May 01, 2013
Who Will Come to the Emulator's Party
Next week the Charon HPA/3000 emulator will have what one vendor calls its coming out party in North America. The software performs the miracle of making low-cost PCs act like HP's PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Just describing that technical ability widens the eyes of 3000 homesteaders, veterans and some vendors.
On the evening of May 9, we'll get to see some of the eyes of people who want to drop by and gaze on each other over a beverage at the Tied House. The next day will reveal who's doing the closer looking at this software solution. Training will commence at 10. Lunch is included. Cooperation and imagination will be optional entrees on the day's menu.
One HP support company called the other day and said they're promoting Charon as a viable path for a homesteader's future. "I feel like I've been hawking the Stromasys product myself awhile," said Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group. Another company in Austin, the Support Group Inc. that serves the MANMAN and ERP customer, has a strong belief in the future of Charon HPA/3000.
But so far, we've only heard of one company that's engaged a third party software vendor in an instance of emulator production use. Cognos is working at the Australian insurance firm where Warren Dawson has testified to us, as well as to the European HP users who attended an event similar to next week's. IBM's Charlie Maloney, a veteran of many Cognos days, has started looking for an IBM PR rep to talk with us about licensing Powerhouse for emulator use.
Technical ability will need to be married to software property rights for this software to make an impact. We're hearing ample talk from MPE/iX software vendors about license support. Robelle's going on record as a Charon supporter. VEsoft wants to work with customers who'd like to run MPEX, Security/3000 and Audit/3000 on the emulator. HP has an emulator license for the product, legally operable so long as a currently licensed 3000 is being turned off to transfer its license to Charon.
More than one vendor with plenty of 3000 software ISV connections believes it's early days for the emulator's commercial merits. It's up to the homesteading customer to arrange all license arrangements to move their software utilities and applications to a PC-Linux host for virtualized MPE/iX hosting. It will be a good sign if some customers arrive at next week's event who have third party apps, such as MANMAN, Ecometry or even Amisys, and they need to arrange the arrival of their software. Some software vendors are waiting to hear about their emulator needs on this unlimited platform.Of course, nothing is really unlimited in the world of computing. Right now Stromasys says it's hard at work to ensure its highest tier of virtualization software can match and exceed the power of an HP-built N-Class. Even Itanium endured these kinds of early days, many months of them, while it weathered its debut. It was a couple of years before any Itanium powered computer could keep up with the sleekest of PA-RISC processors.
It won't take that long for Charon HPA/3000. A virtualization simply mimics the hardware's architecture, instead of the task of retaining emulation while offering a new instruction set.
Expect the crowd at the Tied House to revel in the return of a 3000 community that hasn't met in North America since 2011. There will be the top executives from Stromasys to make the taps flow at the brewpub, then pour on the technical details and new horsepower developments the day after in training. Hundreds of HP 3000 customers have been contacted about the event. It will only take a handful of commercial applications -- maybe as few as two -- to come to the emulator's party and make it a hit.
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April 26, 2013
Ginny Seybold, 1925-2013There will be no regular 3000 Newswire posting today, due to the unexpected death of my mom Ginny Seybold. She passed away this afternoon quietly, in the Franciscan Care Center of my hometown of Toledo. Virginia Seybold was 87, a Depression-era youngster who danced on roller skates as a girl, full of spark and a spirit, Irish to her core, a young woman who became the mother of four Baby Boomer children. I will miss her always. Along with the tomorrows that she no longer can give, generous as a mother's kisses, there will be no extra yesterdays for us as well. She raised us all Catholic, but I hear another prayer today. "She will live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her."
April 19, 2013
Where Everybody Knows Your CPUNAME
The iconic TV show Cheers splashed a theme song about the fictional Boston tavern every Thursday, way back in the 1980s. It was a drinking outpost "where everybody knows your name, and they're all so glad you came." If attendance works out well for Stromasys at its HP 3000 Social -- four weeks away -- they're likely to have the same sort of turnout. The Tied House will be a place where everybody knows your name because so many will be familiar to each other. That's what more than three decades of community gives you.
This week the blue and white postcards arrived in mailboxes announcing the combination of Social and Training May 9-10. We found one in our mailbox, but word of the event is spreading beyond the reach of the US post. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft called to report he'll be at the Tied House. Neil Armstrong, developer and curator of Suprtool, has also been tracking the event closely.
These VIPs of your community will be joined by people experienced in 3000 matters who seek a way around aging HP hardware for MPE. And there will be some stopping by to see the names that they know and meet new ones with something in common. Everybody there will be listening for news about licensing. Right now this is a rare brew that prospects are thirsting for if they want to emulate a production machine.That postcard doesn't share much of the agenda for the meeting, some details of which are revealed at the Stromasys RSVP webpage. (The whole thing is free, by the way, right down to the heavy appetizers where everybody knows your name.) More to the point, it doesn't reveal the strategy that will drive your feet to that bar where everybody will know your name. Your interest in the emulator is assumed. Knowledge and experience and boasting and whining, laced with humor, were always the prime reasons for attending an HP 3000 user group event. In the absence of a user group, this kind of gathering will have to provide those usual incentives. Expect a lot of "we migrated awhile ago, and here's how it went" along with "we don't want to, and here's the license and support issues we need to solve."
The technology is not an issue. The training on May 10 will prove that to anyone who hasn't seen a demo yet, and the take-home freeware A202 version will give attendees an easy way to do a proof of concept.
Will the system administrator who's moving away from Powerhouse -- slower than expected -- be at Tied House, or the Computer History Museum the next day? Stromsays is keeping track of the RSVPs. Such an attendee would be interested in how the licensing is going with IBM, the keepers of the Cognos products. Powerhouse users have recent memories about investigations about their licenses, with demands for upgrade fees.
We've begun the effort to get Charlie Maloney of IBM, formerly of Cognos, to tell us anything about licensing Powerhouse for the emulator. No comment yet, after about a week of attempts. But Charlie is busy being the Software Sales Representative at IBM Software Group, Information Management, so he might need repeated attempts. I'll keep trying.
I anticipate that if the Tied House and CHM are filled with more than tire-kickers who want to talk about an emulator in demonstration, they'll get down to license discussions. An IT analyst up at a higher education institution said if license fees to move to the emulator match the annual HP 3000 hardware maintenance contract, it's a deal-breaker.
The issue that would destroy the cost-neutrality concept would be software licensing fees. To save costs during our migration to the ERP software, we let software maintenance lapse on all of the utilities that were permanently licensed -- that is, all of those that would continue to run without a refreshed license key each year.
It almost sounds like utility vendors on that system haven't earned a dime during the migration. Taking those utilities onto the emulator, sans support, is only even remotely possible if the emulator is stopgap on the way to a migration. We'll leave it to the reader to judge if its fair.
Migrating customers will look at these license vs. support tradeoffs and see the challenge of staying with MPE. They've made the decision to stay with hardware that demands a support contract of significant investment, but at least their software licenses have no surprises. It doesn't mean the software is anything close to free, since the 15-20 percent application support fees are in place. All that IBM, nee Cognos, will charge for its 8.49F Powerhouse is Vintage Support.
The tough part for that analyst is that his Powerhouse license is 8.49E, not F. The F version had all of its platform-upgrade fees removed, we learned. The way from 8.49E to F is as uncharted to me as Maloney's reply.
There's always the possibility that customers who know each other's name could get together to arrange a group negotiation with such upgrade-fee vendors. Stromasys won't do this officially; it's up to the emulator customers. As for those utility support dollars, they ought to be going to the vendors if those utilities are key to keeping a production system online. That's the 3000/MPE tradition: guaranteed uptime.
We hope it's a rich brew of license and support insights at Tied House, blended with the eye-opener of the training that includes a Linux cradle for the emulator the day after.
April 16, 2013
Why There are Always Parts Available
Last week on the 3000 newsgroup, HP hardware supplier Cypress Technology was offering an N-Class HP 3000 for $1,800. Cypress was even including an option to custom-configure the server at that price. The 3000 was selling without a license that could be transferred. But even this kind of investment would make an adequate disaster recovery system, given that it has a copy of MPE/iX already loaded on it. Even more useful would be the parts from the server -- a value at $1,800.
The Cypress box is a single 220MHz CPU with a 1.5Mb cache, 4GB total memory, a 9GB boot disk drive (how quaint; just a bit larger than a $7 thumb drive of today) and a 147GB main storage disk drive.
Hewlett-Packard once told the 3000 community that the vendor could provide custom legacy support through 2010, but the offering would depend on parts availability and the age of the HP 3000. But older systems might have parts which are no longer on the HP warehouse shelves.
But no matter how old the HP 3000 might be in your shop, you can be reasonably sure that spare parts will not prevent you from keeping it working. Five years ago this month, Wyell Grunwald offered a "practically free" HP 3000 on that same 3000 newsgroup. All that Grunwald wanted was the cost of shipping to send the 200-pound server onto its new home.
After one quip about this early '90s server making a good bookend, another community member said they could use the system for parts. Imagine, an HP 3000 PA-RISC server built in 1990 — yes, 23 years ago — still has parts available in your community.
The key word in that last sentence is community. Even when HP runs out of HP 3000 parts, the community can carry on the supply. This group got a lot of longevity when it invested in the HP 3000, as well as durability. The word "tank" is part of Grunwald's 922 description.
You can't overlook how underpowered the Series 922 is compared to any other HP 3000. After all, the entire PA-RISC line only started to ship in 1987, and only in significant numbers a couple of years later. Code-named SilverFox Low at its introduction, that Series 922 was a very early model 3000, just three systems off the start of the PA-RISC line.
The harsh numbers: This HP 3000 has just five percent of the horsepower of the smallest Series 979 or HP's smallest N-Class server. And now, there's an N-Class out on the used market, selling for less than a beefy laptop, albeit without license.
While you would not want to carry a lot of computing on a swaybacked steed of a 922, the fact that it remained a parts repository 18 years after it was built might give a homesteader some comfort. HP warned everyone starting out in 2001 that 3000 parts were going to become scarce in five years' time. So long as your community stays connected and communicating, the Hewlett-Packard support expertise in MPE is likely to get scarce long before many 3000 parts disappear altogether.
April 12, 2013
Stromasys Social meets at historic brewery
The free HP 3000 Social next month on May 9 -- prelude to the first free Stromasys Training Day on May 10 -- will take place in a private section of the Tied House Brewery and Cafe at 954 Villa Street in Mountain View. The official Stromasys webpage for this spring's Social+Training event promises heavy appetizers and free drinks at the Social, starting at 6 PM.
The Tied House website reports that the bistro is the 4th oldest microbrewery in California, and Silicon Valley’s original microbrewery. The cafe and brewery share the same building, with the Clubhouse mug wall on one side and the brewing operation on the other. After pouring 10 million pints since 1988 -- and sending a coaster into space with NASA astronauts -- Tied House beer awards include Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from the Great American Beer Festival, plaques from the World Beer Cup, and First Place Gold from the California State Fair.
The microbrewery is a 5-minute drive from the Computer History Museum on Shoreline Drive, where the Friday May 10 training takes place. A free lunch will be served during the 10-4 training that day. You can make your reservations for the Social -- as well as the next day's training on the world's only HP 3000 emulator -- at the Stromasys event's webpage, www.stromasys.com/hp3000eventStromasys will give away a signed copy of the MPE/iX Administration Guide by Jon Diercks at the Social, according to the company's webpage. Vladimir Volokh contacted the 3000 Newswire and has offered copies of the classic MPE book by Eugene Volokh, Thoughts and Discourses on HP3000 Software. The book includes a chapter MPE security myths. Those chapters, as well as an article on POSIX System Management with VESOFT's MPEX written by Stromasys product manager Paul Taffel, are online at the Adager website. Training attendees will leave with Personal Freeware copies of the Stromasys emulator. Other prizes and giveaways may appear between now and the next four weeks.
The greatest prize, of course, will be the chance for 3000 community members to see one another in person. These are rare events -- the last one was the HP3000 Reunion in the fall of 2011. I'll be on hand and hope to see you at the Social as well as the Training the next morning.
If you're coming in from outside the Bay Area, it appears that the Hotel Strata and the Hampton Inn and Suites seem to be the nicest hotels that are convenient both to the Tied House and the Museum. If you're planning to avoid using a car -- that's my scheme -- the Mountain View Caltrain Station is less than a mile from Tied House. And for any visitors via air, Caltrain runs trains that end up at San Francisco's Airport (via BART) as well as the San Jose airport (via a 12-minute bus ride.)
April 10, 2013
HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane
Ray Lane was brought in to Hewlett-Packard's board to refocus HP on the software marketplace. The company could see that the era of hardware margins was fast declining, and all of the highest hopes were aimed at the non-physical product. The actions to purchase Palm for its WebOS, as well as Autonomy for five times as much as that $2 billion, were the realization of a long-time HP dream.
Back in 1990 I rode a tour boat into San Francisco harbor. As a reporter for The Chronicle, I was being hosted for the HP CIMinar, where the CIM stood for Computer Integrated Manfacturing. Hewlett-Packard had a press liasion, Charlie Preston, who told me that the company pined for a day when it would manufacture little to nothing.
"It's all in software and services, Ron," he said. The boat was having a hardware failure at the time, a total loss of power within sight of the famous San Francisco Embarcadero Pier. While we bobbed and they kept filling our glasses, Charlie explained that the real power of computing was in services, aided by software. "In 10 years we don't want to be manufacturing much, including computers," he said.
One extra decade later, HP seems to be taking steps away from a virtual computer resource. Last week's exit of board director Ray Lane from the HP Chairman's seat seems proof enough that software has had its bumpy road of acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard didn't get its cart in the ditch without some risk-taking leadership. Lane arrived after years of Oracle work, savvy and a kingmaker. He remains on the HP board, but new leadership will be launching about the same time as the newest of HP hardware, the Moonshot servers.These servers are evidence that HP R&D is still alive and striving to boost the company with proprietary advantages. This was the model that let the 3000 help the company get started in business computing.
The Moonshot 1500 -- yeah, half of the numeral used for MPE/iX hardware -- is driven by low-power, smartphone-caliber Atom chips, which usually go into mobile devices. A Moonshot is about the size of an envelope, and HP can pack hundreds of them together into a single system. It's a supercomputer that according to HP uses 89 percent less energy, takes up 80 percent less space, and costs 77 percent less than more traditional server designs. Whatever those are. It doesn't matter. HP is building servers again that don't mimic anything.
The HP Moonshot 1500 can work for the Web and cloud computing companies. Clouds need cheap, powerful hardware systems, and all along in HP's history that's been the golden chariot to carry software and spark services. Yes, applications drive enterprise choices. But app providers aim at platforms. The Moonshot represents HP's re-entry into an orbit that launched its enterprise computing business 40 years ago. Yup, with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. If only there was software that HP had built itself that would make that hardware reach the stars. Maybe the company has that fuel somewhere in its legendary Labs.
April 08, 2013
Stromasys to get social to train for Charon
The creators of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator are rolling out their community carpet in earnest next month. Stromasys is hosting a HP 3000 User Social on Thursday, May 9 -- one month from tomorrow -- and then training at the Computer History Museum the next day, on May 10.
There is a free lunch. In fact, there's a free social on the evening before the training, starting at 6, where refreshments will be on hand, along with 3000 community members. If you couldn't make it to the first HP3000 Reunion in September 2011, this looks like another chance to reconnect in person with your community.
At the HP3000 Reunion in 2011, the event included drawings for copies of Jon Diercks' MPE/iX Administration Handbook. Harris said she's reaching out to Diercks to include his book in the event. It's a rare item. In addition to being the only book devoted to HP 3000 management, the Handbook is listed on Amazon as a $228 item.
Postcard invitations promoting the event are going into the mail within a week, Harris said. You can RSVP at a special webpage www.stromasys.com/hp3000event
It seems likely that a copy of the Personal Freeware Edition of the HPA/3000 emulator will also be available for pickup at the event. A European gathering of emulator prospects included copies of that software, freeware which turns any Intel Core i7 PC/laptop into a 2-user HP 3000, with some help from VMWare and Linux.
We'll have more Social-Training details as they emerge. These odd-numbered years have been good for 3000 events. CAMUS, the ERP-MANMAN users group, is hosting its virtual RUG meeting on April 17 (via phone and webcast). CAMUS' Terri Glendon Lanza also said the group would be glad to consider supporting this Spring's User Social, too.
April 01, 2013
Pontiff annoints future for old 3000 disciples
Spreading his message of hope for disadvantaged communities, newly-appointed Pope Francis gave an Easter address yesterday that offered promise for computer groups beating back injustices. "This is the age of miracles," the Pontiff said in a special high-band broadcast on the new social network Chirpify. Leaders of the HP 3000 homesteading community seized on the proclamation as proof that almighty forces were now at work to turn back the clock of change.
"We're on a mission from god," said 92-year-old Leonard Frapp, the engineer who coined the phrase minicomputer in 1967 after the miniskirt took the world of fashion by storm. "It's a lot sexier than those damn mainframe togs," he said of that creation that made white lab coats passe within a few seasons. "With this, we're using so little server fabric we don't even need a mini -- just a see-through virtualizer. Best of all, I can buy one of these virtual 3000s on Chirpify with my Galaxy phone." While grabbing a spoon, he added it was easiest to buy using the Jimmies with Whipped Cream Android release.
As the Pontiff launched a worldwide tour to spread the message of living on less, the new Pope booked his own reservations for a trip to Mountain View, California, where Stromasys conceived the immaculate idea of hosting the first HP 3000 Social and Stromasys training seminar in early May. Special Emissary for his Holiness Rev. Duce Scholdaduci said the trip will include air travel between New York and the Bay Area on Jet Blue. The pope will sit in the emergency exit row on the trans-American flight, since he's infallible about the safety of a commercial trip managed by an application created using MPE/iX.
"Hoc genus maxime est via amet," the pope said yesterday from his Twitter account, reaching out to explain why he was breaking with tradition of flying in his own jet in a special visit to the 3000 social. The phrase translates to "This is the most affordable way to go," although it was unclear if the Pontiff was describing the emulator or the coach-class low fares to the Bay Area during May via Jet Blue. The flight will offer a special Vatican Channel on the jet's in-flight entertainment in seat-backs.
Community advocates and professionals nearing retirement hailed the emulator as "special dispensation" from the fate HP predicted in 2004, when it reported "Time's Running Out" in an article from the Interex user group. Time did run out within a year, as the user group expired and cut off the haven for such messages.
The Pontiff alluded to the advent of other miracles among the 3000 faithful in his Easter message, including releasing ownership of MPE to customers and so end license-to-use ploys for abandoned products; creation of an ecosystem including leprechaun-managed cloud providers, compete with pots of gold; and the falling of shackles from the eyes of CIOs who still pray for relief from designing and managing their own datacenters.
"He's made a convert out of me," said Homer Popenoff, CFO of Industrial Malgamated Squid, a fish-substance processor in Florida. "We go our own way here in the Sunshine State. This plan to escape the hardware hostage situation sounds like heaven to us."
March 21, 2013
Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?
Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.
(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)
Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.
You can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.
Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.
The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.
Edminster said that he does a Store-To-Disk, usually to a separate user volume dedicated to holding backups; then he does an FTP or SFTP of this disk-backup to a NAS device, "where it's backed up by an enterprise backup tool."
Not addressed -- but implied in the marketing piece for Triple Store -- is the mechanism for recovering a backup from the backup appliance archive (or from SSD or cloud to the appliance, and then to your 3000).
Sure, you can just FTP/SFTP it back to the 3000's file system, should you need a backup image that's no longer on your user volume. The problem seems to be that won't preserve the MPE-ness of the Store-To-Disk backup files. Unless you take special steps, you might lose the MPE/iX filesystem characteristics of the backup -- making it difficult to restore from without additional processing. Not good.
I've been looking into simple ways to do this (preferably an FOS-only solution), and have been experimenting with a number of methods.
In the weeks to come, we’ll look forward to a report from Edminster on how to do this sort of multiple store using a limited amount of non-MPE software.
March 13, 2013
CHARON sets 3000's future
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.
By Alan Yeo
Third of three parts
If you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.
So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.
Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.
I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."
My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair.
They are certainly not giving HP 3000 users a get out of jail free card by giving it away. If you're using old HP 3000 hardware and versions of MPE/iX, then the upgrade to a modern CHARON-HPA/3000 server should be no more effort or cost than you would have incurred upgrading to the appropriate A- or N-Class HP 3000 (if they were still available).
I think the free personal 2-user edition is going to be of great service to the HP 3000 community, as it will enable a large group of people to still keep their hands on an HP 3000 — so they will still be available to provide support into the future.
Times they are a-changing
It's perhaps apt to compare this event in Frankfurt with the Ratingen event some nine years earlier, and realise how much has changed, and how much hasn't. Nine years ago if you read the Ratingen review, we got lost and drove around in circles. Today everybody has satellite nav, and probably on their iPhone, smartphone or tablet, none of which existed nine years ago. Nine years ago HP had a large support organisation at Ratingen and a huge production and software centre at Böblingen near Frankfurt. It's now all gone! Just shut down, or outsourced to Poland and Bulgaria.
Nine years ago HP was a big company in Germany; now it's just a few sales offices. Nine years ago there were a bunch of people in Ratingen wondering what the future of the HP 3000 was. On our February night in Frankfurt we finally got the answer: Hello CHARON!
As a final note, I did go back and read my old Ratingen piece from 2004. I'd concluded with "The meeting closed with the normal good-byes — but there was more than a sense that the paths of many of us, which had crossed if only infrequently over the last decades, might not intersect again as we set off in new directions." This has proved unhappily true. However, the upside of the Stromasys event was that as we departed, with freeware copies of an HP 3000 on a CD in our bags, I had the feeling that this time many of us expected to meet again in the future.
By the way, for those of you wondering why the Stromasys emulators are called CHARON: the legendary Charon is the ferryman over the river Styx, carrying you from your old life to the next. I'll leave it to your investigation to work out how Stromasys is derived from that legend.
Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.
March 12, 2013
Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade
Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.
By Alan Yeo
Second of three parts
I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0.
That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.
Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS.
That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.
How fast is it? The CHARON product manager Paul Taffel was very open about where the current sweet spot for performance of the CHARON emulator lies, which currently is anything up to the size of a low end N-Class. However they expect this to improve -- and unlike with the real N-Class hardware that officially topped at a 4-CPU system, using the Intel-based servers will enable Stromasys to create 6-way, 8-way and potentially even bigger CPU systems.
One interesting thing was pointed out that hadn't struck me before: we have been used to CPUs getting faster and faster, but these days that isn't quite so true. Most of the new boxes deliver high-quoted MIPS by adding more and more cores, rather than the individual cores getting any quicker. For an emulator that uses two cores to emulate an HP 3000 CPU core, this means there is actually a ceiling on performance. That's the performance from each core. So it might well be a while before commodity Intel hardware can match a high-end HP 3000.
In reality I don't think raw performance is going to an issue for anyone who's homesteading on older hardware. Looking at the great table of relative performance created by Wirt Atmar at his AICS Research site, you would have to be running a heavily loaded 9x9 or 997 for this emulator to struggle. That's not to say that there wasn't one company at the Stromasys event that said it was beta testing the emulator for such a requirement.
Next time: Accommodating tape technology and NAS, and summing up CHARON and where it takes the HP 3000.
March 11, 2013
HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt
It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.
Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella
This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.
The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK. In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier.
For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.
A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.It wasn't a case of saying they have a magic wand that will solve everyone's problems. Instead it was a frank presentation of where they have gotten to in matching the performance of the real HP 3000 models, and where the real issues are going to be in moving from a real HP 3000 to an emulated one.
Going Live Down Under
On the practicalities of moving a live production HP 3000 to the CHARON emulator, we had an on-line presentation from Warren Dawson of Hannover Life Re in Australia. It was 2 AM Australia time and Dawson had stayed up to share his experiences of moving his company's applications from a 20-plus-year-old HP 3000 947 system to the emulator, and their reasons for doing so.
I won't go into much detail, but some interesting bits for me were that the emulator route was taken quickly after an attempted migration to SQL was taking too long and was cancelled, and a couple of serious hardware failures that took too long to resolve. Both salient points that the wise heads in the HP 3000 community have been trying to get over for a number of years. If you're doing a migration, do a "Lift'n'Shift." Changing any more than the absolute minimum in a migration introduces risk and delays. Save the changes and enhancements until you are safely migrated. And just because there is lots of second-hand HP 3000 hardware around, it doesn't mean the bit you need is available where it's needed, or when it's needed, or that you are going to get up and running again before it starts to impact the business. Your homesteading, plan (and budget) should be for the worst case scenario — not to hope and pray for the best case.
Dawson was also clear that he needed and received the support and assistance of his third-party HP 3000 software vendors to make the transfer.
He was enthusiastic about the support he had received from Stromasys, whose beta test program he'd joined. I got the feeling that he might well have gone live ahead of the curve that Stromasys were anticipating. He was also very pleased with the performance of his new HP 3000, reporting that many procedures were running nine times quicker. Although to be fair, coming from a 947, even a genuine HP lowest-end, crippled A-Class would probably have done the same kind of performance lift.
Next time: The most important thing to realize about Charon HPA/3000.
Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.
February 21, 2013
HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles
HP is likely to remain intact for a long time, based on the comments from its CEO Meg Whitman at the latest quarterly report briefing. "The patient shows signs of improvement," she told an audience of analysts and the press. "We did better than we expected we would, and I think we should be encouraged by that."
Even though the company halted its quarters of red ink at two — Q1 delivered a profit of $1.2 billion, compared to the loss of $8 billion in the previous quarter — the top management delivered a dire report on business server enterprises at HP. Sales dropped company-wide by 6 percent to $28.4 billion. Its Enterprise Group sales fell $245 million, led by the continuing troubles at the Business Critical Systems unit.
"Our server business has a particularly strong market position in EMEA," said CFO Cathy Lesjak, "and the economic backdrop of that [region] is still dismal. The Itanium challenges within BCS are also still with us. There are key challenges still out there."
Lesjak said the news from the PC group — which HP said it has no plans to spin off — couldn't even meet HP's hopes. "Frankly, the business deterioration we are seeing in Personal Systems — particularly in EMEA and with notebooks — is worse than we expected."
One analyst on the call noted that the profit margins for the Enterprise Group have dropped for nine straight quarters. He wanted to know why, and Whitman laid the first pile of blame upon Business Critical Systems, the unit where HP sold 3000s until it dropped the server 10 years ago.
"The negative factor is the decline of BCS," Whitman said. "It was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]" Whitman went on to note that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.
"R&D is the lifeblood of this business," she said of HP's enterprise products such as HP-UX servers and storage. Whitman believes that the enterprise customers will bring along Technical Services business to improve HP profits overall.
So how did the company turn a profit for the period? It didn't have to write off the value of Autonomy this time around, or subtract the valuation (through a goodwill writedown) of its Enterprise Services Group. Those were multi-billion-dollar hits in the last two quarters, including $8.8 billion in the previous quarter alone.
Even though Whitman called 2013 "a fix and rebuild year," the company still expects to be delivering $3.40 a share in fiscal year profits. That amounts to $6.6 billion HP believes it will earn using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. These non-GAAP numbers are usually twice as high as accepted numbers. It still adds up to billions in profits for a year where HP says it's going to remain a single company.
"We have no plans to break up the company," Whitman said. "I feel quite strongly that we are better and stronger together." She believes that the past 10 years of business has built "the most valuable franchise in IT, particularly as we look forward to the most significant change in how IT is bought, paid for and consumed. We have a terrific set of assets, and we're going to drive that to really great business performance."
Even though HP's PC business contributes only 10 percent of the company's total profit, Whitman managed to spin that number into a positive. HP thinks pricing for PCs is going to be a problem, so it's glad that PCs only contribute a minimal share of earnings. The CEO thinks there's a better road ahead for an HP that remains intact.
"Customers want this company to be together," she stressed. "We heard that loud and clear on August 18, 2011." That was the day when HP released a quarterly report that it was studying a PC-Enterprise breakup. Shareholders sold down the stock that week on the news, along with the damage of dumping CEO Mark Hurd.
The return to black ink on HP's reports is a good sign about the company's futures, Whitman said. "The turnaround is on track. We have three more quarters to go in this year. We feel very confident about delivering the full year results. But we have to deliver, and we have to execute as an organization."
HP executed 3,500 employee departures in the first quarter, and it reduced its headcount by 11,800 in the fiscal year that ended in October. "We've now asked 15,300 people to leave the company," Whitman said. "We can actually see savings from that, and see a more streamlined and focused organization. This is the financial capacity we will need to hit our numbers. And it's the financial capacity we will need to invest."
February 18, 2013
When Bigger Isn't Better for Commerce
There are at least 60 companies in the world that are still using Ecometry direct commerce software on an HP 3000, according to members of that software's community. Perhaps four times that number have already made a migration off MPE/iX, many taking the road to Ecometry Open on Windows.
But that path might have become steeper than the migrated sites expected since Ecometry's owner RedPrairie decided to join JDA Software. JDA is to logistics software as Infor is to manufacturing: a company with a practice of purchasing other companies. Bigger is better to these kinds of entities.
A deal announced in November to combine the two companies says that RedPrairie is acquiring JDA by purchasing JDA stock, but it's a reverse takeover. RedPrairie is the smaller entity, buying up JDA stock to plow through the regulatory scrutiny if the deal was the other way around. The merger was announced as complete about six weeks later, during the Christmas week where news gets dumped because nobody is supposed to be looking.
A larger owner can sometimes not be looking at the best of interests of smaller, acquired customers. It matters enough that some users say say they're freezing Ecometry projects until they get convinced the software will still exist in a year. The 131 products that are now part of JDA, post-merger, suggest something's got to give -- at least in the software development resource derby. At Infor, plenty of software checks in with an ability to continue to pay for support. But development often slows for these acquired products, such as MANMAN.
There was a time -- and not so long ago -- when Ecometry was the sole focus of its ownership. Those owners included people who'd grown the customer base from its HP roots while the server was rebranded the e3000.It's not easy to remember what the "e" was supposed to stand for in e3000, but HP added the vowel as a way of trying to brand the server as a web resource. (Okay, you'll read something about Enabling growth, Enhancing app partner and solutions focus, and Embracing new technology. Less than two years later, Hewlett-Packard was using the little "e" to mean "extinguish," as it shut off HP futures for the server.)
Ecometry, named to draw upon the new e-commerce strategy, was a flagship app partner in that e3000 era. Even as recently as 2005, Ecometry was just taking its first departure into the realm of equity capital ownership.
The founders of the company, Will Smith and Allan Gardner, retired and sold off their firm in 2004, but that transaction didn't change things for customers as much as another retirement. The equity firm Golden Gate Capital, guided by Ecometry executives led by CEO John Marrah, mothballed a strategy that all Ecometry HP 3000 customers had to leave the platform by HP’s Dec. 31, 2006 support deadline.
Even though that deadline was extended twice by HP, that timetable never mattered as much as establishing a continuing support business. That's the strategy at Infor and JDA, too. MANMAN and Ecometry sites, regardless of their platform, buy support for their applications from the current owners.
Question 17 of an FAQ about the merger explains how a customer would know if their product had been terminated.
JDA’s general policy is that products are not sunset, and that customers are not forced to upgrade to specific versions of our products. Our customers are our top priority and we are committed to continue to provide customers value for the maintenance fees that they pay.
Additionally JDA has a comprehensive solution investment policy available online that outlines JDA’s industry-leading policy for supporting legacy versions of products. This policy will carry forward to the merged company.
JDA established that investment policy in 2011, after it acquired Manugistics and i2. These company brands like Ecometry, Escalate and even RedPraire all become integrated, running behind the shield of JDA. Some of the largest retailers in the world are being served by the combined product roster now, according to the FAQ. The combination of the two companies creates a customer list of more than 3,200. At its height of direct commerce focus, Ecometry had less than 400 companies in its client base.
What JDA now calls an impressive customer roster includes 82 of the STORES Magazine global top 100; 87 of the Consumer Goods Technology global top 100; and 22 of the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25. If that sounds like a mismatch against smaller retail customers such as Seeds of Change, TLA Video, Stumps and Diamond Essence, its because these smaller companies believe they're entitled to some assurances. One problem is the preferred system integrators for JDA, CAPGemini, Tata, and Wipro, can't work on projects of under $5 million. There's too much overhead to start the integration engines for less than that figure. Integrations figure large in the customer experience of "omni-channel" retailers like the Ecometry sites.
Smith and Gardner retired after building up their company to the point where they renamed it Ecometry. As it moved into equity capital ownership, it represented one of the biggest single groups of HP 3000 packaged application customers. There were the best-known brands in the 3000 base there as well, such as M&M/Mars, Brookstone and Title Nine.
The buy-up plan began in 2005 with the Ecometry doing the acquiring. It grew its customer base off competitors through purchases. Marrah said that Ecometry, bolstered by Golden Gate’s $2.5 billion wallet, "would pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy, buying companies to both extend its customer bases and advance its technology."
But in the meantime Ecometry was spreading the word that 3000 sites could expect application support of its MPE-based software during 2007. The 3000 sites can still buy support, six years later.
Customers say they want to know more than support plans for the lifecycle of a retailer app. The JDA Focus conference is scheduled for May 5-7. If there's one thing in common with those classic Ecometry days for these customers, it's the location of Focus. The show is held in Florida, the state where Smith and Gardner founded their company. RedShift, the RedPrairie conference, was to be held in Las Vegas -- where HP is opening its Americas Partner conference tomorrow.
February 13, 2013
Where they've gone: TV George, on from HP
For awhile in the 1990s, George Stachnik was the equivalent of Ed McMahon for the HP 3000 world. He hosted the first set of telecasts, via satellite feed to HP offices, directed at improving the HP 3000 customer experience. You were likely to see him at Interex user group events. And then he had a reprise as HP's voice of migration advice in a series of Webinars, back when that was still a new medium.
This year Stachnik has made his exit from HP, after more than 29 years of service. He has joined the staff at Porter Consulting in the Bay Area. The company develops marketing programs, collateral material such as articles and white papers, enterprise marketing management, and content delivery via websites and mobile channels.
In summary, it's the same kind of work Stachnik did for HP for the past two decades and more. He made a transition from HP support engineer to marketing in 1991 and never looked back. After the era of educating customers via satellite and videotape ended, he trained customers for HP's NetServer Division. These were Windows enterprise servers. To the last of his HP days, Stachnik was an enterprising face in the 3000's cast. One of his wilder moments involved destroying an HP 3000. Or attempting to do so.To be fair, it wasn't Stachnik who pushed an HP 3000 off a two-story building's roof during the 1990s. But he narrated the stunt that the marketing group had designed to prove the system's durability.
It's part of HP 3000 lore, and a simple 7 MB download that opens in the world's tiniest web video player window (as a Quicktime file). We scooped it up when the Web was a lot newer and that 7 MB seemed like a big file. His audio, however, is bigger than the movie looks.
Stachnik was also a prolific writer, penning a series of more than 30 articles for Interact magazine that educated the novice IT pro on using the HP 3000. The articles first appeared in 1997, at the 25th anniversary of the system. The full extent of that series is available at Chris Bartram's 3k.com website, in the papers section.
We say congratulations to him for landing in a new spot after taking leave from HP. He was one of the last lights from the 1990s 3000 group who'd remained at the company, at least in a very public job. Some engineers remain, working in other divisions. But nobody who could narrate a Parachute Event for the HP 3000 Games is wearing an HP badge anymore.
February 08, 2013
Software Love, Marriage and Breakups
In every IT manager's life they'll experience emotions. The ones that come from a deadline beaten, budget broken or program crashed seem most expected, even if managers cannot tell if the news will be good or bad. But the love between software companies, their marriages through mergers, and the breakups of product lines or entire corporations are a different matter to manage.
Software love is evident when two companies make their products work together to complement one another. You don't see as much of this as you did even a decade ago, not on the midrange level. Tick off the list of apps and utilities you use and count the ones that take data or processes from another. The 3000 vendors excelled at this, even while they were competing. That's what you get out of firms where the lab is three coders, and as they used to say in the old days, "sitting in a room across from each other and yelling." Software love comes out of labs at first, is blessed by marketing, then approved by the sales force or resellers at its culmination.
Marriage is everywhere by now, but it usually has little to do with love or with needs of customers. At least not the midrange customers of older products. When one software company acquires another -- like JDA being acquired by Ecometry-Escalate-Red Prairie in a reverse takeover -- not many customers get consulted. Those big enough to be already using products from both suitors get a handful of rice to throw. Users of older, established software get something tossed, too, but it is often at them, or overboard.
Companies acquire each other because the expansion of customers, coupled with retraction of jobs and products, makes the deal look good to finance chiefs and big shareholders or investors. It's too early to tell what's going to come of the smaller, but public, Red Prairie acquiring the larger JDA. One early metric is that this new conglomeration now has 131 products -- and fewer product managers than the former aggregate of these two corporations.
Marriage looks good on financial paper, attracts large customers who prefer large vendors, and triggers big change. In some cases, like when Infor bought MANMAN and dozens of other companies, everything got to live together on a massive product list. Your support-paying experience was uninterrupted, but these things signal the end of new features for old products, in many cases.We'll have more to report from the trenches of the multi-channel, or omni-channel, retail world. One survey has noted that 60 percent of retailers in the under-$200 million space are using Ecometry. And a surprising number of Ecometry sites -- well-known brands -- are still hosted on HP 3000s.
Like Infor in the manufacturing world, the bigger JDA suggests everybody's product is safe.
Will any products be discontinued? How and when will I know?
JDA’s general policy is that products are not sunset, and that customers are not forced to upgrade to specific versions of our products. Our customers are our top priority and we are committed to continue to provide customers value for the maintenance fees that they pay.
Additionally JDA has a comprehensive solution investment policy available online that outlines JDA’s industry-leading policy for supporting legacy versions of products. This policy will carry forward to the merged company.
