPad tablet and dropping or spinning off the $40 billion PC unit, Apotheker got replaced by Meg Whitman and the PC business was pulled close to HP's enterprise strategy. The stock hasn't recovered yet, but it seems to be out of the range of takeover by the likes of Oracle.
Connect battles Oracle's Integrity cut-off: User group president Chris Koppe led a charge against the makers of the most-installed database in HP's enterprises after Oracle said it will drop Itanium support. Koppe said the members of the enterprise user group view the Oracle pullout as "an active blow to HP, and it's a thoughtless move when it comes to the customers and their hardware stacks and infrastructure costs." Lawsuits followed from both sides while HP said the Oracle move carved away sales from the Business Critical Systems unit that makes Unix servers.
There's another half-dozen stories, some no less important, that shaped the landscape of the community's 2011. We're recapping those tomorrow along with the reasons why they made a difference.
December 15, 2011
Renovating Links for the 3000 Community
Long before HP decided the 3000's future would be limited at that vendor, the computer had plenty of Web attention. Interex, HP, Client Systems' 3kworld.com website -- all were delivering 3000 web resources right alongside the 3000 NewsWire web efforts. All of these have gone dark by today. Interex.org now belongs to an insurance firm in Germany, 3kworld.com bounces to a vague "Computer Training" page that looks like a placeholder. Former magazine HPProfessional.com now lands in Japan without a trace of English on the page. HP's links to Jazz specialties have survived in part on the Client Systems and Speedware web enterprises. There are still holes remaining to fill in those resources, however.
Then there's hp3000links.com, the one-stop webpage created, cultured and nurtured by John Dunlop. Filled with pop-up boxes and dozens of links, the site was a destination for the 3000 user in the 1990s, and then became one for those who wanted to bypass the slanted results of Google searches. New links appeared and a raft of 3000 vendors and suppliers had their own pull-down addresses. They still do, because hp3000links is still operational. It's just in need of renovation. Dunlop's done a tremendous job of hosting this and keeping it up for many years.
Along with IT consultant Olav Kappert, we've chosen to help spruce up and weed out hp3000links.com. The concept is still pretty sound: One Internet domain where a bookmark could help you locate that HP 3000 Relative Performance chart created by AICS, or the Perl Programming on MPE/iX slide set [thanks to Client Systems] from developer Mark Bixby. The former link is right where hp3000links says it should be. But those Perl slides have now slid to a newer HP address -- a PDF file of a master directory which tracks such 3000 resources [which you can download right now from our files, if you need it].
A Google search might do the trick to circumvent these shifty links, but why let Google know even more about your desires than it already does? Doesn't the 3000 still deserve its own landing page?Speedware's posted a nice chunk of the Jazz contents on its site, thanks to the rehosting license the company signed with HP back in 2009. But the route is twisty to get to something called "PDF and HTML versions of many of the MPE manuals." One click takes you to a PDF file that HP is still hosting. Then you search for MPE/iX on that PDF page, and then click on a link that takes you to the 6.0 or the 7.0 manuals fork along HP's documentation road.
Would you like a speed-dial to the current location of those manuals? It's the kind of thing that hp3000links did with selected resources. Dunlop acted as an editor while he maintained the site for more than a decade. Now it's becoming a community project to clean out, like that pretty neighborhood park that got overgrown until those peculiar old fellas started to come by to weed and hoe and plant.
We'd like to see our readers visit hp3000links.com to check out the renovation, offer some catcalls and heckling, and suggest alternative links. The webpage, which is hosted by 3000 IT manager James Byrne for at least a few more months, even has a submission box for suggesting links. You might drop us a note on updates inside that box -- which is at the bottom of the very busy webpage. We'll be busy awhile, too.
December 06, 2011
HP news mortal, legal, financial this month
Hewlett-Packard may be picking itself up off the mat this quarter, but the immediate news from this supplier of an HP 3000 alternative hasn't been good, just one week into this month.
Most immediately, interim HP chairwoman Patty Dunn has died of ovarian cancer, which she first contracted in 2004. The 58-year-old Dunn served as chairman of HP board during 2005, while the company was searching for a successor to Carly Fiorina, who the board had ousted earlier that year. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 4-page memo of "concerns" written by Dunn was instrumental in getting Fiorina sacked by the board. Dunn's time in the chairman's post ended her career at HP. After Congressional hearings where she had to testify in 2006 (above) Dunn was told to resign from the board over her role in the company's "pretexting" actions of '05: News emerged in 2006 about HP's hired and internal investigators trying to locate boardroom leaks to the media, using shams and misidentifying themselves to obtain phone records of directors and reporters. The pretexting sank down to family members of reporters, at its lowest point. (In a smack of irony, Dunn graduated with a journalism degree from U Cal Berkeley.)
HP paid a $14.5 million fine and Dunn faced criminal charges in the case that established a record of HP identity theft. The charges were later dismissed after Dunn refused to accept a plea bargain. With Dunn's resignation, Dick Hackborn was the only director left on HP's board from the pre-Compaq days. An excellent book on the sordid affair is The Big Lie: Spying, Scandal, and Ethical Collapse at Hewlett Packard, by Anthony Bianco, in which the "Dunn and Dusted" chapter is most informative. HP stated that "Pattie Dunn worked tirelessly for the good of HP. We are saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts go out to her family on their loss."
Not much further back in this month's timeline, HP felt it had to respond on Dec. 2 to a new counter-suit in its legal battle with Oracle. The maker of the databases which are used in more HP Unix systems than any other is now charging HP with "seven counts, including charges of fraud, defamation, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, as well as violation of the Lanham Act and two violations of the California Business and Professional Code," according to an article on the website The Register. There's no peaceful settlement in sight between the two tech titans, which is probably why HP has started to recommend DBEnterprise as an Oracle replacement for its HP-UX customers, and Mimer for the OpenVMS sites.HP has responded to the claim that Hewlett-Packard deceived Oracle and hid a program to pay Intel to prop up Itanium. "Today’s filing is another example of Oracle attempting to distract from the undeniable fact that it has breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers," HP said in a press release, one where it laid out its version of the facts in the relationship. Partners of HP and Oracle have been slow to comment on the battle, not wanting to anger either of the combatants.
The Register says that HP wanted clauses in an agreement that permitted Oracle to hire the ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd, conditions that would have given HP extended access to Java developments, "its ability to sell Solaris on x86 platforms, and ongoing support from Oracle for its software stack on HP-UX."
In the end, HP had to settle for the language below, a legal clause that Hewlett-Packard now says commits Oracle to support Itanium systems.
Oracle and HP reaffirm their commitment to their longstanding strategic relationship and their mutual desire to continue to support their mutual customers. Oracle will continue to offer its product suite on HP platforms and HP will continue to support Oracle products (including Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM) on its hardware in a manner consistent with that partnership.
Perhaps as a result of that Oracle conflict that's crushing HP's HP-UX sales, along with the $10.2 billion HP acquisition of Autonomy, HP's credit rating has been reduced by Standard & Poors. (It's instructive to remember that S&P ratings were one of the chief elements that created the 2008 financial meltdown, as the company over-rated corporation after corporation to pump up the financial balloon to bursting.)
But the S&P bond reports remain a belwether to finance planning and debt. HP got downgraded corporate credit and senior unsecured ratings to 'BBB' from 'A,' which increases HP's borrowing costs. HP just reports that it increased its long-term debt by almost 50 percent year over year during its M&A spree of the last year, and its cash on hand is down to a level that's brand-new to the company's 21st Century fiscal history. The company's P/E valuation has climbed to 8.2x since the darkest days right after CEO Leo Apotheker was fired. Traders seemed to shrug off the S&P downgrade; HP shares are still trading around $28.
December 02, 2011
HP Connects users on power and cloud
By Terry Floyd
The Support Group
The HP Connect users group sponsored a luncheon seminar meeting in Austin a few weeks ago, with two diverse speakers and topics. Kristi Browder, Executive Director and COO of Connect, lead the meeting and introduced the speakers.
Clyde Poole, of TDi Technologies, talked about “What you Should Know Before Moving to the Cloud.” It was not a sales pitch for his Plano-based company; rather, the presentation was a generic and informative speech. Clyde spoke from years of data center experience as he covered the “gotcha’s” of cloud computing. He discussed three or four definitions of “the cloud” and gave examples of each (SalesForce, Amazon, etc.). It was a speech intended to urge caution when moving data to the cloud, covering legal and security issues and their inherent risk exposures.
Clyde’s best tip was to visit wiki.cloudsecurityalliance.org, a site where the CSA describes issues concerning cloud deployment. There you learn where Clyde got some of his ideas about the major Service Models: SaaS (Software), PaaS (Platform), and IaaS (Infrastructure). On that site is also a great piece on Public vs. Private clouds (and Hybrids) and about required characteristics of clouds, such as Resource Pooling, Broad Network Access, Rapid Elasticity, Self-Service provisioning, and what Measured Services means.
David Chetham-Strode, an HP’er of 15 years, spoke on “Power and Cooling”, introducing innovations the invent brand has introduced in the last year or two. He spoke about new power distribution products that have come out of HP’s own data center projects. David spent a lot of time discussing power loss and what Hewlett Packard has done to increase efficiencies from 90 percent to as much as 98 percent, big savings in electricity in big data centers. He revealed secrets of air flow and “cooling from within the row of servers” instead of from above or below.David also mentioned the “chimney” products and why they have no fans (not just that they are not needed, but that they disrupt the flow). Did you know that the new rear doors on the solidly-built HP cabinets have more holes than their competitors’ cabinets? This presentation was interesting to me, even the minutia about power cabling, the explanation of why blue was used for the A/C connections’ color coding, and the fact that HP is working on eliminating A/C and going with D/C for the most efficiency possible.
