February 13, 2015
It's become data mart season for retailers
This second month of the new year is the first full month for changes to retailer or e-tailer enterprises. While the HP 3000 is scarcely involved in retail IT, the e-tail aspects of the industry triggered the fastest growth in the installed base. That was during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, when Ecometry fielded so much growth that it represented more than half of the new HP 3000 installations.
The nature of e-tailing is built around holidays, so the last three months of each year, and much of January, see few changes to IT operations. But now it's a data mart month for these enterprises. Marts have been around a very long time, well back into those 1990s. A mart is a subset of a data warehouse, and the mart has established itself as fundamental database technology.
In the e-tailer sector where 3000s still operate, new data insights are much prized. Catalogs started these businesses, and by now there's a gold standard to capturing customer dollars based on data analysis. The discount website Zulily measures customer interaction on a per-transaction basis, then tunes the landing pages to fit what a customer's shown interest in during prior visits. That's the kind of insight that demands a serious data mart strategy.
Most e-tailers, the kind of 3000 user that does e-commerce, are not that sophisticated. For those Ecometry sites with requirements that outstrip that software suite, Ability Commerce has add-ons like an order management system. For data mart setups, these sites can rely on MB Foster, according to its CEO Birket Foster. Ability and MB Foster are in a new partnership for this data mart season.
"Ability has complementary products to the Ecometry system," Foster said, "but they also can replace the Ecometry system. We, on the other hand, do work on putting together data marts for retail. We expect there will be an opportunity for us to have a chat about how a data mart might work for these people."
These e-tailing sites are just now getting to look at the most recent Ecometry strategy from last June, Foster added. It's a prime time for plans to form up and migrations to proceed. With every migration, data has to move. That's what a big online movie vendor learned last year.
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February 12, 2015
TBT: Sure, there's 20 more years of the 3000
Just 22 years ago this month, the leader of the HP 3000 division figured HP would still be selling and supporting HP 3000s working in businesses today. Glenn Osaka was in his first few months running what HP called CSY, a group that was coming up hard against HP's own Unix sales force.
"I think there's another 20 years in it," he said in 1993, "but I can tell you that 20 years from now, we'll probably look back and the 3000 won't be looking at all like it looks today."
Nobody could see a virtualized server looking like HP's proprietary hardware. PA-RISC computing was just becoming dominant. In 1993 there was no serious emulation in enterprise servers, let alone virtualization. The magic of Charon had not even dawned for the Digital servers where the Stromasys product notched its first success.
But HP was thinking big in that February. Osaka said the 3000 was about to take on "applications that traditionally would have been thought of as IBM mainframe-class applications. That program is going gangbusters for us. To get that new business on the high end of the product line is very effective for us, because it's the most profitable business we can do. More and more of our new business is going to come from people who are coming from mainframes."
The division was posting annual growth of 5-10 percent, which might have been impressive until HP compared it to 40 percent annual growth in its Unix line.
In a year when HP was just introducing a Unix-like Posix interface to MPE, Osaka said HP's "work that we're doing on Unix is very easily leveraged to the 3000, and we're simply using our sales force to help us find the opportunities to bring it to market first."
He identified the newest generation of the 3000's database as "SQL for IMAGE," something that would help with relationships with partners like Cognos, Gupta Technologies, PowerSoft and more. What HP would call IMAGE/SQL "will give our customers access to these partners' tools without having to change their database management system." A new client-server solutions program was afoot at HP, and the 3000 was being included on a later schedule than the HP 9000 Unix servers.
The server would "carve itself a nice, comfortable niche in some of the spaces we don't even really conceive of today, particularly in transaction-based processing." Osaka would hold the job until 1995, when he'd become the head of the Computer Systems Business Unit at HP. By that time, he'd guessed, HP would still be able to show its customers that "the level of capability that we provide on the 3000 is higher" than HP Unix servers.
February 11, 2015
ERP that goes places that are invisible
A webinar briefing this week on data transfer technologies and application portfolios included a new phrase: Going Cloud. It sounded like the ideal of going green for paper-based enterprises, or moving away from something that once served its purpose well. One of the providers of a migration replacement package for 3000 manufacturing users suggests it's high time to consider the unseen potential of the cloud as a place that ERP can go.
In a blog post called Cloud ERP: Inertia Is Not An Option, a technologist at the ERP vendor Kenandy touts an analyst's white paper that says there are "increasingly credible alternatives to the old line behemoths,” and giving Kenandy as an example. The white paper by Cindy Jutras of ERP consultants Mint Jutras is titled Next Generation ERP: Kenandy's Approach. It makes a case for why an HP 3000 stalwart like MANMAN, built by ASK in the 1970s, is ready for a trip to the cloud.
Kenandy needs to actively engage not only with its prospects, but also its customers. For that type of engagement, it needs to build an active community.
This was something Sandy Kurtzig’s prior company ASK was very good at – so good in fact that the MANMAN community has outlived the company and lives on even today. Can Kenandy replicate this kind of success? Odds are in favor of doing just that. The MANMAN community was built on word of mouth, local and regional user groups and an annual conference.
Not only does Kenandy hope to be able to deliver a full customer list for references (as ASK did for many years), but also has many more tools at its disposal to support that community, including a one-stop customer portal (called the Kenandy Community). Its ability to engage with the community either as a whole, or personally, one customer at a time, has never been more technology-enabled.
February 10, 2015
Multiple Parallel Tapes on 3000 Backups
Editor's note: When I saw a request this week for a copy of HP patch MPEMX85A (a patch to STORE that enables Store-To-Disk) for older MPE/iX releases, it brought a storage procedure request to mind.
I'm dealing with some MPE storage processes and need assistance. You would think after storing files on tapes after 10-plus years, we would have found a better way to do this. We use TurboStore with four tape drives and need to find a way to validate the backup. Vstore appears to only have the ability to use one tape drive. Currently I have some empty files scattered through the system and use a separate job to delete them, remount the tapes and restore, trying to access all four drives.
When using vestore:
vstore [vstorefile] [;filesetlist]
It seems that vstorefile is looking for a file equation similar to:
File t; dev=tape
vstore *t;@.@.@; show
This is why it appears that I can't use more than one tape drive, unless they are in serial, while we want to use four drives in parallel. What method or software should I be using?
Mark Ranft of Pro3K replies:
We always found that DLT 8000 tapes worked well in parallel. When the backup got so big that it wouldn't fit on two DLT 8000 tapes, we split the backup, putting the databases on two tapes in parallel and everything else on a third tape. Keep in mind, we didn't have a backup strategy. We had a recovery strategy and backups were a part of that. We found, for us, organizing backups in this manner allowed us to speed recovery — which was far more important than anything else.
You can achieve good times doing Store-to-Disk backups. But then what? Do you back up the STD to tape and send it offsite? FTP it somewhere? The recovery times on getting this back are too slow.
February 09, 2015
Managers still linking with 3000 data tools
MB Foster has been holding Wednesday Webinars for years. So far back, in fact, that the first round of webinars appeared less than six weeks after HP announced its drop plans for the 3000 in 2001. Those drop plans might not be working completely as expected, if Foster's response to a new Thursday Webinar is a good measure.
The company has added private Webinars, and it's also setting up by-invitation webinars, too. While we were researching updates on the e-commerce alternatives for 3000 sites, we learned this week's presentation on Thursday covers the UDA Link connectivity software for the HP 3000. Registrations for the guided tour of this software are outpacing the company's general interest The 3 R’s of Migration: Rehost, Replace, Retire.
While UDA Link does run on other servers, its most avid customer base operate their businesses using MPE/iX systems. It's one data marker to show that some system managers are still auditioning tools for 3000s. An invitation to that by-invitation UDA Link webinar is just an e-mail away, a message a manager can send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wednesday Webinar on those 3 Rs starts at 2 PM Eastern time; a web form on the MB Foster site manages registration for that session.
February 06, 2015
How far out can migration assistance lead?
Companies that use Ecometry's ecommerce package have been in transition a long time. Once HP announced in 2001 that the 3000's future was limited at the vendor, Ecometry's campaign to migrate got more intense and focused. After several acquisitions of this software and more than a decade, its customers are still facing some migrations.
But some of the customers are looking at a migration beyond just an alternative platform for running Ecometry's successor, JDA Direct Commerce. When IT operations make a transition like this, one kind of destination can be moving to a different vendor's application. Any existing app vendor would be of little help in this kind of move. Then again, the replacement app's vendor might not know enough about a 3000 Ecometry version, or even the Windows Ecometry version that many 3000 sites have embraced.
This kind of migration is one of several that alliance partners assist with. These partners are companies that have experience with implementing and customizing the IT around the application. Sometimes, as in the case of Ability Commerce, they have an alternative ecommerce app like SmartSite and still operate as a partner with Ecometry's latest owners, JDA. A partner brings deeper experience. When there's data to be moved, a company wants to be sure they've got all of it, ready for the new app, safely transformed from its prior incarnation in whatever version of Ecometry it is still running.
