August 08, 2016
August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy
Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community was discovering windows into the World Wide Web. At the Interex conference held that month we heard the first about Javelin, a new Java-based terminal emulator that required nothing but a browser to connect a PC to an HP 3000. It was the first MPE terminal to run inside a browser, a technology that was searching for a commercial market in 1996. You requested a session and Javelin delivered one out of a pile of user licenses. At the 25- and 50-user tiers, Javelin got cheaper than Minisoft's MS 92 terminal.
That August was the first one with the NewsWire on hand in the community. Java was sexy and hot and Javelin provided a way to care about it while you managed an MPE/iX system. We reported with a hopeful eye that "Java is maturing as a platform for HP 3000 applications."
The Minisoft product is effectively a Java-based version of the MS92 terminal emulator, and it allows users to connect to HP 3000s without a client-based emulation program installed on their local desktops. Instead, Javelin downloads a Java applet in five to 20 seconds into a Web browser on the desktop. The resulting thin client handles HP 3000 terminal emulation tasks.
But customers won't have to modify existing HP 3000 VPlus application forms to deliver them over browser-based connections using Javelin. It reproduces function keys and special keys as well as performs Windows-grade slave printing. Minisoft's Doug Greenup said the product had been tested against MM/II and MANMAN on the 3000, as well as many custom VPlus applications, Qedit, Speededit, Powerhouse and Quiz.
"It's a little slower than our Windows product right now," Greenup said, "at least with character-mode applications. Block mode screens are faster." He said the product would be a good fit for inquiry and modest data entry applications, as well as public access to HP 3000 databases in government and university settings or for remote sales staff.
The point was to reduce the cost of connectivity and give casual users a simple link to HP 3000s. Java was in vogue at HP's MPE labs at a time when the goal was to give the 3000 an equal set of Web tools. HP-UX and Windows NT were claiming to have all of the momentum at the time.
Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP 3000 resource
August 05, 2016
Whatever you know best becomes a platform
An HP 3000 software vendor called this week to report they put four new installations of their product into customer sites this year. Those aren't new HP 3000s, but they're new customers. In 2016 that's notable. There's a reason there are four new spots for this utility software.
"We turn these HP 3000s into Excel machines," the vendor's founder said. "These new IT managers don't know the HP 3000. But they know what they have used. For these companies, it was important to make these 3000s ready to work with Excel."
There are several ways to do this, and Excel doesn't seem like technology as powerful as IMAGE databases and the deep enterprise-grade applications on MPE/iX. The power doesn't matter. It's the connection to the rest of the IT world, and the familiarity of the staff with the driving technology. "You can't get young guys into these companies who know the HP 3000," the vendor said.
While it's not true everywhere, younger IT pros comprise the workforce for enterprise software management. The HP 3000 can seem like grandpa's server to the CIO who wasn't out of elementary school when the 3000 base was growing strong. (That seems young for a C-level job, but such a CIO could be as old as 45. Think the '80s.) Connecting its data with a newer tool like Excel gives the 3000 a tighter bond to mission-critical work.
What's more, oversimplifying the 3000 as a data resource isn't too far away from its original intent. Wirt Atmar of AICS sold QueryCalc software for reporting and new HP 3000s to companies "who were replacing steel filing cabinets" to access information. Excel is a platform in the same way that those filing cabinets were data repositories. It's easier to integrate a system that at least behaves like the rest of the enterprise. If a utility could attach new value to your older server, for a younger manager, there could be room in the budget for that.
August 03, 2016
Migration's prize: more server surveillance
Servers which replaced the HP 3000s were always delivered with a double-edged sword. More flexible. More complex. Whatever you needed to know about the 3000 could be discovered using tools from Lund, Allegro and other vendors. The products had their fans and the companies always pointed out the differences in reporting and tracking capabilities.
Now another 3000 vendor, MB Foster, is teaming up with Bradmark to serve the non-3000 environments: the Windows, Linux and Unix servers that replaced MPE systems. Bradmark's Surveillance software is being resold by MB Foster. Resale often means extra value to the customer, employing services and expertise. There's a webinar on the product next Wednesday, August 10 at 2PM EDT. IT management needs vary, but there are commonalities. Some of the surveillance capability of these migration platforms simply was not possible using MPE/iX tools. Not even HP's pricier ones.
CPU, disk IO, memory, swap space, file system and process resource utilization can be monitored for the migration target platforms using Surveillance. The software works using a central repository, so a homogenous blend of these servers is handled from a single software console.
The software's list of supported server platforms is broad. In order of 3000 migrator's popularity, Windows Server 2003 or later; Linux x64 - x86; HP-UX, both PA-RISC and Itanium; IBM's Linux POWER and AIX Unix; Solaris SPARC, Solaris x64. Even HP's Tru64 can be included among Surveillance agents. There's also a Surveillance for database administration.
August 01, 2016
1,000-plus sessions propel $1 billion in sales
As HP 3000s and MPE hold on, homesteading managers need to justify their use of the solid server. Big-company users sometimes seal the deal.
Here's a recent number: One company supports a firm that does over $1 billion in revenue a year — and it has at any given time over 1,300 sessions logged on, up to 2,000 during its busy season. It's not the only 3000 site of that size, either.
None of us have any hard data on how many 3000s are doing work, or how many work that hard. The data is scattered, so anecdotal reports revolve around the experiences from each vendor's 3000 support customers. One software vendor said there are more than 800 active licenses of his product, still paying support. These are hard numbers to verify.
Support for a 3000 comes from places like Pivital Solutions (an all-3000 support shop). There's no magic number of customers by today, although if you wanted our estimate we'd say more than 1,500 servers are running. Support was always a good way to take the 3000 census. But that was fractured, too: HP never had more than two out of every three 3000s under support.
By now the third party support is working at the very large companies using the HP 3000. If nothing but vendor support will do, then a 3000 is on the bubble — but realistically, that kind of support can't be found for Windows or Linux (although support from RedHat is available for its distro). There's independent support all over the business world. You're usually better off with support you've contracted with on your own, anyway. It's tuned up to know when your busy season is — and how to keep hundreds to thousands of sessions online.
July 29, 2016
HP's Unix Demise, and Rise of the Machine
Alternatives to MPE/iX and HP 3000s amount to about four choices. Windows, Unix, Linux, and non-HP environments comprise this list that migration projects assess. Most of the time the choice leads to an application or a suite of apps to replace the MPE computing. When the door of migration has been kicked open by an environment re-boot, though, then discussion of operating systems is worth time spent in study.
HP-UX came of age in an era when the 3000 became the old-era product on Hewlett-Packard strategy slide decks. Unix was an open environment in a simple review. Deeper study showed most Unixes carried a stamp of the vendor selling the OS. HP's was no different. Now the demise of HP-UX is being debated, especially among those who do their work in that environment. Almost 4,000 members of an HP-UX Users group on LinkedIn heard from Bill Hassell about the future of HP-UX.
"Reports of the demise of HP-UX are greatly exaggerated," he said in reply to a taunt from Dana French, a fan of IBM's Unix. The lack of a major Version 12 release is of no concern, either.
Itanium and HP-UX are dead? This is definitely not the case as the attendees at the HP-UX BootCamp found out in April. HP-UX will be fully supported on current and future hardware beyond 2020. With the addition of de-dupe on VxFS filesystems and containers for legacy systems, new features will continue to expand the most stable OS in enterprise server offerings. The lack of version 12 is an acknowledgement to hundreds of application providers (not just Oracle) that a major release number change is very costly in regression testing and certification. Instead, major functionality is released as an update to 11.31.
HP hasn't been the greatest help in telling this story of the stable HP-UX's holdout, a tale that's important to several thousand 3000 users who've migrated to HP-UX since 2002. Instead, another version of The Machine, the HP computer intended to make all others obsolete, will appear like it's been transported from a starship. This is a product with no known OS. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise doesn't talk much about operating systems. The Machine has been touted this year like it's a keystone to the future. That's why Star Trek's images have been employed to let this tech vision rise up.
There's nothing wrong with continuing to use HP-UX, according to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The future belongs to another platform, though. In one of the more surprising aspects to the story about The Machine, the man who hawked it hardest will soon retire from HP. Martin Fink did a lot of work on behalf of keeping HP-UX in orbit, too. It's a matter of debate about how quickly that orbit is degrading.
July 27, 2016
Did PCs hold Hewlett-Packard off the pace?
