June 28, 2012
Long MPE future, longer list to learn about
Up on a favorite technical mailing list of mine, one HP 3000 manager laid out his future for MPE and the 3000. While it may well be a long one, he's now looking to learn IBM mainframe technology. Yes, studying up for work on a system whose legacy is even longer than MPE's.
Yes, I know that COBOL is dead and there's no future in mainframes. Somehow, I think they're both going to be around as long as I am. Remember, I work for state government. We have at least one agencywhere their idea of application modernization is converting from Assembler to COBOL.
Our veteran manager wants to make a shift that looks like this:
The common element in there is COBOL, a language almost always essential to supporting 3000 applications. In spite of its repeated death announcements, COBOL's in use on every platform being run by enterprises today. Not everywhere, by a long shot. But since COBOL training won't be a big part of our manager's tech learning list, he could move on to newer tech. Maybe you're interested in Java, for example. One of HP's arch rivals is streaming free training for a language that's being classified as legacy. It should be so lucky.
Virtual Developer Day: Java SE 7 and JavaFX 2.0 is being billed as "everything you wanted to know about Java including Java SE 7, Java FX 2.0 and the roadmap to Java SE 8. Discover how Java can help you reduce your project risk and build more advanced, more portable desktop clients." Oracle's set up a webpage that leads you to videos and PDFs of slide sets.
One other 3000 expert, who arrived at MPE after a career in IBM mainframes, said there's lots of crossover between the two platforms. Job control, for example, reads about the same. "JOB cards, EXEC for RUN, FILE = DD in IBM land, etc. -- you could probably take an IBM JCL listing and understand it with little problem."
"As to COBOL, quite similar as well. The CICS [terminal display module] is sort of like VPlus, in that it uses subroutines and program-managed content and buffers. The non-display feature allows you to hide variables on the screen and pass them along which can be handy."
3000 managers may not understand how fortunate they are to have their strong fundamental experience with a classic enterprise environment. Another migration veteran reported the long-lived MVS is just a more wooly version of MPE.
"I suspect that having worked on an HP 3000 is one of the best preparations for working on the IBM OS," he said. "Because my impression of MPE is that it was MVS without the fluff."
June 26, 2012
Reductions via migration feed 3000 pipeline
It's a fact of life in 2012 that HP 3000s are being retired by some companies. Migrations are far enough along -- in some cases -- that backup 3000s are finally being turned off and sold. Many migrators report there's a 3000 still running just in case, even after the MPE applications have been replaced, re-hosted, or re-written.
However, the exits of these servers are usually not from service to the community. By this year, the latest-generation 3000s are coming available on the market once they move out of an IT shop. At the US sandwich chain Arby's, an N-Class 3000 is on offer at a price below $4,000.
Speedware, which is now making a fresh mark as Fresche Legacy, moved out more than 730 HP 3000s between 2002 and 2011. Speedware (the fourth generation language) provided the landing platform for Arby's move off MPE, too. Paul Edwards recently announced an entry-level N-Class for sale that once worked at Arby's. Recently, Fresche reports that it's landed a new project to "eliminate the mainframe environment at a major North American railway, providing $10 million in cost savings and improved performance."
Not all of Arby's change in platforms is spinning off of HP's strategy, however. Arby's and Wendy's married up over the last few years. They're splitting up after a short union, and the IT resources are being dispatched as a result. A 3000 that feels stale to one company may look fresh to another.Edwards reported that a PC-centric, Web-based instance of Speedware was the target for Arby's newer serving of servers.
Several years ago, I was involved in the migration of the Arby's HP 3000 Speedware applications to SpeedWeb on an Intel platform. The system for sale has been used as a historical lookup system by Arby's since then. Now, Wendy's has taken it over and is selling it. Arby's and Wendy's married, and then divorced a while ago.
With new 3000s being limited to such "eliminations," there's a bit of a silver lining in seeing some MPE systems rotated out of companies. People like Edwards, and especially the community's hardware brokers, can offer newer hardware to homesteaders as a result of these migrations. This one is a 440 Mhz single-processor with two internal and 16 external drives. Here's another MPE license that's come online, too.
This silver lining doesn't exist in other legacy modernization projects. Fresche Legacy shared a press release today about the replacement of a mainframe system at that railway. The target for the project is clear: Linux as the OS, along with Sybase as database. It's a commodity solution, something more industry-standard than HP's Itanium/Unix target.
Commodity computing platforms provide high functionality and high performance at a competitive price. The 100-plus applications support multiple business processes in major functional areas. This IT transformation will enhance the railway’s technical infrastructure, reduce costs and improve the efficiency of its IT applications.
A key step toward getting older systems replaced is convincing the migrator of the overall cost savings while spending capital costs on hardware and OS and migration services. Fresche had to "perform a mainframe migration discovery, assessment and analysis."
This analysis provided the customer with a clear understanding of the challenges including; inventory of objects, re-hosting requirements, re-hosting tools, effort, cost and timeline required to accomplish the mainframe migration. Fresche’s extensive migration modernization roadmap convinced the customer that this migration and re-hosting would create significant value by helping the railway more effectively meet its short and long-term business goals.
However, we don't read this eliminated system as an HP 3000. This is a server IBM's probably still selling, which means the used hardware won't be as unique as an N-Class system whose highest bid -- so far -- is $2,500, plus the fees to ship it.
Wendy's never based its decision to move out the 3000 on the server's service to the company. "I don't think Wendy's used it at all," Edwards said. "The migration was finished long before the merger. I assume Arby's used it only rarely. I believe they merged all the Wendy's data onto the [SpeedWeb] Intel system."
So while these two sandwich giants go through the painful period of separating everything -- including IT staff, now on different floors of the same building -- a 3000 has gone out the building's door. Then onto the market as a bargain for some homesteader. Re-hosting doesn't provide refreshes of hardware availability in other markets yet. That's because the AS/400 and mainframe markets don't face hardware needs that cannot be met by system vendors like IBM. Migration feeding the needs of homesteading -- well, that might be a part of the ecosystem which HP didn't understand when it first estimated the freshness of the 3000.
June 22, 2012
Database changes target weekend's quiet
The HP 3000s still serving throughout the world are often on all-day, every day duty. But activity can quiet down on the weekends. That's when Terry Simpkins, Director of Business Systems at the manufacturer Measurement Specialties, wanted to add an index.
"I need to add a new index into a detail dataset," he said. "But I'd like to complete this change on Sunday, if possible, while there are no users on the system." Simpkins hoped that DBGeneral would be able to adjust a Jumbo dataset in IMAGE, but a problem cropped up that didn't have an immediate weekend solution using that Bradmark tool in his IT belt.
The detail is a 'JUMBO'. The new index will be to a new Automatic master set. Using DBGeneral, I get an error when I attempt to 'activate' the change. It says the number of blocks exceeds the IMAGE max. The detail is very large. Is there some undocumented switch that needs to be specified for DBGeneral to work on JUMBO databases?
Whether DBGeneral has any undocumented Jumbo dataset switch didn't come up in users' replies to the issue. But Sunday support expectations, and the built-in nature of the alternative tool to DBGeneral, Adager, rose up. Not even a better tool can enable a change to such a very large detail dataset, however.
"I think that you probably are exceeding the MPE file size on your detail dataset when DBGeneral tries to add the new index pointers," Pete Eggers said. "My choice would be Adager over DBGeneral years ago, and I suspect that would still be true. But even Adager cannot create datasets that exceed MPE's file size limit." But these are the instances when such advice helps teach about the limits which applications must respect in IMAGE/SQL, as well as the tools to work around them.
"If this is true, your only option is to either reduce the record count of the dataset first -- if for instance, you can send some of the records to a history dataset or file," Eggers added. "You might be able to split the detail dataset into two datasets to add the index to the one with the field in question, but that probably won't happen on a Sunday, as all apps that access the dataset will have to be modified."
Steve Cooper pointed out that a Sunday call to Adager's support line would be answered promptly, "even if it is early -- and they will take your order for a copy of Adager, which will have no problem dealing with Jumbo datasets, no hidden switches needed."
Wyell Grunwald, a veteran of more than two decades of 3000 management, echoed the praise for a database manager like Adager. At Measurement Specialites, an empire of 3000s around the world manage manufacturing operations. Grunwald added that the situation there "Sounds like a repack would be in order -- to remove all your logically deleted records."
Keeping a 3000 in production use as a homesteader is most responsible when tools like database managers remain available -- and their support teams are quickly contacted, even on weekend hours. Best of luck to managers who are using this less-critical time to improve and expand the reach of their 3000 data. It's easier with good tools.
June 19, 2012
Keeping up with Cognos can demand a lunch
While IBM's enterprise juggernaut keeps rolling out in front of HP's, the share of business that Powerhouse contributes is miniscule. HP 3000 operations comprised far more of HP's business while the vendor was still selling MPE. Nudging along Powerhouse technology has become a tricky assignment for indie tool providers who need changes. Sometimes an informal lunch works a lot better than any official action on tech agreements between IBM and the long-time 3000 partners who hail from years before IBM bought Cognos.
In the era of this kind of response, 3000 software vendors such as MB Foster have promised Powerhouse-using customers like Dave Vinnedge of Accuride that their software would continue to keep up with Cognos changes. But communications into the 3000 community have become a low priority for the IBM Advanced Development Tools group. (IBM didn't respond to requests for comment on this story.)
Support for Powerhouse at Accuride is $6,500 yearly, a figure that buys the highest level of access for an HP 3000 user: Vintage Support, created in 2009 after the $5 billion merger. It hasn't improved via the association with IBM.
"During disaster recovery testing, about the only time we ever called Cognos for quick support, it took about two hours for them to get us a 'disaster recovery key', " Vinnedge said. "At that time Cognos support needed to contact our Cognos sales rep for an okay. We have not yet tried to contact IBM's support during a DR test." Contact is tough; it took over 15 minutes to find a US support phone number to add to Accuride's DR docs, "and that was from using links in IBM's emails they sent when they merged in the Cognos support."The changes in IBM's response have had an impact on vendors' ability to track methodology across software changes, according to MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster. An informal lunch is the kind of initial contact that's now needed to stay in touch, all to enable the final 8.49F version of Powerhouse can stay in step with Foster's UDALink. In the interim, a customer like Accuride needs to maintain two separate Powerhouse dictionaries – 8.39 and 8.49 – just to keep using third party tools with Powerhouse. Accuride's got an automatic 8.49 DR license, but the 8.39 version it needed to remain in step with UDALink requires special dispensation from IBM, a company not easy for Vinnedge to contact.
"There's no direct jeopardy here," he said, "but we're tired of having to be sure that Powerhouse changes get compiled into two different dictionaries. We do not want to have to call IBM support during a disaster, or a DR test. We'd also like to be able to drop Vintage Support – or at least negotiate a lower cost."
Accuride has been a Powerhouse user so long that they remember when Cognos was called Quasar. A vendor like MB Foster began Cognos relationships in that era, but these partners must now recalibrate their efforts to stay in touch with the much larger IBM organization, Foster said.
CEO Foster said he figured a lunch between engineers was a faster way to get technology exchanged. Within a few weeks, MB Foster added support for the 8.49F version. IBM has stated that 8.49F is the last release for the HP 3000. Along with the update of UDALink, "MB Foster support quickly fixed two bugs we found in a new option," Vinnedge said.
Pinned in the middle of such an exchange is Bob Deskin, a Powerhouse product manager who's been working with the language since 1980. Today he's not able to make any policy statements, even while he posts messages on the Powerhouse newsgroup. "Although Vintage Support does not provide for any development support, it does allow customers with a legal support requirement to continue to use Powerhouse," Deskin stated on a Powerhouse mailing list.
Ken Langendock, a Powerhouse services provider offering new development, integration, conversion and migration, sees indelible value in using a 4GL. But he believes managers have lost the taste for continued investment.
"They seem to think it is a dying language, and resources are getting harder to find," he says, "even though there are still COBOL programs out there churning out data tirelessly. Programmers coming out of school have never heard of a fourth generation language. They would rather work in a 3GL with a Web front end. Give me a common data dictionary any day."
Another Powerhouse developer consultant, Richard Witkopp, says "Few programmers dislike Powerhouse. The hatred comes from upper management. They have to pay for it, and I think that's where Cognos killed its golden goose."
Brian Stephens adds, "I wouldn't hold my breath on IBM doing anything for Powerhouse. They bought Cognos for their Business Intelligence tools. Powerhouse was an established product they could maintain and use to open some new doors."
Without a clear initiative from IBM to revamp the products to support a streamlined platform base – Windows and Linux, Oracle or MySQL or SQL Server, a web look and feel – customers feel like their skills with a proven tool will continue to drop in value.
"The biggest issue is the invisibility of Powerhouse," said Darren Reely, another consultant in the Powerhouse community. "Most IS-type people seem to have never heard of it, and that is reflected in the job market. Besides looking ugly, supporting more platforms, the capability to run on the server, and a need to occasionally trick it, what can a Quick app do that an iPad app can't? The cutting edge companies use the hot new platforms and tools.
"Some things have a slow death. Powerhouse looks to be in that category," he added. "Hey, COBOL is still alive."
June 18, 2012
Powerhouse future spurs 3000 adjustments
After IBM's Cognos acquisition, the Powerhouse language now offers slower development prospects. Some long-term users are adjusting their expectations further in 2012, even while they work to make other software integrate with the fourth generation language.
It might be easy to pin today's prospects for Powerhouse onto IBM. The computing giant purchased the creator of that product, Cognos, in 2007. The years since that purchase have frustrated some users who try to rely on the 4GL. While the concept of a 4GL remains a useful Advanced Development Tool (ADT), the potential for adapting Powerhouse or extending its reach looks challenged.
One example is at the manufacturer Accuride, a 3000 shop using Powerhouse. Dave Vinnedge says he's been working to integrate the latest, 8.49F version of Powerhouse with MB Foster's UDALink software. As Cognos was edging into the realm of IBM, it was changing internals in the Powerhouse data dictionary. These differences were not communicated to such independent software allies in time to make the changes so the products might integrate. More than four years later, the liaison between a now-small Cognos ADT operation to allied companies still isn't working on an official level.
Customers expect this kind of technical exchange to continue between their vendors. But reports from the installed base of Powerhouse customers indicate that IBM's interest in Cognos remains largely in the Cognos Business Intelligence products. The ADT tools like Powerhouse look forlorn in comparison.
It's not like developers using the product have all lost faith. "We had a project to migrate from the HP 3000 a few years ago," says Mike Godsey. "I was told to compare a conversion to Powerhouse Web and a full Java design. We estimated it would take seven developers three years to do the Java, or four programmers two months to move to Powerhouse Web. Powerhouse Web was chosen. We delivered ahead of schedule and zero defects. How many Java apps can claim that?"
But the support from Powerhouse's new owner drives down hopes. "Realistically, what future does PowerHouse have?" asks Vaughn Smith, a developer working in HP's OpenVMS environment with the 4GL. "The products are 30-plus years old, but they still perform quite well on the right hardware. IBM has stated that Powerhouse will remain supported as long as it makes business sense. That said, there are no future updates planned at this time."
On the HP 3000, IBM supports only the 8.49F version of the language, tools which also include Quick, Quiz, and Powerhouse Web. To get an idea of how long ago this version was crafted, the IBM support document lists MPE/iX 6.5 as the build release for Powerhouse. 7.0 and 7.5 releases are also supported, so long as the OS is patched. While some IBM operations have a stellar track record for customer service, Vinnedge said his Cognos experience doesn't match that.
"I have not yet seen a lot of diligent customer service practices, at least on the Cognos side of IBM," he said. "For example, my boss started receiving the 2010 Powerhouse support renewal notice every 15 minutes. It took over a day for my boss to be sure that Kenneth Robinson at IBM knew that there was a problem — and two more days for IBM to fix it."
Vinnedge added that IBM has also changed the Powerhouse license to "Quantity 50 - E06CHLL" without telling Accuride. Even a simple request to explain what the new license meant didn't get a reply. "He has a good guess, based on our other IBM licenses," Vinnedge says, "so he has not really tried to shake that tree."
June 15, 2012
Oracle's legal jousts missing Media's marks
HP and Oracle have been squaring off in court over the future of the database on HP's Unix servers, jousting since the first week of the month. But after a break on Wednesday to attempt to settle the battle out of court, these two companies were back at it after talks crashed. Oracle's got HP's database futures in its hands, and testimony from its executives asserts those hands have crimping sales of HP's Itanium Business Critical Servers.
But that's just not enough to keep the attention of some Itanium owners. One migrator is already heading away from HP's Unix and onto Oracle's Unix. But the death-knell that Oracle wants to spread about the HP-UX platform isn't spooking Greg Barnes.
Barnes has an 3000 background that dates back to MPE III, but his company took its time getting away from 3000s. Media General, which agreed to sell off nearly all of it newspapers to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, was using publishing software from Collier-Jackson until the late 1990s, when the shift started off 3000s. Barnes said the Oracle jabs didn't rattle him a bit in HP Unix management.
"I'm not aware that the snipe-fest had any effect whatsoever," he said, while reporting on the company's in-house migration to the Itanium servers. "Like much of the death knells I’ve read over the years, I have better things to ponder." Among his new interests are Oracle's direct competitor to HP-UX, Solaris. Media General is now phasing out the five HP-UX systems left in its datacenter. It's also focusing on its TV business, post-newspapers.In a shop that runs "an awful lot of Oracle," migrating away from those CJ applications led Media General to Solaris. Peoplesoft HR and FIS, as well as DSI Circulation, either required or recommended Solaris platforms. HP has said for months that Oracle's been attacking the Unix business with success, spreading doubts. But the FUD from Oracle, and its pointing at a sketchy future for the only processors that run HP-UX, was not clouding Media General decisions. Replacing the likes of Collier-Jackson's AIM -- the last of the 3000 apps to go -- determined the OS platform. It was the apps, not how long the chips would be enhanced or supported, that steered every decision.