Such IT operations sometimes look for help from a place like MB Foster, which is why the company became a partner with Ability late last year. Ability is hosting its own Ability Commerce User Summit in a month in Delray Beach, Florida. That's the town that used to be the HQ for the old Ecometry. Birket Foster's company will be a sponsor at the Summit. He said his company's work is '"for the standard migration to Ecometry on Windows, or if the customer has a choice of deciding they'll go to something else," he said. "We'd also be able to provide assistance with moving to the Ability Order Management System, for example."
Services companies like Foster's can act like independent insurance agents, or unfettered consulting shops. They'll enable a move off of MPE/iX applications. And sometimes that move can be all way off the existing vendor's alternative apps, and onto another vendor's package. Or in this case, customers can tap a partnership to embrace allied software that will help in a migration.
February 05, 2015
Getting Chromed, and Bad Calls
The HP 3000 made its bones against IBM's business computers, and the wires are alive this week with the fortunes of Big Blue circa 2015. Starting with meetings yesterday, the company is conducting a Resource Action, its euphemism for layoffs. IBM employees call these RAs, but this year's edition is so special -- and perhaps so deep -- it's got a project name. The cutting is dubbed Project Chrome, and so the IBM'ers call getting laid off Getting Chromed.
Hewlett-Packard has never wanted to call its layoffs by their real name either. The first major HP layoff action during the 3000's watch came in the fall of 1989, when more than 800 of these separations were called "being excessed." Employees had four months to find a new place inside HP, but had to search on their own time. Engineers and support staff were given the option to remain at the company, but jobs at plant guard shacks were among their new career options. Another virulent strain of HP pink slips came in the middle of the last decade, one of the purges in pursuit of better Earnings Per Share that pared away much of the remaining MPE/iX expertise from the vendor.
Aside from bad quarterly reports, these unemployment actions sometimes come in the aftermath of ill-fated corporate acquisitions. This week on CNBC's Squawk Box, analysts identified HP's Compaq merger as one of the worst calls of all time. The subject surfaced after the questionable call that led to a Seattle defeat in Sunday's SuperBowl. A big company's failures in new markets can also be to blame for getting Chromed. IBM has seen its revenues and profits fall over the last year, while mobile and cloud competitors have out-maneuvered Big Blue.
IBM has already shucked off the Cognos development tool PowerHouse as of early last year, but now comes word that other non-IBM software is getting its support pared back in the RA. In the IEEE's digital edition of Spectrum, one commenter made a case for how IBM is sorting out what's getting Chromed.
I am the last US resource supporting a non-IBM software package, which is in high demand globally -- yet the powers that be seem oblivious to it. Rather than create a dedicated group to go after that business, they cut anyone with that skill, since it is not an IBM product and therefore, "not strategic." Unfortunately the company continues to gamble on their Tivoli products, which clients seem to embrace about as much as Lotus Notes, rabies and bird flu.
February 04, 2015
Checks on MPE's subsystems don't happen
Once we broach a topic here on your digital newsstand, even more information surfaces. Yesterday we reported on the state of HPSUSAN number-checking on 3000 hardware. We figured nobody had ever seen HPSUSAN checks block a startup of MPE itself, so long as the HPCPUNAME information was correct. The HP subsystems, though, those surely got an HPSUSAN check before booting, right?
Not based on what we're hearing since our report. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies related his experience with HP's policing of things like COBOL II or TurboStore.
I can't claim to be an expert in all things regarding to software licensing methods. But I can tell you from personal experience that none of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered or used had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them. That would include the compilers (such as the BASIC/3000 interpreter and compiler), any of the various levels of the HP STORE software versions, Mirror/iX, Dictionary/3000, BRW, or any of the networking software. (I'll note that the networking software components were quite picky in making sure that compatible versions of the various components were used together, in order for everything to work properly.)
The only time I saw HP-provided software examined using the HPSUSAN was when server hardware was upgraded. It checked the CPU upgrades, or number of CPUs in a chassis.
February 03, 2015
Software That Checks Who Is Using It
HP 3000s have been outfitted with unique identity numbers for decades. In the '90s a scandal arose around hardware resellers who were committing fraud with modified system IDs. People were jailed, fines were paid, and HP made the 3000 world safe for authorized resellers. Until it crashed its 3000 futures and those resellers' businesses two years later. We've not heard if those fines or jail terms were rolled back.
It's probably not fair to think they would be, since those resellers stole something while they fabricated ID numbers. That sort of fraud may still be possible. We heard a question last week about what sort of checking would ever be done regarding the HPSUSAN number. In the recently-curtailed emulator freeware model, an enthusiast could type in an HPSUSAN they avowed they had the right to use. Verification of that number wasn't part of the process. This is called the honor system.
The question: Did HP ever check HPSUSAN numbers, and what format would they have to be in? Is it like a 16-digit credit card number and expiration date checksum?
"There are only digits, no letters," said a veteran of the HP SE service, one who's worked for many third party vendors as well. "I don’t think there any certain number of digits. I don’t think HP ever checked the HPSUSAN, only the third parties."
February 02, 2015
HP's new roster: same minds, old mission
HP has announced its new management lineup for the split company, but many key positions for the refocused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise won't change in the reorganization. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is the name for the corporation that will sell, support and even develop the HP suggested replacements for the HP 3000. Customers who invested in HP's Unix servers, or even those using HP's ProLiants as Linux hosts, will care about who's leading that new company.
But those customers won't have to spend a great deal of time tracking new faces. Current HP CEO Meg Whitman will head the company that promises to increase its focus on enterprise computing, the kind that HP 3000s have done for decades. While reading the tea leaves and doing the Kremlinology for the heads of HP computer operations, the following leaders are unchanged:
- Cathie Lesjak will be the Chief Financial Officer
- John Schultz will be the General Counsel
- Henry Gomez will be the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
- John Hinshaw will be the Chief Customer Officer and lead Technology & Operations
- Martin Fink will be the Chief Technology Officer and lead Hewlett-Packard Labs
While remaining as the General Manager of Enterprise Group, Bill Veghte will lead the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise separation efforts. He's not doing a small job now. The Enterprise group is a $28 billion annual revenue business that includes server, storage, networking, technology services, and cloud solutions. Giving him transition duties is reminiscent of the days when leading the HP 3000 operations as GM had devolved into a part-time job, shared with the GM duties of HP's Business Intelligence Unit. It's different this time; there's a second-in-command who'll manage the Enterprise Group operations in this year of transition.
With HP's Labs, Enterprise chiefs, and the head of the boardroom table all the same, it will be interesting to see what changes get managed with the old team. HP will have an old mission, too -- very old, from the era before it heard the siren song of consumer computing. 3000 customers used to wish for an HP that was marketing-savvy. When that HP arrived, it seemed to quickly forget the 3000. There was a renaissance in the 3000 thinking and plans from Roy Breslawski in marketing, and Harry Sterling as GM. But Sterling was then handed Business Intelligence GM duties alongside his 3000 mission. Within a couple of years after Sterling retired, the 3000 was out on the chopping block.
Nobody knows what will be excised from the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise that's going to have to get even leaner as a smaller entity. But at least that Enterprise won't be spending a lot to lure new executives with fat recruiting packages like the one given to Mark Hurd. That was at the peak of the consumer pursuit at HP. Some might call it the nadir, from an enterprise computing perspective.
January 30, 2015
Where a Freeware Emulator Might Go Next
It was always a little proof of a brighter future, this freeware emulator distributed by Stromasys. The A202 release might be shared with prospects in the months and years to come. But for now the program has been discontinued. One of the most ardent users of the product, Brian Edminster, sent along some ideas for keeping an MPE enthusiast's magic wand in a box that's open to the community.
Edminster was trading ideas with the vendor for improvements to Charon HPA more than a year and a half ago. He's noted that having a public cloud instance used for demonstrations, a bit like HP's Invent3K of a decade-plus ago, would be a great offering for enthusiasts. He's had rewarding experience with the freeware's documentation, too -- an element that might've been an afterthought with another vendor.
By Brian Edminster
As much as I hate it, I can understand Stromasys pulling the plug on the freeware version of Charon. I just hope they can come up with a way to make a version of the emulator available to enthusiasts — even if it's for a small fee. At some time or another, that'll be the only way to run an MPE/iX instance because all hardware will fail, eventually. (This is said by someone that still has a few MPE/V systems that run, and many MPE/iX systems that do).
I guess the real trick is finding something that prevents the freeware version of the emulator from being viable for use by anyone but enthusiasts. I'd have thought that a 2-user license would be enough for that, but apparently not.
I'd imagine that limiting the system to only the system volume (MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET), to only allow one emulated drive, and perhaps limiting the emulated drive-size to 2Gb or less might be enough. But not knowing what kind of applications were being hosted against the license terms makes it hard to say for sure.
The only other thing I can think of might be requiring the emulator to 'phone home' (via Internet connection) whenever it was fired up, and have it 'shut off' within a given time if it couldn't. But even that wouldn't always be definitive as to the 'type' of use occuring.
Seems that trying to avoid paying for something can inspire far more creativity than it should, when truthfully, it's probably cheaper to just “pay the fee.” Perhaps having an Archival licence, where the instance is in-the-cloud and payment is based on amount of resources used, might provide enough incentive for enthusiasts and everybody in the community to do the right thing.