Stock activity is the best-quantified way to assess the strength and prospects for a vendor. Few of the HP 3000 vendors ever reported stock pricing, so we always swung our spotlight on the system creator's stock. The results became entertaining after HP stopped making 3000s—but rarely entertaining in a good way.
Now it appears that shedding its New Money products has pushed Hewlett-Packard Enterprise's stock into fresh territory. HPE hit the low $20s of share price this week. That's a 52-week high, and even higher if factoring in the fact the stock was chopped in two last fall.
Operating systems, software and hardware are only part of the story at HPE. Services were brought across in November, but their performance has skidded. As the break-off firm that reclaimed the HP Old Money business computing that drove enterprises, however, HPE has had a better time since the splitup. HPQ, making a living off the PCs and printers, remained under $14 a share today. The companies started out with equal assets and stock prices. What Enterprise has changed is the company's focus. The vendor is no longer trying to be everything to everybody.
Earlier this summer HPE announced it was getting even leaner. The enterprise services business, which bulked up HP's headcount and revenues as a result of acquiring 144,000 employees from EDS, will now be a separate entity. The move pushes HP closer to the business target it pursued while it was making the HP 3000 soar: sales to IT enterprises of software and hardware. This time around, they want to sell cloud computing too. But the old Apps on Tap program for the 3000 in the late '90s was a lot like that, too.
The extra systems focus, coupled with the stagnant action on the PC-printer side, suggests that straying from enterprise computing was a boat-anchor move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has put a new-era spin on the box-and-software pursuit, though. The CEO says putting Services on a separate course makes HPE a company with 100 percent of its revenues channel partner-driven. In effect it means all deals need a third party. This is the course the old HP could never adopt, much to the consternation of 3000 vendors.
July 25, 2016
Even archival 3000s are keeping things aloft
Stromasys makes MPE/iX applications last forever, a mission that some manufacturing suppliers are taking to heart. Doug Smith of the vendor tells a story about a supplier to aircraft manufacturers which puts data from archival 3000s back into production, from time to time.
These suppliers have moved their production IT to platforms such as SAP, he says. But they haven't retired their HP 3000 data. One reason is the amount of work needed to bring processes onto complex platforms like SAP. Rather than move everything into a new application suite, many companies only move open items. They might need others later. That's where an archival MPE system goes to work.
"SAP is so limited," Smith says. "It’s a structure you must fit into. You have to fit your business to work within SAP, more than SAP working to fit the business. You have to meet the software’s criteria just to move on to the next process, and that’s why it’s so much easier just to move the items that are open. Otherwise, you have re-create all of the substructure you had on the 3000 software. A 10-year project could become a one-year project if you only move the open items. You’re talking about saving millions of dollars."
For example, one aircraft supplier has been building parts for 40 years, work that started when the HP 3000 was brand-new. They didn’t bring all those parts over to their SAP replacement for the MPE/iX applications. "But they can get a call at any time that they need the landing gear for a certain type of aircraft, for example—and they don’t have the part on SAP," Smith says. "So they have to go back to the archive machine to get it processed. It’s not only for regulatory purposes. It’s for serving-the-customer purposes."
July 22, 2016
3000-free Southwest suffers airline IT crash
Three straight days of system outages cost Southwest Airlines more than $10 million in lost fares this week. The company's COO Mike Van de Ven said that the router crashes which started the meltdown are not uncommon. But then the routers triggered Web server crashes. Finally, the company's disaster recovery plan failed to save the IT operations. Social media posts from customers complained of delayed flight departures and arrivals and an inability to check in for flights on Southwest's website. The running count by Friday morning was 700 canceled flights, with another 1,300 delayed. People could not get to gates without boarding passes.
Customers running 3000s through the 1990s might remember Southwest as a shining star in the MPE/iX galaxy. The system came online with ticketless travel using MPE/iX software developed at Morris Air. When Southwest started to skip the paper, it was one of the very first major airlines to do so. Dispensing with paper tickets was possible because of the 3000's unparalleled reliability.
Stranding an estimate 4,000 customers was never a part of the 3000's history at Southwest. The computer was the dominant ticketing tool in an era before the elaborate security checks in the US. From Wednesday through today, customers on thousands of its flights could not check in at kiosks or via those web servers. The IT failure happened as the Republican National Convention closed out its Cleveland circus.
It's commonplace for a system vendor who's been shown the door, like the 3000 group was in the first decade of this century, to say "It wasn't on our watch" when a crash like this hits. But being commonplace won't recover those millions of dollars of revenues. Maybe they were a small fraction of the overall savings while leaving the 3000. The reliability of an airline is worth a lot more than delivery of a product, though, like an auto. Hertz was a 3000 shop for many years, and their portion of the travel business didn't suffer these woes, either.
Both companies made their IT 3000-free while the worst fact about the system was that HP stopped selling it. They both had plans to expand, strategies MPE/iX wasn't going to be able to handle easily, too. When a vendor ends their business plans for a server, the sweater of coverage unravels one thread at a time. Mission-critical systems are never supposed to leave a publicly traded company naked from the waist up, however.
July 20, 2016
Manufacturing alternatives rise for 3000 sites
HP 3000 sites are migrating away from their ERP and MRP applications. One of the largest MANMAN users in the world on MPE/iX has started its transition to SAP. That's a long journey for a company with almost a dozen manufacturing sites. But SAP and other software has the potential to give companies customization, features and flexibility beyond MANMAN. It's not to say that MANMAN can't do the job, but the effort to change it requires expertise at many steps.
One of the experts in MANMAN — arguably the leading advisors — say that software designed in the modern era improves ERP for longtime MANMAN users. For example, says Terry Floyd at the Support Group, the software at Nissan Calsonic's US plant made the leap from MANMAN to IFS, a project that Floyd's group engineered and completed this spring.
"IFS is much more suited to what Nissan Calsonic is doing than MANMAN ever was," Floyd said. "They had more modifications [to MANMAN] than anybody." The number of the mods slows the march of change. It also shows how far the business processes of users have drifted beyond the stock architecture of MANMAN. A product like IFS was built to accommodate pinpoint processes, in part because IFS was built at the dawn of the object-oriented era.
IFS has its basis in the late '80s, early '90s, he explained, and pieces of that ERP solution "have some of the earliest object-oriented programming stuff ever written. So IFS has a heck of a head start on other products. They're rewritten things a few times and changed interfaces like everybody has to, in order to stay modern."
July 18, 2016
Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips
Samba sharing on our 3000 using Windows Explorer is slow, but it gets the job done. However, if I take down networking on the 3000 and bring it back up, Windows Explorer tells me the 3000 is inaccessible. Ping works, Reflection connections work and Internet Explorer has no trouble connecting to our Apache/iX web site. What's happening to the 3000's networking?
Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:
After rebooting the PC, everything works again until networking on the 3000 is refreshed. Your solution should address the fact that Windows is maintaining a table of connections that needs to be refreshed in DOS. From the DOS command line, issue the command nbtstat -R or nbtstat -RR.
James Byrne also points out:
You can get into trouble with cached credentials with Windows Active Directory as well. You can clear them from the command line with:
net session \\samba.server.ip.address /delete
Or you can do it through the Credentials Manager on the workstation's Control Panel. However you clear the cache, you still need to restart the workstation with the problem cache — because the credentials are still in memory.
July 15, 2016
An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.
Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly.
I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.
Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.
Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.
An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.
SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.
This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.
July 13, 2016
How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free
The 3000 community has been receiving updates for simulator project this year. This isn't the software that virtualizes the PA-RISC servers which were the ultimate boxes in HP's 3000 line. This simulator software is strictly shareware, strictly free, and strictly built to emulate a previous generation's HP 3000s. The SIMH project can turn a PC into a Classic HP 3000, the sort that used MPE III, IV, or V as its operating system.
This is also a project that points to the lifecycle of HP's operating system products in the public domain. A hobbyist -- or a company that could get along with a 3000 with circa 1991 power and OS -- needs a copy of MPE V to make this freeware simulation work. Where you get this software is up to you. But it's not a secret, either. The process to free involves the passage of time, the end of commercial sales, and perhaps HP's tacit approval.
The creators of SIMH are assuming HP won't be reining in the 20-year-old OS built for the previous MPE generation. Dave Bryan, who posted a note about a new version of the SIMH simulator for the 3000, said that the HP Computer Museum in Australia has helped to make MPE V available for simulator use via a website.
