August 13, 2012
Securely Migrating to the Cloud
HP has pushed hard to entice the enterprise to make the cloud a new home for business data. While evaluating the pros and cons of making a cost-saving move from classic HP 3000 datacenters to the cloud, this guide of what's to be managed will help. Our security analyst Steve Hardwick looks closer at the challenges a manager must resolve if their onsite storage and systems can be replaced with remote infrastructure.
By Steve Hardwick, CISSP
There has been a lot of buzz around cloud-based solutions. There is a lot to be said for moving to this architecture, especially the lower operating costs. However, a lot of the press has been sourced by suppliers such as HP -- the same people who provide the cloud solutions. It is no surprise that the picture they paint is very rosy. Fortunately, if done well, a cloud transition can be a very successful endeavor. But what are some of the challenges in embarking on this adventure? Let me give you some background on the type of security challenges you are going to face. I will also offer a set of free resources that are invaluable in tackling this migration.
First of all, a little security 101. In the security world there is a very common acronym, CIA. It is not what you may think. It stands for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. Confidentiality is the part of security that is concerned with ensuring that only authorized users can view or copy information. This is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about security. Integrity is concerned with the accuracy of the data, only authorized users can create and change information. Finally Availability addresses the ability of authorized uses to perform these actions upon the information.
A few examples help illustrate these concepts. Confidentiality: a password protected encrypted file. Only the user with the password can access the data. Integrity: a password protected public web side. Although many people can view the data, only authorized users can create or modify it. Availability: data is backed up to a remote storage service. If there is a drive failure, an authorized user or IT manager can still get access to data by getting a copy of the backup.
Like any journey it is important to understand your point of origin. Let's take a look at some of the inherent security controls in an on-premise solution which is already in place.
First of all there are some physical controls that are normally in place that can be easily overlooked. For example, there is a strong physical relationship between a laptop and the user. Forgetting remote access for a moment, a manager attains a measure of security from the simple fact that the authorized user must be physically present to access the machine. There are also MAC address logs which can track who accesses the network and when.
Secondly, if I am not using my laptop I can physically secure it when not in use and provide physical measures, such as a locked filing cabinet, to further secure the data. Finally, if I want to help prevent unauthorized users from changing the data I can put users in a special area in my facility, HR or accounting for example. The physical separation provides a way of preventing unauthorized access.
Next, there is the capability to monitor who can access the data. This can either by done physically or technically. Physically involves putting in place a badging system to prevent unauthorized access to the facility. Logs are kept of who is allowed in and the failed attempts are recorded. Plus alarms can be added to signal unauthorized entry.
On a technical level, usernames and passwords are a baseline methodology for controlling virtual access to data. Again, logs are kept on authorized and failed access attempts. Logging analysis tools can be used to generate alarms based on failed attempts. To augment the logging systems, you can add intrusion controls to the mix. These solutions can detect intruders as they attempt to gain access and, in many cases, help prevent it.
Finally there is the availability of information. This varies, from the ability to restore an individual file to a user to restoring complete back-ups of the corporate email system. One of the main challenges is the speed at which data can be restored. End users expect data to be recovered in minutes to a couple of hours.
There is also a hidden challenge: How to ensure that the back-up copies are not compromised. In 2011 Science Applications International Corp. said backup computer tapes containing sensitive health information of 4.9 million Military Health Care System TRICARE beneficiaries treated in the San Antonio, Texas, area since 1992 were stolen from an employee's car Sept. 14. This is just one, albeit major, example of what can happen if backup data is not secured physically and encrypted.
In summary, an on-premise solution is a mix of different controls that help preserve confidentiality, integrity and availability. It is very important to take an inventory of these controls prior to beginning any migration to the cloud, for two reasons.
One, and somewhat obviously, the cloud solution must provide the same if not better security controls as the current system. Especially if the organization has to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Two, many controls that are currently in place may be overlooked – how to replace physical security for example. A risk assessment to catalog the security controls is a critical starting point in migrating to the cloud.
If you do not already have a risk assessment methodology -- or even if you do -- the National Institute of Standard and Technology NIST provides a free risk assessment guide “SP800 – 30 Risk Management Guide for Information Technology Systems” (you can download the PDF here). NIST provides these guides as a baseline for federal organizations to build their security programs. Using this document and running through an assessment will give you an idea of what you already have in place and what a cloud based solution will need to meet.
Looking at some these security controls, what sort of challenges occur in the cloud world? Often overlooked is the lack of physical security controls that mimic the ones in the on-premise solution. For example, my data in no longer in my control when not in use. I can't lock my piece of the cloud in my filing cabinet when I go home at night. Cloud solutions must be able to mimic the physical separation of the information by putting in place other types of controls, in this case it's typically encryption.
Similarly, with monitoring and alarms, how do my IT team get access to the logging information that they need to monitor the cloud based system? I also need to know what other systems are in place to detect and prevent unauthorized access to the data, plus let the IT staff know when there has been a security breach.
Finally there is the case of availability. In the cloud world this is handled with Service Level Agreements. Your agreement must specify how users will be assured that their data will be made available when they need it. Suddenly instead of dealing with backup solutions, this is now a contractual agreement and it needs a different skill set.
Fortunately there is one way to start getting ahead of the curve. NIST has a couple of other very useful SP800 series publications that are worth mentioning. Since cloud computing is a relatively new and fact changing technology, it is important to understand the concepts. At its website, csrc.nist.gov/publications, you'' find NIST SP800-145 “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.” It gives a good overview of the basic concepts of cloud computing in a few pages (3-4). If you are just getting started, then this is a great primer.
Next is its companion NIST SP800-144 “Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing” which goes into great details on how to put together a plan on addressing cloud security needs. It also outlines some of the security controls that should be in place and will be a complement to the assessment exercise I mentioned earlier.
In addition to NIST there is one other organization that is worth a mention. Formed in 2009, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within Cloud Computing. The organization produces a wealth of free information on the topic of cloud computing security. One CSA initiative is a GRC stack with a set of tools for Governance, Risk Management and Compliance. There are several components in the stack -- let's talk about two of them will be highlighted.
There are several training presentation on the site that give a good overview of the new security challenges that cloud computing brings. For example the original training documentation shows how the security requirements are changed in the cloud Then there is the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix CCM. This tool provides a spreadsheet that maps the CSA security control definitions to several different regulatory requirements (PCI, SOX, GLBA FISMA and so on.) It gives a quick and easy way to generate a checklist of the current controls in your on-premise environment, then map them to a set of requirements for the cloud provider. Furthermore, if you have some other regulatory requirements, or your own internal set, you can easily add these to the mapping.
NIST and CSA have provided a set of tested and freely available tools to help any IT organization in their journey to the cloud world. CSA also has a wealth of information that can help to train IT professionals and get them onto a cloud based way of thinking. In both cases they are independent bodies so they are not trying to highlight a specific solution. Consider adding these organizations in your list of cloud security references.
Moving to the cloud brings with it a new set of security challenges. It is now a world of hack once and expose everywhere. Knowing where you came from is critical to understanding the impact of these challenges as you move forward.
Steve Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Financial, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.
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August 09, 2012
Finding HP's MPE Patches and Papers
Speedware has become Fresche Legacy this year, but the vendor's still got its storehouse of HP 3000 documents, white papers and even HP patches available online. You just have to poke directly at the pages you want to hit.
When it became Fresche in the spring, the company put a new face on its website. For awhile it was tough to hop into any HP 3000 page from those Speedware days. But a direct link opens the path to documents which are not found many other places on the Web. HP-authored MPE whitepapers, for example.
The company announced this summer that it's just booked five outsourcing agreements with North American companies worth more than $10 million. These are application outsource contracts -- the sort of business resource which Fresche Legacy continues to offer in the 3000 marketplace.
However, there's still a good deal of resource online from the many years when Speedware was an HP Platinum migration partner, as well as a supplier of migration software such as AMXW. That software's still available today. The HP 3000 paper and patch site has a front door of www.speedware.com/HPe3000_resourcesThere's some surprising advice online that seems to retain its value for the 3000 homesteader, too. This kind of customer might be the one holding off on migrations until the budgeting is better. It's been a tough year for the economy in North America, and even tougher in Europe. One way to stretch the 3000's capabilities might be through open source software. That speedware.com address has a Powerpoint presentation on creating ports for open source products to MPE/iX. (Even more information on using existing open source tools on the 3000, right down to Unix fundamentals like tar, is at the mpe-opensource.org website run by Applied Technologies.)
Such HP-written papers used to be hosted on HP's Jazz server, pulled offline in 2008 when the MPE labs closed down. HP once hosted patches online, too -- including some that made it into beta test, but not general release. You can grab these on the speedware.com pages, too.
There's a lengthy EULA agreement that pops up automatically when you drive into the website, something HP's lawyers insisted upon before licensing this content to third party partners such as Client Systems. We clocked it at about 40 pages when we hit the "Agree" button more than three years ago. HP's Jazz never had such a requirement while its contents were hosted inside Hewlett-Packard.
In a way, HP's outsourced these paper and patches by putting them in the hands of Fresche and Client Systems. Outsourcing can be a good arrangement when an entity, either vendor or client, wants to move on to other opportunities -- like Fresche president Andy Kulakowski said about his new North American outsourcing deals.
These new outsourcing contracts further strengthen our legacy management position and further support our vision to make our customers’ businesses run better by making their IT run better. Organizations that outsource, or are considering outsourcing application management functions, are a perfect fit for our complete service offering.
August 06, 2012
What You Need to Do and Check for SLTs
At a recent visit to a customer's shop, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh spread the word about System Load Tapes. The SLTs are a crucial component to making serious backups of HP 3000s. Vladimir saw a commonplace habit at the shop: Skipping the reading of the advice they'd received.
"I don't know exactly what to do about my SLT," the manager told him. "HP built my first one using a CD. Do I need that CD?"
His answer was no, because HP was only using the most stable media to build that 3000's first SLT. But Vladimir had a question in reply. Do you read the NewsWire? "Yes, I get it in my email, and my mailbox," she said. But like other tech resources, ours hadn't been consulted to advise on such procedures, even though we'd run an article about 10 days ago covering CSLTs. That tape's rules are the same as for SLTs. Create one each time something changes in your configuration for your 3000.
Other managers figure they'd better be creating an SLT with every backup. Not needed, but there's one step that gets skipped in the process.I always say, "Do and Check," Vladimir reports. The checking of your SLT for an error-free tape can be done with the 3000's included utilities. The venerable TELESUP account, which HP deployed to help its support engineers, has CHECKSLT to run and do the checking.
There's also the VSTORE command of MPE/iX to employ in 3000 checking. If your MPE references come from Google searches instead of reading your NewsWires, you might find it a bit harder to locate HP's documentation for VSTORE. You won't find what you'd expect in a 7.5 manual. HP introduced VSTORE in MPE/iX 5.0, so that edition of the manual is where its details reside for your illumination.
It's also standard practice to include VSTORE in every backup job's command process.
There's another kind of manager wouldn't be doing SLTs. That's the one who knows how, but doesn't do the maintenance. You can't make this kind of administrator do their job, not any more than you can make a subscriber read an article. There's lots to be gained by learning skills that keep that 3000 stable and available, even in the event of a disk crash. Management might not respect the 3000's ability to take on new developments. But a company always respects the 3000's reliability.
CHECKSLT, and care and feeding of SLTs, are well-covered in a NewsWire column written by John Burke almost 13 years ago. His advice still holds today.
HP’s documentation tells us we need to have a current SLT. And that it can be created using the TAPE command within SYSGEN. If you look hard enough you will also find the warning that the CSLT you may have created when doing an update or manage patch is not adequate. That is about it for SLT recommendations.
Is this recommendation correct? Well, in the sense that it is necessary to have an SLT created by the TAPE command, then, yes, it is correct. You can re-install your system in the event you lose a drive in the system volume set using this SLT and appropriate other backups. But is this recommendation complete? I think not.
As has been proven countless times, the people who write manuals (and not just at HP) are not out in the real world. They are not running shops where if you get a six-hour maintenance window once a month you consider yourself lucky. They are not running shops where you have to have procedures that can be understood and followed by someone with only basic training in system operation. They are not running shops where cell phones go off like July 4th fireworks as soon as anything unusual happens.
You can find HP's VSTORE page in that 5.0 command manual online, just like the NewsWire's advice. Vladimir, you find him in your office, if he's traveling your way. But managers also find that he recommends our advice -- perhaps because we first get the instructions to do it, and then have our reports checked. Do and Check are words to live by, not just for managing 3000s.
July 30, 2012
Security patches still floating HP-UX cloud
Migrating from the HP 3000 can be an act of faith. Once a vendor has closed down a business platform, the alternatives might look less certain to survive -- at least until a manager can survey the security of a replacement host. HP genuinely dimmed the lights on its MPE/iX activity when it stopped creating security patches. Windows XP is still getting these, but Microsoft has said they'll stop patching in 2017.
Apple's starting to join the previous-platform shutdown crew. Its new OS Mountain Lion is blasting across the downloading bandwidth -- the vendor said more than 3 million copies went out in the first four days of release. With every copy of Mountain Lion that's downloaded, or shipped out on new Macs, the older platform of Snow Leopard loses a step in Apple's march. Snow Leopard shipped out in 2009. Some managers are on watch, waiting to see when that leopard will lose its security spots.
HP continues to support two earlier releases of HP-UX with security patches. Two separate breaches were repaired last week. One vulnerability could be exploited remotely to create a Denial of Service (SSRT100878 rev.2). Another patch (SSRT100824 rev.3) addressed vulnerabilities which "could be exploited remotely to execute arbitrary code or elevate privileges." Samba and BIND opened the gates to these hacks. Both have been supported in MPE/iX, but it's been many years since Samaba or BIND had any access to a security patch on the 3000.
The Mac's OS is built out of the girders of such open-sourced, Unix-based tools and software. Now there's a rising current of change flowing through the Apple community around the two latest releases of the OS. Lion and Mountain Lion change so many things that older, more experienced Mac managers find themselves learning new interfaces and administration in a forced march -- all because Apple sees profit in making Macs behave like mobile phones and tablets.
Whatever's been learned about managing a Mac is now being depreciated with each new OS release. That kind of change is only the early stages of what a 3000 manager experienced when HP stopped creating MPE/iX or patching it for security. The Unix customers of Apple (Mac OS managers) and HP have one thing in common: continuous re-learning and patching of their environments. This will stretch an IT pro's skill sets. It can also stretch out a workday into work nights and weekends. Enterprise customers must always hope that their vendor doesn't get too enterprising about the profits from churn. Apple seems to be doubling down on a strategy that churns up security issues: cloud computing.
HP added this level of capability to MPE once during the history of the OS, when it grafted a Posix interface onto MPE/XL in 1992 to create MPE/iX. The Posix namespace provided instant familiarity to adminstrators who knew Unix admin commands and programs. But MPE/iX didn't stop behaving like administrators expected who wanted nothing to do with Posix. They didn't have to trick the 3000 into the polished and proven processes that established reliability and security.
Apple's iCloud is the default file storage location in that 3-million download OS version. The vendor really doesn't believe in things like a desktop for file management anymore. Let the cloud take care of finding things and keeping them up to date. In other words, let Apple's server farm security maintain the sanctity of personal and professional data.
This turn of events was triggered by the sudden fortunes of Apple's computing business. Mobile devices make up more than 75 percent of the largest capitalized company in the world today. With so many ways to carry a computer out of the office, Apple figures a cloud is the only chance to keep documents and personal data up to date. When a business takes off enough to double a stock price, a company will pivot to capture the opportunity.
The situation illustrates the challenges in staying on a fast track of technology. Apple's "doubling-down" on iCloud, according to its CEO. HP is making a bid for this kind of computing, too, but not by pushing all the chips to the center of its enteprise table. Cloudsystem is good for some businesses, but the top reason that 3000 managers cite for avoiding it: security concerns. HP's got a Enterprise Cloud Services-Continuity version that the vendor says "is part of what makes this an 'enterprise' cloud service."
Some of the security freature include Network Intrusion Detection and Prevention (NIDS/NIPS), firewall and VPN monitoring and management, two-factor authenticated access to privileged user accounts, operating system hardening, physical datacenter security (access by key card or biometric palm scanning, video surveillance, and on-site security personnel) and SIEM monitoring.