"At 15 years [of migration], it was very gradual," Barnes said about a shift that started in 1997. "CJ AIM was the last to go, and the new app Mactive also required Solaris."
We originally ran CJ Payroll and AIM. The Circulation and FIS systems were home-grown. They all had their limitations, and management were looking for more features and less programmers.
Payroll was the first to go and that went to PeopleSoft using Oracle. That transition was a major zoo. Next went FIS to the same PeopleSoft/Oracle arena, and that was slightly better. Then AIM to Mactive. Circulation went from the HP 3000 to HP-UX using DSI. We are still migrating it from HP-UX to Solaris.
I was the last man standing to manage MPE: Two 969KS-320s running MPE 6.0. Now I'm the last man standing managing both HP-UX and Solaris, plus Solaris x86 OS.
Barnes reports he was working on HP 3000s just four years after the systems had their true 1974 release. While he jokes that he thinks he's getting entirely too old for this kind of churn, he does have four major operating systems in his resume. "Try managing both Unix and MPE systems, remembering the commands, and not messing up anything if you want a challenge," he says.
Oracle's been meeting challenges of its own since it purchased all of Sun, both software and servers. The latter have seen large sales dips since the 2011 acquisition closed. Selling Unix to new sites has become a trial for HP as well. It's that Oracle database that's got a comfortable spot in places like Media General.
What's slipping away are owned operating profits of more than $2 billion a year off HP's Itanium business that relies on Oracle. A memo from HP's enterprise server chief Dave Donatelli in 2010 said these servers were more profitable than HP's massive PC business. According to an article from All Things D's Arik Hesseldahl, HP's been drawing about 15 percent of its earnings from Itanium business.
HP’s Business Criticial Server business combined with its Technology Services business, which includes the support and services associated with the Integrity line of servers that uses the Intel-made Itanium chip, was at that time larger on a revenue basis than HP’s personal computer business.
And even if HP prevails in its suit, Whitmore isn’t seeing much benefit: “Regardless of the outcome of this particular suit, we expect HP-UX customers to continue fleeing what is increasingly looking like a dead platform — creating a major headwind for HP’s medium-term earnings.” Ouch.
June 06, 2012
Migrations replacing apps, working in-house
3000 migrations are continuing at companies that choose to follow one of two paths. At the Visalia school district in California, operations for its 40 schools will continue to be served by the QSS K-12 applications they've used on 3000s. But IT manager Al Foytek said that Visalia will be following the QSS customers who are moving to the Linux version of the app.
"We will be moving as soon as that's ready, and the front runners are poised for this year," Foytek said. "We won't be in the first wave or two." Schools have a narrow window during the year to make such a transition, typically in the summer between school years. "July 1 would be the ideal time," he said.
He added that Visalia won't move this year and is not likely to make its transition next summer, which would mean its 3000 apps may be migrated to the Linux version of QSS software by 2014.
Customers with packaged applications see advantages to migration beyond just having commodity hardware supplies. Foytek said that moving to an SQL database is also a plus. But QSS has engineered that change for the app, rather than an outside firm selling services to the district. QSS adopted the Postgres SQL database for the Linux version of its 3000 app. Founder Duane Percox has hired key developers from HP's labs such as Jeff Vance and Mark Bixby to do work on the new app's technology.
Foytek said the decision to leave the migration engineering to his packaged app vendor was easy. "A migration of a major system like this is very painful," he said. "QSS provides the lowest cost, by far, solution for schools. Their next competitor is twice as expensive. They manage to hold their prices for software as well as support phenomenally low. If that wasn't true, a lot of us wouldn't still be on the HP 3000. Theirs is an application system that works. Similar systems don't have as many refinements and reporting."
In-house applications — which are best understood by staff rather than service consultants — don't provide the migrations they once did. At the MMFab company in the Los Angeles South Bay area, the maker of fabrics is migrating to a fresh packaged app on another platform. The assistance will be coming from the app vendor, in large measure.
"We aren't converting the old system," said system manager Dave Powell. "There's no business for any of the traditional MPE migration solution providers, so we won't show up on any of their business results. The HP 3000 may keep running for quite a while for history lookups. We aren't migrating historical data like invoices.
"The plan is to move everything off the 3000. Our in-house mail system is separate enough that we could run it without the rest, but I think they are planning to switch to plain-old email — compared to a lot of our custom apps, moving off our mail system should be easy. Everyone has email too, and the in-house stuff is just for some special purposes."
Powell, who's been working on the 3000 30 years, said that programs to send data to the new system regarding inventory and customer files are done and tested. "They just need to run one last time, closer to switchover day." The system will make the leap from traditional 3000 software — only MPEX is running alongside the COBOL that MMFab's developers have customized — to the cloud.
At MMFab, production differs from most manufacturers. "Production to us is placing an order for one of our designs to be made for us, then keeping track of expected completion date, ETA, shortages, quality problems, do-overs, and so on," he said. "It's much different than what I expect most other companies do — no bill-of-materials, for example."
This kind of production — order, invoicing, and sales commissions — all are on the HP 3000. AR, AP and GL live in an old Windows-based package, Powell adds, which is also being dumped. The Windows transition looks easy in relation to the HP 3000 migration already underway. But the nature of such migrations to packaged apps leaves Powell skeptical about a swift cutover.
"The people selling and setting up the new package say things will be ready in by June. I don't believe it," he said. "There's custom programming that hasn't been finished, much less tested, for stuff like designer royalties that their package doesn't handle. User training is in its infancy."
Although the migration at MMFab has eliminated the chance for provider service, the company didn't wear blinders about its method to migrate. In 2011 Powell invited the community's migration vendors to bid the business.
"Consultants with experience with emulation are welcome to contact me to share experiences and fish for future employmment," he said back then in a post to the 3000 newsgroup.
"Whatever we do, it will probably involve more work than I can do myself. Solution providers are welcome to contact me with promises that they can do everything but tie my shoelaces — and especially with promises to enhance their products as needed to do whatever I find out the hard way that they cannot do."
The wisdom from decades of 3000 experience still has value in a migration, contributions which might come from either inside or outside of a shop. Power of Sector7 said the community has always been a pleasure to engage in such large projects.
"We love the old HP 3000 guys," he said. "In today's software world, endless redevelopment is normal. Us old timers instinctively know how to do the job right, and do it right the first time. That is the key to migrating applications — using engineers who just know what to do."
May 14, 2012
Powerhouse drives users toward transition
Fourth generation languages may well be an artifact of a classic time in development, but 4GL code still powers some 3000 applications in enterprises. Powerhouse is the 4GL with the widest installed base, and some of its users are wondering how much time is left on the clock for this advanced development tool.
After its genesis as the Canadian company Quasar, Cognos released and developed this range of tools during the '70s and '80s for HP 3000 reporting, screen design, data dictionary work and applications. At first the Quiz report writer ran standalone on thousands of HP systems, including a bundle as a part of MANMAN's services. But when QDesign, Quick and QTP made their way into companies along with Powerhouse, the whole lineup wrapped itself around commercial apps such as the Amisys/3000 healthcare software -- plus many an in-house 3000 app.
Powerhouse users aren't holding out much hope for improvements to the tool which was purchased by IBM in 2007 along with Cognos. This Advanced Development Tool software didn't drive the IBM acquisition -- the Cognos Business Intelligence tools motivated the purchase. Established Cognos managers retort that ADT continues to produce profits for this business unit. Support contracts for even the smallest of HP 3000s run more than $500 monthly, revenue paid for service now called Vintage Support.
The good news is that Powerhouse for MPE/iX has outlasted Powerhouse for the IBM AS/400, in any vintage. But the language labors under the same yoke that COBOL carries, a profile of a tool built for another time. "The PowerHouse business has to have seen substantial decline for IBM over the years," said Vaughn Smith, a consultant in Canada. "How many more sites can convert to other development environments, reducing IBM's revenue, before they shut down Cognos?"
Smith wrote on a Powerhouse mailing list that "With the exception of Unix and Windows, Powerhouse runs on antiquated hardware." This consultant working with OpenVMS took the official HP view of the 3000, saying the "3000 MPE is done; HP offers help to move these sites to Unix or Windows platforms." (Those 3000 vintage support customers might want to correct his view.)
But even community members with direct 3000 migration exerience see Powerhouse as a waypoint instead of a destination, even when a system built in the '80s would cost millions to replace. Charles Finley of Transformix reported that a high-dollar replacement cost "does not ensure anything" about application longevity.
One prospect hired their web content developer to "completely replace" a working application in six months, because the developers assured them that the 300-program project could be replaced in that amount of time. This was done against the advice of the existing developer and, initially, without consulting her. Four months into the project the web developer asked the programmer for a printout of the database structures. They were TurboIMAGE schemas, so they needed the HP 3000 developer to explain them. The VP running the project who'd hired the web developers suggested that they print out all of the data in the database and have volunteers do the data entry. When the programmer pointed out that there could be lots of errors, she stopped getting invited to the meetings.
I last heard that the system was finally going into testing two years late. What did that cost? This was a non-profit and they did it to save money! Also, as an extra incentive they would have nice web screens instead of those dull terminal screens.
Finley didn't mention the prospect by name, but those details match up with the migration situation in 2010 at the US Cat Fanciers Association.
Costs to carry Powerhouse forward are not a show-stopper for some companies leaving the HP 3000 -- an article in our print edition this month examines such a shift toward Powerhouse on Linux. But the world has changed a lot since the Cognos products were re-engineered in the late '90s to include separate versions for the Web and the Axiant Windows toolset. Much of the product line demands runtime licenses.
One developer who's preparing to make a move to Oracle on Windows and Linux outlined his work, as well as the reasons for doing it. "Once we are fully converted, I expect to start replacing QTP extracts with Oracle stored procedures," said Ken Langendock, "then replace screens with an HTML version that simply gets the data."
I believe, at the end of the day:
1. There are only going to be three databases left: Oracle, MySQL and SQL Server.
2.There are only going to be two OS left: Windows and Linux, because they can be implemented rather inexpensively.
3. There will only be one look and feel for all applications: Web
If Cognos wanted to get back into the running, they would have to follow these assumptions and revamp (combine) all the products into one suite and stop charging for Runtime licenses. They would then have a leg up on all the other tools with their Dictionary, but I don’t see this happening.
May 07, 2012
App replacement may spur emulator evals
The 3000 community continues to examine the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator from a capital cost perspective. It sounds like a costly investment for a customer who's already working on a limited budget. But there's some evidence from migration prospects that the $50-$100K price tag for the software and Intel hardware may be a price that can bridge the timeline to app replacement.
Users and managers in the Powerhouse community have been studying the future of remaining with HP 3000s, some 16 months into a period where Hewlett-Packard stopped providing support for the OS and hardware it created. While the debate included one "get off, anyway" opinion -- a consultant said Powerhouse users should "put a bullet in this OS and IMAGE database and move on" -- another view is that the emulator might be a stopgap for replacements.
Anne Quirke of the Dublin, Ireland consultancy Uturn Ltd. said that one client prefers to replace an app now on the 3000, instead of migrating it. Replacement is a different set of costs and efforts than lift and shifting business apps. But it still might spur some attention during plans to sustain computing resources.
Reducing these risks around the PA-RISC iron is a reason cited for the move away from the 3000 platform and MPE/iX. Quirke said the company considers the Stromasys product "one option we are considering looking into." That's language which suggests months may pass before that 3000 could be replaced with an emulator. But hardware issues rise up during the examinations of 3000 futures.
Migration is not an option for a long, long list of reasons; replacement to a new application is preferred. The time-line to these new applications is not directly in our control, so in the meantime we are looking at options to reduce the risk associated to the hardware.
"We are have been in situations where we have to wait and pray that replacement parts can be found," Quirke said, "or we rob parts from test boxes. As hardware availability and support is a key factor which brings the migration discussion to the fore, virtualization, on paper, offers some solution."
April 27, 2012
3000 system census surprises in UK
At a recent 3000 webinar among CAMUS user group members, the Talk Soup Q&A brushed across the 2011 HP3000 Reunion. While the talk examined activity of 2012, one attendee on the conference call could be heard saying, "Not another reunion!" It's a tiresome but expected response to the scope of the 3000 population.
On one side stand the users and managers who employ an HP 3000 in everyday production. They're grateful for any relevant information to keep 3000s running well and updated as much as possible. These community members don't often ask how many systems are still running. For some, another Reunion would be a chance to attend an event they couldn't enjoy because of a 2011 conflict.
Other HP 3000 managers want to view the community as a seriously shrunken village. They've made the choice to migrate, or they can't find work any longer that taps their MPE and 3000 skills. Perhaps they do business in the community and haven't had new revenue in a long while. Other opportunities call, so they're eager to reinforce their choice to move away.
However, we sometimes encounter census trail-posts that lead away from the "too small to be relevant" viewpoints. In the UK one prominent community member had a trail blaze that opened their eyes about who might still remain in the homesteading populace.Like most of these reports, it came by way of a third party. One vendor said he saw a support provider's list of 3000 sites and spotted suprising totals.
"There were twice the number of customers on that single vendor's list as I suspected were in the entirety of the UK," he said.
One thing that might well stall migrations this year -- and sustain that populace -- is the emergence of the HPA/3000 emulator product. This virtualization engine won't even have to show much success at this point in the 3000's life. With a solution other than migration on the horizon, the lean-budgeted 3000 users will have something to use as a risk-aversion strategy. A company with concerns over hardware availability or costs will believe that hosting MPE on commodity hardware resolves those problems.
Whether that's reasonable or not remains to be proven. In the short term, the hardware suppliers to the community will survive, because the costs of shrink-wrapped replacement components will remain well below the fee to install HPA/3000. Even a cloud-based deployment will cost more than fresher hardware with HP's badge. Given enough time, the $25,000 entry to that commodity solution may seem a better long-term strategy.
It's a common belief that a 3000 emulator arrived too late to make a difference in the market. But learning that twice as many customers remain online as expected changes that formula -- especially for each customer who's remaining a homesteader.
April 25, 2012
Continuing support key to homesteading
In a webinar last week the makers of the HPA/3000 Charon virtualizing engine (read: emulator) took questions from attendees about licensing. Not the license of MPE/iX (already in place from HP) or licensing their product with customers (something they'd love to do once a customer commits. Soon, we were told.)
The licensing issue in play is how to get a software vendor to embrace use of their product on HPA/3000. For some companies this is an automatic. They generally don't charge for upgrades and haven't created anything that needs special handling inside MPE/iX. Terry Floyd of the Support Group sells software that his company has crafted. His customer, Ed Stein of Magicaire, is on the short list for early adoption of HPA/3000.
"I don’t write any tricky stuff," Floyd said. "We don’t have anything that needs testing. If Ed could get a box with Charon running, our test would be a full month-end close (dozens of jobs) and an MRP run. I think he’ll do a very thorough job – that’s his nature."
Some vendors, especially app suppliers, might have a different approach. The key to getting software from HP iron onto the emulator may well be keeping up support. 3000 software support contracts can be left behind while trimming budgets. This can present a problem that can be fixed by restarting support -- which is a good idea anyway, if the 3000 is mission-critical.The flow of support money is tricky. For some 3000s this expense will need to be justified. Floyd sketches out the issues, both from the customer's point of view as well as software vendors who still support 3000s.
Nobody who's on support will have any problems with a vendor. So the real crux is: are you on support with each vendor? If not -- in Ed’s case we can use Cognos for an example -- they probably are not going to be very concerned that they intend to charge you to get back on support. Perhaps a considerable amount. As someone who lives on support income, I guess I can feel their pain, But we have never charged anyone extra for back support if they left us, then came back later.
What is somewhat comparable in our arena is charging higher rates to do any work for MANMAN users not on our support contract. That is our policy and we haven’t broken it yet. I guess some would think that is hard-nosed, but if Ed has been off support for, let’s say, 10 years on Cognos' Quiz and now wants to go back on support with them, they might begin the negotiation with a charge of the full 10 years back support, Just to get his attention. I can see -- for some HP 3000 users not on support with some vendors -- why this is going to end up being an “every man for himself” negotiation process.
April 23, 2012
Federal program helps 3000 IT pro re-train
HP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic tooset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After a year of study, he hasn't been spending his own money.
"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."
Proctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing in 2010 and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."
Last year an extension of the Trade Act was signed into US law by President Obama in one of the few bills that escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.Proctor didn't believe that his 3000 experience helped in gaining more modern IT skills -- except for his years as an analyst.
I wouldn't say that the HP 3000 skills helped, but the analytical/programmer skills did. All 22.5 years at Boeing were on the HP 3000 (Fortran) and I had a couple of years on it before. as well as Burroughs (now Unisys) using COBOL. The hardest class for me was C#; COBOL and Fortran were so similar, but C# was nothing like that. The other classes were interesting and fun for me -- challenging, but still fun.
Like anybody well-versed in system management and coding under MPE, he'd like to land a job in a business using a 3000. "With so much HP 3000 experience under my belt, I'd feel a lot more comfortable and ready to dive in with another HP 3000 shop," he said. "I also have all the soft skills -- investigative, detail oriented -- that I need."
Learning what Proctor called "21st century technology" can help 3000 veterans who've seen their positions eliminated. There's a LinkedIn Group devoted to HP 3000 Jobs with more resources and discussion. It's a subgroup of Bill and Dave's Excellent Machine, devoted to the HP experience. Like the HP 3000 Community Group, (now 475 members strong) you request membership -- but a 3000 pro sees nearly-automatic acceptance in these groups.
April 16, 2012
Migration racks up list of emulated tasks
Some HP 3000s which remain in service are using many MPE nuances to get their jobs accomplished. Each of these tasks needs to be emulated in a migration away from the server. Even as companies embark on migrations to reduce risks, the list of tasks that they hope to replicate from their in-house apps can be surprising.
Such is the case at MM Fab, a fabric manufacturer in LA's South Bay Area. The 3000 shop is now taking its first year of steps off the system, developed and managed by Dave Powell. He shared a list of the things that an emulator must do if it were to succeed at replacing HP's 3000 hardware at his shop. The list also serves as a extensive catalog of the capabilites required of any new operating environment.