By May it will be time for hard questions at what's now going to be a combined user conference for the two companies. Once again, managers are in the limited season of change for retail and e-commerce. By mid-year, all projects are locked down, and everything is finished by October. Some retailers make 80 percent of their sales in the final quarter of each year -- not a smart time to be installing, testing or even planning changes.
On the other end of marriage, the breakups become the most devastating emotional events for IT managers. A company whose parts get hurled to the winds of separate buyers loses more intelligence and experience than any other kind of relationship event. True, in a merger the sales rep you know might be one of the departed, judged against new peers who've sold differing products to other clients.
But in a breakup, the customers and accounts are all that a sales force of reps get to cling to -- because the ground they stood upon is crumbled. HP might be facing that kind of breakup, according to some analysts, this year. Others say there's a contingent in the company devoted to keeping it all together, one led by the CEO Meg Whitman.
An online finance publication as "sources familiar with the matter" say HP's leadership is considering a breakup. But that other factions in the boardroom don't feel the need, or even an urgency, to split up.
In a Dec. 27 SEC filing, HP said it was evaluating "the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives." But the board has not formed a special committee to assess a breakup option, and does not currently have plans to do so, the people familiar with the matter said.
At issue is not so much how well HP's products are received in the market, as how the stock markets rank the share price. Breakup fans believe their companies are under-valued. Here in Austin, Dell averted a breakup of its services and hardware groups by buying itself back. That's the confidence and swagger of self-love, a rare event in the technology business. Software suppliers usually start with non-public money from venture capitalists. They get rewarded when their investment goes public. But when fortunes slide like Dell's has in a market that's forgotten how to buy PCs, keeping the band together is only possible when you own the stage, so to speak. Private companies are more reactive to customers, even while they have to answer to a new investor group.
At Dell, that group is founder Michael, as well as a large investment group which is said to have serious Microsoft money funding the buyback. Companies can get too big to serve the majority of their customers well. Or to put it another way, too large to serve customers better than smaller competitors. They say that being a market leader pulling in big margins of sales is like walking with a target on your back. Everybody wants to do what this kind of company does, and they get a chance because they can compete on price. A small company can get along with 15 percent margin on sales, instead of 40. They have fewer names on the HR chart to feed.
January 29, 2013
Trends in Retailing on Wednesday Webinar
Retail users once made up the hottest part of the HP 3000 user base. Hot in terms of their rate of growth, in their visibility by delivering major brands' recommendations about choosing MPE. And hot in terms of handling large data stores and building the most crash-proof applications.
Several dozen customers of the Ecometry multiple Point of Sale technology are waiting to make a switch to another platform. In the meantime, the sector has a lot to teach any manager who's obsessed with uptime and high performance. Few datamarts are larger than those in retail.
The 3000's position in the retail market is shrinking, but the leading edge nature of the sector remains as potent as ever. On Wednesday Jan. 30 at 2 PM EST, data mart solution provider MB Foster shares what they've learned at the most recent National Retail Federation conference. The one-hour webinar intends to pinpoint what mission-critical enterprises are doing with current technology.
MB Foster provides critical technology to leading retailers throughout North America, and Europe. To insure our customers have the right technology and infrastructure to maximize their sales, we review and write about leading conferences in retail incorporating ideas into our vision and roadmap for our solutions.
The National Retail Federation puts on the “Big Show” a conference in New York as a showcase for innovative trends in retail. In this webinar, Birket Foster, CEO of MB Foster, shares his insights on those ideas that retailers can use today to increase customer engagement, build brand, streamline operations, and increase sales.
Registration for the free event is online, as is the content itself. You can have the company's automated phone technology dial your line for the audio portion, of listen to it via a very complete and intutive web interface.
January 24, 2013
How record sales, profits cost you billions
Unlike Hewlett-Packard, Apple reported record sales, record growth, and record profits for its latest quarter yesterday. The company has more than $100 billion in cash reserves. Its latest products are outselling the records set by preceding models.
And Apple just lost $60 billion in market cap in today's stock trading.
These are the rules of stock shenanigans that have kept scuffling companies alive while rocket-ships get pelted by analyst eggs. Nothing is more important than beating the estimates of these students of business. Beat them all, too. So if a company sells only 22.9 million tablets in 90 days -- a quarter-million iPads a day -- instead of 23 million, that's a "miss." Not just beat the estimates of profits, where Apple posted $250 more than the outrageous $13.55 a share estimate. It needs to exceed all estimates, not just slam out a $13.81 per share mark.
The coverage is being couched in terms of analyst estimates, and they need to protect their “phoney-baloney jobs,” as Mel Blanc’s Governor said in Blazing Saddles. Today’s fallout from the wiseguys’ reports were great news for the analyst clients who want to climb on board the stock at $450, I suppose. There’s been too much hype to withstand the “knock-em-down” counterpunch that always follows a brilliant run-up of anything.
For contrast, recall that HP's entire stock price is $17 today -- and it spent much of the latest quarter priced at the value of Apple's profit per share. HP is looking at a quarterly report in about a month that may determine if the company needs to break up the band. Back in the days of its hits like the 3000, it spun off Agilent and continued to grow. Agilent, the old instrument arm of HP, is where the HP Way went to live and thrive.
What does $60 billion in lost market cap matter? A lot compared to HP. That would be two times the value of all of today's HP cap. Destined to split itself in two, the former rival for personal computing will then have an enterpise business market cap of one-fourth of just what Apple lost today. Just for some perspective, folks.
HP got cuffed around not long ago in the same way by analysts -- but after it announced a fleecing it took in the Autonomy deal, plus reporting record red ink. What matters for any customer is still black ink, and not the kind that propped up half of HP's profits, flowing out of the printer division. Profits fuel R&D, unless a company is buying up its innovation. Even with a $60 billion hit, Apple will still be funding innovation tomorrow after 52 million shares changed hands today.The R&D at HP means the most to an enterprise customer, honestly, and especially to anyone migrating to a non-3000 enterprise product. It's hard to see right now where the R&D funding will come from at HP, unlike the Apple outlook.
With sales and earnings and growth tossed to the winds of worry, there seems to be no number that will generate a story other than “Apple is weakening.” Not an increase in profits to a record level, or a jump in revenues to the same. iPad sales, at 22.9 million, were just 100,000 tablets short of the analyst estimates. This is called a “miss,” even while the sales outstripped every other tablet 2:1.
One hidden issue is the lack of new iMac shipments, but that doesn’t seem to have hurt those top-line numbers. Operating margin decline is an concern, too, a measure of the cost in the future to create those rising profits. The estimate of the cash reserve on hand at Apple is more than $100 billion. And the latest quarter delivered $13 billion in profits. These numbers are so outrageous that it reminds me of the quote from Citizen Kane. Kane’s been told he’s losing $1 million a year on publishing the Enquirer. “You’re right. I lost a million this year. I expect to lose a million next year. At that rate I’ll have to close the Enquirer – in about 60 years.”
Apple could deliver record, quarterly earnings for almost two years just on the strength of its cash on hand — and sell nothing at all. But you can expect the machine to outpace itself by another 7 percent this quarter, by Apple’s now-cautious estimates.
So there’s not much wrong with any company still making the best product in the mobile market and raking in billions in profits for its R&D needs in the future. Contrast it with HP — trading at $17, with analysts forecasting a breakup and terminating dividends. Likely outcome for the former development, perhaps sketchy on the latter. But that’s a 13-cent a share dividend at HP. And Apple’s paying $2.65 a share, right?
HP should be so lucky to have the problems from numbers like Apple just posted. Not again in our lifetime, perhaps like the $700 Apple share price that those cheapskate analysts' clients never want to pay again.
January 21, 2013
Making Changes to Continue Vital Business
After enjoying the Inauguration's ceremony, pomp and poetry this morning, we turned to the business of the day here in Austin and elsewhere. Our local paper reports that hometown Dell is taking itself private, a serious change in financing that might spark some recovery for HP's primary PC rival.
Financial recovery will be at the top of the US political negotiations starting tomorrow. There's also recovery to consider in the 3000 community. Some of the businesses that remain as 3000 customers do so because the computer is still the best value for their business plans. Even without vendor participation, a server that works because its OS is stable and the hardware is durable looks like a better investment than making changes.
But some businesses are not so fortunate. A recent article in Computerworld tells the tale of several corporations which build change into their plans. They're in high-competition markets, these customers, the kind where even fractions of a dollar per transaction can help turn red ink to black. One example is Hertz, where the HP 3000 held on for so long that Hewlett-Packard extended high-touch MPE support for years after the official end-date. At Hertz, there was no 2009-10 limited support plan.
The Computerworld story comes from the CIO's office, so it's short on details like legacy servers (the CIOs like to call older systems legacies) such as the 3000. But a few notes stand out on this day when changes in the US are now underway, even while the President's strategies strive to continue vital business growth. Like including more middle-class citizens in a recovery. Ironically, if the US economy launches into a robust recovery, more small businesses might be able to follow in the Hertz footsteps -- and afford to make changes which will fail, which lead to changes that succeed.We like Hertz here as a car rental choice, just as we prefer to believe in a middle-class recovery that includes more citizens. Years ago I wrote a fun editorial about a trip to Hawaii to celebrate Abby's 50th birthday, a tale where Hertz played a role. Long's Drug, Chrysler, potato chips, and Hertz -- everywhere we seemed to look, the 3000 was supporting our trip.
So much has changed since that trip of the 1990s in the car rental business. Hertz -- whose bedrock systems looked more like mainframes than 3000s, owing to the need to link to IBM systems -- tried to install kiosks in airports in a significant change to its sales tools. Tried and failed, according to the article. In a section called "A Second Life" the company IT managers described the bad and then good of change.
Sometimes projects fail fast and then sit on a shelf until technology catches up to the idea. For instance, in late 2008, Hertz tried to launch car rental kiosks similar to those used by airlines. "It failed pretty fast," CIO Joseph Eckroth recalls. "Our process is so much more cumbersome than just checking in for your boarding pass and picking a seat. There are so many added things we want to sell, so it really didn't take off."
By 2010, the article notes, new video technology gave the kiosk changes a comeback. The new kiosks have two interactive video screens and Eckroth says they're a game-changer for Hertz.
Hertz, Hyatt Hotels, Steelcase, and Capital One were profiled in that report. They are not part of the 47 percent, as it were, of IT customers. They have large IT teams, and can build in the cost of failure on the way to change. Smaller companies, even if they're market space leaders like Dayton T. Brown, have to manage budgets differently, more slowly. Changes need to succeed sooner, if not on the first try.
A broader-based recovery of middle-class IT customers, just like the one the administration seeks, might be just the thing to trigger changes. To put it another way, if the tide rises for small companies using the HP 3000, some of them might be able to afford major changes to their environments. Like migrations.
January 16, 2013
Retailing is up, according to NRF leaders
CEO Birket Foster of MB Foster has just returned from the largest annual conference of retailers, and he's filed this early report on trends that will help shape IT plans to meet rising consumer activity.
By Birket Foster
Retail has become the economy's recovery engine. That's what the National Retail Federation NRF (NRF) touted as its theme at the Big Show in New York this month. Among other companies, Ecometry sites, including some using HP 3000s, have a strong interest in retail trends. They are in a time of change with the software which they consider an ERP application.
They might be encouraged to make such IT changes because business in retail is on the rise. The 102nd version of the NRF show -- what's new in the retail industry -- reports that the sector is creating jobs, careers, community and innovation. Speakers at the Big Show provided insight into the role retail will play in the economic recovery of 2013.
The retail industry (restaurants included) was touted last year as providing 25 percent of the jobs -- and triggering plenty of the votes -- in America. The NRF became active in addressing US candidates and the legislators to send advocacy messages on policies, ones that advance jobs and growth in the retail sector. These included tax reform, retail fairness, workforce flexibility and even healthcare.
During 2013 it is still about changing America, but this time taking a leadership role. The NRF wants to get retail leaders to take action and make plans to help the economic recovery happen. Some of those plans will involve commitments in IT, in expansions or migrations.
The message is clear: retail needs to take a leadership position and set an example for all of America and get everybody to look at how they can help with recovery. Even Newswire readers can be thinking what they can do -- personal consumption is an easy way to boost the economy. [Editor's Note: There's also local consumption in our IT community to consider -- by shopping local for services and software from 3000-savvy vendors.]
At MB Foster we are tracking the trends, and leading a January 30 Webinar on Retail, all to provide more details.
As consumers in your community, you can help through volunteer projects, by buying local where possible, and providing leadership by starting things: hiring people, launching projects, innovating and making changes. These are steps along the path forward to a vibrant economy. Mentor the next generation -- invest in the processes and people that grow your business and keep the economy rolling.
Our January 30 webinar will provide lots more detail. If you are interested in starting a project in 2013, MBFoster would be pleased to be your technology partner and trusted advisor, helping you to change your world by moving from a vision to reality. We deliver on time and on budget -- it sounds cliché but it is what we do -- whether it is a data migration and application migration, integrating systems or even rethinking your customer's mobile experience. Give us a chance to give you a great experience in innovation and change.
Birket Foster can be reached at 1-800-ANSWERS (800-267-9377) extension 204, or by email at Birket@MBFoster.com.
January 15, 2013
Foster looks into IT crystal ball Wednesday
Journalists like me are always a sucker for trend stories. People expect a message of the future to emerge from analysis, and IT consumers look farther ahead into the future than most buyers. You're expected to be ready for change at the moment it occurs. I enjoy it when somebody else is doing the trending.
That's why it will be most interesting to see what Birket Foster and his team at MB Foster have to say about IT trends tomorrow, January 16, starting at 2 PM Eastern Time. This is the first Wednesday Webinar of the new year for the company. They're reaching out to predict what will happen in a wide array of 10 sectors:
- Big Data
- Social Media
Registration for the event is free, at the MB Foster website. The webinars usually take less than an hour, including questions and answer sessions.
Foster and his team have been on the HP 3000 scene for 35 years, starting from his work as an independent software representative and consultant in the days before Cognos was named Cognos. That's why he asks
Remember when we used Excel or Lotus spreadsheets to create sophisticated reports? Whereas today Business Intelligence (BI) and the future trend of analytics and ‘information is power’ are emerging as the norm.
We’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Every year we reflect on the IT world and the trends we see that will matter for the coming year. At MB Foster we have the advantage of working with customers in many industries and in different countries; this gives us a unique perspective on upcoming trends in technology.
Even though 2012 was a remarkable year for technology, we’ve got our eyes on a list of 10 Information Technology trends that should help anchor your business, present or future, and help you build a broader, more agile enterprise.
Attending will offer new understanding to tech advancements "that are sure to gain significantly greater mind and market-share over the coming year and by organizations around the globe." Birket loves this stuff and looks forward instinctively. We'll want to watch him connect the dots that lead away from the world of the 3000.
December 31, 2012
Artisanal Computing: A Future for the 3000
You've probably heard of the artisanal concept. That's a hand-crafted, customized product or service that never intends to compete with commodity options. It's better in ways that only the elite can value. You can buy your cheese from Kraft, or your bicycle from Trek. Or you can get a delicious wheel of Terraluna from the dairy up the road, or ride a hand-tooled bike built in that little shop outside Seattle. This might become the stature for the HP 3000 in the years to follow 2012.
Much of what remains in the homestead community is running custom-crafted code and applications. The pros managing this software and these systems are artisans. These companies are doing business with a computer that's become a re-creation of its original design. HP once stamped out 3000s at factories in Roseville, Calif. and in Boeblingen, Germany. The parts rolled out in an industrial process, and the operating system software was bolted together and tested in corporate labs.
An artisanal offering is an alternative to the processing which is usually viewed as industrial. With no more hardware being stamped out of an assembly line, the 3000 is going artisanal with its emulator -- and the OS is sitting in the cradle of Linux, an open-sourced OS of artisanal heritage. You go old-school with your 3000 computing, using tested and proven technology that is as bedrock as the sourdough bread that's baked with decades-old starters.
Brian Edminster, who's been cultivating a repository of artisanal open source software for the 3000 user, pointed us at a web essay that illustrates how artisanal is more than just a step beyond industrial. It's a step forward into something entering a new stage of life, evolving. "It seems to me," he said, "that the entire post applies just as well to our beloved HP 3000." The essay explains.
Only when a thing is made obsolete can we discover if there was some underlying value — beyond utility — that some people found compelling enough to keep alive or evolve into something new. The horses bred today for “recreation” are dramatically different from the workhorses of the past, but they are still… horses.
While horses don't do the work of transport they once did, there's still a $40 billion a year recreational market in them today, more than a century after they dominated the world's transport. "What else is being made obsolete now," the essayist asked, "that might emerge from the ashes in a new, powerful form?"Edminster offered this idea on the eve of the 42d year in which the 3000 will perform in some stage of its evolution.
Reflection on past, present, and future, is part and parcel of the end of year holiday season for me. This is an opportunity to reflect on what exactly it was that made the HP 3000, its MPE operating system, and various subsystem software such a great platform -- and what parts of that are worth keeping alive for the future.
Like Edminister, we look forward to the coming years and new stories of artisanal computing, as well as the aspect of the 3000 and its community kept alive by prospects for cloud hosting and virtualization -- all using a classic set of tools in its software. We'll take off the first day of the new 2013 to mark this passage into the 42d year of 3000 computing. I'll see you on Wednesday with more reports from the artisanal era that is emerging.
December 13, 2012
HPQ fights its way back, but riding Icahn?
Hewlett-Packard stock prices made their way out of the $11 range and back into the $14.50 territory this week. The backing for the vendor which makes the migration target environment HP-UX saw a rally of 26 percent over the last 15 trading sessions. That's the period since HP last made a comment or a report on its Autonomy debacle, or the second straight quarter of red ink overall.
After trading 154 million shares during that rock-bottom November 20, HP's fortunes have risen. But for what reason, the analysts are asking. Not on the strength of the HP Discover announcements in Germany last week. HP didn't push above $14 a share until Monday. Its appointment of new EVP Mike Nefkens to lead HP Enterprise Services emerged a week earlier. Its beefed-up Converged Cloud Portfolio made its debut December 4. No seemingly plausible connection there, either.
HP announced its bedrock quarterly dividend of $.13.2 a share as usual, payable to stockholders of record as of Dec. 12. That would have helped get the cart out of the trading ditch this week. But another rumor about the maker of Integrity-Itanium servers emerged over the last few days. Takeover king Carl Icahn might be purchasing HP stock.
Or not, since the 5 percent purchase of outstanding shares threshhold hasn't been triggered yet. Once a stock gets a buyer at that rate, SEC rules kick in and the curtain is pulled away. Nobody knows if Icahn could make a difference to a company whose printer business has stopped growing and whose PCs are now running behind Lenovo's. And some are asking if the legendary activist investor even wants to shake up HP's board.Insider Monkey's Marshall Hargrave thinks that the outstanding HP shares, even at $14, are too big of a bite for even Icahn's tastes. Icahn would have to purchase $1.4 billion of HP stock to set off the 5 percent report.