That last bit of ackronymn soup stands for Security Information and Event Monitoring, real-time analysis of security alerts generated by networks.
Quite a bit like the MPE/iX customers of just five years ago, us managers of Snow Leopard systems haven't got the latest iCloud, update-everywhere powers, the place where we can abandon our regard for file system skills. We are still getting security patches like the ones that HP-UX admins processed last week through HP-UX Software Assistant.
Every vendor will judge when securing older releases -- like Snow Leopard, MPE/iX or HP-UX B.11.11 -- stops making business sense. Trying to estimate that date is as tough as guessing the thoughts behind the inscrutable face of any cat, either leopard or lion. But knowing that end-of-security deadline is on its way is easy to predict. Every OS gets such a day to test the faith of its customers. And the changes a manager must adopt to keep pace with their OS could be so profound that staying current feels like adopting a new set of administration skills.
July 27, 2012
MM/3000 stalwart serves, stocks 3000 docs
We're still thinking about how to organize and capture the wealth of lively links at hp3000links.com. This site has been without an administrator for most of a year, and it's still got more than 100 links on it that lead to useful information.
But the links to HP's documentation on the 3000's software and hardware go nowhere. Most of them were hosted on HP servers that have either been retired -- like the 3000 division's Jazz webserver -- or they point at a baffling HP webpage where somewhere or other there's a way to find documentation.
However, there's another web resource that seems to pop up quickly when we do a search for HP manuals like the MPE/iX 7.5 Maintenance Manual. It seems that one of the stalwarts of the HP Manufacturing Management application, Scott Petersen, has been stockpiling 3000 manuals at his hpmmsupport.com site. MM/3000, as it was called through the '90s, sold a lot of new 3000s -- because in choosing a platform it's all about the application, isn't it?
It is, until you make that choice, and then you're facing system administration like keeping an SLT up to date for your 3000. How to create a CSLT is part of that 7.5 manual. Petersen's site has it and much more.HP's official position on this kind of document archival has been in flux. For awhile in the 2008-2010 era, the manuals were supposed to be in HP's websites only, or hosted as part of a licensing agreement with a third party. At one point HP was saying the manuals wouldn't go public until 2015. But HP's got bigger woes to resolve than whether's there's too much exposure for its 3000 manuals. HP won't even sell you support for your system by now. Unless you insist.
Petersen said that access to these documents is vital to supporting the 3000.
I have needed the 3000 information in the past and felt that it was a good community service to place the manuals and other things oout there for all to see. I am a pack-rat and decided that having access to the information was critical.
Petersen adds that he's "always on the lookout for things that might go away relating to the 3000, and adding them to the site if it is appropriate." MM/3000 didn't go away after HP dropped it. The software was bought and revived and expanded by former HP employees who became eXegeSys, with products named to match. Manufacturers were surprised, too. But the apps have supported a diverse group of users from governments, sports clubs, job shop manufacturers, process manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
Many of these have migrated to other applications. Our goal is to continue the process of high quality support for those organizations that have either not been willing or able to move to another platform and application. We knew the application when it was designed, and we are aware of how customizations have allowed the application to change.
This was an application vendor as surprised as any about HP's exit from the 3000, if memory serves from my meeting with them in 2002. But they've perserved, well beyond HP's capabilities. Things don't go away easily in a community stocked with these kinds of stalwarts.
July 19, 2012
3000 vendor links, many lost in history
Early this year I started to explore the vitality of links on the hp3000links.com website. After four passes through a pop-up list that's larger than a paperback cover, I bring you to the final 15 suggested connections to 3000 vendors. This is a resource that's without an adminstrator for its content, seeking a volunteer or vendor's resource to maintain its links. After more than 100 searches of its biggest list, I have a summary in the wings about this Web resource, launched about 15 years ago.
1997 was a different time for Web interfaces, and so a vast list of vendors appears on a single pop-up click at the site. These final T-Z links run from TAG Business Computing through the Wick Hill Group. There are only three relevant links on that slice of the list by now.
Other reports on the fate of vendors appeared on this blog covering A-G, H-O, and P-S companies. After a recent talk with volunteer Olav Kappert about the project, I figured it was time to wrap up this safari, and sum up. Among this last group, Taurus Software not only remains vibrant and in business, but still sells software for HP 3000s. Its Bridgeware Bundle was launched last summer, a package of hardware and software that moves data between 3000s and other hosts. Both migrators and homesteaders have uses for Bridgeware.
VEsoft still serves over 1,600 HP 3000 sites with its MPEX and Security/3000 and VEAudit/3000 software. VEsoft's never had a robust Web presence, but that hasn't held the company back. "As the vendor of your software we do this unusual thing -- we visit the customer," says founder Vladimir Volokh. The 3000links pointer to VEsoft refers to the phone of Dan Howard, one of the better-known VEsoft distributors.
(To link to a rollicking website which flows from the Volokhs, visit the Volokh Conspiracy: articles and discussions led by Eugene Volokh, his brother Sasha, and a mighty crew of blog contributors. Politics and law rule that roost.)
The last bit of this T-Z vendor list is not totally bereft of value. Need a C compiler for your HP 3000? The Internet Agency still sells the CCS compiler and the Trax debugger. It also offers ADBC and ADBC-UX, "Java-based API's that provide direct real-time access to TurboIMAGE and Eloquence databases from client applications, without the overhead of ODBC."
However, other 3000-free links include:
• Telamon, now pointing at a "technology deployment partner."
• Tidal Software, a job management vendor that now reverts to Cisco’s website
• TJ Systems, which mentions no 3000 or MPE links
• Unison, another job manager vendor which reverts to the Tivoli IBM page
• Wick Hill, a UK firm which still offers consultancy and resells products -- but none mentioned involve MPE/iX.
Finally there's WRQ, which refers to the website of Attachmate, WRQ's owner after a 2005 merger. If you click on products at Attachmate, you can find the Reflection software, Windows-based products that were once the most widely-installed packages for 3000s.
Completely dead links: TAG Software, Telemarshal, URCA Solutions, Vaske Computer Solutions and Whisper Technology. If you're compelled to do searches on these companies, you might as well be using Google to start.
A great deal of time -- indeed, a generation in computing years -- has passed since hp3000links started its good work. By now the pop-ups that it uses are banned by default in the most modern of browsers, Google Chrome. There might be a last-resort mission that would spark using this site, but telling your every desire to Google's search engine looks like a swifter pursuit. There are resources online that will track most of what's related to the 3000 on the Web. More than anything, the current hp3000links.com pop-up (click above graphic for details) is a catalog of what was once vibrant in 3000 vending.
Even up at the quiet and stable OpenMPE website, a list of application vendor contact data was updated in 2011. The OpenMPE link at hp3000links.com is out of date.
If you're scoring at home, that's 15 vendor links this time, with only Taurus, the Internet Agency and WRQ leading to vendors which know the HP 3000. Over our four journeys, more than half of this epitaph of 110 HP 3000 vendor connections leads a browser astray. Back in January, I supposed there was a means to inform or update the site's caretakers about changes -- but a suggestions box on today's site is missing a "submit" button.
In my view, I'll submit that this website has become a history project. Ther site sports still another massive pop-up menu to track documentation and articles, plus one for some software products by name; many point to HP websites no longer in operation. James Byrne, whose server at Harte & Lyne is hosting the site, said that HP3000links.com has a limited lifespan remaining -- the web address has only been renewed through November 1.
Its pop-up menus are now crammed with blind alleys. The concept of a portal for all things 3000 was once a viable mission. It might remain so, if enough volunteers' help could extract the validated addresses, then concoct a simple, modern interface. Google is not the final answer to this kind of information challenge. But without more help, these link to these links will expire in a little more than 90 days.
The companies and the software and advice which they point to -- about half the time -- have a much longer lifespan. So long as a vendor still speaks MPE, there's some value in tracking them. After all, one of the most prominent links at the site which still operates points at the classic "Why Migrate?" article written by AICS founder Wirt Atmar. Wirt often pointed at less-obvious but logical strategies, such as in his 2002 advisory.
I do not believe that staying on the HP 3000 indefinitely to be a particularly risky strategy. If your code and business procedures work well today, they will work just as well tomorrow, a week from today, or 20 years from now. In great contrast, migration may be the riskiest thing you can do.
The real trick to operating obsoleted hardware and an OS is to buy multiple spare equipment. This equipment is going to become startlingly cheap in the next few years, so keep your eyes open for it. In your free time, configure these spare systems to be identical to your production boxes.
July 13, 2012
Use MPE Input Files to Create Output Files
Intrinsics are a wonderful thing to power HP 3000 development and enhancement. There was a time when file information was hard to procure on a 3000. It was a long time ago, as I was reminded by Olav Kappert in his call about his HP 3000 history. "The high point in MPE software was the JOBINFO intrinsic," he said. Kappert started with the 3000 in 1979.
Fast-forward 33 years later and you'll find questions from a different programmer still working on a 3000, adding features to a system. The Obtaining File Information section of a KSAM manual on MPE/iX holds an answer to what seems like an advanced problem. That manual sits in a tucked-away corner of HP's website today, the HP Business Support Center page for 3000 documentation and manuals.
I'm still using our old HP 3000, and I have access to the HP COBOL compiler. We haven't migrated and aren't intending to. My problem is how to use the characteristics of an input file as HPFOPEN parameters to create an output file. I want that output file to be essentially an exact replica of the input file (give or take some of the data). I want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program.
I'm using FFILEINFO and FLABELINFO to capture the characteristics of the input file, after I have opened it. After I get the opens/reads/writes working, I want to be able to alter the capacity of the output file.
Francois Desrochers replies
How about calling FFILEINFO on the input file to retrieve all the attributes you may need? Then apply them to the output file HPFOPEN call.
Donna Hofmeister adds
You might want to get a copy of the "Using KSAM XL and KSAM 64" manual. Chapters 3 and 4 seem to cover the areas you have questions about. Listfile,5 seems to be a rightly nifty thing.
But rather than beat yourself silly trying to get devise a pure COBOL solution, you might be well advised to augment what you're doing with some CI scripts that you call from your program.In a lively tech discussion on the 3000-L list, Olav Kappert added,
Since you want to do this without knowing anything about the input file until it is opened by the COBOL program, the only way is to use one of the MPE intrinsics to determine all the characteristics of the file in question. Then do a command build after parsing that information.
Michael Anderson added details on how the 3000's CI scripting can build upon the fundamentals of file information and COBOL.
I like Donna's plan.This is a strategy that will also help whenever you want similar functionality on a NON-MPE platform. Also, although COBOL is very capable, an external script might be a better tool. You don't always need a hammer.
This is hypothetical, to try to make a point. From your MPE CI prompt, type HELP FINFO. You should be able to set some variables (SETVAR FILEA "XXX"), and using FINFO add some more variables. Then from COBOL using HPCIGETVAR, string together a BUILD command (with a bigger LIMIT maybe), and call "HPCICOMMAND". You could string the build command from a command, into a single variable, then COBOL only needs to HPCIGETVAR once.
You can also write a script to do everything you want, and call HPCICOMMAND to run the script, pass it parms. It's pretty cool, and it makes your COBOL application more portable. (Same program, different script).
For example: On MPE I once wrote (using COBOL) a small utility to CALL DBINFO, extract all the meta-data from any IMAGE database, and then create, and write to the NEW KSAM COPYLIB, ending up with all the COBOL copylib modules needed for all datasets for any database, including call statements and working storage. My point to all this: I used CI scripting to create and write to the copylib. I actually used ECHO to write the copylib ksam file from a CI script. Now, seeing how I work more on HP-UX and Linux, plus OpenCOBOL and Eloquence, I should be able to compile this same program on Linux with minimal modifications, only changing the external script.
I use this method to access SQL databases, and much more, using OpenCOBOL and the Tcl/Tk developer exchange. This way I can run the same program, same script almost anywhere, no matter, Windows, Mac, or Unix.
Eric Sand, another veteran of the 3000, commented that this kind of challenge really shows off the range of possibility for solving development problems. "You can create almost any cause and effect in MPE that you can imagine," he said. "Reading about your concern gave me a little rush, as I mentally organized what I wanted to do to address your concern."
July 02, 2012
A strike on the cloud lights up cautions
Late Friday evening, millions of people in North America saw a demo of the worst that can happen to cloud computing users. The streaming film service Netflix went dark, halting in mid-movie. At the same time the social networking photo site Instagram went down. These staples of communication and entertainment stayed down, too. Both were victims of a lightning strike on their host facility, Amazon EC2 in Virginia.
The outage was repaired over a span of several hours, and for the most part there was no loss of commerce. Netflix hasn't contacted customers to offer any compensation; Instagram would have no reason to do so, since it's free. But imagine if your cloud-based manufacturing service took a lightning strike. The disaster recovery scenario is significantly complicated when such a key element is outside IT's control.
Amazon's bandwidth for hire has been discussed as a resource for the forthcoming HPA/3000 emulator product that requires no local host. One lightning bolt won't spoil the track record for outside computing services. The new HP Cloud is also bound to weather an outage like this, sometime. However, taking hosting virtual as well as remote/offshore means reworking disaster recovery concepts. When relying on the cloud to run manufacturing, a rapid cutover capability to another provider could save millions of dollars in lost operations.
It could also save a manager's job. On Infoworld's website one of the most popular stories from June was "Adopt the cloud, kill your IT career." The point is not that cloud computing is less stable. Rather, "It's irresponsible to think that just because you push a problem outside your office, it ceases to be your problem." Since the start of 2012 Kenandy Inc. has been offering a replacement for HP 3000 MANMAN software, all based in the cloud. Its high-level answer about a cloud outage problem has been an interesting part of this kind of transition: We know redundancy. Regardless, salesforce.com experienced an outage Thursday, less than 48 hours before the Amazon lightning strike. A little under five hours of downtime ensued.Rob Butters of Kenandy told me the Social ERP solution gets its redundancy abilities through its alliance with Salesforce.com. "The good news for us is that Salesforce has been at this game for some time now," Butters said. "They've spent a lot of money on it and have a lot of datacenters. They have full redundancy and full replication. Their track record is extemely good. They even give people lots of notice when there will be a maintenance [downtime] window."
Salesforce is an equity partner in Kenandy, and there's no mention of using Amazon's cloud services in company presentations. Salesforce.com has had other outages in the past. Reports show that the operation is centered in a single Silicon Valley datacenter with data shadowed to another facility on the US East Coast. More than 70,000 customers count on the stability of salesforce.com.
Kenandy calls its product the first cloud ERP built entirely on salesforce.com’s social enterprise cloud computing platform, specifically for product companies. In May, Social ERP added financials and order management to the manufacturing management core. The prospective customer is more than just MANMAN sites. The target is companies that design, manufacture, and distribute products, so they can control and get visibility of their supply and distribution networks.
“With the addition of financials and order management, Kenandy Social ERP becomes the backbone of the social enterprise,” says Sandra Kurtzig, Chairman and CEO of Kenandy. “It’s time to re-think ERP, and that’s what we’ve done. Kenandy release 2.0 now offers fully integrated end-to-end ERP and it’s entirely on the cloud, easy to use, fast to deploy, mobile, global, and social.”
“Kenandy Social ERP gives our customers the ability to transform into social enterprises across both the front and back office, entirely in the cloud,” said Ron Huddleston, senior vice president, ISV and Alliances, salesforce.com. “With the rich set of add-on apps in the AppExchange and user extensibility through Force.com, companies are only limited by their imagination.”
That Virginia lightning strike could just as easily been a hammer thrown onto a single company's datacenter, or even upon a network service provider that links hosting to the rest of an enterprise. The cost savings in cloud computing go beyond elimination of hardware by moving it into the cloud. For $175 per user per month at Kendandy, you get your share of access to IT staff which won't pay to hire exclusively. But there's little you can do in the event of a problem except call that staff -- just as a half-million East Coast electric customers did starting after Friday night's storms. By Monday morning, 80 percent of them were still without power. As the InfoWorld article states
You're adding another avenue for the blame to follow. The end result of a catastrophic failure or data loss event is exactly the same whether you own the service or contract it out. The difference is you can't do anything about it directly. You jump out of the plane and hope that whoever packed your parachute knew what he or she was doing.