"We are thinking about migrating," Powell shared, months before the decision was made. "Which means we have to think about the choice between buying a package vs some form of emulation. Which means I could use some assurance that the [3000 hardware] emulation tools out there would actually work for us."
I can't afford to take this for granted because our system uses some rare features and does unusual things. Lots of them. Example: we do lots of tricky escape-code screen handling (mostly for point-and-shoot, drill down inquiries) that breaks some terminal emulators. Reflection 10.0 works, as does Minisoft WS92 v5.4 and actual terminals from 262x on, but last I checked, Minisoft Secure92 fails big-time. Not trying to make Minisoft look bad, but I need to make the point that software that works elsewhere may not work for us.
"We never cared about portabililty," Powell said, "because we never had any intention of moving to any other platform." From such situations are customers made for the Stromasys virtualization engine. If you're uncertain of whether you're using any MPE nuances in your application, it's a good strategy to get an evaluation of what's in production use today. Even if you're not migrating.Powell said he doesn't think terminal emulation will be a big migration issue. In an emulation, "I think we could just keep on using the two products that work -- I just need to emphasize that we are off the beaten track, feature-wise."
Since there won't be as much room for all the details of MM Fab's custom-code tricks in our printed edition, we thought we'd put them on display here. This list might be useful to let you see if any of this is working inside your in-house apps. For the record, Stromasys says that anything that's working on MPE today will work in its emulator. The only exceptions they've found were HP's internals diagnotics, like SHOWCLOCKS.
A new platform/replacement app would have to embrace the top-level abilities in Powell's custom-code list. It's the kind of situation that makes some 3000 customers a poor fit for a migration, because these nuances were built over more than 20 years of IT budgets. A migration or replacement would address these all at once -- a cost structure that many 3000 shops cannot endure today.
Powell's MPE magic:
Job queues with separate job limits.
Smart :pause command (wait up to 'x' seconds for that job to log off).
MPE functions like finfo and jinfo.
User functions. Some of them are extra date / calendar routines beyond the built-in ones, like "how many days till end-of-month?" or "how many work-days in the next 'n' days?" and "how many months old is this file?"
MPE variables. User variables plus system variables like hpdatetime, hpaccount, hpfile, hpcpusecs, hpjobcount, hpstreamedby.
Message files / circular files / temp files, including temp message files and temp circular files.
Lots of command files, with tricks like with multiple entry points, input or output or both redirected to files, etc. Command files that use :echo to build a job (in a temp file) which they then stream. (I always wanted a way to have UDCs/command-files run offline, or feed parms into a job like UDCs do, so I finally rolled my own).
Jobs that use :echo or :print to build command-file subroutines (also in temp files), which they can then call lots of times with different parms, like running the same program over and over with one cmd-file parm becoming the info that is passed to the program to tell it what to report, another parm becoming part of the file name where it stores the report output, and another parm telling it who to email the report to.
Lots of do-it-yourself logging, with overglorified :echo to circular files, so I don't need to worry about the logs getting too big.
VPlus, with heavy use of vchangefield in newer apps, and family-of-forms in older ones, both to dynamically make some fields inputable and others display-only, changing the display enhancements so users can see which is which.
Creative escape codes in vplus apps to do things that VPlus didn't do as nicely as we wanted, mostly setting function-key labels and screen-printing.
Lots of escape sequences in non-VPlus terminal IO, mostly in character mode.
Extra terminal control features like turning echo on and off, time-out reads, etc. (Hint: escape codes that cause the terminal to send data back to the computer may work most of the time, but don't get solid unless echo is off. Even so, if something goes wrong you don't want the computer to wait forever for an answer).
Lots of env-files for both lasers and old impact printers, mostly changing orientation, print-size and lines per inch so the same report can print on either type of printer. Some reports have a run-time way to tell them how many lines per page, so by coordinating that with env-files I can have a report that normally does 132-column 60 lines do really-small-print portrait mode 124 lines per page on a laser. Also some tray-selection in env-files.
Do-it-yourself fancy laser-printed invoices with legalese in very-tiny print, company name in big print, etc. No special forms package here, just me spending quality time with the PCL documentation.
Converting simple report output to PC-readable format. That's a one-liner on our 3000 with my HP2RTF command file. The new system doesn't have to use RTF, but it does have support a common PC-readable format, has to preserve/translate HP-style line-spacing and page-breaks, and has to support changing print-size and line spacing so the PC file will look normal on screen and printed page. And it has to be easy to invoke in batch.
Email reports. This is also a one-liner here, thanks to a set of command-files I have wrapped around a nifty mail program originally from Telamon. The command files provide logging, improved error-checking, distribution lists, and even automatic retries at gradually-increasing intervals if there is an internet connection problem. I would like to keep that functionality. If possible I'd like to keep the outer layers of my command files, wrapped around whatever mail-sending pgm exists on a new system.
Mass file rename/delete/print/email, with ability to select by date, file age, file size, etc. Some use MPEX, others use my own routines (listf into a file, read it back, maybe call finfo).
IMAGE b-tree dbfinds.
COBOL macros. Intrinsics like command. Any and every HP extension that ever seemed helpful over the last 30 years.
April 11, 2012
Changing IP Addresses for HP 3000s
I need to change the IP address of our HP 3000 in the near future, and it's been over 10 years since I've done anything like this. Here's what I think needs to be done:
Put in the network interface, (LAN1), then press Config Network
Enter the new IP address
Tracy Johnson replies:
I would go with Unguided Config. Guided may change things (besides the IP address) to defaults that may have modified over the last 10 years.
Craig Lalley adds:
Depending on the old IP address and the new IP address, you may want to also change the subnet, and the gateway. The gateway can be accessed by hitting F4 for Internet. The gateway is found at the path NETXPORT.NI.LAN.INTERNET
If you are making the change because of a new switch/router, make sure the network guys configure the port for the HP 3000 correctly. In other words, if you have a 100MB card, make sure it is set to 100MB/full duplex and do the same on the HP 3000, and turn off auto negotiate.
Independent IT consultant Al Nizzardini adds that creating a new System Load Tape is an important part of the process. Gilles Schipper of indie support company GSA also explained a key step.
After making the change via NMMGR and validating both netexport and DTS, you need to:
to actually effect the change
April 10, 2012
Manufacturers pull HP off support lines
CAMUS director Michael Anderson, an IT consultant in the Bay Area and a leader of that MRP/ERP users group, was an IT projects manager and applications manager at manufacturers Tencor and ThermaWave, both using HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard is off the radar at most of these manufacturing sites.
“As far as HP support for the HP 3000, I dropped mine a couple months after they announced the end-of-life,” Anderson said of the period in 2002 where he became Enterprise Wide Applications Manager at ThermaWave. “What are you spending money for at that point? Long term there was not going to be any meaningful development for MANMAN, so there would also be no demand from the application for new features in MPE or IMAGE. My employer was going through tough times and really needed the $58,000 in savings.
“As long as the old hardware continued to work and you had a good boot tape, what could HP provide that third parties didn’t already provide better for less? The damage is done and most of the HP support customers are gone. Maybe if they had announced there would be some support in the afterlife there would be more users holding on.”
User groups, which have some of the most seasoned managers in the community, offer a better application and system resource. “On the other hand, for the companies that still use MANMAN on HP 3000s, CAMUS is still here to provide a supportive environment and forum for knowledge exchange,” Anderson said. “But it’s getting pretty quiet.”
While HP’s not making much noise on these soft feints into a market that it’s abandoned, there’s no doubting the attempts will continue, however unsuccessful. MB Foster’s Birket Foster predicted back in 2009 that HP would become a non-entity in the support field by now.“Does the market miss the final level of HP’s 3000 support? No, these customers are already working with independent companies,” Foster said. “I’m sure that the only thing that annoys those [independent providers] is that HP keeps taking money for support. The long support tail of HP has already moved resources away from the 3000.”
Off the books, however, the HP methods and pricing are still being applied in some places. “They’re still doing support for some customers under nondisclosure because they don’t want the unwashed masses to know,” Foster said. “They’re willing to ensure there’s a body providing support to those customers. It’s something they’ve managed, to keep employees on for an extra period of time to cover some of the support needs for some larger, more strategic customers. But HP is also working hard to ensure those customers have a plan to move off.”
“They’re definitely there on the hardware side of 3000 support,” Foster said. “They’re offering support, but for certain devices. The list is growing smaller. When you get an HP renewal, it now says, ‘Except for these devices,’ with another set of devices falling off the list. For operating system support, I’m sure you can get it if you’re paying enough money.”
“Some of the people who used to work on the 3000 are still working inside HP. They’re very experienced and support certain customers. But I would say HP’s definitely reduced the number of personnel skilled in HP 3000 support.”
The departure of HP from the field follows a pattern of receding that started long before the vendor closed up its 3000 labs. At the MANMAN and 3000 support provider The Support Group, “We felt like we were supporting legacy products already in 2001,” says founder Terry Floyd. “Most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn’t change our plans much.”
April 09, 2012
CAMUS webinar includes emulator update
The CAMUS ERP/MRP users group is hosting an online meeting in about a week, on April 17 starting at 11:30 EDT. CAMUS board member Michael Anderson is taking registrations for that Tuesday's call-in and web briefing, one which includes an update from the makers of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.
Stromasys has added an HP 3000 business manager, Paul Taffel, who will brief attendees on this HP 3000 emulator. Taffel's got airtime on the docket through 1 PM. A demonstration is promised. The meeting is open to anyone who registers with Anderson, by sending him an email. He'll reply with login and call-in details.
In the hour following the Stromasys briefing, users who are managing VMS sites will share information in a Talk Soup about the track record of the Charon technology in the DEC world. The first ERP-MRP production work for the emulator took place in the Alpha and VAX community. Some CAMUS members have already shared high praise for the software's ability to mimic HP hardware (on VMS systems) using Intel PC systems. What's changed since those Charon versions is the hosting environment. It's now Linux instead of Windows.
Anderson says this spring's premiere of the HPA/3000 offer may not fit the users of older, smaller 3000s. The first release of HPA/3000 is only matching A-Class 400MhZ horsepower. Stromasys has proven lab resources to boost that. The rollout schedule promises an N-Class-powered, multiple processor version by sometime after July 1, but sold at a price above $50,000.Anderson has said that based on the first set of prices, he doubts there's enough of an offer yet from Stromasys to spark growth of MPE application use during 2012.
"I don't see the emulator swelling the ranks of MPE or application users," Anderson said. "I think they are mistaking the ardor of the enthusiast as market demand."
"I think there's a lot of interest in the emulator for contractors who can finally put a development system into their home office," he added. "I don't think we're to the point yet when you can't get parts to keep old hardware running — just rob them from an equivalent HP 9000."
There's also a general discussion of CAMUS activities set for the meeting. Setup for the webinar is scheduled to start at 11:15, to ensure smooth connections.
March 27, 2012
Protecting HP 3000s Using Linux
While HP 3000 sites deploy Linux servers this year, some of them are using the environment as a buffer for 3000s which need to be in range of the Internet. James Byrne, who's hosting the hp3000links.com website as well as managing IT project for Harte & Lyne, outlined his setup to use Linux for 3000 protection.
Byrne has his HP 3000s and the internet buffered by a dual-homed Linux box in front of the HP 3000, using that to provide firewall, SSH, and proxy services. He describes his setup a fairly primitive (where GW/FW=gateway/firewall):
Internet-> GW/FW <-> Eth0:Linux:Eth1 <-> HP 3000
The network connection to the gateway/firewall provides our public routable access. The link between the Linux front-end host and the HP 3000 is a x-over cable using a 192.168.0.0 block address. Direct network connections to the HP 3000 NIC are physically impossible. This ensures physical network security over the non-encrypted portion of the network (for SSH access).We use a CentOS-5 based host running IPTables, Squid, OpenSSH, VSftpd, and Denyhosts as the front-end to the HP 3000. IPTables is configured to log and drop for 7 days all addresses performing obvious port scans. IPTables similarly counts, logs and blocks IP having excessive failed connection attempts on visible ports.
There are a wide assortment of Linux-based firewall appliance distributions which may simplify set up somewhat for novice users. Alternatively, one can simply use a mainstream Linux distribution, or a derivative like RHEL/CentOS or Debian/Ubuntu, and add and configure the packages desired.
Denyhosts scans the logs for other issues and really does not add much to our setup. However, Denyhosts can be used to do itself everything I have chosen to do in IPTables. Therefore, one may concentrate on learning the configuration of just Denyhosts and leave IPTables configuration to the minimum necessary to allow access.
The proxy server handles FTP but we do not allow FTP access to the HP 3000 at all -- so I could not tell you if we have that set up correctly or not. We have it there in case the need ever arises.
The intellectual load of dealing with these things is non trivial. However, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Once the front-end is setup ,we run logwatch to send daily reports on connections and consider whether further configuration changes are necessary.
March 06, 2012
Assisting Off the 3000, En Route to Linux
A worldwide travel and healthcare insurer is making the move off their HP 3000 starting this year. While that's not remarkable, the destination is notable. Europ Assistance is starting the work to replace its MPE host with a Linux system, right down to considering a Powerhouse license re-purchase.
Adrian Hudson is part of the IT team at Europ, a firm which sells insurance for travels as well as supplemental healthcare. Since these policies are purchased one-off, as the UK-based firm might say, customers pay for them with credit cards. That's the spark to replace the HP 3000 with Linux, Hudson says.
"As Europ Assistance is involved in the Payment Card Industry, one of the key drivers for the migration away from the 3000 is regulatory compliance," he reported. The PCI regulations have been a challenge for some companies to master using the 3000. Last year Hudson was researching a way to permit the HP 3000 to process payment card information using Secure File Transfer Protocol. SFTP was not entirely supported by HP prior to the Hewlett-Packard lab closing in 2008. Hudson was diligently working on a way to involve the 3000 in these data transfers. The alternative, to use intermediate SFTP support on non-MPE servers, turned out to be the solution.
"We ended up piggy-backing files through a Windows server with SFTP installed," he said, "and then FTPing them to and from the 3000." Now the operations once handled by that 3000 are heading to a Linux server. Hudson is investigating the cost of keeping Powerhouse in place on the application. It's one of the simpler ways to migrate code to an alternative platform.One of the first steps, with the most exciting outcome, is discovering what the charge to moving to Linux will be on the Cognos price list. In the years since Europ Assistance first bought Powerhouse, Cognos has become a part of IBM. The 4GL -- it's called an Advanced Development Tool -- is licensed differently for Linux developers than on the MPE/iX systems.
We received a quote from IBM and it is for a license per ‘named’ developer. I understand the licensing structure is now only for a development license and there is then no need for a ‘Production’ license.
In the past, one would buy a Full License for the Development machine and a Runtime (maybe with reporting) for the Production box, and I believe there was no limitation on the number of users.
The Powerhouse product manager Bob Deskin explains that the definition of user under Linux Powerhouse has shifted only slightly from the classic 3000 terms.
The license model has not changed very much. What you're probably thinking of is the HP 3000-MPE/iX platform, where we would typically license by machine size. Therefore, it was unlimited users for however many you could run on that machine. With other platforms, the approach was to use the number of users. In most cases this became the number of sessions, rather than unique named users. In other words, if a user opened two terminal emulator windows on a PC, that would count as two sessions and two users. The only exception was PowerHouse for Windows, where it was assumed that there was only one user.
Under IBM, instead of sessions, it is truly a concurrent user. And further, they specify named user as in unique user. They do not expect you to name all the users. So under IBM, the above scenario of a single user opening two sessions would only count as one concurrent named user.
There is still a distinction between development and runtime, but it depends on the platform and use. If someone purchases a single development license on Windows, there is no need for anything else. It's a single-user machine. But if you buy a single development license on a Linux server, you require runtime licenses for your users.
License structuring for other development tools on Linux may not require runtime purchases as a matter of course. But it's interesting to note that Powerhouse Linux demands this extra cost, while Powerhouse Windows doesn't. Many migrating HP 3000 sites have chosen Windows as their alternative platform. However, of late many others are looking at Linux -- with its improved and still-enhancing enterprise features -- as their best alternate to MPE/iX reliability. IBM/Cognos might be choosing its license terms in response to the enterprise's migration to Linux. Managers routinely point at Linux's affordability as important to their choice, however.
The runtime licenses you didn't need on an HP 3000 are required for Powerhouse Linux. The overall cost is likely to be less. MPE/iX licenses for Powerhouse were legendary for their cost -- support alone can easily be five figures a year -- and inflexibility during upgrades. Current customers like Europ Assistance, with services and servers on five continents, may be considering how many runtime purchases they can afford to purchase for what was supposed to be a more affordable platform.
Hans-Ole Kaae, an IT consultant, also wants to understand these costs to migrate MPE/iX-based Powerhouse to Linux. "If you have, say, a new or a current customer, heading for Linux or Unix, is this all it takes these days: X developer licenses and Y run-time licenses -- plus, of course, X + Y data access licenses?" Deskin says that's about it.
You may need an extra runtime if you're running batch jobs as a separate user. And data access is per source. So if you're using C-ISAM and Oracle, you would need two data access per user.
Also note that IBM does not distinguish between platform. If you're on HP-UX and move to Linux, you can move the existing concurrent user licenses over as long as you don't exceed the overall entitlement.
Deskin said nothing on the Powerhouse-L mailing list about moving MPE/iX licenses over, because the HP 3000 Powerhouse was licensed by system, not by user. There may be a need for custom quoting to determine how much Powerhouse on Linux will cost. There's support to be paid on every extra license, after all.
February 27, 2012
3000 support demands spare inventory
Independent service providers have signed up most of the 3000 homesteaders by now, according to Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci. The CEO still runs across the occassional shop served by HP out of habit. A big share of the available service contracts have already been passed to independent companies, however, according to an article in our in-the-mail February NewsWire print issue.