January 29, 2015
TBT: 3K Stands, and a UK Bridge to late '90s
Each time we produce a printed edition of the Newswire here — there's a very special one on its way in the mail today — I usually reach into our archives for some research. While writing about the progress of hardware in the 3000 line I revisited 1998. This was a year with conference expo stands and an Ironbridge in the UK for HP Computer Users Association members. The occasion was the annual HPCUA show, offered in a time of 3000 and MPE growth.
HP 3000 sales were on the rise, thanks to the Internet. The strong catalog-sales customer base was deploying web sites for e-commerce, and the servers of the day were finally getting Web hosting software. HP considered it important to offer just as much for MPE/iX as was available on Unix and Windows NT. Yes, NT, that long ago. Java was supposed to enable cross-platform development of applications. HP's labs had ported the language once touted as "write once, deploy everywhere" for use on MPE/iX.
As we arrived to man our first overseas stand for the Newswire, one man had stepped away from his HP futures. Dick Watts, an executive VP whose departure was "a great blow to the interests of user groups worldwide," had resigned in a surprise. He was in charge of the salesforce that directed the business futures of the 3000, HP 9000s and more. The departure was so sudden that the HPCUA's magazine was left with a feature interview of an executive who was no longer employed by HP. He'd made promises to user groups about HP's help for their initiatives. The magazine called him suave.
The conference was held at Telford in the UK's Shropshire, notable as the site of the first arched iron bridge erected in the world, more than 200 years earlier. Most HP 3000 shows were being offered in larger cities like Birmingham, or on the seashore in Brighton. Telford and the conference wanted to remind us about foundational technology, the kind like the 3000 had established in the age of business computing.
The exhibition offered 22 HP 3000-allied stands in addition to ours (touted at left by General Manager Harry Sterling), including one from a company called Affirm that would eventually become the ScreenJet of today. As unique as shows of that day were also personal, HP Systems User 98 gave commemorative plates of the Iron Bridge to all attendees. They also heard talks about a Grand Prix team, a Microsoft marketing pitch on a scheme called the Digital Nervous System, and "How IT Helps HP's Success." That last included a peek into how much HP 3000 systems still drove the Hewlett-Packard of 16 years ago. As with much of the era, it purported to be an accomplishment served off the plate of Unix.
January 28, 2015
Stealing After an Emulator's Magic
In these new days after the end of the Stromasys freeware emulator offers, it's instructive to recall how much magic the product's concept proposed more than 11 years ago. People in 2003 began by wondering who would ever need something like an emulator, with so much pretty-fresh hardware around. Now companies want an emulator so badly they're trying to make a two-user freeware version do the work of HP-branded iron.
Charon for the 3000 was doubted from the beginning. It began to emerge after five full years of HP delays -- the company didn't want to work with any emulator builder, once it became apparent that the MPE/iX internal boot technology would have to be shared.
Eventually Software Resources International, the company that became Stromasys, was approached. After a half-decade of losing 3000 sites to Sun, Microsoft and IBM, HP wanted to encourage a restart of a project. But back in 2003, an emulator looked like a theory at best. Two additional companies were considering or planning products to give 3000 hardware a real future. Hewlett-Packard had told the community no more new 3000s would be built after fall of '03.
By the time that end-of-manufacture was imminent, Computerworld got interested in the emulation outlook for HP 3000s. The newsweekly ran a front page article called Users Unite to Keep MPE Alive. The subheading was "Get HP to agree to plan for emulator to ease e3000 migration," which meant Computerworld's editors misunderstood what homesteaders desired. Not an easier OS migration, but a way to keep using their systems on fresh hardware.
Third parties such as HP's channel partners and consulting firms don't know if there's enough commercial demand to justify the investment [in buying an emulator]. Potential users who are preparing migration plans say they need to know soon whether an emulator is actually coming.
They needed to know soon because staying with MPE and skipping a migration sounded like a good alternative. Just one company could manage to keep the concept alive in the lost years between 2004-2009. SRI had HP heritage (well, Digital brainpower) and a record of helping HP's VMS customers stay with that OS. Looking at how emulation helped, HP had proof that it could help the 3000 community.
January 27, 2015
Emulator's downloadable free ride ends
Stromasys has discontinued the freeware download distribution of the A202 version of its Charon HPA emulator. According to a company official, "We're ending the freeware distribution due to the unfortunate use of that software in commercial environments."
The A202, just powerful enough to permit two simultaneous users to get A-Class 400 performance, was always tempting to very small sites. Stromasys was generous enough to permit downloading of the software, as well as the bundled release of MPE/iX FOS software, with few restrictions starting in November of 2012. But the instructions were explicit: no use in production environments.
However, A-Class 400 horsepower would be enough for companies putting their 3000s in archival mode. It would also be a workman-grade emulation of a development-class 3000. Some companies may have spoiled the freeware largesse for all. It's unlikely that one customer would report another's commercial use of Charon to emulate 3000s. But there's always the possibility that someone might have, say, contacted the company on a support matter. For a commercial setting.
The virtualization product was pared back to give 3000 sites a way to prove it would match up with the technical requirements of existing 3000s. Indeed, Charon has proven to be a thorough emulation of PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Running it in production requires a paid license and a support contract. The latest information from Stromasys' Alexandre Cruz shows the entry-level price at $9,000.
The Charon HPA freeware that's been installed around the world is still capable of emulating a 3000. But its intended use is for enthusiasts, not working systems managers who administer production machines.
January 26, 2015
How to Use MPE/iX Byte Stream Files
Back when HP still had a lab for the HP 3000, its engineers helped the community. In those days, system architect and former community liaison Craig Fairchild explained how to use byte stream files on the 3000. Thanks to the memory of the Web, his advice remains long after the lab has gone dark.
These fundamental files are a lot like those used in Windows and Linux and Unix, Fairchild said. HP has engineered "emulation type managers" into MPE/iX, an addition that became important once the 3000 gained an understanding of Posix. In 1994, MPE/XL became MPE/iX when HP added this Unix-style namespace.
Understanding the 3000 at this level can be important to the customer who wants independent support companies to take on uptime responsibility and integration of systems. Fairchild explained the basics of this basic file type.
Byte stream files are the most basic of all file types. They are simply a collection of bytes of data without any structure placed on them by the file system. This is the standard file model that is used in every Unix, Linux and even Windows systems.MPE's file system has always been a structured file system, which means that the file system maintains a certain organization to the data stored in a file. The MPE file system understands things like logical records, and depending on the file type, performs interesting actions on the data (for example, Circular files, Message files, KSAM files and so on).
Fairchild detailed how HP has given bytestream files the knowledge of "organization of data" for applications.
January 23, 2015
Pending questions about the latest HPA
It often does not take long for reactions to arrive here to NewsWire stories. It's a prime advantage of having a digital delivery system for our news and tech reports. We learn quickly when we've gotten something incorrect, and then can fix it.
But supplemental information sometimes takes longer to fill in. After we posted our article of yesterday about the new 1.6 release of the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies offered immediate questions. Like us on this very evening, he's seeking more details about the features and updates of 1.6.
I'm especially interested in anything that would make configuring the networking easier, as I found that to be the most difficult part to deal with on my downloadable evaluation copy (However, I've still got the nearly ancient v1.1). [Editor's note: we suspect that the new Network Configuration Utility will simplify this complex configuration task.]
I'd imagine that if these v1.6 updates are available in the evaluation version, I could find all this out myself. But the Stromasys website only has fairly sparse documentation available (compared to their other emulators), and it's for version 1.5, not 1.6.
I tried finding out if this latest version of the freeware edition is downloadable, but I can't find any links on their website to the download link. The website is newly redesigned, and looks a lot fresher, however.
January 22, 2015
Newest Charon version brings fresh features
Changes in the product used for virtualizing an HP 3000 include more than performance increases. The emulator starts at a base price of $9,000 to match performance of an A-Class system enabled for eight users. Officials in the Geneva headquarters of Stromasys say the top-end pricing, the N40X0 to create an N-Class caliber 3000 out of Intel server hardware, is $99,000.
The Stromasys HP 3000 product manager Doug Smith has noted several new features of Charon HPA.
In Version 1.6 there are some performance increases. Once again, overall performance will be based on the Intel server it is to be run on. The more power the better. What's new:
- New parameter for virtual Ethernet adapter for physical card configuration
- An NCU (Network Configuration Utility)
- License support for primary/secondary (backup) licenses
- Extending the limit for number of controllers from 6 to 8 for N40X0 series
The market is hungry for the forthcoming performance. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide. "We tested about a year and half ago," he said. "We’re running five HP N-Class 4-way systems, each with 750 MHz processors and fully loaded RAM."
January 21, 2015
Cloud takes on manufacturing's IT needs
A company with some ties to the HP 3000 marketplace has implemented a technology transition to cloud-based ERP. A Berkshire-Hathaway collective of firms has moved its manufacturing IT to the Kenandy Cloud ERP solution. Kenandy has been created and refined by a development team that includes the founders of MANMAN.
MANMAN is not a part of the latest official case study about such a transition, but it's companies like those Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiaries who make up a prime target for cloud ERP. Kenandy notes that enterprise resource systems like the ones in place at France Power Solutions, Northland Motor Technologies, and Kingston Products build products that drive other major corporations.