A company can't expect to be able to hire subject experts at every level of IT. In this view, working with a cloud or hosted service vendor makes sense because there's a high concentration of expert skill at a company whose sole focus is delivering that service. There's some truth to that, for sure, but it's not the same as infallibility.
The HP 3000 homesteading customers who are some of the best prospects for using cloud computing are those trying to trim IT budgets. They'll need assurance that the cloud providers of ERP, CRM or financials have those experts on call, as well as a backup set of servers -- not just data -- which are well-separated from bad weather.
Clouds turn out to be just as susceptible to weather disasters as in-house IT. The cautions which the 3000 customers have voiced so far might stem from the out-of-house recovery that the cloud demands. This has always been a belt-and-suspenders community. But that's an old-school expense that can seem less costly after a dark and stormy night, one when the movies flicker to a halt.
June 27, 2012
Marking Time To Recovery: No Mean Feat
MB Foster led users through 45 minutes of MTTRO fundamentals this afternoon in a webinar. That's Mean Time To Recovery of Operations, or the amount of effort measured to get an IT operation back online after a disaster like a hurricane. Here in Texas, the state's coastal cities including Houston were once bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Debby, which was predicted to make landfall later this week before it turned back out to the Atlantic.
MTTRO "really has to do with what it takes to get back in operation after the disaster occurs," said MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster. "Also, what the skill sets are for building the new environment." Communications between team members are one issue to consider, now that company operations are often spread out geographically.
"One of my favorite stories about a disaster recovery team was the one that was getting on plane to fly from New Jersey to their Colorado disaster recovery site," Foster said. "On check-in, the communications specialist was told that the test scenario was 'You're on vacation in Mexico and unavailable.' So he was told to go home, and the cross-training was then put to the test."
With HP 3000s often running in mission-critical mode, plans for DR are crucial. There are many items to track, starting with an estimate of what it will cost to recover. A good MTTRO plan calcuates the length of time that each business unit can survive without a system. In other words, estimating the pain and cost of each of the following timeframes: the increasing impact of disruption for the first hour offline; after 4, 8 and then 12 hours offline; then after one full day offline, then after one week offline.Foster's outline for the key issues recognizes that there's different MTTROs for different scenarios.
- Equipment (computers, phones, payment devices)
- Vendors – Hardware & Software – specs and versions, license keys
- Hot and cold standbys
- Have user procedures in a document that is current
- Each recovery scenario depends on the event
- A communications plan is everything
- Know who needs to be notified on System Management Team
- Who declares the emergency, and who executes the plan?
- What is the phone tree process for staff notification?
- Who is the media contact?
- What other vendors, customers, and service agencies need to be notified?
- Where will the recovery site be – the same or different for each scenario?
- What is integrated with each application?
- Are the interfaces real time or batch (asynchronous)?
- Can the application be made operational without the other apps (standalone)?
Foster's company, being a services provider as well as a software company, thinks through all these issues with clients. It's a timely issue here in the US during storm season. Unlike Debby, it's not a subject that's going to blow away, so to speak.
One of the biggest hurdles for one manager attending the webinar was keeping information current. "We have to research everything, to make sure it's current from the last DR test," said Wendy Durupan at Harvard Pilgrim Health. "We test twice a year."
June 14, 2012
Open Sourcing Access to Linux or Windows from MPE/iX
DSLINE is a classic networking access service provided for HP 3000s. The software is so classic that HP once charged separately for NS3000/iX Network Services. One user wanted to employ DSLINE to make connections, starting from MPE systems and into remote Linux and Windows servers. Sending commands was the task to be performed.
"I currently use a Reflection script to do the job," said Krikor Gullekian. "However, we are moving away from that and creating a JCL for it. I am using FTP to create a file on the host system which is activating commands to run, and that works, but it's a little cumbersome. That's why I was wondering if there were any other way."
Another community member pointed to using the ssh client included on the HP 3000. In theory, so long as the Linux and Window servers have an ssh server, then Gullekian should be able to run remote commands via ssh. But there's some hurdles to overcome in using ssh on a 3000 for remote command execution.
Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, who's maintaining a repository of these sorts of open source tools for 3000s, warns that ssh needs some improvements to let it perform the same level of work as Linux or Windows versions of the remote access tool.
Unfortunately, the available ssh client for MPE/iX is none too current, and is essentially 'broken' with regard to remote command execution. As I recall, it has something to do with SELECT being busted on MPE/iX. It works well enough to support scp and sftp though, but that's pretty much it.
Edminster has created workarounds for anyone who needs password-free invoking of secure remote scripts, however. What's more, it appears that the MPE way of writing such received files to disk is more secure than the other platforms' FTP services.
"What I've had to do in environments," Edminster says, "where I want passwordless secure remote script invocation (ala ssh) is to have a scheduled task (via cron or whatever) that looks for and executes specifically named scripts, one that then removes the script when done executing."
To avoid having the remote cron beginning to execute a partially sftp-put file, I'd send it with a '.tmp' suffix, and then rename it upon successful completion of the put and/or chmod the file to make it executable when I'm ready to have it run (rename and chmod being atomic operations). This is necessary because, unlike MPE/iX, many systems FTPd (and likewise, sftpd) will start writing the received content to disk as soon as it receives it -- making a partially received file 'visible'.
Yes -- we've been spoiled in MPE/iX Land.
For what it's worth, on my bucket list is either an update to the OpenSSH port (with an attempt to fix remote command execution), or port of other, simpler ssh implementations. If the OpenSSH implementation for MPE/iX is what you want to try, you can get the necessary files either from the fine folks at Allegro (from their website), or from www.MPE-OpenSource.org.
I'd be happy to work with anyone that needs help getting this OpenSSH port installed and operating -- including how to get around some of its limitations.
Over at the Allegro website, Edminster's MPE OpenSource site is named as the best destination for such software.
Those looking for MPE/iX ports of Open Source software that were formerly hosted at HP’s “Jazz” and other sites will appreciate http://www.mpe-opensource.org. Currently the site offers an updated all-in-one package of the components required to implement the SFTP Secure File Transfer Protocol on MPE/iX 6.5 or later. This package includes Perl, the Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC), as well as GNU tools, SSL, SSH, and required dependencies.
With that said, Allegro's Donna Hofmeister did point out that the company has a great whitepaper on using SFTP, as well as accompanying downloads. Look for "SFTP" on the Allegro whitepaper page.
June 12, 2012
ODBC provides link to analyzing data stores
An essential database feature of the HP 3000 is still providing the means for advanced analysis. A new alliance between the top-rank ODBC provider for MPE and a data analysis firm is also delivering better access to the value of deep data on HP 3000s, as well as other servers in the enterprise.
Tomorrow MB Foster and InfoPlanIT will show off tools and practices to make operational data stores and warehouses more valuable to companies. InfoPlanIT has been working with manufacturers who use HP 3000 and MANMAN for more than a decade. MB Foster created the bundled ODBC driver in MPE/iX, ODBCLink/SE. That product has evolved to become the UDA Series during the 15 years since HP wired ODBCLink/SE into the 3000's data services.
The June 13 Webinar at 2PM EDT (11AM Pacific) will show how to monitor the vital signs of a business by combining the InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer. The companies say that the Visual Analyzer is "web-based and works with virtually every desktop, laptop and mobile device." It can be fed with data from ODBC sources, not to mention the ubiquitious SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, MS Access, SQLite and even Excel.
MB Foster has created report templates that streamline integration with the Visual Analyzer capabilities. The 45-minute program will also show the benefits of using an operational data store or a data mart. You can sign up online for the presentation, which is free.Business applications such as MANMAN are especially reliable IT resources, but the reporting elements often can use help. There's been a healthy cottage industry that's grown up to serve ERP and MRP apps like MANMAN. The better ones make an offer to simplify analysis using connection wizards and templates for data. The InfoPlanIT product has got both of these. Visual Analyzer's very deep web page says the product can let users skip Excel skills to get business insights into circulation among managers.
The beauty of using InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer is that there is no need to take your data to Excel. InfoPlanIT Visual Analyzer has a lot of built-in functionality that enables real time visual analysis. If you do find that you need to take your data into Excel, there is a built-in export for that.
The product also ships with a Microsoft Office Add-In that allows analysis results to be easily embedded into PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents. Using this add-in, users can simply choose a layout from their drop down and add it to their report. Next month, they simply have to update the chart with the latest numbers.
June 11, 2012
Learn more about the drop-in DB for IMAGE
Marxmeier Software is hosting the first in a series of instructional webinars about its Eloquence database today. In dozens of independent software vendor customer bases, and hundreds of other HP 3000 sites, Eloquence has been praised as a drop-in replacement for IMAGE/SQL when moving to Linux, Windows, and even HP-UX.
Full Text Search is the most prominent enhancement to Eloquence in the new 8.20 version. FTS offers new ways of searching the contents of Eloquence databases beyond what key, search and index items allow.
We will discuss FTS concepts, use cases and benefits and show practical examples of setting up full text indexes and using them in your application without the need for extensive code changes. You will be surprised to see the flexibility and speed of FTS searches.
The webinar from the company's HQ in Germany, led by Eloquence creator Michael Marxmeier, begins at 11:30 EDT/8:30PDT today. You can register for the free class at a GoToMeeting page. Marxmeier is using VOIP audio as a default for the meeting, but you can also dial in via telephone. If you change the audio option to use a telephone, the GUI will then display dial-in numbers, an access code and an audio pin for you to use. There's more details on the process for the webinar at the Marxmeier help page for the event. Another webinar is scheduled for two weeks from today, same time on June 25.
May 31, 2012
Roomy HP Cloud considers Unix vs. MPE
We're moving into a world where great-grandma's photo scrapbooks are virtual and HP proprietary servers live in clouds. With a little patience, one of those servers will be an HP 3000 this year. In an odd omission, this month the HP Unix servers don't qualify for cloud status with one supplier — Hewlett-Packard.
The HP Cloud (hpcloud.com) has been open in a public beta this month. It's a spot where Windows and Linux computing services are available using virtualized servers. HP's got ProLiant boxes racked up and sliced up into customer-sized computing pieces in HP Cloud.
No, it's not free — but the cost starts to approach the fabled "too cheap to meter" claims from last century's nuclear-powered electricity rollout. Especially if you compare it to ownership of the iron. A Standard Large Instance costs 32 cents an hour. That gives you a 4-virtual core system with 16GB of RAM and a 240GB disk for um, $230 a month. A server you won't pay to power up, or ever have to move. Add bandwidth charges and you get $300 monthly. So HP will put your 4-core server into its cloud. Just not an HP-UX server.
One well-connected PA-RISC developer explained that HP's clouds are pretty much a non-starter for existing long-time HP customers. You can't host HP-UX apps in HP's cloud, just Windows and Linux. Long-time customers have both proprietary and industry standard apps. HP has a chance to change this, though, so long as it can find a way for HP-UX to live on Intel Xeon chips in the cloud host. Maybe an Itanium emulator is required.
Meanwhile, the users of HP 3000 MPE apps will have a cloud option available to them by the end of this year, so long as Stromasys has its way with the new HPA/3000 Charon technology. The most affordable instance of this emulator is in a non-host configuration, run from a cloud. There's talk about using Amazon's EC2 as the computing host provider. Some 3000 managers are still leery of relying on security over networks so remote. But other companies will be keen to get the high-powered iron out of datacenters, even as they continue to rely on high-powered MPE apps.
The power of such a worldwide web of networks extends all the way to my mom's table in her room at the Franciscan Care Center in Sylvania, Ohio. It's a modest and comfortable place that I'm visiting soon, but there's a limit to how much space she's got for scrapbooks. And with three great-grandchildren all under age 3, there's a torrent of pictures to share. We once mailed her paper photos and handsome albums, but now we send it all to a digital picture frame, one plugged into her phone line. Updates of the latest grandbaby pictures arrive in that frame, one that needs as little infrastructure management as the very best cloud computer. Meaning someone else is doing it, and including the admin in the cost.
No, it doesn't mean the picture frame and the network will take those pictures of Noah, Bree and Paige. Or even that it will load them -- that's our job as grandparents. But it will do the rest, so we can share with less effort. My wife Abby and I can spend our energy creating those picture-worthy moments — like you might spend energy improving an application or extending its reach into wider worlds, up in the clouds.
May 29, 2012
Easier scripting in Windows a migration task
Windows 2008 is a popular platform for 3000 sites making a move off the platform. Less popular? Finding an intuitive way to do job and process scripts for Windows. But existing 3000 tools providers keep cooking up new tools to replace those well-polished MPE scripts, once a customer gets ready for a Windows migration. Or they've expanded old tools into new territory.
Windows scripts might not seem easy. Reports from customers making transitions show that the MPE/iX batch and job-stream functions have been duplicated using a wide array of solutions. It's not unusual to see such job control replacements require some customized coding of scripts. MB Foster's going to show off a tool to simplify this MPE-to-Windows migration challenge, tomorrow (Wednesday, May 30) at 11AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern Time.
The software is UDAXpress, a tool that's grown up from its origins as a system data extractor. Migrations which still haven't been started could easily have advanced MPE scripts to be migrated. The Do It Yourself manager of IT is the kind of person who's got scripts to automate the daily, weekly or monthly processes. Taking a DIY approach to a migration might benefit from a tool to bridge the MPE to Windows gap.
The demo of key features in UDAXpress is being handled by Raymond Bilodeau of MB Foster's Professional Services program as well as the company's CEO Birket Foster. (Sign up online for the demo webinar.) Clever and seasoned system managers have scripts that make the 3000 self-reliant. Our columnist Scott Hirsh believed that anything you'd do often ought to be automated.System admin tasks are naturals for scripts, according to the former chair of the SIGSYSMAN special interest group. "If you can script it or put it in a job, you should," Hirsh said. "And then you should schedule it. You should not be doing this stuff by hand. If you can automate a task you should, however you do that. You should manage by exception to cut your workload down."
MB Foster calls UDAXpress a tool "for power users, system administrators, developers and programmers who want to leverage the power of scripting, and perform both minor and complex tasks. Once you learn the basics, you'll see they’re not all that difficult to operate, and there is practically no limit as to what you can use it for."
May 25, 2012
Paper passes on primers on MPE, and more
Imagine it's your first day managing an HP 3000. You don't have to travel in a time machine to find that kind of event. However, a magic carpet of the past ensures the delivery of time-tested fundamentals. The carpet is paper, where so much MPE lore first unspooled for your community. If not for articles on paper, much of the 3000's wisdom would never have made it to the web.
As for that first day, an IT manager at Disston Tools in South Deerfield, Mass. has had that date arrive just this month. He's a total newbie, taking over for a veteran who's leaving this manufacturer. Everybody's a newbie at something. It's just like publishing news: if it's something you didn't know, then it's news to you.
Not many Interweb resources call themselves publishers, but we do. We started with ink on paper, my partner Abby and I, initially for a cross-platform IT publisher before the NewsWire was first delivered from our own offices. This week we delivered our 155th print issue. The May edition will be available to our community newbie, as well as one veteran that community icon Vladimir Volokh scouted out in Los Angeles. Vladimir hand-delivers print issues on his consulting trips, much to our delight.
With all that print heritage, I took note of a retrenchment in printed news this week. The daily newspaper in New Orleans will be daily no more. The Times-Picayune is going to three times weekly in print and everyday online. This is a newspaper that won two Pulitzers for its Katrina reporting. Sadly, the caliber of content doesn't bulwark many publications anymore. Advertisers, like our fine sponsors, determine how often the presses roll.
In the alternative, of course, there's the Interweb. I use the jokey term for online news because it's completely pervasive and so up to date that the future seems like yesterday if you bury your head in links. Knowing where to look, however, becomes a great mission for printed publications. We always hear that people have found our reports for the first time when they get a print issue of the NewsWire. It's nice to have that outpost, and essential to who we are and how we deliver. But for printed pages long gone, it's great to have host sites that preserve things like George Stachnik's instruction about using files in MPE, and much more. It's one of 21 articles in a series he wrote for the now-departed InterACT magazine. All are preserved for the education of newbies, as well as the rest of us.Chris Bartram at 3K Associates has collected Stachnik's articles, as well as many other papers, at the 3k.com website. (Think about how long that site has been around. It's so fundamental it's got a two-character domain name. Fewer than 1,300 of those in existence.) Our community is lucky to have the riches of several of these kinds of sites. Open source software, at mpe-opensource.org. Tech papers at robelle.com, adager.com, allegro.com.