But using an independent firm for support is a smart deal only if the provider has ample spare parts allocated to your site, Suraci said. A system administrator who manages the Series 969 at Hostess Brands (how's that for a large homesteading company -- Twinkies anyone?) needed an HP A5418A fiber router (at left) to replace a blown device. The indie support company serving Hostess didn't have one, so Joe Barnett went looking on the 3000-L mailing list himself. He needed to maintain connectivity to his VA7410 array, or face rebuilding the array from backup tapes.
Solutions and suggestions trickled in -- including the purchase of one 5814A for sale on eBay "that might not rewritable," because it wasn't the MPE -003 model. What's more, that vanilla unit ships on 4-14 days delivery time, according to the eBay listing. Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed at a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP router.
The easy questions to answer for a client are "Can you supply me support 24x7?" or "What references will you give me from your customers?" Harder questions are "Where do you get your answers from for MPE questions?" Or even, "Do you have support experts in the 3000 who can be at my site in less than a day?"
How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.
But Suraci was posing one of the harder questions. "Here are my hardware devices: do you have spares in stock you're setting aside for my account?" Hardware doesn't break down much in the 3000 world. But a fiber router is not a 3000-specific HP part. Hewlett-Packard got out of the support business for 3000s for lots of reasons, but one constant reason was that 3000-related spare parts got scarce in the HP supply chain.
The economy has recovered a bit, Suraci said, so he suggested now's the time to ask these hard questions. "It might be time for everyone to review their support provider, and maybe look a little deeper than what they charge for service," he said. "In many cases, you get what you pay for. Response time, parts availability, and legitimate HPSUSAN updates all need to be addressed in advance of signing on the dotted line. It's one thing to be budget conscious, and a whole other to be blinded by it."
Even when a last-minute email could solve a parts problem -- and it looked like Barnett might have gotten lucky on locating a spare router -- that's not a reliable support plan. One suggestion was a Crossroads SA-40 switch, but Craig Lalley notes that you can't boot a 3000 via the Crossroads device. He had to hook up a Mod 20 storage unit for boot-ups only.
Jack Connor, who does 3000 support work for Abtech, seconded Suraci's advice. "I couldn't agree more. Costing out the spares and having them available should be part of the contract."
February 21, 2012
Respect MPE spooler, even as you replace it
Migration transitions have an unexpected byproduct: They make managers appreciate the goodness that HP bundled into MPE/iX and the 3000. The included spooler is a great example of functionality which has a extra cost to replace in a new environment. No, not even Unix can supply the same abilities -- and that's the word from one of the HP community's leading Unix gurus.
Bill Hassell spread the word about HP-UX treasures for years from his own consultancy. Now he's working for SourceDirect as a Senior Sysadmin expert and posting to the LinkedIn HP-UX group. A migration project just finishing up drew Hassell's notice, when the project's manager noted Unix tools weren't performing at enterprise levels. Hassell said HP-UX doesn't filter many print jobs.
MPE has an enterprise level print spooler, while HP-UX has very primitive printing subsystem. hpnp (HP Network Printing) is nothing but a network card (JetDirect) configuration program. The ability to control print queues is very basic, and there is almost nothing to monitor or log print activities similar to MPE. HP-UX does not have any print job filters except for some basic PCL escape sequences such as changing the ASCII character size.
While a migrating shop might now be appreciating the MPE spooler more, some of them need a solution to replicate the 3000's built-in level of printing control. One answer to the problem might lie in using a separate Linux server to spool, because Linux supports the classic Unix CUPS print software much better than HP-UX.The above was Glen Kilpatrick's idea. He's a Senior Response Center Engineer at Hewlett-Packard. Like a good support resource, Kilpatrick was a realist in solving the "where's the Unix spooler?" problem.
The "native" HP-UX scheduler / spooler doesn't use (or work like) CUPS, so if you implement such then you'll definitely have an unsupported solution (by HP anyway). Perhaps you'd be better off doing "remote printing" (look for that choice in the HP-UX System Administration Manager) to a Linux box that can run CUPS.
This advice shovels in a whole new environment to address an HP-UX weakness, however. So there's another set of solutions available from independent resources -- third-party spooling software. These extra-cost products accomodate things like default font differences between print devices, control panels, orientation and more. Michael Anderson, the consultant just finishing up a 3000 to Unix migration, pointed out these problems that rose up during the migration.
My client hired a Unix guru (very experienced, someone I have lots of respect for) to set this up a year or more ago. They recreated all the old MPE printer LDEVs and CLASS names in CUPS, and decided on the "raw" print format so the application can send whatever binary commands to the printers. Now they have some complaints about the output not being consistent. My response was, "Absolutely! There were certain functions that the MPE spooler did for you at the device class/LDEV level, and you don't have that with CUPS on HP-UX."
Anderson has faith that learning more about CUPS will uncover a solution. "One plus for CUPS, it does make the applications more portable," he added.
There's one set of tasks can solve the problem without buying a commercial spooler for Unix, but you'll need experience with adding PCL codes and control of page layouts. Hassell explains:
Yes, [on HP-UX] it's the old, "Why doesn't Printer 2 print like Printer 3?" problem. So unlike the Mighty MPE system, where there is an interface to control prepends and postpends, in HP-UX you'll be editing the model.orig directory where each printer's script is located. It just ASMOS (A Simple Matter of Scripting). The good news is that you already have experience adding these PCL codes and you understand what it takes to control logical page layouts. The model.orig directory is located in /etc/lp/interface/model.orig
What Anderson needs to accomplish in his migration is the setup of multiple config environments for each printer, all to make "an HP-UX spooler send printer init/reset instructions to the printer, before and after the print job. In other words: one or more printer names, each configured differently, yet all point to the same device."
You won't get that for HP-UX without scripting, the experts are saying, or an external spooling server under Linux, or a third party indie spooler product. If you'd like to look over the discussion in real time and add questions, it's on the LinkedIn HP-UX group's webpage. The third party software list for Unix is long. ROC Software moved into this field more than six years ago, along with its support of Maestro job scheduling for the HP 3000. ROC's products for Unix are Rhapsody and EasySpooler, for multiple-server and single-server environments, respectively. Another spooler software vendor with 3000 experience is Holland House, which sells its Unispool product for environments including Unix.
3000 managers who want third party expertise to support a vast array of print devices are well served to look at ESPUL and PrintPath spooling software from veteran 3000 developer Rich Corn at RAC Consulting. Corn's the best at controlling spoolfiles for 3000s, and he takes networked printing to a new level with PrintPath. Plenty of 3000 sites never needed to know all that his work could do, however -- because that MPE spooler looks plenty robust compared to what's inside the Unix toolbox.
February 13, 2012
Developers, users manufacture 3000 chat
A lively discussion is in play at the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, where users, developers and managers are examining issues around migrating away from an MPE application of serious size and age. Or the need to do so.
Once Randy Thon mentioned he's using MM/3000 to manage maintenance services at Cessna Aircraft -- adding that the company's looking at options to leave the 3000 -- others in the 425-member community supplied advice and counsel.
The options suggested to Thon go beyond using the new Stromasys emulator. He's pleased with the way his app is working on the 3000 for Cessna. The hardware is the burr under the aircraft maker's saddle. The migration of an app like MM/3000 is a project that taxed every aspect of the software's owner, a crew laden with ex-HP engineers.
"The eXegeSys team spent years trying to migrate MM/3000 to Unix and ultimately gave up," said Jeffrey Lyon, "and sold the intellectual property. 11.7 million lines of COBOL, SPL, and Pascal is a big beast to move."Another community member said that 11 million lines of code isn't that large, really. "The 11.7 million is not that big," said Brian Stephens. "I did a migration at Speedware; think it was about 4 million lines of COBOL and 300,000 Pascal and SPL in about a year. Our team was 14 members and we started not knowing the app. A bigger team, knowing the app, could get the MM3000 migration done in under two years."
There's also the issue of whether you would get what you were really pursuing, once you'd complete a migration. These are different issues for a software vendor than a user of its products. Have a look at the chat and chime in with your own experience about migration strategy.
February 09, 2012
Third Party Futures Revisited, Maintained
Early this morning I went on a search for modules of HP's Maintenance Management/3000 software, known as MM/3000. A new member of the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community posted his user profile on that group (425 members and counting), and Randy Thon identified his shop as an MM/MNT user. The software that's running at his HP 3000 site was first installed in 1988. Thon explained that the program suite is still functional and efficient today.
The HP 3000 is still the core of our application. We're running on a Series 969-420 and rebooted two months ago -- we last rebooted five years ago. So far the application has been very robust, averaging production application changes weekly, allowing us to change at the speed of thought to accomodate changes in the manufacturing workplace and reductions in workforce. One of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective, solid and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department.
That's the maintenance department of the Cessna Aircraft Company, the world's largest manufacturer (by aircraft sold) of general aviation airplanes. Not exactly a small enterprise, and there's clearly no software problem in Cessna's maintenance group. (Thon, by the way, is looking for fellow users of MM/3000. You can link in to him via the HP 3000 Community.)
The ease of integration which lets Cessna "change at the speed of thought" is enhanced by a third-party piece of software that improves MM/3000. Products like the eXegeSys eXegete client, a front end for the MM/3000 software, have made using 3000s to drive a big company a safe long-term investment. It's been that way for more than 30 years in your market, but there was a time when any software sold outside of HP was a budding enterprise. I located a link to illuminate this pedigree at the Adager website, where long-term 3000 resources have always had a generous harbor.
On the Adager site you can read "The Future of Third-Party Vendors In the HP3000 User Market." The paper written by Eugene Volokh of VEsoft at the end of 1983 does some in-house forecasting. Third parties are going to do well in the world of 3000 owners, Eugene figured, because the system vendor would always be missing out on improvements, innovation, or competitive pricing on software. This might seem like a no-duh theory now. But in the world of 1983, independent providers of computer solutions were anything but a slam-dunk in the world of enterprise IT.
Volokh, Adager and Robelle are among the group of software solution "Improvers" that Eugene cited in his historic paper. In essence, after 3-4 years of success from these companies the case was pretty well proven that a solid product like MPEX, Adager, Qedit or Suprtool was going to win a lot of business away from the systems makers.
But the point that you might overlook in the paper is that these three companies continue to make long-term investments in 3000s possible and profitable, even after three decades. Eugene was just taking note of a software trend that remains true today: innovation from outside the system creator builds a lifelong community of support.
In a recent talk with Birket Foster, whose MB Foster Associates celebrates 35 years of continued business this year, he reminded me of where the community turned for new ideas in the early 1980s. The third-party vendors such as Foster, Adager, VEsoft and Robelle turned out papers, published books and newsletters, and spoke at in-person user group meetings. "There was no Internet back then, so you had to meet with somebody or talk to them to get solutions," Foster said.
A user community that grew up before the Internet has stronger links to innovation and assistance than groups that grew in the 1990s (Windows) and later (Linux), member for member. I like to think that every member of your Community carries several times more power and prowess than those from younger communities. As we've grown older things have changed a lot for the prospect of independent software and service providers. Yes, HP cleared out of your market. Its departure is even making companies like Cessna revisit how long they'll use the 3000 hardware no longer built by Hewlett-Packard. (There's a virtualization opportunity to replace HP's gear in the Stromasys product.) But HP's exit has also opened up the field for those Innovators and Improvers. Just look at how the world's change reveals itself in Eugene's survey of manager purchasing habits. One retired relic of that market: The Single-Vendor Shop.
Many HP customers have an almost blind loyalty to HP. In my years as an independent vendor, too often have I heard "sorry, we don't buy third-party products." This attitude, although sometimes justified by the desire to have a more easily supportable system, is usually quite incorrect because it deprives the user of the many advantages that can be derived from independent vendor products. However, condemning it won't make it go away, and every third-party vendor must live with the fact that a substantial part of the HP3000 market is forever barred from him.
Forever turned out to last less than 30 years. The change in the third-party vendor picture, whether selling software or services, has delivered a brighter opportunity for anyone who wanted to buy from more than HP. If an application enables your company to "change at the speed of thought," then the exit of the system vendor won't inhibit the useful lifespan of that application. Now there's only two parties in this ecosystem -- you, and anyone who can enhance and support your speed of thought. The third parties have become primary players with HP's exit. Since they created their places with innovation and improvement, I prefer to to call them independents -- or indie vendors, to borrow a term from the movies. The studio system isn't turning out as many great releases 30 years later, in either cinema or computing.
February 07, 2012
Managers report on mobile access to 3000s
Put a problem or a possibility in front of HP 3000 veterans and they will share what they know about solutions, usually on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. As we first noted last week, the problem of connecting the iPad or iPhone to a 3000 -- or the possibility of enabling this most mobile of clients -- sparked some tests and suggestions from your community.
"I've had a couple of requests from sales people wanting to log on to the HP 3000 to do lookups," said Randy Stanfield of Unisource. It's a company using the HP 3000 in support of its business selling printing materials such as papers, facility supplies and equipment, and packaging materials and equipment.
Telnet, as we noted yesterday, is the state of the art for apps to communicate with the 3000. A telnet client will most probably not know anything about HP escape sequences, so the app access will be nothing more than character-mode.
Consultant and security expert Art Bahrs reports he's found a couple of telnet emulators, and wondered if WRQ might have one that runs on iOS. Alas no, and WRQ became a part of Attachmate years ago. Its Reflection line still offers NS/VT and telnet links to 3000s. Attachmate has no iOS apps, a fact that's easy to confirm because the Apple App Store is the only source of apps that don't need a jailbroken phone or pad. Jailbreaking adds power and options to these devices, but deploying jailbroken iPads to a sales force is a strategy that can change a career.
Then Bahrs checked back in to report on zaTelnet v 3.3, from zaTelnet. Bahrs and other 3000 vets are running tests to see if an iOS device can manage a 3000, access that's a few steps short of user-grade interfaces to 3000 applications.Bahrs said that he was able to test the free version of the telnet iPad app zaTelnet. Many apps are free in this category, with a more fully-featured complement for a few dollars more. "It definitely would work for a quick and dirty trouble shooting session, or to check on a job, or support a user with an abortio or such," he said.
Security is another testing point. ZaTelnet is a SSH2 client for iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. It emulates terminal VT100 and partially xterm -- enough for console programs. ZaTelnet supports SSH2 authorization by plain password, interactive password and private key file.
"SSH is an option," Bahrs said of the secure shell handler on ZaTelnet, "and it did work successfully both ways. There are times that good old fashioned telnet really does come in handy when doing testing, so I test both."
Mocha Telnet, which we mentioned yesterday, gets the job done for 3000 management. "It works perfectly on my iPhone," said support provider Gilles Schipper, "even the Lite (free) version. I can even run HP Glance on it. While it doesn't look too pretty, one can decipher the output. I set the termtype to "hp," rather than the default "vt220."
January 23, 2012
Quality, emulator futures slowing migrations
Some of the migration tool and service suppliers are expecting migrations from the 3000 to slow to a trickle this year. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet told us last week that the chance of extending the life of 3000 applications, by using the Stromasys HPA/3000 software, is going to put on the brakes for the sites that didn't have a clear future strategy for their 3000 servers.
Even without the possibility of replacing Series 900 hardware with the PC hardware plus software that starts at $15,000, most of the 3000 programs in production are not broken. They continue to do the job they were built for, although they could work faster, or connect better to new peripherals.
3000 managers wonder about these things. "Am I the only one out here?" they ask, in public forums like the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup. The answer is no, you're not the only one out there. In fact, the populace of 3000 customers is surprising, both in its numbers and the work these systems do. The brand-new chairman of the Connect user group's board has managed a 3000 shop for many years. Steve Davidek is on the record as a fan of the 3000, even while his shop at the City of Sparks has migrated numerous 3000 apps.
"The City of Sparks, Nevada will be running an HP 3000 and BiTech Payroll at least through 2011," he said on the newsgroup. "Maybe longer, as the process to convert to our new system was hampered by the amount of budget we are allowed. Then again, why the rush? It is still the best out there.""We have three-year migration plan," said another manager on the 3000 mailing list. "And I doubt my last three HP 3000 shops have a plan in place yet."
Brett Forsyth, a reseller who has more than 20 years experience in the 3000 market, did a survey of his client list and found almost 200 HP 3000s still active within the last year or so.
My number totaled 197 known active. These are HP 3000s in a range running from Micro XEs to N-Class 750 4-way systems — and those are just the ones that I know of personally. Keep in mind that some of these clients have multiple units in multiple locations.
This is the beast that just won't die, in spite of Carly [Fiorina] and all the other MBAs who thought they knew better.
The largest best-known installation might be at Navitaire, the airline billing company. Mark Ranft last reported that the enterprise which was once known as Open Skies runs more than a dozen of the largest HP 3000s that Hewlett-Packard ever sold.
We have 21 HP 3000's. Eighteen of them are the largest, fully-loaded N4000-4-750 systems you can get. We have migrations to Windows in various stages, but there is also a very real need for legacy data access after the migration. The alternative is to migrate all the data and all the archival history, and that can be costly.
These are the sites that Stromasys will hope to attract with an emulator, pushing the horsepower of every emulated system to a minimum of an A-Class, with a top end even higher than those 750s. For those companies and organizations constrained by budgets, the goal of maintaining "the best out there" may dictate a lull in the march to migration. There's nothing wrong with a lull. It gives the companies who help migrate data, or servers, a chance to polish their products and collect a few more reference success stories. We're glad to spread both kinds of stories -- emulation as well as migration -- so get in touch with us as you or your clients make news.
January 12, 2012
Oracle serves Nordstrom's ex-3000 users
Ecometry e-commerce software once landed the HP 3000 some of its best-known customers. Store chains seen in shopping malls were also among 3000 owner ranks. One of the best-regarded retailers has replaced Ecometry when the company shut down its HP 3000. Both catalog and online sales were changed at Nordstrom. The beneficiaries of the multi-step move at Nordstrom were IBM and Oracle, but HP didn't get shut out completely.
Bob Thompson of Nordstrom's Sales Systems group said that the company's HP 3000 was used only for Ecometry processing. Triggered by HP's pullout of the marketplace, the retailer started to re-evaluate its e-commerce software along with the platform. Ecometry lost out to Sterling Commerce, a software provider which has become part of IBM. The software is listed under IBM's Selling Solutions.
