November 23, 2016
Mailing news from the HP 3000: an old skill
Internal mail hosts remain a crucial tool in datacenters, even some running MPE/iX. "You still host your own email?" is not a question you'd only pose to a crazy manager. An organization's security standards can be so high that no outside mail server will be trusted. In the earliest days of email, 3k Associates built and sold a beautiful native MPE mailing system, Netmail/3000. It's a smart mailserver, meaning it doesn't require that an organization's e-mail be piped through an Internet provider's mail server for final delivery. Then in the late 1990s, HP's lab started the long process of porting sendmail to MPE/iX.
Now some 3000 sites are looking at how to replace their 3000-based mailing software as they migrate. One of them contacted us this week to ask about an alternative to sendmail. Linux is their migration target, after a history using the 3000 that goes back to the days of HP Deskmanager. Tim O'Neill shared a story while asking about an alternative to sendmail.
I saw that FreeBSD Unix has its version of sendmail. Seeing reference to FreeBSD made me recall a story about FreeBSD running on an old HP 3000, maybe a Series 70 or an early Spectrum system. I think I have read that FreeBSD is at some sites still running in production mode, as MPE and MPE/iX are. It also made me wonder what the installed base of FreeBSD might be — and how that compares to the installed base of MPE and MPE/iX on old hardware and on Charon hardware.
FreeBSD, like MPE/iX, has some surprisingly large companies using it. You might have heard about one of them called Netflix. Of course the Charon HPA emulator from Stromasys makes every remaining product and archival 3000 a candidate for the kind of longevity we see in FreeBSD.
Sendmail has a colorful history. The Unix Hater's Handbook devoted a full chapter to the software's vulnerabilities; sendmail comes from the Unix heritage, after all. By 2003, HP was still patching sendmail to shut down security breaches, although the breaching wasn't nearly as serious on MPE/iX as on Unix variants including Linux. Sendmail's open source capabilities are now under the banner of ProofPoint, the company that purchased the sendmail resources in 2013.
Sendmail's worldwide release was last updated in 2014. HP announced it was testing sendmail to place in the Fundamental Operating System in November, 2001—a month that's famous in the 3000's history for other reasons. But the software moved along to an 8.13.1 release in FOS. It's only one major release behind the worldwide open source version, now advanced to an 8.14 release. Sendmail also includes encryption.
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November 21, 2016
Middleware rescues a Quiz captive, again
Old friends can help with new challenges to homesteading. Minisoft's ODBC software stepped in again to get a 3000 customer away from the pricing schemes of Powerhouse and its Quiz reporting software. That ODBC link between MPE/iX and Windows databases and tools turned out to be the essential component in pulling a client away from Powerhouse, according to the Support Group's Sue Kiezel.
Kiezel said her support client got an eye-popping quote to move Quiz from a 9x9 to an A-500 server: $27,000. Like some sites who are learning about the new regime of pricing from Unicom, this Support Group customer was returning to Quiz support after years of no improvements to the former Cognos product. Quiz made its way onto many MANMAN installations in the during the 1980s on the ERP suite. Getting out from under that legacy required a reasonable tool to connect the data with more modern reporting.
Enter the Minisoft ODBC software. The middleware connected with SQL Server to build a reporting database, data that was used to create the Excel spreadsheets everyone wants to use. As we've seen before, Windows-based reporting solutions like Crystal Reports can carry the 3000's data into departments better than Quiz did.
"SQL Server has turned into a beautiful database," Kiezel says. "You don't need a database administrator for it. Because of this kind of connection, my users no longer need paper for their reports. The middleware opens it up for MANMAN uses, and Excel can make joined tables for reports. Instead of just sending out a paper report, I'm sending out a spreadsheet, with the first three sheets of them working like a visual dashboard."
Visual Basic does analytics in this kind of report solution, too. "We are now in the modern world," Kiezel says. The bonus? Finding an expert to tune up these reports is a $50-75 hourly charge, instead of the $200 hourly that a Powerhouse consultant will charge to beautify and enhance Quiz. There are features and solutions that are worth the extra cost you'll sometimes encounter in MPE/iX. But reporting doesn't turn out to be worth the extra expense in licenses and expertise — not when there's middleware to open up reporting options.
November 18, 2016
Friday Fine-Tune: Tricks with command files
I'm working on a command file on my HP 3000. Is there any way to have it copy part of itself into a separate (temporary) file?
Jeff Vance replies:
MPE does not support the Unix concept of ‘here’ files, where input data for the command can reside in the same file as the command, except in the case of jobs. But even in a job, you may not include inline data for a script or UDC invoked by that job.
The SPOOKHELP script may be of some use. This single script contains the help text for all of the SPOOK commands plus the code to search for and display that text once HELP xyzzy is entered.
How can we execute a command after a user enters the :bye command in MPE?
Olav Kappert replies:
It is possible to execute many commands after the bye has been entered. Simply create a UDC (maybe a cmd file) called bye.
The contents of the UDC for the command bye is up to you. This would be useful if you want to do statistics before the session terminates.
John Pittman adds:
Don’t let them do a bye. We don’t allow any users access to OP system prompt at all. They get a logon no break UDC that runs a menu, and when they end the menu, they get logged off.
Inside that UDC at exit time, we build a string giving user, connection point (LDEV or IP of their PC) connect time, CPU date etc and append it to a log file. Then we know when anybody last used the system, how many users are using different connections, or when different user names are using the same connection point.
November 16, 2016
Noteworthy dates drive views of the future
This week on the 3000 newsgroup, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet picked up the remembrance torch to note the anniversary of 2001's 3000 business shut-off at HP. About your resilient computer he added, "In some ways it seems to have survived in some places in better shape than the HP that announced they were killing it!"
We agree and noted as much in the Nov. 14 NewsWire article. I promised to make not such a big deal about the history of the event; instead I tied it to recent advice about a hybrid of local and cloud-based ERP alternatives.
That event brought some benefit along with all of its carnage. Canceling the HP business operations for the 3000 (never an end-of-life; vendors don't get to define that) also sparked the completion of the first PA-RISC hardware emulator from Stromasys. The software continues to assure us all that the aging HP hardware won't be our only option over the next 11 years or so. Remember, on Jan. 1 2028, at 0000 hours, the dates stop working. Not MPE altogether, however.
A fix for that date issue might become a project for some remaining support company which has an MPE/iX source license. As you might infer from a date in this month's political events, stranger things have already happened.
November 14, 2016
The best wishes for your long life: a Plan B
Congratulations to us all. This is the 15th anniversary of the "we're killing off the 3000" announcement from HP. The end-game hasn't played out like HP expected. In 2001 the company's management didn't see three CEO resignations coming over those 15 years, or the company being forced to split itself to stay relevant to enterprise IT. Those two events are related. Yes, the 3000 got its pink-slip notice at the HP of 2001. So did the overstuffed, unwieldy Hewlett-Packard. The company that lurched toward every business while stepping back from others. It took 14 years almost to the day, but HP is half the size it was: HP Enterprise is the severed sibling from 2001's family.
Inside the 3000's division during that year, no one was talking about emulating the 3000 PA-RISC hardware that the company would stop building in 2003. That's now a reality, a new development since the 10-year anniversary of this sobering date. Hewlett-Packard was going to lead four customers out of every five away from MPE/iX, delivering them to the Unix alternative of HP-UX. Windows was going to get new customers out of the upheaval, too. No one figured three of every four departing companies would choose a non-HP environment.
Here on this date in 2016, the idea of an environment as a crucial strategy is feeling outdated. IT directors always cared about applications. Now they're told they don't have to worry about environments. The cloud computing providers will do that for them. Except when they cannot provide the cloud. Behold (above) the map of Internet outage from last month on an ugly day.
The Support Group's Terry Floyd offered a Plan B strategy to the manufacturing customers of CAMUS last week. More than 30 companies using HP 3000s and MANMAN are in the CAMUS user group. Floyd's company is delivering a fresh alternative to help MANMAN sites move on from the 3000. But he also supports homesteading sites. With a foot in both worlds, he recommends staying safe by having a Plan B, even while you employ cloud computing for your future.