But most of those papers started out on paper. Because MPE's preserved its roots, even an article like Stachnik's written more than a decade ago will be useful at Disston Tools. The company's covering its MANMAN support needs with service from the Support Group, Inc. Terry Floyd there gave us a heads-up about the new IT guy, and we're glad to send the new member our printed May issue.
Sponsors in your community still believe in the power of paper, even while they buy Adsense keywords from Google and build Twitter feeds and pursue Facebook Likes. We're always mindful that the NewsWire depends on support as well as new readers and faithful followers. We once led off with print reporting and archived it on the Web. But about the time Katrina was hitting New Orleans we switched out our lead horse -- with some exception. Every printed issue carries content that's only available in paper as an exclusive, for awhile. If you'd like your own printed copy in the US, we'd be glad to send it to you. (Click on the icon above to send us a message.) Our non-domestic web-only readers, thousands of them, have access off the page. Like the Times-Picayune, we're working with a blended model of the old and new, even as we link wisdom from the elders to our new readers.
May 16, 2012
Eloquence fast indexes on display Thursday
The Eloquence database and language gets a curtain call tomorrow (May 17) at 11AM PDT (2PM EDT) in a Webinar devoted to the speedy enhancements for the 8.20 version of this drop-in replacement for TurboIMAGE. Creator Michael Marxmeier led a Webinar late in April in conjunction with Birket Foster of MB Foster. That program was so popular it was fully subscribed before it began -- a rare thing in the online training world.
The fast indexing features included in the newest release "is like Google-class searches, but on text databases," said Foster. "If you use COBOL, Fortran, or Powerhouse with it, for example, it allows you to do very graphic text indexing. It allows flexible ways of dealing with data. If you have a description of a part, every word in that description becomes a pointer back to that record."
The work from Marxmeier's team is now in beta status until July's full rollout. This latest Eloquence brings the performance of an IMAGE indexer such as Omnidex to this replacement for IMAGE, a tool for any migrator who needs a database that requires no changes to a 3000 app's database calls. These are changes that carry no extra charge for current customers of the database. Eloquence was at the heart of the Summit Technology Spectrum/3000 credit union customer migration. Its new indexing is power a developer can understand and love easier than any C-level executive -- who will be glad to learn it's very fast.
Registration for the free Webinar of 45 minutes with Marxmeier and Foster is at the MB Foster website. Audio is being offered both as Internet VOIP worldwide, and also as a toll-free call in North America. Attendance at the last webinar included Eloquence users who have never had a 3000 relationship, Foster said. The customers already deploying Eloquence are excited about these changes, too. "You can create new queries that are kind of Google-like," Foster said.
"You can find entries in your database in new ways," Foster says. "For example you can find all customers who had a transaction > $10,000 in a date range (May 1, 2012 - May 15, 2012) without doing a table scan. You can also index each word in a text field or description -- it could be looking for all customers with city = 'Dallas' or with the word 'shipping' in the transaction description."
To get this kind of retrieval very little change needs to be made, and a program or even QUERY/3000 can use this capability. "Little work, new flexibility in retrieval, means lots of new possibilities for our customers," Foster said. DBFINDs, DBGETs, and DBINFOs have extra commands and new modes.
The UDA Central extract, transform and load (ETL) tools at MB Foster are being prepared to employ the new indexing, he added. On July 25-27 a three day, $950 workshop is scheduled for full training on Eloquence, hosted at the MB Foster HQ in Southern Ontario outside of Ottawa. It's designed to help developers do the database architecture based on the kinds of retrievals they'd like to do. Details on registering for that training -- which culminates with Foster's annual BBQ on July 28 -- are available from Foster at 800-ANSWERS.
May 15, 2012
Link-In, to put 3000 over the 500-pro mark
We're now very close, up on LinkedIn. The HP 3000 Community on the business social network counts 497 members as of today, a collective of hundreds of developers, managers, consultants, employers and software suppliers. After four years of connecting, we're just three members short of the magic 500+ mark for this group. You can put this group into the special ranking, by simply joining it. LinkedIn ranks members of 500-plus groups higher when searches are returned. Searches like someone pursuing experience, expertise, or a skill like coding business applications.
The members of the HP 3000 Community have all of that. So many of them come from the ranks of 3000 IT development and management pros. An IT manager leading a group that maintains and develops apps for a hotel chain. A support manager for a vendor who's still got 3000 customers using a document management tool. The inside sales manager at the largest remaining COBOL vendor in the market.
Join us, and become better connected to your colleagues and employers.
LinkedIn is free at its basic level, which is all you need to join the HP 3000 Community. And for a modest upcharge of $20-$30 monthly, LinkedIn will send your mail directly to other members that you'll find in groups like this one. LinkedIn even guarantees a response to its InMail (by providing you with an additional InMail, if your first goes unanswered.)
Another advantage to joining a large group: you have more people to link with elsewhere, because you've got something in common -- group membership. These personal links also boost your profile, according to job recruiter Linda Tuerk.Tuerk told the members of the CAMUS users group that getting to the 500 level is important to making LinkedIn a successful tool.
Link with as many members as you can. Some experts say that you will only show up in search results for your skillset only 3 percent of the time if you are linked to fewer than 200 people. That incidence is supposed to climb to 90 percent if you are linked to "500+." Look for "Open Networkers" and LIONs that will link with everybody. Drop them later if you like.
Add Groups related to your professional field. You are allowed 50. Concentrate on ones that have thousands of members at first, then add local ones that seem relevant and have at least 100. Check them out, and as you near your 50 Group maximum, drop some that are less relevant and add the most relevant for you. Most have jobs tabs. Link to Group members you like or that have 500+ connections. Find jobs on Discussion tabs also.
There's more details on how to use a group membership and LinkedIn to improve a job search at Tuerk's post here in the NewsWire blog. LinkedIn group membership is a great way to stay in touch with a community that can seem smaller, if you believe some reports. Let us hear from you.
May 10, 2012
Intrinsic Advice: Finding HP's 3000 Savvy
While I fine-tuned (okay, corrected) yesterday's report about the current lifespan for MPE date intrinsics, my associate technical editor Vladimir Volokh suggested we include HP's documentation page for HPCALENDAR. That's the intrinsic HP wrote for the 6.0 and 7.x releases of the 3000's OS, a new tool to solve an old problem. Alas, HPCALENDAR is fresher, but it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode.
But poking into the online resources for MPE Intrinsics, I stumbled on HP's re-shelving of its 3000 docs. No longer available at the easy-to-recall docs.hp.com, these manuals are at HP's Business Support Center. And just about nowhere else within a 10-minute search across Google's search engine. (Bing did no better.) So where are the guidelines to intrinsics for MPE/iX? All docs for the 3000's software are at the BSC 3000 docs page.
The Intrinsics Manual for 7.x is a PDF file at
A lot to remember, but not much is simple while using HP's resources for 3000s these days. It used to be much simpler. In the 1990s the Interex user group ran a collection of well-written white papers by George Stachnik. We're lucky enough to have them with us today, cut loose from ownership and firewalls. One is devoted to the system's intrinsics.By the time The HP 3000--for Complete Novices, Part 17: Using Intrinsics was posted on the 3K Associates website, Stachnik was working in technical training in HP's Network Server Division. He'd first written these papers for Interact, the technical journal devoted to 3000 savvy for more than two decades. Even though Interact is long out of print, Stachnik's savvy is preserved in multiple web outposts.
Stachnik explains why intrinsics tap the inherent advantage of using an HP 3000.
When an application program calls an MPE/iX intrinsic, the intrinsic places itself in MPE/iX's "privileged mode." The concept of privileged mode is one of the key reasons for the HP 3000's legendary reputation for reliability. Experienced IT managers have learned to be very wary of application programs that access system internal data structures directly. They demand that MPE/iX place restrictions on HP 3000 applications, to prevent them from doing anything that could foul up the system. This is what led to the development of the intrinsics. Application programs running in user mode can interact with the operating system only by invoking intrinsics.
Even if your company has a migration in mind, or doesn't have an unlimited lifespan for the 3000, knowing how intrinsics work is an intrinsic part of learning 3000 fine-tuning that might be inside classic applications. Tools can help to hunt down intrinsics, but it helps to know what they do and what they're called. You can fine-tune your 3000 knowledge using Stachnik's papers and HP's Intrinsic documentation.
May 03, 2012
Eloquence assembles more DB advances
MB Foster filled up its room for yesterday's webinar about the advances in the new Eloquence database and language. The drop-in replacement for IMAGE at migrating 3000 sites has been popular -- in part because of its pricing, but also because Eloquence's creator Michael Marxmeier has been persistent about updating the product. One of the highlights will be full text search in the database.
The updates don't cost extra for customers currently on support, which is not always the business model software providers use. Some vendors such as Cognos like to charge for upgrades just between performance tiers of computers. Marxmeier follows the path of the most reliable tool suppliers in the 3000 market: revenue via support.
That doesn't mean there's no good reason to make an initial Eloquence investment. A beta test period is underway for the 8.20 release of the product. Full release will come this summer, and the MB Foster webinar took 45 minutes to walk through new features. The online meeting was popular enough to schedule a second show on May 17. Signup is at the MB Foster site; Marxmeier will be on the call along with Birket Foster."Due to the high volume of attendees trying to get in at the last minute, we have decided to repeat the webinar on May 17 at 2 PM EST," MB Foster's sales director Chris Whitehead reported. "You can register at http://www.mbfoster.com/aboutus/events_detail.cfm?On=78." Once the database is in place, users can deploy the Eloquence language in development. For example, WebDLG is an Eloquence component which enables dialog-based Eloquence programs to use a web browser as a user interface.
Foster said that the 8.20 beta starts in mid-May with a release in July, and "documentation is coming soon. These are the high level items that were discussed:
Database full text search functionality
Major language enhancements
PCL to PDF conversion
Eloquence's Ruth Schurrle said that after the summer break, they will offer a bi-monthly training webinar to explain aspects of Eloquence functionality in depth. The first webinar is scheduled around beginning of June. Keep an eye out here, or at the Marxmeier Software website, for more schedule details and registration on those Marxmeier training webinars.
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 02, 2012
OpenMPE still open for some downloading
April is the time of year when a new OpenMPE board of directors was being seated, at least from 2002 to 2009. The count of volunteers listed as board members stands at three as of today. Birket Foster, Tony Tibbenham and Alan Tibbetts make up the tightest group in the 10 years that OpenMPE has been at work. This month marks the end of the second year of stasis for a volunteer group that's still serving up bits which are relevant to homesteading HP 3000 users.
The chairman Foster told us that there's still work to do on licenses for any software which will operate under the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. "We ran that emulator project in conjunction with HP," he said in February. Hewlett-Packard came up with the only paid-license project for an enterprise OS running on an emulator, sparked by board direction from OpenMPE. With that HPA/3000 now being shown off in sales calls this spring, it's easy to forget the whole concept wouldn't have existed without an OS license for an emulator.
There's still an Invent3K public access development server online, thanks to the volunteer efforts of the group, as well as supporters like the Support Group Inc. There are proceedings available on that server which contain papers that could help train a replacement generation of managers at homestead sites.
On more everyday matters, the OpenMPE website still hosts some code and scripts useful to a 3000 manager. Scripts by the ever-helpful ex-CSY guru Jeff Vance, Donna Hoffmeister, and others are online today. It's part of the Jazz project on OpenMPE, but the open source dreams of the group are being realized in another web outpost.OpenMPE began as a push to get the source code for the operating system deeded to the customers who'd be using the 3000 for an unlimited future. Over a five-year period, OpenMPE began to turn toward sparking an emulator with licensing and policy requests to HP. Hewlett-Packard never got the open source religion for MPE, but over at the MPE-OpenSource.org site, software that can help is available for downloads, too.
Brian Edminster, who stocks and curates that website, sees a connection between the emulator and the needs of a 3000 community which is making a transition. Even 3000 sites which have definite plans to migrate could find an role for the emulator to play.
"For migrations that are really replacements rather than just re-hosting," Edminster said, "it could well be a lot cheaper to keep a emulated instance of the application at time of conversion -- rather than try to mothball a server, and hope it'll come up okay later."
March 29, 2012
Community links in on migration, emulation
A lively discussion of migrating off the HP 3000 is on the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community discussion boards. (We're bearing down on the magic 500+ member count for that group; joining such a group makes your profile on LinkedIn rise up for people seeking IT experts.) Members in the discussion included developers of the MM/3000 MRP application built for MPE/iX -- maintained by HP until it was sold to eXegeSys -- and then revamped as an independent app. Others sharing their experience included consultants from Speedware and MB Foster migration teams, plus some advice about the hardware emulator alternative that might pump more useful years into such an MPE app.
Randy Thon of Cessna Aircraft said that “one of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective and solid, and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department. But this year we as a company are looking at moving from the HP 3000 due to supportability, mainly due to hardware.”
Advice below followed a line of study about size of migrations as well as other alternatives.
Randy, why not move to the newer A-class hardware? It supports native fibre for high speed fault tolerant arrays. Plus it would run circles around the KS969.
- Craig Lalley
You could also consider using MB Foster to migrate the same application over to Unix.
- Tony Ray
Tony, the eXegeSys team spent years trying to migrate MM/3000 to Unix and ultimately gave up and sold the intellectual property. 11.7 million lines of COBOL, SPL, and Pascal is a big beast to move.
- Jeffrey Lyon
Ah, the COBOL is not a problem, but re-creating the SPL and Pascal would be the problem. I understand. It is quite unfortunate that the HP 3000 had to stop. There will never be a better machine. I have worked on them since 1976 and know that several are still running. I own two myself.
- Tony Ray
- Scott T. Petersen
Scott, correct me if I'm wrong, but it wasn't its integration with the e3000 the made the MM/3000 port difficult -- it was its integration with MPE. I seem to remember you explaining to me that there were MPE system calls which were provided specifically for MM/3000.
- Jeffrey Lyon
The 11.7 million is not that big. 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 MM/3000 migration done in under two years.
- Brian Stephens
Jeffrey is correct, the integration with MPE and the features of the platform increased the complexity of the problem. And also having special features built into the compilers just for the application did not simplify the issue, either.
- Scott T. Petersen
Technical possibilities aside, what really happened is that eXegeSys management realized that a fully migrated MM/3000 would not compete for new sales in the then current market and de-funded and, thus, terribly hampered the effort late in its cycle in the hope of developing a new technology ERP. I'm pretty sure that Scott et. al could have gotten it done, but the new sales market was uninterested and the existing MM/3000 base was tired of waiting.
We'll be having this same conversation about SAP 20 years from now.
- Jeffrey Lyon
Any thought of trying the Charon-HPA/3000 product from Stromasys? Seems like your 969 license would qualify for for the emulator. Then hardware would no longer be an issue.
- Tracy Johnson
March 16, 2012
IBM's legacy platform grapples with future
IBM has risen on the radar of the companies supplying expertise to legacy tech users. While "legacy" has a distinct sound of a sneer coming from a pop-tech provider, these legacy systems like HP 3000s, AS/400s and mainframes drive a lot of business in our modern day. When you drive even deeper into legacy to consider COBOL, the population using it swells to a majority.
The situation in IBM's legacy world bears a close look, so you can see how a vendor the size of Big Blue is handling less-trendy tech customers. IBM has continued to update the server system that's viewed as a close cousin to the HP 3000. However, a lot of the customers who use what's now called "System i" haven't updated anything since the servers were called AS/400s. As it turns out, the term AS/400 is considered a sneering epithet, according to a report at the System i Network. Trevor Perry, a consultant in that market, explains.
The debate is not about the name, but how we perceive the platform. If we see it as an AS/400, we will use it like it is 20 or 30 years old. If we see it as IBM i on Power, we will use it like it is a modern platform. IBM i can do so much that AS/400 could not, yet much of the community is still using old technology, old techniques, old standards, and writing outdated applications. If the community were more aware of IBM i, and what it could do, our platform would have an improved reputation out in the community and in the industry at large. What a fabulous thing that would be.
