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February 2006

Change comes from different directions for Unix customers

Change in the computer business happens in little bits. A lot slower than mathematical formulas can predict. In our weekly podcast (5 MB MP3 file) we talk about how predicting the future on the basis of the past can be a trap. An HP rep explains how change works for the Unix customer, as well as your OpenVMS brethren. HP understands a customer base that wants to stay where it is forever. Now, anyway, since the vendor is trying to sell Integrity and Itanium servers anywhere it can.

Hear about how HP’s Unix customers will become Integrity users, putting PA-RISC to work right alongside Itanium in a server’s frame. If you wish your future might have been derived from a past of loyalty to HP, nobody can blame you.

Free HP 3000 CPU Upgrade in a Heartbeat

By Gilles Schipper
GSA Inc.

A recent query on the 3000-L newsgroup about converting DTC configuration from OpenView-based to host-based brought up some memories — as well as lessons learned about significant CPU-intensive excesses as the result of improper DTC setup and configuration. In the early 1990s, with the advent of HP 3000 host-based telnet, one of our customers no longer needed their DTC Telnet access card (TAC) to enable network online access to their HP 3000.

And since the TAC was the primary reason they utilized Openview DTC Manager, they asked if it was possible to eliminate the additional hardware, software, and management overhead associated with Openview DTC Manager.

The answer, of course, was yes, definitely and absolutely — or so we thought.

Continue reading "Free HP 3000 CPU Upgrade in a Heartbeat" »

Don't be afraid to speak out on the future

For one more week, OpenMPE is holding its election of its board members. This year the vote is likely to top numbers of participants for any of the last three years. It's an interesting figure, considering that so many seem to dismiss the work this advocacy group has done.

Be a part of the forward thinkers among your 3000 community. Vote to decide who will be thinking about the needs of the 3000 user in 2007, 2008 and beyond. Have a listen to our podcast of last week, all about OpenMPE and its continued push toward your tomorrows. Take 10 minutes to hear about the issues, then get to the OpenMPE Web site and sign up. It's free.

The voting ends March 3, next Friday. At least one new board member is going to join the effort. Decide who it will be.

Even if you're migrating, the advocacy of OpenMPE can make a difference in the comfort and value you get from your HP 3000 until you turn it off. We note, by the way, that some companies who are migrating — or who already have — are not turning off their 3000s, but leaving the systems available for archive and history purposes.

Continue reading "Don't be afraid to speak out on the future" »

HP works to get the word out

It's hard to run a small outpost within an $85 billion a year technology company. That might be the lesson which HP 3000 customers are getting as they watch HP try to extend its 3000 operations. Or just trying to get the customer base to pay attention to lab work requested long ago, but now finally finished.

On the effort to extend its 3000 support business by two years, customers say HP doesn't seem to know what it has decided about the server's 2007 and 2008. These are mistakes in HP's communication and process, according to staff inside the 3000 group — not a revision of HP's latest timeline.

Then there's the problem of getting the customers to change anything about their 3000s. Several long-sought-after improvements haven't been tested much, HP says. The lack of beta test sites keeps these enhancements out of an MPE/iX PowerPatch, although you can get them otherwise. If you're an HP support customer. Which seems to bring the customers back to the first dilemma, verifying support.

Continue reading "HP works to get the word out" »

Migrate toward a return on that Interex investment

Encompass, the surviving user group that wants a relationship with you HP 3000 customers, extended its free membership offer recently. This was an offer first floated in the fall, around the HP Technology Forum, one supposed to expire Dec. 31. Not unlike HP's extension of its 3000 support, Encompass is holding the door open to its user group for an extra period — in this case, three months.

The free offer that expires March 31 applies to members of Interex. We're not sure if that's folks who were current members, left holding the bag when Interex suddenly shut down last summer, or if its anybody who had a recent membership. In any case, the application form to join Encompass for free for a year starts off with a field for your Interex membership ID. It is, however, not a required field. (We had trouble getting the compete form to load up in Firefox 1.5 and the Mac's Safari browser. Microsoft's Internet Exploder loaded it up pronto, though — if you want to check out your virus defenses at the same time you fill out the form.)