Although the initiatives and far reach of HP makes it a compelling long-term value play, it does appear to be a bit out of Icahn’s scope and size. While it might not be likely that Icahn is backing HP, we believe that investors can buy in at a relatively reasonable price. HP trades at the cheapest forward P/E (4.1x) compared to Dell (6.2x), Microsoft (8.4x) and Apple (9.3x). Assuming HP can initiate key savings, it very well could trade in line with Dell on a P/E basis given its market share dominance.
Therese Poletti at Market Watch notes that some investors would like to see pressure to spin off HP's server business, including that Itanium line that HP 3000 customers follow -- at times -- when they turn off their MPE servers.
An outside investor like Icahn -- or someone else -- could argue that the corporate business, which includes services, servers, and software, does not need to be attached to PCs and printers. Other have argued, however, that the company gets more purchasing power when buying for all the hardware businesses at once.
HP has argued that "we sell more servers when we sell everything" over the last two years, while its fortunes skidded. Post-Mark Hurd, the value of such a consolidated HP has fallen 70 percent.
It's encouraging to see Hewlett-Packard rally itself, if only to protect the futures of its technology from a takeover sell-off. One of the last things HP divested itself of, tech-wise, was the WebOS environment for tablets. HP-UX is unlikely to ever suffer such a fate as being declared open software. If HP couldn't do it for MPE/iX, just imagine how a product serving big customers will fare.
December 12, 2012
Testing and waiting: Top 2 emulator tasks
At least every other day, a 3000 user calls or emails us to ask about the arrival of the Stromasys emulator's freeware version. To recap just a little, this 2-user version of the HPA/3000 would be free to run on any Intel Core i7 or faster PC. The freeware user would input their own HPSUSAN number to get third party software running.
I have to say would because for the last 30 days the freeware has been stuck in the Stromasys development and approval cycle. It surfaced as briefly as a salmon on a summer stream on November 9-10. Then the too-bountiful bundle that included HP's subsystem products was taken off the Stromasys FTP site. The full-scale emulator is being tested, however, by some customers as well as vendors.
MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster just reported today that "We are still testing it, and just added the disc to get ready for throughput testing." Like the managers at some of the other beta test sites, Foster posted a command line stream that showed DISCFREE operating by way of the emulator. His company which sells and supports software for the 3000 community is looking at how extra disc space would impact the use of the product.
There are also other sites in the community which are doing their own beta tests, probably of the full product. Frank Gribbin of the law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon said he's been doing some limited development. He's impressed with the speed.
I am still using BASIC, some FORTRAN and a little SPL. I like the interpreter for rapid development. The compiled code is fast, even faster on the Stromasys emulator.
Gribbin has been on the trailblazing path with the 3000 before this breakthrough. His company was among the first to put Java/iX to work in its production software. Now the emulator software is looking for a foothold, but the delay in releasing that freeware code might be costing the HPA/3000 some early adopters. The holidays are only a week or so away.What does the onset of the Christmas-New Year week have to do with embracing the Stromasys product? As one developer told me this week, "I'm getting to the part of the year where I have extra time. If I had a chance to look at the emulator, it would be easiest now."
He also asked, like others have, if we could prevail on Stromasys to kick loose that rare software bundle that flashed out of the water a month ago. Believe it or not, there are still some 3000 customers who haven't kept up with how far the full product has traveled. It's been a journey with some happy endings.
We've reported a couple of data points on the emulator; three actually, including one from the field. We have reports from testers Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Gavin Scott of Allegro, both of whom put the freeware version through its paces in November. These testers had two distinct backgrounds.
Yeo admitted that the emulator will be disruptive to his migration business, but he found the software to be fast and reliable. Scott supports HP server sites including those which use MPE/iX, as well as Linux and HP-UX installations. He found it zippy and even got it to run in under 6GB of RAM.
We also reported on an IT manager in Australia who has installed the emulator to replace an aging 3000 and drive a customized in-house app suite, all now in production. Stromasys provided us with that reference, and I did an hour-long Skype interview with Warren Dawson.
We continue to be promised by Stromasys that the freeware edition will be out any day now in full public release. Even though it's only a 2-user license, it has been reported faster than a 918 by a factor of up to 4, so long as you have 8GB of RAM on a i7 core Linux system for hosting it. The speedup of the emulated 3000 is likely to be removing the PA-RISC hobbling which HP introduced in its HP 3000 hardware. If nothing else, the PA-RISC "chips" emulated in the Stromasys product can be used at the full speed of the PA-8800 processor.
However, more deliberate speed of release would quicken this product's chances of catching on in places where word of mouth and references could lift its profile. Vendors and licensing departments seem to be welcoming it, so long as a customer arrives with the emulator in hand and wants to continue support of their MPE/iX products. Even though a consultant or a small support shop will be able to work inside the freeware's 2-user limits nicely, many of them have clients who'd consider a full commercial license. They just need someone who can reference this new tool.
You might even consider the freeware release to be a holiday gift. We're just trying to be encouraging here.
November 30, 2012
It's time to admit that IBM won at being No. 1
It's taken more than 10 years for all of the votes from the business community to be counted. But after HP launched into a campaign to become the world's largest computer company, by buying Compaq in 2001, the enterprise IT legend that HP's chased has finished at No. 1.
Not in company sales, of course. As Kane's financial manager Mr. Bernstein says in Citizen Kane, "Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money." The trick HP wanted was to make a lot of profit while increasing shareholder's value. This week we received two pieces of news about that odyssey to be No. 1. Both suggest the game is over, and HP will need to try to win the next, different game.
First, the bond rating service Moody's has downgraded the value of HP's debt paper to just three steps above junk bonds. HP's debt carries the steepest risk ever at a Baa1 rating. This didn't matter as much when HP held so little long-term debt. That's not the case today. About $25 billion in debt is affected, Moody’s said.
Second, the price of HP's stock has taken a tumble all through 2012. It's dropped so low in company valuation that Public Storage of America, a $1.8 billion storage unit renter, is now just below HP's valuation. Hewlett-Packard is the diving blue dot in the valuation chart, and PSA is the green. HP now needs 330,000 employees and $130 billion a year in sales to keep up with a storage unit company's value. HP lost that valuation that's charted there in a little more than one quarter. There seems little chance of regaining it while HP's built the way it is today. 2013's February 21 looks like a genuine fork in the road. HP reports its Q1 results that day.
In this week's New York Times, an op-ed piece written by a CEO contemporary of the Bill-and-Dave HP says it's time to split up Hewlett-Packard. Not to improve its valuation. To save the company, says Bill George, now a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.Immediate salvation is required, if you read the business press. You could talk about the HP leadership of this era by pointing at articles like "Why HP Won't Fire Meg Whitman (At Least Not Right Away)." If they do, that would be the fourth straight CEO fired by HP. The last CEO who held the job through a peaceful resignation was also the final CEO groomed from within HP's ranks. Wow, Lew Platt: who among us ever thought he'd look like a powerful business leader?
But Platt wasn't made of the stuff that sent HP sniffing after every computer business where it didn't have a lead and wanted it, all in the chase to make a lot of money. That $22 billion to buy Compaq was Carly Fiorina's first brainstorm, but the profits didn't rain down on the company. Then there was the $14 billion spent on EDS, just so HP could puff itself up with a 144,000-employee headcount and compete with IBM's Services business. This too was recently written down.
All that Platt seemed to know how to do was lead an HP that was still investing in enterprise technology. His was the last CEO term where the sensible 10 percent R&D expense was safe on the HP books. R&D grows value in companies, especially ones like HP that can't carry off an Apple turtleneck cool or maintain IBM's ediface reputation.
The only thing that's succeeded in the HP march toward bigness, is, well, bigness. An employee force so large that it could lay off 75,000 workers over a decade and still be larger than it ever has been, paycheck-wise. IBM dropped its PC business at about the same time HP bought up billions of Compaq sales. Add in $10 billion of Autonomy (another writedown, with a swindle story in play) and HP's gotten what it wanted to be. Very big.
But while it drifted from the HP Way, the company watched Apple pass it to become the largest technology company in sales. HP has struggled because it wanted to be IBM and Apple at the same time. Each of these companies outflanks HP in size that matters: valuation and profitability. By factors of 10, or more.
George, who was CEO of Medtronic before he moved to the Harvard business faculty, pointed out that HP's quest to be No. 1 has been costly.
With 330,000 employees and $120 billion in revenue, HP has become too big to manage.
It is really two businesses: a commodity personal computer and printer business and an enterprise systems, services and software business. The characteristics of these businesses are entirely different.
And so while you've been assuming that a very large vendor could deliver very large value, HP's R&D and management have been taken from pillar to post, from PC to IT. That thrashing means that now a storage unit company is worth just slightly less than the creator of the MPE/iX, PA-RISC, Superdome, IMAGE, and ink-jet printing.
Whitman -- for as long as she lasts after a scary 2012 where shares tumbled as steeply as the chart at right shows -- should be tossing in the towel on this fight to be No. 1. She's got to try to bail out a listing ship. George points out in his article that HP's enterprise business demands heavy R&D, "including very sophisticated software (an area where HP is sorely lagging behind IBM, Oracle and SAP), high touch customer service, and an expensive support structure to meet its customers’ complex needs."
In its current form, Hewlett-Packard is a wasting asset, whose value to customers, employees and shareholders is steadily declining. It is time for the board to move quickly to restore its former status as a company everyone can admire, one that can compete successfully in two very different global markets.
There's a game where HP can finish on top, perhaps. It lies on a different field from trying to run a company large enough to be No. 1, while trying to beat two wildly different rivals at the same time. Whenever HP starts playing that new game -- cleaving itself into a $60 billion IT company and a $60 billion PC company -- its enterprise users can look away from this blowout loss that's taken a decade to sink in, after chasing No. 1.
November 21, 2012
One month, Twin markers, News on Paper
For the past 11 years I've written a story during the month of November about the greatest un-natural disaster your community experienced. It's shameful and inappropriate to compare the end of 3000 futures at HP, announced on November 14, 2001, as anything like Superstorm Sandy. Lives haven't been lost. But livelihoods have been, at least. More than a decade after that business-only decision, we all are suffering through the changes HP dished out during that fall.
As it turns out, fall was also the season when we launched the 3000 NewsWire. The mashup of creation memories with what HP's always called "end of life" makes for a complicated, bittersweet time. The same energy -- change -- gave the community our printed publication as well as HP's exit announcement just six years later.
But we have survived along with you, although the suffering metaphor to powerful climate change storms will stop right here. It was scary and uncertain in those first months after a suprising announcement that wasn't a surprise to some skeptics. Now everyone is crossing into our 12th year beyond that ill-fated Nov. 14. And this month we are watching a virtual 3000, the HPA/3000, take its first steps, probably into even more years to come.
However, we used to mark our newsletter's anniversary with our October printed issue. Within five years of that HP exit plan, our printed editions evolved to quarterly products, rather than monthly. We have sponsors and readers who prefer to read this vehicle in print. Amazon sells a lot of paper, even in 2012. But the trend is toward online reading. It's why we moved our reporting toward the news blog more than seven years ago. By the time you read this, we will be crossing the milestone of 2,000 stories reported on the blog. That's happened in less than half the time the NewsWire has published.
And today the 149th issue of the 3000 NewsWire went into the US Mail. As they used to say on TV, more to come.Just like many of you remain connected to using the HP 3000 as a mission-critical tool, we've remained devoted to print. My partner Abby and I cut our publishing teeth in an era where paper and ink were the only means to spread news. Outside of our offices here in Austin, a massive mailbox still stands next to the curb. It's large enough to hold a dozen tabloid-sized trade publications. We had nothing else but paper. It deserves an honorable place in our business plan, even in 2012. That paper issue still breaks news that our subscribers read first, even before the blog. Watch your mailbox in the week to come.
Like you, we're cutting against the grain by sticking to some print. In Detroit and New Orleans, daily papers are no longer daily in printed versions. Newsweek just chose to stop printing, taking its news services completely online. Even at the writing workshop sessions I lead in the evenings, my writers often prefer to buy e-books. "I want to save paper," said Blake last night, "whenever I can."
Change is one of the great forces for good in the world, and so we should embrace it and be happy in the growth it promotes. But it takes an open mind and instruction to adopt such an advanced skill. One printed book — at least I bought it recycled — sitting on my nightstand is The Five Things We Cannot Change, and the Happiness We Find Embracing Them. Control and forecasting are two skills I've often found in our community's members. They're a natural for a journalist. But those two things stand in the way of growing.
It's important to know the Five Things.
1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan
3. Life is not always fair
4. Pain is a part of life
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.
Many of us are moving into the third act of our lives by now, so it's a good time to turn some pages and see how these Five Things have already applied to the lives we've led together as co-owners of an HP business computer without peer, or as a storytelling writer and editor and his readers across more than 17 years.
Every computer ever made will change, and its lifespan will someday end. Yours did, and it will.
Things do not always go according to plan, like HP's Powerpoint slides you saw and believed in August of 2001, charts predicting the future. Or the plans which HP worked at, with some gusto, to make the 3000 a good alternative to the endless fixing of Windows and Unix business servers.
There's the fact that investing in 3000 skills and servers during Y2K was unfair, in the light of seeing that server abandoned by HP less than two years later. The end of HP's 3000 plans inflicted pain on paychecks, on company budgets and survival. Perhaps hardest of all, we've all learned that people are not always loyal all the time. Or their loyalties shift away from ours, while they protect their jobs.
So knowing all this, there are graces that flow from the Five Things. From those endings and change, things renew themselves and evolve. We can sense a larger plan at work when smaller ones fail us. We remain committed to fairness, when the unfairness helps us defend that.
We expand our powers by enduring pain. And even in the face of not getting the loyalty we deserve, we don't have to stop our own loyalty, or the love of what we adore. Nothing can take away your capacity for loyalty and love.
These are higher ideals, but you can see how they apply to a community whose greatest stories are still to be written. There's a memoir series afoot to celebrate the 3000's roots. There's the rise of an emulator to eliminate any need for a vendor's good business sense. There is also a compassionate and ever-wiser font of helpers, vendors and consultants, to aid in your evolution to whatever is next.
In my writing workshops, where I often use hardback books to teach, I have a prompt to offer that sparks free writing. I invite writers to imagine a story that has defined them for many years. Then I ask them to begin writing, "This is the last time I will ever tell this story." This month will not be the last time we recount the story of how the 3000's future changed.
We cannot change that day, but there are many other things we'll change because of it. We'll evolve and reach out to grow, because we still can count on good roots. Abby and I are delighted to have been able to protect and nurture and chronicle them for these years of change and transition. Thank you for your devotion and attention. We'll see you in print once again, in 2013.
-- Ron Seybold
November 09, 2012
Emulator freeware users input HPSUSANs
Stromasys has completed the engineering on its Personal Freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. The software is available for downloading will be available from the company's FTP servers once issues with subsystem software licensing are resolved. Several bundles are available -- more on that in a moment -- but even more flexibility comes through assigning an HPSUSAN number for the emulator.
According to the Stromasys CEO Ling Chang, a user who's downloaded and installed the freeware can simply type in the HPSUSAN which belonged to a legal HP 3000. No certified USB keys are required, an element that would've made the freeware a $50 item, according to CTO Dr. Robert Boers.
Chang said that a warning message upon bootup of what it calls the A200 emulator says "The configuration file of this freeware allows you to set the HPSUSAN number. Please know that you should only set the HPSUSAN number to a value that you are legally entitled to."
Chang added that Stromays would like freeware users to send a donation to the American Red Cross for superstorm Sandy relief.
The packages available include a full 2GB VMware kit, including the A200, which a user can uncompress and open with VMware Player.
A freeware user will also need a 64-bit Linux Desktop distro; the A200 freeware runs under Ubuntu and Fedora (both free) or commercial RedHat 6.2. A smaller set of files, without the VMware Player-ready kit, will also be available.Since that full VMWare 2GB download might take as many as five hours to retrieve, a shorter path to a bootable download exists on the Stromasys server. Stromasys supplied links for the emulator file itself (5MB) and a compressed disk image which includes MPE/iX (398MB).
We'll keep you updated on when those links will be up and running again.
This story was updated Nov. 10 to reflect the removal of the files from the download addresses which were forwarded by Stromasys.
November 06, 2012
Voting for Security, Obscurity and Propriety
As I write this the polls have closed in the eastern-most time zone for the US elections. Nearly all of the ballots cast in this election have passed through some kind of electronic device, from a touchpad to a click wheel to other, non-uniform interfaces. You might visit a dozen counties in one state alone and see as many proprietary devices. Proprietary carries a negative vibe, this decade as well as this evening. A troubling report in Forbes related how experimental software patches in Ohio might be on live production voting machines today. Those are likely to produce unintended results, as such beta patches often do on HP 3000s.
But the word proprietary has a root of propriety, and that means proper: according to agreed-upon and accepted processing. You'd never sling out beta patches on an HP 3000 because it's just not proper. Your intention is to produce expected, reproducible and fact-checkable results. The fallout from using a proprietary interface, software or patch is simple: someone who's an insider needs to check it. And in a sinister aspect, knows how to crack it.
Decades ago the steady value of the HP 3000 and MPE was its security, one which flowed from privileged mode code. Then during the '90s it was the system's obscurity, once open-source and open system computers took the IT lead. Few people knew the 3000 well enough organize a serious breach. You were much more likely to be hacked from the inside, according to Eugene Volokh's classic Burn Before Reading. The same might turn out to be true this week, if the worriers from Forbes have conjured up a plausible nightmare about election machines. This evening, the biggest news outlets also fretted about the prospects.
Even during this data revolution, the 3000 is remaining settled in its nest of propriety as it's become ever more proprietary. The solution to the balloting mess is to standardize on devices and open the software. Not because the latter is harder to hack, but because an opened-up system is easier to scan for malware. The HP 3000 didn't need security patches after 2008 because the systems practiced propriety to earn their keep, and they were secure through their obscurity. National election voting systems don't have to meet that bar today. It costs too much, apparently.My security expert colleague Steve Hardwick said that he's been involved in developing a secure voting system which could maintain its propriety. But the project didn't see the light of day in any of the 50 US states.
I did some work on a standard that would have provided very secure voting software. The effort was abandoned due to final cost of the units. Any system, including the physical one in place today, can be circumvented. I have not seen anything showing the comparative security to the physical one. At least the lawyers will have a field day. I wonder if this is the "hanging chad" of this election.
Nobody's hoping for such a thing, especially with so much at stake. But an HP 3000 veteran might be wondering, sometime tomorrow, how such a set of incompatible systems, installed entirely at local whim and desire with software so complex it can't be independently verified for security, could be rolled into production for this country's Big Event. It's the kind of thing that would get an IT pro of age 50 or more fired, if the results became improper.
To establish security of HP 3000s by now is a matter of sticking to an environment that's stable and limiting the access -- just like Eugene wrote in the 1980s. You keep track of who's got access and when to determine where the theft or malfeasance may have occurred.
The very fact that someone is trying to run payroll across a phone line at 11 P.M. on a Saturday is an indication of unauthorized access. Thus, it is worthwhile to implement some form of security that prohibits access to certain user IDs and accounts at certain times of day, days of week, and/or from certain terminals. Alternatively, you might want to force people to answer an additional password at certain times, or especially when signing on from certain terminals.