November 11, 2016
Friday FineTune: Internal disk plus VA array
FiberChannel Storage Area Networks and shared tape libraries became popular in the years after HP stopped making its MPE/iX hardware. The HP 3000 supports SAN from the XP series of RAID devices to the VA7100 disk arrays. But how much should you rely on a RAID or SAN device? Internal storage devices might seem to be yesterday's tools, but the modest drive inside an HP 3000 can still be very useful — even if a company has invested in the FiberChannel storage solution of the VA7100.
Moving to the VA solution has great benefits, as reported in a story about using a VA7100 array with the 3000s. But booting directly from a VA array — well, you'll need an N-Class server (native FiberChannel installed) or a very expensive HP A5814A-003 Fiber/SCSI router (if you can find such a thing) to employ VA in the 9x9s.
The Crossroads SA-40 Fiber/SCSI switch will link a VA array to 9xx 3000s. It just won't let you boot your MPE/iX system from any of its drives. Craig Lalley of EchoTech recommends the affordable Mod 20 arrays for boot capability.
Internal drives remain as important as the VA arrays for a Series 9xx HP 3000, or even to the XP line of HP arrays. Even important enough to even duplicate them.
November 09, 2016
A Response to Being Stunned: No Tribute
Citizens of the US woke up this morning to a turn of political events described everywhere as stunning. There's nothing anyone can do to change that today, but in the event of a stunning relicense quote for Powerhouse products, you can respond with software that preserves your reporting administration. Some customers using HP 3000s can stun right back by leaving Powerhouse, using software from Minisoft to pave their data's way.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions told us that one of the HP 3000 GrowthPower clients he supports has opened up one of those stunning relicense bids. In trying to get their software back onto support with the vendor, the customer received only an offer to relicense the full version of Powerhouse. "The most current product doesn’t even run on the 3000," Suraci said, explaining the folly of the return to support tribute being demanded by Unicom this year.
It's easy to think of back-support fees, levied in a market the size of the 3000's, as tribute: money demanded for nothing in return except a promise of help. A small promise indeed for software like a Powerhouse suite that hasn't had one MPE bit improved in more than 7 years.
The demand made even less sense considering what the customer was using. Quiz, the reporting end of the GrowthPower application, was the only Powerhouse software running on the 3000. "They originally acquired the product embedded in their ERP application," Suraci said. "They ended up purchasing the Minisoft ODBC and recreating the necessary reports using SQL tools like Crystal Reports, SQL Server, and Access."
Minisoft's products have never had an acquiring entity like Unicom take over and then demand such tributes from 3000 sites. Returning to support is a noble practice, something a manager with integrity does. However, this is a good deed that can be punished by ignoble companies. Support returns are a tradition that can trigger back-support fees. You don't have to pay them, but then your data has to live software else to get its support. The situation mirrors the dilemma of more than half of those who voted in the US yesterday. They don't want their President-elect, but they want to be citizens, too. It'll be awhile to see how much tribute the new President will demand. HP 3000 data is in a luckier situation.
November 07, 2016
Work of 3000s Helps Preserve Democracy
Tomorrow is a very special day in America. In a land called the United States we're going to elect a President to unite us. The kind of future we work toward will be chosen on that day. I'd like it to be the same kind of future the HP 3000 community has always worked toward.
This computer is called a business server because it works to meet the needs of business. A business relationship is at the heart of manufacturing concerns, insurance organizations, e-commerce companies and more. Business is at the heart of good relations with others in our world. MPE/iX software has always been a part of good relations. Much it serves the processes of business like invoicing. Going Forward Together might as well be a way to say Make Relations Through Documents. Business documents are the bedrock of your community.
In the earliest part of our 21st Century, Wirt Atmar was holding a seat as the conscience of this community. The founder of vendor AICS Research railed at HP's plunder of loyal customers, then proposed a Plan B to resist needless change. It was a time of high passions. The most crass and base expressions of the IT pros in our world were on display in the 3000-L listserver in that era. But since this is a republic with freedom of expression, although that trolling was revolting, it was tolerated. Much of that era's tone seems gentle compared to what's assaulted our ears and our spirits since this year began.
Back in 2004, Atmar was teaching his community how affordable Web-based lecture software could give minds a common ground. His QCShow product followed QCTerm, and both of those sprang from the makers of QueryCalc. In an HP World demo and lecture, Atmar explained his belief about how an HP 3000 was an alternative to war and atomic armageddon. These are real prospects for an American future. It feels like a disturbing misfit that anyone devoted to MPE, and having built a life's work from it, should vote for anything but a diplomatic leader.
Atmar had a fascinating background, including a stretch of his life when he worked to estimate and calculate the effects of annihilation. Nuclear throw weights -- the number of tons of atomic bomb to destroy various numbers of people and structures -- were his everyday work as a scientist in a government defense contract. He said he hated every day of his life that he had to wake and perform that work.
In contrast, when he created business tools that delivered invoices and orders, he felt his work spoke to the very root of human decency. Invoices, he said, were the everyday diplomacy of enterprises and organizations. I agree to purchase these goods and services, each would say. I agree to make and deliver them as you ordered, replied each sales receipt. A world still sending invoices, he said, ensured that war and revolt was a poor choice. Invoices were an expression of peace and a shining light for democracy and capitalism.
Something approaching half of America has already voted in this year's Presidential election. For those who have not, asking if a leader should respect business partners, find allies, and preserve relationships with respect— these all are a guide for anyone who's ever programmed or managed an HP 3000. Nobody is perfect. Anyone who wants to lead us should respect invoices, contracts and agreements. Tearing up a legacy is a poor start toward the future. Every HP 3000 community member should agree on that, and agreement is a good start toward where we need to go. We don't need to migrate away from working together and moving forward. Rather than looking back, we should take a hand in making history. Vote tomorrow and make some.
November 04, 2016
Reporting software takes over for pricey 4GL
By some estimates the 4GL software from Cognos sat on 7,000 HP 3000s at the 4GL's high water mark. A very serious share of that installed base was using only the reporting tool associated with Powerhouse, Quiz. Manufacturing sites such as those employing MANMAN, plus other applications, relied on Quiz to produce reports for managers and C-level executives. In many instances, these Quiz licenses came without restrictions or separate support agreements.
These are the sites that never had much of a business relationship with Cognos, and none at all by the time IBM bought the 4GL suite in 2007. Some of these sites eventually felt they needed to buy support, though, and some believed maintaining a license was important -- even though they'd become Quiz users when they implemented their application. The majority of Quiz sites stopped paying for support long ago. Like many bits of MPE/iX software, Quiz was frozen in time, a day when a reporting tool could cost thousands to support.
It was a bolt-on module, something that customers could be taught to un-bolt when pricing got outrageous, though. Cognos used to try to tamp down the outrage during the 1990s about license costs. Renegotiations were common, because the default pricing maintained strategies of an era when Windows was not a lower-cost enterprise option.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions supports HP 3000 sites as an exclusive business model. It's an all-3000 vendor. He checked in about the latest shock over Powerhouse re-license prices. In the era of of ownership by Unicom, the licenses have soared agin. But there's another option to letting Powerhouse lock up a company to a 3000 license.
Back in the day, Cognos was always out of their minds regarding pricing. When they were bought by IBM, they got much more realistic and started offering a seat-based licensing model. Then Unicom entered the picture and they lost their minds!
We have a customer that owned the reporting-only version of the product, but was no longer on support. The only option available from Unicom was to re-purchase the full-blown development product in order to upgrade. The most current product doesn’t even run on the HP 3000. Needless to say, we replaced Quiz with something more robust and much less costly.