I assembled the kit from the tape image in that directory, which was supplied to me by Al Kossow of Bitsavers. Al then posted the kit and tape on his site.
Before undertaking the 3000 simulator project, I verified with Al in 2011 that he would be able to post an MPE image, and he confirmed that he could.
This year marks a milestone in the 3000's Classic generation: a moment to download the needed MPE V OS without a license concern. If Kossow's upload is legal, this version of MPE V has become freeware.
This kind of open source status is what the 3000 community pursued for MPE/iX for the better part of a decade. As the ultimate 3000 OS, MPE/iX hasn't moved into the state of a GPL license (for sharing). Not yet. But there was a time when HP's MPE V was closely guarded and licensed, too. Nowadays, not so much. The transfer to open access for an OS requires time. HP hasn't sold an MPE/iX system in almost 13 years. The company stopped selling MPE V servers 21 years ago. The clock might be running toward an unfettered MPE/iX.
July 11, 2016
How to Use Input to Create Output Files
Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000. It was a long time ago, as I was reminded by Olav Kappert in a call about his HP 3000 history. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," he said. Kappert started with the 3000 in 1979.
Fast-forward 37 years later and you'll find questions from a different programmer still working on a 3000, adding features to a system. The Obtaining File Information section of a KSAM manual on MPE/iX holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem.
I'm still using our old HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. My problem is how to use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file. I want that output file to be essentially an exact replica of the input file (give or take some of the data). I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program.
I'm using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, after I have opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.
Francois Desrochers replies
How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call.
Donna Hofmeister adds
You might want to get a copy of the "Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64" manual. Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.
But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.
July 08, 2016
Is there something you desire in MPE/iX?
The 3000 homesteader probably misses the System Improvement Ballot, a way to petition HP for improvements to MPE. The results of these requests were often unveiled at an August user conference. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present for some customers, or finding a lump of coal in the stocking for others who sadly watched their requests bypassed.
But there’s still a way to meet desires for MPE/iX functionality. The answer lies in open source. Brian Edminster explained.
Unless a miracle occurs - we've probably seen the last of a 'Systems Improvement' survey/ballot. That's a real shame - because there's still quite a lot of life left in the system - and there'd be more if we could teach her some new tricks.
Perhaps, though, we could find an equivalent:
Seems to me, because much open source software is of a subsystem or utility variety - perhaps it would be worthwhile to poll the community for what packages they need but can't get (i.e. not ported yet?), or need — but the existing ports aren't current enough and need updating.
If nothing else, it would provide those of us that tinker in this area with a bit more direction than just what we might currently need.
The community of 3000 customers could offer requests and help through the 3000-L mailing list, or leave a note here. Open source software was a breakthough for the 3000 in the late 90s. It's not too late to let a port change things.
July 06, 2016
Low-code solutions give ERP a new face
ERP software such as MANMAN has always carried a burden: it's most useful when it's been modified. Mods, as the customization is called, locks a company into the technology and business choices of the past, though. The old style ERP demanded coding to stay fluent. Software of today wants to avoid all that.
Salesforce, whose engine drives the Kenandy ERP replacement for MANMAN and the like, says that "Low-code development platforms are transforming the way we build apps, opening up app development to a whole new world of point-and-click app developers and designers." Watching a demonstration from the Support Group's Terry Floyd of Kenandy showed how straightforward fine-tuning has become—once you know the settings to make the software dance.
Floyd's company has started taking Disston Tools to Kenandy, leaving behind more than two decades of MANMAN use and a heavy reliance on EDI software bolted into MANMAN. Floyd is providing in-service experience to Disston, based on his own company's use of Kenandy. "It's overkill for us to run our [consulting and development] company on," he said, "but we've learned so much about how to set it up for our clients."
There's configuration to set up internal email in Kenandy for example, the Chatter that can attach notes and comments to items like purchase orders. Kenandy always billed itself as Social ERP for this reason. It puts a new face on how resource planning should work. But it also gives companies of all sizes a way to take charge of changes with less programming.
July 04, 2016
Celebrate Your Independence Today
As this is the Fourth of July in the United States, we're taking time away from the news desk to celebrate Independence Day, as we call it. If you think about it, your choice to remain on an HP 3000 -- even if it's on a long journey toward migration -- is a celebration of independence.
As examples of what that means in practice, have a look at the following articles:
On support for 3000s: HP's 3000 support clears away for indies
On MPE licenses, and the need for them in the post-HP era:Customers debate definition of a licensed HP 3000
On how respecting an HPSUSAN supports independent software vendors: 3000's IDs protect independent SW vendors
Embrace your independence as an HP 3000 partner or customer, whenever that new course suits you. If you're migrating, your company's internal schedule will determine your new platform and when you will move. It's obviously not based on HP's support deadline, which is just as expired as George Washington. This is a holiday we celebrate to mark the country's trip down a new path independent of its founding authority figure, Great Britain. I am told the British celebrate today as "the anniversary of the time we got rid of those pesky colonists."
Which goes to show how anything can be viewed from more than one point of view, so long as you have an independent mind.
July 01, 2016
Celebrate independence this weekend
Over this weekend in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day by vacationing from work, driving cars on some of least expensive gasoline in the world, and reflecting, between fireworks' starbursts, how lucky we are to choose. For a lot of people, this time around it's a four-day holiday, more largesse we enjoy if we're fortunate.
Although July 4th is a distinctly US holiday, a British friend of mine says it's the UK's independence day, too — as in, "We're rid of that dysfunctional colony once and for all." Think for a moment, if you're reading this on the holiday or the days that follow, the items you can celebrate leaving behind while you continue your use of the HP 3000.
You are independent from inflexible pricing on 3000 support (what non-HP entities could compete when HP was in the market in a serious way?), as well as the need for HP-branded storage. Now there's the Stromasys solution to replace aging hardware, if you have concerns about disks that are dozens of years old. Or use newer ones. Plenty of SCSI disks will work with 3000s without bearing the HP badge. The SCSI pass-through driver will embrace even more, once the software is applied to the task by the community's experts.
June 29, 2016
Date format variable help for MPE/iX
What would be the easiest way to get a variable date in the format "06/29/16" on a HP3000 OS version 7.0 and 7.5?
Michael Anderson replies
setvar mydate '![str("!hpyyyymmdd",5,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",7,2)]/![str("!hpyyyymmdd",3,2)]'
(Note the usage of single-quote and double-quote in the setvar command.)
Allegro's Barry Lake adds
Please note that the HPYYYYMMDD variable is already a string variable:
Frodo: calc typeof(HPYYYYMMDD)
2, $2, %2
So you don't have to dereference it with ! inside double quotes. In other words, the following works just as well, is easier to read, and might even execute a bit faster:
Frodo: echo ![str(hpyyyymmdd,5,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,7,2)]/![str(hpyyyymmdd,3,2)]
June 27, 2016
Refitting Migration to Look Like Emulation
In a webinar about emulation solutions last week, MB Foster offered a new take on some old tools. The subject was an exam of what 3000 sites could do if their budgets didn't let them take on a full migration on their own. Viewers heard about Stromasys Charon, of course, a software tool that has always proposed the OS in charge will remain the same: MPE/iX. The hardware gets emulated.
The webinar took note of some Charon considerations, but none that haven't already surfaced. Software must be licensed to the new Charon emulated hardware. The greatest percentage of vendors are making that transfer a formality. Many don't even charge a fee to move from HP's PA-RISC iron to the emulated hardware. Of those who do, the fee can be nominal. Issues about revising hardcoded IP addresses were mentioned. Issues about historic data procedures and archival come up for any solution that changes things.
The other solutions in the webinar didn't have any of their issues examined.
On the subject of those other emulation solutions in MB Foster's perspective, some well-established products received a new label. Eloquence, the database that doesn't run under MPE/iX but has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility Mode, got its seven minutes of fame. The Marxmeier product has always been sold as a migration tool. For years the ads on this blog called it "Image migration at its best." Users on the call testified to the strong value of Eloquence.
Another third party tool, resold and supported by MB Foster, got a mention in the webinar and a label as an emulation solution. Ti2SQL, software that moves IMAGE data to SQL databases, was released by Ordat in the early years of the migration era. In 2003, Expeditors International included ORDAT’s Ti2SQL in Expeditors' rollout away from the 3000 because the software emulates IMAGE inside a relational database. The end result produced CLI calls native to a Unix-based database.