A couple of dozen people attended the free seminar and I’m sure all agreed that the meal was excellent. Everyone received a 1GB USB storage device with HP’s name and a Connect koozie. I won one of the two door prizes, a bag of goodies including the ever-present and very high quality HP mouse pad, as well as two different mice, another 1GB thumb drive, and a pedometer (in case I wanted to know how many steps it was back to my car – several hours later it is up to 2,245).
I learned a few useful, interesting items and met some nice people, including four Connect employees and four HP people. It was a good effort and worth my time to try to re-connect with Connect. But it’s lonesome for an MPE guy in this world. I identified Compaq and Non-Stop people, but HP-UX was probably in the majority of the crowd’s resumes.
December 01, 2011
HP starts to suggest an Oracle alternative
It's come to this: Unix managers who are wondering, like Rosen Marudov inside HP's support operation, what's going to replace Oracle on HP-UX are getting an answer. And the reply is not, "hold onto your hat for a friendly outcome of that lawsuit against Oracle." Marudov noted on the LinkedIn HP-UX Users forum, "There should be a program for replacing the Oracle products running on HP-UX. I cannot see any efforts in that direction."
Steve Shaw, HP Canada's Chief Technologist, suggests, "There are many alternatives, yet one that is relatively minimal risk is to use EnterpriseDB. It has the benefits of open-source (uses Postgres) with an Oracle compatibility layer, so it is a straight replacement. It's not for every situation, but where you have custom code and are only using the Oracle database, this is a great way to drive down costs while maintaining your Integrity/HP-UX/application environment. Check it out at www.enterprisedb.com." More than six years ago, there's Shaw (above) depicted at a user group presentation talking about "HP's corporate strategy for hardware and operating environments including roadmaps and capabilities."
There are other ways to go to replace Oracle in a strategy. Michael Marxmeier told us last month that customers once bought his Eloquence database as a stepping stone to Oracle. There's not much stepping going on anymore. But if an HP Unix customer is trying to move an Oracle-centric homegrown application, HP believes there are still databases to that can step in. The real work in such a plan shows up when HP-UX sites have home-grown code -- the very kind of programs the sites did a "lift-and-shift" operation upon to get away from their HP 3000s.
Project Odyssey is on at HP, a migration that Bob Orton, a Unix support manager at SourceDirect, defined as, "Odyssey: 1. A long wandering or voyage fraught with peril. 2. Any long intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest -- see Hewlett Packard."
Among comments like "I hope the customers are mature enough to understand this," there's a belief that moving HP's Unix advantages to Linux on x86 won't have a negative impact on the Integrity server line, or the future of HP-UX.
HP's Shaw added, "I agree that customers with legacy/home-grown code may be reluctant to change. Hence why HP-UX/Integrity will be around for years to come -- and with a wide variety of database choices to pick from, they don't have the risk or expense to port to another OS platform."
Then there's talk of Mimer's database for the OpenVMS customer at HP as an Oracle replacement. Those folks aren't even part of the Odyssey; HP expects the VMS folks to make do with Integrity/Itanium upgrades for years to come. "I would highly recommend Mimer over Oracle," said Jamie Edgar at Savant Ltd. "It handles complex cluster-wide environments very well." Clusters are essential to the VMS experience, but Mimer isn't a solution aimed at any HP Unix site.
Linux is a migration option for target apps that run on HP's Unix today, Shaw noted. "I do believe that most ISVs today have a certified Linux option for their applications and software," he said on LinkedIn. "Today customers need to choose between different infrastructures for the different OS deployments. Project Odyssey will help their decision because regardless of the OS, they can get a mission-critical experience in a common infrastructure that was previously only on Unix."
HP tried this kind of thinking when it pulled the plug on its HP 3000 futures. The company assumed everybody would flock to HP-UX while replacing HP 3000s. When the dust settled seven years later, the vendor said it'd lost half of the 3000 customers to other vendors. Before the plug was pulled, there was advice to choose different OS environments for differing projects.
Linux on x86 is offered by a score of hardware-software suppliers, and HP doesn't even have to be involved unless a customer needs some of those HP-UX special features. Rather than announce a migration for its HP-UX customers, HP is just showing its Unix users a light away from HP's OS business. HP's not creating its own distro of Linux to make the HP-UX magic appear. It will be delivering its R&D to RedHat and SUSE, hoping to keep something with an HP badge running in any HP-UX shop moving away from Integrity.
November 30, 2011
HP will migrate best of HP-UX to Linux x86
No problem, HP says, if you're an HP-UX customer who's just purchased an Integrity server to replace anything else -- whether that's from an HP 3000 or just an older HP Unix system. The HP Odyssey project is not a signal of any new future for your Business Critical Systems server choice.
The popular belief among customers -- who still ask HP about it -- as well as the market and resellers is that "Oracle is turning the screws on HP-UX, which is dead anyway, because Itanium processors are now too far behind x86s to ever catch up." Okay, that last part's not completely fair to the Itanium systems. The big-scale customers love their hardware and OS. Well, they did until recently, but it now remains to be seen how good the solution looks in the face of HP's traipse into the Odyssey.
In the LinkedIn HP-UX users group, Steve Shaw, Chief Technologist at HP Canada, says
HP-UX and Integrity support and development are continuing, so Project Odyssey is not "designed to get your HP-UX apps and systems to HPx86." Rather, it is designed to provide an option for apps to either stay on HP-UX, or migrate to mission-critical x86 (Linux and Windows) -- whatever is best for the customer/app/situation, all providing the mission-critical experience that's been delivered by HP-UX over the years.
There's an echo in the mind of any HP 3000 customer who's made this odyssey before, however. After a formal announcement of Itanium tech work for HP 3000 users, HP pulled back. Dave Snow delivered the news that the 3000 wouldn't lead the way in such servers. In 2000 he said it wasn't needed.
The 3000 division isn’t going to lead in terms of moving to [Itanium's] IA-64. We don’t need to. We’ve got good-performing chips that provide us with the 30 percent per year performance increase — maybe even exceeding that — for several years to come.
That was a promise that a current HP technology will get continuing development and support. You could swap out "Shaw" for "Snow" and feel the same vibe. True, there's no risk of an overnight exit from Integrity and HP-UX, not like the deal done on 3000 sites one year after Snow's comments. We just heard a story from STR Software's Ben Bruno about one spectacular dump of 3000s within days of the exit announcement. It resulted in a migration to Sun -- and some customers are figuring Odyssey will trigger the same kind of exit to another vendor.
It's not HP's support that's of immediate concern for any HP-UX customer. It's that Oracle vow to drop Itanium support. HP's been admitting that Oracle has pulled down HP-UX since this spring. Some customers see the start of the last mile of the Itanium road, and with it, HP-UX. A few weighed in to answer a question up on the HP-UX Users group of LinkedIn.
"The future for HP-UX looks bleak," said Rainer Grebin, listed on LinkedIn as the Technical Services Group Leader for the UK's River Island clothing and retail stores. "Unfortunately project Odyssey will ultimately drive most companies to IBM's AIX. [HP-UX] features on Linux are desirable, but Odyssey won't get many customers to migrate to Linux. I think it is very interesting that only Linux and Windows are supported. What about VMWare? Most customers choose software based on features and don't care for the OS or hardware platform. Most apps vendors do not certify Linux if they already have an alternative such as AIX."
It could be worse. Bruno's story details his Nov. 14, 2001 experience, when he was a reseller working on a deal with an Ecometry e-commerce site. "I was working with a brand-new Ecometry customer who had just paid for their twin HP 3000s just days before," he said. "I was promoting the benefits of our automated fax products that functioned the same on MPE (with FAX/3000) and non-MPE (with FaxCommander). Sadly, no one from Ecometry or HP even gave them a clue that the systems they'd just spent millions of dollars on were not a good long-time investment."
Ultimately, that e-commerce company decided to purchase a package on Sun's Solaris Unix, Bruno added, "and I don't believe HP or Ecometry refunded their money." It would be unbelievable if they did. HP's not exactly predicting an unbroken future for Itanium, once you get away from the Chief Technologist level.
"The x86 systems will rule over the Mission Critical environment and the reign of RISC will come to an end," said Mohannad Daradkeh, Technology Consultant at HP. "Bringing the Unix-like features into the x86 is a move in the right direction; hopefully the market will be mature enough to accept this."
HP's hope is that since HP is going to give to Linux x86 what makes HP-UX special, there's no reason to leave a platform that's sinking, according to CEO Meg Whitman. Engineers have their doubts, though.
Philipp Prokopets, Support Engineer at HP Enterprise Services, said on LinkedIn that "I'm really not sure that Odyssey will stimulate HP-UX and Itanium, unfortunately." News of an odyssey that brings the best of a proprietary OS to an industry standard like x86 can't be good in the long run for an Itanium investor. The best hope of HP-UX survival is going to be from a vendor like Stromasys -- now finishing a first release of a PA-RISC 3000 emulator, one that could serve the HP-UX customer nicely.
HP-UX to Linux is an easy move, according to Marxmeier Software's Michael Marxmeier. The man whose company has provided migration sites with a database that works like IMAGE doesn't see much concern about shifting away from HP's Unix, even with Itanium's future in play.
"Itanium certainly has its users," he said, "and it’s hard to tell if it will make it or not. However, this shouldn’t be a concern to the customer. They’re not pulling the plug on anybody. But if they’d like to move to something else, the proven technology of Linux is readily available. About half of our customers are using Linux these days." The Marxmeier database Eloquence "even supports some exotic implementations, like Linux on Itanium."
November 29, 2011
3000 team awaits one last strike, next year
By Ron Seybold
Scary and sad things can happen deep in the night. I learned that in Switzerland and again in Texas, both sets of news that arrived deep in the fall of seasons 10 years apart. But for each bad report, there’s the prospect of better news for a season to come.