November 02, 2016
Legacy 4GL sites call foul on license ploys
Life is hard enough for any company that's been homesteading with their legacy-grade development applications working over the last 15 years. Some of these 4GLs haven't seen upgrades since before the Obama administration. Now the users of the Powerhouse products are crying foul over transfer or crossover license fees that have become up to 10 times more expensive.
Once tech experts and consultants on a Powerhouse mailing list got the news about a Canadian HP 3000 site facing a $300,000 quote to move Powerhouse onto Linux, stories emerged about the boosted prices for Powerhouse. At Boeing, the Powerhouse applications were a part of a move to the Stromasys Charon emulator. Ray Legault at the IT shop in Boeing said the transfer to an emulated 3000 was a six-figure purchase, and support fees have increased by 35 percent.
"When we went to the Stromasys virtual MPE/iX server, we found that a lot of the Cognos products were supported by Unicom," he noted.
Instead of our legacy HP 3000s where we paid support of $22,000, we now get to pay $30,000 a year. And it expires every year. We also had to pay over $100,000 to move Powerhouse to our HP ProLiant servers that host Charon. Unicom considers the product to be running on a RedHat Linux server and not the HP 3000 emulator, which raises the price.
Legault added that he's got a 10 percent yearly discount on the $30,000, but he's got to call a Unicom VP to receive that discount.
The initial report of this price spike came from James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, a logistics firm. Even though some migration experts think the $300,000 must include services, that $300K quote only covers licenses for Powerhouse and the related, Cognos-built tools like Quiz and QTP. The company dropped Powerhouse support right after HP pulled out of its business model for the 3000. Cognos, owner of Powerhouse at the time, wasn't getting any further support payments from Harte & Lyne.
"There seemed to be no point in paying our money for something that quite evidently was going to receive no more upgrades," Byrne said. "And we were right. The version sold by Unicom today for the HP3000 is 8.39, which happens to be the same version we have been running since late 2001."
The shop has been moving to open source software, although Byrne says the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) strategy has got its issues, too. In the meantime, Powerhouse prices are hitting the six-figure range to move away from HP's 3000 iron. An all-in migration is coming at Harte & Lyne, but the quote will freeze Powerhouse in place. Byrne said Unicom told him they were canceling his license, too.
October 31, 2016
A Scary Kind of October Surprise
James Byrne, a systems manager at Canadian logistics management firm Harte & Lyne, has reported a hair-raising development at his 3000 shop. A straightforward request to relicense Powerhouse from the MPE/iX version of the software to Linux resulted in an eye-popping quote.
The supplier of the software, Byrne said, has told him they want $300,000 to move the 20-seat license. Byrne noted dryly, "I recently had my decision to move our company away entirely from proprietary software validated in a most dramatic way."
It's always possible, when numbers like this surface on a Powerhouse relicense bid, that the wrong person in the Powerhouse business line has responded to a request for a quote. Byrne reported this exchange on the 3000-L mailing list, but didn't want to name the software vendor of Powerhouse. It used to be Cognos, but that stopped being true many years ago.
In a message of nine years ago, the debut of Powerhouse for Linux seemed tied to the fortunes of Powerhouse for HP-UX.
Cognos continues its ongoing commitment to its PowerHouse customers with the upcoming release of PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web for Linux. This is a direct port of the industry-leading application development tool that is so successful on other UNIX platforms as well as MPE/iX, OpenVMS, and Windows. User-based pricing for PowerHouse 4GL and PowerHouse Web for Linux is the same as for other UNIX versions. Please contact your Cognos Account Representative for availability.
Byrne said the exchange with the current supplier of Powerhouse licenses ended with a termination of the Harte & Lyne license for the software -- just after he was told the annual support fee for the relicensed copy was going to be $60,000 a year.
October 28, 2016
A Scheduler Built for You
A job scheduler is a good bedrock for keeping an enterprise humming. But leaving the HP 3000 means leaving a very good scheduler behind. Good news: a Windows-based solution that manages non-3000 hosts is on the market. MBF Scheduler was built with the needs and power of the 3000 in mind, too.
On November 9 a webinar shows the details of this product. A note from the company's vendor, MB Foster:
A Windows Scheduled Task may have worked well in the past. Today, your company has grown, and you've acquired more infrastructure. Do you know what jobs have being scheduled, on which server and at what times?
One of the many achievements of MBF Scheduler is its ability to manage complex batches through queues and a fence, ensuring everything runs in the right order and notifies someone if a job stalls or aborts. With the right solution, automating your processes is both practical and beneficial.
Sign up at the MB Foster website to participate and ask questions. Lots of schedulers for migration platforms offer features. Few of them know what a 3000 shop has grown accustomed to reply upon.
October 26, 2016
MPE/iX to private licensees: A new HP way?
Fifteen years ago HP was cutting its 3000 business loose and software vendors scrambled. A few of the bigger ones, like Adager, were looking for a way to buy the MPE/iX assets from Hewlett-Packard. Nothing could be arranged. However, HP recently started posting notices about its patented technology it's trying to license.
The IAM Market (free registration required) has started to hawk the intellectual property of both sides of the HP, a company about to mark the first anniversary of its split-up. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is offering a range of patents, all designed to let a company use HP technology to serve business users.
HPE Patent Sale – Mission Critical Computing Portfolio
46 issued patents (41 US, 2 JP, 2 GB, and 1 FR) relating to servers and storage products for Mission Critical Computing (MCC). Key applicable areas include High Availability, High Reliability, Replication/Failover, SSD/HDD, System Management.
Except for that SSD element, everything in the portfolio could fall into the realm of HP 3000 and MPE technology. If only such a marketplace existed 15 years ago. More importantly, if only HP was actively licensing its IP back then. Something could have been worked out. Today, at least there's a mechanism for listing patents for sale and finding interested buyers.
October 19, 2016
Come together to conference with CAMUS
Admit it. It's been a long time since you talked person to person about your HP 3000 with somebody outside your company. User conferences and one-day meetings for 3000 folk used to be as common as leaf piles in October. That's what happens when you live a long time. You can outlive your community and lose touch.
CAMUS, the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society, has a way to reconnect. At 11 AM Central Time on Thursday, Nov. 10, the Annual User Group meeting of the organization will form around a conference call. Terri Glendon Lanza of CAMUS is organizing the call. It's free.
The agenda, shared by CAMUS member Ed Stein of MagicAire, is 10 minutes of CAMUS announcements, followed by general discussion with the Board of Directors and everyone on the call. It's manufacturing managers who make up CAMUS, but you might have questions about a certain emulator that earned its stripes in the Digital market before arriving to emulate HP's 3000 systems. Both Digital and MPE managers will be at this conference.
Or you may be interested in the new ERP replacement for MANMAN, Kenandy. Experts from the Support Group -- which is installing Kenandy at Disston Tools this year -- will be on the call. You might just want to know something about MPE management that could take only a minute to answer.
Send an email to Terri at email@example.com, or call her at 630.212.4314, to get your conference call-in phone number. The call runs until 12:30 Central Time. You might learn something, or get to show what you know.
October 17, 2016
Rebuilding Systems Faster and Better
I'm looking at how to save as much time as possible in rebuilding an HP 3000's software and directories. My options seem to be using STORE, versus the sysgen tape command "tape store=@.@.@". What's the best way to go here?
Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies
Unless your system is small (like a 918 with 8-12GB of disc), you don't want to try to do a full backup via sysgen. If you really do a full backup then I prefer this syntax “store /;...” as it is self-documenting and you know that the Posix files will be backed up as well. (On older releases of MPE, @.@.@ did not back up Posix files <eek>)
You want to make sure that you run 'buldacct' periodically (and routinely). You also want to make sure that you are somehow backing up your directory (store /;*t;directory, for example). Between the two, you have belts and suspenders (for recovering your accounting structure).
On older releases of MPE, you want to make sure that the network is shut down prior to making your SLT tape. And it's still a good idea to have the system quiesced when making an SLT, since everything in the sys account (and .pub.sys in particular) will be locked while the tape is being made. Nothing quite like grumpy users to make your day.