This may seem like a poor approach indeed -- after all, if the thief hits the time of day, day of week, or terminal prohibition/password, this means that he has successfully penetrated the rest of your security system, which will never happen -- right? In reality, this is a very potent way of frustrating would-be security violators, especially if the attempted violators are promptly investigated. Thus, another maxim appears:
Some forms of access are inherently suspect (and therefore require Extra Passwords) or are Inherently security violations. Thus, access to certain user IDs at certain times of day, on certain days of the week, and/or from certain terminals should be specially restricted.
Eugene Volokh could understand those basics and preach them to his community of computer pros 30 years ago in his paper. By now, he's in government work, in the sense that he's a constitutional law expert and a maven of free speech. We might all hope, before our week is finished, that the philosophy that 3000 users knew in the 1980s about authorized access has traveled from Eugene's first community to his current one: the realm of the US courts.
Nobody ever hopes for a test of security, but it's expected that a system will pass -- or that changes, recalculations and improvements will result from any lack of propriety.
October 31, 2012
3000s can beat fiery, flooding disasters
As the New York and New Jersey grids battle back to restore power and pump out floodwaters today, we recall the stories of HP 3000s that survived almost anything nature had to dump on them. More than once we've heard tales of systems still running, while plugged in, surrounded by several inches of water.
We've checked in on several HP 3000 sites in the Tri-State area but haven't heard back from the likes of NPD, Jennison Associates or the Local 237 chapter of the Teamsters in New York. Perhaps out of harm's way, or maybe just too busy reconnecting the rest of their infrastructure -- or waiting for the power to come back on.
But one of the early stories we ran in our blog came in the summer of 2005, while the waters of Hurricane Katrina were falling away, slowly. The advice about recovering a 3000 intact after that flooding still holds true today.
John Saylor, Director of Special Markets for 3000 supplier Quest Software, posted some very basic advice back then about restarting equipment after a water disaster:
If your equipment has gotten wet, take a moment to plan your recovery strategy before you plug anything back in. To begin with, don’t plug in anything if it’s even damp, let alone wet. Make sure that any equipment that has been touched by water is completely dry before turning it on. That goes for battery-operated equipment as well as equipment that you plug in. If the water damage was minor, it might work fine. Even if it’s underwater, you might luck out. I once had a cell phone that went through the washing machine yet miraculously worked once it dried out. Had I turned it on when it was still wet, it would have almost certainly have been permanently damaged.
If your computer is completely underwater, there is a strong likelihood that your hard drive has been damaged. If you have a backup, you’re going to be okay. If you don’t have a backup, you might still be able to recover the data, but it will cost you. Disasters like Hurricane Katrina have been with us for a long time, but in today’s world there are additional things to think about as people begin the recovery process. Even if you don’t live in hurricane country, you still run the risk of another type of disaster, fire or just a run-of-the-mill power failure.
Then there was the 3000 left standing, still servicable, when the rest of a company's building burned all around it.
A fire showed how essential the 3000 can be. John Lee of Vaske Computer Solutions offered up an incredible tale of how durable HP 3000 hardware can be in disasters -- one that seems to define the outer limits of any computer's capability.
"One of our customers had a fire in their headquarters last night, and it caused major smoke damage throughout the building, including the datacenter. The building lost power and their 968 powered down as it was supposed to. But the blackened, ash-covered beast booted up in the morning once power was restored, and they continued operations from their remote site (the manufacturing plant) which they are linked to via T1, and they're still running! "
Lee supplied the topper to the story later in the day. "The building has been gutted except for the computer room, which they're going to demolish last so the system can continue to run," he said. "So here sits a burned out, gutted brick building with an unrecognizable 968 in the middle of it, still running the company. That would make for almost as good an ad as the HP garage!"
Before Katrina swept its broom of destruction in 2005, we ran a pair of articles about disaster recovery strategies, written and adapted by Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards and Associates. Our columnist Scott Hirsh has also weighed in with best practices on DR in his Worst Practices column, written in the wake of 9/11.
October 25, 2012
CAMUS meeting to examine cloud ERPs
November 7 is more than just the day after the US 2012 elections. It's also the morning that the CAMUS user group is holding a call-in webinar to explore cloud-based ERP solutions to replace hosted software. Some of those hosts might be HP 3000s, if representatives from INFOR and Kenandy score any votes.
The meeting which starts at 9:30 PST (12:30 EST) will be open to anybody who registers at a page at Signup Genius. Over the following two and a half hours, the founders as well as the current holders of ASK technology will show off technology combos which want to eliminate the need to manage servers at manufacturing locations.
Warren Smith of INFOR will demonstrate SyteLine, a cloud-based application offered by the company which now holds the licenses for MANMAN, among several other ERP systems. Rob Elliot of Kenandy will take the Kenandy Social ERP for a spin via the web. Kenandy uses designs and systems architecture from ASK founder Sandy Kurtzig, who first developed MANMAN in the 1970s for an appreciative 3000 customer base rolling its own MRP solutions.
These software solutions rely on faith in offsite servers and secure bandwidth, elements which have become more proven in the years since Salesforce.com became a business standard. While INFOR draws itself into the cloud world by way of its installed MANMAN base, Social ERP relies on the force.com cloud reputation. Both companies claim to be able to eliminate local IT resource requirements, or at least the largest ones which demand veteran pros.But Social ERP isn't always aimed at 3000 sites using MANMAN, at least not this year. Terry Floyd of the Support Group, which serves MANMAN customers on 3000s, has worked closely with Kenandy for more than a year by now. His target is the small manufacturing company that needs a better ERP solution and knows nothing of MANMAN.
"We don’t intend to convert anyone from MANMAN to Kenandy within the next year," Floyd told us in January. "We are going for new customers who never heard of MANMAN, startups and tiny manufacturing companies." Tiny is a word that fits well with Social ERP, since it can erase the capital costs and staff resources of the classic local-host system. The Support Group has been working on add-ons and extensions to the Kenandy apps.
As for SyteLine, its a new branding of the INFOR10 ERP Business software, extended to the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. One of hte SyteLine options includes application managed services. The SyteLine configuration model expands choices in purchasing, deployment and managing of ERP. "With SaaS, manufacturers gain access to the same functionality available in on-premises software, with the flexibility of on-demand access from Infor," according to an Infor webpage on the product.
CAMUS meetings always include a "Talk Soup" segment where users can chat about implementation issues, workarounds and IT plans. Talk Soup starts at noon PST, after the Kenandy Social ERP demo.
October 23, 2012
Never Happy, Even With the Advances
The HP 3000 had detractors and opponents from the day of its birth. It was not an HP-style product, this computer, said Bill and Dave. It started out too slow, or crashed, or relied on software so expensive people had to write their own. Later on it got slammed because it used proprietary operating software. It didn't speak in Unix, collaborate with Windows, communicate with computers on standardized LANs. It didn't FTP files like other computers. It didn't have a modern user license. It didn't use low-cost peripherals. It wasn't the Digital VAX, the IBM AS/400, the Compaq ProLiant or even an IBM mainframe.
But for all of its failings, the HP 3000 did as much as Hewlett-Packard's best to keep up. It did even more when the customers' love was allowed into its designs. Its flaws run back to the business managers, MBAs, engineering leaders and finance officers curating the 3000's future. What this business system finally was not results from choices that its customers made, choices led by the computer's creating vendor.
I am thinking about this today as Apple announces a new generation of computers, revamped with things like a Fusion Drive, ranging from its hottest mobile products in iPads to its least sexy systems in desktop iMacs, skinny laptops, and stacking-small Mac Minis. For every one of these improved machines, snarky commentators brayed out the missing benefits during Apple's worldwide introduction of five distinct computers -- six, if you count the stack-and-rack Mini version that companies use as business servers. I don't believe it's fair to call Apple a company selling to consumers alone. Businesses are filled with pocket-sized iPhone computers and tablets -- the kind of devices that the business-focused HP tried and failed to sell.
At the end of 90 minutes of Apple's parade of advances, its detractors spewed their opinions. Something everyone has, like a certain body part. No matter what a vendor does to try ries to improve a product, these kinds of gimcrack mavens have their juvenile sport. Not a one of them ever shepherded a product like an A-Class server through battles with finance VPs or focus group disciples or engineering leaders who wanted designs that were only successors. In spite of all of that blathering drool, people will love their new iPads and Mac laptops and the same way your community still reveres the concept -- if not the execution -- of the Series I shown above.
Or how loved its 9x9 3000s -- and then finally lusted after that first A-Class unit that Dave Snow carried under his arm to the front of a hotel meeting room at a conference. (Watch at the 20-second mark; somebody in the room wanted to buy that demo unit right out from under Snow's arm.)
That 3000 didn't run Unix, cost twice as much as a Dell server, and it undercut the value of computers HP had sold just six months earlier. People wanted it, no matter what the know-nothings said about value.
The final class of HP's 3000 design was unfair to anyone who bought a 9x9 in 2000. But it advanced the art of MPE business servers. Customers suffer when they purchase too close to the future. But whether they buy a server on the eve of its futures, or an iPad this spring, they suffer on our behalf. The cost of not advancing the art can be seen in a collapse of a vendor's futures.Being too close to the future might seem like living too close to the sun. It's bright and warm there because you purchase what's become a hot value. The price has dropped by the time you get there, the momentum of the user base is with you. Apple said today that it's sold 100 million iPads already. You have to go back to the rank of Windows PCs to find a number that big. And nobody has ever done it in just 30 months.
But now those kinds of breakthoughs -- like the HP employees who lined up to form the number 10,000 when that many servers had rolled off 3000 factory lines -- are ended for HP's iron. Stories appear regularly now which wonder if Dell or HP could ever regain their strength. A customer who got burned buying an N-Class just weeks before HP ended its 3000 futures might find some solace in seeing HP stripped of its market cap. It's been three weeks since the stock was above $17. When the 3000 was on the product line and HP was still selling unique environments, the stock was at $70 before it split.
A vendor which leaves its product on the market too long without advances pays a price. And one which updates too fast makes nitwits niggle about timing, too. Perhaps getting it right to please both those who live close to the sun and those who orbit the asteroids is genuinely tough. When the response to advances is measured in millions of sales, however, the niggles seem foolish.
October 03, 2012
New iOS mobile app monitors server admin
Allegro Consultants has released what appears to be the first iPhone/iPad app which will monitor any servers running HP's Unix, Sun's Solaris, Linux or the Mac OS. iAdmin has a few more operating environments that it will touch, according to Allegro's co-founder Stan Sieler.
"Of course, we're working on adding MPE/iX support, as well as Windows," said Sieler.
iAdmin is an app that allows you to view the status of your servers from anywhere your iOS device has connectivity. At the moment, you can view your disk space utilization, drilling down through your file systems and directories, to see where your disk space has gone, and also, get a glimpse into your CPU performance.
If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch and one or more servers running HP-UX, Linux, Mac OS, or Solaris, you might want to try out the app. You can find it via http://www.itunes.com/apps/iadmin or by clicking on the App Store icon at http://iadmin.allegro.com.
Details on the server and setup for the app -- it also works on the iPod Touch -- are at the allegro.com website address above.
Use of the app requires setting up an account on Allegro's web server (http://iadmin.allegro.com), and then registering one or more systems (servers).
Then, the web server allows you to download a script for each system ... that script does data collection and emails the result to our iAdmin server, for later retrieval by the iAdmin app. Typically, users run our script via a cron job at least once a day.
Allegro has designed iAdmin as a subscription service. "We charge $9.99/month per system, with a discount for a longer term," Sieler says. "The first system is free for one month."
September 19, 2012
Virtualizing MPE/iX? Check.
Last week Ray Shahan, a 3000 programmer at Republic Title in the Dallas area, asked about virtualizing MPE/iX. Could it be done, and how, and who has done it?
I was asked the question, "Can the HP 3000 be virtualized," and of course, I have not a clue. My intial thoughts would be no, it's not possible (or it would have already been done). But I don't know that it hasn't already been done.
For the benefit of the casual reader of the NewsWire, I'm pleased to report not only that MPE/iX plus an HP 3000 can be virtualized. It's been done, too. An interview yesterday with the new CEO of Stromasys (Ling Chang) and the company's founder confirmed that two customers have gone live with the Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine. Many in the community know this as The Emulator.Stromasys isn't ready to provide the names of the customers as reference accounts, but the founder Robert Boers said that reference accounts are coming. One of the customers is in Australia. That's about all we've been told for now about the entry of HPA/3000 into the working world.
We also got updated on the progress of the personal freeware version of this product. It's a version of the software for evaluation use, but it will operate at the capacity of a Series 918, which a few developers consider a useful machine. There doesn't appear to be a user limit attached to this freeware, but it's not available yet for downloads off the NewsWire's website, or any other.
However, Boers and the CEO Chang reminded us that the Stromasys site has a working version of the emulator available for remote use. This is a version of the software hosted at the Stromasys site, and it runs with the power of an N-Class HP 3000.
During a virtualization demonstration of HPA/3000 this spring, product manager Paul Taffel showed how MPE/iX, as well as the code to create a PA-RISC processor, could be compressed into a disk image and copied between systems. Not only was the hardware virtualized, but MPE/iX travelled in a file equivalent to the 4GB startup disk for 3000s.
Language on the Stromasys site which was spotted by Shahan sounded like it needs refreshing by the company. "The ZELUS products that are under development will be very similar to our current Virtual VAX and Alpha products and do not require modification of the MPE/iX operating system, database or application." With the release of this product into the production world of the 3000, the "will be" can be adjusted to "is very similar." And the "are under development" phrase should be replaced with "have been developed."
One point that Boers made during our briefing was that HPA/3000 (which was code-named Zelus) wasn't built piece by piece, each feature triggered by a customer request. That would have dragged out the development over many years. The success of the VAX/Alpha version put Stromasys on the direct path for a wide range of performance on initial release, Boers said.
As for being cost-effective -- another question of Shahan's -- it will depend on how HPA/3000 is employed. As a replacement for a migration project of more than $100,000, an virtualized solution which costs half that looks like a better deal. As a long-term development platform that needs access to advanced technologies only present in Windows or Linux servers, the virtualization is harder to cost-justify. But it's far too early to tell about return on investments. Until we learn who the early customers are -- and maybe more importantly, how the cloud-based instance of the solution works -- the jury will be out on the case for a virtualized MPE/iX.
But it's a reality, not a virtual concept.
September 13, 2012
Stromasys names ex-HP exec as new CEO
HP 3000 emulator maker Stromasys named a new CEO this week, with the current chief executive retiring Oct. 1. The privately-held company, still headed by its chairman and founder Robert Boers, named Ling W. Chang as CEO after her 13 years at Compaq and then HP.
Chang, who holds an MS in Computer Engineering as well as business education from the Wharton School, said she's excited to be joining Stromasys "as it embarks on a higher-growth journey." She added that the company's products such as the Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine "offer a bridge to the future where customers can leverage the cost savings for new initiatives such as cloud services and big data."
Boers thanked Jean-Paul Bergmans "for his contributions as COO and CEO over the last years, which has seen a strong growth in sales as well as new products that are about to enter the market. Jean-Paul will assist Ling with the transition and remain on the board of Stromasys."
Stromasys said Chang's group at HP, the Integration and Technical Services unit, "partnered with Stromasys to increase our mutual share of customers for several years." HP revived its contacts with Stromasys in 2008 regarding the 3000 emulator, which Stromasys had to delay due to a lack of HP technical cooperation. Chang will make her office in New York City, but Stromasys will retain its headquarters in Geneva, along with labs based in Moscow.
The company will proceed with its project to release the Charon HPA/3000 product for emulation in a personal freeware version, Boers confirmed."There is no change in our HP 3000 plans at all," Boers said in an email update. "This is an integral part of the CEO transition plan. Be assured that the freeware version will go ahead as planned."
The Stromasys press release said that positioning its new CEO in New York should assist in attracting the business of large commercial and government clients.
Locating Stromasys' new CEO in the heart of world's most dynamic business region brings many new opportunities, as we move closer to many large corporations and government organizations that we count for many years as customers. This becomes even more important in a dire economy, where large scale data center modernization necessitates tangible cost savings, which Stromasys' products are designed to accelerate without the cost and time of lengthy migration projects.
"With our increasing focus on direct, management level sales, Ling is very well qualified to grow our company," Boers said in the release. "She also worked many years in IBM in both engineering and account management functions, and in direct sales in Computer Associates."
With the appointment of the new CEO, Stromasys described its core business as "leadership in classic system virtualization, which provides a rapid and smooth transition of critical legacy applications to the modern virtual data center."
September 12, 2012
The Actual Size and Start of the 3000 World
Ask around to discover how large the 3000 world grew to be, or when it all began. You're likely to get a couple of stock answers. The size of the world counting every system ever sold might be reputed to be more than 50,000 servers shipped. Its genesis is regularly quoted at 1972, so this November would mark 40 years of the 3000's lifetime.
That genesis is only correct if you count the 3000s days of gestation. An out-of-print book by one of the longest-termed 3000 veterans, Thomas Harbron, tells a story of a often-patched, crashing computer. In Thinking Machines, Harbron reports that so pot-holed was the 3000's start that the delays gave HP enough time to rename the system the 3000CX, instead of the System/3000. As has been reported all over, the start was so flawed that HP's founder vowed no HP product would ever be announced before it could be demoed.
Harbron shared a section of his book with us that explains why HP needed the lengthy delay. (We'd love to bring Thinking Machines back into e-print, especially as part of the 3000 Memoir Project.)
After all, is it still a 3000 without a database or a business langauge? He says neither IMAGE or COBOL were ready to demonstrate until mid-1973. BASIC and the 3000's unique SPL were the only languages a customer could use to create software for most of 1973. (And creating your own software was the only way an application suite could go into work in the early 1970s on a 3000.) HP limited access to its lab 3000s in 1972 to communication via teletypes.
Harbron also reported that the first 3000 training seminar of two weeks in California was "classes that were mostly taught by Bob Green," the founder of Robelle. Even at the 3000's start, familiar faces of today were there spreading its seeds.
Harbron says in his book that things turned bad in a hurry when some of the other eight customers in that class tried to use that 3000 in December, 1972. This multi-user system couldn't support more than four simultaneous users. Time between crashes had a mean of about two hours, he says.
Every time I logged onto the system... a newer version of the operating system had been installed. In the two weeks I was there, the version number increased by more than 50, meaning there were that many versions in just two weeks. Clearly the developers were frantic. The effect on the people in the class was devastating.
While we were in the class, HP released a schedule for MPE. In it they acknowledged that they would not be able to deliver the full operating system on schedule. They showed an initial release in December with three subsequent releases which would bring MPE up to full specifications by June 1, 1973.
Harbron also notes that HP celebrated the shipment of the 25,000th HP 3000 in 1982. The company took a picture of the 1,000 people in the 3000 division and mailed this postcard to customers. Around that time the personal computer became such a serious alternative to business computing that HP began to sell the 3000 against it, even while it offered a touch-based console PC.