The first scary news arrived on a pay phone in a rail station. It was in a November night beyond 9 Central European Time, back in the days when Daylight Savings ended by October. I’d already thrilled to getting the news that the Yankees lost a World Series in a Game 7. That’s the kind of news that can cut both ways, but it would take me another decade to learn that lesson.
The news on that Swiss night was that HP wasn’t going to build any more HP 3000s in 24 months, that they believed everybody ought to get off the platform. That Unix was the best solution, or Windows, anything but what you knew, built your business around, slathered all over your future, your training and career. It was damp and cold on that railway platform hearing that news. My boy Nick and I were on our way uptown to Lausanne and dinner. The report from my partner Abby Lentz sapped my appetite. I did my best to explain to my son things were changing for my business, but it would be okay. Sometimes there are things you just have to say and wait for them to become true.
At no time that night did I ever believe there would be another decade of work on the HP 3000 for my family. Ten more years seemed impossible on that night, in that month, anytime over the next few years. It seemed as impossible as being unable to get one last called strike in a World Series, twice, 10 years later. That happened far into a dark and cold night, too. Past midnight in a cold, damp ballpark in St. Louis.
But for every leading home run that my Texas Rangers could hit in an epic Game 6, their opponents the home team Cardinals could avoid that last strike my guys needed to win their first Series, ever. Not even the extra innings “Roy Hobbs homer” from straight-edge hero Josh Hamilton, swung out over a sports hernia that required surgery, could power the Rangers into the champagne and champions’ ball caps. So in 11 innings, they — or sometimes we 40-year-fans of baseball, we say “we” — lost that chance to win.
But just like the HP 3000 community, those Rangers have not lost all chance ever to stay in the game.In sports, after we lose we like to say, “There’s always next year.” Here in Texas we believe it about the Rangers, turned into champion-caliber players by the legend Nolan Ryan, now an owner. And in my house we believe it about the HP 3000, too. There will be a very interesting next year, a 2012 with an emulator that puts 3000 hardware onto speedy PCs makes its debut. It’s the kind of news that’s sparking sort of a “hot stove league” among people still using HP 3000s. Hot Stove is the time before the season starts, the in-between after a Series and before Opening Day. A million different questions and scenarios and combinations get kicked around, and it’s called Hot Stove because it’s cold almost everyplace people care about baseball.
Except in Texas in mid-November while I wrote, as the clock and calendar ticked over into November 14, it’s 70 degrees and the windows are wide open, even at 2 AM. Things are not what they used to be in our world. Summer brought 5 inches of rain here. Up north the blizzards were followed by floods. Sometimes doing this job means working until it’s already mid-morning in Europe. Like all of the 3000 veterans and experts who told me moving, fabulous November 14 stories, I’m just putting one verb in front of one noun, like they’ve put one consulting gig in front of one temporary contract. We’re all trying to stay active while we’re in the batter’s box, waiting on whatever pitch we will see next.
People still care about the HP 3000, even if they’ve left it behind for something mandated by management or dictated by datacenter needs. Phrases like “the machine I hold so dear” and “it’s still right at my side” are what flow from tales of how you’ve grown over the years. They’ve been hard years, in some places for some people, and they’ve also gotten people involved with new passions and lessons. Experts of 30 years of MPE say they’ve learned new tech like Ruby on Rails or open source security, and found it fun. My partner Abby, still dreaming up NewsWire concepts as publisher, gave birth to a yoga practice that’s produced two DVDs. Me, I learned to write and teach fiction, the drama of journalism grown richer, written to move the soul without excuses and no rebuttals. I always wanted to do that, and HP spurred me dig in and learn. The world I knew was changing, like yours. I had to add another dimension to my writing game.
It’s a lot like what those Rangers of mine face during these darker and cold off-season months. Josh’s hernia will heal, the young team will rest up after 178 games and come back with a new dimension: being just one last strike away from winning the last game of the season. And when spring arrives and weather warms to the desert we’ve come to expect in Texas, there will be a fresh chance to win. Like the new season for the 3000, building upon its community and its deep IT experience, and now with a new dimension of virtualized hardware and source code licensed to top support shops and developers.
When you’re only one strike away, you’re close, as close as I am to finishing that first novel of mine. Whether it’s playing with words, or balls and strikes, or the magic of computers built out of just bits on a disk, the next season, story or release brings more hope. After 16 years of playing on this newsletter’s field of dreams our sponsors and readers helped us build, Abby and I can be glad this stove remains hot, while we get another swing at our joyful pastimes. We’ll see you here in print again in February, when it will be time to start to play ball, buy an ebook of mine, and boot up a fresher future.
November 25, 2011
HP relents, aims Unix sites at x86 futures
It wasn't exactly an announcement while you were sleeping, but HP slipped in the news of its Unix migration during the very slow Thanksgiving business week. For some customers it might be a turkey, and for others who want to get onto Unix for the short term, or stay there and see an HP future, they may be thankful.
HP will start development of a next-gen platform for the future of HP-UX users, one that runs on Intel's Xeon x86 chips, the company announced Nov. 21. HP's Unix will continue to run on the almost-proprietary Itanium chips inside Integrity blades and servers -- and as recently as September HP said it wouldn't port HP-UX. It's Unix is still not making the x86 jump, but the things that make HP's Unix special will make a leap to Linux and Windows. There might be a lot of Unix application rewrites going on, although the GM of the HP Unix unit, Martin Fink, will insist otherwise. For awhile.
HP's new CEO, the need to halt the slide in the Business Critical Systems sales, and flat HP sales overall must have done the trick. "The BCS business is a declining business," said CEO Meg Whitman last Monday in Q4's briefing. "It is a slow decline, but I don't think you're going to see an accelerating growth rate in that business. And so we just have to manage that as best we can and invest in R&D so we get to a new platform as fast as we possibly can that allows us to service the clients that need this kind of power."
The project that HP is calling Odyssey will "redefine the future of mission-critical computing with a development roadmap that will unify Unix and x86 server architectures, to bring industry-leading availability, increased performance and uncompromising client choice to a single platform." What this amounts to is the migration path away from HP-UX to Linux, something many of HP's Unix customers have seen in their futures for some time. An intensive article with the tech details of how HP's going to leverage its latest Itanium sockets into x86 is online at The Register. "We are systematically evaluating the arsenal of intellectual property for HP-UX and mapping that to x86 platforms," the article quotes the BCS chief technologist.
"Some of the technologies that make HP-UX and its Integrity and Superdome platforms rock-solid will end up being donated to the Linux kernel," the article adds.
What's not stated in that HP press release is the future of Itanium in the HP server line. A "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future. This probably means the end of the Itanium developments from Intel, after its next two processor rolls become a reality. Perhaps sooner, if the demand for Itanium servers keeps sliding.
For the next two years Itanium is likely to remain as key to HP's Unix as it has during its declining period, if the history of bringing an HP OS to a platform holds up. For more than three years during the previous decade, HP worked on getting HP-UX to run as fast on Itanium as it did on the company's prior proprietary chips, PA-RISC. In that case there was more development going on inside the chips than in the OS. This time around it's HP's primary job to make its Unix distinctions a choice for the more common and popular x86-Linux line.
Bad news for the users of the other Itanium-locked environments, however: NonStop and OpenVMS transitions to x86 are not part mentioned in Project Odyssey. The language to be teased apart in the announcement says there will be "innovations to HP Integrity servers, HP NonStop systems and the HP-UX and OpenVMS operating systems." But only Unix customers will be given a path for their enterprise advantages onto the industry standard (read: x86) among HP's environments. HP is likely to tell NonStop and VMS users they won't need such industry standard pathways to keep their servers growing and on par with the x86 line. Itanium is going to go far enough.
HP 3000 customers will recall a similar stance from HP back in the earliest days when the vendor hawked Itanium futures. We all know how turning MPE away from Itanium turned out, although the difference is that the VMS and NonStop lines have more users than MPE/iX did in 2001. Both VMS and NonStop have a lot fewer installations than HP's Unix, however.
"Customers need the availability and resilience of Unix-based platforms along with the familiarity and cost-efficiency of industry-standard platforms," HP said in a statement. HP specifically cites Oracle as a heavy anchor to Itanium sales. This Odessey move has a lot to do with Oracle's pullout from Itanium development. Although HP is suing Oracle to back off of that plan, getting Unix users onto a path to x86 will let HP continue to sell HP-UX servers as Oracle servers -- until the Odyssey is complete.
Martin Fink, the GM of the beleaguered BCS unit -- its sales dropped 23 percent in Q4 -- said that customer demands are driving this odyssey.
Clients have been asking us to expand the mission-critical experience that is delivered today with HP-UX on Integrity to an x86-based infrastructure. HP plans to transform the server landscape for mission-critical computing by using the flexibility of HP BladeSystem and bringing key HP technology innovations from Integrity and HP-UX to the x86 ecosystem. Unlike the competition, HP offers an open, integrated, single platform approach.
Note that the word "migrated" is omitted from Fink's "innovations" sentence above. HP's got to do that migrating. HP-UX apps will be making their own transition, this time to a new OS (Linux) instead of a new HP chipset (PA-RISC to Itanium). There doesn't seem to be a HP-UX 11 v4 in the fortune teller's cards.
Project Odyssey provides assurance to current and new clients that HP-UX / Integrity environments will continue to be supported and enhanced through the decade and beyond. Clients investing in a mission-critical Converged Infrastructure today with Integrity and HP-UX, if desired, can evolve to a mission-critical Linux/Windows environment in the future.
The key to the HP strategy is going be moving those mission-critical and high-performance elements of HP's Unix to x86 hardware. That's going to translate, if HP can pull it off, to giving a Hewlett-Packard instance of Windows or Linux a leg up in a competitive market against IBM and Oracle -- even while HP says Oracle is running a distant third in the Unix server race of this year. HP's promises include:
• Increase scalability with 32-socket “DragonHawk” symmetrical multiprocessing x86 systems that will scale to hundreds of cores and support large, complex workloads. The systems will enable clients to deploy the smallest to the largest workloads in a dynamic, highly scalable pool of IT resources.