Encompass wants 3000 members, but it's still unclear what the user group will be able to do for the customer who is not planning to migrate. President Kristi Browder said that migration from the 3000 is an eventuality for the 3000 customer base, in her opinion. When we interviewed her at that Tech Forum, she also said, with a great deal of tact, that Encompass can help the 3000 customer who is a realist about the future of their system.

Continue reading "Migrate toward a return on that Interex investment" »

Migrate with outside resource, inside savvy

Transoft has reported that it is migrating MWS Wire, a supplier of copper and specialty wire, off its HP 3000. The migration was sparked by HP's exit from the 3000 community, according to IT manager Tomm Carlson.

In a report on the migration provided by Transoft, Carlson took note of the winning combination when he was selecting a route off the HP 3000. Total outsourcing did not appeal to MWS, just like it might not appeal to a lot of HP 3000 customers — a group for whom do-it-yourself has become a mantra over the past two decades and more.

That kind of DIY approach to IT management often springs from the origins of a company's applications. So many HP 3000 customers are running home-grown apps. That was the case at MWS. "We had too many lines of code to re-write our applications," Carlson said. "It would have taken too long, cost us too much and would have been a huge risk for the business."

Continue reading "Migrate with outside resource, inside savvy" »

Tracking the Traits of Persistence

By Birket Foster

    There are links to persistence that run through my life. After all, my family motto is a simple “Persevere.” (My grandmother gave me a reminder of this motto for my 21st birthday: a signet ring.) If you search on Birket Foster in Wikipedia you will find info on my great, great grandfather Birket Foster (aka Myles Birket Foster II) who was a artist and a member of the  Royal Watercolour Society. His father, Myles Birket Foster, invented commercial beer bottling.

    (At MB Foster, we are trying to top commercial beer bottling, but in the field of data transformation.)

    The definition of persistence varies depending on the context. Beyond the trait of perseverance there are whole new meanings in the world of computing in areas like Java Beans and object-oriented computing.

Continue reading "Tracking the Traits of Persistence" »

Play a role in the future this spring

Spring brings election season, and something seems to be growing in your community’s back yard. It is interest in OpenMPE. Our weekly podcast (4 MB MP3 file) takes note of the growth, even though HP put off the post-HP future of your 3000 for another two years. The advocacy group that cares for that future has more folks voting in its board election than last year.

It’s just one more thing that’s been hard to figure about OpenMPE. Have a listen for eight minutes to our view of the state of the only group working for the homestead customer's needs this year. And get out there and vote, once you become a member of OpenMPE. Membership is free, just like the deal that Encompass is offering to former Interex members. Trek out to the OpenMPE Web site and play your role in the future. Have a say in who will be talking for you to HP this year.

Hurd's first quarter succeeds, except in support

HP reported its 2006 first quarter results late yesterday, after the markets had closed, numbers that had investors buying up the stock this morning. HP says it's on its way to its first $90 billion sales year. But the only dark spot on an otherwise glimmering rebound picture shows HP 3000 customers why they've gotten two extra years to migrate. At least it gives good financial motive for HP's move.

While the enterprise storage and servers segment saw a healthy 5 percent jump in revenues, the other end of the 3000 customer's HP lifeline looked a bit frayed. HP Services revenue took a slight 2 percent decline over 2005's Q1. HP noted that if you accounted for the value of currency, revenues were actually up by 3 percent.

For argument's sake, let's call HP support revenues absolutely flat. It still represents a data point that HP wants to avoid. See, even with sales of support down, the group still reported $12 million more in profits. Support is a high-profit business, especially for servers like yours with a legendary uptime record among HP products.