To continue those calculations, doubling that number of ever-shipped 3000s over the next 10 years -- before HP swung to Unix for preferred enterprise sales -- seems realistic. But the decade between 1992-2001 probably only showed give-and-take shipments. Losses of 3000s, some to HP's own efforts, which were then offset by new customers. Harbron published his book in 2000, showing the same kind of optimism we used in sizing up the 3000 market, as he looked back on that 1982 postcard.
The 3000 had become the fifth most popular computer ever made [by 1982]. Today, nearly 30 years after its advent, it is still selling briskly and has probably climbed even higher in the rankings (microcomputers excluded).
September 11, 2012
Emulator to add personal freeware version
Reaching out for a way to let the 3000 community experience its emulator, Stromasys will be delivering a free, personal copy of the software as a download. The personal experience could be starting as early as this month.
The Charon HPA/3000 freeware will be fully functional but trimmed back in its horsepower. It's the same kind of model the company has used for many years in the Digital marketplace, where the Charon product has built its reputation. Charon is powering MANMAN sites in the world of DEC servers. Some IT managers there have testified during CAMUS meetings about the success of using an emulator.
Stromasys director Jean-Paul Bergmans invited the 3000 NewsWire to host these downloads, which would be the first program ever to come off a NewsWire web host. There is no competition in the world for a product built to emulate the HP 3000’s hardware.
"People will be able to play with it, test it out, and even run small archival solutions," said Stromasys director Jean-Paul Bergmans. The freeware emulator will have a 1 e3000 Performance Unit rating -- equivalent to a Series 918 -- and it will be limited in its number of users. Details were still being arranged about how to handle support questions arising from using the freeware . But Stromasys has already managed a similar program for the VAX and Alpha hardware emulators in the Digital community.
Bergmans also announced there will be "more granular price points" for HPA/3000 in the near future.One objective is to make the product fit in smaller budgets at 3000 homesteading shops. Another will be to re-size the power and profile of the emulator on the highest end of its performance curve.
The company said it has too few models now, "which does not precisely match the performance requirements of our prospects," Bergmans said.
"There’s more granularity in the new pricing structure so we don’t overcharge people, or undercharge people. We’ll give more granularity on the number of CPUs," with details to come this month, Bergmans said.
Stromasys comes to its 3000 mission well-steeped in selling emulation. The company’s made its mark on the Digital enterprise space, emulating PDP and Vax systems, and finally the Alpha processor which HP stopped creating.
Late last year Stromasys updated a Personal Alpha version of its Digital product, calling it Personal Alpha Plus. The update to Personal Alpha — which Stromasys says was downloaded 10,000 times — "has twice the power of Personal Alpha." It runs at about 15 percent of the speed of the full AXP Stromasys emulator.
September 10, 2012
HP reports new job cuts as computers slip
Hewlett-Packard gave notice this week that its job cut program will run 2,000 employees larger than forecast back in May. The total reduction in HP's workforce will run to 29,000 by the end of fiscal 2014, according an Securities and Exchange Commission filing. HP has already seen more employees take enhanced early retirement (EER) than it expected.
Those early retirements are part of HP's workforce reduction plan. Some of the enterprise talent is being forced out, while others are taking HP's EER offer. Bob Chase, an experienced Business Recovery Specialist in HP Support, started his own consulting practice after a WorkForce Reduction. Chase counted 16 years of HP experience including years of 3000 support. The company expects to spend $3.3 billion on workforce reductions through October of 2014.
At the same time these fresh cuts were announced, analysts expect to demote HP out of the top spot in computer shipments. Although HP has been left far behind in computer company measurements of market cap, as well as total sales (both figures eclipsed by Apple), until this month HP had shipped more computers per quarter than any maker.
But the IBM spinoff of its PC business, Lenovo, is poised to take first place from HP. Even as HP tries to capture and retain the 3000 migration server business, its biggest revenue generator has slipped. HP shipped more than 13 million business servers and PCs in the second quarter of 2012. The September figures for PCs will change that, confirming a slide that Dell has also been experiencing -- even as HP tries to retake some sales with Apple-like designs.MB Foster's Birket Foster -- whose company has tracked PC issues even longer than it's offered database extractors and middleware connecting PCs and 3000s -- says it appears the market's enterprise sales have taken a hiatus. He noted that Dell's earnings on desktops and business servers dropped 10 percent in its latest quarter. That vendor once battled with HP for top PC sales spot, but that all ended after HP merged with Compaq. Now both Dell and HP have seen the curse of Moore's Law hit their sales.
"There may be something going on where the economy is just not spending on infrastructure," Foster said, "because Moore's Law says they can skip two more years and do their systems refresh then." Moore's Law promises that processor speeds, or overall horsepower, will double for computers every two years.
HP's still trying to capture fresh sales of desktops by releasing new products like the Spectre One, a new all-in-one desktop that bears a near-identical look to Apple's iMacs, right down to trackpad and keyboard. But Foster says that the enterprises which lifted up Dell and HP on laptop sales "are in some cases giving people smartphones instead of laptops. Or iPads, once they get around the security problem. Somebody will figure it out, and there's billions to be made in this."
Sales of HP's desktops and laptops worked in tandem with enterprise servers, during the years when they were working. HP booked enterprise business because it provided the down-line desktops and laptops, too. Those laptop sales helped smooth the choice of HP in markets like Unix, where there continues to be plenty of competition for a declining marketplace.
HP rolled out a press release in advance of new all-in-one models shipping by November, one which promises the vendor will even try to climb back into the tablet market. "Additional PCs and a tablet made for business will be announced in the coming weeks." The company's strategy came in for some hard commentary from Om Malik, whose GigaOM analyst network tracks the devices both HP and Dell have been trying to keep in the mainstream.
HP's pivot to enterprise servers represents a diversion, Malik said, from a failed mobile offering.
Dell, in fact, is no different than HP which also has blown the shift to mobile and now is trying to do a comb-over by using cloud and enterprise as its areas of focus. They are tied at the hip with Microsoft and its operating systems and as a result they cannot look beyond Microsoft. The fact is that both Dell and HP have offered consumers pretty much nothing in terms of innovation when it comes to PCs. Compare that with Apple and Samsung and you start to see that these two PC giants have been essentially twiddling their thumbs.
September 05, 2012
HP's migration target gets Oracle green light
After spending almost a year and a half telling the world that HP's Integrity servers are doomed, Oracle has changed its message. In the face of Hewlett-Packard's win in a lawsuit against Oracle, the database vendor looks like it will back off the warnings and continue to service the future of HP's Integrity users. Those users include customers running HP-UX, a frequent choice for HP 3000 migrators.
A second phase of that year-long court battle begins soon. A jury will decide what damages to award HP, if any, in reparations for that 18-month campaign against Integrity. When a preliminary decision went HP's way on August 1, Oracle continued its campaign, promising to appeal Judge James Kleinberg's ruling in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. The ruling became final August 29. As of a Sept. 4 statement, Oracle has dialed back the doom.
Previously, Oracle announced that it would stop developing new versions of its software on Itanium microprocessors. For example, that meant version 12c of the Oracle database due out in early 2013 would not be available on Itanium.
However, a judge recently ruled that Oracle has a contract to continue porting its software to Itanium computers for as long as HP sells Itanium computers. Therefore, Oracle will continue building the latest versions of its database and other software covered by the judge's ruling to HP Itanium computers. Oracle software on HP's Itanium computers will be released on approximately the same schedule as Oracle software on IBM's Power systems.
IBM and HP are Oracle's leading competitors for non-Linux business server installations, so the "as soon as IBM gets it" timeline might be a fresh way to drag development feet. Oracle hasn't started to campaign against IBM's Unix and OS400 platform hardware, Power. However, you can still find Oracle's pot-shots about Itanium on the corporate newsroom webpages.
As recently as six weeks ago Oracle said "we became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life" and therefore pitched the anti-Itanium case to shared customers of HP servers and Oracle databases. "HP's argument turns the concept of Silicon Valley partnerships upside down," a statement from August 1 still reports.
Customers of HP-UX servers might feel some relief that Oracle has relented. The database is the most widely installed DB on HP's Unix, including some sites which moved from the Ecometry app on MPE/iX to the Ecometry Open version of the ecommerce programs. Oracle's departure from Integrity's futures was labeled an attack on HP customers, according to the Connect user group and its 2011 president Chris Koppe.
Non-Oracle solutions have been popular with 3000 migrators, however. Eloquence databases have a work-alike IMAGE-3000 mode, and Marxmeier Software has been installing the product across Unix, Windows and Linux customer sites, as well as serving ISVs such as Summit Technology's credit union vendors. That product which was once called HP Eloquence -- so close was the relationship to the HP customer -- has been offered to migrators since the earliest days of the 3000's transition era.
PostgreSQL, another alternative to Oracle's database, was being talked up by HP during the past year of the Itanium battle. For its part, IBM sells an Oracle alternative with deep roots in mainframe-sized enterprises, DB2. For the time being these two Oracle competitors will maintain their places as Oracle partners in the database market.
HP sued Oracle for breech of contract after a March 2011 Oracle statement shutting down Integrity development. Relations got testy between the two companies after Oracle hired HP's ousted CEO Mark Hurd in September 2010. The settlement between the companies about that hiring included a clause to continue Oracle's support of Integrity. Oracle battled that language but lost, after presenting thousands of pages of internal HP documents that detailed the planned demise of Itanium (click on the graphic at left for a screen capture of Oracle's website details).
HP remains steadfast in its plans to keep HP-UX on Itanium exclusively. The only window of escape for the Unix environment seems to be in a port of its leading features to a hardened version of Red Hat Linux. HP's called that effort Project Odyssey.
September 04, 2012
New software checks 3000s for PCI2 rules
Allegro Consultants has released the latest in its lineup of HP 3000 software tools. PassPCI2 is software which scans HP 3000s for unencrypted credit card numbers.
But to return to that lead for a moment: This is new software which runs on MPE/iX. That's a item all by itself. The 3000 has become a highly stable environment to use in business computing. But part of that stability flows from the lack of change to the system's ecosystem. We haven't seen a new app in awhile.
Security and audits drive PassPCI2. Allegro's president Steve Cooper said the product grew up from a customer's need to pass audits on a 3000, security inventories which are needed to protect credit card numbers in IMAGE databases.
The latest PCI2 compliance requirements demand that credit card numbers reside in one of two states on a 3000: encrypted, or off the server completely. "There are lots of ways to do encryption on the HP 3000," Cooper says. The new product ensures that everything in every field of every record can be scanned for the 13-to-16-digit signature of a credit card. Encryption is a matter for other tools. Removal of the numbers from the 3000 is a more likely resolution.After a scan of the 3000, the Allegro software identifies any field that has a string of digits which produce a valid checkmod number, a figure recognized by credit card providers such as Visa. You can look at a specific group, or account, or system-wide, Cooper says, or all KSAM records or all databases.
"We'll go through looking for these strings of digits," Cooper said, "which look like credit card numbers. Then we report our findings at several levels." PassPCI2 gives reports on which fields are discovered. The program searches disk drives for numbers stored in files or databases -- which if found, would put a 3000 in violation of PCI2 compliance.
Credit card compliance rules have been identified as a possible trigger to starting a migration off a 3000. Encryption programs have been devised for MPE/iX, but this is the first product that leads a search to finding these numbers.
The PCI regulations have been both relentless and malleable all at once. Relentless, because auditors cannot pass a system which runs afoul of them. Any computer used in ecommerce or credit card commerce must abide. But PCI is also fuzzy, because the standard defines compliance elements which are not entirely certified. Major consulting firms like the Big Six (or really the Big Four, due to consolidation) promise PCI certifications.
However, these scans for credit cards are relatively new. If there's been no tools for a 3000, at least now there's something to use so a company can "complete and obtain evidence of a passing vulnerability scan with a PCI SSC Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV)." Allegro points out that "While there are currently no known ASVs for the HP 3000, Allegro Consultants is in the process of applying for this certification, using our PassPCI2 product."
August 27, 2012
The Security of a Slenderizing Supplier
Over the last three business days, the world's investors and computer customers have watched results of a radical slenderizing program. Hewlett-Packard is taking its early steps on the treadmill to becoming a leaner provider. Its most radical move just resulted in shedding all of its profits for the quarter that ended in July. HP's going to sweat out its extra weight, one 90-day period at a time.
This time around it was HP Services that forced Hewlett-Packard to drop pounds. The vendor had been eager to jump into lucrative outsourcing business since early in the previous decade. After the board of directors killed off Carly Fiorina's plan to acquire Price Waterhouse Cooper, a few years later EDS became a part of HP, at a price of $14 billion. Writing off $8 billion of that outsourcing business as lost goodwill just pushed HP's earnings into the red.
HP's numbers showed that it was the first time in more than a decade that HP put red ink on the bottom of its balance sheet. It was the largest loss HP ever recorded in a single quarter, and only the third in the company's history. But the $4 per share loss was a sign that HP's slenderizing is serious. Its CEO Meg Whitman has said the company needs to do less, in the hopes of doing what remains even better.
But you do want a leaner HP, if you're sticking with this vendor. You just don't want it to lose the muscle of enterprise computing, the datacenter tech business, while it gets smaller. Today HP's stock closed at $17.21. You have to go back more than nine years to find a close that's lower, back in the 2002-03 era when the business world was digging out from 9/11's disasters. HP's market cap has slimmed down to just 5 percent of Apple's, and 15 percent of IBM's.Enterprise numbers from that slenderizing quarter didn't look good. HP's efforts at selling HP-UX, Integrity or other vendor-proprietary products have been on a crash diet. Nothing is dropping faster at HP than sales of the Business Critical Server products, slimming down another 16 percent over the summertime. Despite moves like winning its lawsuit against Oracle to claw back database futures for Unix, or introducing the least-costly NonStop server ever, BCS isn't going to rebound. HP admits it while it talks about futures that include Intel Xeon chips for Unix's best features.
There's going to be some hungry quarters ahead for investors seeking profits off HP. The company has fully embraced the big-picture of its slenderizing by clinging to non-generally accepted accounting practices (non-GAAP) for its 2012 forecasts. There's billions in losses mounting up right now, about $2.55 per share over the year using GAAP results: that's everything that's really going on, and going overboard to reduce the weight of Good Ship HP. But HP's going to focus on the non-GAAP results and point at a $4.05 per share profit over the year.
How's that possible? The company is going to "exclude after-tax costs of approximately $1.80 per share, related primarily to the amortization and impairment of purchased intangible assets, restructuring charges and acquisition-related charges." That's reducing its workforce by eliminating experts in its Business Recovery support centers. That's writing off the value of things like EDS. That's swallowing losses in businesses where the recovery will never surface, like the tablet market that's sent HP's PC growth reeling backwards.
These are single-time events. HP's doing the purge of its businesses which aren't profitable, but that doesn't include consumer products yet. Not as long as ink remains the highest profit item in HP's lineup. There's security in seeing a company slim down to a competitive weight, so it can battle for datacenter dollars in midsize companies. HP's not showing enough of that security yet. The things it's doing well are not always a match for what a classic, datacenter-based customer of that midsize needs.
When you look at our performance during the quarter, there were things that we did well and there were things that we could have done better. Looking at the positives for the quarter, Storage, Networking, IPG and Hyperscale servers delivered solid results.
Whitman's comments last week referred to Hyperscale, a product line that elates customers like Facebook, but doesn't have much connection with a $100-$500 million manufacturer of goods or processes. That's your typical HP 3000 customer. The Storage and Networking successes are muscle to power the bones of a datacenter design. Those IPG improvements are in printers, HP's one consumer business still showing a little growth.
The numbers from Q3 showed "the largest quarterly loss in HP's 73-year history. It will be only the second quarterly loss that HP has suffered during the past 15 years — a mostly rocky stretch for the Silicon Valley pioneer," according to AP business writer Peter Svensson
If you're keeping score, you can count back 13 years to mark the arrival of the first outside hire to lead HP's boardroom, Carly Fiorina. The decisions since then have been designed to make HP the biggest gainer of businesses, rather than business. Now the company is lopping off segments that either stopped producing profits, or never did.
Fifteen years ago HP still operated vendor-specific businesses like PA-RISC servers, MPE, its own Unix and more proprietary tech for the enterprise. It did it at a profit, rather than purchasing customers. Any reducing plan will be fraught with moments where a dieter is hungry but needs real nourishment, instead of the empty calories of a Big Data vendor like Autonomy.
HP can't hope to maintain the number of large servers it sells. Improved efficiency of servers will work against the vendor's revenues, but they can make that leaner HP stronger for its datacenter customers. There's security in knowing that your core purchases are the sales goal of your biggest vendor. You need to buy what they're eager to sell. If that's not coming to pass at HP, then the magic and mystery of cloud computing -- a product so slim you can't even see the servers -- is next on the enteprise diet.
August 24, 2012
HP support veteran joins workforce for hire
In 2012, it's a tougher world out there for an IT pro. We’ve heard from business analysts that the best thing for any of us over 50, upon getting furloughed, laid off, or Work Force Reduced, is to open our own business. For some, it's a better chance to work than to be hired again.
HP’s cutting 27,000 jobs over the next two years. Some extraordinary skill in HP enterprise business servers is leaving the company.
Bob Chase started with MPE in 1987 and came to HP in 1996. He extended his skills to land a place as an HP Business Recovery Specialist, part of HP’s support group out of the Atlanta area. “In 2010 I was offered a position as a hardware BRS for Superdomes, blades, and all the Integrity and PA-RISC platforms,” he says. “It was quite a challenge, as I took 35 internal HP hardware courses over four months and began working calls." But after making a transition to Superdome and HP-UX support, he’s had to leave his employer.
After 16 years at HP, I was Work Force Reduced in early June. I loved supporting the 3000, as my first computer job was as a Computer Operator making $4 per hour at my dad's employer. I was 19 years old. It was a Series 68.
Considering the IT world of today compared to the late 80's, I have great doubt that my career path could be realized today. Off-shoring, consolidation and mergers make it a greater challenge than ever before.
Chase has opened up Chase for Hire, an independent consultancy. He believes that MPE “was an OS that left the enterprise too early.” And regarding prospects for Itanium and HP-UX, an industry-standard path to the future, away from Integrity, seems clear. There's an echo of MPE's later lifespan in the future for Unix. HP has spread more talk of Linux for the enterprise now.
Industry Standard Servers are the future as of 2012. Commonality for the enterprise seems to be paramount, more than a vendor specific/proprietary OS solution. Linux flavors will be the benefactor from this.
Chase believes that "Oracle drives the database enterprise just as well as Microsoft SQL Server, "but I think Oracle is in a better position than most realize. Engineered systems, incorporating Oracle 11g with Oracle "Sun" hardware and their own Linux flavor, makes Oracle in my opinion the dominant player moving forward."
He's been in IT long enough to mix modern Unix and blade experience with acoustic coupler use.
I was learning MPE V in the summer of 87, and had an acoustic-coupler for Predictive Support and a giant line printer for nightly reports and a single-spool tape device. I used four gigantic disk drives whose legs I'd have to anchor down prior to weekly batch processing. I would read the industry trade magazines in our small four-person IT department. I was fascinated with the technology and its cool-sounding names. Offsite backups in this era meant I took the 2400-foot magnetic tapes home in a tape case, all three of them! I'm still in touch via LinkedIn and phone with my original MPE manager, Larry Works, some 25 years later.