• Increase reliability and flexibility with two-, four- and eight-socket “HydraLynx” scalable x86 server blades with mission-critical virtualization and availability, all packaged in the robust c-Class enclosures of HP BladeSystem.
• Increase availability of critical Linux applications with the HP Serviceguard solution, which automatically moves application workloads between servers in the event of a failure or an on-demand request.
• Boost flexibility and availability of x86 systems with HP nPartitions technology (nPars), which provides precise partitioning of system resources across multiple or variable workloads. HP nPars is electrically isolated to eliminate failure points, which allows clients to “scale out” within a single, robust system.
• Enhance business continuity with HP Analysis Engine for x86 embedded into the system firmware. HP Analysis Engine goes beyond error logging to ensure efficient diagnoses and automatic repair of complex system errors while restoring system stability in seconds.
• Boost reliability and resiliency of x86 systems with fault-tolerant HP Crossbar Fabric that intelligently routes data within the system for redundancy and high availability.
There's not a word about HP-UX in the Odessy summary above. It's a lot of hardware that will not come close to serving HP's Unix customer.
So in a nutshell, that's symmetrical processing with a new 32-socket design of x86 systems, the DragonHawk line that correlates to the SuperDome systems of today. Then there's HydraLynx, which maps to the C3000 Itanium blade systems in the current line -- plus migrating Serviceguard, nPartions technology, the Analysis Engine and engineering the Crossbar Fabric into x86 systems. These last four items appeal to the large-scale enterprise customer who's been sticking with HP-UX.
HP didn't announce a timetable for delivering its new generation of Unix-migration x86 hardware systems. There's some talk of two years, and HP didn't cancel HP-UX futures or the Itanium hardware outright. But now the company gets to make an announcement, in order to stop the questions from BCS customers, about a transition away from its Unix. Mainly, that when a customer wants to make a Linux migration, HP will have consolidated hardware to do so, iron that provides the best of HP-UX features on Linux and Windows. Whether Oracle is going to keep its place running on HP-UX servers in the future -- no matter what Oracle decides to do, or be sued into doing -- is now going to about Itanium, not keeping the large-scale enterprise customer on HP iron.
Building up HP-UX hardware is pretty much over in the futures department. HP talks about retaining the best of HP-UX -- but not NonStop and VMS -- and building up Windows and Linux. There seems little way to view this but the admission that Itanium's got a limited development future at HP. If ever there was a message that says x86 isn't on the HP-UX roadmap, this path seems clearer than ever.
Apple ready to overtake HP in PCs
It's Black Friday here in the US, a day when retail outlets prod consumers out of bed with "doorbuster" prices that launch with a handful of rock-bottom-priced electronics. Silly things like $50 tablets jostle with $79 HDTVs and $329 HP 17-inch Pavillion laptops at Best Buy.
But Apple's going to be offering its gear at retail stores pretty much at list prices. The vendor insists its retailers don't do much of the come-ons for Black Friday, where 10 or so units at each store get sold starting at midnight. (Tickets for the BestBuy midnight entry were passed out last night). The retailers like it, but it can't do much for the vendor's sales at such small quantities. A report just released by analyst Canalys shows that Apple is poised to take over HP's position in PC sales soon, if not in the current quarter. That's the No. 1 position. HP's got no tablet to sell, while the iPad 3 is expected next spring.
Canalys reports the overall PC market is growing by 18 percent this year. The growth has come at HP's expense, considering how fast Apple is overtaking the vendor. HP doesn't need to be No. 1 any more than Apple ever did. But it needs profitability out of its PC business, something Apple hasn't struggled to attain in the last decade.
November 22, 2011
HP vows to get its R&D back on track
HP made the price very clear for its pullout of tablets and WebOS: 91 percent of its Q4 earnings evaporated, according to the quarterly analyst briefing delivered last night. But new CEO Meg Whitman says the company will be getting back on track to better profitability and growth in the year to come. Mergers & Acquisitions are off the menu for the next year -- unless something extraordinary comes by, under $1 billion, in the software sector.
Yes, even a CEO who's determined to turn HP back to its invention roots can have moments of distraction. For the most part, Whitman was clear on what the company needs to revive: Research & Development.
"If we're going to get out of big M&A, we're going to have to get our investment up in R&D," she said. HP posted sales numbers to beat analyst estimates, but the profits slid from $1.9 billion to $239 million during the period. HP booked about $1 billion more in revenues versus last year's final quarter, $32.1 billion (and $127 billion for the fiscal year). HP's Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) results included $755 million in a "wind-down of the WebOS device business for supplier-related obligations and contra revenue associated with sales incentive programs." The consumer side troubles run deeper than a dumped product, though. Printer sales, the firewall of HP's business, have also started to decline.
Then there was also a charge against earnings listed as "Impairment of goodwill and purchased intangible assets," $855 million. That turns out to be costs "associated with the acquisition of Palm Inc. on July 1, 2010 recorded as a result of the decision... to wind down the webOS device business." Whitman said HP's own actions impaired it during a quarter where it also toyed with spinning out PCs and axed its CEO. "One third of our challenges in 2011 were HP-specific," she said. "I had customers tell me they thought we were getting out of the hardware business entirely."
Another third of the challenges were "the distraction factor," she said. "There was a lot of drama in 2011." There was also a lot of silence on the cash register for HP's Business Critical Systems. BCS sales were down 23 percent for the group selling Integrity servers and the HP-UX, VMS and NonStop environments. These were the systems weighing down the overall results of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking Unit (click above for ESSN details.)Those are not numbers that will spark Hewlett-Packard to launch a move of its HP-UX to Intel's other chipsets -- although that's just the kind of R&D that would fit Whitman's vision for the company.
"We cut out a lot of muscle in R&D," she said of a period she described as fiscal 2011, but analysts say reaches much farther back than that.
She said she's seen acquistions work to grow other companies, but the M&A mantra is going to be fading at HP. "We cannot rely on acquistions alone at HP. We have tremendous R&D capacity here."
R&D projects started now will not pay off in product before 2014, she admitted. It's just the nature of creating something internally instead of spending billions. Although she praised the just-closed Autonomy deal, an $11 billion venture. For the fiscal year, HP increased its long-term debt by about 50 percent, to $22 billion. HP is going to be repurchasing shares in the coming months, another sign of reorganization.
"We're building HP to last, to be great over the next decade," she said. "We just can't continue to run this company for the short term. We need to get back to the business fundamentals in fiscal 2012, including making prudent investments in the business and driving more consistent execution."
November 21, 2011
Coming soon: HP's year-end business report
HP wraps up its fiscal year in October, so its news of 2011 arrives today, three weeks after a tough year has closed. The fourth quarter results arrive in a webcast starting at 5PM EST. It's a period with a potential PC business pullout, the flameout of a tablet and a mobile OS, an ongoing war with its biggest database partner, and the ouster of another CEO.
Even with all those anchors dragging down the company, analysts expect HP to report flat sales -- equal to 2010's Q4 -- while profits are forecast at $1.13 a share. HP missed analyst estimates last time out, a quarter tougher than any other the CFO Cathie Lesjak ever reported. After shares fell into the low $20s, they're up 40 percent today trading around $28.
HP's business health means something to the 3000 site which has migrated to the vendor's other platforms, or plans to do so. But its Unix solutions are really becoming a choice for a very large customer. "HP has become a provider for the largest customers they have," said Michael Marxmeier, whose Eloquence database has exploited HP-UX at least as much as any supplier. He even engineered database components to outperform their OS complements. "The largest customers need scalability and the largest HP boxes," he added. "If you work in the low-end and midsize end of the market, you will hardly find an HP-UX box anymore."
The current state of HP's Unix business will be reflected in its details on Integrity servers and the Business Critical Systems numbers. This is about the only metric we follow closely; ProLiant sales for Windows and Linux (the ISS group) have been healthy. BCS includes OpenVMS and NonStop sales, but HP-UX is a very large share, too. The future for these environments relies on Itanium and any new customers HP can cobble up for its Unix.
November 18, 2011
Last Words from First Users on HP's Pullout
All this week we've been marking a tenth anniversary of HP's ill-fated decision to pull out of the 3000 community. There have been other things happening besides the remembrances. But there's little happening in the community today that has not been altered -- for better or worse -- by the Hewlett-Packard choice. We also have a package of pullout stories coming in our November print issue, along with photos from the community's first HP3000 Reunion. But we'll wrap up our Pullout Week with stories from two key community members. Jeff Kell started and maintains the HP3000-L mailing list at utc.edu, where 3000 discussions and tech tips started in the early 90s -- and remain online today. Kell was also a SIG leader while volunteering for the Interex user group.
Then there's John Wolff, an initial board member of OpenMPE who first joined HP in 1968, and then became an HP customer in 1974, and started using the 3000 in the system's Classic days -- and so has felt some of the deepest disappointment. But he still watches the company for signs of hope.
Jeff Kell: As of the mid-1990s, essentially all of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's business applications were all legacy applications on the HP 3000, having evolved from the initial roots of the student/admissions/grades/records system developed in the mid-to-late 1970s. One was a third-party Library application added in the 1980s, but still HP 3000-based. At our peak, we hosted five production HP 3000s in our server room covering administrative, academic, and library services.
Academic usage migrated first to IBM, and later Sun-Solaris/Unix, but business applications remained intact. Traditional "internet" applications (e-mail, file transfers, Gopher and later WWW, etc) grew on Solaris and later Linux.
An initial investigation into a third-party student system led to an attempted "migration" in 1997, based on a large-ish HP-9000 quad-processor system with a sizeable disk array. Dissatisfaction with the software (relative to the 3000 legacy applications) led to a delay in implementation of all but the student financial aid and accounts receivable systems. At that time we began to "fortify the foundation" of the long-term viability of the 3000 platform. We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given these capabilities (the lack of "Internet readiness" was often used to criticize the platform).
