Previous month:
September 2005
Next month:
November 2005

October 2005

Two years past no-sale, plenty to buy

Two years ago today, the HP 3000 fell off HP's corporate price list. The worldwide community held a "wake," prompted by ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, and got itself into the mainstream trade press with its marker of the end of HP's sales era. But sales have continued beyond HP's plans, out in the rich field of independent resellers.

All though the 3000 community, the lights continue to blink on the latest HP 3000s the vendor ever built, the last-generation N-Class and A-Class servers. These systems scarcely got a half-year of unfettered sales time at HP before the vendor announced the end of its 3000 business in 2001. As one IT manager — from a major shop with "double-digit" numbers of N-Class servers still running a sales counter application — told us two years ago:

HP finally puts the HP e3000 on an even hardware playing field as HP-UX and they discontinue the platform — pretty frustrating.  We do plan on upgrading these N-Class systems over the next couple of years.  If HP does not have the parts, we will look in the secondary market.

There are many places to look today, two years after the wake. If anything has died off, it only appears to be HP's official stream of 3000 systems. And even HP was participating in 3000 sales through a secondary market outlet, Phoenix 3000, which resold the systems HP took in trade-ins.

Continue reading "Two years past no-sale, plenty to buy" »

And the Interex list winner is...

After many rounds of serious bidding over the telephone yesterday, another hardware vendor emerged as the winner of the Interex customer list auction. The customer list came up for auction as part of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings for the user group.

At the end of the auction, it was HP which took possession of between 110,000 and 115,000 names of Interex members, subscribers and individuals who requested the e-mail blasts the user group used to put out. The final price: $66,500.

If that seems quite a bit higher than the $15,000 opening offer from HP hardware resource Genisys, it's probably because the bidding was conducted blind, with two of the three parties remaining anonymous. HP had no idea who the third party was in the bidding for awhile, and didn't even have to identify itself until it won the auction. Genisys was bidding against two anonymous competitors. HP might have believed it was buying the customer list to keep it out of the hands of a competitor like IBM.

Genisys founder Danny Richardson said he knew his company would have plenty of cleanup to do on such a gaggle of names, gathered over 31 years and not pruned much. Genisys put down the first offer for the list and wasn't concerned about its size or condition.

"I didn't get a great sense of the size or content of the list," Richardson told us, "although I have heard it will take a lot of work to make it usable. We bid what we thought was a fair price given the perceived condition of the list. Genisys has been serving the HP 3000 community since our start in 1992. We are committed to supplying quality hardware well into the future."

The irony of HP's purchase wasn't lost on some in the HP community. After losing more than $100,000 to the user group through the failure of the 2005 HP World, HP then paid more than half as much again to purchase a list of its own customers. At least we know that HP has the resources to stay in touch with the enterprise computer user community. How much of that community actually resides among those tens of thousands of names remains an exercise for HP's marketing team.

Disaster Recovery Optimization Techniques

By Gilles Schipper

While working recently with a customer on the design and implementation of disaster recovery (DR) plan for their large HP3000 system, it became apparent that the mechanics of its implementation had room for improvement.

In this specific example, the customer has a production N-class HP3000 in its primary location and a “backup” HP3000/969 system in a secondary location several hundred miles removed from the primary.

The process of implementing the DR was more manual-intensive than it needed to be.

As an aside, it was completed entirely from a remote location — thanks to the Internet, VPNs and the use of the HP Secure Web Console on the 969 – a subject I will expound upon in future.

One of the most labor-intensive aspects of the DR exercise was to rebuild the I/O configuration of the DR machine (the 969) from the full backup tape of the production N-class machine, which included an integrated system load tape (SLT) as part of the backup.

The ability to integrate the SLT on the same tape as the full backup is very convenient. It results in a simplified recovery procedure as well as the assurance that the SLT to be used will be as current as possible.

Continue reading "Disaster Recovery Optimization Techniques" »

Carriage wit tracks follow path to open MPE

Homesteading sites in the 3000 community are counting down the days to the end of 2005, not 2006. By the close of this year HP will reveal its plans for sharing the source code — through some sort of limited license — to the HP 3000's operating system. Those plans could be a complete denial, or something much more encouraging for the site still relying on 3000s for several years. Customers are counting on the community to give HP some confidence to release the vendor's intellectual property. Starting next month, HP said it's going to invite a non-HP engineer to look over the 3000's OS build process.