"Ti2SQL uses CLI," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "Think of it as going to a complete native environment, while leveraging/using all of the business logic developed on/for the HP. Additionally, Ti2SQL allows someone to go to an off-path server and database, such as AIX and DB2."
June 24, 2016
A Hybrid Solution to Staying and Going
Editor's note: we ran the following story about eZ-MPE on the product's announcement three years ago. The software suite came up for mention during this week's MB Foster webinar, and since it's offered as a modern solution, it seems useful to revisit the original release story.
MB Foster is announcing a hybrid of solutions aimed at making migrations off the 3000 easier. The company is calling its offering MBF eZ-MPE, and it’s aiming customers at the native benefits of working in Windows once they make their transition. MBF eZ-MPE is a solution for HP 3000 sites that have a keen interest in transitioning to a Windows environment, while they preserve their company’s competitive advantage and legacy applications.
Knowing the computing processes of HP 3000 managers for more than 35 years gives MB Foster the insight to build a complete ecosystem, said the company’s sales and marketing chief Chris Whitehead.
“What we’re really doing here is we’re mimicking the environment that everybody’s accustomed to using,” Whitehead said. “To get all those nuances, you must have all the specific capabilities already there. With all HP 3000 sites they have some similarities. They have UDCs, file systems, KSAM that’s involved with MPE files. They all have an IMAGE database.”
For example, the database environment mimics the IMAGE database, Whitehead said. A command line utility manages other functions and data types.
The eZ-MPE solution evolved during the migrating of custom code for customers into a Windows environment, the target environment for eZ-MPE migrations. For example, MBF Scheduler has been replacing the features and comprehensive functionality of HP 3000 batch scheduler and job control software including independently managed queues and a “job fence”, mimicking a module which is embedded in MPE/iX.
June 22, 2016
What's MPE got to do with emulators?
Companies that want to use their MPE/iX applications a long time might count their timelines with two eras: Before Emulator, and After Emulator. The B.E. period left the MPE/iX user locked to Hewlett-Packard hardware and waiting for upgrades to HP boxes. The A.E. era uses virtualization via Charon to permit many beefy Intel boxes do the MPE/iX work. But what does MPE/iX code have to do with the magic of Charon? Not much, which is a good thing.
There's a stubborn story we hear about how the gem of MPE's source code is at the heart of what Charon does. What a virtualization engine like the Stromasys product delivers is a new capability for Intel hardware. An Intel box can pretend to be a PA-RISC processor, thanks to the software engineered by the creators of similar products for the Digital market.
But Charon doesn't rely on MPE/iX secrets to do this magic. It's like thinking a jockey is the being who's running a 2-mile racetrack course. He's the rider, and the horse in this metaphor is Charon. The basic design of Charon products, like the ones that virtualize the Sun Sparc systems and the PDP systems of DEC, creates the expertise for booting up Intels like they're 3000s. Nobody expects the ancestry of the jockey to play a role in making the horse faster. We don't sit in the grandstands to watch jockeys hoof it around the track.
June 20, 2016
Solitary backup tape spurs fresh MPE plea
When a 3000 site did its backups recently, the process did more than protect data on the business server. The procedure made a case for moving off the original HP 3000 hardware. Or keeping a couple of key tapes well protected.
Last week Greg Terterian left a request on 3000-L for help with a client. "They had problems with their disk storage and were going to do a reload," he said. "However, when backing up they were using the same tape over and over for the past three years."
As you might imagine, a solitary piece of backup media used repeatedly developed a problem over those years. The tape's no good. "Now they want to know if they can get or purchase, or if someone will be willing to donate, the MPE/iX 7.5 operating system."
There used to be a way to request new media for MPE/iX from HP, but that's a part of the 3000's legacy by now. Client Systems could once handle upgrade requests for part of the MPE/iX subsystem, but they were not answering calls at the start of 2016. The last HP 3000 distributor, Client Systems' domain is now parked.
Whether Terterian's client gets replacement MPE/iX files isn't the point of the story. (If you're donating, his email address is here.) The lesson is that a single backup tape is a solution that HP's hardware can let you stumble into, because restoring from tape is the norm for non-virtualized MPE/iX systems. If you're using an emulated 3000, however, your backup and bootup happens using disk files off images stored on stock PC hard drives. You could even back up to a cloud service like CrashPlan or Carbonite, if your MPE server runs off such Intel PC hardware.
June 15, 2016
Throwback of mid-June marks much change
Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.
HP-UX gains in later results (2005)
These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.
And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.
MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.
Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.
So much to see, so far to go (2007)
On a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.
To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.
The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.
June 13, 2016
2016 Advice: Emulate Your 3000 System
No kidding, the above strategy is bona fide. It will be online, with time for your questions, next Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern.
MB Foster has a novel webinar scheduled next week, and no, that's not an hour about writing a bestseller. The Web meeting on June 22 will walk through four different HP 3000 emulation options. All of them will mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce year over year costs. In the end, every one of them should use MPE/iX apps, if they are bona fide emulations. Why else would you be emulating? The webinar promises a tour of how to replace the 3000 hardware, it seems.
As hardware emulation goes — and that's the most popular agent of change — there's only one supplier that we know about. Over the last three years Stromasys has enlisted HP 3000 advocates and experts and customers to embrace the Charon software. We're told that each new customer seems to draw out another.
There are other ways to consider emulation, however. Some of them have been around a long time, if preservation of in-house MPE/iX apps is the goal. AMXW was a sort of emulator: Automated Migration to UniX and Windows. It's a shell that runs atop those two platforms, plus Linux and IBM's Unix, connecting to commodity databases and surround-code tools while preserving the 3000's app code.
"MPE speciﬁcs, such as JCL batch jobs, ﬁle equations, JCW, UDCs, command ﬁles and variables are all supported — allowing the MPE environment to run as is on the new platform." Okay, this is probably a migration solution. You're not supposed to need to change your apps, though. HP's 3000 hardware gets dropped, too.
The two other options? We'll be online to see what they are. Registration is online at the MB Foster website, as always.
You can't say that emulation is the right choice for everybody who needs to change things. Cloud-based ERP and manufacturing is on the horizon from Kenandy, for example, a company with ASK MANMAN roots. Terry Floyd of the The Support Group says Kenandy is MANMAN done better, because the software seems simpler. He's developed and managed MANMAN installs since the 3000 was very new. Floyd goes to work migrating Disston Tools off MANMAN starting next month.
We agree that any range of emulation options must mitigate risk, protect investments, and reduce costs. Risk is in the eye of the manager; we've said that since 2002, when the Transition Era started. Foster says moving away is too risky and costly for customers who have data on HP 3000s.
June 10, 2016
What A Newer MPE/iX Could Bring
What would HP 3000 owners do with a new MPE/iX release, anyway? On some IT planning books, the frozen status of the operating system counts as a demerit in 2016. Even still, enterprise system managers in other HP-sold environments face a nearly-glacial pace of OS upgrades today. Even while paying for HP’s support, the VMS system managers are looking at a lull.
HP says it still cares about OpenVMS, but that OS has been moving to a third party. Support from a system maker still looks newer and shiny to some companies than the independent support managers available from third parties like Pivital. As it turns out, though, it’s that frozen-as-stable nature of MPE/iX which makes third party support just as good as HP’s—back when you could get support from HP.
“MPE's so solid,” Doug Smith said in a recent interview, “and these applications have been out there forever. There’s not a huge concern out there in the community about needing to have a new release of MPE.” Smith leads the way for Charon emulator installs at 3000 sites.
OpenVMS roadmaps were updated this week. The map shows how slow OS updating can proceed.
June 08, 2016
Blog's birthday marks 11 digital years
They're like dog years, these digital years: each counts for much more considering the change that they chronicle. This space on the Web has now been open 11 years. On June 8 of 2005 a death in the 3000's family rose into the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute on that day, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His email posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.
Like the best of the 3000's community leaders, Toback flashed bright ends of technical prowess and a smart cynicism, the latter which couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Toback created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 80s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:
HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.
Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.
Without the news and developments of migration, though, we might not have arrived at this space with as much copy by now. Today there's more than 2,800 articles here going back 11 years, and there are 10 additional years of reporting and commentary on the 3000newswire.com site as well. (You can search it all through the link at the left, and people do every day.) After more than a couple of decades of this work, we thank the community — and in particular, our sponsors — for the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.