The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning and objectives, from which we never fully recovered. The original Library application (3000-based) was moved to Linux/Oracle (where it remains to date). The partial third-party student implementation on the HP 9000 was moved to Linux/Oracle -- where it too remains to date.
Parts of our identity management system, as well as some percentage of student records which did not survive the automated migration, remain on our HP3000; but the system is essentially running "read-only" as of this year.
We do still have a number of HP's printers. But we have never since seriously considered them as a business, instructional, or even personal computing platform anymore. Caveat emptor.
John Wolff: My HP Systems Engineer at Laaco, Ltd. was visiting us a couple of weeks before the official announcement and gave some strong hints about what was coming. So the actual announcement was not so much a shock, but rather a validation of a great disappointment.
In my opinion, 2001 was a watershed year for HP, as it began a lost decade of bad management and poor decisions. The company is still struggling with a bad Board of Directors and the seemingly endless consequences that flow from that. The agonizing studies and public review of strategic questions over a period of months, like the Personal Systems Group spin-off and the TouchPad/webOS debacle, illustrate this far better than anything I could ever say. There is nothing more destructive to a business model for employees, customers and suppliers than failures of decisiveness, of commitment and exectuion.
I began my career with HP straight out of college in 1968, when HP was widely recognized as one of the best managed companies in America. Imagine how it was to transition from a proud six-year employee into a satisfied customer for 30 years. I felt like I knew a secret: That HP was a terrific vendor with great products and strong support that was making my efforts on behalf of our company a success.
My company was primarily in the business of owning and operating private clubs when I started with Laaco in 1974. We developed a custom club system on HP 9830s, which we used until 1986. Beginning in 1982 we started developing a new system on a Classic HP 3000/44 and started using it for production some 25 years ago. Our custom application continued to grow with continuous enhancements over the years, while the hardware was upgraded seamlessly to a Series 48, Series 58, Series 70 and finally to a PA-RISC Series 928.
Meanwhile, we reduced our exposure in the club industry from four clubs down to two as the company began moving into a different industry, self storage. Although we still have the two remaining clubs, there is little growth in that business, so we did not have to expand to faster hardware. But we did continue with our custom development, which is primarily written in Transact. I believe we hold the record (by far) for the longest use of the same platform in the private club industry, where it is typical to switch to a new system every five years, if not sooner.
Now, as I mark 37 years with our company and assess our club system strategically in relation to our corporate direction and a dominant role in the self storage sector, I find that it is time to make plans for the future. My programmer is almost 72 years old and has been with us for 29 years (another record). It does not seem realistic to go looking for another Transact programmer within the shrinking HP 3000 ecosystem. Consequently and with reluctance, we have begun evaluating a replacement system from the traditional club software offerings that run on Windows. This conversion will probably take place next summer and demote the HP 3000 to archival duty.
Finally, with the benefit of hindsight, I must say that selecting the HP 3000 30 years ago was a great decision that paid off as both a development and production platform, in spite of recent HP mistakes. I have no regrets regarding the decisions that I had control over; I can only wish that those decisions beyond my control could have been otherwise.
In 2001, I began to watch this once-great company start a decline over a period of 10 years into one of the worst-managed companies in America. I am left to wonder when HP will hit bottom and recover its sense of identity and direction. We all continue to watch hopefully.
November 17, 2011
Some couldn't believe the pullout at first
Some of the members of the 3000 community had no reason to believe HP would pull out of the 3000 business. In this week that marks the 10th anniversary of that exit, community members are sharing their stories of where they were when they heard -- how much they felt they could believe -- and what's become of their careers since then.
Brian Edminster: I was subcontracting at a company that specializes in supporting medical information systems (primarily Amisys, but others as well). This was a new contract at the time, and came after a multi-year gig doing a Y2K conversion on a large legacy Retail Management system.
I almost didn’t believe the news — there were too many other big changes happening in the world — and HP management had recently redoubled their support of the platform, so I just couldn’t believe it at first. I guess I was still expecting the New HP to act like the Old HP.
My consulting practice has been stable, with slow but steady growth. I’d say that my career has taken directions that I’d not have been able to anticipate, just a few years before. I’d not have gotten into open source software on the platform if the ecosystem of commercial software hadn’t started drying up. I wouldn’t have been able to justify going to the last Greater Houston RUG meeting to present a paper, and I wouldn’t have started building a website to act as a central repository for free and open source software for the 3000 (www.MPE-OpenSource.org).
Robert Holtz: I was working away on the COBOL and FORTRAN programs that were the heart of the Computer-Aided Dispatch and Mobile Data Terminal programming that ran on the three HP N-Class 3000's our Phoenix Police Department had upgraded to -- just earlier that year.
Christian Lheureux: I was sitting at my desk at Appic, sorting through HP3000-L newsgroup postings. I learned that the HP 3000 was going to be terminated from an HP internal source that I could absolutely not quote due to an ongoing NDA. In fact, I had been informally tipped much, much earlier that this was going to happen, but I simply could not believe it !
If you were there 10 years ago, you probably remember that some emotions ran quite wild, and that certainly includes mine. After a while (weeks, months), I remember having a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep 2 proprietary platforms and that, between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-plus-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. They even recently introduced a new release.
The company I worked for that the time still exists as a software publisher. We went bankrupt in late 2005 and the company was finally liquidated 1 year later. I probably sold the last four new HP 3000s in France, on Oct. 31st, 2003. I did my last significant MPE assignments in 2004. After that, my HP3000/MPE activity rapidly became marginal. When our company went bankrupt, I was immediately made redundant. Therefore I have absolutely no idea of what happened to the systems I had in the datacenter -- well computer room. They probably ended up in a garbage dump, much like an unneeded refrigerator that burns too much energy.
I later did some HP-UX work, then became a sales exec, then went back to pre-sales, which I still do today. I've been part and parcel of the HP ecosystem for all my adult life, HP user as a student, then HP employee, then HP consultant, then HP partner. My HP-UX skill level never rivaled my MPE knowledge, not even close, not even by a long shot. And, perhaps more important, the fun I had doing HP-UX stuff never came close to the fun I had doing MPE things like debug/dumpreading, executable code troubleshooting, performance measurement, developing tools that I needed for other assignments, writing stuff, "educating" customers, etc.
There used to be two documents that I wrote on the OpenMPE website while I served on the board. One was the DAT compatibility matrix, and the second one was the HP(e)3000 line-up, sorted by software tier, complete with performance indicators. I have absolutely no idea whether those documents still exist and if they are available anywhere. My best guess would be that,10 years after, no one cares.
That's history being made. Things come and go.
John K., AOL: I was sitting at my desk in AOL's Reston Technical Center in Reston, VA, when I heard the news. I was the manager of the Access Wardialer Lab, which filled a little over 1,100 sq. ft. of raised floor with racks containing hundreds of test and measurement PCs connected to three DS-3 lines providing telephone lines.
We had one HP 3000, and it collected, stored, and analyzed access wardialer data from hundreds of PCs which called every AOL dialup number multiple times every night to test the dialup network and hammer the AOL Windows client. The HP 3000 produced a number of reports, charts and emails every day, with virtually all of AOL's senior executives and management on the distribution lists of those emails. It also hosted a web site for retrieval of reports, processed wardialer data, Windows "debugview" logs, and other analytics. I'm told that the HP 3000 was turned off and stored for somewhere between 12 and 18 months, and then converted to an HP 9000 (AOL had many, many, many HP 9000s).
AOL's dialup usage took a nose dive in 2004, and in late 2004, my group was disbanded (layoff). Since then, AOL has split off from Time Warner. The AOL Reston Technical Center where I worked no longer exists. I was invited to, and attended AOL's 25th Anniversary Celebration in Dulles, Virginia, on May 24th, 2010, and it was great seeing so many of my former co-workers, most of whom have moved on to other jobs in the various tech industries. While a manager at AOL, I also coded in SPLASH, SPL, BASIC, and BUSINESS BASIC, and I created both terminal-based and web-based applications.
Today I'm the Software Engineering Manager for an Internet Services Provider which also provides hosting, co-lo, and VoIP telephone services. I still code, but now I code primarily in PHP and SQL, and the company's Enterprise Information System (EIS) is of my design. I also wrote all of EIS's core code.
November 16, 2011
Things change, some 3000s remain the same
When we polled more than 30 customers of the HP 3000, we were surprised how many still employed their systems a decade after HP left the field. Some are using the same servers which ran on the day HP predicted the demise of the ecosystem, 10 years ago this week. Others have relegated their systems to archival duty. We heard from a few that've turned off 3000s completely since 2001.
At the Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, NC, Jim Dellinger said the center's 3000 has been decommissioned quite awhile. "The HP 3000 was discontinued here in 2004," he said, "and hardware services moved from LAB (my niche) to IT. I'm sure there are no HP 3000 servers there."
Dave Powell, whose report on his 2001-2011 3000 experience appears in our November print issue, told the world more than six weeks ago that his company in the fabrics industry is moving off the 3000. "MMfab has decided to migrate," he said. "Buy a (gasp) package. Toss the system I've been working on for 30 years." But still run a 3000 in archive more for the next 1-3 years, once the real implementation work starts at MMfab -- and gets completed.
But for every report of a departed 3000, we heard two that were remaining on duty. At least for the next several years. Connie Sellitto, who had about two weeks to solve the problem of "wireframing" her 3000's app architecture for a migration in March, checked back in to say it will be several more months until anything based on .NET is running the US Cat Fanciers Association.
"I was working as Programmer/Analyst at the US Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) on our third HP 3000, a Series 937 RX, when HP announced its end-of-life," she said. "This really scared a lot of people, but I kept telling them we had third party hardware and software support, and not to worry. The company directors at the time decided to leverage the 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000 -- and we in fact secured a used system, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer A400 3000.