Not long ago one of the board members of OpenMPE, the advocacy group for post-2006 HP 3000 use, offered up what he called "carriage wit" about why HP should trust the customers to take care of MPE/iX after HP leaves the market. It's called carriage wit, according to Matthew Perdue, because it's "thinking of something you wanted to say after the show and you're in your carriage headed home." Purdue, who runs an ISP and software operation in Texas and consults for 3000 sites, was home almost two months after the August OpenMPE meeting at HP. But his message on the OpenMPE mailing list speaks to the spirit we chronicled yesterday on our blog.

Continue reading "Carriage wit tracks follow path to open MPE" »

Homestead community stewards useful bits

The dictionary defines the verb "steward" as an act "to manage or look after (another's property)." The 3000 community shows how to do this with its expansive archives across many systems all over the world. When a customer wanted to use vi as an editor on their HP 3000 — to remain consistent with Unix systems at his site — the request for help led to stewards who've looked after software for all homesteaders.

It began when James B. Byrne was having "no end of trouble" using vi on his 3000. The editor is somewhat legendary for its cryptic interface and commands, but it's in wide use on "open" systems such as the HP 9000. From across the Atlantic, Lars Appel, retired from HP's support operations, delivered advice on making vi behave better on the 3000. Then in California, OpenMPE member Donna Garverick added a warning about using MPE's "frombyte." A smarter third-party program, BYTECNVT, exists to ease the process, she said. But where to get BYTECNVT, or where to even start to look?

Continue reading "Homestead community stewards useful bits" »

3000 sites step into Unix healthcare

Amisys Synertech announced another of its 3000 sites that's made the transition to the HP-UX platform on Friday, showing the way for the majority of the Amisys base that's still running the MPE/iX version of the payer software system. Amisys Advance substitutes Oracle for the 3000's IMAGE database. The migrating customer, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP), reported in the Amisys press release they feel the 3000's data functionality is intact after their migration.

“As a data-driven organization, CDPHP has always considered Amisys to be a very highly functional claims processing system,” said Raymond Murphy, CDPHP's Senior Vice President, Technology and Operations and CIO. “With the recent upgrade to Amisys Advance, CDPHP’s systems now run on an industry standard technology platform that will provide us with the opportunities to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of our business.”

This need for industry standards in a business platform drives a lot of 3000 migrations, as managers at the CIO level reach out for computers in the Unix or Windows mainstream. CDPHP had been an HP 3000 shop since the 1980s, according to our subscriber records at the NewsWire. The organization, which now serves 377,000 residents of New York state and is headquartered in Albany, had an IT shop of more than 20 staffers when we last polled them. CDPHP "performed many aspects of the migration themselves," according to the Amisys release. But the health plan still engaged Amisys to help finish the project.

Continue reading "3000 sites step into Unix healthcare" »

Listen for the sounds of a new conference

In our weekly podcast (12MB MP3 file), we cap off our first week of reporting from Orlando with talk for about 12 minutes about the opportunity and reality presented at this week's HP Technology Forum. The 3000 community was represented by some managers like the State Farmers, from the biggest shops, intermediate IT chiefs like Joe Farrell from Airmotive Ireland, and a few tiny shop managers, too. Hear HP's CEO play the humor card, and get HP's take direct from David Parsons on how this show won't be a rowdy hockey game. HP's got hopes to host an independent meeting where frank but civil discourse is welcome, and the Encompass user group wants to attract the Interex HP 3000 customers who are looking for help in moving forward.

Handling migrations of systems and groups with grace

HP, its partners and customers dispensed migration advice on the last full day of the HP Tech Forum, including a forecast from HP's David Parsons on what to expect in future versions of this conference: An appropriate level of tension between user group members and HP rather than the entertaining all-out scraps of the past.