October 12, 2016
Wayback Wed: HP's Oracle-MPE discounts for 3000s hoped to spark new applications
Go back 20 years this week in the history of the 3000 and you'll find cheaper Oracle as a lure for application growth on MPE. Hewlett-Packard sank human resources and money into making Oracle a more attractive and affordable option for 3000 owners. By October, 1996 the pursuit of new applications was at its most ardent peak. HP would bring down the cost per seat of Oracle 7 by 25 percent just to get a company to install it on a new HP 3000. What the deal was seeking was places where Oracle might sell into a community that grew strong on IMAGE/SQL.
The deal, plus Oracle's applications, was trying to overcome three barriers to implementing Oracle. First, sites had data in IMAGE databases with no straightforward way in 1996 to move that information to Oracle's format. Second, site managers experienced higher management demands while using Oracle on other platforms. Finally, the price barrier for purchasing a second HP 3000 database (since IMAGE was bundled, even in 1996 after HP's efforts to split it off) kept sites from adding Oracle to their database mix.
HP's offer reduced one portion of the last hurdle. It offered Oracle's 7.2.3 version to 3000 sites at prices starting at under $1,200 per seat with an eight-seat minimum. Purchasing Oracle for an HP 3000 for under $10,000 hadn't been possible before. The price per seat increased based on HP's CPU tiers—the $9,600 price was available only for the lowest HP 3000 tier.
Oracle was always at arm's length from the 3000 user base, though. During the 1990s when HP was promoting HP-UX as a complete enterprise solution, the many Unix-based apps relied on Oracle foremost. In the middle 1980s, when Oracle was just rising up, a VP of market development asked me, "Why would I want to offer a database to a market where they already have a free, bundled database?" The question was a good one that never got a good enough answer for existing customers. HP and its Oracle allies had a good answer, but it was one that didn't matter much to the installed 3000 base.
We summed up HP's motivation on behalf of all customers with two words.
October 10, 2016
Duke diners deliver some wayback news
It's always a great event—since it's so rare now — to see 3000 folk gather in person. Last week an invite over 3000-L and other channels requested the pleasure of the company of anyone in the Bay Area who remembers — or works with — MPE and HP 3000s. The number of lunchtime diners at The Duke of Edinburgh pub was at the intimate level, which is not a surprise. What was interesting was how informed some attendees were.
"Some were finding out about the [Stromasys] emulator," Stan Sieler reported. He was among the few who were still working on MPE tasks. I was surprised that the news of the emulator was just arriving in October 2016, five years after the product's debut in the Bay Area.
In the fall of 2011, about 80 HP 3000 folk gathered at the last HP3000 Reunion. (I won't say final, because reunions tend to hold on until organizers and the ardent alumni lose the ability to travel, drive, and have meals together. We're not young, us 3000 folk, but we're spry.) The story of the Charon HPA product has orbited the MPE solar system for many months. Not everybody looks up at the sky to see the stars, of course.
Those getting wayback news about Charon included one who needed a free hobbyist license. That kind of license went off the market at the end of 2014, when Stromasys transitioned to an all-proof of concept licensing and sales plan. The PoC strategy has yielded a string of green-lit transitions to the non-3000 hardware. Hobbyist/freeware licenses got abused; free software was caught running in commercial settings. Other people might have failed at their no-cost DIY approach. You don't always get news of failures when you never knew about the attempts.
News travels slowly, especially for managers who are not in everyday contact with MPE and 3000s anymore. Sometimes 3000 news has traveled slowly for reasons other than simple oversight, or becoming busy with non-3000 computing.
October 07, 2016
How to Make a Windows to 3000 FTP Move
I need to move a file to our 3000 from a Windows server with FTP and Windows doing the put. The Windows file has longish variable length records, but I would like them converted to fixed length on the 3000. When I tried, this was the result:
PUT C:\Dev\MViewFTP\transdata\AP_HEADER_GW.CSV LMAPGW.IVD;rec=-1024,1,f,ascii,disc=1000;move
200 PORT command ok.
550 The FILE EQUATION STRING option (item# 52) is not in a valid file equation form. (FILE OPEN ERROR -449)
Keven Miller replies
Item #52 refers to HPFOPEN. From the intrinsic manual
52 File equation string:
Passes a character string that matches the file equation specification syntax exactly. (Refer to the FILE command in the MPE/iX Command Reference Manual.) This option allows the specification of options available in the FILE command.
I don't like the trailing ";move" in your command string. I'd remove that. Also, you have comma after "ascii" and it should be a semicolon, like this
October 05, 2016
How to fail at mission-critical IT with 3000s
We recently tried to be helpful for a 3000 manager who was desperate to get an MPE/iX server back online in steady, reliable service. Our role was just to feed questions to the volunteer force of experts on 3000-L and then pass back answers to the manager. The experience led us to think about what any company should do to fail at using a 3000 for mission-critical service.
Be assured, following these helpful hints will ensure your 3000 cannot do its work.
- Do your support with someone who'll just help out from time to time. Save your support budget for your other servers that are mission-critical. Let the 3000 fend off errors with volunteer help.
- Let your inventory of spares of the 3000's moving parts take care of themselves. A power supply or a hot-spare CPU board takes up a lot of room; set aside space for more modern computer components. Someone will be able to find something soon enough when trouble comes up.
- When a software or network problem starts to occur, give the situation awhile to work itself out for a few months. Save your support budget for the time when things are crashing because they've gotten serious.
- When your support vendor bills you on your 3000, let that expense take the same place as less-critical services. This isn't a vaccine, after all. It's just support for mission-critical servers.
- Make it clear to your management you're saving money by using the 3000 in a mission-critical role. Reinforce the cost-effective nature of the use of MPE/iX by keeping the software on 15-year-old HP hardware.
- If No. 6 might raise attention you're using MPE/iX, keep the age and support matters internal to datacenter planning. A 9x9 with no support provider is a fine way to ensure the future.
October 03, 2016
Emulation customers got all they wanted
Five years ago this week Stromasys was doing a full technical detail demonstration of its PA-RISC emulation software. Since then, such virtualization has become an everyday choice for interim homesteading (just a few years of use needed) or long-term plans, too.
The software got its debut in front of a sophisticated crowd: HP 3000 veterans at that year's HP 3000 Reunion. In 2011 skeptics were schooled and devotees bowled over.
The rap on emulator choices from out of the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like Intel's Xeon chips will over the year to come with Skylake. Here's a surprise nobody saw coming: the ultimate Itanium chip, Kittson, began development in 2011, and it's still not running in HP's servers. To think, MPE/iX could've had that fate if HP had chosen to port the OS to that chipset.
HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts at the Reunion believed in Charon's emulation future. In 2011 there were more in attendance at the Reunion than could fit in a single-family home. What's still in the years to come is making a home for MANMAN on one Ubuntu-Charon partition of a big Skylake Intel server, and MANMAN's replacement Kenandy on another.
September 30, 2016
Earliest birds to eye Charon stick with 3000s
One week ago the 3000 Simulator Project rolled out a new version of software to simulate an MPE V Classic 3000. That news led to a look at the modern emulation product Charon HPA and what has helped make it a success. Diligent engineering and testing of the Stromasys product across the community started just about five years ago. One of the earliest vendors to green-light their software for emulation was a company who's still selling new customers on MPE software: Minisoft.
Founder Doug Greenup called last month to report on some new sales into your market, the one which established his company. He mentioned Minisoft's connection to See's Candies' HP 3000s. See's is using Minisoft's middleware, and the connection between emulation and Minisoft popped up when I found Greenup's earliest report on testing against Charon. Minisoft was the first third party company to announce their products were Charon-ready, including ODBC, JDBC, and OLE DB products. These were the days when PA-RISC emulation was as new as Clarence Birdseye's frozen food was in the 1940s. Greenup's report was so early in the Charon HPA lifespan that the Stromasys software was being helped into the market by independent consultants like Craig Lalley.