Continue reading "Hurd's first quarter succeeds, except in support" »

Vendors repeat warnings about LFDS corruption

Three vendors with some of the deepest knowledge of HP 3000 databases — HP, Adager and Robelle — have posted fresh messages which update and warn customers about Large File DataSets (LFDS). This change in the 3000's IMAGE/SQL database can cause corruption in datasets greater than 4GB. You might be using LFDS, if you've got a large database, but not be aware of the risk. Or even be aware that your largest datasets now are in this risky format.

That's because LFDS is the new default for large datasets created in IMAGE C.10.00, the database version shipping with MPE/iX 7.5. HP used Jumbo datasets as the default in earlier versions of IMAGE. The vendor gave us an update yesterday on the project to repair this corrupting bug. This is an issue for customers migrating as well as homesteaders. Anyone who continues to run a 3000 with a large database and the most recent MPE/iX release should be aware of the risk.

Messages have also been posted in the last 24 hours by Adager's Alfredo Rego and Robelle's Bob Green about LFDS. Combined with the detailed technical report by Allegro's Stan Sieler in our February NewsWire and on this blog the past two days, these experts present a massive set of reasons to avoid using LFDS, even accidentally. It seems to me like the IMAGE community has waited long enough and is raising its collective voice. Even now, HP says it has pre-released another patch to continue tests of its work on the problem, a project begun in 2004.

Continue reading "Vendors repeat warnings about LFDS corruption" »

IMAGE's Large File DataSets: The Problem and How to Fix It

[Editor’s note: HP has been working on repairing IMAGE/SQL’s Large Files DataSets (LFDS) since 2004. Using LFDS, the default in MPE/iX 7.5, can result in corrupt HP 3000 databases.]

By Stan Sieler

    The basic LFDS problem: The engineers who implemented LFDS on IMAGE/SQL were unaware that all native mode languages that supported 64-bit pointers only supported them in a “single 4 GB space” mode. Please note that nearly every engineer in HP and outside of HP was probably also unaware of this compiler limitation.

    Prior to the introduction of Large Files in MPE/iX 6.5, the biggest virtual address range you could get was 4 GB, by doing a “long mapped” open of a 4 GB file. The resulting address was a 32-bit Space ID, and a 32-bit offset. No compiler needed to worry about the Space ID changing while manipulating a pointer, because no address range could ever start in one space and continue to the next higher space (i.e., the Space ID would never change when doing address arithmetic).

    When Large Files were added to MPE/iX, that changed.

Continue reading "IMAGE's Large File DataSets: The Problem and How to Fix It" »

Large File DataSets: Background, Status, and Future

[Editor’s note: HP has been working on repairing IMAGE/SQL’s Large File DataSets (LFDS) since 2004. Using LFDS, the default in MPE/iX 7.5, can result in corrupt HP 3000 databases, as we have reported in the NewsWire. As of this month, HP was working with database tool vendors in testing a new fix for the problem; a 2005 attempt failed in alpha testing. Database tools vendors have documented corruption at some customer sites. Vendors recommend avoiding the use of Large File DataSets in IMAGE/SQL. Stan Sieler, executive vice president of Allegro Consultants and a 3000 veteran who led the design of major enhancements to IMAGE/3000 while working at HP, offered his insights on the problem.]

By Stan Sieler

Background: Before Large Files

   In the beginning, or at least in 1994, IMAGE datasets were limited to 4 gigabytes (GB). This was because a single datatset was a single file, and MPE limited file sizes to 4 GB. Allegro Consultants, Inc., was contracted by HP to design and implement a solution to this limitation. At the time, along with other technical experts, we suggested that the solution lay in enhancing MPE/iX to support larger disk files — but we were told that that enhancement was uncertain, and certainly not likely to appear in the near future. So, we chose to implement “Jumbo datasets”, using a collection of 4 GB files to logically comprise a single dataset. Given the limitations of IMAGE filenaming, we chose to name the “chunks” with HFS names (e.g., set 23 of SALES would be SALES23, SALES23.001, SALES23.002, etc.)

   Jumbo datasets arrived, and worked well — then and now.