Each of the three is a part of a new Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, an entity that creates behind-the-scenes electrical parts to light up, time, cool, and power some front-and-center products. Scott Fetzer's customers include "Will It Blend" manufacturer Blendtec, P. F. Chang's, the Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium, and even Hewlett-Packard.
Those three companies that comprise the Scott Fetzer Electrical Group are all manufacturers of electrical or electromechanical products. Their combination triggered consolidation issues, not the least of which was deciding which ERP system to consolidate upon.
Kenandy is a MANMAN migration path that's been introduced to 3000 customers by The Support Group. The company's founder Terry Floyd said cloud computing is ready to take over for legacy applications like MANMAN.
"We are interested in converting some manufacturing companies currently using MANMAN to Kenandy in the next 12 months," Floyd said. "We think the latest release is capable of handling some of the smaller, simpler MANMAN sites."
January 20, 2015
Powerhouse customer inquires on emulator
One mission for the Stromasys emulator for HP 3000s is carrying forward legacy applications and systems. In fact, that's the primary reason for making the investment into the Charon-HPA version of the software. Some other companies are using the product to keep an MPE/iX suite alive while they are migrating.
There must be HP 3000 sites that want to move Powerhouse from their HP-built servers to the more modern hardware that drives Charon. Some manufacturing sites would like to do this with as little fanfare as possible. Notice of changing host hardware is optional, for some managers. Nobody in the 3000 community, or in the offices of the new Powerhouse owners Unicom Systems, has checked in with a report of running Powerhouse on Charon.
There is a additional interest for this combination, however. It's on the Digital side of the Charon product lineup.
Steven Philbin at FM Global was inquiring about whether Powerhouse code is compiled or interpreted. In a message on the Powerhouse mailing list, Philbin reached out to find "anyone out there working on a Virtual Stromasys Charon/SMA solution on systems written in Powerhouse."
"We are using Oracle/RDB, VMS, and Powerhouse v7.10 running on an Alpha ES40. Contact points with other users would be really helpful."
January 19, 2015
Get polished advice, bound and free
Get your very own copy of these out of print gems. Email me at the Newswire for your book.
We're doing a makeover of the Newswire files this week in the office, and we have some duplicate gems to give away. The two books above come from the hard work and deep knowlege of Robelle's tech staff, as well as the voices of many other experts. The ultimate copy of the SMUG Pocket Encylopedia carries great advice and instruction between its covers, plenty of which is useful to the homesteader of 2015.
There's also HP 3000 Evolution, created by a wide array of contributors including many who've had articles and papers edited and published by the Newswire. We're giving away these rare copies. Email me at the Newswire and be sure to include a postal address, and I'll send each of them out to whoever asks first.
Paper seems like a premium these days, a luxury that harkens back to the prior century. But it's classy, and the information inside these two books is timeless. It deserves to be bound and mailed. Not every source works better in paper. We'll say more about that later. But finding this kind of tech instruction can sometimes be tricky using the Web.
As an example, here's advice from our old friend Paul Edwards, who's taught MPE and Suprtool for many years. Doing backups is everybody's responsibility, and doing them well has some nuances.
Verify data backups with VSTORE.PUB.SYS. It only checks that the tape media is good and the files on it can be read. It doesn't compare the files on the tape with the files on disk. Since a CSLT takes only about 20-30 minutes to make regardless of the amount of disk files you have, this process adds little to the time it takes for a backup cycle. You should make one at least every other full backup cycle.
Verify the CSLT with CHECKSLT.MPEXL.TELESUP. Use a proper, secure storage environment and don't use the tapes more often than recommended by the manufacturer. Run BULDACCT.PUB.SYS prior to each full backup to create the BULDJOB1 and BULDJOB2 files so that they will be included on the backup. Remember that they contain passwords and should be purged after the backup.
If you find you've still got some HP documentation in your bookshelf, these books deserve a place there. Because of their scope, they're probably even more valuable than anything HP sent with a blue binder.
January 16, 2015
What's ahead for the HPs of 2015?
Last year Hewlett-Packard announced it's going to split up in 2015. Right now it's a combined entity whose stock (HPQ) represents both PC and enterprise business. But by the end of this fiscal year, it will be two companies, one called HP Inc. and another holding the classic Hewlett-Packard name. Any of the enterprise business that HP's managed to migrate from 3000s sits in that Hewlett-Packard future.
Most of time, the things that HP has done to affect your world have been easy to see coming. There's a big exception we all know about from November of 2001. But even the forthcoming split-up of the company was advocated for years by Wall Street analysts. It was a matter of when, some said, not if.
If can be a big word, considering it has just two letters. There was an HP ad campaign from 30 years ago that was themed What If. In things like TV commercials that included shots of HP 3000 terminals, What If sometimes proposed more radical things for its day, like a seamless integration of enterprise mail with the then-nouveau desktop computers.
HP called that NewWave, and by the time it rolled out the product looked a lot like a me-too of Apple and Microsoft interfaces. But What If, rolled forward to 2015, would be genuinely radical if there were either no HP left any more, or Hewlett-Packard leveraged mergers with competitors.
What If: HP's PC and printer business was purchased by Lenovo, a chief competitor in the laptop-desktop arena? Its new CEO of the HP Inc spinoff ran Lenovo before joining HP. On the other hand, what if HP bought Lenovo?
What If: Hewlett-Packard Enterprise became a property of Oracle? That one is a much bigger If, considering that HP's built hardware in massive quantity for a decade-plus along four different product lines: Integrity, PA-RISC (still generating support revenues in HP-UX), ProLiant x86s, and its dizzying array of networking products. You could even label forthcoming dreams like The Machine, or the Moonshot systems, as hardware lines. Oracle's got just Sun systems. As 3000 customers know, hardware is not a firm stake in the ground for business futures.
January 15, 2015
New service level: personal private webinar
Software and service providers have long used webinars to deliver information and updates to groups. Now one vendor in the HP 3000 market is making the webinar highly focused. MB Foster is scheduling Personal Webinars.
CEO Birket Foster is available for private bookings with customers or prospects who need questions answered on a variety of topics. According to an email sent this week, the list from the company's Wednesday Webinars over the past few years includes
- Application Migrations, Virtualization, Emulation, Re-host, Retire, Replace
- Data Migration, Transformations, Decommissioning
- Big Data
- Bring Your Own Devise (BYOD)
- Data Quality, Governance, MDM (Master Data Management)
- Decision Support, Advanced Analytics, Dashboarding
- User reporting, ad hoc query and analysis
- Using Powerhouse in the 21st Century
- Enterprise Windows Batch Job Scheduling
- ITIL and APM
- Document Management
- Enterprise Data Storage
The vendor says to schedule this one-to-one briefing contact Chris Whitehead at 905-846-3941, or send a request to email@example.com, along with the desired topic and available dates and times.
January 14, 2015
(Still) ways to turn back time to save apps
Editor's Note: Nine years ago this week we ran these suggestions on how to get abandoned software to keep running on HP 3000s. It's still good advice while a manager and company is homesteading, or keeping a 3000 alive until a migration is complete.
Some HP 3000s are reduced to a single application these days. But the one program that will never move off the platform, however vital it might be, could see its support disappear on a particular date — with no help available from the creators of the software.
A few utilities can help rescue such applications. These products were popular during the Y2K era, when systems needed their dates moved back and forth to test Year 2000 compatibility. Now that some HP 3000 programs are being orphaned, clock rollback utilities are getting a new mission.
A customer of SpeedEdit, the HP 3000 programmer's tool, had lost the ability to run the program at the start of 2006. Both Allegro Consultants' Stan Sieler and former NewsWire Inside COBOL columnist Shawn Gordon offer products to roll back the 3000's clock. These companies don't sanction using their software to dodge legitimate licensing limits. But if a software vendor has left your building, so to speak, then HourGlass/3000 or TimeWarp/3000 (both reviewed) are worth a try to get things running again.
January 13, 2015
Shedding a Heavy Burden of History
On Monday we reported the release of one of the first training videos hosted by computer pro in their 20s, demonstrating equipment from the 1970s. The HP 3000 is shedding the burden of such old iron, just as surely as the video's creator is shedding the equipment used to make the video.
Mark Ranft of Pro3K is making room in his operations in Minnesota by moving out equipment like the HP 7980 tape drive that was the centerpiece of the video. Ranft, who also manages at the company which took over the OpenSkies airline ticketing operations from HP 3000 servers, said his daughter Katie (above) was showing off MPE gear that will soon be out the door at Pro3K.
"We created this video as we soon we will no longer have the capability to create it," Ranft said. "We are downsizing. I will no longer have all this great old equipment."
Three of the tape drives, including a couple which have HP-IB interfaces. Drives so heavy that our reader Tim O'Neill said he had to remove his 7980s from HP racks using a lift table.
Only last month did I dismantle and ship out the last two remaining 9-track tape units from HP, which were the flat-laying vacuum chamber kind. I think they were Model 7980A (as though HP were going to make B and C models.) They were mounted on heavy duty racking rails in HP cabinets. They had not been used in a while, but were retained just in case someone wanted to read a 9-track.
Old iron is moving out, because the MPE/iX services of the future can be performed using drives so lightweight they'd fit in a lunch pail. Drives hosted on ProLiant servers of current era price lists.