Thompson said the company converted all of its Ecometry data to Oracle. The Sterling solution is running on Java, Oracle and Linux, but Oracle isn't a complete winner: There are a few Solaris boxes waiting to be replaced.
The migration started with a new COBOL program. Nordstrom wrote one to read its IMAGE/SQL data and convert it into XML. Then services were developed to use the Sterling APIs to add the data to Sterling's Oracle database. Nordstrom converted two years worth of data to import into the new software. Then even more Oracle embracing commenced. Nordstrom was not rewriting or doing a lift and shift migration. The strategy called for an application replacement and data migration.
"This part involved a direct conversion of all the Ecometry IMAGE datasets, for all time, to Oracle for historical reporting," Thompson said. "The initial COBOL conversion effort took close to a year," Thompson said, "plus another four months for the second part" to create the historical reporting facility. After leaving behind the HP 3000 and Ecometry and IMAGE, HP was left with a hardware assignment to fulfill at the company. But the Business Critical Systems, running Itanium, haven't been tapped from the HP product lineup."Originally, Solaris hardware replaced the HP 3000," Thompson said, "but now most of it is Red Hat Linux on HP hardware. Ecometry was all that was run on the HP 3000 here; warehousing has been done on the IBM AS/400, and other functions were done on IBM mainframes. But now all that's mostly Unix/Linux."
Choosing Oracle wasn't really the leading option in the decision process. Sterling's software uses the database. This is a typical way for Oracle to extend its reach into a migrating HP 3000 shop. Oracle is everywhere, but so is its reputation. Jeff Kell, working at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where HP 3000s are installed, says Oracle's got its baggage.
"Oracle is more of a third-party-requirement than an elective," he said. "If our applications ran on SQL Server --- for the ones that do, we typically take that route -- or MySQL, or anything else, we would avoid the pain."
But that kind of requirement brings in a database that can soon act as important as any operating system. Eloquence database creator Mike Marxmeier has said, "Being an Oracle user is really like being a user of an operating system, not a database."
Although Oracle now has a complete database-OS-hardware stack, just like the HP 3000 does, Kell said there's not much attraction for the Sun OS or hardware. "We have a similar aversion to Solaris for many of the same reasons as we now have an aversion to HP platforms," he said. "Java is unfortunately inevitable and something we do accept, even after the Sun/Oracle transition -- much as we still use HP's printers."
January 03, 2012
Happy New Year: Now we're 400 or so
Most of our in-boxes are full and the calendar planning is in overdrive today. It's the first full day of office work for the new year in many companies, what with the Jan. 2 Monday being a holiday all over. But there's already expansion afoot in the HP 3000 community.
Specifically, the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community now numbers more than 400 members. Fresh faces include Peter Prager, whose company sells XML solutions that work with MPE/iX; AMISYS/3000 developer Blanchard Carter; Lendy Middendorf, Senior System Administrator at Smurfit-Stone; Gavin Scott, VP of development at Allegro Consultants. Some are homesteading, others have moved to new platforms. And sure, there are recruiters in there, but they do have a line on jobs.
LinkedIn is a go-to destination to expand your career options. One of our favorite members, Scott Hirsh, used to manage the HP 3000 System Manager's Special Interest Group. He's long beyond the 3000 community these days, tending to cloud computing storage needs at Nirvanix. But Hirsh said that showing a strong LinkedIn profile with plenty of connections scores you higher when an employer or partner researches you.
If you don't belong to the group, join today. There's hundreds of people there who will make good contacts for you, as well as a news feed and discussions about 3000 issues and the future we're headed for in this new year.
November 18, 2011
Last Words from First Users on HP's Pullout
All this week we've been marking a tenth anniversary of HP's ill-fated decision to pull out of the 3000 community. There have been other things happening besides the remembrances. But there's little happening in the community today that has not been altered -- for better or worse -- by the Hewlett-Packard choice. We also have a package of pullout stories coming in our November print issue, along with photos from the community's first HP3000 Reunion. But we'll wrap up our Pullout Week with stories from two key community members. Jeff Kell started and maintains the HP3000-L mailing list at utc.edu, where 3000 discussions and tech tips started in the early 90s -- and remain online today. Kell was also a SIG leader while volunteering for the Interex user group.
Then there's John Wolff, an initial board member of OpenMPE who first joined HP in 1968, and then became an HP customer in 1974, and started using the 3000 in the system's Classic days -- and so has felt some of the deepest disappointment. But he still watches the company for signs of hope.
Jeff Kell: As of the mid-1990s, essentially all of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's business applications were all legacy applications on the HP 3000, having evolved from the initial roots of the student/admissions/grades/records system developed in the mid-to-late 1970s. One was a third-party Library application added in the 1980s, but still HP 3000-based. At our peak, we hosted five production HP 3000s in our server room covering administrative, academic, and library services.
Academic usage migrated first to IBM, and later Sun-Solaris/Unix, but business applications remained intact. Traditional "internet" applications (e-mail, file transfers, Gopher and later WWW, etc) grew on Solaris and later Linux.
An initial investigation into a third-party student system led to an attempted "migration" in 1997, based on a large-ish HP-9000 quad-processor system with a sizeable disk array. Dissatisfaction with the software (relative to the 3000 legacy applications) led to a delay in implementation of all but the student financial aid and accounts receivable systems. At that time we began to "fortify the foundation" of the long-term viability of the 3000 platform. We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given these capabilities (the lack of "Internet readiness" was often used to criticize the platform).
The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning and objectives, from which we never fully recovered. The original Library application (3000-based) was moved to Linux/Oracle (where it remains to date). The partial third-party student implementation on the HP 9000 was moved to Linux/Oracle -- where it too remains to date.
Parts of our identity management system, as well as some percentage of student records which did not survive the automated migration, remain on our HP3000; but the system is essentially running "read-only" as of this year.
We do still have a number of HP's printers. But we have never since seriously considered them as a business, instructional, or even personal computing platform anymore. Caveat emptor.
John Wolff: My HP Systems Engineer at Laaco, Ltd. was visiting us a couple of weeks before the official announcement and gave some strong hints about what was coming. So the actual announcement was not so much a shock, but rather a validation of a great disappointment.
In my opinion, 2001 was a watershed year for HP, as it began a lost decade of bad management and poor decisions. The company is still struggling with a bad Board of Directors and the seemingly endless consequences that flow from that. The agonizing studies and public review of strategic questions over a period of months, like the Personal Systems Group spin-off and the TouchPad/webOS debacle, illustrate this far better than anything I could ever say. There is nothing more destructive to a business model for employees, customers and suppliers than failures of decisiveness, of commitment and exectuion.
I began my career with HP straight out of college in 1968, when HP was widely recognized as one of the best managed companies in America. Imagine how it was to transition from a proud six-year employee into a satisfied customer for 30 years. I felt like I knew a secret: That HP was a terrific vendor with great products and strong support that was making my efforts on behalf of our company a success.
My company was primarily in the business of owning and operating private clubs when I started with Laaco in 1974. We developed a custom club system on HP 9830s, which we used until 1986. Beginning in 1982 we started developing a new system on a Classic HP 3000/44 and started using it for production some 25 years ago. Our custom application continued to grow with continuous enhancements over the years, while the hardware was upgraded seamlessly to a Series 48, Series 58, Series 70 and finally to a PA-RISC Series 928.
Meanwhile, we reduced our exposure in the club industry from four clubs down to two as the company began moving into a different industry, self storage. Although we still have the two remaining clubs, there is little growth in that business, so we did not have to expand to faster hardware. But we did continue with our custom development, which is primarily written in Transact. I believe we hold the record (by far) for the longest use of the same platform in the private club industry, where it is typical to switch to a new system every five years, if not sooner.
Now, as I mark 37 years with our company and assess our club system strategically in relation to our corporate direction and a dominant role in the self storage sector, I find that it is time to make plans for the future. My programmer is almost 72 years old and has been with us for 29 years (another record). It does not seem realistic to go looking for another Transact programmer within the shrinking HP 3000 ecosystem. Consequently and with reluctance, we have begun evaluating a replacement system from the traditional club software offerings that run on Windows. This conversion will probably take place next summer and demote the HP 3000 to archival duty.
Finally, with the benefit of hindsight, I must say that selecting the HP 3000 30 years ago was a great decision that paid off as both a development and production platform, in spite of recent HP mistakes. I have no regrets regarding the decisions that I had control over; I can only wish that those decisions beyond my control could have been otherwise.
In 2001, I began to watch this once-great company start a decline over a period of 10 years into one of the worst-managed companies in America. I am left to wonder when HP will hit bottom and recover its sense of identity and direction. We all continue to watch hopefully.
November 17, 2011
Some couldn't believe the pullout at first
Some of the members of the 3000 community had no reason to believe HP would pull out of the 3000 business. In this week that marks the 10th anniversary of that exit, community members are sharing their stories of where they were when they heard -- how much they felt they could believe -- and what's become of their careers since then.
Brian Edminster: I was subcontracting at a company that specializes in supporting medical information systems (primarily Amisys, but others as well). This was a new contract at the time, and came after a multi-year gig doing a Y2K conversion on a large legacy Retail Management system.
I almost didn’t believe the news — there were too many other big changes happening in the world — and HP management had recently redoubled their support of the platform, so I just couldn’t believe it at first. I guess I was still expecting the New HP to act like the Old HP.
My consulting practice has been stable, with slow but steady growth. I’d say that my career has taken directions that I’d not have been able to anticipate, just a few years before. I’d not have gotten into open source software on the platform if the ecosystem of commercial software hadn’t started drying up. I wouldn’t have been able to justify going to the last Greater Houston RUG meeting to present a paper, and I wouldn’t have started building a website to act as a central repository for free and open source software for the 3000 (www.MPE-OpenSource.org).
Robert Holtz: I was working away on the COBOL and FORTRAN programs that were the heart of the Computer-Aided Dispatch and Mobile Data Terminal programming that ran on the three HP N-Class 3000's our Phoenix Police Department had upgraded to -- just earlier that year.
Christian Lheureux: I was sitting at my desk at Appic, sorting through HP3000-L newsgroup postings. I learned that the HP 3000 was going to be terminated from an HP internal source that I could absolutely not quote due to an ongoing NDA. In fact, I had been informally tipped much, much earlier that this was going to happen, but I simply could not believe it !
If you were there 10 years ago, you probably remember that some emotions ran quite wild, and that certainly includes mine. After a while (weeks, months), I remember having a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep 2 proprietary platforms and that, between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-plus-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. They even recently introduced a new release.
The company I worked for that the time still exists as a software publisher. We went bankrupt in late 2005 and the company was finally liquidated 1 year later. I probably sold the last four new HP 3000s in France, on Oct. 31st, 2003. I did my last significant MPE assignments in 2004. After that, my HP3000/MPE activity rapidly became marginal. When our company went bankrupt, I was immediately made redundant. Therefore I have absolutely no idea of what happened to the systems I had in the datacenter -- well computer room. They probably ended up in a garbage dump, much like an unneeded refrigerator that burns too much energy.
I later did some HP-UX work, then became a sales exec, then went back to pre-sales, which I still do today. I've been part and parcel of the HP ecosystem for all my adult life, HP user as a student, then HP employee, then HP consultant, then HP partner. My HP-UX skill level never rivaled my MPE knowledge, not even close, not even by a long shot. And, perhaps more important, the fun I had doing HP-UX stuff never came close to the fun I had doing MPE things like debug/dumpreading, executable code troubleshooting, performance measurement, developing tools that I needed for other assignments, writing stuff, "educating" customers, etc.
There used to be two documents that I wrote on the OpenMPE website while I served on the board. One was the DAT compatibility matrix, and the second one was the HP(e)3000 line-up, sorted by software tier, complete with performance indicators. I have absolutely no idea whether those documents still exist and if they are available anywhere. My best guess would be that,10 years after, no one cares.
That's history being made. Things come and go.
John K., AOL: I was sitting at my desk in AOL's Reston Technical Center in Reston, VA, when I heard the news. I was the manager of the Access Wardialer Lab, which filled a little over 1,100 sq. ft. of raised floor with racks containing hundreds of test and measurement PCs connected to three DS-3 lines providing telephone lines.
We had one HP 3000, and it collected, stored, and analyzed access wardialer data from hundreds of PCs which called every AOL dialup number multiple times every night to test the dialup network and hammer the AOL Windows client. The HP 3000 produced a number of reports, charts and emails every day, with virtually all of AOL's senior executives and management on the distribution lists of those emails. It also hosted a web site for retrieval of reports, processed wardialer data, Windows "debugview" logs, and other analytics. I'm told that the HP 3000 was turned off and stored for somewhere between 12 and 18 months, and then converted to an HP 9000 (AOL had many, many, many HP 9000s).
AOL's dialup usage took a nose dive in 2004, and in late 2004, my group was disbanded (layoff). Since then, AOL has split off from Time Warner. The AOL Reston Technical Center where I worked no longer exists. I was invited to, and attended AOL's 25th Anniversary Celebration in Dulles, Virginia, on May 24th, 2010, and it was great seeing so many of my former co-workers, most of whom have moved on to other jobs in the various tech industries. While a manager at AOL, I also coded in SPLASH, SPL, BASIC, and BUSINESS BASIC, and I created both terminal-based and web-based applications.
Today I'm the Software Engineering Manager for an Internet Services Provider which also provides hosting, co-lo, and VoIP telephone services. I still code, but now I code primarily in PHP and SQL, and the company's Enterprise Information System (EIS) is of my design. I also wrote all of EIS's core code.
November 15, 2011
Now in an 11th year of post-HP: user reports
We're continuing with the community's first-person testifying about HP's November 14 pullout from the 3000 market 10 years ago. Today is the first day of the 11th year of the rest of your life, because HP's never going to go back on its decision to cease making, enhancing or, in most cases, supporting the HP 3000.
But we've heard from users who hoped otherwise. Many did in the first few years after 2001, because it was hard to believe from the beginning. At least difficult for users and suppliers who knew so many satisfied 3000 owners, or were making a good living off an ecosystem HP proclaimed as mortally wounded.
Why look backward at an event nobody will ever change or recant? You can get hope from the new ground which some of the users have attained. And you'll see how to manage such a sudden change of strategic direction from a supplier, though some of these stories. Plus you can believe that it can happen to any product controlled by a single-vendor. We asked: 1. Where were you when you heard the news, and what became of the 3000 you were using, and 2. What's become of your career and company over the last 10 years.
Bill Towe: I remember attending the HP World shows for 1999 and 2000 when HP announced it was opening its arms to the HP 3000 and would continue the line, and the future seemed safe. Then barely a year later, I was attending an HP Channel Partner conference in Las Vegas when I heard a rumor that the HP 3000 was back on the chopping block. I couldn’t believe it, because only months before, CEO Carly Fiorina had informed the HP 3000 collective that we would see the MPE systems line for years to come.
During that Conference, I learned the HP 3000 was finished and would start a phase-out of equipment process followed by the End-of-support death march. I was simply shocked. My company, BlueLine Services, was only two years old at the time and 95 percent of our business was MPE system sales and support. We spent the next few years holding out hope that HP would continue to postpone or completely reverse their decision to end the HP3000 line.
"Over the years, it has become more and more difficult to be an HP-Only reseller. Since that fateful day, we have become an HP, IBM, Dell, Compellent, Cisco, VMWare and HDS reseller, as well as provider of managed services and cloud Computing Services, coupled with hardware and software support for MPE, HP-UX, and Windows OS. Since the dissolution of the HP 3000, my company has diversified to the point that HP no longer has the lion’s share of what we provide our customers. I still find it difficult to believe that the same manufacturer that created the greatest hardware and software system ever produced, also ended it and so unceremoniously. Sad."
Chris Bartram, 3k.com: When I heard, I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. My company 3k Associates still exists and its HP 3000s are still humming, although only one of threee stays powered on these days.
My job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s -- and thankfully, very little to do with HP at all.
Craig Lalley: I was working from home for Lund Performance Solutions at the time. The demise of the HP3000 was greatly overshadowed by the events of Sept 11th, for me. Sept 11th had a huge impact on the economy, as well as my personal economics.
I guess was expecting HP’s decision. HP’s actions were much louder than HP words. I believe HP had decided to end the HP 3000 several years before. The sad part is they could not admit it. I still have a love for MPE. I believed there still was a place for a proprietary OS in the business marketplace. Sadly HP did not feel the same way.
My biggest disappointment is the loss of the HP 3000 user groups and the community they inspired. Sadder still is the loss of some major community members. I must add that I enjoy the HP 3000 “e-community” of friends I have met and worked with over the years. The community still consists of some very special and highly talented people.
My greatest hope for future of MPE is not OpenMPE anymore, but Stromasys and the HP 3000 emulator, Charon HPA/3000. To date, I know of only two major bugs/issues, and performance is the next objective. I hope the hidden HP 3000 homesteaders will find a way to see a demo of Charon HPA-3000, I am sure they won’t be disappointed.
August 24, 2011
HP3000 Reunion sparks visa for emulator
Veterans of the 3000 community have become some of the hardest-working men and women in the show business. With the HP3000 Reunion starting less than a month from today, the three-day event that includes the CAMUS user group show has snagged a speaker from so far away that he needs a visa -- and will cross 11 time zones
We're not talking the Visa credit card company here, but travel documents to transport the 3000 lead developer Igor Abramov from the Moscow officlink service providers with application providers, so customers can have application deployment alternativese of Stromasys, where the Zelus HP 3000 emulator is being built. Abramov, who's fluent in English while he's been learning the deep language of MPE, will be speaking and taking questions during the Friday CAMUS meeting at the Computer History Museum at 4 PM on Sept 23.
An emulator is a vital part of keeping some HP 3000 ERP operations in production. The Support Group's president David Floyd has said that MANMAN -- which is at the heart of CAMUS member sites such as Ametek Power Instruments, Crane Electronics and century-old Fasco Motors -- can be supported through 2020. Ametek has a shutoff date of 2024 for its 3000.