Craig [Lalley] gave us access to the Stromasys emulator to test some of our legacy MPE products. The HP 3000 terminal emulators under Windows and Macintosh worked fine connecting up via Telnet. We ran some VPLUS screens with no problems. Connections were reliable and fast. We also tested our middleware drivers, connecting and running queries.
The bottom line is our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000. So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work.
Charon HPA needed software vendors who were familiar to the 3000 community to step up and certify. It's satisfying to see that one of the earliest adopters of your market's emulator is still selling software to MPE/iX sites. We'd call those sites 3000 customers, but its possible the HP hardware has been replaced by Charon HPA. Which is precisely why it was good business to step up and demonstrate that the emulator worked just like an HP 3000. Works better, now that HPA is not five years older like those boxes with "HP" on the front.
There's your report. MPE/iX still running at high-profile candy manufacturer. New 3000 software still being sold in a few places. Stromasys now moving toward five years of support from the MPE third party vendors, support that started with Minisoft.
September 28, 2016
Meeting at Building D: the rarest 3000 link-up
Notices were posted this week on the 3000-L mailing list about a rare meeting next Monday, Oct. 3. At opening time 11:30, people who know and remember the 3000 will gather at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. It's a site popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still called Building D by some seasoned community members. The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. As the 3000 group intends to arrive at opening time, it might be able to commandeer the snug (above).
In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. The last one we heard about this public was SIG-BAR's meeting in London in 2014. Dave Wiseman, a vendor and software maven whose history includes a software project called Millware for 3000s, set up SIG-BAR. The 2014 meeting was announced so far in advance that people were able to plan their summer vacations around a gathering at Dirty Dick's. There's something about English pubs that attracts the 3000 crowd.
The Duke of Edinburgh is within walking distance of a mecca of the 3000 world, now departed: The HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the rising concrete and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. There's no word yet if the 3000 friends who meet Monday at Building D will bring their drones to take their tour of the Apple-ized HP campus.
A walk through the HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars used to bring you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," said Stan Sieler of Allegro while announcing the meeting. As of Monday, MPE's heart will be among the taps and chips of The Duke. Two years ago, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the last in-person meeting at that London pub:
We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine—especially the new emulator—- and discovered what each of us was doing. An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.
As for that emulator, Charon HPA is in full swing by now, a certainty of life going forward with MPE/iX systems. For one additional lunchtime, a pub will be emulating the home of the system, even as it continues to move into a virtual existence.
September 26, 2016
3000-L connects again after a silence
As if on cue after our report about its silence, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup sprang back to life over the weekend. One problem solved by the 415 readers was how to identify if a store to disk backup is a LZW compressed backup file. A Tracy Johnson report also confirmed that a LISTF,2 can report the time of each LISTF, by writing a specialized job.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old HP 3000 with network connection troubles got advice from the newsgroup's readers. A Series 969 running MPE/iX 6.0 would not be the first thing you'd choose for interfacing to an internal website. But when a 3000 has data that a user needs over the Web, the server is the place to go.
Trouble started to surface when clients access a webpage which then opens a telnet session with the 3000, grabs the info, and then returns the data to the webpage.
We’ve been getting more and more errors over the last year, culminating in non-stop Could not initialize data in path with TCP, which then blocked anyone accessing us through our webserver. We’ve tried many changes but cannot seem to get past this.
When it locks up, the HP 3000 keeps running but won’t accept any new sessions. Which means our clients can’t run searches. Which is very bad for us. Sometimes we can stopnet and startnet and it will work for a while, but then the errors start again. Eventually, we have to coolstart to be able to have clients log in.
September 23, 2016
Simulator for Classic 3000 gets third release
A third release of an HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project website. J. David Bryan of the project reports the software which simulates the old MPE V HP 3000 Series III now has a cold dump facility.
Entering the DUMP command simulates pressing the ENABLE and DUMP front panel buttons. The contents of main memory are written to an attached magnetic tape in a format suitable for analyzing with the DPAN4 program provided with MPE. The new SET CPU DUMPDEV and SET CPU DUMPCTL options specify the default device number and control byte for the dump.
Known as the SIMH project, the software is aimed at hobbyists who are using MPE V programs and utilities. Even though a power failure is not a desired event, the simulator has a capability of creating one. This is in addition to yanking the plug out of the laptop or PC running the simulator software.
September 21, 2016
Power outage, or no problems? It's been quiet on the 3000-L. "Yeah, too quiet."
In the classic war movies, or a good western with Indian battles, there's the moment when someone notices the silence on the field. "It's quiet out there, Sarge," says the more innocent hero. "Yeah, too quiet," the non-com replies. That kind of quiet might be the sound we're hearing from the 3000-L mailing list today.
It's been five weeks without a new message on the mailing list and newsgroup devoted to MPE and its servers. Advice and solutions has flowed for two decades and more off a mailing list that still has 498 members subscribed. The number of subscribers has remained steady over the last three years. Like the number of migrations in the market, the exit from the list has slowed to a trickle. So has new traffic, of late.
The silence may not be ominous. In 2016 the 3000-L is used almost exclusively to resolve MPE/iX problems. The hardware posts are limited to the rare announcement of used server prices, messages that the members still howl at if they don't include <PLUG> in the subject. The server hasn't been sold by HP in more than a decade, but its owners still don't like to be bugged by sales messages. They solve problems in a grassroots manner. As a notable ballplayer once said, you can look it up. There might be no problems to solve.
However, no messages at all over 35 days sets a new record for the 3000-L quiet. This 3000 resource was much more lively a decade ago. And 20 years back? Well, HP was still selling enough 3000s in the fall of 1996 to be sending its new marketing manager Kathy Fitzgerald to speak at an Indiana RUG meeting about the new servers. There was also advice on storage compression, because compression-enabled DDS drives were becoming more common.
Good advice: If you can find a DDS tape drive from 1996, you should take it out of service. Your MPE server, no. And evergreen advice from the L is still available online. Jeff Kell, the deceased 3000 guru who started the server on a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga server, built it to last.
September 19, 2016
Re-SUSAN services: off-label, or standard
As the 3000 servers age, their components are failing. It may not be a common event yet, but when it happens, getting an HPSUSAN number transferred to new iron has some options. One of the alternatives is a mighty fan to forestall the re-SUSAN processes.
Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci reports that HP's still servicing 3000 owners who need an older HPSUSAN moved to replacement hardware after a failure. "In our area HP still provides the service to officially update the SUSAN. That's how we'd deal with it, but I'm sure other providers would differ."
When a 3000 manager has no provider anymore, they're likely to look for an off-label solution. In the drug industry, off-label is a use of a drug for which it was not intended. HP never intended to give independent companies the ability to change an HPSUSAN. That's why its tools were protected with a lockword. Then again, HP intended to move MPE/iX to Itanium, and to serve 3000 owners with no end date for support. Everybody knows about intentions can turn out.
Enter Immediate Recovery Solutions. The Bay Area company's history is using software that gives one key HP support capability to owners of 3000s. The Immediate in the company's name refers to intent: To get a 3000 back online, if HPSUSAN is standing in your way, as soon as they can get access to your console,
If that seems rather intimate for a first encounter—saying here's my console on the Internet, and now do your best — then the value of a relationship with an ongoing support provider becomes plain to you. So on the first day a 3000 needs to be replaced, but keep its original HPSUSAN to preserve booting up old vendor software, the choices are three. Call your support company for standard service. Call Immediate Recovery and go all the way on your first date. Or look around for a hefty fan, if you're lucky.
September 14, 2016
Dancing the Samba services tune, MPE/iX-style
Ten years ago this week we were promoting instructions on how to use Samba better on HP 3000s. Samba is "a group of programs that allows a Unix host to act as a fileserver for Windows platforms," according the MPE/iX documentation rolled out in 1999. The file-sharing and printer sharing software which has been a part of MPE/iX since the 6.0 release "allows Unix-like machines to be integrated into a Windows network without installing any additional software on the Windows machines. Many different platforms run Samba successfully; and there are nearly 40 different operating systems which support Samba." And many more now, a decade later.