January 12, 2015
Video helps with 30-year-old tape operations
A Facebook page has a new video that assists with decades-old technology. Reel to reel tapes get the how-to treatment on the page of the Pro3K consultancy, a support and operations firm that's run by Mark Ranft. The video shows a restore of a 31-year-old tape.
Using a detailed review of all the steps needed to load and mount a tape, Mark's daughter Katherine demonstrates how to handle the oldest storage technology in the MPE world. While reel to reel was popular, MPE V was in vogue. Some archival backups still have to be pulled from reel to reel. Meanwhile, there are other elderly HP 3000s that will only take tape backups. If a 3000 doesn't support SCSI, then it's HP-IB ready, so to speak.
If you've never enjoyed the inner workings of the vacuum loading systems on HP tape drives, you might be fascinated by what you see. There's also a guest appearance of the fabled 4GB disks for 3000s. Katie explains that the standard iPhone has four times as much storage as one of these disk drives.
She also notes that the 31-year-old tape "is four years older than me." Ranft said his daughter has been studying for potential consulting opportunies, and lives in the Chicago area.
Katie might qualify for the youngest person in 2015 who's instructed the world on the operations of an HP 3000. If you visit the Pro3K Facebook page, give it a Like. We like this trend: this is the first ops training for the 3000 ever posted on Facebook.
January 09, 2015
Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s
Another way around the dilemma of aging 3000 storage invokes virtual data services. In specific, this solution uses the HP DL360 ProLiant server as a key element of connecting RAID storage with MPE/iX. Instead of older storage like the VA arrays, this uses current-era disks in a ProLiant system.
Because there's an Intel server involved, this recalls the 3000 virtualization strategy coming from Stromasys. But the product and service offering from Beechglen — the HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN — doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data. It also works as an tactical tool for everyday homestead operations.
Beechglen's got both kinds of customers, according to Mike Hornsby. He summed up his offering, one that's available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.
Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.
He adds there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.
The Fiber SAN runs CentOS Linux, and the MPE/iX LUNs are files.
January 08, 2015
Keeping 3000 Storage On The Road
Since data storage is one of the biggest assets in any HP 3000 environment, it's fraught with risks and opportunities. Those are devices with moving parts that capture, exchange, and archive the precious data. A moving part wears out. A good plan to Sustain a 3000 site includes a strategy to protect that data.
If a system goes down these days, it's most like to do so because of a storage device failure. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen just reported that, "in our support efforts for both onsite services and being largest provider of hosted HP 3000s, the main ongoing issue is storage." Keeping it available and up to date is like keeping a car on the road.
In particular, the recovery time for a 3000 can be extended or limited by how fast the site manager can restore from a backup. The time to receive off-site backup tapes for restoring might be minimal. But a good plan will account for the expected amount of time. Every minute of it costs the company something.
January 07, 2015
End Days for Antique Disk Drives
HP 3000 servers which use drives made a decade ago are still running. It's not so far back, from a support perspective. Hewlett-Packard was supporting 9-GB and 18-GB units through 2008, and the 36-GB model A5595A through 2009. Those are the end of support dates from the manufacturer. Independent support companies back those models today.
They do it by replacing devices when they fail, not servicing dead drives. Any 3000s still operating off decade-old storage units are into magic time: those end days when it's a marvel just to see something that old still crucial to a system. Hard disks are the only moving parts of a 3000, after all. Even the redundant ones will fail, since all drives do.
The 3000 community has been facing its aging hardware a very long time. People were checking during 2006 on those end of support dates for the 3000's most common boot drives. A call for sensibility at the time went out from Donna Hofmeister.
It's more than time for many MPE shops to "smell the coffee," or perhaps more accurately, smell the looming disaster. If your disc drive is less than 36GB, odds are it's ready to be replaced. It's past it's expected life span, and you're living on borrowed time. If you got any plans to keep on running these systems, it's more than time to get onto new drives. With how prices have dropped, it's hard to not justify going to new drives.
Hofmeister added "I wouldn't want to have to explain why, following a disc failure, you can't get your MPE system running again." Replacing these wee discs with newer technology is possible, of course. Little SCSI drives that can be seen by MPE are harder to find by now, though. HP's last significant extension of MPE was to expand the server's vision of storage units, so the 3000 could see devices up to 500GB. But half a terabyte is a small drive today.
Finding an AutoRAID 12H replacement gets tougher still. Not tough to locate. Tough to justify.
January 06, 2015
Essential Steps for Volume Reloads
When a 3000 drive goes dead, especially after a power outage, it often has to be reloaded. For example, when an LDEV2 has to be replaced. For a cheat sheet on reloading a volume, we turned to our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper.
By Gilles Schipper
Assuming your backup includes the ;directory option, as well as the SLT:
1. Boot from alternate path and choose INSTALL (assuming alternate path is your tape drive)
2. After INSTALL completes, boot from primary path and perform START NORECOVERY.
3. Use VOLUTIL to add ldev 2 to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET.
4. Restore directory from backup (:restore *t;;directory)
5. openq lp
6. Perform a full restore with the following commands
:restore *t;/;keep;show=offline;olddate;create;partdb;progress=5 7.
Perform START NORECOVERY
January 05, 2015
Securing cloud promises hardware freedom
If a 3000 manager or owner had one wish for the new year, it might be to gain hardware assurance. No matter how much expertise or development budget is available in 2015, not much will turn back the clock on the servers -- the newest of which were built not very long after Y2K. The option to escape these aging servers lies in Intel hardware. Some sites will look at putting that hardware out in the cloud.
Say the word cloud to an HP 3000 veteran and they'll ask if you mean time-sharing. At its heart, the strategy of the 1970s that bought MPE into many businesses for the first time feels like cloud computing. The server's outside of the company, users access their programs through a network, and everyday management of peripherals and backups is an outsourced task.
But the cloud of 2015 adds a world of public access, and operates in an era when break-ins happen to banks without defeating a time lock or setting off a security alarm. Time-sharing brought the HP 3000 to Austin companies through the efforts of Bill McAfee. Terry Floyd of the MANMAN support company The Support Group described the earliest days of MPE in Austin.
The first HP 3000 I ever saw was in 1976 at Futura Press on South Congress Avenue in Austin. Bill McAfee owned Futura and was a mentor to many of us in Texas. Futura was an HP reseller, and aside from a wonderful printing company, they wrote their own software and some of the first MPE utilities. Interesting people like Morgan Jones hung out around Futura Press in the late 1970's and I can never thank Bill and Anne McAfee enough for the great times.
Jones went on to found Tymlabs, the creators of one of the bulwark MPE backup products. The HP Chronicle, the first newspaper devoted to the 3000, processed its typesetting using that Futura server. For all practical purposes this was cloud computing, delivered off mid-range HP 3000s such as the Series 42 (above), even deep into 1984. But 30 years later, this category of resource has become even more private and customized. It also relies on co-located hardware. That's where Rackspace comes in. It's the target provider for the new cloud-based installations of Charon. The Rackspace mantra is "One size doesn't fit all." That harkens to the days of time-sharing.
January 02, 2015
What to Expect in Performance This Year
Legacy systems like the HP 3000 remain entrenched around the world. The reason? Their durability and their standing in the company's business legacy. What's a business legacy, you ask? It's the history of what kinds of servers and programs get used to process business. All MPE/iX applications are business legacies by now. They're more than a decade old. They run, and their performance is adequate. There seems like there's little to be done about making them faster.
But employing an emulator to replace the Hewlett-Packard models of 3000s can change that. The promise is more performance from more modern Intel-based hardware. There are limits, however. Here in 2015, the performance gain is limited by the size of 3000 that's running this week, the first of the new year. This week we read about "orders of magnitude" performance gains, but that's usually a number only applicable to a first order -- times 10. And even that might be a few years away for 3000 managers.
Given enough time, everyone who uses a 3000 emulator will outstrip the raw processing power of the HP-brand iron. Those HP boxes will never get faster, unless you can top them up on memory. In contrast, the Stromasys emulator will get more efficient; 2015 sees a newer, faster version now available. And Intel-based iron will grow stronger, too, at its top-end. The phrase "top-end" matters a great deal. If you're using top-end HP hardware, it might be too soon to look for a significant performance boost from virtualization.
Top-end means the fastest N-Class servers. Those will need to be replaced by top-end Intel hardware: servers with many available CPU cores, and many CPUs. Faster might not be a goal, however, for 2015. As-fast might be enough, to enable a manager can leave behind the aging HP iron.
It's easy to misunderstand. At a website called The VAR Guy, written by former InfoWorld editor in chief Michael Vizard, Stromasys' potential got noticed. "After all," he said, "the latest generation of Intel processors provide orders of magnitude more performance than VAX, Alpha, HP 3000 or Sparc systems that can be more than a decade old." Um, sometimes. But when you're working at the top-end of the old hardware, orders of magnitude is a far-off, wishful goal. If your HP 3000 has a tiny 3000 Performance Unit rating of 2.7, for example, then the first order of magnitude would be 27. The next order is 270, and so on. Several orders may be possible — at the lower levels of 3000 performance.