The definition of legacy extends to whatever technology can be out-featured by a more popular solution. Unix trumped by Linux. IBM z mainframes trumped by Unix big iron, the kind that HP yearns to sell to find new HP-UX customers. Legacy is stable technology and cost-effective. But even a vendor of legacy tech like IBM wants those customers to advance their abilities by installing newer System i "legacy" releases.
This kind of advocacy is called championing at IBM. The vendor devotes a webpage to System i Champions, culled from the customer and consultant community. HP used to do this for 3000 users with its annual e3000 Contributor of the Year award (2006 winner Chris Koppe of Speedware, shown above), whose final recipient in 2008 was the entire customer community. But every one of those winners mounted the stage past 40 years of age. The System i user group COMMON sees a need to try to connect with younger IT pros -- but there's not much online evidence that it's finding the target.IBM calls its younger turks the Young i Professionals. At a webpage dedicated to this mashup of recent IT graduates and younger-than-usual legacy managers, the youth movement is described.
The Young i Professionals are an international group of technology professionals that represent all “young” entrants into the job market or “young” users of IBM i, iSeries, System i, and AS/400. While already simple due to the nature of the system, we want to help make the process of learning the both basic and advanced topics of IBM i administration, development and management a little more accessible.
The lack of a youth movement in legacy systems is one of the biggest springboards for renovation and replacement of computers like the HP 3000 and the System i. Somehow, at a vendor just as serious as HP about serving the enteprise, IBM is at least paying webpage-service to the concept of grooming a new generation. Reading lips for IBM's System i, however, has become a practice as common as handicapping MPE system improvements during the late '90s and early Oughts -- a period when HP was still awarding prizes for 3000 system advocacy.
March 09, 2012
Some 3000 time services labor to serve
Editor's Note: Daylight Saving Time takes hold this weekend in most of the world. The 2AM changeover can give a 3000 manager a reason to look at how the server manages timekeeping, including the potential for the open source tool ported to the 3000, XNTP. Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper is working on an article to address some of the laborious steps needed to utilize it. His research took him to a few experts in networking and open source over the Web, Chris Bartram (our first webmaster, and creator of the DeskLink and NetMail apps) and Brian Edminster (operator of the MPE-OpenSource.org website.)
Chris: As I recall, ntp services never worked well on the 3000. It won’t work at all as a server for other clients, I believe. And as a client it seemed a waste; my vague memory says it had issues because you couldn’t set the time with the resolution it wanted. It ended up oscillating.
There’s a very simple standalone NTP client, ntpdate, though that you can run from the command line -- that’s what I use on my systems. I simply run it a couple times a day – it pulls the time from whatever NTP server you point it at and sets your local clock. We even shipped a copy with every NetMail tape. Look for ntpdate.sys.threek if you have a NetMail/3000 or DeskLink equipped system available.
Brian: The latest version of XNTP was the 4.1.0 version hosted on Jazz, and ported by Mark Bixby. It includes both ntp client and server functionality. Through the magic of the 'Wayback Machine' there's a link to HP's install instructions and other resources. The bad news is that HP put the actual download link behind a 'freeware agreement' page - and that download link wasn't wasn't saved by the Wayback. Some community members who 'archived' Jazz that might have that download package.
However, there is an earlier v3.5.90 version from October 2008 hosted on Mark Bixby's site -- and although Mark's took site down after his departure from HP, the 'Wayback Machine' comes to the rescue with a downloadable install file.This Bixby website archive has Mark's excellent install instructions, and it well documents the 'time update granularity' issue that the XNTP client has on MPE/iX. In short, it can cause the time to drift if left running continuously -- where it's trying desperately to update the time, but cannot do it to its satisfaction due to the precision it expects to be able to use.
The workaround for xntp is to run it periodically, perhaps daily, for a single update. Mark wrote about this on his xntp page, and even put in a SR with HP to get the underlying MPE/iX internal issue fixed. And no, it didn't get done in time.
Edminster noted two other server time-sync tools (both ntp clients):
nettime -- a program created Brian Abernathy of HP. Source and binaries are included, and can be found on Speedware's Jazz page. Note: this program has the name of the time server 'hard-coded' as 'time-server'. But since source is included, it can be changed and recompiled with HP's C compiler for MPE/iX.
timesync -- a 'client only' solution from the folks from Telamon, Inc. It's a binary-only distribution, but it works quite well, and apparently was designed to work with their network engines too. I have a copy of this and can email it to users and managers as a Store to Disk file. It's the simplest way I've found to get time synchronization for your 3000s. It's literally just a 'restore and run', and has a 'preview but not do' mode to ensure you've got it configured correctly.
March 07, 2012
Windows Tools from HP 3000 Experts
Spooled printing and scheduling are a pair of features tough to duplicate for migrating companies. A pair of software programs floated into our spotlight today, each offered by a developer with decades of HP 3000 experience -- and now serving Windows enterprise users. In expanding their lineups, these companies are making products that create a more productive experience on this platform where migrating 3000 shops are headed.
From the notable spooling and printer developer Rich Corn of Software Devices comes Cloud Print for Windows. Corn's used his expertise at RAC Consulting, attaching print devices to HP business servers, to help create software that helps Windows systems employ the Google Cloud Print virtual printer service. So long as your printer's host can connect to the Web, Cloud Printing can be accessed from other desktops online.
Cloud Print for Windows then monitors these virtual printers and prints jobs submitted to a virtual printer on the corresponding local PC printer. In addition, Cloud Print for Windows supports printing from your PC to Google Cloud Print virtual printers. All without any need for the Chrome browser.
People expect Windows to be a more affordable platform per desktop, but the costs can add up. Employing cloud services can keep things more manageable in a budget. Cloud Print for Windows costs just $19 a seat.
Another 3000 stalwart is demonstrating its new Windows solution for scheduling today. MB Foster is running a 45-minute Webinar starting at 2 PM Eastern Time to show the extensive feature set of its MBF Scheduler. The Webinar is free, and registration is live on the Web.MB Foster created the product, which made its debut in 2011, based on the insights from enterprise customers who needed HP 3000 power in their scheduling. Windows has a Task Manager included. But it's limited in the number of jobs that can be controlled at once.
The MBF Scheduler GUI gives administrators fine-grained control over schedules and automating windows processes such as operator notification. The GUI interface is also an enabler for job submission, monitoring and review. MBF Scheduler will not increase sales or reduce your budget. What it will do, and where you will gain the most, is in maximizing productivity and in efficiencies when processes have been automated.
The company adds that the Scheduler was built to extend legacy  job scheduling ability to Windows. That's still the transition platform being chosen by most 3000 migrators.
March 05, 2012
Telnet opens 3000s with a key cut long ago
Engineering from the past permits us to take the future for granted. In your community the connections between past and present run strong, ties which are now lashed tight by the links of the Web. Programming from long ago stands a chance of tying tomorrow’s computers with the 3000s put into service on a distant yesterday. This technology lay under-appreciated for years — which makes it a lot like the 3000’s design.
Once the executives and sales wizards and marketing mavens grab their tablets and go into your offices, they’ll want to use their iPads to work with information residing in safety on the HP 3000. This year the conduit for the connection is telnet, a protocol given the pshaw in the '90s when nobody could see a tablet anywhere but Star Trek episodes.
I remember telnet gaining traction in feature lists for connectivity software from WRQ and Minisoft. The access method got strongest praise from Wirt Atmar at AICS Research. His engineers were building their own 3000 terminal emulator, QCTerm, and the NS/VT mysteries were not the primary path for data through that free software. (It hasn't been tested on Windows 7, but the software runs on XP -- which is still running 46 percent of the world's Windows PCs.)
Now the world’s networks pulse at a common rate we couldn’t conceive just 15 years ago. No, the block mode interfaces written in the 1980s are not going to transmit data this year to mobile tablets. A more extensive project needs to pass that protocol to the latest of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) computers. But in the meantime the 3000 can prove itself worthy of a spot in the IT future, so long as it can link some of its programs to a tablet. Telnet never got much respect from the developer ranks of your community in the era of the terminal emulator. But now telnet feels like a piece of 3000 engineering which is finally no longer ahead of its time.
Once networking standards swept through the industry, the gamble that HP took to break open 3000 connections became essential. This was catch-up engineering that followed the magic of PA-RISC emulation. There’s other fundamental technology that’s been built or ported to make the 3000 a web-capable database host. The miracle that paves the way into tomorrow is that there is any Perl, or telnet, available for an environment first launched 40 years ago. In a fall when America still hadn’t felt the pulse of disco, a computer took its first steps on a path that would lead to tablets.
February 29, 2012
A Rare Birthday for Eugene Today
He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 44th birthday today, and the co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.
Although he's not the youngest community member (that rank goes to The Support Group's president David Floyd, a decade younger) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known outside our humble neighborhood. After he built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft, Eugene earned a law degree as he went on to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews. You can also hear him on National Public Radio. When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast in 2010. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University).
In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I first met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and listened to him wax on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. The paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket (Rego and Foster, if you're just coming to this world), was always way ahead of me in 3000 lore and learning.Burn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition of book here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.
Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page
At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.
His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who's still on the go in the US, traveling to visit some of the 1,700 VEsoft customers to consult on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch. I expect that this entry will be eagerly proofed and then corrected by Vladimir, just as he's provided insight and corrections for the next edition of my new novel Viral Times. It's a sure bet that Thoughts and Discourses will remain a useful tool at least as long as Viral Times stays in print. (I've got copies of Viral Times I can ship, too -- but that's an offer unrelated to the 3000's history.)
At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.
February 22, 2012
ERP migration advice on tap over lunch
Birket Foster, who's been practicing and preaching on the subject of 3000 system migrations for a decade, is leading a 45-minute talk on the Best Practices for Application Migration today. ERP systems, some of the most complex and most prevalent in the HP 3000 community, serve as the example for sharing these application practices.
Many companies are struggling to support legacy ERP solutions that haven’t kept pace with new ERP technologies. Others may be looking for the right ERP solution to deploy for the very first time. With the cost of maintaining a legacy environment increasing, companies reach out to learn and understand alternatives and possibilities.
The MB Foster webinar starts at 11 AM PDT, 1 PM CDT and 2 PM EDT today. It's free and you can register online at the MB Foster website. Foster likes to use Commercial Off The Shelf as the nameplate for replacement software. COTS has challenges if a company chooses that migration route instead of a migration. But the typical ERP installation has so much customization after a decade or two of service that this kind of migration needs special attention. Maybe even outside help from any service or support provider which has helped migrate a manufacturer.The migration stakes are high for any manufacturer using their HP 3000, as they have done for many years. (There are very few HP 3000 ERP users who are new, although we've heard of just a few who've adopted the platform as part of being acquired.)
Foster says he'll "hone in on common application replacement mistakes," plus tips and advice for "proven, risk mitigation strategies that will help you get started." He also adds that it's stressful to try to sell a new, replacement ERP system to top management. But people are doing it, and a few are even exploring options like the new Kenandy MRP application suite based in the cloud and built off the salesforce.com designs. Foster's webinar covers "a flexible long term enterprise infrastructure that will match the application to the business’ vision, goals and growth expectations."
February 14, 2012
String some perls on a day for love
The HP 3000 has a healthy range of open source tools in its ecosystem. One of the best ways to begin looking at open source software opportunity is to visit the MPE Open Source website operated by Applied Technologies. If you're keeping a 3000 in vital service during the post-HP era, you might find perl a useful tool for interfacing with data via web access.
The 3000 community has chronicled and documented the use of this programming language, with the advice coming from some of the best pedigreed sources. Allegro Consultants has a tar-ball of the compiler available for download from Allegro's website. (You'll find many other useful papers and tools at that Allegro Papers and Books webpage, too.)
Bob Green of Robelle wrote a great primer on the use of perl in the MPE/iX environment. We were fortunate to be the first to publish Bob's paper, run in the 3000 NewsWire when Robelle Tech made a long-running column on our paper pages.
Although you might be dreaming up something to bring to your sweetie tonight, you could grab a little love for your 3000, too. Cast a string of perls starting with the downloads and advice. One of HP's best and brightest -- well, a former HP wizard -- has a detailed slide set on perl, too.The official perl.org website has great instructions on Perl for MPE/iX installation and an update on the last revision to the language for the 3000. First ported by Ken Hirsch in 2000, the language was brought to the 5.9.3 release in 2006.
An extensive PowerPoint presentation on perl by the legendary porter Mark Bixby will deliver detailed insights on how to introduce perl to your programming mix. Bixby, who left HP to work for the 3000 software vendor QSS, brings the spirit of open source advocacy to his advice on how to use this foundational web tool.
As an example, Bixby notes that "it's now possible to write MPE applications that look like web browsers, to perform simple HTTP GET requests, or even complicated HTTP POST requests to fill out remote web forms." It's no box of Godiva, or even the classic blue box from Tiffany's, but perl might be something you love to use, to show that 3000 isn't a tired old minicomputer -- just a great sweetheart of a partner in your mission-critical work.
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 08, 2012
3000 group links up to LinkedIn job advice
Editor's Note: The 3000 Newswire has become the official publication of the CAMUS user group, a service we're happy to perform for these MRP and ERP sites which use the classic MANMAN application. Michael Anderson, a board director of the group, asked us to pass along these tips from the group's last meeting -- advice on how to make LinkedIn work best for you. Anderson says, "As our systems migrate to new platforms, so do our associates and coworkers migrate to new jobs. The easiest time to build up your professional network is while you're working on a migration project."
We like LinkedIn as the Facebook for the professional set; there's an HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn that's got more than 420 members, ready to network with you on jobs and share advice. The article below was written for the group by Linda Tuerk, executive director of siliconvalleysearch.com. Tuerk notes that adding groups (like that 3000 Group) helps you rise up in the LinkedIn searches.
Your goal is to keep up with your professional friends quickly and easily. LinkedIn can do this.
Your goal is to have a modern version of the business card; you want to appear professional and up to date when clients look you up prior to an appointment, meeting, conference call, or interview. LinkedIn can do this, too.
Your goal, if you're job seeking, is to show up in the first 100 profiles when someone is searching for someone like you. The real goal is to be in the first 10, since that is all that shows per page. Shallow profiles rarely get found. Deep public profiles are searchable on Google/Bing. And internal corporate recruiters and execs are looking for you too. The following are the steps you can take on LinkedIn to raise these odds.
1. Use LinkedIn for interview preparation and business prospects. In a "people" search, type the name of the company; all the employees will come up that are in your network within three levels of separation. You might have to pay LinkedIn $20-80 to see all the names and full profiles. It's probably worth it. You can always do it for just a month.
2. Wordsmith your Headline, Summary, and Specialties sections. They all have maximum allowed spaces. Play with them. Use keywords and titles to describe yourself. Review position descriptions and ads of jobs you want, and pepper your profile with the most frequent, relevant, and desirable. Review peer profiles. For more on this subject, see booleanblackbelt.com and befoundjobs.com. You can also use wordcloud apps like wordle.net to create relevant word clouds.3. Turn off your LinkedIn member feed, profile and status updates from the settings page, found on the popdown menu under your name. Wait a few hours, maybe overnight. You may want to keep some of these off most of the time, depending on how much you want others to see who you are connecting with, etc.
4. There's a new section, Skills. These are pre-selected. You can have 50. These are very important as of late. Some say this section has surpassed keyword density in relevance.
5. Consider job seeking status on a monthly basis. Pro: You end up listed first. Con: You look desperate?
6. Link with as many as you can. Some experts say that you will only show up in search results for your skillset only 3 percent of the time if you are linked to fewer than 200 people. That incidence is supposed to climb to 90 percent if you are linked to "500+." Look for "Open Networkers" and LIONs that will link with everybody. Drop them later if you like.
7. Add Groups related to your professional field. You are allowed 50. Concentrate on ones that have thousands of members at first. Add local ones that seem relevant and have at least 100. Check them out, and as you near your 50 Group maximum, drop some that are less relevant and add the most relevant for you. Most have jobs tabs. Link to Group members you like or that have 500+ connections. Find jobs on Discussion tabs also.
8. Check settings for your public profile. This is searchable by Google, Bing and Yahoo, and there is a huge recruiter subculture using Google strings.
9. Now, turn your privacy settings back to "broadcast mode." Consider whether you want your member feed showing, but you do want your status updates showing, and you might want to update your status 1-2 times per month.