The migration counsel rolled out early on Wednesday, when an 8 AM session delivered user reports from a quartet of customers about migrations in play or completed. Summit Information Systems VP Dick Drollinger gave a report on the vendor's move of 52 HP 3000 sites (so far) to an HP-UX version of its Spectrum credit union application. Another 3000 ISV, Softvoyage, told about its transfer of much of its customer base to HP-UX. The company's Christian Scott said that his travel agency customers' IT shops have been advised to use Taricon's Xi-Batch and Xi-Text to reproduce the 3000's batch and scripting capabilities on Unix.

Batch represents the biggest challenge in migrations, according to MB Foster's Birket Foster. VESoft's Streamx functionality, the job scheduling part of Security/3000, has been recovered by AMXW, a Speedware tool which was invoked often during the day's migration advisories. Speedware's Chris Koppe said his company provides his migration customers with scripts written for AMXW which mimic some of the StreamX job scheduling abilities. John MacLerran, an IT systems analyst from Idaho State University, was looking for a replacement for the Streamx job stream programming language as the university moves off its Powerhouse-based applications by the end of next year.

MacLerran, whose university just approved hardware and software purchases to begin its migration, wanted assurance that AMXW handles Unix commands gracefully. The question of graceful handling came up later in the day, when we spoke with Parsons about the prospects of the Technology Forum being able to handle the high-tension kind of exchanges between HP and users which marked many Interex conferences of the past. Parsons said HP didn't have any contention with the Interex user base, but didn't see eye-to-eye with the group's for-profit management model.

As for the emotional speeches delivered at microphones to HP managers on panels, Parsons, the VP of Enterprise Marketing for HP Americas, said he wants the conference to air less gloves-off combat.

Continue reading "Handling migrations of systems and groups with grace" »

HP CEO cuts to the questions

Mark Hurd spoke before HP customers at yesterday's HP Technology Forum, a keynote that cut almost directly to questions rather than linger on a 15-minute speech. Hurd was self-effacing and relaxed in front of a crowd top-heavy with his employees; when he opened his presentation with "good morning," attendees barked "good morning" right back at him. Perhaps everybody was in sales contact mode with less than two weeks remaining in HP's fiscal year. Hurd said that he was "shamelessly in tactical mode" while trying to wrap up HP's fourth quarter. He came to the conference from speaking across town at the Gartner IT conference, so his keynote didn't start until 11.

After three minutes of introductory remarks, Hurd repaired to the center of the stage to sit down for a "Q&A" session with his senior VP David Booth asking prepared questions. Although the format was obviously rehearsed it was a good choice, giving Hurd a chance to show off humor and insight into the challenge HP's facing as it emerges from the years of Carly Fiorina's hubris and change. While Hurd's got to respect what he's been handed to manage, he had a few well-placed quips at hand to show his leadership won't be a complete rubber stamp. HP 3000 customers hoping for a miraculous shift back to their system didn't hear those magic words of return, though.

Continue reading "HP CEO cuts to the questions" »

HP's show features different players, same agenda

The very first HP Technology Forum delivered a splashy first act inside the mammoth Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando. HP's leader of the Technology Solutions Group assured about 3,600 attendees that nothing was changing about HP's strategy. But Ann Livermore delivered her keynote to an audience brimming with HP employees, one whose user group component was made up of Encompass and OpenView Forum members rather than the familiar faces of HP 3000 community volunteers.

There has been much about this conference that feels just like the Interex conferences of years past, however. An HP executive spoke after being introduced by the presidents of user groups. Breakout sessions followed immediately, including a standing-room-only talk on the futures of the HP Integrity server lineup, systems that represent the future of HP's enterprise offerings and HP-UX platforms.

Ric Lewis delivered "feeds and speeds," as they call the high-detail talks about processing power and configurations, with all the unerring high-octane focus of former CSY marketing expert Dave Snow. HP is utterly convinced that Itanium will provide a stable platform in the marketplace in the years to come. Market adoption by other vendors has ceased to be a discussion topic, because Integrity servers now make up about one-third of HP's server revenues. One slide in Lewis' great presentation, delivered just on the edge of non-disclosure, came directly from Intel.