Simply beating the existing performance is still a valid desire, though. Matching what you're using — so you can leave old hardware behind — is a bona fide need in the 3000 market.
December 31, 2014
Top Stories Lead MPE Into New Year
The remains of 2014 are down to just a few hours by now, a year that saw the virtualization of the system take new wings while migrations proceeded at a slower pace. We reported stories about surprising homesteading sites and new players in the community which counts MPE as a significant piece of history — and for some, a platform into 2015 and beyond.
But no story of the past year would be complete without a passage devoted to the passing of the enterprise torch into a smaller Hewlett-Packard. The company that created MPE and the 3000 passed the total management mantle to CEO Meg Whitman in the summer, making her chair of the full entity. A few months later it divided itself along enterprise IT and consumer lines. The year 2014 will be the last when HP stands for a complete representation of the creations of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. By this time next year, a spinoff will be vying for attention of the computing marketplace.
And in one stroke of genius, it became 1984 again at Hewlett-Packard. October brought on a new chorus for an old strategy: sell computers to companies, and leave the personal stuff to others. But one of the others selling personal computers and printers usually connected to PCs is a new generation of the company. The CEO of Hewlett-Packard is calling the split-off company HP Inc. But for purposes of mission and growth, you could call it HP Ink. Genius can be simply a powerful force for good or for ill. Definition 3 of the word in Apple's built-in dictionary on my desktop calls genius "a person regarded as exerting a powerful influence over another for good or evil: He sees Adams as the man's evil genius." It's from Latin meaning an attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability, or inclination.
The company to be called Hewlett-Packard will concentrate on a business lineup that harkens back to 1984 a year when the LaserJet joined the product line. CEO Meg Whitman said Hewlett-Packard, devoted to enterprise business, and HP Inc. can focus and be nimble. From a 3000 customer's perspective, that focus would have been useful 13 years ago, when the lust for growth demanded that HP buy Compaq and its PC business for $25 billion on the promise of becoming No. 1.
The San Bernadino County school district in California was working on moving its HP 3000s to deep archival mode, but the computers still have years of production work ahead. The latest deadline was to have all the COBOL HP 3000 applications rewritten by December 2015. That has now been extended to 2017
And with the departure date of those two HP 3000s now more than two years away, the school district steps into another decade beyond HP's original plans for the server line. It is the second decade of beyond-end-of-life service for their 3000.
In another market segment, 3M continues to use its HP 3000s in production. What began as the Minnesota Minining & Manufacturing Company is still using HP 3000s. And according to a departing MPE expert Mike Caplin, the multiple N-Class systems will be in service there "for at least several more years."
In both cases, the 3000 is outlasting the deep expertise of managers who kept it vital for their organizations. It's taking a :BYE before a :SHUTDOWN, this longer lifespan of MPE than experts.
Stromasys took its virtualization of enterprise server message to VMworld's annual conference, where the event was pointing at cloud-based Platform As A Service (PaaS) for the years to come. The CHARON virtualization engine that turns an Intel server into a 3000 operates on the bare metal of an Intel i5 processor or faster, working inside a Linux cradle. Plenty of customers who use CHARON host the software in a virtualized Linux environment -- one where VMware provides the hosting for Linux, which then carries CHARON and its power to transform Intel chips, bus and storage into PA-RISC boxes. VMware is commonplace among HP 3000 sites, so management is no extra work.
December 30, 2014
2014's Top Stories: Recapping A Year
Here in the days that lead to the end of 2014, it's a journalism tradition to review events whose effect will last beyond their original dateline. We're not about to break tradition, a feeling that 3000 managers and owners will understand. We also invite you to nominate an important event below, in our comments.
The new owners of the PowerHouse software products began talking about their end of 2013 purchase in a way that the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems was still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.
HP's proprietary replacement for the 3000 continued its slide. As early as February, HP's CEO said "We continue to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex. "We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future." By year's end the management team had given up on any growth via Unix — because the product line has dropped 20 percent of sales per quarter.
Even the migrated apps such as Ecometry were not immune to a classic business development: smaller bases of application customers seeing road maps get cloudy once they slid into a big product portfolio. JDA and Red Prairie merged, and even a year later the former, which owns the Ecometry suite, had no road map on how the app would grow and go forward. JDA is large enough to join forces with Red Prairie in early 2013. But not large enough to deliver a futures map for the Ecometry customer. These customers have been loath to extend their Ecometry/Escalate installations until they get a read on the tomorrow they can expect from JDA. "I think it's possible there's nobody left in JDA who can even spell MPE," said MB Foster CEO Birket Foster, "let alone know what it means to Ecometry sites."
December 29, 2014
Moving Pictures of HP's Contribution Origins
HP's Origins video, filmed nearly a decade ago, includes this picture of employees celebrating the shipment of the 10,000th HP 3000, sometime in the 1980s.
You can't find it on the Hewlett-Packard website, but a 2005 movie called "Origins" is still online at a YouTube address. The 25-minute film chronicles what made HP such a groundbreaker in the computing industry, and it includes interviews with the company's founders. Bill and Dave didn't appear much on camera, being businessmen of a different era and engineering managers and inventors at heart.
The link here takes the viewer directly to the Contribution segment of the story. While it is history by now -- the company transformed itself to a consumer and commodity goods provider thanks to the me-too of CEOs Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd -- the film represents ideals that anybody in the business can set for their own career or decisions. Joel Birnbaum, whose HP Labs leadership helped deliver RISC computing for the business marketplace for the first time in 3000, sings his praise for the love of making a product that could make a difference.
But that contribution era passed away once uniformity became the essential feature of enterprise computing. By the middle '90s, HP was busy selling the 3000 as another tool that could handle open systems (read: Unix) computing. In truth, Unix was no more open than any other environment, including Windows. But Unix had some similarities between versions that could be leveraged by large enough software developers. In the videotape at left, HP offered an interview from an unnamed SAP development executive. He said his application suite had been through a test port to MPE/iX, and he believed the software had 99.5 percent code compatibility from Unix to MPE.
That half percent might have presented a technical challenge, of course. It would be thousands of lines of code, considering SAP's footprint. The MPE version of the application never made it into the vendor's price list, however. One specific client may have used SAP on a 3000 via that test port, but it was never offered as a manufacturing solution by its creators. HP's enterprise execs very much wanted an SAP offering for the 3000. That creation would have been as me-too as any product could get. "You could run that on a 3000 instead of a 9000" would've been the HP account rep's message in 1992.
SAP's exec on the video admired the 3000 customer community for its understanding of enterprise applications. But a level of misunderstanding lay at the heart of the SAP organization, whose speaker in the video said the database for HP-UX and MPE was the same. IMAGE, of course, was nothing like Oracle or even Allbase, and the latter had only a thimble's worth of adoption in the 3000 community. IMAGE gave that community its understanding of what enterprise applications should do.
December 23, 2014
Gifts for MPE Owners This Season
The managers and owners of MPE systems have seen much taken from them over the past decade and more. Vendor development, support that's unquestioned by top management, even the crumbs of MPE security patches and bug fixes. A lot has gone dark in this winter of the 3000's seasons. But here on the eve of Christmas Eve, there's still some treasures under the tree of 3000 life as we know it.
Future hardware. Stromasys has made a business mission out of preserving applications written for MPE. The company has done this with Charon HPA, software whose foundation was laid in 2009 and is receiving an updated, speedier release this year. Companies that are relying on MPE apps for many years to come -- so many they need brand-new hardware to host the 3000's OS — can count on the software that makes Intel behave just like PA-RISC. You won't be able to run a company on a laptop, but MPE boots fast enough on what we once called a Portable PC to show off this virtualizer in the boardroom.
A future for applications. Migration can be messy, feel risky and command a big chunk of budget and human resource, but several companies are still devoting their business missions to transitions. MB Foster comes to mind first here, and there are others with tools, like ScreenJet. More than 12 years after HP announced its pullout, and with a declining number of migrations in the offing, companies still deliver expertise on the biggest IT project a company will ever undertake. Something like doing an aircraft engine replacement while at 30,000 feet.
Software and help for it. On the cusp of 2015, you can still purchase software that manages enterprise-caliber jobstreams, the tools to manage the 3000's filesystem or its database, and more. The ones that aren't sold still have support lines. Companies like the Support Group host hot spares and help manufacturers keep stately legends like MANMAN online. Even a 20-year-old 9x8 deserves some respect while it continues to manage the finances and production of a competitive manufacturing entity.
System-wide support. As the numbers of MPE-savvy pros decline, outsourcing for expertise becomes essential for any customer homesteading long-term, or even through a migration project. Pivital Solutions, and companies like Allegro and Beechglen, ensure older HP iron and the static, classic MPE/iX 7.5 behave as planned. There's even a resource in Applied Technologies that can integrate open source software, ready for MPE and part of any larger project.
That's a lot to unwrap and admire for a 40-year-old computer, all still open at a time of year when presents are present. We're delighted to keep telling stories like million-dollar virtualization configurations, shiny benefits of data cleansing, or the new players taking over icons like PowerHouse. We're taking the remainder of this holiday week off, celebrating a birthday, the end of Hannukah and Christmas with the family. We'll be back with reports on Monday, December 29.