Continue reading "Large File DataSets: Background, Status, and Future" »

Secrets, and hidden commands

There are two kinds of Hidden Value on HP 3000s: The commands that only the veterans know, and the processes that have been plumbed to bypass the blind alleys. Out on the Internet newsgroups and mailing lists, there's a growing number of these gems, the wheat that stands out from the chaff of Off Topic (OT) postings.

A recent online discussion brought up this problem:

I use cut and paste with EDIT/3000 to enter data to batch files.  It works well except that I am limited by the size of the scratch file:
Can I change the size of this file so I can paste more at a time?

A simple command to EDITOR/3000, a program included with every MPE system, solved the problem. Steve Thompson replied, "Immediately after entering Editor, enter "set size=######" to give yourself more space."

For other tasks, like finding forgotten passwords, and keeping them fresh and the 3000's data secret, more elaborate answers have surfaced.

Continue reading "Secrets, and hidden commands" »

New Alliance sends an Itanium valentine

On a podcast almost as late to market as some Itanium releases, we examine for about 7 minutes (4 MB MP3 file) the newly-minted Itanium Solutions Alliance. HP and Intel have attracted 15 partners to promote the Itanium processor as the leading choice by decade's end for mission-critical enterprise computing. Yes, that's the heartland of the HP 3000 customer, just as Itanium is the only long-term choice for using HP-UX as a target migration environment. You need to cheer for the Alliance. $10 billion of investment from this group of companies is supposed to ensure a more widespread adoption for the processor you'll be using if you migrate to HP's Unix. It should also increase the number of manufacturing solutions beyond a handful for discrete manufacturers.

Helping OpenMPE to help itself

Over the next few weeks OpenMPE will search for a few new volunteers to man its board of directors. Donna Garverick of the board posted a notice on the 3000 newsgroup and OpenMPE mailing list yesterday, soliciting fresh blood for the organization.

Some board members who've served for two years are frustrated with HP's engagement with the group. OpenMPE got scant advance notice of HP's support extension plans, according to one director. The drive to get a source code license agreement got stalled by two extra years when HP pushed back its exit date to the end of 2008.

This year's election will take place over starting next Monday and running into March, just as in prior years. The three weeks of voting ends March 3. Five of the board's nine seats are up for re-election, with just one likely to be vacated. OpenMPE members are the only customers who can vote for directors. Last year's vote gathered fewer than 60 ballots. Some directors say that's an indication of how far OpenMPE needs to go to get the community's attention. Membership in OpenMPE, after all, is free.

Continue reading "Helping OpenMPE to help itself" »

Another 3000 enhancement, if you test

HP has put some beta-test-caliber code up on its Jazz Web server that implements three new functions of the Command Interface (CI). Jeff Vance, ever HP's source of this level of improved 3000 interface, posted a note to the 3000-L newsgroup and the OpenMPE mailing list last week:

MPE/iX patches MXV0(7.5), MXV1(7.5), and MXV2(6.5) implement the 3 new CI info functions: VOLINFO, DEVINFO and SPOOLINFO, which are available for beta-test. A Communicator article on Jazz provides more details on these functions.

A list of all beta-test patches is also available on Jazz at:

Please help us and other customers by requesting, installing, and using this new feature.

Continue reading "Another 3000 enhancement, if you test" »

Stop looking for iSeries; IBM's renamed it i5

IBM's integrated alternative to the HP 3000, called the iSeries for several years, has been through a name change once more. Don't call IBM or a reseller to ask about an eServer iSeries; ask for the System i5. IBM added the i5 designation in 2004 to the server that most of the market knows as the AS/400. Now it's dropped iSeries, just as the installed base of IBM customers most similar to the 3000 community was getting used to calling their system by the newer name.

There's been other changes at the IBM division that manages the iSeries, er, System i5. After having been through two general managers in as many years, the group saw an unscheduled resignation of its VP of marketing, Peter Bingaman. IBM brushed off the departure — this too was the second of as many marketing VPs as years in iSeries-land — by saying what better time for new VP Elaine Lennox to take over: Just as the new systems were rolling out.