By lunchtime I could believe that the Interex show experience had been cloned forward, even if that user group didn't survive. But there were some differences to be noted which show how close the partnership truly is between HP and the two user groups helping with this event.

Continue reading "HP's show features different players, same agenda" »

Conference cranks up

This morning HP opens the doors to the first HP Technology Forum, a meeting co-produced with the Encompass user group. The production of this show is a novelty for the HP 3000 community. This is the first event related to the HP 3000 organized and scheduled by a professional user group management company, SmithBucklin. 3000 customers got a peek at this level of organization in Los Angeles in 2002, when Encompass and Interex produced HP World together. HP's training was prominent in that show, and the training opportunity is paramount in this year's Tech Forum.

People who said that HP had little experience mounting a user show might have been discounting the experience of SmithBucklin. It was the little things that stood out in that LA show, like having a badge you'd need to scan to enter a room. The system recorded who was attending. It also produced a very public count of how many bodies were in a meeting room. This year an RFID system not only tracks atttendance, but can call up an attendee's schedule so you can remember where you're supposed to be.

Speaking of little things, the 3000 community is likely to be a little thing at this week's show, too. Only six HP 3000 division staffers are in evidence on the speaker list. It's not for a lack of total HP presence, though: more than 75 percent of the 236 listed speakers are from HP. Migration advice is what HP is bringing to Tech Forum attendees who know about the 3000's transition.

And Tropical Storm Wilma is well south of Cuba, posing little chance of turning into something to hit Orlando before the weekend. That didn't keep the local TV news from leading off with the "threat," of course. One hurricane cancellation already lies in the Tech Forum's history. But the 3000 community is getting adept at weathering cancellations.

Continue reading "Conference cranks up" »

Let us help hang out your job shingles

On Friday we announced we'd be opening a couple of Web locations for HP 3000 pros to advertise their availability. Veterans in the community believe that 3000 skills will be in higher demand over the next three years as companies begin their migration projects. Our Friday podcast looked at the details of what kinds of work are already available. Many 3000 customers don't have as much 3000 talent on hand as they would like; the 3000 tends to run itself, in the absence of any any significant changes. Migration is going to be Y2K kind of intensive, once the work begins.

Send us your summaries of your 3000 experience in a couple of healthy-sized paragraphs, including your contact information, plus a link to your resume that's hosted on your own Web site. We'll put up your "situations wanted" shingles at the NewsWire blog and on our main Web site. E-mail your notices to [email protected], or [email protected].

Listen up for another run-up in opportunity

In this week's NewsWire podcast (6MB MP3 file), we talk for six minutes about a resurgence in requirements for HP 3000 skills, especially in applications. A healthy market has grown up around migrations, projects that make Y2K work seem like child’s play. This fall it looks like the sandbox is finally starting to include work for HP 3000 experts. We’re going to be adding a free resource to our blog and Web site next week where those pros can post their availability. We believe that what you know is going to earn you more than it has in a long time.

Interex customers may get auctioned

More than 2,000 creditors of the bankrupt user group Interex got a US Bankruptcy Court notice that the Interex customer list may be auctioned off on Oct. 27. HP 3000 and HP 9000 hardware supplier Genisys has asked to buy the list of names with an offer of $15,000, and the estate's trustee Carol Wu replied by saying her law firm intends to auction this asset — but the creditors still have time to object to an exclusive-use sale of the list.

It's unclear if more recent privacy laws will apply to customers on the list. Such customer lists are usually rented, rather than sold outright.

The rest of Interex's "personal property" assets — computer equipment, office furnishings — have only drawn a $3,000 offer in the trustee's first attempt at a sale. The user group's estate would lose money on that price, according to a court document filed by attorney Joanne LaFreniere. The estate's trustee hired appraiser R.J. Papale "to attempt to market the personal property and to inventory and inspect the records and property. Mr. Papale met with several prospective purchasers, and received only two offers: $3,000, and $2,500. However, even the high offer of $3,000 is still too low to economically sell the personal property."

Of course, the cost of attorney's fees for preparing documents related to the sale were among the reasons listed that "the estate would have lost money on such a deal."