He’s also a writer, a practice that for him is “tranquil, never a task to disdain. I write about my youngest son Patrick, age 10, who’s on the Autism Spectrum."
I keep a blog about him. He's an incredible young boy. The site was set up initially to help other parents of Special Needs children with resources and to share our story. I founded some LinkedIn Groups in this area, and also some Facebook groups focusing on county-based Special Needs stories.
At HP I was able to set up a site for other employees who care for Special Needs individuals. An HP ERG (Employee Resource Group) was being formed to further awareness of internal/external resources. With Autism being so prevalent in society today, I knew there were other HP employees facing similar situations that might benefit from this.
August 23, 2012
Remembering Your Secured Passwords
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Second of two parts
Once you have created good passwords, your next challenge is how to remember them all. Some of the passwords I use I tend to remember due to repetitive use. The password for logging into my system is one I tend to remember, even through it is 11 characters long. But many of my passwords I use infrequently -- my router for example, and many have the “remember me” function when I log on.
What happens when I want to recall one of these? Well the first thing is not to write them down unless you absolutely have to. You would be amazed how many times I have seen someone password taped on the underside of their laptop. A better option is to store them on your machine. How do you do that securely?Well, there are several ways.
One easy way is to use a password vault or password manager. This creates a single encrypted file that you can access with a single username and password. Username and password combinations can then be entered into the password vault application together with their corresponding account. The big advantage is that it is now easy to access the access data with one username and password.
The one flaw: what happens if the drive crashes that contains the vault application and data? If you wanted to get started with a password vault application, InfoWorld offered a good article that compares some leading products.Another option is to roll your own vault services. Create a text file and enter all of your account / username / password combinations. Once you are done, obtain some encryption technology. There are open source products -- truecrypt is the leader -- or you can use the encryption built into your OS. The advantage of using open source is that it runs on multiple operating systems. Encrypt the text file by using your software. Take caution to not use the default file name the application gives you, as it will be based on your text file name.
Once you have created your encrypted file from the text file, open the text file again. Select all the text in the file and delete it. Then copy a large block of text into the file and save it (more then you had with the passwords). Then delete the file. This will make sure that the text file cannot easily be recovered. If you know how to securely delete the file do that instead. Now you can remotely store the encrypted password file in a remote location, cloud storage, another computer, USB drive etc. You will then have a copy of your password file you can recover should you lose access to the one on your main machine.
Now, if you do not want to use encryption, let's look at why not. Well, most programs use specific file extensions for their encrypted file. When auditing, the first thing I would look for is files with encryption extensions. I would then look for any files that were similar in size or name to see if I could discover the source. This includes looking through the deleted file history.
The other option is steganography, or stego for short. The simple definition is the ability to bury information into other data – for example, pictures. Rather than give a detailed description of the technology here, take a look at the Wikipedia page. There is also a page with some stego tools on it . For a long time my work laptop had a screen saver that contained all my passwords. I am thinking of putting a picture up on Facebook next.
Here are a few simple rules on handling multiple passwords
1. Try and use uniques usernames and password for sensitive account. You can use the same username password combination for low sensitive accounts.
2. Run through an exercise and ask yourself, what happens if this account is hacked. So don't use the same username and password for everything.
3. Do not write down your passwords to store them.
4. Make sure you have a secure backup copy of your passwords; use encryption or steganography.
If you want to do some extra credit reading on passwords, there are two good references out there and they are free. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies has a library on security topics that is used by the federal government., a good publication on passwords.
The SP 800-118 DRAFT Guide to Enterprise Password Management focuses on topics such as defining password policy requirements and selecting centralized and local password management solutions.
Steve Hardwick (CISSP) is the Product Manager at Oxygen Financial, which offers advanced payment management solutions. He has over 20 years of worldwide technology experience. He was also a CISSP instructor with Global Knowledge for three years and held security positions at several companies.
August 22, 2012
Securely Storing Passwords
Editor's Note: Security is one of the limiting factors in adopting cloud computing. HP, as well as its partners, will tell you that cloud computing and similar remote access is a forward-thinking alternative to HP 3000 centralized on-site computing. But there's that security thing.
More than 30 years ago VEsoft's Eugene Volokh chronicled the fundamentals of security for 3000 owners trying to protect passwords and user IDs. Much of that access hasn't changed at all, and the 3000's security by obscurity has helped it evade things like Denial of Service attacks, routinely reported and then plugged for today's Unix-based systems. Consider these 3000 fundamentals from Eugene's Burn Before Reading, hosted on the Adager website.
Logon security is probably the most important component of your security fence. This is because many of the subsequent security devices (e.g. file security) use information that is established at logon time, such as user ID and account name. Thus, we must not only forbid unauthorized users from logging on, but must also ensure that even an authorized user can only log on to his user ID.
If one and only one user is allowed to use a particular use ID, he may be asked to enter some personal information (his mother's maiden name?) when he is initially added to the system, and then be asked that question (or one of a number of such personal questions) every time he logs on. This general method of determining a user's authorizations by what he knows we will call "knowledge security."
Unfortunately, the knowledge security approach, although one of the best available, has one major flaw -- unlike fingerprints, information is easily transferred, be it revealed voluntarily or involuntarily; thus, someone who is not authorized to use a particular user id may nonetheless find out the user's password. You may say: "Well, we change the passwords every month, so that's not a problem." The very fact that you have to change the passwords every month means that they tend to get out through the grapevine! A good security system does not need to be redone every month, especially since that would mean that -- at least toward the end of the month -- the system is already rather shaky and subject to penetration.
There's a broader range of techniques to store passwords securely, especially important for the 3000 owner who's moving to more popular, less secured IT like cloud computing. We've asked a security pro who manages the pre-payment systems at Oxygen Financial to share these practices for that woolier world out there beyond MPE and the 3000.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot in the news recently about password theft and hacking into email accounts. Everything needs a password to access it. One of the side effects of the cloud is the need to be able to separate information from the various users that access a centrally located service. In the case where I have data on my PC, I can create one single password that controls access to all of the apps that reside on the drive plus all of the associated data.
There is a one-to-one physical relationship between the owner and the physical machine that hosts the information. This allows a simpler mechanism to validate the user. In the cloud world it is not as easy. There is no longer a physical relationship with the user. In fact a user may be accessing several different physical locations when running applications or accessing information. This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of passwords and authentication methods that are in use.
I just did a count of my usernames and passwords and I have 37 different accounts (most with unique usernames and password). Plus there are several sites where I use the same usernames and password combinations. You may ask why are some unique and why are some shared. The answer is based on the risk of a username or password be compromised. If I consider an account to have a high value, high degree of loss/impact if hacked, then it gets a unique username or password.
Email accounts are a good example. I have a unique username and password for my five email accounts. However, I do have one email account that is reserved solely for providing a username for other types of access. When I go to a site that requires an email address to set up an account , that is the one I use. Plus, I am not always selecting a unique password. The assumption is that if that username and password is stolen, then the other places it can be used are only other web site access accounts of low value. I also have a second email account that I use to set up more sensitive assess, google drive for example. This allows me to limit the damage if one of the accounts is compromised, and so I don't end up with a daisy chain of hacked accounts.
So the next question is how do you go about generating a bunch of passwords? One easy way is to go into your favorite search engine and type in password generator. You will get a fairly good list of applications that you can use to generate medium to strong passwords. But what if you don't want to download an application -- what is another way?
When I used to teach security this was one trick I would share with my students. Write a list of four or five short words that are easy to remember. Since my first name is Steve we can use that. This of four or five short number 4-5 digits in length 1999 for example. Now pick a word and number combination and intersperse the numbers and letters S1t9e9v9e would be the result of Steve and 1999. Longer words and longer numbers make strong passwords – phone numbers and last names works well. With 5 words and 5 numbers you get 25 passwords. One nice benefit of this approach comes when you need to change your password. Write the number backwards and merge the word and data back together.
Next: How to remember all of those passwords.
Steve Hardwick (CISSP) is the Product Manager at Oxygen Financial, which offers advanced payment management solutions. He has over 20 years of worldwide technology experience. He was also a CISSP instructor with Global Knowledge for three years and held security positions at several companies.
August 20, 2012
Red-ink hawks circle HP's quarterly news
Somehow, HP expects to manage to take a declining PC business and an $8 billion writedown in the same quarter, pay for early retirement benefits while it cuts jobs, and then report profitability of about about $1 per share. It takes a sharper accountant's head than this business writer's to tote up PC sales reductions plus billions in a writedown and sum up to profitability. If HP hits its marks, the company would register more than $1 billion in profits for the period.
But that's still likely to be the lowest tally of earnings ever since HP purchased EDS for $13 billion and began to call it HP Services. News media company Berzinga published this forecast of HP's Wednesday afternoon numbers.
HP is expected to report that its fiscal third quarter profit fell 10.9 percent year-over-year to $0.98 per share. That EPS estimate inched up a penny per share in the past 30 days. Analysts have underestimated HP's EPS in the past seven quarters. The Palo Alto, California-based company, like Dell, has faced dwindling PC sales, and analysts on average expect revenue for the quarter to total $30.1 billion. That would be a year-over-year decrease of 3.5 percent. The company is scheduled to share its quarterly results late Wednesday.
Whether there will be red ink on HP's balance sheet for the first time in more than three decades, the company's reach into every aspect of computing looks like it's draining the profits pool at a record rate. Decisions to purchase Autonomy at almost $11 billion, plus that abortive entry into tablets with last summer's TouchPad have taken their toll -- all while the concept of selling datacenter-grade hardware into customer shops keeps losing traction. Cloud-sourced IT, or the near-shoring of computing, is sweeping into longer term planning. With its buy-ups and expansions, HP has become the largest IT datacenter company in the world. As one 3000 vendor who believes in the long term view says, "When you're the biggest, the only place you've got to go is down."That's an opinion from MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster, who's happy to weave economic analysis alongside IT planning. While HP's results will certainly show a continued drain of profits, Apple used this week to accomplish a fresh ranking as the highest-valued company in the world. But that $662 share price is not all datacenter business, even if Bring Your Own Device (of the handtop variety, as Foster calls it) has been driving enterprise user business growth. Apple's become a mobile computing company with ideals to tie all of its customers to an iCloud. However, it's got no Big Data or Business Intelligence products, or even a Services Unit like EDS that could bring along massive outsourcing contracts from the likes of Proctor & Gamble or Ford.
Of course, HP's Ford outsourcing business is now disappearing at the hands of departed HP CIO Randy Mott. Now the IT chief at Ford, Mott is bringing all computing back inside Ford's datacenters and away from HP's contract. Mott's mantra was centralization while he steered HP's own IT, consolidating 85 datacenters down to six.
Computer companies juggle complex choices to make while they try to maintain growth in profits and revenues. HP considered spinning off that PC business in the wake of the TouchPad disaster, but turned away. The details for such choices are hidden from even sharp financial analysts, although securities regulations demand some transparency. HP's troubles lie in a decade of poor decisions from its boardroom -- where becoming the largest vendor of IT seemed to be the main goal from Carly Fiorina's arrival through Mark Hurd's reign and even into Leo Apotheker's brief term.
Current CEO Meg Whitman has told the company that while it will shear off 27,000 jobs through 2014, HP's getting into fewer businesses. "My guess is that she's going to take a writeoff before the end of this year, so she can have a great year next year," Foster said. Some of the companies which HP bought, such as Autonomy and EDS, had a lot of services included, and those services have evaporated because there's a conflict. "If you're IBM, will you now buy Autonomy services once HP owns it?" Foster asks. A $5 billion purchase of Cognos in 2009 seems to block buying Big Data services from Autonomy, he suggests.
The Apple community is anticipating the demise of HP's laptop business as a factor in a red-ink quarter. iPads are on track to sell about 70 million units for 2012, while the rest of the industry's PC business has been fading. Dell's PC business has constricted so quickly the company has stopped calling itself a personal computing provider. Buy-ups like Quest hope to move Dell into the services arena.
The Associated Press moved a story today that predicts $9 billion in losses for the period which ended on July 31.
Facing up to its past mistakes is expected to saddle Hewlett-Packard with a quarterly loss of nearly $9 billion, the largest setback in the Silicon Valley pioneer's history.
The sobering results, due out after the stock market closes Wednesday, won't be a surprise. The company telegraphed the loss earlier this month when it disclosed it will absorb massive charges to account for an ill-advised acquisition and the initial costs of a streamlining program that will jettison 27,000 jobs to help boost HP's sagging profits.
Most of the damage stems from HP's $13 billion acquisition of technology consulting service Electronic Data Systems in 2008. The deal hasn't panned out the way that HP envisioned, forcing the company to write down the value of its Enterprise Services division.
HP also will record a charge of $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion to cover the severance payments to workers being pruned from the company payroll. The cuts, which will eliminate about 8 percent of HP's workforce, are being spread over the next two years.
On the other hand, HP has not shifted away from a forecast of August 8 predicting better than first expected profits.
HP is increasing its previously provided third quarter fiscal 2012 non-GAAP earnings per share (EPS) outlook to approximately $1.00 per share, up from a previous range of $0.94 to $0.97. Third quarter fiscal 2012 non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs related primarily to the amortization and impairment of purchased intangible assets, goodwill impairment charges, restructuring charges and acquisition-related charges.
That AP financial writer's forecast which predicts that massive red ink fingers the EDS charges -- not laptop declines -- plus $1.5 billion in early retirement offers accepted that will pool the losses. These EER offers are being accepted at a rate that's surprising HP. What's working to help the HP numbers is reductions in costs.
Cost cutting is the main reason that HP fared slightly better during the latest quarter than management had anticipated. Add it all up, and it's expected to produce a loss of $4.31 to $4.49 per share during the three months ending in July. That translates into a loss of $8.5 billion to $8.9 billion, the worst quarterly showing since HP started out in a garage in 1939.
The AP writer thinks that investors will be more interested in the way Meg is restructuring HP than any single poor quarter.
Not many companies have never reported 51 successive years of black ink. By Wednesday we'll know if HP will maintain its string.
August 13, 2012
Securely Migrating to the Cloud
HP has pushed hard to entice the enterprise to make the cloud a new home for business data. While evaluating the pros and cons of making a cost-saving move from classic HP 3000 datacenters to the cloud, this guide of what's to be managed will help. Our security analyst Steve Hardwick looks closer at the challenges a manager must resolve if their onsite storage and systems can be replaced with remote infrastructure.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot of buzz around cloud-based solutions. There is a lot to be said for moving to this architecture, especially the lower operating costs. However, a lot of the press has been sourced by suppliers such as HP -- the same people who provide the cloud solutions. It is no surprise that the picture they paint is very rosy. Fortunately, if done well, a cloud transition can be a very successful endeavor. But what are some of the challenges in embarking on this adventure? Let me give you some background on the type of security challenges you are going to face. I will also offer a set of free resources that are invaluable in tackling this migration.
First of all, a little security 101. In the security world there is a very common acronym, CIA. It is not what you may think. It stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. Confidentiality is the part of security that is concerned with ensuring that only authorized users can view or copy information. This is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about security. Integrity is concerned with the accuracy of the data, only authorized users can create and change information. Finally Availability addresses the ability of authorized uses to perform these actions upon the information.
A few examples help illustrate these concepts. Confidentiality: a password protected encrypted file. Only the user with the password can access the data. Integrity: a password protected public web side. Although many people can view the data, only authorized users can create or modify it. Availability: data is backed up to a remote storage service. If there is a drive failure, an authorized user or IT manager can still get access to data by getting a copy of the backup.
Like any journey it is important to understand your point of origin. Let's take a look at some of the inherent security controls in an on-premise solution which is already in place.
First of all there are some physical controls that are normally in place that can be easily overlooked. For example, there is a strong physical relationship between a laptop and the user. Forgetting remote access for a moment, a manager attains a measure of security from the simple fact that the authorized user must be physically present to access the machine. There are also MAC address logs which can track who accesses the network and when.
Secondly, if I am not using my laptop I can physically secure it when not in use and provide physical measures, such as a locked filing cabinet, to further secure the data. Finally, if I want to help prevent unauthorized users from changing the data I can put users in a special area in my facility, HR or accounting for example. The physical separation provides a way of preventing unauthorized access.
Next, there is the capability to monitor who can access the data. This can either by done physically or technically. Physically involves putting in place a badging system to prevent unauthorized access to the facility. Logs are kept of who is allowed in and the failed attempts are recorded. Plus alarms can be added to signal unauthorized entry.
On a technical level, usernames and passwords are a baseline methodology for controlling virtual access to data. Again, logs are kept on authorized and failed access attempts. Logging analysis tools can be used to generate alarms based on failed attempts. To augment the logging systems, you can add intrusion controls to the mix. These solutions can detect intruders as they attempt to gain access and, in many cases, help prevent it.
Finally there is the availability of information. This varies, from the ability to restore an individual file to a user to restoring complete back-ups of the corporate email system. One of the main challenges is the speed at which data can be restored. End users expect data to be recovered in minutes to a couple of hours.
There is also a hidden challenge: How to ensure that the back-up copies are not compromised. In 2011 Science Applications International Corp. said backup computer tapes containing sensitive health information of 4.9 million Military Health Care System TRICARE beneficiaries treated in the San Antonio, Texas, area since 1992 were stolen from an employee's car Sept. 14. This is just one, albeit major, example of what can happen if backup data is not secured physically and encrypted.
In summary, an on-premise solution is a mix of different controls that help preserve confidentiality, integrity and availability. It is very important to take an inventory of these controls prior to beginning any migration to the cloud, for two reasons.
One, and somewhat obviously, the cloud solution must provide the same if not better security controls as the current system. Especially if the organization has to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Two, many controls that are currently in place may be overlooked – how to replace physical security for example. A risk assessment to catalog the security controls is a critical starting point in migrating to the cloud.
If you do not already have a risk assessment methodology -- or even if you do -- the National Institute of Standard and Technology NIST provides a free risk assessment guide “SP800 – 30 Risk Management Guide for Information Technology Systems” (you can download the PDF here). NIST provides these guides as a baseline for federal organizations to build their security programs. Using this document and running through an assessment will give you an idea of what you already have in place and what a cloud based solution will need to meet.
Looking at some these security controls, what sort of challenges occur in the cloud world? Often overlooked is the lack of physical security controls that mimic the ones in the on-premise solution. For example, my data in no longer in my control when not in use. I can't lock my piece of the cloud in my filing cabinet when I go home at night. Cloud solutions must be able to mimic the physical separation of the information by putting in place other types of controls, in this case it's typically encryption.
Similarly, with monitoring and alarms, how do my IT team get access to the logging information that they need to monitor the cloud based system? I also need to know what other systems are in place to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the data, plus let the IT staff know when there has been a security breach.
Finally there is the case of availability. In the cloud world this is handled with Service Level Agreements. Your agreement must specify how users will be assured that their data will be made available when they need it. Suddenly instead of dealing with backup solutions, this is now a contractual agreement and it needs a different skill set.