An emulator like Zelus appears to have a secure place in the future of MANMAN. CAMUS director Terry Floyd says, "I think CAMUS will be happy to dedicate the entire Technical Presentation part of our meeting to Stromasys. [Abramov] can have over an hour, including the Q&A with [Stromasys CTO] Dr. Robert Boers."This Technical Presentation will follow the Migration Day sessions being organized by Speedware at the History Museum. There's probably been other visas arranged for HP 3000 user group shows, but none have taken the foreground like the one being arranged by Stromasys product manager Bill Driest.
Our Moscow office is central to our advanced product development and is one of our larger and most established development labs. Igor has led the HP 3000 development effort over the past two years and no one is more knowledgeable than Igor on this subject. He is fluent in English and has presented at other technology conferences.
There's active interest in the homesteading community about the emulator. In addition to inquiries and reports from Cerro Wire & Cable's IT Project Manager Herb Statham, non-manufacturers are tracking Zelus. Just this week, software development manager Mark Beach of CompuPay was looking for an update. In 2005 CompuPay acquired PayMaxx, a payroll service supplier based in Tennessee. PayMaxx was one of the earliest adopters of the Channels on Tap initiative HP floated in 2000. The object was to link service providers with application providers, so customers could have application deployment alternatives. That sounds like SaaS of today, but so does time-sharing or Application Service Providers.
The emulator update at the Reunion will also include a WebEx discussion with Boers. Abramov will also be speaking on Saturday, Sept. 24 in a morning slot, before that evening's party gets underway. 3000 veterans will remember years ago when HP had to rent satellite time to do this kind of thing, and then broadcast it to their sales offices. Now it's just WiFi and WebEx and a projector, with Skype available as a backup (I've done a Q&A interview with Boers at his Geneva HQ, via Skype). We've still got VHS tapes archived to prove that HP TV did serve the 3000 community veterans who'll be attending the reunion. Even in this era of trans-global communications, however, there's still a special sizzle from a visa to enable what will probably be 16 hours of flight time for Igor.
Nobody's invoking the legendary name "Volokh" yet during these emulation plans. But even as Abramov is proving his mettle from Moscow, this won't be the first time that MPE was studied and probed by someone from the former USSR. The Ukrainian-style cooking of MPEX from Vladimir and Eugene certainly has supported and enhanced the 3000 well over the last 30 years. And as it turns out, Vladimir will be on hand at the Reunion, too.
August 10, 2011
Healthcare systems heading to waiting room
Bruce Conrad, a longtime HP 3000 developer working at Dell's Services group which was formerly Perot Systems, provided a check-up on the Amisys apps he's supporting for US clients. Oracle is making a beachhead at the 3000 shop, where Conrad works on an EDI claims system. It's been a long transition, but that 3000 will be making its transition before too much longer.
"Amisys is still the heart of the system, but it'll be headed to God's waiting room soon," Conrad said. "I'm sure the HP3000 will still be around for a while. We have so many feeds/extracts going in and out that it's going to take a while to dismantle them."
Conrad says the transition to Oracle Health Insurance is still underway, and will be for some time. "I think we are doing some major migrations soon, though. I haven't seen the app yet, but we use Oracle's database, eBusiness, FMS and other stuff, so we're becoming a big Oracle shop.Even though Linux is taking the place of the HP3000, Hewlett-Packard won't be getting server replacement installations of its ProLiant line. "I'm sure everything is and will be hosted on Dell servers, since most of IT, including yours truly, is part of Dell Services now," Conrad said. A Linux-based Oracle Real Application Cluster is being hosted on the Linux-Dell combination, and mostly Linux servers are being used for apps as well.
"We have many Windows apps/servers, but the heavy stuff is all on Linux, with some other big processes on the HP 9000/HP-UX," Conrad said. "But that is gradually being migrated to Linux as well."
The Dell Services team did a lot with Perl, "but I think we're mostly moving to Java + Groovy, and who knows what else." Groovy is an object-oriented programming language for the Java platform. It's a dynamic language with features similar to those of Python, Ruby and Perl. Ruby never made it to the HP 3000, but Python and Perl were ported to MPE/iX by volunteers during the 1990s. Not with enough customer attraction to ensure HP's support of those languages on MPE/iX, however.
August 09, 2011
ProLiant's speed, price spur 3000's exit
HP put a new model of ProLiant server on sale today at a starting price of $599. This isn't a laptop. It's an ML 110 G7 system which can run either Windows or Linux, and it includes a quad-core 3.10GHz Xeon processor and 2 gigs of memory. The total cost to acquire will run under $1,000, including drives and support. If you want to step up to a bigger ProLiant, the ML 150 (shown at left) running the prior-generation G6 chip, with Windows Small Business Server 2011 preinstalled, is priced at a shade over $2,000.
Comparing this HP hardware has never been fair to the HP 3000, because the ProLiant -- created by Compaq and so popular that the brand survived the 2000 HP-Compaq merger -- was built for the commodity market. A $2,000 Series 979 on Amazon is about as close as a business-grade 3000 will get to commodity status. It's also an unfair comparison because the 3000 gets some of its oomph from using an integrated OS-database, pairing MPE with IMAGE/SQL. Microsoft, of course, has been working with Oracle to capture some of that same kind of oomph.
But this analysis is one reason that companies to move on from 3000 hardware built before 2000: the hardware's hard numbers, in GHz and dollars. There's more to compare. Duane Percox of K-12 software vendor QSS compared COBOLs six years ago. Those performance numbers have gotten nothing but more persuasive for Windows- or Linux-bound migrators. (Percox will be on hand at the Sept. 24 HP3000 Reunion. He's helping to arrange the Reunion's menu -- just as he did for the first 3000 meeting outside of a user group, a few months before he benchmarked those COBOLs on 2005 Intel chips.)To the COBOL numbers: In 2001 Percox measured performance of a Dell PowerEdge 500SC Tower using a Pentium III processor. Against that Series 979, using the Micro Focus COBOL compiler, the Dell server of a decade ago posted a 4:1 speed advantage. The slowest A-Class servers came close to matching the Dell machine. Remember, that Linux server was running a Pentium processor.
Intel is the architecture that got away from the 3000 lineup, a wrong turn that signaled the end of HP's interest as far as veterans like Percox could see. HP's futures chart, posted seven years ago this month at the final Interex HP World, skipped any scheduled introduction of Itanium for the 3000. That omission was big writing on the wall for software vendors serving the 3000 community. Some say HP had already erased the 3000 from its plans; others contend the system was still on the bubble in August of '04..
If the 2005 Pentiums were four times faster than a Series 979, and about equal to an A-Class, what's the gap between a $2,000 Xeon system that's six years more modern? HP 3000 shops have chosen Windows more than any other environment when they migrate. Bruce Conrad of the Dell/Perot Systems EDI group has reported that the service group's "Amisys/HP3000 systems here are soon-to-be replaced by Oracle OHI applications." Oracle Health Insurance (OHI), formerly known as Oracle OpenCare, is just one more reason why that vendor is challenging HP's business-grade servers for sales. Well, challenging some of HP's servers -- the ones locked into any OS which is not Windows or Linux.
July 29, 2011
A Full Day of Free 3000 Networking Advice
In a flurry of under 24 hours, six HP 3000 veterans chipped in advice this week to help a 3000 manager who's weathering poor network response times. All of the consulting was free, offered though the 3000's ultimate community resource, the HP3000-L mailing list and newsgroup.
Kevin Smeltzer, an IT Specialist in MPE Systems at IBM's Global Services group, said he was watching his development N-Class responses slip into unusable measurements. "Today was so bad that test programs could not stay connected to a Quick program," he reported at 4 PM yesterday. "Linkcontrol only shows an issue with Recv dropped: addr on one path. This is a known issue with some enterprise network monitoring software that sends a packet that the HP 3000 cannot handle. Even HP last year had no solutions for that issue."
Donna Hoffmeister, Craig Lalley, Mark Ranft, Tony Summers, Mark Landin and Jeff Kell all came to Smeltzer's aid in less than 24 hours. Hoffmeister, Lalley and Ranft work support and consulting businesses, but nobody wanted to collect any fee. Summers and Landin chimed in from veteran 3000 manager status. And Kell, well, he founded the 3000-L, and headed the System Manager's special interest group for years. Like the others, he's steeped in the nuances of HP 3000 networking.
So long as the 3000-L is running, no one has run out of places to ask for this kind of help. There has been a thread of 16 messages so far, back and forth emails with long dumps of NETTOOL reports, examinations of TCP timer settings (Hoffmeister wrote an article for Allegro about this on its website), and discussion of switch port settings. "Do I need to shutdown and restart JINETD or restart the network," Smeltzer asked this morning, "to have my TCP changes in NMMGR take effect?"The point here is not the solution to Smeltzer's problem -- still developing today -- but the careful exam he was getting from fellow managers about his 3000's condition. "I still have not heard from my network admin," he said. "This will tell me if a network change happened and port/switch changed so that the HP 3000 connection is no longer set to 100BT. This is my best hope at this time."
Lalley ventured a guess after a close reading of Smeltzer's reports:
How are your gateways defined? If you change the gateway
then you could try deleting the wrong gateway and see if it helps. I think you have a router broadcasting a wrong gateway.
Hoffmeister said the problems might be in the physical layer:
Did you change NMMGR before or after the reboot? If after, you're going to want to reboot again. Your packet loss is disturbing. I'd be suspicious of a physical layer problem.
Problems in the physical layer can be addressed by replacing parts, Mark Landin advised.
Could be a bad network cable or connector. Replace them.
Could be a bad network switch port. Connect the system to another port (properly configured, of course).
Could be a bad NIC. Swap them in the 3000 and see if the problem moves with the card.
Hoffmeister pointed back to the TCP timer issues.
On PCI (A- and N-Class) systems with 100bt cards, you're more likely to see 'recv dropped: addr' counts due to the way the card handles (or not, actually) traffic routed for a different destination.
Typically these counts are nothing to be concerned about. What is concerning are the TCP statistics. Retransmits are almost always a function of using the default (or otherwise messed up) TCP timers. Let's just say I've never seen a case where it's not.
You get the idea. Smeltzer, who's competent enough to provide all the needed reports to the 3000 community, is getting HP Support Center-grade assistance. And free. Better assistance, even, since he noted about the enterprise packet problems of 2010, "Even HP had no solutions for that issue."
This is why when our email link to 3000-L went dead for a few days (thanks, ATT) we got online to set up an alternative delivery address. More than 110 message this month devoted to HP 3000 techniques. You can sign on for the free help at 3000-L, or just read the advice, at the mailing list website: http://raven.utc.edu/cgi-bin/WA.EXE?A0=HP3000-L The NewsWire would never have gotten off the ground without 3000-L's networking with the community. Make that network one of yours, too.
July 11, 2011
Sustaining support can maintain migration
More than a few 3000 sites are making a lengthy transition to a different platform. But the story from Viad Corp. shows that dropping 3000 savvy too soon can add expense to any change of environment.
Frank Surina reports that he's managing the task of making the company's 3000 data reliable once more. The mission has been complicated by the company's interim 3000 choices. Support for the system's backup software got dropped more than five years ago. Now the 3000's internals are jumbled so badly that a LISTF request for names of files spits out escape sequences along with the filenames.
Surina, who started working at the company in 1989 on the 3000 and returned after a hiatus, has been tasked to sort out the problems. He said its third party support firm hasn't been able to clear up the issues. It's an unusual implementation among 3000 profiles: the IT architecture uses all KSAM files. But unique 3000 software choices have been a part of this shop since the era in the 1990s when one of its groups was called Greyhound Exhibition Services, serving the trade show vendor base. Cerina was part of a team during that time that wrote an in-house Pascal to C converter -- not a typical in-house project.
Viad, an S&P SmallCap 600 firm which now includes a travel group managing Glacier Park tourism as well as the trade show marketing, appears to have lost its 3000 management for too long on the way to a migration. Surina said that Oracle Financials are now nearly complete in serving the company. But one last application that generates job numbers resides on a 3000. The server hasn't completed a full backup since last August, and a hot backup system has had the same data confusion problems exhibited by the main server. Not even the STORE command is working as expected.
Although there's a narrow group of support firms which have broad enough experience to solve the problems at Viad, Surina is pursuing the expertise he needs to repair the 3000 before his migration can complete. This final piece of the transition may have been less costly, if support contracts (for the backup software) and 3000 administration skills remained in place.Staying in contact remains important to keeping a 3000 stable. The server is legendary for its low-maintenance status. But a problem with file structures, which leads to incomplete backups, is an issue that can be solved more quickly with a call to file system and backup experts. Support gets dropped on 3000s still making their way out of an IT architecture. That's a gamble. If a company's 3000 expertise is pared back to developers and system architects -- and nobody else -- operational snarls can turn into barriers. In many cases, admin skills are not developer skills.
On the other hand, contacting a company where you're dropped support -- only to learn it must charge a back-support fee before reinstating you -- can be a show-stopper. (Considering how hard it's become to generate 3000 revenue at software vendors, this kind of reparation seems short-sighted, however logical.)
Since the 3000 support resource Viad is using was unable to solve the problem, that's a cue to escalate to better support. Surina called our offices hoping to find a lead to a fresh support firm, and we suggested a pair of companies. We also recommended that he post his tech issues to the 3000 mailing list's readers. Tech issues get solved there often, usually by independent support experts who stay in touch with the community via an old-school listserv. It's no substitute for complex troubleshooting, but it's a start.
We like to think of ourselves as a community signpost and a data bank of resources. But the NewsWire represents one window into the 3000 community. If you're having trouble and need a lead, do give us a call or send an email. Keep your own hook in those expertise waters, too -- so you can catch a solution before a problem escalates fast enough to outflank that greyhound of a 3000, the one still running any bit of your business.
June 27, 2011
Must-have firmware, patches for 7.5 install?
We have just started up a new A-class 2-way running 7.5 PP5. This system is configured with 4GB RAM, a VA7410 running off two PCI FC Host Bus Adapters, one DTC 16, and two SureStore DDS-2 tape drives running off the LVD SCSI interface. SUBSYS products consist of NS, COBOL, and FORTRAN. We do use FTP, incoming and outgoing. We will probably start using Sendmail for a few things (as an old Unix admin, I respect Sendmail, but do not fear it!) Our primary use for this system is MANMAN with around 170 users.
Our third party portfolio is the usual: Suprtool, MPEX, Minisoft ODBC, and Adager, plus some other odds and ends. So, for this kind of system, what are the “must have” patches that we should install on top of PP5?
After Gilles Schipper assured the manager that "PowerPatch 5 should be all you need," Jack Connor replied:
You may want to check the PDC firmware level. I believe the Fiber Channel patches found in 43.43 for the N class are in 43.50 for the A. You can see the PDC level at the boot menu.
Do you have an HP-UX or Windows box with Command View set up to monitor the VA? It's very advisable, as you can do a lot of drill down if you have problems and all can be remote to the system. Did you configure High Availability Fail Over (HAFO)? You may want to offload the CIO network interface card with a standalone 100Bt card and leave your DTC on the CIO.
Craig Lalley added:
Yes, MPE can do HAFO. What I do is configure all the odd LUNs down one path and all the even LUNs down the second path. Then SYSGEN IO HA , and then create the secondary path. It works on the VAs because all the LUNs are seen down both paths.Lalley added that firmware will be an important part of configuring such a system.
Don't forget to put the correct firmware on the VA7410 controllers and disk. To update the firmware, CommandView is required.
The latest firmware bundle (that I know of) can be found at HP's Biz Support website http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareIndex.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&prodNameId=316166&prodTypeId=12169&prodSeriesId=89018&swLang=13&taskId=135&swEnvOID=54
HP's Jim Hawkins says that HAFO was built for the any SCSI disk device where a manager can see LUNs on more than one port. But HAFO really wasn't useable until Fiber Channel took off on the 3000s.
Original HAFO was with XP256 F/W SCSI, but that was a pretty clunky device even when it was “state of the art”. HAFO really didn’t become useable until FC. I lead the FC-based effort and we did all of our work on XP and then VA devices, because they were what worked at the time; those are the configurations that were officially supported, blessed, and used successfully by many customers.
We did evaluate EVA [storage] products and they did “work” as disks, but they didn’t have this “LUNs visible on more than one path” feature until way too late for lab development and certification. HAFO probably would work on EMC, though our co-development/marketing agreement with them had terminated by the time HAFO was developed. They did continue to advertise support for MPE/iX systems long after we stopped working with them.
June 23, 2011
3000 is 4 years from graduation at district
The HP 3000 has four more years of service to give to the San Bernadino County Schools, but the server's apps are being migrated to make room for fresher hardware. Dave Evans, manager of the 3000s at the school district, said that availability of more current hardware started pushing the apps onto Dell's Windows-based servers.
The Human Resources app has been turned over to virtual servers running on a Dell system, Evans said. When HP stepped away from delivering service and products to the district -- Evans said the schools couldn't get a call returned from the vendor -- it started the shift to Dell for new systems. The HP 3000s, however, continued to enter the IT shop. The district bought latest-model N-Class servers in 2002 and 2007, both off the reseller market from Ideal Computer.
Evans said that Ideal assured the district that it could get whatever hardware was need to keep the production running through 2015.
Of the nine major systems at the district, four have been migrated, including the all-important human resources apps that are crucial to any school employing thousands of teachers and staff. Still to complete are the big general ledger, payroll and retirement systems. San Bernadino, which is doing the migration itself, expects to be completely migrated in 2015. That's 31 years since the 3000s started working at the school district, right along with Evans in May, 1984.Evans adds that he's on target to retire a bit before the 3000s are switched off, scheduled to leave the district in a couple of years. This is a situation that's commonplace in the 3000 community, as veterans with decades of experience end their careers around the time 3000s leave the shop.