10. Join discussions on your groups, follow the threads that seem to have good content. Comment where appropriate, get your name out there. This is a chance to impress. When you appear knowledgeable in your field, others will come forward and ask to be linked to you. Likewise, you will notice people that you like and can ask to link with or "follow." Check out group events, especially local networking opportunities.
11. Use a good basic headshot for your photo. It gets you three times the responses, compared to no headshot.
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."
February 06, 2012
Telnet offers a 3000 link via tablet app
"Our reps connect via the Internet and laptops," said Luen Miller on the Eloquence newsgroup. "But they are all dying to walk around with the iPad." A typical situation for IT to handle: Some of your most persuasive and eloquent users, making a case for bringing their own devices to connect with your corporate server.
Ask a few mobile-savvy consultants about how to marry an iPad with an HP server and you hear the word telnet. One manager reported that the iOS app Mocha Telnet has 700/92 emulation. Of course, there's a bit of the 3000's world missing from that solution -- NS/VT.
Now it might be an odd match to require a 3000 app that's old enough to use NS/VT to link with a mobile tablet that owns more than 95 percent of the tablet marketplace. A 3000 system probably designed in the 1980s, still being delivered to a mobile device that didn't even exist two years ago. If that's the challenge, the full range of 3000 interfaces -- including some of the oldest block mode response -- is not yet being served directly. (The Splashtop Remote Desktop app offers the best chance of that, since it controls a PC desktop over a wi-fi network link.)
If it's an all-3000 solution you need for the 3000, there's a great telnet webpage on the 3k Associates Technical Wiki (Twiki) for the server. The page covers the details of using an indie bit of software, the contributed NQTELNET program written by Eric Schubert of Notre Dame. NQTELNET is a host-based telnet server which will handle basic terminal operations.
What's this about a Twiki for the HP 3000? It's a tech resource set up years ago to capture as much tech expertise as possible from community 3000 managers such as Schubert. You'd be surprised how much is online at the site managed by 3k Associates founder Chris Bartram. But then you might have been surprised to learn that telnet is the interface that keeps on giving to the 3000, even while the community waits for a block mode tablet app to touch all of the MPE/iX apps.
For a better background on the possibilities of the HP 3000's connectivity, comparing telnet to NS/VT, have a look at the 3000 connectivity webpage at AICS Research. One of the great gifts that AICS gave to the community was the free QCTerm terminal emulator. There's top-grade telnet support inside that product, so much so that the freeware recognizes two levels of telnet access.
February 01, 2012
Links last longer in latest survey for 3000
We continue to move through the state of links on the hp3000links.com site, a way of checking up on the web pointers presented at that longtime 3000 community resource. The P-S group of pulldown links on the busy main page has a higher share of valid links than any we've surveyed so far. It may just be the luck of the alphabet, but this group seems to spell stability better than the rest.
First the dead ends, 11 of them. Premiersoft has nobody home at the URL of the same name; the company sold OSCAR, the Online Services Catalog and Application Repository to let HP 3000s host enterprise-wide server objects. (Object tech may have been too many steps ahead of an MPE market sweating out Y2K in 1999.) Retriever Interactive is gone along with its DataAid/3000 for data lookup and manipulation, which was even integrated with Suprtool. Also dead are Riva Systems (referencing exegesys.com, which now points to a French casino machine website); SeraSoft's link, though the company was migrating 3000 sites as of 2010; Software Licensing Corp.; Software Research Northwest, gently retired by founder Wayne Holt, who published the first PA-RISC hardback; Software and Management Consultants; Spentech; Starvision; Symple Systems, and SolutionStore 3000.
We know a lot about that last one. SolutionStore was a 3000 NewsWire project during the late 1990s, our effort to sell and report vendor listings for the 3000 community. In a way it was a precursor to the vendor list of hp3000links.com. A web administrator melted down while he took down the site with no warning. Such madness happens, but it was a serious gaffe to us at the time.
But then there are a dozen survivors, most thriving, some surviving. Pro 3K still leads you to consultant Mark Ranft, tending to servers and also managing the world's biggest fleet of N-Class servers at Navitaire. Productive Software Systems, Quest, Quintessential School Systems, Rich Corn's RAC Consulting, Robelle, Speedware, Solution-Soft, and STR Software, the last still supporting FAX/3000. Syllogize offers support for HP 3000s. Synowledge supports MANMAN, according to the IT Services page on its website, through six offices. There's even a valid link to Shawn Gordon's S.M. Gordon and Associates webpage, listing 3000 software of advancing age.Gordon, one of our hardest-working reviewers, has gone into the Linux business long ago, founding theKompany.com. (Products include Kobol, to take the place of COBOL for customers entering the Linux world.) Quadax is on the hp3000links list because it sold billing apps for healthcare, but the company migrated all clients off the 3000 more than two years ago. Summit Systems still sells credit union solutions, but not for the 3000 any longer. It's all Unix over in the Oregon company, the former turnkey app provider to 3000 owners.
Toting up for this list, we get 12 valid web links to 3000 vendors, 11 fully deceased, and two which lead to places where 3000 is spoken no longer. There's much more that can be done to sort through some of those survivors; we know a website falls short of vetting a company for active 3000 work. But considering that the hp3000links.com resources were built more than a decade ago, and last updated in the spring of 2010, a little under 50 percent is a respectable survival rate.
We'll look at the final 15 entries in this snapshot of 3000 Vendors and Consultants next week. Time moves at a more casual pace in your community, so we don't expect any more deaths in the family over the next seven days.
January 25, 2012
More changes resound at 3000links.com
Welcome to another installment in the historic saga of the HP 3000 resources tracked by hp3000links.com. In our last episode we discovered that about a third of the vendor listings A-G were dead links, while about half of the remainder didn't do 3000 business any longer. The H-O group showed a lot more promise to lead toward active resources. But it's also a strong record of a bygone environment.
Still operating as usual, off the addresses on the links' list, are Horner Consulting (now also Publishing), Ideal Computer Services, MPE/iX Administrator's Guide author Jon Diercks, Lars Appel, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Cort Wilson's MANMAN Resource website, Mark Bixby of 3000 porting fame, Melander Consulting, Minisoft, Nobix, Opin Systems, OpenSeas and Orbit.
HP Technologies is a programming house that once tended to Amisys healthcare sites and alternatives like the IBM-based Facets. It's all alternatives by now, including the Amisys Advance replacement. Holland House is now at hollandhouse.com, but Holland House has been a member of the Solipsis Group since 2006. Unispool is still for sale there. HP 3000s, or any other specific platform, are not mentioned at the website. Idaho Computer Services became Evolve and then joined Harris Group as it left its municipal 3000 app business. Impact Digital Solutions has dropped off the map and taken down its Discover/3000 search tool.
It's interesting to see how businesses evolved in the turmoil of the post-2001 3000 shakeout. Infocentre's Canadian reservation systems business has become a development house for hotel software, web design and marketing-ecommerce solutions. Operations Control Systems moved its MPE/iX job scheduler to Unix. Instead of a 3000 consultant, the Jim McCoy linked on the site now does bookkeeping and accounting.
Then there's the blindside group, where a link like Interactive Software Systems now leads to a Columbian swinger's club, complete with pounding techno music on its website.Bad links to still-operating 3000 providers are common at hp3000links.com. It's a serious chore to keep up with the comings and goings of web locales. Links among this group even include Iomit International (Olav Kappert, proprietor, has volunteered to help clean up hp3000links). An HP partners webpage lists his current details, as well as a listing on the OpenMPE news blog.
Domains for sale or dead -- and so taking companies into the shadows of the web -- include HiComp, Homestead 3000 Consulting, IT Consulting Consortium, Lancaster Consulting (Bill is four years removed from any 3000, he reports), Managed Business Systems, MIS Resource Group, Monterey Software Group, Omnisolutions and Opus.
January 06, 2012
TSG taking MRP into the cloud during 2012
The Support Group hung out its shingle for cloud-based manufacturing solutions this week, posting webpages that outline how it will integrate the new offering of the Kenandy replacement for MANMAN and other 3000-flavored suites. TSG calls this migration target Social MRP, and it's been chatting up the potential for the Chatter networking feature inside Kenandy's software.
It's early in the social-cloud evolution cycle, but TSG wants to be one of the charter Kenandy Consulting Partners. The business model calls for migration, implementation and customization of a new manufacturing system. TSG's reminding the market that the vendor was the original third-party support company for ASK’s MANMAN system developed in the 1970s -- software that's still running a few hundred manufacturing companies around the world.
Kenandy's Rob Butters told us back in September that one objective of the cloud-based solution was to start with a clean page to serve small companies that want streamlined operations to get the most from their manufacturing apps. ASK's founder Sandy Kurtzig has steered the Kenandy designs to get a simplified approach to manufacturing software systems. Small companies that fill the ranks of 3000 owners have a surprising array of unique manufacturing workflows and business rules. 3000 users who need to move onto a new platform are in a position to leverage the transition into a new way of thinking about MRP.One key to the success of this adventure is using a guide who knows the landscape the customer is leaving behind. TSG's already got 18 years of third-party support experience for MANMAN users, plus the extra two decades that founder Terry Floyd and his team supply from the '70s onward.
TSG calls the concept "Hide the Complexity." The approach couldn't be more different from the over-engineered solutions from Oracle and SAP. In particular, the mainframe foundation of SAP -- with "10,000 software switches" by several IT managers' counts -- puts migrations and outsourcing and clouds way out of the reach of the smaller IT shop. But Oracle and SAP become the default options for a migration, following the "nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM" strategy of the '80s.
In contrast, Social MRP is "software that fits the way you do business, not forcing your business to fit the way the software works," said company president David Floyd. Once the company customizes the look and feel for each individual in a company to hide that complexity, it "follows up on a monthly basis with each individual user as they learn more and expand their productivity."
Manufacturing is a bedrock app in the 3000 world. Small companies that couldn't afford a mainframe in the 1980s picked HP 3000s instead, relying on cost efficiency. With the cloud moving IT's capital costs off the books, and fine-tuned app services from a veteran development staff, Social MRP has the potential to give migrators a new value model -- one that won't need large-scale elements that the big IT shops seem to crave.
January 04, 2012
Tracing 3000links to Their Breaking Points
Once upon a time there was a vast and charted territory of HP 3000 websites and webpages. The resources that appear on hp3000links.com still include some detailed, straight-line jumps to companies still serving 3000 sites. Or at least companies which still have support customers for software products, or contracts to migrate companies off the server.
We rolled up our browser sleeves and waded into hp3000links this afternoon to see what's gone past its sell-by date. If you've been in the marketplace long enough you'll recognize the list of vendors that pops up on the site's front page -- even if some of those company names are all that remain of community resources. More than a dozen out of the first third of the list's vendor links are landing on dead pages or websites that have evolved into other ventures.
For example, 5 Diamond IT Consulting drops you onto the diamonds.com website, where fine jewelery is sold. The old Diamond Optimum Systems once gave HP 3000 users "the Windows interface to MPE management," but the company was merged with Serena Software. Computech's address has become a racing parts website, CSI Business Solutions' a maker of jars for the cosmetics industry. But the 3000links page pop-up (click for detail) still mainlines directions to community stalwarts like 3k Associates, Adager, DIS International (Mark Klein's consulting), G. Schipper and Associates and even Gainsborough House in the UK -- one of the few places where you can read about MPEX from a supplier of the product. (VEsoft doesn't do websites, just the now-rare customer visits.) At 3k Associates, you'll find a Tech Wiki that traces the last known 3000 businesses across a vast list of companies -- and you can contribute what you've learned yourself, wiki-style.Gainsborough is also handling Surveillance/DB, Surveillance/OS, DBControl-Online, GUI3000, Security/3000, VEaudit/3000, and is an outpost for Bradmark's DBGENERAL, DBAUDIT and Superdex. The 3000links pointer to the Bradmark website directs to the Bradmark main page. Another click or two and a scroll down to the bottom of a products page reveals a small pop-up menu with links to the MPE products. Many more references to SQL databases abound on that website.
Other notes we've gleaned from this first pass and data check of the 3000links.com's Vendors and Consultants menu:
• Advanced Network Systems, where David Thatcher developed the ADBC database middleware, lands on a "not found" 404 page.
• The Aldon Computer Group, which once offered 3000 COBOL tools, has no 3000 notes among its products.
• Carolian Software, Computing Solutions Ltd., Education & Training Consulting Services, Computer Financial Services, Cosmos Technology and Fioravanti Redwood Inc. all point to links that are in hibernation (addresses ready for sale) or retired links.
• Carter-Pertaine's link doesn't lead anywhere, but that's because the maker of school systems long ago merged with K-12 vendor QSS.
• Cognos connects to PowerHouse products, after three clicks
• Crawford Software Consulting is still doing HP 3000 services for MANMAN, GrowthPower, and lists itself as a reseller for Minisoft and MB Foster products
• Former support powerhouse Datagate Incorporated closed at the end of 2010 after 32 years. Datagate Systems LLC was formed by some former engineers and managers from Datagate’s Defense Systems Group. The new, leaner Datagate lists 9GB A4910A disks in its inventory. But that's not a novelty; a refurbished 9GB disk is available on Amazon for $82.76 (from IT Equipment Xpress)
• DataNow now points to Evolve, selling "software for municipalities, utilities and co-ops"
• Denkart NV still includes a link to ViaNova 3000, which as it has for years promises to "transfer entire customer-developed environments from HP 3000 to Open Systems like HP-UX or Linux."
• DISC's Omnidex supported-platforms page does not mention HP 3000 or IMAGE. Only the "Generic ODBC" interface holds any hope of support for MPE/iX databases. Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL are listed as supported database technologies.
• Easy Does It Technologies was acquired by Integrated Information Systems in 2003.
• Entrix Computing looks to be still run by Kim Harris, but it now "specifies solutions for Internet access requirements over mobile phone networks and wired broadband and offers a vast range of fibre to copper media converters."
• eXegeSys has been pointed at Azurri, which bills itself as one of the "UK’s leading IT support and implementation companies." The definition of support follows other indie suppliers. It says it is "committed to supporting the HP 3000 MPE/iX product range beyond the manufacturer's support withdrawal date. New and existing customers can be assured of our continuing support services for HP 3000 range, built on our 20 years experience."
• Glassman Consulting Services reports on its migration progress. Its client Genesis Health System’s Precision 2000 system "is finally getting decommissioned along with the legacy HP3000 hardware platform that it resided."
— G.R. Helm still points to Adager and Robelle on its own links page, but it also lists Interex.org as a resource.
Then this list pops up dead links to an HP 3000 Consultant List and an HP 3000 Vendor List. We'll keep up the digging to help renovate the 3000links.com to some useful extent -- plus point out more current resources on the web, too.
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.
December 23, 2011
Holiday Gifts and Promises for All
On Wednesday we took note of some of the first response we received concerning the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. One former OpenMPE volunteer said that a $25,000 emulator wouldn't serve his needs. Martin Gorfinkel said he doesn't have his Series 9x9 3000 turned on much anymore, and he'd like to have an archival replacement.
J.P. Bergmans of Stromasys added his reply. "He is absolutely right," Bergmans said. "But I would say that almost whatever the price of the emulator and the equipment would be, a better answer to a need like this is a cloud-based HP 3000/MPE compatible service, billed on usage. This would be a far better solution, and we are indeed looking at that service model."
So we think of that as a present for the new year to come: a brand-new usage-based 3000 solution for our community. Maybe not so brand new, if you want to think of time-sharing of the 70s as the same idea, but certainly refined and turbo-charged for 40 years later.
Here at the NewsWire my co-founder Abby and I are taking the next three days off to celebrate Christmas; even the banks aren't open Monday. We count as our gifts for this year, and the ones to come, our faithful sponsors who make these reports possible: at present, Adager, MB Foster, Speedware, The Support Group, Pivital Solutions, Robelle, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software, Hillary Software, Genisys, Applied Technologies and its MPE-OpenSource.org web resource, and Taurus Software. We'll see you all on Tuesday.