June 06, 2016
SLEEPER, Awakened for the Masses
The contributed program SLEEPER is probably the software cited most often as proof of the riches of the Contributed Software Library. First created outside of the IT shops of Boeing (according to its first writer Ray Legault) the program was among the most classic of solutions for straightforward jobsteam management. You wouldn't mistake SLEEPER for something professional like Maestro, or even the free MasterOp. But SLEEPER was contributed to the 3000 community, not cast into the free wilds like MasterOp was after its commercial career ended. It was meant to be shared.
The trouble was, SLEEPER disappeared from the community's shelves when Interex died. The CSL tapes (and eventually CDs) went off the grid, another skid-mark left when the user group careened into the void in 2005. It's been 11 years, though, and it's finally time to at least make SLEEPER ready for a wake-up call. We've got the two simple source files to share.
Nobody has liability anymore for HP 3000 contributed software. SLEEPER was never released with support or a license; it was simply part of being an Interex member at a certain level. And let us take a minute to recall that Interex folded owing millions of dollars to members and vendors. After 11 years, it's time to make this software a community resource once more. "Hey, I know a guy who can get you that" has been the means to share the utility over the last decade.
Surprisingly, it's just a well-packed 184K of SPL and FORTRAN code. MPE magic never took up much space. That's one of the reasons it was magic. SLEEPER is also a fine example of how 3000 managers helped one another.
June 01, 2016
Recovering Your Lost Logins
In the world of 2016, losing a password can be a time-bending experience. Apple's ID logins for its iCloud services, iTunes, and App Store only bear five attempts at most before they close out access to the phone. From there, you're on to a lengthy call to Apple. The smartphone is a tiny computer. The larger ones are not as strident about refusing repeated attempts, including the HP 3000.
They are secure, though. In these times when the servers can go dark for awhile as cold-start archive systems, though, a login can get misplaced. We're not supposed to write these things down, after all. What do you do when you have a question like the one below?
I restarted a 3000 9x7 after a few years in mothballs to run an old in-house app. I was able to boot up and login as OPERATOR.SYS, but cannot remember or find the password for MANAGER.SYS. Is there anyway to reset, clear, or overwrite the password file? I know the old machine is a very secure one, but now I am hoping there is a way around it.
What follows are a couple of suggestions to get back into the manager's driver's seat. However, you'll need to at least have a ticket to ride in OPERATOR.SYS.
Gilles Schipper shares what he knows.
There's not an easy way around the security. But since you can log on as OPERATOR.SYS, you should be able to store off the system directory to tape, as follows:
Now that you have the directory on tape, you should be able to move around with FCOPY (and its ;char;hex options) to find the password for MANAGER.SYS. And that's all assuming you haven't implemented the directory encryption feature available with HP's security product Security Monitor/iX.
There's one other way. It's a good thing, because the alternatives do not include a rescue call to HP. There's nothing like Apple's password recovery support left for the HP 3000, as the vendor has long ago left the field. However, a good support contract for an MPE/iX server can be just the thing, and we know where you can get one.
May 27, 2016
A Weekend Memorial to the Future's Past
Here in the US we start our Memorial Day holiday weekend today. Plenty of IT experts are taking a few days off. I reported the start of the HP 3000 emulation era over a Memorial Day weekend, five years ago. We'll take our long weekend to celebrate grandkids and a cookout, and see you back here next week.
In the meantime, here's that first report, a three-parter, showing that Stromasys set and met its development schedule, one that gave the 3000 homesteaders a future beyond the lifespan of HP's MPE/iX hardware. One year later, the software, called Zelus at the time, had a formal debut at a Training Day. Now as Charon it's preserving MPE/iX applications.
During that 2011 springtime, Stromasys offered screen shots of the PA-RISC emulator as evidence the software could serve as a virtual platform for the 3000’s OS. The screen above shows the beginning of the boot sequence (click for detailed view). HP provided internals boot-up documentation to assist in the software's design.
A product journey toward a 3000 hardware emulator took another significant step this spring, as the Zelus cross-platform software booted MPE/iX on an Intel server.
CTO Dr. Robert Boers of Stromasys reported that the OS has come up on a version of the emulator that will managed, eventually, by Linux. Although the test screens that Boers sent were hosted by Windows, the "fairly preliminary version" will be released on an open source OS. "Windows is a little passé," Boers said. "But we now have a first prototype."
Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."
May 25, 2016
MANMAN to journey to cloud-based ERP
The first project to move a MANMAN HP 3000 site to Kenandy's cloud-based ERP has an official start date. Terry Floyd and his team at The Support Group have a one-year mission to move Disston Tools from MANMAN to the Kenandy software, starting at the beginning of July. A manufacturer whose roots go back to 1840, Disston is dependent on EDI, an aspect that will help to prove that Kenandy is a good fit for MANMAN migrators.
"It’s an incredible ERP system – a completely new design concept and paradigm for ERP," Floyd said of Kenandy. "There are no modules; it’s all one thing. It has amazing functionality… and it's ready for MANMAN companies now, as I predicted four years ago."
Like many MANMAN sites on the HP 3000, Disston has a complicated company structure and MANMAN has been modified. Floyd has an insider advantage in leading the journey away from MPE/iX, "since I first started working on their FORTAN in 1986." He adds that they have given themselves a year "to get everything right and do one big cutover." He's been a guru for MANMAN sites through the software's many owners, from the earliest days when he worked for ASK Computer, then on his own and into MANMAN's Computer Associates days, forward to the SSA Global era, and finally to Infor's current stewardship of MANMAN. Kenandy feels like old blood, in a good way, he said.
"All of us [at the Support Group] spent a week at Kenandy Partner Training sessions. We met everybody and what a group they are. It’s just like ASK in 1980." By that Floyd means the creators of MANMAN, ASK. The company's founder Sandy Kurtzig was crucial to getting Kenandy's software ready for the marketplace. Floyd has been talking about the solution since 2011, pegging it as a good destination for MANMAN sites who want to leave the HP 3000.
May 23, 2016
Moving off a 3000, or just some MPE/iX app?
Wednesday afternoon MB Foster leads another of its webinars about migration advice. The company is the community leader in data migration, data migration projects, data migration service. You're moving, they're the folks to contact. On Wednesday at 2 PM EST they're reaching out to explain the methodology the company uses to process departures from the 3000 world.
The options on exits "have not changed much over the last decade," the company's email teaser says. "They include; Stay, Rehost, Replace/Buy, Rebuild. The best choice for you depends on growth expectations, corporate standards, risk and cost." The other determining aspect is how much exiting a migration prospect must do immediately. Several of the current generation of migrators have gone to the app-by-app model.
The largest single migration of educational 3000s, 36 of them at the SBCTC, was pulled off in some pieces. This usually follows a methodology of getting a key app onto another platform in a lift and shift. Rewrites have become rare. Later on the lifted app can be replaced. Sometimes, as is the case at SBCTC, the whole migration platform shifts. Eloquence database to Oracle was the shift there. Another higher-ed site, at Idaho State University, moved its apps a few at a time over several years.
It's always worth mentioning the choice that MB Foster notes: a choice to stay on the HP 3000. But you won't even have to do that if all you need to accomplish is an update of hardware. Choosing Stromasys and the Charon emulator is also a move off the HP 3000: the Hewlett-Packard servers and disks get left behind. New PC hardware and a Linux control center take the place of the HP iron.
May 20, 2016
Cloud patterns now private, MRP affairs
Two years ago this week we reported that Hewlett-Packard would be spending $1 billion on developments for HP Helion, its private and public cloud offering for enterprise customers. The spending was scheduled to take place over the coming two years, so now's a good time to examine the ceiling of clouds for HP. It turned out to be lower than expected.
That spending plan for Helion outlasted the public version of the cloud service. Within a year of the $1 billion mission statement, HP was saying the company had no business in a cloud space dominated by Amazon Web Services and others. By this January, the final cloud customers at the Helion public service had moved their clouds elsewhere. HP Helion private clouds march onward in a world where the vendor controls all elements in a deal, rather than competing in a tumultuous market. A private cloud behaves more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: a means to management of dedicated resources.
The use of cloud computing to replace HP 3000 manufacturing applications is reaching beyond hypotheticals this summer. Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, has been working with Kenandy to place the cloud company's solution in a classic 3000 shop. A project will be underway to make this migration happen this summer, he said.