By the end of 2015, the school's apps will be migrated to the .NET architecture under Windows, Evans said. Initially the migration called for a "clean sheet" approach, rethinking and designing the apps from scratch. "As the amount of time left to get this done is decreasing," he said, "we're starting to switch to making a pretty screen for the user from the Windows world. Pretty much, the back end of this stuff we'll take as written on the HP 3000, and rewrite it over to .NET."
Evans has been monitoring the future of that Microsoft architecture, however. When we spoke this week he was checking on a rumor that .NET may not be supported in the Windows 9 or IE 9 environments. Considering how many 3000 sites are moving to .NET, this kind of vendor departure has serious implications, if it turns out to be true. More on that tomorrow.
April 14, 2011
3000 can listen for less to link with printers
We want to use a Ricoh Afficio printer with npconfig on the HP 3000. However, we do have an HP LaserJet that could be used. What I recall hearing is that the Ricoh can work -- but the HP LaserJet, not being a foreign printer, would be easier to use. True?
Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga replies:
If you are using real HP network printing without any third-party bells and whistles, the HP software is expecting to output something to a device along the lines of a JetDirect card or a networked Laserjet III/IV, and not much else. The 3000's MPE/iX generates fairly straightforward PCL output directed at TCP port 9100, has a rudimentary knowledge of SNMP status reports from a LaserJet/JetDirect. Later versions attempted some PJL handshaking in order to synchronize headers, print, trailers, and some error recovery.
So everything worked exactly as expected/planned, but for a very narrow window of time and hardware.
With that said, if you disable PJL (pjl_supported = FALSE), it eliminates many problems with earlier LaserJets and third party PCL-compatible printers, and now you're strictly dealing with fairly straightforward PCL.
There was a later "turn off PCL" option (pcl_enabled = FALSE) but I never had a run at that one to know just how generic that made the driver.
We have some Ricoh multi-function devices on campus and have done some bulk printing to one before (not sure of the exact model.) But the 3000 had no issues with it after suitably neutering the MPE print configuration.
April 13, 2011
3000 app moves to Linux via experiments
In our latest email update on NewsWire stories we invited readers to share reports of Linux migrations, past or planned. While some say that larger migrations haven't appeared much for 3000-to-Linux, Ford Motors makes extensive use of Linux, and in a prior decade HP 3000s served at Ford.
We gathered more details from James Byrne of Harte & Harte Ltd., a 3000 site using the system in Canadian shipping brokerage. PowerHouse on an HP 3000 is a long way from the flexibility of Linux, but Byrne said the company has started a Linux rollout. The costs to experiment have been worth the journey, he says.
By James B. Byrne
We are presently rewriting all of our business application, currently implemented in Powerhouse on an HP 3000, to run as a web app on Linux-based servers. It has taken us far, far longer to get to this point than we imagined. But now we are actively rolling out functionality, albeit one small piece at a time.
We choose PostgreSQL for the backend store, Ruby as the programming language, and Ruby on Rails as the web application framework. We discovered that the most telling thing against using proprietary solutions is the ease with which we can experiment with -- and discard as unsatisfactory -- different software tools.
In our present project we have deployed one full blown, web based, project management system (Trac) and then replaced with another (Redmine). Now we are actively contemplating replacing Redmine. We deployed a sophisticated version control system (Subversion) and subsequently replaced that with another (Git). We are experimenting with deploying the web app on virtual servers using KVM but even here we started out with Xen. Our present design is developed with Apache in mind, but our full deployment may switch httpd servers to NginX.
The significant thing is that most of these technologies have been put in actual production and used for periods ranging from many months to several years. This means our decisions are informed with significant experience obtained in "real-world" conditions, and not from some time-limited trial period using minimal resources.
If these types of trials were attempted using classic HP (or IBM) style "solutions" then our experimentation would be simply unaffordable and never undertaken. Even if we acquired any tools at all under such a regime, a doubtful proposition, then ditching and replacing some of them with better solutions after just one or two years of use would be unthinkable.
April 12, 2011
Always online system sustained 3000 site
Stories of uptime are the limbs of legend in the 3000 forest. Companies stick with these servers, years after HP has shut down its 3000 business, because a 3000 can run for years without rebooting. (In contrast a few generations of OS ago, Unix designers at HP were happy that those systems "reboot real fast.") Reboots are not quite as critical in these days of virtual CPUs and provisioning. As application plans trigger a move to other platforms, some long-serving 3000s are being decomissioned. But a recent report from the field shows 3000 uptime is still measured in more than months.
Craig Lalley serves companies who are keeping 3000s in production. He reported that one system, a beefy N-Class 750, has been online since before HP closed its 3000 labs.
Lalley posted this uptime single-session record for the community to enjoy on the 3000 newsgroup. He added that "I logged into the console when the system was booted. There was no reason to use the console in the over the whole two-and-a-half years."
I noticed that I was still logged on the console (my session name). So I thought I would look, because I certainly do not recall when I would have done that. Now I know what I was doing on Sept 26th at 12:29 am -- in 2008. Nothing special to see here, though.
This HP 3000 was the height of HP's art in creating MPE/iX systems. The production machine is an eight-processor, 750Mhz N-Class. Lalley said it has been running with an average of "more than 750 users and 30 jobs running 24/7/365."
Another 3000 consultant, Olav Kappert, noted that the uptime duration might not set a record for an entire system. "Maybe not the record for the longest uptime, but maybe the longest session," he said.
March 28, 2011
Transition timing flows from manager savvy
Managers of HP 3000s sometimes have full control of what's to become of their systems. The most fortunate have management's faith in a skill set that has kept company business running for many years. Some of the best-situated IT managers see succession as a key element in sustaining business critical computing.
Enter Dave Powell, the prolific and veteran manager at MM Fab, a Southern California fabric manufacturer. Last week he gave the community notice of a potential job opening at his company. Powell was suggesting that learning the firm's 3000 environment might be a good first step in take over his own duties, someday. It takes a confident manager to start a job search for their own replacement.
Powell's story looks like a tale of savvy that's keeping his company on the 3000 -- and if they had a replacement to cover his retirement, maybe they'd delay a migration. He adds that MM Fab has not "picked a package yet. They've sent out an RFP and are in the early stages of evaluating a bunch of proposals."
Powell is proposing a plan to sustain the company's knowledge about a totally custom application, written in "some pretty horrid COBOL" in some spots. While he's still on hand to help, he'd like to see somebody else learn about that business logic.It might be a bit easier to step in to an off-the-shelf app situation for ERP like MANMAN, but this is a custom-crafted app. But that does not mean there's not an opportunity there for a 3000 veteran who's trying to preserve career value in MPE and COBOL skills.
"We might have something for someone later," Powell said in a public note on the 3000 newsgroup. "Or not. Nothing now and nothing definite. If we don't end up buying some sort of package, we should eventually want someone to help me enhance things here, and/or someone to replace me when I retire. That last is my Plan A -- after 30 years of enhancing this system, I'd much rather hand it off intact to someone than preside over its demolition."
Outlining the position as "a good opportunity for someone who likes MPE and warm Southern California weather more than high salary, prospects for future advancement, and their sanity," Powell laid out the specifics.
A possible replacement for me would have to wear a lot of hats -- I'm department head, system administrator, programmer (currently the only programmer), PC setup/support/security, evening operator. Basically, the computer department is me and an operator, and the operator spends half her time doing things for other departments.
I think the position would probably be full-time, "permanent" (well, as permanent as anything can be that involves computers and the fabric business) and on-site. Don't see how a telecommuter could wear all of my hats.
Requirements are COBOL / IMAGE / VPlus / MPE and ability to put up with a lot. But some of the MPE and COBOL stuff is a bit tricky. (Fair warning - some of the older COBOL is pretty horrid. It's easy to imagine a new guy taking one look and running away screaming.)
Powell says there's more than 50 percent chance that his company buys a package, a migration that he figures would put all of the COBOL and 3000 programming "into the bit-bucket. But I have a slightly better chance of persuading management to stick with our old system if I can show them that replacements for me are not impossible to find. A few impressive-looking expressions of interest that I can show management might help me fend off the migration/package fiends."
He's listening for email replies to his company's opportunity, if there's one on the horizon. At the least, Powell is doing his best to ensure the package selection committee doesn't make a decision only to find there's nobody left to help understand the existing 3000 application. This kind of task also comes under the heading of "sustaining."
And if the interest helps preserve the 3000 at MM Fab, then Powell has helped himself along with his company.
March 25, 2011
Phoenix police pull over its N-Class 3000
One of the earliest users of the N-Class 3000s has become one of the latest to pull its server off the road. The Phoenix Police Department shut down its last remaining 3000 this month, a system that Senior IT Systems Specialist Robert Holtz reports was an N-Class server.
Phoenix was among the major US cities that counted on a 911 dispatch software package written for MPE/iX. In the years that led up to HP's exit announcement, 911 installations were a point of pride for the platform. HP even said that 90 percent of large cities were using 3000s for law enforcement. These cities tapped an application from PSSI. One replacement, Sentinel, employs Windows. But that solution from the Motorola subsidiary doesn't use the term PC, Windows or even "the computer" in its data sheet. 911 has become computer telephony.
Holtz said the 3000's application, rather than MPE/iX or the 3000 hardware, triggered the shutdown of the system in Phoenix. "We replaced our Computer-Aided Dispatch (911 application) and support for our computers in the police vehicles with a new vendor," he said. "That vendor was to recommend new hardware, too -- hence, the retirement of the N-Class."
Not many HP 3000 N-Class servers were already installed, as the one in Phoenix was, before HP backed away from the platform's futures. Holtz said the department owned its server while HP was still promoting a future for the newest generation of 3000s."The N-Class was here for a short time -- I think about a year if memory serves me right -- before HP announced their exit," Holtz said. "The application was moved one year ago to another platform, and the HP 3000 was no longer needed."
Retiring an N-Class in 2011, plus buying it in 2001, puts Phoenix in a special category. Few customers can count a decade of operations on the final generation of 3000s that HP built. By Holtz's reckoning, he purchased this one within months of HP's exit-the-market announcement.
When HP made that announcement more than seven years ago, the vendor pointed to a declining ecosystem as the chief reason it wanted to put away the server on an end-of-life sentence. Application suppliers like the one serving Phoenix had little choice after HP's notice. They had to put development and sales efforts into other platforms, because their customers were more likely to see the vendor's exit as an emergency.
It was something like tripping a silent alarm -- and then when the police arrived in the lobby, accusing the bank of being an unsafe depository. Phoenix police continued to trust the 3000's reliability for almost seven years after HP's alarm. Holtz, and other IT pros like him, are finding their 3000 futures handcuffed at last.
March 21, 2011
Framing Wires for 3000 Management Plans
Last week we reported the plight of Connie Sellitto, an IT manager at the Cat Fanciers' Association who's the 3000 expert at CFA. The association is just starting a move to Windows and using a contractor who's most comfortable with "wireframe" maps of systems. Sellitto had just a few days to create one of these diagrams that outlined its 3000 databases.
Sellitto got a lot of advice from the 3000 community to help solve her problem, a challenge that began when the Microsoft Visio charting tool wouldn't work with 3000 information. She reported back to us at the end of last week. "I've gotten the Minisoft ODBC driver to work with the 2003 version of Visio. Really a major time saver. When you select 'Load Automatic Masters' in the ODBC definition, Visio even draws the relationship lines. Some tweaking is needed, as for primary indexes, but all in all, this is a good solution."
Wireframes like the one above (click it for detail) are common planning tools for website designers. Sellitto says the contractor's primary business is websites. But just because websites seem like an odd match with enterprise IT doesn't mean that wireframe diagrams are ill-suited to 3000 planning. Sometimes you need that 30,000-foot view to start -- or to sustain.Microsoft's software -- which after all, is going to run CFA in the future -- was Sellitto's path to providing a wireframe in about five days.
I was first able to connect to my database using MS Query, so I knew the ODBC part was set up correctly. However, Visio2010 did not recognize the names of the datasets nor data items. Apparently, this is due to its use of unicode, rather than the ASCII names on the HP 3000. Minisoft support was most helpful; they indicated they working on a version of ODBC that will work with Visio2010, and suggested trying an older version of Visio, which the migration company supplied.
Downloaded a copy of Visio2003, connected with the ODBC HP3000 driver, Voila! Worked like a charm! Checking the ‘Load Automatic Masters’ box in the ODBC setup allowed Visio to draw the relationship lines. Data item names and definitions came across accurately.
The results are exactly what I needed, and I believe this will help others who may find themselves in a similar position -- having to provide a diagram of an IMAGE database.
Sustaining a 3000 enterprise still requires this kind of management. That's especially true if the systems were designed by DP managers from another decade, now long-gone from a shop. Both sustaining and migration require more expertise than the diagram above; you need to know IMAGE architecture, or at least have a tool like the database migration tools from MB Foster (UDACentral) or Speedware (DBMotion) or Transoft (DBIntegrate), if you're moving.
But sustaining means, "meeting the needs of an environment that has business changes," too. If nothing else, the wireframes can be part of a documentation package -- an element nobody wants to spend one extra minute creating.
March 14, 2011
Architecture Toolbelt Emerges for 3000s
When Connie Sellitto of the American Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) asked for help preparing for a migration, the 3000 community hacked out suggestions and pointers. But much of the toolset designed to identify what's to be migrated off a 3000 can also be put to use in sustaining projects. Sustaining is what a manager should be doing to homestead, if they are not migrating. As the word suggests, sustaining is an activity that goes beyond glancing at a console to see if the 3000 is running, plus ensuring there are enough backup tapes.
The advice from 3000 managers and experts was aimed at Sellitto's deadline of tomorrow; she needs to present a "wireframe" diagram of the system's database architecture by March 15. The document will go into the hands of a web design company the CFA's board has chosen, one which has won the right to migrate its HP 3000 to a Windows environment.
Wireframe is architectural terminology for the map of website design, page by page. In the environment at CFA, databases and applications take the place of website pages. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, which has built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens still in VPlus, said the ubiquitious PC tool Visio that Sellitto was learning quickly might be overkill.
If you have Adager/Flexibase/DBGeneral, or already have a good schema file for the databases, just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.
A schema file isn't difficult to understand, and if they can't, there isn't much you can do to help them.
Yeo added a few pointers on understanding the schema file.
A Primary Key is a sorted key, and indications that a specific numeric has (n) implied decimal places should be the most they should need, plus a couple of pages from the IMAGE manual that describe the data types. IMAGE structures aren't complex.
But 3000 consultant and developer Roy Brown wrote us to advise further, with detailed pointers on how anyone who needs to chronicle and maintain the architecture of a 3000 can get the job done -- whether they're migrating, or sustaining.
Visio (Professional, let's hope they gave her Professional) can read the details of a SQL database and produce a visual schema automagically, so it's not like she's got to chart them manually. And standard HP 3000 tools let you generate SQL views of TurboIMAGE databases, for Visio to chomp on.
The SQL extensions to IMAGE are covered in the HP Communicator at docs.hp.com/cgi-bin/doc3k/B3021690178.13563/65
Brown added that IMAGE/SQL specifications, to help train any migration contractor, are also online at HP's 3000 web pages.
It's been a while since I used these tools, but they let you work on TurboIMAGE databases as if they were SQL ones. We were using them to pull data into Business Objects.
I recall using one of the tools (IMAGESQL) to even extend the definitions of the items, so the SQL access would know how many decimal places numeric fields had, something not held in IMAGE schemata. All these tools run on MPE, on the HP3000.
With all the above defined, you can then use the supplied ODBC client on a PC linked to the HP 3000, so that ODBC-compliant programs 'see' a SQL representation of the TurboImage database, and can work with this just as if it was a SQL one. Birket Foster (whose company created ODBCLink/SE) will probably know a great deal more about this than I do. And also in what ways his paid-for ODBCLink is superior.
But if I recall correctly, you configure things so the ODBC-compliant program on the PC knows: to use the ODBCLink driver; where the HP 3000 is (IP address or hostname), and how to authenticate -- and away you go.
Visio has free and open source competition, software which HP support veteran Lars Appel pointed out. "Perhaps Visio has similar 'database graph' features such as free or open source tools like dbVisualizer or SquirrelSQL."
Stan Sieler of Allegro noted that "You might look at our DBHTML product, with example output on our website, although it doesn't draw pretty pictures."
Sellitto checked back in on the 3000 newsgroup and reported some progress, but her migration contractor really seems to want those diagrams.
The SCHEMA file produced by Adager and/or FO from QUERYNM provides sufficient detail as to the tables (datasets) and fields (items) of an IMAGE database. I have provides these, along with an explanations such as ‘X6’ means a ‘char’ of 6 characters, ‘search item’ would be an ‘index’ and so on. In addition, I provided narratives of what each ‘table is used for, FO listings of representative records, and screen shots of how our users access the data. Should be sufficient -- and they seemed to indicate an understanding.
But now, with a few days before they visit our office, they have again requested the diagram approach.
Denys Beauchemin, who's written database tools for the 3000, wonders if automating these architecture layout tasks for 17 database is really worth the learning curve -- especially on a one-time, leave-the-3000 project.
You’re spending an enormous amount of time trying to make tools work. If this was something that would be ongoing, I can see spending the time for that, but for a one off thing?
I would sit down with the schemas and some paper and simply draw the two-level diagrams with a pencil, showing the links between master and details. Then I would simply scan the papers into a PDF file and call it good.
Beauchemin's opinion shows where a sustaining project could benefit from architecture automation, while a migration project won't enjoy the same payoff.
In a final test, Yeo worked with Visio and other tools and has broken down the process to show the architecture of 3000 databases.
The only databases and tables that I could access are those set up in the SQL DBE definition. So if you haven’t gone through all that work in the first place then its a non starter. As far as I can see the DBE only contains information about the datasets that someone has chosen to add (or probably that is make available via a view). When adding the databases' datasets to the DBE, if only the default item mappings were used, then all you are going to find out is that an item is char or numeric -- but you would have no idea about "date" types or decimal places etc. So again, not much good if you're trying to provide a data structure description.