December 16, 2011
Opening Resources for a Long 3000 Future
Brian Edminster makes an open secret of his sharing practices. The consultant, developer and advocate for the HP 3000 and open source software has combined those last two items into a new resource this fall. MPE-OpenSource.org is amassing a collection of public, free-use software that can improve 3000 health and longevity, one porting contributor’s portfolio at a time. His first contact with a 3000 was in high school on a Series II, hacking over dialup using an HP2640A terminal. He started programming on a 3000 in 1978 for an HP Value Added Reseller, going on to work with a 3000 graphics software vendor, with MM II Customiser software, computer administering for the UPI news service, developing and managing an Amisys healthcare system, as well as jobs managing the HMS retail apps used in airports — plus diving outside the 3000 to rewrite and rehost to AIX, Informix, Windows Server, SQL Server, and Oracle.
It’s not common to find a 3000 pro of 33 years who still has the gusto that Edminster displays. He’s been a fulltime independent contractor and consultant for the last 10 years, operating Applied Technologies. Some of the work involves using open source tools to extend 3000 ability. He’s a proponent of the idea that HP 3000s can still pass PCI security audits. And he’s also sponsored OpenMPE with contributions, a very rare profile in the community. We emailed our questions to him after his website just got publishing permission from Lars Appel — an open source porting legend who moved Samba to MPE/iX, among other projects.
What prompted you to start a repository of open source software?
Well, at the risk of being flippant – because no one else was doing it. With the demise and only partial reviving of Jazz, much of the free content was dwindling. Yes, Chris Bartram’s www.3k.com site has some open source apps, and so do some others – but many of them cheated and only linked to the software on Jazz. So when Jazz went offline, so did availability of that software.
Also, www.MPE-OpenSource.org focuses on just that: Open source software. I’m working to host software when I can get permission, and link to it (with backup copy kept) in other cases. I’ll host scripts and freeware (code that’s free but not open source), but that’s not the site’s primary focus.
I am still actively looking for contributions. If you haven’t talked to me yet, and you’d like to host software on my site — even if you have no intention of supporting it — drop me an email.
What would you say are the three most useful open source tools for a 3000 site doing its own administration?
One of my short-list projects for MPE-OpenSource is getting MPE/iX clients published for management systems like XYMon. I’m also playing with some Perl scripts that are designed to make managing disk space easier. “Which 3 tools” is not as important as just making sure that MPE/iX can play nice with whatever an enterprise is using to monitor/manage their other systems.
That’s almost funny. If anything, it’s the other way around. Even though the system is nearly legendary in its robustness, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real reason that the 3000 has served so reliably for so long is because the people that manage it are careful. I call them the Belt and Suspenders crowd. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What’s the non-3000 technology that you have found most fun to use?
I’d have to say use of PCs as workstations, in spite of the love-hate relationship I have with them. All kidding aside, we’ve come a long way since the days of DOS and Windows 3.. Using workstation-based IDEs (like ProgrammerStudio) have revolutionized programming productivity. Even something as simple as having a terminal emulator with a display longer than 24 lines makes a remarkable difference. Also, use of data analysis tools on the workstation (even tools as simple as Excel) have changed the way we follow the data. It makes identifying trends and patterns in data significantly easier to recognize.
Why did you donate to OpenMPE during its fundraising drives?
Two reasons: Because I could – and this was primarily because of the 3000. MPE/iX’s been Very Very Good to me. And like my website, it’s a way of giving back to the community.
Secondly, because I want this platform to live on, until the ease of administration and robustness in operation commonly found under MPE/iX application systems is so common as to be taken for granted in any other system.
In many ways, the 3000 was quite a bit ahead of its time, and can still lead by example with regard to how robust a system can and should be. I believe in what OpenMPE was trying to do in those efforts, regardless of where it is now, or ends up in the future.
How far would you estimate, in years, an HP 3000 site can take a production system?
There’s a lot of comments along the lines of “Running them until the wheels fall off.” So I guess you’re asking how long it’ll be until that happens. The answer is: it depends, but from a practical perspective, quite a long time. The parts that wear out are mostly the moving parts (disk drives, tape drives, and cooling fans). It’s already getting difficult to find SCSI disk drives under 9GB.
Ultimately, we’ll have to start using interface adapters, and unless someone gets clever and figures out how to partition a large physical disk into multiple smaller logical disks, we’ll end up wasting the majority of the drive’s capacity (the maximum space addressable by MPE/iX version 7.5 on a single drive is 512GB, and under v 6.5 only 300GB). Really, the only thing we need a tape for is using SLT/CSLT tapes, when replacing a system volume set. Backups will become nearly completely store-to-disk or equivalent with FTP or some other transfer method to an external storage mechanism or provider.
The next software gotcha is the limit of the date intrinsics (at the rollover from 2027 to 2028) but I trust we can deal with that in a similar way to how Y2K was addressed. From a practical perspective, I’d venture to guess that the hardware will outlive the business need for some homegrown software systems, unless they continue to grow — and that’s an especially exciting possibility with the new Stromasys emulator coming available.
Something I’ve discovered is software/systems are like sharks. They’ll die if they stop moving. Even when a businesses’s needs are relatively static, technology isn’t. Eventually, there’ll be a ‘better’ way to solve the business need with newer technologies – unless the software integrates new technologies, as appropriate.
December 15, 2011
Renovating Links for the 3000 Community
Long before HP decided the 3000's future would be limited at that vendor, the computer had plenty of Web attention. Interex, HP, Client Systems' 3kworld.com website -- all were delivering 3000 web resources right alongside the 3000 NewsWire web efforts. All of these have gone dark by today. Interex.org now belongs to an insurance firm in Germany, 3kworld.com bounces to a vague "Computer Training" page that looks like a placeholder. Former magazine HPProfessional.com now lands in Japan without a trace of English on the page. HP's links to Jazz specialties have survived in part on the Client Systems and Speedware web enterprises. There are still holes remaining to fill in those resources, however.
Then there's hp3000links.com, the one-stop webpage created, cultured and nurtured by John Dunlop. Filled with pop-up boxes and dozens of links, the site was a destination for the 3000 user in the 1990s, and then became one for those who wanted to bypass the slanted results of Google searches. New links appeared and a raft of 3000 vendors and suppliers had their own pull-down addresses. They still do, because hp3000links is still operational. It's just in need of renovation. Dunlop's done a tremendous job of hosting this and keeping it up for many years.
Along with IT consultant Olav Kappert, we've chosen to help spruce up and weed out hp3000links.com. The concept is still pretty sound: One Internet domain where a bookmark could help you locate that HP 3000 Relative Performance chart created by AICS, or the Perl Programming on MPE/iX slide set [thanks to Client Systems] from developer Mark Bixby. The former link is right where hp3000links says it should be. But those Perl slides have now slid to a newer HP address -- a PDF file of a master directory which tracks such 3000 resources [which you can download right now from our files, if you need it].
A Google search might do the trick to circumvent these shifty links, but why let Google know even more about your desires than it already does? Doesn't the 3000 still deserve its own landing page?Speedware's posted a nice chunk of the Jazz contents on its site, thanks to the rehosting license the company signed with HP back in 2009. But the route is twisty to get to something called "PDF and HTML versions of many of the MPE manuals." One click takes you to a PDF file that HP is still hosting. Then you search for MPE/iX on that PDF page, and then click on a link that takes you to the 6.0 or the 7.0 manuals fork along HP's documentation road.
Would you like a speed-dial to the current location of those manuals? It's the kind of thing that hp3000links did with selected resources. Dunlop acted as an editor while he maintained the site for more than a decade. Now it's becoming a community project to clean out, like that pretty neighborhood park that got overgrown until those peculiar old fellas started to come by to weed and hoe and plant.
We'd like to see our readers visit hp3000links.com to check out the renovation, offer some catcalls and heckling, and suggest alternative links. The webpage, which is hosted by 3000 IT manager James Byrne for at least a few more months, even has a submission box for suggesting links. You might drop us a note on updates inside that box -- which is at the bottom of the very busy webpage. We'll be busy awhile, too.
December 14, 2011
Stealing or Scrapping Older HP 3000s
Owners of older HP 3000s have an end-of-life issue in front of them, sooner or later. Sometimes, as is the case at Cygnus Publishing, a 3000 is going offline to be replaced by a Windows server. What to do with the remaining hardware, usually so old that using it as a production box is not an option?
Subscriptions won't be processed any longer using the Datatrax app on the 3000 at Cygnus, said Eric Sedmak. He's been put in charge of moving the system out the door. The company is based in Wisconsin, and Sedmak wasn't sure which model was being turned off at the end of this month. We suggested contacting support providers in his area. Someone like Preferred Systems in Minnesota might pick up a box in neighboring Wisconsin for spare parts.
(MB Foster has developed a program and practices for decommissioning HP 3000s. The company held a webinar this afternoon on its practices. We'll have an article here soon on the advice that was given.)
On the other hand, if you're collecting old HP 3000s, a Series 70 HP 3000 Classic is on eBay until next week. Refresh Computer in Orlando is trying to get takers for this "vintage and loaded" system. As 3000 vets know, this is a beast of a piece of iron, one that might be placed in a garage to aid in heating during the winter months. To be certain, HP engineered the 70 to survive such harsh conditions. Hey, it's got four 4MB RAM modules (probably LP-sized boards) for 16MB of main memory, plus it includes an HP 150 Touchscreen PC for a monitor. (That's Touchscreen, not TouchPad. The Touchscreen had a lifespan of at least three years of sales, instead of the TouchPad's three months.) the Touchscreen alone is a steal, since there's just as much vendor software coming for the 1980s PC as that TouchPad.)
We're not sure if you can call a Series 70 a holiday gag gift, since some support companies might want one of these to test against customers' systems. But as the first Series 70 we've seen on eBay, you might think of it as a steal.The comment stream on selling this item -- it's on offer for the third time -- reflects how much has changed in 3000 ownership and stewardship. It also shows some realism as well as nostalgia.
• Can anyone in Florida save this HP 3000? Not mine but I would love to see someone with the space grab it and at least store it and save it from the scrapper. I know there are/were a few big iron HP fans here. This is the third time its been listed. Cheap enough now for a local scrapper to profit from it. Probably won't be a 4th listing.
• I've been watching this too, along with the 7937 hard drives and the 7978 tape drive, simply because I used to work on these systems. The Series 70 is a beast of a machine, and requires 220V for power. I'm not in a position to rescue it though, either in terms of proximity or space.
• Honestly, to me, these machines have no real value beyond what I could auction it for, as they're nothing that I have a personal connection with, and they're too archaic for me to enjoy recreating the past. I think that the retro-computing/emulation things are ways for people to wax nostalgic and enjoy the things that they used to enjoy.
• I'm really tempted. I'll actually be in the area around Xmas. Is it worth renting a van? What would I even do with this?
• Just Do It. The opportunity won't come again and you'll be kicking yourself for years to come.
"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone" (BANG )
• Pretty neat server. You'll have to get a few friends a few beers to go along with ya when you pick it up, though. I can only imagine the weight of that thing.
• Not too many people that have that much space in their house. It would be just as bad for someone got it and put it in a shed or garage with no climate control. You would probably need a forklift to move it around. Could you even fit it through the front door of a house?
• Besides the power requirements, you'd still have to find a copy of MPE to run on it.
On that last score, the HP Computer Museum website can provide a copy of MPE V/E for use on this Series 70.
December 08, 2011
Alas, Oracle, you've blown off HP's Unix
HP-UX sites which run Oracle have no idea if Oracle's 12G database, scheduled for next year, will run on their Integrity hardware. HP has said on its last two quarterly conference calls that the uncertainty about Oracle has driven down sales of the Business Critical Systems group.
This one risk that a vendor takes when it decides to partner closely with a third party, instead of the old-school model of including a vendor-built database like IMAGE. This isn't meant to slam any third party database maker, because there are some good ones out there. Even Oracle has lots of fans.
But Oracle has used its database as way to sell its own Unix, Solaris. And now it appears there's saucy language about the man leading the sales charge for Solaris servers, Mark Hurd, inside Oracle's dramatic lawsuit language. We know, "dramatic lawsuit language" are not three words usually found together. But Oracle led by Ellison has always filled its sales with lots of breezy boasts. To the point, one stretch of the lawsuit against HP claims there are lies, and the truth, about Integrity servers.
The contrast between what HP was discussing internally — the truth — and what it was telling the market and its actual and prospective customers — blatant lies — could not be more stark.
It's not often you find marketing prose in a lawsuit, which might start hearings in April -- after HP has closed two more quarters. That will make a full year of Oracle pullout messages for HP's Unix customers.
HP says Oracle is contributing to the decline of HP's Unix line. HP's started to fall back on EnterpriseDB, which is extending its product line to include a new Postgres Plus Cloud Server. A webcast one week from today will include a demo -- but first, an outside analyst will explain the differences between cloud databases. The analyst is unlikely to compare lawsuit language between these warring vendors, both of whom are aiming to capture HP 3000 migration business. (And there's a more focused webcast for HP 3000 users one day earlier, on Dec.14 when MB Foster explains 3000 Decommissioning plans.)IT managers who register for the EnterpriseDB webcast on Dec. 15 will hear
Matt Aslett, senior analyst enterprise software, 451 Research, examine the difference between databases running in the public cloud, and databases that will be used to power private and hybrid clouds. He will provide an overview of the functional requirements that separate database running in the cloud from true cloud databases.
It might not matter as much as you'd think if Oracle stops supporting HP-UX. That's the view from Michael Marxmeier, who offers the IMAGE alternative Eloquence for HP-UX, as well as Intel-based servers. (He says he's doing lots of Linux business by now.) More on that tomorrow.
December 05, 2011
Two Dev Editors for One Classic Platform
As we created our November print issue of the 3000 NewsWire, one of the Q&A subjects, Brian Edminster, gave us a photo of himself in front of a pair of monitors. Each had a different development editor: Robelle's Qedit for Windows, which hardly needs any introduction to 3000 users, who've deployed Qedit since the 1980s and continue to support it in its Windows incarnation; and Programmer Studio -- which, alas, saw its creators Whisper Technology go dark several years ago.
Edminster, who's stocking the HP 3000's community's open source repository, told us he likes both tools, enough to have a paid license for each. (Programmer's Studio had a free trial option that created a lot of shadow customers.) Using his HP 3000 terminal emulator from WRQ, Edminster notes
Edminster gave us a rundown on his toolbox for development in 3000 environments and beyond.
I've got two Reflection windows open to sessions on different systems on the left monitor, and Programmer Studio on the right (yes, it's kinda like MPE/iX -- no longer maintained, but it works just fine), and about a dozen other apps either web-based or other. I can't even imagine working on a traditional 'green-screen' to do programming anymore. There are good features of both -- but Qedit for Windows is more like a stand-alone editor that uses the Windows GUI. Each has its strengths.
Programmer Studio is much more like a conventional IDE -- something that programmers from other platforms (especially Windows) would find more familiar. Both it and Qedit do syntax highlighting/coloring. I like the one-button compiler integration with PStudio (where it can display the source code and after a compile with errors -- position you at each error so you can fix them, then f4 to take you to the next error, etc). It also, for certain languages (C, and COBOL, at least) shows a structure of the program in window on the left allows very easy navigation of the source.
The Regular Expression searches capability is really great too -- not just within a file, but across entire directories of files. I use this often to find references to variables across an entire source library. The results are shown in a 'find results' window. If you double-click on the found line, it'll open the code in another tab, positioning the cursor to that line.
By the way, for people that have to edit files on servers that don't allow FTP access, but do allow ssh/sftp access, there's a third party add-on I found called ExpanDrive (www.ExpanDrive.com). It's a tool that works on both Macs and Windows to allow 'mounting' file systems on your workstation - and just about any workstation software can then access them. This has allowed me to use PStudio in places where I wouldn't have, otherwise. I've mentioned this on the 3000-L a while ago.
I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but there's a multi-platform open source IDE that's functionally similar to PStudio called Eclipse, a Java-based IDE with plug-in architecture (allows adding functionality/features) that runs under Linux, Mac OS/X, and WIndows. Unfortunately PStudio is not extensible via plug-ins like Eclipse is -- even though it does have a 'tools' menu -- to allow adding limited integration of external tools. Eclipse is designed such that plug-ins are fully integrated, and can essentially transform how the tool works. Pretty amazing stuff. And yes, there are a number of plug-ins that facilitate working with COBOL, as well a multitude for Java and other more recent languages.