Fortunately there is one way to start getting ahead of the curve. NIST has a couple of other very useful SP800 series publications that are worth mentioning. Since cloud computing is a relatively new and fact changing technology, it is important to understand the concepts. At its website, csrc.nist.gov/publications, you'' find NIST SP800-145 “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.” It gives a good overview of the basic concepts of cloud computing in a few pages (3-4). If you are just getting started, then this is a great primer.
Next is its companion NIST SP800-144 “Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing” which goes into great details on how to put together a plan on addressing cloud security needs. It also outlines some of the security controls that should be in place and will be a complement to the assessment exercise I mentioned earlier.
In addition to NIST there is one other organization that is worth a mention. Formed in 2009, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing. The organization produces a wealth of free information on the topic of cloud computing security. One CSA initiative is a GRC stack with a set of tools for Governance, Risk Management and Compliance. There are several components in the stack -- let's talk about two of them will be highlighted.
There are several training presentation on the site that give a good overview of the new security challenges that cloud computing brings. For example the original training documentation shows how the security requirements are changed in the cloud Then there is the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix CCM. This tool provides a spreadsheet that maps the CSA security control definitions to several different regulatory requirements (PCI, SOX, GLBA FISMA and so on.) It gives a quick and easy way to generate a checklist of the current controls in your on-premise environment, then map them to a set of requirements for the cloud provider. Furthermore, if you have some other regulatory requirements, or your own internal set, you can easily add these to the mapping.
NIST and CSA have provided a set of tested and freely available tools to help any IT organization in their journey to the cloud world. CSA also has a wealth of information that can help to train IT professionals and get them onto a cloud based way of thinking. In both cases they are independent bodies so they are not trying to highlight a specific solution. Consider adding these organizations in your list of cloud security references.
Moving to the cloud brings with it a new set of security challenges. It is now a world of hack once and expose everywhere. Knowing where you came from is critical to understanding the impact of these challenges as you move forward.
Steve Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Financial, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.
August 10, 2012
Community sage tracks HP's historic dream
While I'm researching the meaty bits of the 3000 for its autobiography, I found another rich resource in a chat with Birket Foster. Like few other vendors, he's celebrated 35 years this year of 3000 business. Yesterday he pointed me at a few dreamy links of HP concept videos.
These are the fond wishes of companies looking toward the future. The video of 1995 was broadcast to the press and the public during the year 1988, when the NewWave office communication products were just released. Ideals in this video -- which is full of office drama about winning a big contract -- include interactive agents tracking schedules and taking voice commands to create reports, plus presentation tools automated by spoken commands.
Everything was connected in an "all-in" concept using HP's NewWave foundation. The HP 3000 had a NewWave role, providing the data to make reports from a well-connected database. I thought 1995 was lost to dusty VCR collections, but Birket tracked it down via YouTube. Concept videos can be unintentionally comic. You can tell from this one it was written in the era of suspenders, white shirts and ties in the office. That's just about the time of the start of HP's shift-to-Unix campaign. And the HP 3000 and other product names are never used. Unlikely to be named, the 3000 just works.
This just-works ideal still lives in the 3000's heritage. A couple of interviews from industry veterans like Ron Miller of Amerigroup and Paul Edwards referenced that reliability pledge. Both said that when the 3000 just worked, the computer was demonstrating its strongest asset. Compared to the alternatives at the start of 3000 service, the MPE ideals must've seemed as far forward as a 1995 vison which was devised in 1989.HP has another concept video called Cooltown in the YouTube archives. Cool Town was unveiled in 2000, with a focus on a broader field than just business and enterprise computing. 2000 was the last full year when the HP 3000 had a cogent message delivered by HP about the system's future. "It's not Windows NT or Unix, but it has an essential role," summed up HP's concept about the 3000.
If you search for "concept videos" in YouTube, or just watch the 1995 vison, you'll see suggestions from other vendors' videos. Apple's got a couple including the Knowlege Navigator. The power of smartphones is suggested in both Cool Town and Apple's concepts, although they use PDAs that look a lot more like circa-2000 Palm Treos than the mobile computers Apple pioneered in 2007.
A concept video reminds us of how far a company can reach and dream to encourgage faith in technology futures. Or it proves that some visions didn't have the benefit of real world input. Instead, they're stories and scenarios built out of the labs and marketing focus groups. The HP 3000 is beyond concept videos in all but one place by now. Emulation of HP's MPE/iX hardware, plus a cloud computing potential for such emulators, would make a good concept video. Throw it out four years and no further and you might see hand-computing devices like HP's new business tablet or even smartphones controlling cloud servers, including MPE/iX partitions.
The markets of today need to show respect for individual environments which include things like MPE/iX for the platform to win a part in these fever-dream productions. It's more likely that just as in 1995, specifics of products fall out of the next concept story. Foster believes that cloud computing will continue to move server hardware out of IT datacenters, even more quickly now. "People will buy a server in the sky," he said. "We're at a crucial stage in the marketplace." Sometimes pie-in-the sky visions show a way toward new concepts, too.
August 08, 2012
HP's advice on passwords: Got C, but no IA
As 3000 users move out of their protected and obscure MPE/iX, they encounter more virulent environmental waters. Never mind the malware and spyware aimed at Windows and Macs. (Yes, Apple systems are targets, although few have been hacked en masse). This weekend's big story from popular blogger Mat Honan revealed he got his Gmail swiped, his Mac and iPad wiped remotely, his Twitter account heisted, and his iPhone hijacked. All in a matter of minutes because one password, off the new Apple iCloud, was stolen.
This kind of perfect storm happened because the blogger had plenty of computing systems protected by a single password. By coincidence of course, HP released an the HP Technology at Work IT business eNewsletter that suggests some good password practices. But it starts out with bad advice.
"Try putting your hands on the keyboard and just typing randomly -- a gibberish password can be very secure." This sort of consumer-grade instruction bypasses two of the three security requirements for passwords in the industry.
"There is an acronym in the security world: CIA," says Steve Hardwick, a CISSP pro whose current mission is security for the pre-payment systems at Oxygen Financial. "That's Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability. So the HP advice is true on one count, but not all of them. This is a very common security mistake."Hardwick, who's also worked security for Dell's Global Systems as part of a 30-year career in IT, says that making up a password out of nonsense works well only the first time you use it: when you apply it to an account which you secure.
"The HP advice addresses Confidentiality only," he says. "Other people would have difficulty guessing this password. However, it is very weak from an Integrity perspective, as it would be difficult to type in reliably without a reference by writing it down. Plus, it would be weak from an Availability perspective, as it would be very easy to forget without a reference -- again, which would require writing it down."
You could always enter the gibberish in an encrypted file, instead of a post-it note on your monitor. But un-encypting a file every time you forgot a gibberish password adds a lot of time to a workday. And to be clear, that Apple blogger had his password cracked after a hacker talked an Apple support staffer into revealing the password. As Bruce Hobbs, who's consulted and worked in 3000 shops for more than 25 years said, "This reminds me of some of the stories that Vladimir [Volokh] and Bruce Schneier tell: the core 'problem' is almost always people."
HP's got far better security options than gibberish passwords, but they'll cost an enterprise customer a lot more than a click on a eNewsletter. Its Enterprise Cloud Security (ECS) products for securing clouds -- such as Apple's iCloud -- include ECS-Continuity. HP says that service includes two-factor authenticated access to priviledged user accounts, along with NIDS/NIPS, firewall and VPN monitoring, OS hardening, physical data center security and SIEM monitoring.
The HP 3000 managers we've interviewed about cloud computing cite security as the top reason they're putting the cloud on a long simmer for migration plans. As for those passwords, Hardwick came up with a better strategy to create a password you're likely to remember.
Pick a number you know well from back in your history. Then devise a word that's not a word, like "mobolanium." Then alternate each letter and numeral to create a password. You may get something like "m9o7b5o3l2a1n4i6u5m" It might not be everything that ECS Continuity offers in its two-factor passworld access schemes. But it's got CIA. However like the other CIA, if you tell it you'll have to kill someone -- or at least a system.
August 03, 2012
Win for HP-UX's Present No Proof of Future
Over at the headquarters of HP's Business Critical Systems division, the streamers and sighs of relief float in the air this week. A court of California has ruled that Oracle must continue to do business with HP just as it always did. That threat of killing off its database for use on the Itanium systems -- as therefore, HP-UX -- was an empty one if Oracle follows the law and the ruling of a judge.
The HP 3000 had a similar close call more than once in its life. During 1993 and 1994 HP was hammering away at the core of the 3000 customer base. It used R&D managers and GMs to convince leading app vendors they'd be better served by porting to HP-UX. By the spring of '94 Adager organized a Proposition 3000 movement (like the California propositions, all numbered) complete with fine embroidered t-shirts. We wore them to the Interex Computer Management Symposium and lashed at the HP managers on hand.
Soon enough, sense seemed to prevail at HP. A revival of the tech investment began that brought out a better database, moved the system into the open source and Internet world, attracted new customers through the likes of Smith-Gardner ecommerce, and generally swung the sales meter upward. In the middle of this trend we started the NewsWire to spread the word about that year's renaissance.
But HP was a vendor with its own mission. A success in rebooting HP's 3000 business was certified by new sales, right up to the year Hewlett-Packard sounded its swan song for 3000 futures. We had won the battle with HP, but the damage was done with an internal wound. And so goes the same song for Oracle and HP-UX, and probably the future of that operating system inside HP this time. Oracle backs away with this court ruling. But this week's win delivers no proof there's a healthy future for Oracle's HP relationship. You cannot force a company to do business differently, not even if there are tens of thousands of customers who desire the same kind of love they've had for decades.The story chronicled above comes from the HP Chronicle, a newsmonthly which I helped launch in 1984 to cover all things HP. By the time this story surfaced I'd left the Chronicle to "pursue other interests," as they say about anyone who departs from a company with ideas of his own. I didn't leave with an idea about the NewsWire, but it came to my wife Abby, and then to me. I was still writing a guest column for the Chronicle when the above was printed. We saw a focused information opportunity that nobody wanted, and nobody thought would break even. Plus fresh evidence -- like that HP win this week -- that the 3000 was winning respect inside HP. Enough honor to stop the internal assault on the customer base to switch to Unix. Enough admiration to teach the Unix group how to engage with the Customer First in mind.
From the outlook of HP, however, that renaissance didn't have a future. By the late '90s new IA-64 design was becoming an engineering reality instead of swell PowerPoint slides shown to the big customers running 3000s and 9000s. HP had to decide if it would spend tens of millions of dollars to make MPE/iX ready for the latest chip design. It decided no. Then it recanted. Then the inevitable happened -- inevitable if you realize a Compaq-HP merger swung the ax on the necks of some products.
While the 3000 renaissance was rolling, and even after Y2K got beaten as soundly as Oracle did this week, the future looked bright. Especially when, like Oracle's forced march into HP's Itanium, there was a promise to bring what was by then called Itanium to the 3000 world. But forces high inside HP -- indeed, as high as Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd sit at Oracle -- didn't want a 3000 business around to compete with the newly-purchased, just as devoted, and much larger VAX-VMS lineup.
The 3000 left HP's futures. Just as surely, Oracle will leave the realm of HP-UX and Itanium, and take with it many of the very customers pumping billions in profits into HP. Support profits, mostly, since there's not a lot of new Itanium winning its way into companies. What's more, there's plenty of Itanium getting turned off, so HP's BladeServers with Linux will step in. Many blades will have nothing to do with HP.
Those of you who read me regularly on the subject of HP probably know where this is headed. "Oh, HP made a mistake then. They'll make another now. Investing in HP's Unix doesn't have a lengthy upside." I still believe all that, and I'm not alone. Some vendors are glad, however, that the FUD of Oracle and Itanium is going to have to go underground. But it's not going to go away.
It's good to have customers as well as prospects who are using HP-UX and Itanium, if that's the pulse of your profits model. But do not mistake this HP legal win for a renaissance of Itanium at Oracle. There was a time when that might have happened, but that time was back when there was no Internet, when faxes were the fastest, and when the USA Dream Team was making its basketball Olympic splash. Plenty has changed since Oracle and HP could do billions in business together without so much as a signed napkin. One of the biggest changes is that HP's old CEO, given the bum's rush by the Hewlett-Packard board, is now running an operation aimed at killing off Itanium.
Mark Hurd was such a key hire for Oracle that he had a remarkable clause in his employment agreement. We've learned from reading documents that Hurd had a provision for what might happen when Oracle purchased HP in a takeover. There's no need to go all tinpot-despot while sizing up the Oracle management chiefs. But any company that figured they could buy you up while they hired your former CEO isn't going to let one judge's ruling, plus $4 billion in damages, pull them off their windmill-tilting quest.
The drive-by shooting bystander in targeting Itanium is HP-UX, just hanging out on HP's chips and still outselling Solaris. Not Linux, though. Hewlett-Packard knows the enterprise future is Linux, too. So if you're hip-deep in HP's Unix and reading the 43-page victory announcement from the judge, enjoy it. We announced an HP renaissance about the 3000 in 1995, and it lasted six years until HP had to grow up and grow out of the operating system business. It won't take Hurd and Oracle's uber-meister Larry Ellison that long to get Itanium out of the way, even as they're discovering technical problems with new Oracle database releases for Itanium.
Those are the releases that will be court-ordered to run on what HP will call game-changing Itanium designs. However, we've heard from both inside and outside of HP that this FUD campaign of Oracle's has already landed a mortal blow to the Business Critical Systems group. Not even $4 billion in damages will offset what's going unsold, or return the top tech talent that HP's cut in its latest employment purge. The HP-UX and Itanium writing is still out there, but instead of being on the wall it's now it's in legal briefs waved in appellate courtrooms.
These 43 pages from the judge won't be enough to prove anything but Oracle violated an agreement, one struck under pressure when Mark Hurd lept to a rival overnight. Gaudy mistakes like axing the 3000, or kicking a hornet's nest in firing Hurd, come from a boardroom level at HP. The little people working magic in the labs, and the customers trying to protect investments, are the ones getting stung.
August 02, 2012
HP wins lawsuit ruling against Oracle
After more than a year of accusations, secret document dumps, and a glut of suits and countersuits, HP has a victory in its lawsuit against Oracle to save the Itanium servers. Hewlett-Packard didn't paint the suit in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County California as a battle for Itanium's future. But in winning the ruling from Judge James P. Kleinberg, HP will force Oracle to keep selling and porting its database for Itanium servers. Oracle believed that a clause in a lawsuit which settled hiring away Mark Hurd didn't force Oracle to stay in the HP market.
Oracle said it will appeal the ruling immediately. The next step of the lawsuit is to bring the matter in front of a jury to determine damages Oracle must pay HP. Hewlett-Packard estimated it would have lost $4 billion in HP-UX and Integrity business if Oracle had won. Much of it was calculated in support fees.
Legal and industry analysts, as well as members of the 3000 community, are not completely convinced this settles the future for Oracle on Itanium. The judge noted that Oracle and HP were once close partners. Kleinberg noted in his ruling that both companies made a lot of profit for many years working together. It all began to unravel in the spring of 2010, after the former HP CEO Hurd was cleared to take a systems leadership job with HP's rival Sun/Oracle.
Oracle must port its products to Itanium servers without charge, the judge ruled. Oracle said it decided to dump Itanium and HP-UX because it believes the chip is approaching its end of life. Oracle didn't say that about HP-UX. But the operating system only runs on Itanium servers by now, unless a company's got older, PA-RISC-based servers.
Alan Yeo of Screenjet, a provider of tools and services to modernize legacy interfaces on the 3000, believes HP isn't going to extend the HP-UX lifespan very much as a result of a court ruling. "HP don't want to be in the operating systems business anymore," he said yesterday. "That's not where they're going."Some members of the 3000 community are saying that it's very new and untested law to force one company to do business with another. "Forcing parents to stay together for the sake of the kids normally isn't a good idea," Yeo added. "Neither, I suspect, is compelling companies to be business partners." He thinks an exit strategy for Oracle-Itanium users is in order.
On a Wall Street Journalreport about the outcome, several commenters noted that Oracle has other means to keep its database out of Itanium/HP-UX IT centers. "The court may order Oracle to provide software and support, but there is nothing against pooling high-schoolers in Itanium support centre," said Mike Kichton.
"The court may be able to force Oracle to support Itanium," said another commenter, "but they can't make them do it well."
Inside HP, confidence remains high about the prospects for Itanium -- and by extension, HP-UX. Even while HP insisted that Oracle was bound to its promises to support Itanium, HP began to promote Postgres SQL as an alternative. The doubt and battles over the future of the database which is the most often installed on HP-UX have cost HP millions of dollars already. In the quarterly report from this year's Q1, HP's CEO named the Oracle battle as a factor in a 27 percent decline in the Business Critical server business, the group selling servers that run tanium chips. BCS numbers continued to drop in Q2.
The judge's ruling will be of no help for the BCS Q3 sales, which ended the day before the court edict was announced. HP called the ruling "a tremendous win."
Today’s proposed ruling is a tremendous win for HP and its customers. The Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County, has confirmed the existence of a contract between HP and Oracle that requires Oracle to port its software products to HP’s Itanium-based servers. We expect Oracle to comply with its contractual obligation as ordered by the Court.
HP summarized the court's order in a brief statement on its Newsroom website.
July 25, 2012
Matches of Mountain Lion and MPE/iX
By Brian Edminster
I follow far too many blogs, in my vain attempt to stay informed on the state of technology (software, hardware, and other). When Apple released its state of the art OS today, I kept on researching. As a byproduct of those attempts, I happened on an article from Information Architects, Mountain Lion’s New File System, and found it quite interesting.
In short, it appears that Apple -- in working to move away from a many-leveled folder hierarchy to 'force' a two-level hierarchy in its file-systems (iOS, and now in OSX) -- is now basically moving towards where MPE was from the beginning.
In MPE's case, it's Account and Group, rather than Application, and folder within Application. But the resemblance is striking.
MPE applications can 'see' -- and when necessary -- access, across accounts. I'm not entirely sure how that'll be achieved in OSX or iOS, although I'm fairly sure that those better-versed in Apple products could point it out to me.
I also noted that, perhaps for different reasons of which I'm not sure -- I'm going purely on conjecture here --Microsoft is doing the same basic thing in its folder structures. The folder structures in Windows 7 are becoming more libraries of 'kinds of things'-based, plus it tries to 'hide' you from the 'pathing' to get to a file. So far, I find their implementation far less satisfying that Apple's has been.
I can't honestly say that (for the filesystem structure, at least) that MPE was so far ahead of its time that other OS's are just now catching up. But I am curious about what drove the two-level structure. Perhaps someone who worked in the labs might have that insight to share.
Regardless of the reason, good designs often converge in a particular direction or way. And I suspect that this may be an example of that as much that as anything else.
I know that the late Wirt Atmar of AICS Research firmly believed in simple paradigms for storage concepts (often explained as file-cabinet drawers and folders) -- and that MPE's filesystem fit that quite well. He firmly believed that was one of MPE's great strengths.