Although there's been a lot of change in the i5 offering, much of it seems to have been for the good. The server had a tough fourth quarter with revenues down 18 percent, as customers waited for the new hardware to come available. The HP 3000's performance in 2000 might have weathered the same hit, while customers put the brakes on 9x9 purchases while they waited for the A-Class and N-Class systems. IBM delivered its more powerful systems on time, however, without a struggle to meet engineering goals.

Continue reading "Stop looking for iSeries; IBM's renamed it i5" »

Using the 3000 as a migration platform

While migration projects grind away in the 3000 community, IT still needs to respond to user needs from existing MPE applications. The balancing act is on display all over the world, as thousands of customers try to satisfy today's demands while building a better — well, at least different — tomorrow.

Among the banks and lenders served by CASE software, customers kept needing enhancements and features to the ABLE assets suite at the same time a migration to HP-UX was underway. Rick Gilligan, the Senior Software Specialist at CASE, said the company had to walk the line between needs and wishes for tomorrow during its five-year migration project.

“We could not postpone most of the enhancements our customers wanted or needed," Gilligan said. "Many were driven by government regulation and law changes, by mergers and by other changes in our client’s businesses. We had to accomplish all of the normal and necessary improvements to our application for MPE while also migrating and making the same changes to our application for HP-UX."

These demands are commonplace in the world of 3000 enterprise solutions, a place where mission-critical services must maintain their place alongside an IT project more complex than Y2K. CASE resolved their conflict by slowing its clock on leaving the platform. HP's 1990s re-engineering of MPE/iX helped, too.

Continue reading "Using the 3000 as a migration platform" »

Migration plan needs tweaking at times

No matter how diligent your research, you may have to change your migration plans in mid-stream. When Computer and Software Enterprises (CASE)  set out on its migration project in the wake of HP's departure from the 3000 market, the company thought it had the right COBOL compiler chosen for its banking and lending customers. In matters of finance, however, the bottom line turned out to be something customers watched closely.

CASE planned to take its application suite to MicroFocus COBOL from HP's COBOL II on the 3000. "We believed they had the most comprehensive solution," said Senior Software Specialist Rick Gilligan. "We also liked their support for upcoming COBOL standards for Object-Oriented COBOL." But after working alongside MicroFocus to develop a pre-processor to handle the HP COBOL II macros, CASE selected HP-UX on PA-RISC as its target platform.

That's when the cost of their COBOL choice tossed up a roadblock.

Continue reading "Migration plan needs tweaking at times" »

Banking on diligent change in migration

Few HP 3000 customers could be more careful than banks and lenders. The nature of their business is probably more regulated than any industry. These institutions aren't known as risk takers, especially in their IT choices.

So that seems like a set-up for a calamity when a vendor of enterprise systems like the 3000 cuts off the future of the line. But reports from CASE Software show what the right tools and patient testing will deliver to the migrating customer. Like any migrating set of customers, these banking firms want a minimum of costly change.

Rick Gilligan is the Senior Software Specialist at Computer and Software Enterprises, which serves  lending institutions with its Asset Based Lending Environment. The ABLE application suite ran for years, well, in an able manner, at places like Chase Business Credit, which participated in an HP 3000 success story about their installation. But HP has moved on from its 3000 futures, which means places like GE Finance, Wells Fargo and others have to shift to another platform. Gilligan and CASE have been making that happen ever since HP stepped back. The work began in earnest in 2003, when CASE announced its primary and secondary migration goals.

Windows, Linux and HP-UX were the platforms to consider in 2003. CASE also wanted to replace IMAGE databases with Eloquence, and swap out the VPlus screens with AcuBench screens. ScreenJet's tool set went to work to support the VPlus transfers. Every one of those tools needed some time to grow up into a superior solution.

Continue reading "Banking on diligent change in migration" »