The 3000 community that's been moving has been waiting for cloud solutions. Kenandy is the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level. But from the viewpoint of Floyd, Kenandy's was waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy has been tracking 3000 prospects a long time. The company was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the ultimate HP3000 Reunion in 2011.
May 18, 2016
Tape drive changer a powerhouse for MPE
Autochanging tape drives used to be the stuff of science fiction among 3000 managers, but those days passed by before HP cut off making Classic 3000 MPE V systems. Just because an autochanger is a 3000 storage option does not make it automatic to program, however.
A question posed to the community by Ideal Computer Services Ryan Melander reached for help on programmatically controlling such autochangers -- to select a slot, and load the tape and come to ready. "I am trying to configure an old DDS3 auto-changer, one that I don't believe will unload and load the next tape," he said.
Gilles Schipper noted that the command ad ldevno id=hpc1557a path=?? Mode=autoreply configures the device, and to advance tape after use, employ the command (from Devctrl.mpexl.telesup) ldev eject=enable load=online
Denys Beauchemin mentioned HP's pass-through SCSI driver as a tool to drive the device's robot. The software was built by HP's labs and labeled as "not for the faint of heart" by engineers, but can assert a programmatic control over autochangers. Some third party programs such as Orbit's Software Backup+/iX can also do this work.
If ever there was a theme song for an autochanger at work, it would be a tune called Powerhouse. Children of the Fifties and Sixties will know it as soon as they hear it, if they've ever watched a Warner Brothers cartoon.
May 16, 2016
A Spring When The Web Was New to You
Twenty years ago this month we were paying special attention to the Web. We called it the World Wide Web in May 1996, the www that does not precede Internet addresses anymore. But on the pages of the 3000 NewsWire released in this week of May, a notable integration of IMAGE and the Internet got its spotlight. We've put that issue online for the first time. The Web was so new to us that our first 10 issues were never coded into HTML. Now you can read and download the issue, and it's even searchable within the limits of Adobe's OCR.
As an application for higher education, IRIS was serving colleges in 1996 using MPE/iX. The colleges wanted this new Web thing, popular among its professors and students, to work with the 3000 applications. Thus was born IRISLink.
IRISLink is not a product that Software Research Northwest will sell to the general market. But SRN's Wayne Holt suspects that a generic version of something like it is probably being built in the basement of more than one third-party vendor for rollout at this summer's HP World meeting.
"The message traffic on the HP 3000-L Internet list shows that a lot of sites prefer the COBOL lI/IMAGE model over writing piles of new code in a nonbusiness oriented language," Holt said. "But people are telling them that won't fly in the world of the Web and - take a deep breath here - the time has come to dump their existing well-developed COBOL lI/IMAGE infrastructure on the HP 3000. Not so."
The integrators on this project made themselves big names in the next few years. David Greer convinced Holt at a face-to-face meeting at a Texas user conference where "I listened to him share his vision of what the Web would someday be in terms of a standard for access to resources and information." Chris Bartram was providing a freeware version of email software that used Internet open systems standards. Take that, DeskManager.
It was far from accepted wisdom in 1996 that the WWW would become useful to corporate and business-related organizations. Even in that year, though, the drag of COBOL II's age could be felt pulling away 3000 users from the server. An HP survey we noted on the FlashPaper pages of that issue "asks customers to give HP a 1-5 rating (5 as most important) on enhancements to COBOL II that might keep you from moving to another language." There wasn't another language to move toward, other than the 4GLs and C, and those languages represented a scant portion of 3000 programs. Without the language improvements, some 3000 customers would have to move on.
May 13, 2016
Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds
Three years ago today, Stromasys hosted a community meeting at the Computer History Museum. It was the coming-out party for the debutante HP 3000 virtualization product Charon. The software had been running in several production sites for awhile, but the CHM meeting collected several dozen partners, prospects, and Stromasys experts. Some spicy slide decks were shared, along with promises that saving MPE/iX applications just got easier. This was billed as training.
In the 36 months since that day, the Charon HPA software has been enhanced twice to better its performance levels as well as establishing more complete emulation of the HP hardware environments. One major change to the solution came by eliminating an option — a kind of addition through subtraction that's pushing the software into production use more often. The Freeware A-202 of 2013 has been removed, replaced by Proof of Concept. PoC is pretty much the only gateway to using the software that transforms Intel-Linux boxes into PA-RISC 3000 servers.
3000 sites "are coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith when he flew into Austin to update me about the product. He's running a program that discounts PoC engagements, with savings based on the size of the license. Companies that few of us knew were using 3000s have surfaced to adopt Charon, he explained. There's also a 6-way and 8-way configuration of the software that moves above the performance levels of the biggest N-Class server. Meeting and beating HP's 3000 iron performance is a big part of the approval process to get Charon sold and installed.
A proof of concept engagement takes real production data, integrated into the software-server combo of Charon over a period of five days, and shows managers in tech and the boardroom how seamless emulation can look. Smith says that MPE sites don't even need a Linux admin to do this virtualization. One part of that is because of the proof of concept phase gets everything in place to run. Three years ago, the issues to resolve were license-based in some prospects' eyes. By now, putting Charon in play involves five days of time and a license that can be either annual or perpetual.
But Smith says just about all the Charon licenses sold to 3000 sites today are perpetual. This might be one reason why going to Computer History Museum for that 2013 coming-out seemed so fitting. Legacy and history are often co-pilots that deliver stable applications.
May 11, 2016
Migrations include data: How to handle bags
Earlier this week I wrote about a collective of Washington state colleges that moved away from the HP 3000 and MPE in 2011. The work started years earlier and had a dead-end for awhile, but the 36 HP 3000s eventually became just six Integrity servers. They used the TurboIMAGE data and lifted apps, but the data was the most crucial part of the migration.
Moving data is fraught with challenges, from doing it in a way that the new apps can make sense of it, to making sure everything got transported safely. Good HP 3000 managers are like Marines: no bit of data is left behind. They leave behind applications often, because programs go obsolete or get replaced. Not data.
Later today MB Foster is having a demo of its UDACentral software. There's still a few hours to register, but you need to be at your browser live at 1 PM today, May 11. This is an HP 3000 story, too. Migration is more complicated sometimes than just STORE and RESTORE. Mapping a database to another one is easier with good software.
The demo will show "how to drag and drop and map data from source to target, automatically create migration scripts, and migrate tens of millions of rows per hour." A free trial of UDACentral can be downloaded from the MBFoster website.
"This is a 3000 story, and beyond a 3000 as well," Birket Foster says. "A story of evolution and learning to use data."
May 09, 2016
First came MPE's migration—now, the apps
By mid-2011, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) stopped using the 36 HP 3000s that had powered 34 campuses since 1982. Even at that time, though, after the largest transfer of educational apps off MPE, SBCTC knew the target HP-UX systems would see another migration. One migration began another. Migrating off MPE hosts was a prelude to another migration, four years after landing on HP's Unix.
Michael Scroggins, the CIO at SBCTC, checked in with us after we spotted him on next month's HPE Discover conference speaker list. He's talking about the role of a CIO in today's IT. Why Would You Want to be a CIO? promises insights.
The CIO is a high-risk position. There are many thoughts and much advice related to surviving as a CIO. You’ve got to get there first. This discussion will center on strategies and considerations that you can use to get there. Why would anyone want to be a CIO? It is the best job in the world… if you have what it takes.
SBCTC has been taking its data forward for more than 13 years, proposing and moving and re-moving its data since 2003. SQL Server and Windows NT was the first target announced, and by 2009 that HP-led initiative had been shuttered while HP repaid what it hadn't finished to the colleges. The Lift and Shift Project was next and took about 18 months. Then in 2014, the eight HP-UX Integrity servers at SBCTC were upgraded to Itanium 4 systems. The original MPE/iX apps were lifted onto Integrity servers after being virtualized.
"We used AMXW’s MPE virtualization environments," Scroggins said, "and consolidated multiple colleges onto isolated environments on the HP-UX instances of Itanium 2 blade servers on the C7000 chassis. The solution leveraged the state’s data center where all colleges are centrally hosted." Lift and Shift cut the colleges' server count from 36 down to eight, all in a consolidated state datacenter.
Another move, off the lift and shift apps, was always in the plans, however.
May 06, 2016
Options for STORE You May Not Know
STORE is the default backup tool for every HP 3000, but this bedrock of backup has options which might exceed expectations for a subsystem utility. Gilles Schipper, the support guru of three-plus decades on the 3000, told us about a few STORE sweet spots.