"The new HP 3000 remained in use in the New Jersey office until July of this year, at which time it was transported intact to CFA's new location in Alliance, Ohio. Plans were to (really, this time) migrate off the MPE platform entirely, with a complete rewrite on a .NET SQL-based system. This project, originally underestimated to take 3 months, is still in the development stages, and although I've moved to a new job, the 3000 is still going strong. It continues to run the business-critical operations for CFA."
"And the estimated time to finally shut down this venerable 'legacy' system? My personal guesstimate is another 3-4 months. My only desire is that the data be secure and that all business practices be enabled. Long live the HP 3000!"
Peter Eggars: I was off with friends celebrating my 49th birthday. By that day I had too much time, too much money, had lost much of my obsession with computer technology, and lost my faith in HP. I had been told over a year before that it was coming, and didn't hear about the official announcement until much later. It wasn't until I had a long afternoon discussion with Wirt Atmar that I comprehended the importance of the day, and the missed opportunity to have done anything about it.
In hindsight, the spirit that allowed the HP 3000 to grow and thrive in an IT environment that was dominated by IBM (it has 80 percent of both hardware and software market shares) was lost with the embrace of the new IBM, as well as Microsoft, who were able to take shady business practices that monopolize a market to new lows.
The HP 3000/MPE could have evolved into the premiere Rapid Application Development platform for small- to enterprise-class business applications using a Linux kernel and drivers, one of the GUIs, and an open source database. Integration with Open Office (now Libre), would have been icing on the cake. I think there was a good chance HP could have beaten Oracle, had HP started down that track in the late 1990s. But I have to admit now that Wirt Atmar was right -- 2001 was the last possible year that could have been successful.
Gilles Schipper: Unfortunately, I can’t recall where I was. I do remember first hearing an inkling of it from Wirt — and, coming from him, even though it was not confirmed, I knew it would turn out to be true, as of course it was.
Despite all these 10 years that have passed, my company GSA still has enough customers that I perform HP 3000 System Administration and support duties, staying reasonably occupied and earning a living -— although, of course, not to the same degree as 10 years ago.
What I miss a lot is the annual Interex conventions that afforded the means to revisit with old friends such a you. Even a few years back, a couple of GHRUG meetings in Houston were terrific. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the recent Mountain View get-together at the Computer Museum. Hopefully another opportunity or excuse for another conference/meeting/get-together will arise in the future.
November 15, 2011
Now in an 11th year of post-HP: user reports
We're continuing with the community's first-person testifying about HP's November 14 pullout from the 3000 market 10 years ago. Today is the first day of the 11th year of the rest of your life, because HP's never going to go back on its decision to cease making, enhancing or, in most cases, supporting the HP 3000.
But we've heard from users who hoped otherwise. Many did in the first few years after 2001, because it was hard to believe from the beginning. At least difficult for users and suppliers who knew so many satisfied 3000 owners, or were making a good living off an ecosystem HP proclaimed as mortally wounded.
Why look backward at an event nobody will ever change or recant? You can get hope from the new ground which some of the users have attained. And you'll see how to manage such a sudden change of strategic direction from a supplier, though some of these stories. Plus you can believe that it can happen to any product controlled by a single-vendor. We asked: 1. Where were you when you heard the news, and what became of the 3000 you were using, and 2. What's become of your career and company over the last 10 years.
Bill Towe: I remember attending the HP World shows for 1999 and 2000 when HP announced it was opening its arms to the HP 3000 and would continue the line, and the future seemed safe. Then barely a year later, I was attending an HP Channel Partner conference in Las Vegas when I heard a rumor that the HP 3000 was back on the chopping block. I couldn’t believe it, because only months before, CEO Carly Fiorina had informed the HP 3000 collective that we would see the MPE systems line for years to come.
During that Conference, I learned the HP 3000 was finished and would start a phase-out of equipment process followed by the End-of-support death march. I was simply shocked. My company, BlueLine Services, was only two years old at the time and 95 percent of our business was MPE system sales and support. We spent the next few years holding out hope that HP would continue to postpone or completely reverse their decision to end the HP3000 line.
"Over the years, it has become more and more difficult to be an HP-Only reseller. Since that fateful day, we have become an HP, IBM, Dell, Compellent, Cisco, VMWare and HDS reseller, as well as provider of managed services and cloud Computing Services, coupled with hardware and software support for MPE, HP-UX, and Windows OS. Since the dissolution of the HP 3000, my company has diversified to the point that HP no longer has the lion’s share of what we provide our customers. I still find it difficult to believe that the same manufacturer that created the greatest hardware and software system ever produced, also ended it and so unceremoniously. Sad."
Chris Bartram, 3k.com: When I heard, I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. My company 3k Associates still exists and its HP 3000s are still humming, although only one of threee stays powered on these days.
My job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s -- and thankfully, very little to do with HP at all.
Craig Lalley: I was working from home for Lund Performance Solutions at the time. The demise of the HP3000 was greatly overshadowed by the events of Sept 11th, for me. Sept 11th had a huge impact on the economy, as well as my personal economics.
I guess was expecting HP’s decision. HP’s actions were much louder than HP words. I believe HP had decided to end the HP 3000 several years before. The sad part is they could not admit it. I still have a love for MPE. I believed there still was a place for a proprietary OS in the business marketplace. Sadly HP did not feel the same way.
My biggest disappointment is the loss of the HP 3000 user groups and the community they inspired. Sadder still is the loss of some major community members. I must add that I enjoy the HP 3000 “e-community” of friends I have met and worked with over the years. The community still consists of some very special and highly talented people.
My greatest hope for future of MPE is not OpenMPE anymore, but Stromasys and the HP 3000 emulator, Charon HPA/3000. To date, I know of only two major bugs/issues, and performance is the next objective. I hope the hidden HP 3000 homesteaders will find a way to see a demo of Charon HPA-3000, I am sure they won’t be disappointed.
November 14, 2011
One Decade Later, You Survived HP's Pullout
So here we are, 10 years to the day since HP announced it would not be participating in the future of the HP 3000 anymore. It's still Nov. 14 in most places where the NewsWire's blog is being read, so here's a history that nobody's been dying to tell. It's about customers of a company that thought it was killing off a computer line. Instead, it killed off a lot of its customers, in the sense that thousands of them though HP was dead on arrival in the IT futures department after Nov. 14. There were careers and companies killed, too. But we've never called it the End of Life for the HP 3000. It's always been the end of HP's life with the 3000. By this year I think of it as a pullout, an act that signals a loss of will and faith, forgetting why you got into a relationship in the first place. HP had given up on a group that I was glad to dub "homesteaders." Everybody was one, until they could manage a migration, after all.
The shock and outrage on that Black Wednesday was astounding at the time, because HP didn't whisper a word about the customers who could never leave a efficient, vital platform. The first HP message was filled with warm concern about getting everyone onto the right computer as soon as possible. As if the bolts and boards of the 25,000 systems working worldwide were about to go toxic or something. HP couldn't even pin down when the closing date would for the 3000 division, CSY, then headed by Winston Prather.
From a CSY perspective and a support perspective, it’s business as usual for the next two years. It’s time for customers start their planning to move to a platform that will serve their businesses better in the future. HP recommends that customers begin transitioning off the HP 3000 to alternate HP platforms.
Customers were not surprised at the news, Prather said, "and they really appreciated HP being able to tell them what we see as the future role of the platform." Prather said these top-tier customers of late 2001 "already have a multi-OS strategy, so they’ve been evolving their applications over time. It is a stake in the ground, but the CIOs I talked to were appreciative of hearing what the future holds."
As proven by the reactions of the next two years, Prather had only talked to companies who could afford to migrate -- and were grateful for an infusion of truth from HP after years of everything else.
For the last week I've been asking the community members to tell about where they were on that star-crossed day that they heard the news — plus what's become of their careers, companies and the computers running on Nov. 14. We've got a massive feature coming in our November print edition, which went to press at 5:30 this morning.
The outpouring of memories and updates and resolve for the future has been profound and prolific. But this has always been a group that knew how to say what they meant, and how they felt. "I'd say we've all been a pretty good human chain holding the 3000 Community together," said Jack Connor, who just departed the OpenMPE board. He was kind enough to note that the stories and articles here "do a lot to make us aware that there's indeed life after HP, and a pretty full one so far." Considering the promise of an emulator and the state of virtualization today, the last decade could have unspooled a better future than what HP delivered.Some of us had a little advance notice, and some said they saw the move coming before HP announced its exit. My preview involved a phone booth, a cassette recorder with a suction-cup phone pickup, and an Internet Cafe. That's how long ago this all happened. Somehow to a lot of you, it feels like it was only a moment ago.
We leave the first word in the storytelling here on our blog to Alan Yeo, who commissioned a pair of iconic editorial cartoons to express the feelings of customers who didn't get a heads-up, but felt blindsided. Some were even resellers, who learned about the pullout at the same time as their customers.
Yeo wrote us this morning about his "second Black Wednesday," noting a British event that seems as much a cock-up as dropping a profitable platform and its customers at great loss to the little guy. He advised we read up on Wikipedia about that other Wednesday in the UK when £27 billion was spent while a speculator made $1 billion.
On the "Second Black Wednesday" of Nov. 14, I was waiting for America to come on-line and find out if what I had been told a week earlier was coming was true or not. Unfortunately it was.
What became of the HP 3000 we were using at the time? It's still running and still used for development. When you're developing migration software to replicate HP 3000 software, there is no better place to test than under MPE.
My strange observation is how different the last 10 years could have been, if HP had acted differently. Sitting on my desk this week, 10 years after HP announced the end, is a little blue box with a silver-blocked Stomasys logo on it. Inside is a USB stick that will hopefully this week allow a brand-new Intel i7 server that is just being installed here to boot up as an HP 3000 running MPE.