December 22, 2014
A Quiet December Week's MPE Ripples
The week of Christmas is a quiet one for business and enterprise IT. Sales calls and installations are at a minimum, companies work with skeleton crews, and announcements of news are rare. But nine years ago the week of Christmas was hot with a 3000 development, one that has ripples even today.
In the Christmas week of 2005 — back when HP still worked full shifts over the holidays — the 3000 division released news that HP's support lifespan for MPE would be extended. What had been called a firm and solid date of HP's departure got moved another 24 months into the future. The news was the first unmistakable evidence that the migration forecast from HP was more wishful than accurate.
As it said it would offer basic reactive support services for 3000 systems through at least December of 2008, the vendor confirmed that it would license MPE source code to several third parties. The former put a chill on migration business in the market, sending vendors -- services and software suppliers alike -- looking for non-3000 markets to service. The latter gave the support community a shot of fresh competition over the afterlife beyond the Hewlett-Packard exit.
In one of the more mixed messages to the community, HP said customers should work with the vendor to arrange support until migrations could be finished. The 3000 division also said its license for MPE source was going to "help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners." It would take another three years, beyond the closing of the MPE lab, for that source code to emerge.
December 19, 2014
Making a New Case Against Old Hardware
It won't make the resellers of HP's 3000 hardware happy, but Stromasys has started to make a strong argument against preserving the life of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. In a link inside a video that was attached to a 2015 happy holidays message, we've spotted a 96-second summary that shakes the bones of the assurance there's plenty of parts in the world to support aging 3000 systems.
Maintaining the original MPE-based systems from Hewlett-Packard is risky and difficult, the commercial that's hosted on the Vimeo website says. The software is worth preserving, it continues, and it notes more than 5,000 companies have used the Stromasys Charon technology to enable hardware emulation. The majority of these Stromasys clients have emulated Digital's server hardware to preserve VMS applications.
Of course, there's a mention of emulation's savings versus a full migation. For the customers who are leaving the HP 3000 because the hardware's old, this point might have some traction. The level of support from the original hardware vendor, as well as the end of HP's 3000 manufacturing, drove a significant number of migrations in the past. The Stromasys argument states that with new hardware, an application suite can be preserved. Customers who remain on their homesteaded systems often say they'd be happier if their futures didn't include the expenses and risks of migrating.
There's a short reference to cloud-based Charon installations amid the message, too. In that level of solution, investment in the powerful Intel-based hardware is exchanged for a typical cloud-rental fee. In some cases, the investment in the hardware required to emulate HP-branded 3000 servers can be substantial.
Most interesting, Stromasys now has offered MPE support among the services it sells. It's right there alongside VMS and Solaris software support. The company hasn't issued a press release and there aren't details immediately available on the levels of operating system support, or the staff which will be supplying it.
December 17, 2014
MB Foster extends Ability Commerce's retail
Ability Commerce, a direct commerce software and provider of JDA Direct Commerce Professional Services, has announced their partnership with MB Foster. The two companies offer services to enterprises that use the JDA products including Escalate Retail, the latest generation of the Ecometry ecommerce software suite.
Ability, in calling MB Foster "a software programming and consulting firm specializing in highly scalable data access and delivery solutions for the JDA Direct Commerce (Ecometry) software platform," plans to use its new partner to transform and migrate the surround code popular in Escalate installations.
“MB Foster’s addition to our strong partnership solutions dedicated to the JDA Direct Commerce software platform will allow us to provide an even higher level of service to that user base, "said Shawn Ellen, Director of Sales and Marketing for Ability Commerce. "MB Foster is committed to the Ecometry user base and will be joining us as a sponsor at our Ability Commerce User Summit this coming March 11-13 in Delray Beach, Florida."
December 16, 2014
How OpenCOBOL Helped Porting COBOL II
Editor's note: A little while ago the 3000 newsgroup was discussing the merits of OpenCOBOL compared to the heartland compiler of MPE, COBOL II. Roy Brown offered his story of how he made the open source COBOL step in to do the work that COBOL did during a 3000 migration. A port, if you will.
By Roy Brown
I used OpenCOBOL to port two HP 3000 COBOL programs — only two, but one of them was the big and critical engine at the heart of a system otherwise written completely in PowerHouse.
I first used the portability checker on COBOL II to make a few amendments to bring the program in line with the standards — and was able to roll that version back into the production HP3000 code at the time.
The thing that remained non-standard, but which OpenCOBOL supported, IIRC, was entry points. I could have got round the limitation of not having them, but I was pleased not to have to.
The one remaining issue after that was not having IMAGE on the new platform, but having to use Oracle instead. So I rewrote the IMAGE calls as Oracle PRO*COBOL calls. And I was quite surprised that this made the program shorter, or would have if I hadn't left the IMAGE calls in, but commented out, so I could refer back to them if there were issues.
So, armed with a readable program, I slotted it through the PRO*COBOL precompiler, which spits out unreadable COBOL, put that through the OpenCOBOL compiler, which spits out C (or did then, at any rate — does it still?) and then compiled that with the GNU C compiler.
December 15, 2014
2015 migrations creep on, in virtual mode
In the concept of virtualization, a server is replaced by another which pretends to be just like the original. There's no new HP 3000 in emulation, for example. Just the idea of one. The essence of the HP 3000, its PA-RISC architecture, is replaced using the Charon product: software that mimics the HP hardware. Virtualization engines use software to eliminate hardware.
Some MPE migrations which have been underway for years look like they may be using up virtual man-months, so the IT group won't have to adopt a new application. The plan and lengthy project time eliminates the need to go live with changes.
In a virtual migration, the organization knows its intention. Get onto another environment with mission-critical apps. But the work never gets completed, something like a "forthcoming" novel that's expected but unfinished. Virtualized migrating can very well be the reason any 3000 project still has a 2017 target date.
"These days with the tools that are available," said Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, "no migration should take more than 12 months." He added that he believes that engaging a migration services company of any reasonable size would get most of of an organization's code running in test-mode in about six weeks.
December 12, 2014
Essential Skills: Using Password Vaults
Editor's note: HP 3000 managers do many jobs, work that often extends outside the MPE realm. In Essential Skills, we cover the non-3000 skillset for these multi-talented MPE experts.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
Passwords are always a challenge for security professionals. Why is creating a secure password so difficult? More importantly, how can a user tell if their password has been stolen? Typically, when all the damage has been done and the password has been used by someone else. At this point in time it is too late. One way to resolve this is to have a password vault such as KeepPass or 1Password.
A vault is a good investment of your time. A security breach that might result from having no vault might be difficult to even detect. It might be that the time the breach is discovered may not be the first time the hacked credentials were used. This might be how many times a stolen credit card is used before the owner gets the bill. Second, the hacker could have hacked the password and is just keeping it for later use or sale. One of the preventative measures for this is to require users to periodically change passwords.
This changing strategy can stem the use of stolen passwords and also prevent the future use of any that have not yet been exploited. From a user's perspective, though, generating multiple passwords every 60-90 days just compounds the passwords nightmare.
As a security professional I have seen several solutions that users concoct to try and get around this issue. One common one is to write them all down and hide the resulting list. It turns out there are not that many good hiding places. Under keyboards, behind pictures, inside speakers, taped to the underside of a drawer or chair, back of a bookcase do not qualify as good locations. Also, many users forget to update the sheet with new passwords. Another approach is to create a text file, e.g. shopping_list.txt, and put everything in there. A quick search of the most frequently used files normally finds those. Plus if the hard drive crashes, and the file is not backed up, new ones have to be set up all over again.
A variation of the last theme is to use a password vault. This is a method where the password information is stored on a file, but the file is encrypted. In this case only one password is needed, to decrypt the vault, and access is granted to all of the other passwords. The most ubiquitous form of encryption is AES - Advance Encryption Standard. AES256 encryption is adequate for most users.
However, one word of caution. If the password used to encrypt the vault is easy to guess, then the contents are at risk.
December 11, 2014
Big, unreported computing in MPE's realm
When members gather from the 3000 community, they don't often surprise each other these days with news. The charm and challenge of the computer's status is its steady, static nature. We've written before about how no news is the usual news for a 40-year-old system.
But at a recent outing with 3000 friends I heard two pieces of information that qualify as news. The source of this story would rather not have his name used, but he told me, "This year we actually sold new software to 3000 sites." Any sort of sale would be notable. This one was in excess of $10,000. "They just told us they needed it," my source reported, "and we didn't need to know anything else." A support contract came along with the sale, of course.
The other news item seemed to prove we don't know everything about the potential of MPE and the attraction of the 3000 system. A company was reaching out for an estimate on making a transition to the Charon emulator. They decided not to go forward when they figured it would require $1 million in Intel-based hardware to match the performance of their HP 3000.
"How's that even possible?" I asked. This is Intel-caliber gear being speficied, and even a pricey 3000 configuration shouldn't cost more than a quarter-million dollars to replace. It didn't add up.
"Well, you know they need multiple cores to replace a 3000 CPU," my source explained. Sure, we know that. "And they had a 16-way HP 3000 they were trying to move out."
Somewhere out there in the world there's an HP 3000, installed by Hewlett-Packard, that supports 16 CPUs. Still running an application suite. The value is attractive enough that it's performing at a level twice as powerful as anything HP would admit to, even privately.