Continue reading "Interex customers may get auctioned" »

Nouveau network printing surfaces

It took HP about six years to release the latest level of its support for network printing on the HP 3000. The irony in that period is that the majority of those years were in the 3000's Transition Era, when MPE/iX customers started looking at migrations once HP stepped away from the system.

This week HP made its official "general release" announcement about patch MPEMXU1A, a modification to MPE/iX 7.5. Users of that 3000 OS release can now add a couple of keywords to network printing's NPCONFIG's syntax, PCL_ENABLED and FLUSH_LAST_PAGE_WITH_FORM_FEED. These words give non-HP printers a chance of receiving print jobs from 3000s without choking up on PCL sequences. The words also give customers a look at how to get what you want from the HP labs, if you just keep asking. (You can download the patch from HP's IT Response Center today, even without an HP support contract)

Whether the enhancement is close enough to what customers have been requesting since 1999 remains to be seen. We're also interested in how people will put this long-awaited enhancement to use. We put out a summertime report on network printing just to summarize what it will do. HP's promised a more complete technical article about the enhancement on its Jazz Web site sometime in the future.

Continue reading "Nouveau network printing surfaces" »

3000 lifeline list gets a makeover

It's hard to describe how essential the 3000-L newsgroup/mailing list is to the 3000 community. Or to the NewsWire, for that matter. When we began our news service 10 years ago, I was encouraged to believe we could produce a newsletter every month — heartened by the intelligent traffic in 3000 knowledge flying along on the 3000-L, even back then when the Internet was still brand-new to most of us.

A decade later, this Web resource remains a top-flight font of system tips, community gossip and outlandish arguments. (And for almost all of that decade we have tracked the list's 3000 tips and the news in our net.digest columns, written mostly by John Burke with some off-the-bench help from me.)

Those debates on the list, the Off-Topic OT: postings, are a bane to some 3000 users who look at this resource and an entertaining delight to others. In the last few years the list has lost subscribers (who take the messages via e-mail, like we have done for 10 years at the NewsWire) because of the debating over such high-spirited OT posts. But the newsgroup is a user group, as far as HP and more than 1,000 customers and developers are concerned. Not long ago "the L" got a makeover for its Web counterpart — an interface that lets you keep up with the traffic without loading up your already-bulging in-boxes.

Continue reading "3000 lifeline list gets a makeover" »

Elegance in cancellations

MPE/iX, the 3000's operating system, brims with elegant solutions that sometimes elude even long-time users of HP 3000s. Since the 3000 runs at its heart with a character-based interface, some of the elegance can only be tapped from the command line.

Walter Murray used to work for HP in its 3000 COBOL labs when the vendor actually had such things. Today the COBOL maintenance is minimal inside HP, and Murray works outside of HP's labs. He posted a reminder about a command-line trick that says a lot about the 3000 experience — and a little bit about who's left to keep the lamp of knowledge about the server lit.

Continue reading "Elegance in cancellations" »

Listen up for the rate of changes

In our weekly podcast (4MB MP3 file) we look at rate of change in the 3000 community shops this season. The period of transition between reliable 3000 applications and the new frontier of apps like SAP shows the contrast between high value and high performance, a couple of spots that IT directors aim for. Take about four minutes to listen to the note of dedication — however resigned — from an IT director who's changing very little on his 3000 while his best developers move the company's ERP applications to a new platform.

Storage selections for disaster recovery

With two major hurricanes sweeping through the Gulf in the last month, more 3000 sites are thinking about disaster recovery systems. Backup options are a key element of a DR setup; you'd like to save some money on a system that will only be mission critical in the event of a disaster, rather than requiring 24x7 uptime like a production systems.

Such DR configuration led OpenMPE board member Donna Garverick to ask for user reports on storage array options. Customers chimed in with options less costly than the top-flight XP disk arrays from HP.

Continue reading "Storage selections for disaster recovery" »

HP's 3000 expertise keeps moving on

Mark Bixby announced his departure from his 3000 duties at HP yesterday, closing a rich chapter of development and advances for the server. Bixby came to the HP labs from a position at a California  college's IT department, where he'd already worked on porting the Apache Web server to MPE/iX. He's been one of the leading advocates of the open source movement; a good deal of his work for the 3000 has revolved around open source subsystems such as DNS and bind that brought the platform into the modern era of networking.