Ten years on, and there is still a potential market for an emulator? We have had a decade where it appears at every turn HP took the wrong path.
Whilst a few people may have been disappointed, most people would have slowly moved and been more than happy if: Instead of announcing the EOL for the HP 3000 — because upgrading MPE to IA64 was too expensive — HP had decided that they would support MPE running in 32-bit on Itanium, or even in a VM under HP-UX on Itanium. Remember even today, most "modern" server applications are still running in 32-bit mode on 64-bit architecture. HP might have sold quite a few more Itanium Servers and certainly would have kept a lot more customers. And there are a lot of vendors around the world that would have had a completely different decade.
Even though they decided to EOL the HP 3000, it then appeared they did their best to frustrate the third-party ecosystem which they indicated was expected to carry the load. The couple of extensions to their end of support dates, well, those damaged both the third party support vendors and the migration vendors — as the need for users to make any decisions was pushed out. Which is probably why there may be enough users still around to make an emulator viable. The Chinese curse goes, "May you live in Interesting Times." And the last decade has certainly been interesting.
November 10, 2011
HP puts down Oracle, which puts up Solaris
Hewlett-Packard summoned a market analyst to tell its HP-UX customers "Unix is not going away in the near future," said Dan Olds, founder of Gabriel Consulting. "Probably not even past the near future."
These kinds of assurances are needed in a marketplace where Linux has all the buzz and Windows all the populace among environment choices. Sure, the apps drive the OS choices, but a company's got to ensure it can retain and train the IT pros who keep apps alive and moving, instead of stalled. As one example, the replacement-for-IMAGE database Eloquence keeps growing "to keep your applications from stalling," said founder Michael Marxmeier.
Eloquence runs on Windows, Linux and Unix. It the last arena it becomes a player in the ongoing saga of What Will HP Do About Oracle? Oracle sells one of the biggest competitors to HP-UX, Solaris. Last week HP said that Oracle's Unix, Solaris, is a distant third in customer support and deployment to HP's Unix. This week Oracle announced a Version 11 of Solaris, which will be marketed as a cloud-friendly OS. It's also got tighter integration with Oracle's database, a strategy HP once used to great effect in the HP 3000, with MPE plus IMAGE. Here's a telling passage from a Computerworld story on how the link-up works for Solaris: "By controlling an entire stack of software, the company can make holistic decisions over which part of the stack would be best suited to tweak to gain performance improvements."
That's not in the field to be surveyed today, and perhaps not even this year. The message during the one-hour HP webcast relied upon a 2010-11 Gabriel survey of companies already using some kind of Unix. Prompted by HP's Katie Curtin-Mestre, Olds said that Oracle is well behind HP and IBM in categories like OS Quality, Patching Quality, availability as observed by a user base, plus a lot more. Olds -- whose 15 years in IT includes nine years of marketing consulting for hire -- said it's a two-vendor race for commercial Unix, where "Oracle is not as competitive as they would hope, or we expected. In some areas, since Oracle took over Sun and stabilized it, they've lost some ground."
HP would be happy to learn that continues to be true. The Gabriel survey was taken during the first six months of work by Mark Hurd, former CEO, who has led the Sun/Oracle rebound culminating in a fresh Solaris and refresh of the SPARC chips. How this webcast chest-thumping by HP will imact its wish to get Oracle to love Itanium/Integrity once again -- well, that's anybody's guess. But it's hard to portray the webcast as an olive branch.
One thing feels certain: when you use red as the color to depict a vendor on a PowerPoint slide, it's never a friendly label. HP's customers are observing that Solaris is much slower than HP-UX, but HP's Unix is just 1.3 percent faster than IBM's Unix. This may be a two-horse race in observations and speed. But HP needs Oracle to keep its customers on HP-UX servers, and coloring the company red looks as combative as suing its rival to keep supporting HP's Unix.Other high points of the HP-Gabriel survey (Olds calls the study a Vendor Face-Off):
"It will be interesting to see what happens, now that Oracle has released some new systems. We'll see if they resonate with customers." (We're not certain how Oracle will participate in the new Face-Off, but the vendors don't need to be part of the polling. Some vendors do pay for webcasts of the results, though.)
This kind of report is no new tactic in getting customer loyalty pumped up. The objectivity comes under scrutiny when an outside consultant says, "It's clear that the commercial Unix market is primarily a two-horse race between IBM and HP. Oracle hasn't managed to turn Sun around in any significant way."
Olds said, "Customers are still using more Unix capacity than they used the year before. There's a lot of churn, as they move stuff to x86 and take out Unix platforms. But they're also adding Unix platforms. The amount of capacity shift is more than what's being turned off." So the Unix advocate is now looking at capacity rather of footprint. They've lost the war on server counts, although HP continues to report its Unix servers lead that sector in market share.
"The [capacity] growth isn't as fast as it was back in the day of the early-to-mid '90s," Olds said. That's the period where HP is plundering the HP 3000 base for converts to HP-UX, and Windows doesn't have any traction as an enterprise environment. Linux was little more than an experiment back in the day. Olds then asserts that "nothing's growing like it was back then." That will come as news to Red Hat, SUSE and the other Linux providers.
"Unix has moved to a different place; it's become that mission-critical platform," Olds said. Right on the money, from the reports of the former 3000 sites who've turned to Unix. None of them report that Unix is any more mission-critical than the 3000, but we don't have a superb window into the largest of Unix customers. For the most part, that size of site didn't use the 3000.
Fewer shipments, larger systems, greater uptime needs: Some of this sounds like the HP 3000 situation of the late 1990s, when footprints of MPE/iX were being overtaken by Windows and Unix. Nobody knows the future for sure, even when a vendor tells the tale: witness the assurances of HP World 2001 about the 3000 vs. the pullout just three months later. But the future of Unix is now tied firmly to big systems and mission-critical capacity. It's hard to see how that competes with the nimble and smaller options from the cloud, even if HP says Unix is a part of its cloud computing plans.
HP's Curtin-Mestre said "we get a lot of questions about Integrity [servers] and Itanium, and to add to your point, the Itanium market revenue is larger than AMD as a whole." That's a lot of sales, but now the vendor is comparing its Unix business to a smaller subset of the Windows x86 alternative. "This whole conversation reminds me of the old adage from Mark Twain, that 'rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.' "
It was a "report" rather than rumors that Twain replied to, for those who admire the humorist's accuracy. He lived another 13 years after his handwritten note to Frank Bliss. The note sprang from reports Twain had died, but it was his cousin who'd been ill. People like to think of operating environments as having a lifespan, especially HP, which encouraged the thought that MPE/iX was dying, along with the HP 3000 and for that matter, IBM's AS/400. We'd rather consider Twain's writing about death in 1906 in Mark Twain in Eruption as a means of getting the most honesty from the departed.
I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead--and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.
Perhaps as the MPE/iX OS moves into its 11th year of being "dead," HP-UX can hope for a similar future. If nothing else, the vendor won't need to hire outside analysts to prove people are still using and choosing its proprietary OS.
November 09, 2011
You've got the power, but you can use less
Last week we we tried to discover the power needs of an A-Class vs. a comparable Series 9x9 HP 3000. We were prompted by a roadshow talk that HP delivered today here in Austin. Part of the content touted HP's cooler hardware designs, and we don't mean "more hip" when we say cooler.
We mean power and cooling energy efficiency, a measurement that ranges from the wattage a CPU draws to the needs of a blade server or blade storage, up to the electricity required to keep a full server enclosure running. Austin was a good place to have the talk, since we've posted 82 days of 100 degrees or more this summer, blasting our own record from 1925.
HP's solutions "span across IT and facilities to optimize and adapt energy use, reclaim capacity, and to reduce energy costs." Sullivan's Steakhouse lunchtime diners heard about the latest advances in power protection, distribution, and cooling. HP showed the numbers on calculating operational costs "to help extend the life of the datacenter."
Datacenters are migrating in the 3000 market. We're polling the community about their career and company changes over the 10 years since HP pulled out of the market. Some switched off 3000s because of high power needs. A new case history by MB Foster about decommissioning a Series 969 3000 at San Mateo Health Care cites cutting power as a spark to get off a 3000.
Comparing power needs requires great access to hardware manuals, which are genuinely useful in PDF format. Before it pulled away from your market, HP always crowed about slashing the power needs of a 3000 with the PCI-based systems introduced in 2001. The power-efficiency of Integrity blade systems running in, for example, a C3000 enclosure (the smallest) is even more pronounced over those 9x9 servers.Brian Edminster has been our go-to fellow for a host of news stories recently, including his own Applied Technologies open source repository for software that can help HP 3000 owners. He says that power and heat specs for 9x9 vs. A- or N-Class 3000s can be found in an HP datasheet "that spells out 'basic' specs for A-Class systems and the same for N-Class systems. A site prep guide for 9x9 servers is online at ManualShark, at http://www.manualshark.org/manualshark/files/28/pdf_26712.pdf
Edminster warned us that "the power use ratios are very rough-cut based on 'system chassis' only (simply CPU, memory, and internal disk/tapes). They are basically the smallest system that can boot MPEi/X.
The data I've provided the weblinks to is only a rough guideline, but enough to show what HP was talking about regarding the power consumption: significantly lower with PCI-based systems. The A and N-class guides are just for the system proper (no external expansions). You can dig the same data out of that 9x9 manual, but it's harder to get at.
In short, HP was right, at least about power requirements. The ratio of power usage (based on A-Class being very roughly = 1) is A=1, N=3, 989=6. You really don't even want to know about the 99x systems. Another point to consider is that peripherals (especially external disk arrays) can really be power hogs too -- and the newer arrays (with fewer but larger drive mechs) had similar power usage ratios.