HP brought features of Samba to the 3000 in a port called Samba/iX. "It is a solution for those wishing to access HP 3000 disk storage and printers (both networked and spooled from MPE/iX) from common PC client operating systems like Windows." Samba/iX allows access to disk and printer resources of MPE/iX by providing standard SMB file and printer services that are accessible from PC clients and their applications. An administration tool called SWAT makes Samba so much easier to use.
Samba 3.0.22 is distributed by the following MPE/iX base patches. Your independent support provider should be able to help you round one of these up. They've got the latest functionality.
- SMBMXY6D (BT) for MPE/iX 6.5
- SMBMXY6E (BT) for MPE/iX 7.0
- SMBMXY6F (BT) for MPE/iX 7.5
The (BT) stands for Beta Test. HP never cut the 3.0.22 version loose as a general release (GR) version. For reference, the following are GR versions with less functionality.
- SMBMXG3A (GR) for MPE/iX 6.5
- SMBMXG3B (GR) for MPE/iX 7.0
- SMBMXG3C (GR) for MPE/iX 7.5
Even a total 3000 network newbie can get Samba up and running. Samba must be running before you can run SWAT. Here's some useful info when getting SWAT going.
In SERVICES.NET you'll want a line that reads:
swat 901/tcp # Samba/iX Web Admin Tool
In INETDCNF.NET you'll want:
swat stream tcp nowait MANAGER.SYS /usr/local/samba/SWAT swat
(adjust the path to your SWAT NMPRG)
September 12, 2016
HP sells software business to boring buyer
Micro Focus, which has already bought Attachmate (nee WRQ) and Acucorp (maker of a COBOL that was once fine-tuned for the 3000) is now sitting on what HP was selling that Hewlett-Packard Enterprise calls software. Like Autonomy, for example. The latter is probably valued at one-tenth what the-CEO Leo Apotheker's HP board paid for it five years ago. Admiral Grace Hopper's invention has ultimately provided a harbor for HP's exit from the software sector. The buyer builds COBOL.
The entire transaction only costs Micro Focus -- makers of boring software that drives thousands of businesses -- $8.8 billion on paper. HP's is cashing out of software for application delivery management, big data, enterprise security, information management and governance, and IT operations management. With Autonomy in the deal, the company HP purchased for $11 billion in 2011, HPE gets an albatross off its back.
Here's one shakeout: Minisoft is now the only vendor selling 3000-ready terminal emulation that remains under the same vendor brand. WRQ has been absorbed, and HP's out of the terminal business they started with AdvanceLink in the 1980s. (Minisoft's still selling connectivity software to MPE/iX users, too — as in active sales, this year.) HP sells almost zero 3000 software today.
A Reuters report says the HPE move tilts its business mix hard towards hardware, with two-thirds of what's left at HP Enterprise now devoted to a sector with slim margins. HP has stopped much of its operating system development over the last 15 years, casting off OpenVMS and MPE/iX, then stalling HP-UX short of a transformation to Intel-ready software. Instead, MPE/iX got its Intel introduction post-HP, when Stromasys made its Charon HPA the gateway to x86.
NonStop remains a part of to HP's enterprise group and enjoys development, but it's tied to Itanium chips. Nothing left in the Business Critical Systems group -- HP-UX, VMS, NonStop -- gets any love anymore during HP's analyst briefings.
HP software, aside from operating systems, could provide a frustrating experience for 3000 customers. Transact and Allbase were strategic, until they were not. IMAGE got removed from the 3000-bundled status it enjoyed. HP had to farm out its ODBC lab work to keep up during the 1990s.
The deal between HP and Micro Focus gets more unusual when you see that HPE has to pay Micro Focus $2.5 billion in cash. In exchange, HPE shareholders will own 50.1 percent of Micro Focus. HPE wanted to get its software out of its enterprise business and into the hands of a company with business success in software. Micro Focus built its rep on embracing backbone technology like mainframe connectivity and COBOL.
September 07, 2016
HP remains in HPSUSAN update business
Close to 15 years has elapsed since HP chose to step away from the 3000 business. However, the vendor is still serving the needs of any customers who require an HPSUSAN ID to be refreshed onto replacement 3000 hardware.
We looked at this situation several weeks ago. For a customer who's looking over a move away from HP's 3000 hardware — but wants to remain on MPE/iX — Charon HPA from Stromasys is the logical choice. Going with a virtualized PA-RISC box can help sidestep a complication while staying with MPE. Replacement hardware will need either a refresh from a software vendor to accommodate the change in HPSUSAN. Or, in an extreme case, the HPSUSAN of record from the retired hardware would need to be flashed onto the permanent storage of the 3000.
Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions, a comprehensive 3000 support practice focusing on MPE/iX, gave us an update on the ways to move an HPSUSAN. "In our area, HP will still provide the service to "officially" update the HPSUSAN," he said. "That's how we would deal with it, but I'm sure some other providers would differ."
September 05, 2016
Labor of homesteading lifted by advice
Today in the US we celebrate Labor Day, a tribute to the respect that workers earned during the labor movement of the 20th Century. Many offices are closed including most states' offices. Here in Texas organized labor works in the shadows cast by a business-sotted political engine. Nobody needed a labor movement and its human rights back when the 20th Century started, according to the politicians controlling those times. Mother Jones and other heroes who were radicals got the 11-year-olds out of the coal mines of West Virginia, as a start. Machine guns were employed by the powers in charge to oppose that movement. You can look it up.
Homesteading customers face labors too, and they have long struggled for respect. Their work is no less important than the heavy lifting of migration was. Migrations have tapered way back. It's easy to say there are now more companies working to keep 3000s in production than companies working to get off the platform.
If you are lucky enough to have a holiday today, thank your precursors in the labor unions. For a good look at what labors a homesteader should work on, here's Paul Edwards' homesteading primer from 2004. Homesteading tasks are little-changed by this year, with one exception. All customers have moved the labor of their 3000 support to third parties. The Web resources listed in Edwards' primer are much-changed, however, with a few exceptions.
September 02, 2016
Open launch has become a workaround tool
Fifteen years ago this week I put the finishing touches on a Q&A with Jon Backus. He might be best known to one group of 3000 managers who flagged down his taxi-like service of MPE education — his Tech University had independent experts whocarried people from one point in their MPE careers to the next, better trained. An MPECert program was part of the venture that went into business just before HP changed its mind about continuing with 3000s. Tech University offered an alternative to Hewlett-Packard training classes, vendor-led education that was on the decline in 2001.
However, there's another milestone in his career just as well known. He launched OpenMPE as 2002 began, starting with a conversation with then-lab manager Dave Wilde. On the strength of that talk, the advocacy movement ultimately delivered MPE source code to third parties. It did take another eight years, but hopes were high at the start. HP named a key lab engineer to a board of directors. Minisoft donated middleware and MPE software from some of its licensed 3000s.
Backus began it all when he launched a discussion group on the Internet to explore the ways MPE might be preserved by its customers after HP steps away from it in a few years: a homesteading option. The group moved quickly to a consensus that open source methods didn’t fit MPE very well.
“The feeling and desire is very much not open source,” Backus said at the time. “The vast majority feeling is a migration of support and control of the entire MPE environment, including IMAGE, to a new entity. The source would continue to be closely controlled, similar to the way it is today.”
Starting a education group for HP server customers was a bold move. We interviewed him as one of the last 3000 experts to sit for a Q&A before HP's November 2001 exit announcement. August 2001's HP World was the last show to offer any HP hope for the server. Without OpenMPE and its work to capture that source code, however, to independent support companies such as Pivital Solutions, the trade secrets of MPE/iX would be lost. Instead that source acts as workaround and custom patch bedrock to help homesteaders.