When Bixby arrived at HP in 1999, the vendor was still pushing the 3000. He joined the company without relocating to the  Cupertino area, working remote from his Southern California home. It seemed a natural fit for someone so closely tied to the Internet. His personal Web page, which is thick with links to 3000 shareware, includes this mission statement:

At one time or another, every one of us has thought "If I were in charge we'd do it THIS way and life would be great". Using the Internet, you CAN do it your way. Turn your creative ideas into reality and share them with the world. Let the satisfaction of making the world a better place be your primary motivation.

By the end of the '90s, the 3000 division had been hiring some of its talent through such telecommute positions. Bixby was already well-known when he put on an HP badge, having already created the Patchman patch analysis software for MPE/iX and filed more than 100 Service Requests for MPE/iX. His list of ports outstrips nearly every other single developer's: Apache, BIND, OpenSSL, Perl, PostgreSQL, sendmail, syslog and more. He even wrote a perl script that converts the 3000's help files to individual Web pages. HP put a Posix interface into MPE in 1994 to tap the wealth of open source solutions. Bixby was one of the leaders in putting Posix to work for the community's benefit.

As he moves off to full-time work in another segment of HP, Bixby noted that he'll have to reduce his 3000 efforts to personal time. A few other HP resources for the 3000 are working on their own time, but that's a limited effort, as it must be balanced with family, friends and outside interests. HP's handing off Bixby's 3000 duties to another HP 3000 linchpin, Jeff Vance.

Continue reading "HP's 3000 expertise keeps moving on" »

Seasoned trainers take over HP's 3000 classes

Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith, two consultants and MPE experts who've made careers out of training 3000 customers, have taken a non-exclusive license to use HP's MPE and 3000 class materials to expand their training enterprise. More importantly, these experts have taken up the mission of training the 3000 community as HP exits the 3000 education business.

The 3000 NewsWire has done Q&A interviews with both Edwards and Smith, a pair of dedicated advocates for the 3000 platform. (We interviewed Edwards the month before HP's announcement it was leaving the 3000 market; Smith spoke with us in 2004. Both maintain faith in the value proposition of the 3000 as well as its useful future.)

Smith's Alden Research and Paul Edwards & Associates announced the license of the HP materials yesterday. The two companies had worked for four years to convince HP to release its class cirriculum and slide sets while HP continued to reduce its 3000 training options. The two men have been HP contract instructors for nearly a decade and are long time solution and training partners of HP. Their press release issued yesterday reports they "will provide ongoing course material updates, creation of new courses, and delivery of high quality MPE training at specific training facilities or customer sites."

Their companies are maintaining a new Web site, a Web resource where HP will steer all HP education web site visitors searching for MPE training classes.

Continue reading "Seasoned trainers take over HP's 3000 classes" »

Virtualization you can afford

When HP rolled out its latest generation of virtualization solutions Sept. 12, the vendor leaned on a lower-cost option to entice small businesses. Since so many HP 3000 customers work from this SMB segment, this aspect of virtualization looks like it's pitched straight at 3000 shops — and the biggest share of the platform's migrating customers, those who are moving to Windows.

HP's virtualization solutions for the small customer rely on VMWare, a well-regarded PC-based solution for Windows and other operating systems. HP wants its customers to hear about PC-based solutions, and it's spending marketing budget to inform you of these options. We talked about the VMWare options in our September printed edition of the NewsWire.

In addition to briefing editors and analysts, HP wants to tell migrating customers about the VMWare and Intel-Windows option. A message this morning from InfoWorld encouraged us to download a white paper, Building Business to Scale, written by InfoWorld columnists and sponsored by HP. InfoWorld writes these as marketing tools for vendors, but charges $195 for a 15-page PDF paper once the sponsorship contract expires. This week, their paper is free, if you give them your contact information. It's a pretty good summary of how to do IT for less. But some of that advice might not be a way to steer you to HP's solutions.

Continue reading "Virtualization you can afford" »