December 02, 2011
HP Connects users on power and cloud
By Terry Floyd
The Support Group
The HP Connect users group sponsored a luncheon seminar meeting in Austin a few weeks ago, with two diverse speakers and topics. Kristi Browder, Executive Director and COO of Connect, lead the meeting and introduced the speakers.
Clyde Poole, of TDi Technologies, talked about “What you Should Know Before Moving to the Cloud.” It was not a sales pitch for his Plano-based company; rather, the presentation was a generic and informative speech. Clyde spoke from years of data center experience as he covered the “gotcha’s” of cloud computing. He discussed three or four definitions of “the cloud” and gave examples of each (SalesForce, Amazon, etc.). It was a speech intended to urge caution when moving data to the cloud, covering legal and security issues and their inherent risk exposures.
Clyde’s best tip was to visit wiki.cloudsecurityalliance.org, a site where the CSA describes issues concerning cloud deployment. There you learn where Clyde got some of his ideas about the major Service Models: SaaS (Software), PaaS (Platform), and IaaS (Infrastructure). On that site is also a great piece on Public vs. Private clouds (and Hybrids) and about required characteristics of clouds, such as Resource Pooling, Broad Network Access, Rapid Elasticity, Self-Service provisioning, and what Measured Services means.
David Chetham-Strode, an HP’er of 15 years, spoke on “Power and Cooling”, introducing innovations the invent brand has introduced in the last year or two. He spoke about new power distribution products that have come out of HP’s own data center projects. David spent a lot of time discussing power loss and what Hewlett Packard has done to increase efficiencies from 90 percent to as much as 98 percent, big savings in electricity in big data centers. He revealed secrets of air flow and “cooling from within the row of servers” instead of from above or below.David also mentioned the “chimney” products and why they have no fans (not just that they are not needed, but that they disrupt the flow). Did you know that the new rear doors on the solidly-built HP cabinets have more holes than their competitors’ cabinets? This presentation was interesting to me, even the minutia about power cabling, the explanation of why blue was used for the A/C connections’ color coding, and the fact that HP is working on eliminating A/C and going with D/C for the most efficiency possible.
A couple of dozen people attended the free seminar and I’m sure all agreed that the meal was excellent. Everyone received a 1GB USB storage device with HP’s name and a Connect koozie. I won one of the two door prizes, a bag of goodies including the ever-present and very high quality HP mouse pad, as well as two different mice, another 1GB thumb drive, and a pedometer (in case I wanted to know how many steps it was back to my car – several hours later it is up to 2,245).
I learned a few useful, interesting items and met some nice people, including four Connect employees and four HP people. It was a good effort and worth my time to try to re-connect with Connect. But it’s lonesome for an MPE guy in this world. I identified Compaq and Non-Stop people, but HP-UX was probably in the majority of the crowd’s resumes.
November 28, 2011
Making it Easier, One Decade Later
The tools of my trade have come a long way in a decade of work, just as yours have in computing. Actually, there's an intersection there between us, since the tools of computing have changed the way I can tell stories. Journalism is sometimes called literature in a hurry, and there's nothing like the rush of big news to put a scribbler in a rush.
That's what was happening in November, 2001, when I got my rock-your-world report from my partner Abby about our newsletter and the HP 3000 and the future of both. We knew HP's future in the 3000 that night, when it was likely to wind down and how serious they were about ending it. We also knew there was another side of the story to tell about the community that the vendor was leaving. HP was already at work telling their tales about migration and a declining ecosystem. We had to get busy to catch up.
It all seems so antique now. The long ride on the train with an open notebook on the Eurostar table, writing out question after question. Getting a hotel with a good phone system booked in London, for HP had promised a con-call to brief me less than a week before they'd tell customers. Shopping for a portable cassette tape recorder, plus an acoustic mic pickup, to make recorded notes for such a crucial story.
Then afterward, at 8 PM Euro time, when it was just lunch in California, I trek off to the EasyNet Internet Cafe. A spot that any tourist or pilgrim could use the Internet to write stories I would email to Abby, via AOL, so she could set them in print for our newsletter. We'd held the presses, yup, and it all depended on how fast I could get quotes out of that tape recorder and its cheap earphone, writing up the news I'd heard, and then another piece on what I thought it meant.
I got lucky that night. There was a problem with the Cafe's billing, so everybody's Internet time was free. It was one less thing to think about, so I could let the muse lead me to call the non-migrators "homesteaders." When you create something that's swell and durable, you must thank the gods for good fortune that rewards the practice your craft.You've probably felt that kind of luck in creating something during your careers -- that insight that turned out to be right and make the whole program run without any error on the compile, or the magic of making connections between two things the makers never intended to work together. You try to remember how it felt, because you want to believe in the luck for the next time you're batting at the keys in cafe where it's about to snow outside and you're not dressed for it.
Skip ahead 10 years, and you don't worry about which COBOL to use or whether that's the right SCSI cable and terminator. Or if you've got time on the Internet or the hours to skim through tape for one quote. As I tapped out a blog story about the great Steve Jobs, how he admired Hewlett and Packard, and stop that HP PC snickering, he said very near his own demise. They built a company with a legacy, and he wants that for Apple.
I'm right in the middle of this, when HP calls a pop press conference with its new CEO. Decides that PCs are still its game. I listen right along with every other business writer, get a story posted online along with the Merc in San Jose and the Journal. Just luck along with tools that make stories leap through time, another kind of Easy Net. Thanks for the work you've done over the last 10 years in your industry. It's making it easy.
November 23, 2011
As holiday looms, research migration today
The US Thanksgiving weekend -- the only guaranteed four-day holiday all year -- will be upon IT departments in just a few more hours. Watch the "out of office" auto-messages pop up on your email replies. But if it's before noon on the West Coast, or just short of the traffic jams on one of the worst commuting days of the year, you can learn more about data migration from an MB Foster webinar today. (Thanksgiving is an October holiday in Canada, where MB Foster is headquartered.)
The vendor reminds us that it's been in the migration business for decades by now, since migrating data has been a principal enterprise there. "Data generated and consumed by applications is driven by multiple business requirements, which in turn are supported by business processes. The approaches taken to the migration depends on those requirements. Data migrations and associated tasks are usually performed programmatically to move and map old system data to the new system," MB Foster says in an invitation to a 11AM PST / 2PM EST webinar, Data Migration, Conversions, Integration.
It's that data that is the most crucial element on 3000s still running companies. At the end of the process is decommissioning, a service the vendor is ready to help migrators prepare for.
In this webinar we will outline database migrations, data conversions and data integration approaches. We will also be reviewing data challenges that could possibly impede a successful migration and decommissioning.
There's still time to register online for the 45-minute briefing.
We'll be taking tomorrow off, with a little bit of coverage on Friday, to celebrate the holiday here and give thanks for your constant interest and our sponsors' support. Have a safe and sumptuous weekend
November 11, 2011
Take a search into our print issues, online
Every three months, The 3000 NewsWire returns to its roots and arrives in paper and an envelope. It's a format that we first delivered 16 years ago. No matter how fast the Web can update us, there's a different pace of education and insight that comes off the printed page. We're fortunate to have the support of community sponsors to keep our print issue alive. (Frankly, it would be hard to get me to stop creating it, coming from a "stop the presses" heritage at newspapers here in Texas.)
But onward to my point: You can read those printed issues here on your PC or laptop, created as PDF files. The latest one is always available from a click at the top left corner of our main website page on this blog. We also have an archive which is summarized below, with links for downloads.
This month marks the start of our 17th Volume, as we old-timers say in the publishing business, each of those volumes one year of printed editions. Our volumes begin in the fall, when the 3000 NewsWire was born. As it turns out, November became a pretty important month for the 3000 -- but that's a story for next Monday, Nov. 14.
One advantage of creating a PDF file of these print issues is that they can be searched with a PDF reader. All of these articles are included in our blog, after selected stories get "Print Exclusive" status -- first available only in paper. But if you want to enjoy the print presentation -- a magazine style, if you will -- click below. If you'd like to have a copy arrive in your postal mailbox at the soonest date, send an email to me at the NewsWire and I'll ensure you're on the mailing list for premium paper. Be sure to include a mailing address.
So we'll see you in the papers -- you never can be sure whose picture or name was in the news on a page that's printed. It's worth a look; collect 'em all, as they used to say in the comic books. Maybe there's a place for a Ken-Do revival in 2012's printed NewsWires.
November 10, 2011
HP puts down Oracle, which puts up Solaris
Hewlett-Packard summoned a market analyst to tell its HP-UX customers "Unix is not going away in the near future," said Dan Olds, founder of Gabriel Consulting. "Probably not even past the near future."
These kinds of assurances are needed in a marketplace where Linux has all the buzz and Windows all the populace among environment choices. Sure, the apps drive the OS choices, but a company's got to ensure it can retain and train the IT pros who keep apps alive and moving, instead of stalled. As one example, the replacement-for-IMAGE database Eloquence keeps growing "to keep your applications from stalling," said founder Michael Marxmeier.
Eloquence runs on Windows, Linux and Unix. It the last arena it becomes a player in the ongoing saga of What Will HP Do About Oracle? Oracle sells one of the biggest competitors to HP-UX, Solaris. Last week HP said that Oracle's Unix, Solaris, is a distant third in customer support and deployment to HP's Unix. This week Oracle announced a Version 11 of Solaris, which will be marketed as a cloud-friendly OS. It's also got tighter integration with Oracle's database, a strategy HP once used to great effect in the HP 3000, with MPE plus IMAGE. Here's a telling passage from a Computerworld story on how the link-up works for Solaris: "By controlling an entire stack of software, the company can make holistic decisions over which part of the stack would be best suited to tweak to gain performance improvements."
That's not in the field to be surveyed today, and perhaps not even this year. The message during the one-hour HP webcast relied upon a 2010-11 Gabriel survey of companies already using some kind of Unix. Prompted by HP's Katie Curtin-Mestre, Olds said that Oracle is well behind HP and IBM in categories like OS Quality, Patching Quality, availability as observed by a user base, plus a lot more. Olds -- whose 15 years in IT includes nine years of marketing consulting for hire -- said it's a two-vendor race for commercial Unix, where "Oracle is not as competitive as they would hope, or we expected. In some areas, since Oracle took over Sun and stabilized it, they've lost some ground."
HP would be happy to learn that continues to be true. The Gabriel survey was taken during the first six months of work by Mark Hurd, former CEO, who has led the Sun/Oracle rebound culminating in a fresh Solaris and refresh of the SPARC chips. How this webcast chest-thumping by HP will imact its wish to get Oracle to love Itanium/Integrity once again -- well, that's anybody's guess. But it's hard to portray the webcast as an olive branch.
One thing feels certain: when you use red as the color to depict a vendor on a PowerPoint slide, it's never a friendly label. HP's customers are observing that Solaris is much slower than HP-UX, but HP's Unix is just 1.3 percent faster than IBM's Unix. This may be a two-horse race in observations and speed. But HP needs Oracle to keep its customers on HP-UX servers, and coloring the company red looks as combative as suing its rival to keep supporting HP's Unix.Other high points of the HP-Gabriel survey (Olds calls the study a Vendor Face-Off):
"It will be interesting to see what happens, now that Oracle has released some new systems. We'll see if they resonate with customers." (We're not certain how Oracle will participate in the new Face-Off, but the vendors don't need to be part of the polling. Some vendors do pay for webcasts of the results, though.)
This kind of report is no new tactic in getting customer loyalty pumped up. The objectivity comes under scrutiny when an outside consultant says, "It's clear that the commercial Unix market is primarily a two-horse race between IBM and HP. Oracle hasn't managed to turn Sun around in any significant way."
Olds said, "Customers are still using more Unix capacity than they used the year before. There's a lot of churn, as they move stuff to x86 and take out Unix platforms. But they're also adding Unix platforms. The amount of capacity shift is more than what's being turned off." So the Unix advocate is now looking at capacity rather of footprint. They've lost the war on server counts, although HP continues to report its Unix servers lead that sector in market share.
"The [capacity] growth isn't as fast as it was back in the day of the early-to-mid '90s," Olds said. That's the period where HP is plundering the HP 3000 base for converts to HP-UX, and Windows doesn't have any traction as an enterprise environment. Linux was little more than an experiment back in the day. Olds then asserts that "nothing's growing like it was back then." That will come as news to Red Hat, SUSE and the other Linux providers.
"Unix has moved to a different place; it's become that mission-critical platform," Olds said. Right on the money, from the reports of the former 3000 sites who've turned to Unix. None of them report that Unix is any more mission-critical than the 3000, but we don't have a superb window into the largest of Unix customers. For the most part, that size of site didn't use the 3000.
Fewer shipments, larger systems, greater uptime needs: Some of this sounds like the HP 3000 situation of the late 1990s, when footprints of MPE/iX were being overtaken by Windows and Unix. Nobody knows the future for sure, even when a vendor tells the tale: witness the assurances of HP World 2001 about the 3000 vs. the pullout just three months later. But the future of Unix is now tied firmly to big systems and mission-critical capacity. It's hard to see how that competes with the nimble and smaller options from the cloud, even if HP says Unix is a part of its cloud computing plans.
HP's Curtin-Mestre said "we get a lot of questions about Integrity [servers] and Itanium, and to add to your point, the Itanium market revenue is larger than AMD as a whole." That's a lot of sales, but now the vendor is comparing its Unix business to a smaller subset of the Windows x86 alternative. "This whole conversation reminds me of the old adage from Mark Twain, that 'rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.' "
It was a "report" rather than rumors that Twain replied to, for those who admire the humorist's accuracy. He lived another 13 years after his handwritten note to Frank Bliss. The note sprang from reports Twain had died, but it was his cousin who'd been ill. People like to think of operating environments as having a lifespan, especially HP, which encouraged the thought that MPE/iX was dying, along with the HP 3000 and for that matter, IBM's AS/400. We'd rather consider Twain's writing about death in 1906 in Mark Twain in Eruption as a means of getting the most honesty from the departed.
I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead--and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier.
Perhaps as the MPE/iX OS moves into its 11th year of being "dead," HP-UX can hope for a similar future. If nothing else, the vendor won't need to hire outside analysts to prove people are still using and choosing its proprietary OS.
November 03, 2011
Is it a test next Wednesday, or the real thing?
By Birket Foster
MB Foster Associates
Remember growing up where a test of the emergency alert system would periodically come on the radio with a piercing noise, and inform you that this was just a test, and in the case of a real emergency further instructions will follow? It's coming back, sooner than you think. We expect to hear it just minutes before our next webinar.
For the first time ever, the FCC and FEMA are conducting a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). It will happen at 2 pm Eastern on Wednesday, November 9 -- just 2 days before binary day (you know, 111111, or November 11, '11).
Will our children even know what this is about, as they get home from school and have their favorite TV show interrupted by an emergency signal? Will housewives everywhere worry about the “national emergency” that will appear to be happening? Maybe it will have the same impact on society as the radio play of HG Wells “The War of the Worlds,” a timeless science fiction classic of the invasion of earth by Martians.
Our live demonstration of MBF Scheduler, and the recently announced enhancements of HIPRI, RUNNOW and Subqueues, will take 45 minutes -- but during the first two minutes we will see how the world reacts to EAS, and then carry on from there.Wikipedia reports that the EAS is a national warning system in the United States put into place on January 1, 1997, when it superseded the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), which itself had superseded the CONELRAD System.
In addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes, but the nationwide federal EAS has never been activated. The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. Each state and several territories have their own EAS plan. EAS has become part of IPAWS, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a program of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). EAS is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the FCC, and the National Weather Service.
So next week for two minutes the airwaves of America (which are broadcast by satellite around the planet) there will be a two-minute alert where the president or at least the White House will interrupt the day for 2 minutes to prove that in the case of the a national emergency you could hear the President – it would just be text and a voice over – no pictures … maybe the lowest common denominator isn’t the best way to go but all radio and TV will be part of the test.
How will you business handle this – are you forewarning people that this test is coming up … At MBFoster we have a webinar scheduled for November 9 at 2pm … it will be about Automating Windows Processes (using MBF Scheduler) … it won’t be a test – it will be the real thing J complete with demonstration … it will take 45 minutes but during the first 2 minutes we will see what the world reaction to the of the EAS is and then carry on from there.