Source for MPE/iX was not the initial goal Backus proposed for OpenMPE, though. The whole of the 3000 business would pass to a third party in his opening gambit. HP took months to even respond to that, saying the computer's infrastructure was decaying. Tech University was already addressing the brain drain before OpenMPE was born.
August 31, 2016
What To Do To Succeed In Migrations
In the 3000 community a major manufacturer is making its way off its ERP system. It will take years. We've been told not to say who, but the more important element of this story is the what. As in, what not to do to make a clean move away from applications that drive finances and manufacturing.
It's been a struggle, but mostly due to poor project planning and project management. Migration partners who've served the 3000 community pride themselves on the planning deliverable. Without such good planning, "it's taken significantly longer than they thought it would, primarily because they chose to ignore warnings."
The top IT management refused to perform any business process analysis before beginning the project. Business processes have been traced by MPE/iX applications since the 1980s. The software has been lauded for bending to the needs of processes, instead of the other way around. "They knew what they were doing, and didn't think we understood what it would take to implement new systems in our businesses."
Planning comes at a discount as well as with a price. You get the discount when you plan. You pay the price when you don't. Especially in migrating from a legacy system ERP, where the P stands for Planning.
August 29, 2016
How Good Things Are Slow to Change
Five years ago this week I was debating Apple's place in the future of tablets. The iPad was roaring along with more than 60 percent of the share of tablets shipped at the time. I bought one for my wife a few months later, to help her convalesce following a hip surgery. It was an iPad 2, and it's turned out to be the equivalent of a 9x9 HP 3000. It might run forever.
My debating point in late August of 2011 was Apple would not be chased off its leadership of market share anytime soon. In 2011 nobody offered a tablet featured with apps and an infrastructure like Apple's. I heard the word "slab" to describe tablets for the first time. That label predicted that a tablet could become nothing more special than a PC. White box, commodity, biggest market share will eliminate any out-sold competitors.
The trouble with that thinking is that it's the same thing that drives the accepted wisdom about the future for datacenters still using MPE/iX and the HP 3000. Last Friday I attended a 20th work anniversary lobster boil at The Support Group for Sue Kiezel. She left her datacenter career on MANMAN systems to become a part of Terry Floyd's consulting and support company. All through those years, HP 3000 experience has remained important to her work. There's years ahead, too, years with 3000 replacements -- in their own time. Slowly, usually.
Those 20 years also track with the Newswire's lifespan. It's always a chipper afternoon when I visit the company's HQ out in the Texas oaks near Lake Travis. In addition to things like barbecue and cake -- and last Friday, lobsters large enough to crowd a deep pot--reminders of the success of the 3000 are often laying about. Last week I noticed flyers and documents outlining software from Minisoft. Not all of that software is MPE-centric products, but it is all designed for any company that still makes and ships products using a 3000-driven datacenter. Even if that datacenter is hooking up iMacs to MPE/iX, a specialty Minisoft has come to own completely. The 3000 users who remain in the market believe they have a good thing. Change comes slowly to good things, behavior which mirrors human nature.
August 26, 2016
Expecting the Best, Even During A Disaster
This week marked the onset of cheaper air fares. August 23 was the official day for lower fares to be posted by airlines. A fare between Austin and Bejing -- the country where a dozen HP 3000s are driving a manufacturing corporation's operations — is down to $863.
So the impact of airline companies' failed disaster recoveries will recede. There are fewer people to strand when a system goes dark like the one did at Delta Airlines. The disaster was centered around a single building in the Atlanta power grid. It led to people tweeting “I’ll never fly your airline again.” This is just life in 2016. Get used to it: instant reviews, dashed off in the heat of anger and dismay. Tweets motivate spending millions to do good DR.
But the assumptions are that legacy systems are to blame. "Legacy systems stay on way too long," said one blogger who's had some software experience as well as work at Boeing. "Vendor agreements, support and maintenance — and the pain of switching and upgrading a system that’s by and large pretty reliable and so deeply integrated—are things few CTOs want to touch."
Southwest Airlines had no legacy systems at work during its high-season meltdown. The 3000s had been turned off. The plan was to save money by getting more modern. The disaster recovery was not high on the budget list. Customers don't care about IT budgets. They expect the best, even during a disaster. Plenty of 3000s have come through hell and high water.
That reliability doesn’t come out of thin air. The track record the server built during the advent of ticketless flight operations is one reason it still drives manufacturing in places like China and airports serving See's Candies. Celebrating the days of MPE glory won't return it to those places where DR has failed, though. Turning back only happens when a system fails upon installation. Once you're in, it's hard to turn something away at the gate.
August 24, 2016
Some 3000 magic is beyond SAP's powers
SAP has taken the place of HP 3000 apps in the last 15 years. Not easily and not completely, in some cases. SAP is known for its switches—choices in configurations that sometimes shape the way a company does business. Some enterprises have to bend their practices to fit SAP, instead of the other way around.
At General Mills, SAP replaced just about everything. As it did, the IT manager there thought "If everyone buys and runs the same generic SAP software, how do you get a competitive advantage over your customers? We had spent years creating custom solutions and with SAP, we transformed the business to be... just like everyone else's."
Success stories are out there, too. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the SAP migration that he's helped with "went brilliantly."
"It's because the implementation was driven by the user departments who knew exactly what they wanted," he said. "They were given responsibility for doing it, so they used about zero external consultancy. All we had to do was extract the data from the HP 3000. Shame that we lost a good customer."
In another instance that Yeo is aware of, the company began replacing their financials and purchasing systems, went on to billing, inventory and sales. "Then they got to the clever stuff that the HP 3000 was doing and failed. 16 years later they are still running an HP 3000 doing the clever stuff."
August 22, 2016
Replacements can trigger re-licensing, fees
HP's 3000 hardware is built well, but aging like any other server manufactured in 2003. Or even longer ago. The boxes are at least 13 years old. Hardware includes storage devices that can be newer. But eventually an MPE/iX server will need to be replaced. No iron lasts forever, even if the 3000 comes closest to feeling that way.
When a 3000 wears out or breaks down, something else that resembles the server takes its place. It could be a system just like what stopped working, delivered right to the datacenter. A new 3000 box will require some license transfers, operations beyond what HP expects for MPE/iX.
Third party software that checks for an HPSUSAN number will find a new one on HP's replacement hardware. This means a call to the software vendor for help in getting the application or tool to fire up again. Some software doesn't do this check. The call won't be required then.
The term re-license can include a couple of things. One of those things is a re-negotiation of fees for use. A few software companies in the MPE world have strict accounting for the size of a server. Only a straight-up replacement box will forestall an extra fee for these vendors.
If somehow you could replace an old 3000 with something much newer, while retaining the HPSUSAN number to skip all this administration, would you do it? What you might choose could have a much newer pedigree, too, iron that was built in our current decade. You might see where this is going.
August 19, 2016
Vendor makes its installs a key to emulation
Customers have not been crazy about paying for services along with their software. You can make a case for doing things differently when the expert arrives to put something mission-critical into your datacenter, though. Hardware integration included installing services for a long time, until the commodity era arrived. Software then slid into self-install territory with the advent of PC apps, and then open source.
Thing is, the 3000 community managers learned lessons from an era when they were sometimes as experienced as anyone the vendor could assign to their installs. By the end of the 1980s, though, the vendors often had sharper software engineers than most customers. But the MPE vendors didn't have big staffs for outreach with installs. Here's a tape, stream it like this. Call us if there's a problem. DIY system management was the first option.
Now, if you got a great third party support company, they'd help you with anything. Few software companies wanted to be in that business, though. Adager's Rene Woc would say they got called for every problem someone ever had with an IMAGE database. Sometimes the calls didn't even come from customers. After the call, there was sometimes a sale, though.