A 4-way N-Class was as big as HP would ever quote. Four 500-MHz or 750-MHz PA-8700 CPUs, with 2.25 MB on-chip cache per CPU, topped the official lineup.
Unix got higher horsepower out of the same HP servers. An 8-way version of the same N-Class box was supported on HP-UX; HP would admit such a thing was possible in the labs, and not supported in the field. But a 16-way? HP won't admit it exists today, and the customer wouldn't want to talk about it either. Sometimes things go unreported because they're too big to admit. It made me wonder how much business HP might've sustained if they'd allowed MPE to run as fast and as far as HP-UX ran, when both of those environments were hosted on the same iron.
December 10, 2014
Getting Macro Help With COBOL II
An experienced 3000 developer and manager asked his cohorts about the COBOL II macro preprocessor. There's an alternative to this very-MPE feature: "COPY...REPLACING and REPLACE statements. Which would you choose and why?"
Scott Gates: COPY...REPLACING because I understand it better. But the Macro preprocessor has its supporters. Personally, I prefer the older "cut and paste" method using a decent programmer's editor to replace the text I need. Makes things more readable.
Donna Hofmeister: I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment on this any longer, but it seems to me that macros were very efficient (and as I recall) very flexible (depending on how they were written, of course). It also seems to me that the "power of macros" made porting challenging. So if your hidden agenda involves porting, then I think you'd want to do the copy thing.
There was even porting advice from a developer who no longer works with a 3000, post-migration.
December 08, 2014
IMAGE data schemas get visualized
Is there any program that will show the network of a TurboIMAGE database? I want to output the relationships among sets and items.
In 2011, Connie Sellitto researched the above question, while aiding new programmers who were charged with moving a pet organization's operations to a non-MPE system. Understanding the design of the database was important to this team. Sellitto mentioned a popular tool for PCs, but one not as essential as an IT pro's explanations.
You might try Microsoft's Visio, and you may need to have an ODBC connection to your IMAGE database as well. This produces a graphical view with search paths shown, and so on. However, there is still nothing like a detailed verbal description provided by someone who actually knows the interaction between datasets.
To sum up, we can refer to ScreenJet founder's Alan Yeo's testing of that Visio-IMAGE interplay
Taking a reasonably well-formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are, but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway, as they are really only for IMAGE.
My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.
If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE, then I would say we are back where we started.
December 05, 2014
A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate
This month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.
The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.
Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.
Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.
There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.
Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.
December 04, 2014
TBT: When Poetry Sang the 3000's Story
Our extended report on the occasion of Fred White's death let a memory of a poem float to the foreground of collective consciousness. The HP 3000's fans and fanatics have dreamed up verse to go along with the acres of prose written about the computer. One of the youngest fans of all time owns the copyright to three such poems. There has been other verse in song, as well.
Computer poetry -- that is, poems written about a computer -- goes back to the tradition of IBM's company songbooks. Orly Larson of Hewlett-Packard was the chief bandleader for such music about White's creation, IMAGE. A rousing medley of Larson's compositions became part of HP conferences during the mid-1990s. But on another end of the age range, Alexander "Sasha" Volokh (at left, at an HP conference of the day) penned a poem celebrating the Boston Tea Party protest led by White in 1990.
Sasha's The Unbundling of IMAGE (full text at the Adager website) was an account of the SIGIMAGE meeting during that show, "In the style of The Man From Snowy River by A.B 'Banjo' Paterson"
Now Fred White had written IMAGE and was sad, as you can guess.
He said the word "unbundling" was a lie.
IMAGE isn't like a product, but is part of FOS
And that's why you get it when HPs you buy.
But IMAGE, it has always been mistreated by HP
And I wouldn't like to think the end is near.
And I'm working with Alfredo, but in this, I speak for me,
'Cause if not for me, you wouldn't all be here.
There was more, plenty more to protest about at that meeting of 24 years ago. Some of the poem included a reference to an open letter, this one written by a 3000 legend also deceased. That letter of Wirt Atmar's was another means to dispute the vendor's plans for the 3000's future. MPE systems have retained their value to homesteading users, in large measure because the unbundled database scheme was shouted down.
December 03, 2014
Cyber-shop for networked storage this week
As Cyber-Week -- the extension of Cyber Monday shopping -- continues to unfold this week, the holiday sale might provide new resources for your old 3000. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a powerful enterprise resource, full of value now that disk prices have plummeted. Everything is even lower this week. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has shared his secrets for making NAS an HP 3000 tool.
"Like most HP 3000 shops we were looking for a cheap way to [store many gigabytes of data] — and there was no way we could afford a DLT," he said. Digital Linear Tape boasts massive capacities, but most storage these days is going straight to another disk.
Yeo said that fundamentally, the method to include NAS as an option involves creating STORE to Disk files, "and then you FTP those STORE files up to your NAS device. A simple half-terabyte (500 GB) RAID-1 NAS device is the equivalent of 40 12-GB DDS tape drives."
It's a little unsettling to hear how many HP 3000 backups still go onto DDS tapes. Even the DLT tapes are a pain to handle, Yeo added.
December 02, 2014
Data leads way to migrations, via support
The heart of a 3000 homestead operation is its collection of IMAGE/SQL databases. Almost 20 years ago, IBM was mounting an effort to turn 3000 customers into AS/400 sites. I commented on the effort for Computerworld, "They'll have to do something about converting IMAGE/SQL data, if they expect to have any success." IBM had little luck in that effort, and not a great deal more nine years later, after HP announced an exit date for its 3000 operations.
From a reader and system manager on the US East Coast, we've heard more about data leading the way to the future. At this long-time 3000 site, the systems are getting a new support provider to keep them online and reliable. Not many sites are changing this sort of arrangement these days. It's been almost four years since HP closed its 3000 and MPE support operations in 2010.
A new company will be supporting that A-Class server on the East Coast before long. The new support is going to open the door to a revamped future, however.
Our purchasers are still in the process of signing up our new vendor for HP 3000 support. What is sad is that part of the deal includes migration of some TurboIMAGE databases to MS Access or something like that, which will lead to the eventual demise of the HP3000.
There is still the chance the new support might extend the 3000's utility, though. Self-maintainers who don't use support run risks that the 3000 doesn't really have to bear. A stable server is just one short-term reward for signing up with a support provider specializing in 3000s, like Pivital Solutions or The Support Group.
December 01, 2014
HP Q4, FY static; 3000 replacement sales fall
Despite all of the challenges Hewlett-Packard faced over the past fiscal year, the company has reported sales and earnings that didn't fall much from FY 2013 levels. Falling sales of HP 3000 replacement systems remain on the balance sheet, however. Nothing has changed but the depth of the plunge.
Both the 2014 fiscal year and the Q4 numbers (click on graphics for details) reflected an ability to keep some declines off the HP financial report. The latest quarter improved on Q2 and Q3 results overall. HP reported a profit of $2.62 per share for 2014. That's nearly $5 billion in earnings company-wide.
If the company sticks to its plan, its total of $115 billion in 2014 sales, only down 1 percent from last year, covers the penultimate period HP reports as a full company. By the end of FY 2015, the corporation will separate its businesses and spin off HP, Inc. for consumer and PC products. Hewlett-Packard will remain to sell servers and enterprise computing products and services. Analysts expect the companies to be of equal size.
The total of HP's Business Critical Systems revenues took another hit in the fourth quarter, dropping almost 30 percent from Q4 of 2013. Double-digit percentage drops in BCS sales are commonplace by now. The unit produces the HP-UX systems HP once designated as replacements for the HP 3000. Intel-based systems, contained in the Industry Standard Servers operations, also saw their sales decline slightly. Networking revenues were slightly higher for the quarter.
The company's CEO was thrilled about the overall picture for the full company, calling it a sustained turnaround.
"I'm excited to say that HP's turnaround continues on track," said Meg Whitman. "In FY14, we stabilized our revenue trajectory, strengthened our operations, showed strong financial discipline, and once again made innovation the cornerstone of our company. Our product roadmaps are the best they've been in years and our partners and customers believe in us. There's still a lot left to do, but our efforts to date, combined with the separation we announced in October, sets the stage for accelerated progress in FY15 and beyond."
November 26, 2014
Something to give thanks for, and envy, too
On the eve of a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for -- and something to envy, too.
Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s such as Series 300/400/700?" We can write that the HP 1000, a product line which HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.
A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted its users to the Integrity line, a migration path of dubious future by now. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys, the company providing a future for long-serving MPE/iX apps, too. The presence of Charon prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of decade-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.
But while the Alpha and the 3000 will live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, they can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received this year. OpenVMS will live on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. (VSI). The company got the arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.
The details released haven't yielded much more than a third-party road map for the OS, up to now. But that's a future with some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS and for the 3000 user who wanted more MPE/iX future back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced six years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.
If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support, there could be more to be thankful for this week. Extended third party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.
Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: The lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, an OS that brought HP to the computing game. Third parties that love and care for a legacy computer were on hand for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. Maybe HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a system with Windows wasn't great business.
We'll give thanks for a few days off to celebrate this holiday with family in the Great Lakes -- regardless of frigid weather. We'll be back on Monday.