To start, using the :MAXTAPEBUF option can cut a four-hour backup to three hours or less. Schipper says that increasing the buffer size default to 32K, from the usual 16K, speeds up the backup when STORE sees MAXTAPEBUF. "That's a pretty good payback for one option."
Backups don't need to be specified with an @.@.@ command to be complete. "People should really be using the forward slash," he says, "because it's easy to accidentally omit the Posix file structure if you're not careful constructing your fileset backup." The slash is so much better that a backup specified by HP's TurboStore will replace any @.@.@ operation with "./" Combining @.@.@ with exclusions can lead to omitting files which should have been in a backup.
Schipper says that including a directory on a backup is smart, but private volumes in use on a 3000 need more than :directory as an option.
May 04, 2016
CPR for a Non-Responsive Console
On my HP 3000, after a short power blip, the console is now non-responsive. I can connect to the system's GSP port and the session is connected, but nothing is displayed. Neither <ctrl> A or <ctrl> B works. I type away, but get no response. I can then connect via VT-MGR and take the console :console !hpldevin and I receive all the console messages.
So, the messages are being sent (since I see them on the VT connection), but neither the physical console or the GSP gets any console messages. What can I try?
Gilles Schipper says
I believe a START NORECOVERY reboot is in order here. Since <ctrl> A <ctrl> B do not work, you will need to power-recycle the machine to effect a reboot. Presumably you would want to do this after gracefully stopping all jobs and asking online users to log off, if possible.
Depending upon which patch level your level of MPE is on, the :SHUTDOWN RESTART MPE command may also work from a logged-on session with at least OP capability.
Mark Ranft adds
If you haven't rebooted, I've seen similar issues. From the VT console can you try to do 'abortio 20' until it says no I/O to abort. A WHILE loop may make this easier. I've had luck with this in the past. But since Ctrl-B doesn't work, you may be out of luck.
May 02, 2016
New encrypted hardware solves aged issues
Security standards have advanced in IT, while HP's 3000 hardware has not. Encryption resolves a key need for data security that's a part of the HIPAA regulations. The 3000 components won't allow for full disk encryption. There's another approach. A replacement hardware solution for MPE/iX -- which is still being used in the insurance industry -- has been on the market for more than four years. In fact, the hardware is all around us.
Encryption solutions for an older 3000 hardware's data are available. FluentEdge Technologies has sold a PCI-ready solution for Ecometry sites for more than five years. A built-in full-disk approach is only an option with a fresher OS, though. We don't mean the environment powering the application; that's still MPE/iX. The control of the hardware is where such new hardware can be put into play.
Virtualizing with the Charon HPA software offers several advantages over relying on HP's hardware. Component failures are a matter of when, not if, in 15-year-old hardware. If the 3000 isn't an A- or N-Class, it's even older. Shrink-wrapping replacement drives won't look as good to security auditors as a full disk encryption of recent-model components. Newer drives include broader options.
The virtualization of the MPE/iX hardware can become an encryption strategy. Alternative methods that rely on legal defenses don't exist like they once did. A security expert friend of mine tells a story about using lawyers instead of encryption. It's a story from a different time: the era when 3000 hardware was not so old.
April 29, 2016
Post-migration, there's often more changes
The 2010 timeline update for moving away from the three dozen HP 3000s at SBCTC
Five years ago this spring, work was wrapping up on migrating 36 HP 3000s at a college consortium. This was the largest higher education migration project in the 3000's history, the mission of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. When it finished, 34 colleges in the state started to rely on HP-UX instead of MPE/iX. The work took more than two years to complete. The chief of the IT work at the state board will be speaking this June at the annual Discover conference, which is now called HPE Discover.
Migration change usually signals a new way to look at information's value. Taking legacy systems into the next generation of software and hardware is really everybody's mission in the 3000 world. The elegant Hewlett-Packard 3000 hardware is also elderly for any homesteader. Virtualizing the MPE/iX hardware is a migration of sorts, but one that can be completed in about five days, before testing. As for the migration-bound CIO, leaving behind the bedrock of MPE/iX opens up a redesign opportunity. Perhaps more than one.
Leaving MPE/iX was only the start for the SBCTC. It's got a new ctcLink project in play, one that will reach as many colleges as the effort which the organization called Lift & Shift back in 2010. Once ctcLink is finished, it will implement Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications, including Campus Solutions, Finance, and Human Capital Management pillars, at all of its 34 colleges.
Anything that's one step behind what's freshest can be called a legacy solution. Making a migration can be an opening step in a longer campaign. That's why it's a good practice to think further ahead than four years while eliminating MPE/iX applications. Legacy can apply to software that's still being sold and supported, too. The timeline above plotted only the MPE/iX migration at SBCTC. Making a tactical timeline like that one is a crucial step. Ensuring the choices will be seamlessly integrated with the next step, and they will last, is a bigger task. Because no application platform is ever the last one — not if an organization wants to outlive its IT plans.
April 27, 2016
The Remains of Any Need for CPUNAMEing
Earlier this week a reseller in the 3000 market offered an N-Class 3000 with an upgraded CPU. The server's HPCPUNAME, however, reflects a slower model of the system. These names of systems are actually a part of the 3000 process that Hewlett-Packard regards as ongoing business. There are oh-so-many names of 3000 systems. In some cases, what your software sees in the name is not what you get.
HP's support for the 3000 terminated at the end of 2010, but there are a few HP services that continue today. Name changing is among them. Steve Suraci of Pivital, which sold 3000s as an official reseller until HP stopped that sort of business, says it's a lock that HP didn't do an N-Class upgrade that doesn't have a corresponding HPCPUNAME change. "For sure HP didn’t do the upgrade," he said. Outside the lines upgrades can be a way to skip software upgrade fees.
The only thing pertinent to the current 3000 community is HP's CPU rename service. When HP did this with support engineers at a time plus materials engagement, a software-to-hardware blessing changed the HPCPUNAME and HPSUSUAN numbers for replacement 3000s. When a CPU board dies, or a system needs to be updated at a fundamental level, Hewlett-Packard still owns the only software that can transform replacement hardware into your hardware — complete with reinstated numbers that allow third-party programs to run unfettered.
This service is still available, if you insist, from HP. A server that reports it's a 550 MHz N-Class, while it's actually a 750 MHz system, could use this kind of correction. What's important, though, is whether an N-Class will be fast enough. Reporting a different HPCPUNAME can keep third party software from running. That issue can be corrected by calling the software vendor, who'd probably be glad to hear from an MPE customer.
April 25, 2016
Proving concepts leads to hardware exits
They've been called straw men, and more lately proof of concept projects. These assessment steps have often represented significant change at HP 3000 sites. Few migrations got the green light to proceed with the raw change and full-on expense without demos of replacement apps. Even when the change was limited to applications only, with no platform replacement, testing with production data was the most secure choice.
That's why the strategy sounded familiar when Stromasys hosted its first webinar in years. The company calls its assessment engagement to test Charon a proof of concept. Led by Global Accounts Manager Ray LeBrun and system engineer Darrell Wright, the talk included a note on how essential the PoC step has been to success with the Charon virtualized system.
"We're pretty confidant that if we engage in a PoC with you, then we're 99-plus percent sure Charon will work for you," LeBrun said. "We will not engage if we're not confident this is the right solution for you."
Stromasys works with a site's production data to prove the concept of giving HP's 3000 hardware an exit date. MPE/iX and the applications, and of course the data, stay in place. However, LeBrun said Charon has also been "a bridge to allow you to get to a migration. We have folks who say, "I'm only going to use that  application for another two years. Well, two more years oftentimes becomes three, four, and five years."
The technology concept behind virtualization is well known by now. People are so familiar with it that LeBrun said the vendor gets asked regularly when HP-UX Integrity server virtualization via Charon is coming. The question came up in the webinar, too.
April 22, 2016
How to Transform MPE Spoolfiles to PDFs
HP 3000 data becomes more useful if it can be e-mailed as industry standard report documents. After more than two decades of pushing at it, Adobe has made its PDF the de-facto way to exchange documents, even complex ones.
Which might have prompted this question from HP consultant and Suprtool trainer Jeff Kubler:
Does anyone have a lead on a tool that converts spoolfiles to PDF files? Are there any Contributed Library tools?