A fully built-out multi-rack Series 989 system would likely have in excess of a 10:1 power draw compared to a roughly equivalent N-Class, which would only take about half a rack of space. So if space, power, or HVAC capacity are at issue in your datacenter, newer is better.
Edminster added that he's curious how the new Stromasys HPA/3000 CHARON systems will fall in, "given that they'll be based on pretty much cutting edge hardware." The emulator was running on a gaming PC with SSD storage at the HP3000 Reunion in September. You couldn't even hear a fan.
November 02, 2011
For big power savings, HP thinks smaller
HP announced yesterday that it is testing chips from an Austin, Texas mobile processor company for use in Hewlett-Packard servers. Calexda is one of a host of chipmakers who produce ARM processors. HP said it believes these chips can provide the needed horsepower for server tasks -- while sipping power, instead of gulping it like anything from Itanium to Xeon chips.
HP is very serious about reducing power consumption at its enterprise customer sites. The vendor has a road show in play that addresses this benefit of moving off older HP 3000 hardware. The PCI-based N-Class and A-Class servers reduced power consumption (as measured by BTUs) by 30 percent over the 9x9 Series. And the Integrity 2660 class of servers, similar to an A-Class, use 567 watts at idle to support an entire server.
A mobile chip solution for enterprise establishes a fresh measuring tape for power usage. HP is calling the initiative to create a new server line Project Moonshot. It hopes to start selling these ARM-based servers by next year. The rollout at the Calexda HQ in Austin showed off the EnergyCore ARM system-on-chip (SoC) for cloud servers and on-demand processing.
Hewlett-Packard isn't planning to introduce hardware for its small to midsize customers anytime soon that utilizes EnergyCore ARM. The math on the pricing will not help HP's revenue numbers, if it was deployed all the way down the customer lineup. A load that normally requires a $3.3 million system of 400 servers, with 10 storage racks and 1,600 networking and power cables using 91 kilowatts of power, could be done in the new system for $1.2 million: using one-half a storage rack, 41 cables and 9.9 kilowatts. Those are enticing number for cloud compute suppliers like the emerging manufacturing alternative Force.com. HP said these kinds of customers will be looking at system-on-chip solutions -- which could drive down the costs of cloud computing for the masses who might be migrating.HP's Redstone Development Platform is the hardware end of the Project Moonshot, something HP describes as "the industry’s first server development platform to feature extreme low-energy server processors that consume almost 90 percent less energy."
HP is tying Redstone into its HP Converged Infrastructure to help cloud providers share technology resources across thousands of servers. The technology targets the future of "low-energy computing for emerging web, cloud and massive scale environments."
In yesterday's podcast about the "post-HP" era, we pointed out how much spadework and mucking out the company must do to become relevant once more as an enterprise alternative to the 3000. Reducing power needs by 90 percent -- for anyone on the IT power food-chain -- qualifies as a leap out of the mud of "do we keep selling PCs, or not?"
If IT planning involves the selection of a vendor for your migration -- or simply a check to see if your application can operate on HP's environments -- this ground-breaker might deserve some time for a closer look, just to have something to quiz your cloud supplier about. One place to start is the "media kit" for its Low Energy Server Technology. What drives these innovations is a long way upstream from the architecture of a local server running MPE/iX applications. But this is the future where HP is investing in its hardware, "warehouse computing." An IEEE paper explains that power is one of the most critical concerns in this new concept.
One of the biggest trends in the server market has been the emergence of the large-scale data center, driven by Internet-sector growth. Indeed, recent market research identifies the Internet sector as the fastest-growing segment of the overall server market, growing by 40 to 65 percent every year, and accounting for more than 65 percent of low-end-server rev- enue growth in 2006. Furthermore, several recent news articles and keynote speeches have highlighted this area’s importance.
One of the most interesting aspects of this growth is the unique set of challenges it presents for server design. Internet-sector infrastructures have millions of users running on hundreds of thousands of servers, making the ability to scale-out server configurations a key design requirement. Experts have compared these environments to a large warehouse-style computer, with distributed applications such as mail, search, and so on. For companies in this market, data-center infrastructure — including power and cooling — can be the largest capital and operating expense, motivating companies to focus on the sweet spot of commodity pricing and energy efficiency.
Another IEEE paper points out the problem that the ARM-based Moonshot must overcome: latency. Software has to be explicitly parallelized to run effectively across so many "wimpy" processors, which adds to development costs. HP's going to open up a Discovery Lab in Houston in January and invite developers to test its new technology.
But they'll need to be clever to keep the feet of the IT horsepower moving on lower power.
The IEEE paper cautions that the overhead of splitting things up across multiple processors can reduce performance; and there’s the likelihood of lower utilization of the processors, and thus a loss of efficiency.
Once a chip’s single-core performance lags by more than a factor to two or so behind the higher end of current-generation commodity processors, making a business case for switching to the wimpy system becomes increasingly difficult because application programmers will see it as a significant performance regression: their single-threaded request handlers are no longer fast enough to meet latency targets. So go forth and multiply your cores, but do it in moderation, or the sea of wimpy cores will stick to your programmers’ boots like clay.
November 01, 2011
Listen for the sounds of a post-HP season
In less than 10 minutes of our latest podcast, we're connecting the dots on Steve Jobs, his reverence for HP, the company's PC reverse-march, and how much Hewlett-Packard lost while it exited the 3000 market. It all points to a chilly off-season while HP works to get back onto the field of enterprise computing, carrying its PCs, and take another run -- like the Texas Rangers -- at the Number 1 spot.
Post-HP? For awhile, anyway. On this first day of its 2012 Fiscal Year, HP is working away from a year when it couldn't seem to get a strike when it needed it, either off the bat of CEO Leo or from the arms of its TouchPad. Maybe it's time that we stop looking back at what HP didn't do a decade ago -- like stick to a profitable, small HP 3000 business. Or stay out of a slim-margin dogpile like the PC business. Or remain focused on enterprise computing. As they say in baseball -- especially here in Texas -- there's always next year.
October 27, 2011
Jobs respected HP. HP respects its PCs.
Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs remains atop the bestseller lists this week. It's a remarkable thing to have more than 600 pages of a bio, written by a man who chronicled the lives of Einstein, Ben Franklin and Henry Kissinger, on the streets within three weeks of a tech titan's death.
In an interview with Issacson, he reveals that although Jobs never wanted to work at HP, he admired the company's intentions right up to the end. By the time Jobs stepped down as CEO in August, Hewlett-Packard had already told the world it was thinking about getting rid of its $40 billion PC business. Isaacson said in an interview with CNET that Hewlett-Packard was no joke to Jobs.
When he resigned as CEO, he's in the board room talking to some of its members, and someone mentions that Hewlett-Packard is getting out of the PC market, and people sort of start laughing about it. And he got very serious, and later said it's a real shame, because "Bill Hewlett and David Packard left a really great company that should be destined to survive generations, and that's what I'm trying to do at Apple."
Today brings news that the newest leadership values the biggest part of its survival system. There have been rumors afloat that the spinoff of HP's PCs could turn out to be nothing more than an idea floated for effect. HP announced today that "it has completed its evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) and has decided the unit will remain part of the company."
HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."
Whitman said at a quickly-called briefing that she doesn't want HP to spread itself too thin. "HP tries to do a lot of things. And I’m a big believer in doing a small set of things really, really well." At the same time, Apple reported that it will double its capital investments to $8 billion in 2012, according to SEC documents filed today. Of that, almost 15 percent will be aimed at Apple's retail stores. Apple is creating its own retail PC space, since HP inhabits so many shelves elsewhere.The company which still wants your 3000 support business, as well as selling you a ProLiant or Integrity replacement for that 3000, enjoys advantages by building millions of PCs every year. Component agreements with suppliers benefit all kinds of products the company creates. It looked to be a difficult thing to have a separate company, even a spinoff, keep providing those components and assembly services to an HP which has shorn off its PC business.
HP's employees, especially engineers, are said to be weary of all of the jibes and lashing their company has sparked over the past three months. "We're just trying to finish out the quarter," one said, noting that Apothker hadn't left Hewlett-Packard with a rosy outlook for 2012 business. The fiscal year ends on Monday, with a lot of deal-making going on today and tomorrow to lift up the final quarter.
HP's stock ticked up beyond $27 today, the first time it's cracked that mark since those that PC spinoff and Apothker ouster were announced. And that gain took place before HP announced PCs were staying in the fold. Over the fiscal year while Apotheker worked, the stock has lost 15 percent of its value, even considering its nose-dive in August. HP continues to pay 12-cent dividends per share. This may be a break in HP's stormy weather.
This Silicon Valley icon was not noted for products that touched the masses until its printers broke through in the 1980s, then crowded retailer shelves in the late 1990s. Jobs respected these ancestors of the ideal that was his Apple, by Isaacson's account. His book asserts that Jobs will join Edison and Ford in the pantheon of modern inventor-princes. Hewlett and Packard are just as revered across HP and its oldest customer groups. They simply didn't invent in an era of social networking and broadband media that promoted their work -- or live to have it celebrated at a bestseller rate.
October 24, 2011
Jobs jumped over HP's Garage to 2.0 life
Last night's 60 Minutes story about Steve Jobs included a report that working for HP was the fate which Jobs strived hard to escape. Walter Issacson, his biographer whose book is both Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's #1 today, said Jobs toiled on the night shift at Atari, and then summertime work at HP loomed. Issacson said Jobs wanted to run his own company and avoid the 1.0 tech career.
There was within him this sort of conflict between being hippy-ish and anti-materialistic, and wanting to sell things like Wozniak's [blue box] board and create a business. I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in [the '70s]. Let's do a start-up in our parents' garage and try to create a business. [Leans in to camera] And Steve Jobs wasn't all that eager to be an employee at Hewlett-Packard.
There's a package online at The Atlantic magazine's website that includes some snippets from the biography, as well as the 15-minute segment of the 60 Minutes show.