Anyway, taking a reasonably well formed database into Visio and reverse engineering, you do get the tables and items. It will show you what the indexes in the tables are but as far as I can see it doesn't show that a detail is linked to a particular master. Automasters are missing anyway as they are really only for IMAGE.
My conclusion: if you have done all the work to load the databases in the SQL/DBE and done all the data type mappings, then importing in Visio might be a reasonable start to documenting the databases, as all you would have to do is add the linkages between the sets.
If you don't have everything in the SQL/DBE then I would say we are back where we started.
Go into QUERY, open the database just do an "FO" it will tell you everything about all the items, all datasets, all indexes, paths etc. Do a select all, copy, go into Word and paste. Then if you want to be really helpful, go through the item defs and mark up if they are a date format, of if numeric how many implied decimals. Oh, and if you're using a char as a numeric, or you have a field overloaded with undescribed children, that is probably the most useful info.
March 02, 2011
Zero-dollar prep cages Fanciers' migration
At the US Cat Fanciers' Association, Connie Sellitto needs help on a very small budget. The CFA got itself new leadership last year, top management that has voted its HP 3000 off the island. But at the moment it looks like the migration can't get off the sandy beach without a wireframe boat.
A wireframe what? Sellitto send a request to the 3000 community this week that asks for help finding a wireframe mapping tool to outline the 3000 system design that's been running CFA for more than 20 years. Wireframe is a term more often used in web page design projects, a way to outline everything that a page touches in a website. It's no wonder the term is in use there, since CFA's lead migration consultants are web designers by trade.
"CFA has just signed a contract to have a web-design company rewrite our entire business application on a Windows platform," Sellitto reported last month. "The timetable has been stretched from six months to something a bit more realistic, but as yet there are no firm dates. I have already met with the project manager of this formidable undertaking, and expect that I will be acting as 'technical coordinator' for CFA."
The most immediate need at CFA is for a wireframe application, of zero cost, to identify all of the 3000 apps and allied tools and databases. Sellitto needs to provide to the web designers a map of "several IMAGE databases, as well as the 350-plus COBOL programs that feed them. This will be used by the contractors who are planning our imminent migration off the HP 3000. I have already sent copies of the schema files, source code, COPYLIB layouts, and so forth."
On a zero-budget, can you recommend any software which might be of help to me? Otherwise, I'll be using QUERY or ADAGER to create copies of the schemas, capturing screen shots of all applications using Reflection and/or MS92, and fluffing up our text-based documentation.
"Our Board is determined to get the migration underway," Sellitto reported last fall. "I have therefore spent a considerable amount of time educating CFA's IT Committee as to the uniqueness (and great reliability) of the HP 3000 system, researching options, having demos and discussions with migration solutions partners, getting quotes, etc. and still handling the day-to-day issues that arise, as I'm the only staffer on the HP 3000."
One 3000 manager recommended a website with a roundup of 10 free apps that will do wireframes, but most of these turn out to be far better matched for web designers than application/systems architects. Speckyboy Design Magazine describes wireframe as follows.
A wireframe is a visual illustration of one Web page. It is meant to show all of the items that are included on a particular page, without defining the look and feel (or graphic design). It’s simply meant to illustrate the features, content and links that need to appear on a page so that your design team can mock up a visual interface and your programmers understand the page features and how they are supposed to work.
Such an apparent disconnect on specs can arise from misunderstanding how much a 3000 does to run an organization. Sellitto is still working hard to see an impact from her reports about databases and other un-webby elements at CFA.
A major consideration is the data itself, as we have several TurboIMAGE databases which will be converted to SQL Server. I had recommended that CFA (or their designated IT consultant) contract with an HP-specific knowledgeable vendor, so the data and various links would be preserved. To date, I have not been informed as to the status of that plan. The actual business logic? That's another story -- I've been updating and fleshing out our documentation, but it's my understanding that our current Board may be revising policy and procedures as part of this migration.
As of this week, CFA's plans will permit a new consulting company to manage the entire IT operation, with regard to web interface and background processing. CFA plans to employ a network administrator in-house, but actual programming changes will be done by the consultant.
Sellitto, whose IT roots go back into the 1970s, said the situation "reminds me of a migration I took part in back in the early 1980s, where the small bank at which I worked as programming manager was assimilated into a holding company. Our IT philosophy was "make the computer system do whatever management policies dictate," but theirs was "buy an off-the-shelf system that meets 80 percent of your needs, then change your policies to match the other 20 percent."
Sellitto is expecting "an interesting year." And if you've got an idea on how to "wireframe" an HP 3000's system architecture on a zero budget, she would love to talk to you. Soon, as she reports she's got a deadline of the Ides of March to deliver this first map for the migration.
February 22, 2011
How to Procure Connections for 3000s
Even in the most crucial of IT operations, an HP 3000 can remain a keystone. Last week we got a call from a 3000 manager whose clients provide a very crucial military service, run off a 3000. The system design at the shop includes a tool advanced for its time, the ADBC database middleware that uses Adager's Java-based tool designs. ADBC was implemented and sold by David Thatcher.
This 3000 helps ensure that military operations can keep rolling, literally. It provides logistics for all the US Army's tires, as one example. It's custom software that does the routing and tracking of addresses, where the materials are going and where orders came from. The manager described it as a mini-ERP with a lot of hooks into different providers.
This 3000 is going to remain on a roll for awhile. "We're trying to rewrite it, but it's not that easy to do away with it," the manager added. "The HP 3000 just keeps chugging along very reliably." Our NewsWire reviewer John Burke once said of ADBC that since it provides "the prospect of being able to program in a language whose compiled output can run on virtually any platform without modification, and natively access TurboIMAGE databases, MPE files and XL routines on an HP 3000, it made even an old curmudgeon like myself sit up and take notice."
This manager called to locate the ADBC developers; an error code had just popped up on his software. We reached out to Thatcher to connect him with his former customer, one who had let support for the software lapse awhile ago. Thatcher, working at a New York bank now, provided his help for free. But there's an online resource of 3000 experts where he's listed that might be a first stop on this kind of former-supplier search: LinkedIn. You'd have to find a spot to connect Thatcher to ADBC first, but we've got that covered, too.Thatcher is one of more than 260 members of the HP 3000 Community on LinkedIn. Now in its third year, the moderated online group includes a resume from every member, the ability to send messages directly if you're a member (it's free) as well as a current news feed that includes NewsWire articles. People are joining every week.
Calling our offices can be a fun way to try to track down a provider, kind of a mini-ERP of information operated with old-school technology. But knowing who's in charge of an older tool like ADBC? That info comes from a search of our archives. There's the last article we provided, back in 2002 in the printed 3000 NewsWire, about ANSI-Web, derived from a simple search of "ADBC" off our Search link at the left of this blog.
Not every search of our community yields this kind of happy ending. But within 90 minutes of this fellow's call, he was up and running again with software that hasn't been sold for more than five years. The sticky connectivity of your community makes it possible to keep the wheels of IT rolling, even when some people think of the 3000 as a retread. For a customer like this one, they might figure, "Why reinvent the wheel?"
February 04, 2011
Consultants' costs falling in 3000 world
A pair of consultants in the 3000 marketplace are offering their services for as low as $30 an hour, one of the most inexpensive rates we've ever seen quoted. This ripple in pricing -- there's many other experts who charge two to three times as much per billed hour -- says several things about the 3000's Transition Era.
When consultants like Olav Kappert ($35 hourly) or Michael Serafin ($30) tell 3000 newsgroup readers about their lower rates, these experts kick sand in the face of HP and some of its partners. The accepted wisdom from 2002 onward was that such expertise would get eaten up by the market's demand; you'd struggle to get on someone's client list, especially in the world of migration. Or in another scenario, few consultants would maintain 3000 practices, since there wouldn't be enough demand.
The pricing from these 3000 vets (34 years for Kappert, 27 for Serafin) seems to show that the first scenario didn't play out as predicted. These are individuals, of course, and a migration or app maintenance company might have less bandwidth. But it looks clear that supply is outpacing demand, at least from these fellows' viewpoints. Any sensible business needs to lower rates when they have time available to sell, as a part of marketing themselves.
On the other hand, there's that sense of declining need that could ripple from these offers. Do companies need less help on a platform that's stable and whose OS is frozen? One counter-argument is that such independent providers fill a gap created when on-staff 3000 experts get let go, or retire.Kappert, who's been on the 3000 community mailing lists and even the OpenMPE consultant roster, chalks up his discounting to hard times all around.
I know business is tough and money is tight," Kappert posted. "So, I am willing to work for a company at a rate of $ 35 per hour (unless you want to offer more). The work must be able to be performed in a remote environment (dial-up, VPN or Internet accessible). Since this offer can expire at any time and without notice; you need to get in touch with me as soon as possible."
Serafin adds another element to his discount -- development for the far-newer iPhone/iPad OS, plus Android apps, as well as MPE/iX work from his company.
"Also in keeping with the times, I am offering custom iPhone/iPad/Android app development," Serafin said this week. If you are interested in developing an app for your business, give me a call [at (603) 485-3700]."
With that offer Serafin joins a number of 3000 developers and consultants who are entering or working in the iOS business. Michael Casteel, who developed the Maestro job management system, has written iOS game apps for many years. Neal Kazmi of Minisoft was on track to develop an iPad version of the company's Javelin connectivity software (we'll have to check up on that project, announced last spring.) John Vandegrift is a 3000 veteran who reports "I'm a registered iPhone developer who hasn't made the time to develop anything yet, which would make me a beginning iOS 4 developer."
Their work for the iOS apps probably doesn't fall into the $30-35 range. But perhaps that makes the 3000 look like even more of a value -- so long as you don't need mobile phone or tablet access to its operations or apps.
January 31, 2011
Making High Availability Work on 3000s
"We just launched a new A-Class 2-way running 7.5 PowerPatch5," reported Mark Landin not long ago. "This is our first 7.5 system; our two other machines are still on 6.5. The primary use for this system is MANMAN [ERP] with around 170 users."
Landin added that his storage resource for the A-Class is a VA7410 array running off of two PCI FiberChannel Host Bus Adapters, one DTC 16, and two SureStore DDS-2 tape drives running off the LVD SCSI interface. "So, for this kind of system," he asked, "what are the 'must have' patches that we should install on top of PP5?"
Advice from the 3000 community brought the High Availability Failover (HAFO) techniques into the discussion. An HP engineer who helped keep the 3000 up to date with storage added his take on HAFO abilities for MPE/iX systems like the A-Class.Craig Lalley of EchoTech, who specializes in storage marriages with HP 3000s, told Landin, "MPE can HAFO. What I do is configure all the odd LUNs down one path and all the even LUNs down the second path. Then SYSGEN IO HA , (or is it SYSGEN HA...), and then create the secondary path."
It works on the VAs because all the LUNs are seen down both paths. Don't forget to put the correct firmware on the VA7410 controllers and disk. To update the firmware CommandView is required.
The latest firmware bundle (that I know of) can be found on HP's website.
Jack Connor of Abtech added details and a vote of confidence for HAFO on the 3000.
Under SYSGEN>IO>HA you define your LDEVs and primary path and then the alternate card path. No need for multiple config groups.
I suggest you alternate LDEVs between cards so half are on one attached to Controller 1 on the VA, and the other half on card 2 going to VA Controller 2.
Works like a champ... you can lose a fiber card, cable, or VA controller and you'll get a series of tellop/replies on the console, but it keeps right on running using the single path.
When you've fixed the problem (say a failed controller), you can go into the HA utility under SYSGEN and move them back to the normal path.
Jim Hawkins, who supported the 3000 and engineered from inside HP's labs until HP shut the doors on both, explained the history of how HAFO solutions like the 7410 can work with the 3000.
HAFO could work on any SCSI Disk device where you can see LUNs on more than one port (really all the smarts are in the scsi_disk_and_array_dm code, which was used for all SCSI disks except the oldest SE devices). Original HAFO was with XP256 F/W SCSI, but that was a pretty clunky device even when it was state of the art.
HAFO really didn't become useable until FiberChannel. I led the FC-based effort and we did all of our work on XP and then VA devices because they were what worked at the time; those are the configurations that were officially supported, blessed, and used successfully by many customers. We did evaluate EVA products and they did "work" as disks but they didn't have this "LUNs visible on more than one path" feature until way too late for lab development and certification.
HAFO probably would work on EMC, though our co-development/marketing agreement with them had terminated by the time HAFO was developed -- they did continue to advertise support for MPE/iX systems long after we stopped working with them.
Signing off with the customary "Your Mileage May Vary" disclaimer, Hawkins added that he's noticed that "more stuff seems to be "findable" in the HP Business Support Center. A search for "MPE HAFO" gives many hits of PDF files including:
and an old Jazz article, worth reading if you're new to FC.
January 26, 2011
PDF techniques span integration skills
HP 3000 experts and veterans recently swapped a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer to getting a report into PDF format and out to Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest (called a slick solution by Dave Vogt of Miller Compressed Air Company) there are other commercial solutions -- and a raft of bolt-together techniques you might try if you've got very limited budget to homestead.
Bob McGregor reported:
We used txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.
Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, added:
I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the WinTel system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.
The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago...)
Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who's built up the Invent3K shared server. Johnson noted that the STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, I imagine it can be used short of the transmission process
John Pitman combines an off-the-shelf FTP solution from a departed vendor, Whisper Technology, with a good deal of original integration.
Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case - arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their Menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to these device, and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.
Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, copy them to posix space specific to 74(for generality), with the creating user and account in the file name(eg mgr_stock_O12345.txt), delete the original spoolfile.
We use a product called Bullet Proof FTP Server on Windows - this provides FTP user/password secured access to directories . Last time I looked this was a bit hard to find, but was free in at least one version - it came out of Whisper Technology.
A scheduled program on the windows box (every minute!) FTP connects to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK , and copies the file to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB(arbitrary size of your choice, designed to reduce network loads when the file is downloaded by the user), its zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form - pdf via cutepdf? It could aslo readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address.
Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files
This has been running for at 10 years now, with almost no issues. Occasionnally a large file might hang ftp, but cancelling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500mb txt files.
You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups of users. We run this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Oz can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their ftp client to the relevant ftp server, and download the report without having to print it.
The process also enables soft storage of month end reports , which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing , and general historical reference - we now have about 8 years of this information stored , with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper!
January 25, 2011
Pushing Out PDFs Until Retirement Orbits
Bob McGregor works IT at the Great Falls school district in Montana. We've written about him using Sanface software to do PDF file creation for his enterprise. There are better solutions available for the HP 3000, tuned by companies who know the server from long ago -- and so offer more native integration. (You know who we're talking about, Hillary Software, with your byRequest solution. It's ready for homesteading and migration.)
But McGregor hails from that generation of IT pros who never feared rolling up their sleeves to integrate themselves, taking tools from less-specific suppliers and making them work in a 3000 shop. He wrote us this week to report that he doesn't need to integrate like for his 3000, because the server was retired over the year-end school holidays.
There are many ways to bring 3000 reports into PDF formats, just as there are many reasons to retire an HP 3000 at a shop that has been a poster child for innovation. At Great Falls, the reasons seem to relate to retirement age of the staff vs. managers. It's a story we often hear these days when a 3000 is unplugged.McGregor runs a shop that used Powerhouse and other 3000-bred tools. He says the call accounting app on the 3000 was the last one to get transferred to Windows.
We migrated the final items we were doing on the 3000 last fall with the final one being our call accounting solution. We moved out student systems to software called Powerschool about five years ago, moved our business system to Windows-based software, and then had some smaller systems we moved to windows based solutions and some other various changes.
Our main functions have been migrated for well over two years. Once call accounting was done, we had to pull employee info from our HR system for reference. We then left the 3000 up for two months before moving it just in case. That led to the Christmas timeframe. Of course, just last week, there was a request for a report from HR, but we should be able to satisfy it with our data extract.
As for those retirement reasons, it's as much change of staff, more than technology options, that led to the darkening.
The combination of [HP's End of Life notice], staffing changes, and application need really did the most of it. Our two main functions -- student systems and business systems -- needed new apps for the changing times. Also, my staff is completely different now, and hiring Windows skills is a bit easier.
A few years ago, I made the choice not to have my staff learn the 3000, so I am the only one with any understanding of it at all. While my career goes back to 1986 on the 3000, I am resting easier now for our district since there is no unique tie to it. I feel like the movie Apollo 13 when the crew bid farewell to the lunar module while it drifted away.
If you're still orbiting with your LEM, we'll have a roundup on the self-integrated solutions tomorrow.
January 10, 2011
Hardware appliance links up MPE encryption
HP 3000 sites are encountering a growing need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software.
Several software companies have offered encryption solutions for various scenarios. Orbit Software's Backup+/iX encrypts data during backups. For the part of the 3000 market that still uses TurboStore, however Orbit's software requires a move away from the HP software -- which isn't supported now that HP's gone out of the 3000 support business.
But a hardware solution that's been tested with the 3000 may offer a different method to keeping data secure in transit. Jack Connor of Abtech reports that 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances, one of which Connor put between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host.Connor, who supports HP servers at Abtech and serves on the OpenMPE board of directors (along with Orbit's Keith Wadsworth), found the hardware solution provided security to beat any SFTP transfer option.
I tested an encryption box that sits between the DLT and IO card a year or so ago and it worked like a champ. It maintained streaming mode and all. However, I believe it was in the $2,000-$3,000 range — and to be useful for a DR world, it would require two, so I haven't pursued actually recommending it.
3000 customers are using their systems in e-commerce applications today, even though some in the community say the credit card processors' PCI DSS security rules might block such use. But the Q3 webpage lists PCI specifically as a security standard served by this standalone box.
10ZiG's Q3 storage encryption solution assists in your compliance with the PCI Standard by protecting your customer's data with encryption. The Q3 storage security appliance encrypts data at rest without effecting your current backup procedures. Installation is quick and key management is strong yet simple.
One of the testamonials on the Q3 webpage comes from the Series i IBM community, a group of servers whose OS is just as unique and specialized as MPE/iX.