Finally, there was freeware. For the price, there was no reason to believe anyone would help install this at your site. Emails and websites gave advice. This was the moment when Charon HPA stepped in. People needed to see the new product working to believe in its magic. For a couple of years anyone could download the software on a single-user license and mount it themselves. The results depended on how adept your administrative skills were. Everybody likes to think of themselves as well-seasoned. It's sometimes less than true.
Charon HPA is a mission-critical part of enterprise computing. Although it doesn't emulate anything in MPE/iX, this is software that transforms an Intel processor into a PA-RISC engine. MPE users have lots of variations in their PA-RISC configurations. That's what happens after 40 years of commercial computing success.
So freeware Charon downloads ended a few years ago. Then over the last year-plus the DIY option has been ended too. "We do it ourselves to be sure it's done right," said one official at Stromasys. There was the freeware era, then the DIY era with customers installing themselves. Now it's the vendor-install era. The proof of this concept comes from a statement by the HPA expert for 3000 sites. Doug Smith says, "All of our installs are successful now."
August 17, 2016
Crashed IT Versus Staying On MPE's Course
Earlier this month Delta suffered an IT meltdown that made Southwest Airlines' disaster of DR look puny. Three thousand canceled or delayed flights went idle in a single day. A hasty DR mashup was using dot matrix printers at one airport. Delta was never a 3000 user. It's an easy retort to say, "Of course not. Nobody in the modern world of commerce would be staying in the 3000 business."
However. You exit a flight and go into the concourse this month, and there's a See's Candy kiosk. Oh yes, the clerk says, we sell right here and it goes straight back to the main office. And you just know, if you keep track of who's staying the MPE course, that the new point of sale terminal is tapping a TurboIMAGE database somewhere in California. Because See's stayed the course while Southwest veered away.
The largest candy shop company in the US was founded in 1921. See's operates more than 200 stores across this country, Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, plus it counts on online sales. See's is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire's iconic founder Warren Buffett called See's "the prototype of a dream business." Buffett certainly knows nothing of See's IT choices, but his managers surely do. He commented on See's dreamy business in a book published in 2012 — more than a decade after HP's plans for the 3000 dried up.
In another state, one of the biggest manufacturers of mobile air conditioning units manages their ERP with MPE. They're moving away from 3000 hardware, in a way. These days you don't need the HP badge on aged hardware to stay the course with MPE applications. You can virtualize and emulate Hewlett-Packard's iron. Yes, MANMAN is still an everyday tool at a company whose name is synonymous with cooled air.
August 15, 2016
Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns
The biggest statement 3000 users made worked its way onto a front page. 847,000 OC Register readers took note.
Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community staged its most prominent protest. The stunt landed the server on the front page of a metro daily paper's news section for the only time in the 3000's history. It also produced sunburns and filled a football field. The lasting impact was memories, like so many computer stories. But a world record was set that remained unbroken longer than HP's product futures were intact for the server and MPE.
It was August of 1996 when a team of 3000 users, vendors, and developers gathered on the football field of Anaheim's Loara High School to build the world's largest poster. The stunt was also a message aimed at HP's executives of the time: Glenn Osaka, Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon and especially CEO Lew Platt. "Pay attention to the 3000's potential and its pedigree," the poster shouted. Acres of it, mounted under the Southern California sun of summer. Computerworld (above) was skeptical.
Summed up, the organizers led by Wirt Atmar unfurled 2,650 3-foot x 4.5-foot panels needed to say "MPE Users Kick Butt." Atmar was one of the most ardent advocates for the power of MPE and the 3000. He printed those thousands of sheets off a 3000 Micro XE, a Classic 3000 because why would you need a PA-RISC system? It drove an HP755CM DesignJet printer for two weeks, printing the required 463 billion pixels. Atmar said, after he and his employees loaded and drove the 687 pounds of sheets in a U-Haul truck from his New Mexico offices to California, that "moving the paper into the vehicle was our company's corporate fitness program."
They all had to be numbered and sorted and placed on the field. That was a spot where the winds arrived by lunchtime or so. It would be a race against the clock to build it, but the 3000 was always racing against an HP clock. The statement made for the server moved the needle for existing customers. General Manager Harry Sterling was just taking his job that summer and pushed for funding and lab time to bring the 3000 into parity with Unix and Windows NT servers HP sold. Often, it sold them against the 3000.
The image of the poster made it onto the Metro front page of the Orange County Register. The NewsWire provided lunch and recorded the event for our newsletter just celebrating its first birthday that month. We supplied sub sandwiches and pizzas, recording every request for things like a vegetarian kosher option. It was easier to get media attention than get a kosher veggie delivered to the Loara sidelines, it turned out.
August 12, 2016
How to purge UDCs on the HP 3000 safely
The software vendors most likely to sell products for a flat rate -- with no license upgrade fees -- have been the system utility and administration providers. Products such as VEsoft's MPEX, Robelle's Suprtool, Adager's product of the same name -- came in one, or perhaps two versions, at most. The software was sold as the start of a relationship, and so the relationship focused on the understanding the product provided for people responsible for HP 3000s.
That kind of understanding might reveal a Lewis Carroll Cheshire Cat's smile inside many an HP 3000. The smile is possible if the 3000 uses UDC files and the manager uses only MPE to do a file PURGE. Of course, PURGE ships on all MPE systems. Using that means you'll have to rebuild the UDC catalog. But even that's not enough.
Stan Sieler of Allegro shared a story about this recently. "We recently encountered a site where—somehow—an HFS filename had gotten into COMMAND.PUB.SYS. You can't delete UDC entries with HFS filenames, nor can you add them. I had to edit the file with Debug to change the name into something delete-able." Then there's the rebuilding of the catalog. Keven Miller has contributed a program that sorts and reorganizes UDC files.
There is a more complete way to remove such things from a 3000's storage. You're careful about this because eliminating UDCs with only MPE might leave a user unable to use the server. That grin that lingers is the UDC's filename.
User Defined Commands are a powerful timesaver for 3000 users, but they have administrative overhead that can become foolproof using the right tools. These UDCs need to be maintained, and as users drop off and come on the 3000, their UDCs come and go. There's always a chance that a UDC file could be deleted, but that file's name could remain in the filesystem's UDC master catalog. When that happens, any other UDCs associated with the user will fail, too. It might include some crucial commands; you can put a wide range of operations into a UDC.
When you add a third party tool to your administrator's box, you can make a purge of such files foolproof. You can erase the Cheshire Cat's grin as well as the cat. It's important because that grin of a filename, noted above, can keep valid users from getting work done on the server with UDCs. This is not the reputation anybody expects from a 3000.
August 10, 2016
Measure 3000 performance for datacenters
Measuring the performance of an HP 3000 used to be a leverage point for increasing investments. By now the numbers help justify continuing to use the server in a datacenter with newer boxes. "We think of our HP 3000s as stable, and even reducing in usage over time," says one systems manager, "though actually as the company grows, the data requirements and load on the 3000s increases."
One way to measure a 3000's footprint is the amount of memory it requires. Memory upgrades cost nothing like what they did even 15 years ago. But any spending at all makes that 15-year-old server suspect. HP's Steve Macsisak recommended sessions x 4, plus jobs x 16, plus 64 MB as the criteria for memory usage.
An HP 3000 uses as much of its memory as possible to make processing efficient. The design of the PA-RISC architecture makes memory the most important element of performance, after IO speed. It's not that unusual to see a 3000 using 100 percent of its memory, according to field reports. There's also CPU usage to measure.
CPU percentages can come via the REPORT command. Count up the CPU seconds used in the week, and divide by the total number of seconds available (604,800). But for all of this, it doesn't feel like a graphic report the rest of the datacenter gets from its Unix and Linux systems using SAR. There may be a program inside a 3000 that can help, even if the company never purchased performance tools from Lund. HP's Glance gives away its reporting power in its name, one manager has joked.
There's freeware available to create handsome graphs like the one at left, suitable for showing in a meeting about datacenter resources. Ploticus/iX was written by Andreas Schmidt. It uses data from SCOPE.SYS. Ploticus even works with SAR's data.
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.
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."