It won't be in the Interex Contributed Library (because the programs have gone underground; ask your colleagues if they have a swap tape) but the txt2pdf product works nicely to make this conversion. Even in its most advanced version it's about $1,000, at last glance. Bob McGregor reports as much.
Jeff, txt2pdf does this. We have a job that runs that:
1. Checks a pseudo device we have setup for any spoolfiles that are on the device with an PRI >0
2. If it finds a spoolfile, we convert it to PDF and move it to a server
3 Sends an e-mail to the streamedby variable telling them the PDF doc is ready on the server.
4. Alters the priority to 0 to mark it processed
We've been using it for a couple years, and it works great — of course, once we got the bugs worked out. What's cool is if someone delete the file, we just adjust the priority to something greater than 0 and it gets reprocessed.
April 20, 2016
Like a Classic Mercedes, Those Old 3000s
Built to last.
That's what a veteran analyst called the HP 3000s at her company. It's a UK firm, The Wesleyan, and it's been running MPE and MPE/iX since at least 1990. Jill Turner says the oldest system is a Series 947. That would be the early part of the 1990s, to be sure.
That 947 and four other HP 3000s including an N-Class, are going offline in 2017. "We are a financial services business, and the HP 3000s hold all the policies sold up to about 2010," she said. "These are serviced daily, weekly, monthly, yearly depending on the type of policy."
Turner called those 900 Series systems, including a 987 and 969, "old proper machines." They're the sort that never quit. They do eventually get out-performed by newer models, or can't run Oracle, or have experts with knowledge about 3000s retiring soon. The hardware does age, though, as it does for all owners. That's not why the 3000s are leaving The Wesleyan.
"The Wesleyan are currently migrating the data from the HP 3000s onto a new system," Turner said, "and we expect everything to be migrated by mid- to end of 2017. As technology moves forward the company is moving to other platforms, and I think the new systems are hosted on IBM Pureflex servers."
Turner admits to being biased in favor of the 3000s. This can happen after a couple of decades of success, when a migration choice is based on the age of the hardware instead of the utility of the software. You can't beat the cost of owning a 3000, she adds.
April 18, 2016
A Parts Supply Non-Problem for HP's 3000
One part of Hewlett-Packard's end-game fantasy about the 3000 pointed to parts. This was a server the vendor wouldn't build after 2003, HP warned. You could not be sure your server and its essentials could be serviced -- where would the parts come from? For the last decade and more, HP's 3000 parts have come from everywhere. About the only hardware services supplier constricted by the halt in HP manufacturing of parts was -- wait for it -- HP.
While practicing the careful shrink-wrapping of HP-built replacement motherboards, disks, IO buses and power supplies, the market has shared and sold ample hardware to replace 3000 systems. One reseller reported on the 3000-L he has hundreds of HP 3000 terminals on hand and was ready to send them to the scrapper. There might be sites where HP's tubes are essential for production operations, but I hope not. The scrap heap looks like the next stop for those 700/92s.
On the other hand, there are a few consumable items that make HP's hardware hum. One is essential to smooth operation of a service processor. You can get a replacement part for this processor at your grocery store.
April 15, 2016
Use GSP and More for 3000 ID, control
There's been plenty of change in the 3000 manager's life over the last 15 years. Some of the change is a little easier by exploring the use of the Guardian Service Processor. It can help in changing the location of HP 3000 consoles from one part of a shop to another. There's even a story out there that says the identity of the HP A- and N-Class hardware resides in the GSP.
Kent Wallace, while a 3000 manager for Idaho-Oregon healthcare delivery system Primary Health, needed to move his 3000 console.
I must move the 3000 console another 10 feet farther from the rack (it's an N-Class HP 3000/N4000-100-22). What are the 3-pin positions on the wire that I need to extend its RS-232 cable?
Our blog contributing editor Gilles Schipper chipped in with a solution offering even farther movement:
If you want to extend the range of the console to anywhere on the planet (at least where there’s Internet access) you could consider the HP Secure Web Console to replace the physical console. Depending upon the condition of your physical console, this solution may also save a bit of wear and tear on your eyeballs, instead of adjusting those pins.
Schipper wrote us a great article on setting up such a web console. The GSP is quite the tool.
April 13, 2016
Stromasys returns to webinar lineup April 19
Emulation and virtualization vendor Stromasys returns to the web airwaves next week with an event that examines the return on investment for its Charon family of software products, including its HP 3000 model HPA. The event begins at 11 AM EST for US viewers, 5 PM CEST for Euro IT managers.
The company last did a webinar for the 3000 market in 2012. At the time, Charon HPA was still a nascent product, without the portfolio of success stories and case studies it's built in the 3000 market. The previous show explained the concepts and demonstrated administration and management of the software. The April 19 event will reach for more strategic perspectives, but will include a technical angle, too.
Worldwide Strategic and Global Accounts manager Ray LeBrun will be joined by Systems Engineer Darrell Wright on the one-hour webinar. Doug Smith is the HP 3000 product manager for the company. Smith is managing a limited-time discount offer on Stromasys services for Proof of Concept and full integration of Charon HPA.
The company promises the webinar will offer
An overview of legacy system pain points and the difficulties businesses like yours may encounter as they determine how to move forward with their legacy systems. Learn how your organization can improve the ROI of your legacy systems while also minimizing risks of unplanned downtime.
Stromasys says that space is limited for the webinar. The event includes information for Digital and Sun systems as well as the 3000. Registration is online, which yields a confirming email that provides login instructions for the GoToWebinar event.
April 11, 2016
Yes, Virginia, there is MPE at the Terminal
One of the first HP 3000 migration success locations might have hung on to an MPE/iX app since its story was introduced by the vendor. A lively discussion popped up last week when Don Seay asked on the 3000-L mailing list about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualizer software. The chatter included updates on the work to cross the 2027 hurdle for MPE/iX use, as well as reports on the speediest settings for Charon.
Seay was emailing from an address at VIT.org, the legacy location of Virginia International Terminals. It's the port authority for all shipping in Norfolk, Newport News and environs. A shiny website handles just about all of the data requests at portofvirginia.org. But there's still data being fed to VIT.org, and Seay's request seems to hint that an application continues to work there. We're checking in with him.
Taking a full-on approach to a migration is a typical opening strategy, but there are sometimes good technical reasons why apps remain on 3000 hardware. This didn't seem likely when we first heard about the 3000 and VIT in 2002. HP was promoting the practices and concept of retiring 3000s during that time, the first full year after Hewlett-Packard's announcement it would leave the 3000 marketplace.
VIT’s assistant IT director at the time, Clark Farabaugh, said at HP World 2002's migration roundtable the decision to shift to HP’s Unix servers “has changed our shop, for better or worse.” That summer, IT began to migrate at VIT. The organization took delivery of a HP 9000 rp8400 server to replace its HP 3000s, and Farabaugh said “we were the first ones on board.” We took note of the report of 13 years ago.
The applications running at VIT handle shipments through a terminal with 7,000 international longshoremen at work, and a desire to Web-enable the apps led VIT away from the 3000. The IT director said the migration project will take 12 to 18 months to complete using the 45-person IT staff, taking apps from Speedware on the 3000 to Speedware on HP-UX.
April 08, 2016
Hardware's emulation puts software at ease
In the earliest days of the 3000's Transition Era, advocates for MPE/iX formed the OpenMPE user group. But the first campaign for these engineers (and a few businesspeople) was for the emulation of MPE itself. The ideal was that if MPE/iX source code could be turned over to the community -- since HP had no real interest in the future of the 3000 -- then the OS and its subsystems would be pushed onto newer hardware.
The ideal was open source for MPE/iX. That campaign assumed plenty of change was in the future of 3000-based software. The reality that formed about compatibility of software is illustrated in the everyday experience of Charon users.
One checked in this month with a summary of how smooth his software slipped into the Charon HPA environment. The emulation that paid off was virtualizing the RISC hardware. The caliber of the solution made things easy for Jeff Elmer.
I can say that since what is emulated is the PA-RISC hardware and not MPE, it seems unlikely that there would be any software incompatibilities. Everything we use (multiple third-party tools plus in-house COBOL/IMAGE software systems) just worked. It really was true that no one would have noticed a difference unless we told them.
The single item that we had to modify was in our backup job stream. We had a tape rewind command in the job that was no longer needed and which the emulator at that point (in 2013) did not understand. The "fix" took less than 60 seconds when I removed that clause from the job.