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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.

Quotes abound

    When one door closes another one opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” — Alexander Graham Bell.

  I believe there were several opportunities that occurred when HP announced the discontinuance of the HP 3000. There were and are opportunities, whether the customer’s response was to leave the platform or to “homestead.” There are risks associated with both, but managed properly, anything is possible.

  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  — Margaret Mead

OpenMPE: a persistent passion

   OpenMPE is a passion for a small, dedicated group. Immediately after HP’s discontinuance announcement, it was apparent that it would mean that the current version of the OS and utilities provided by HP would be frozen in time. To persist on the platform, some changes would be needed. Through OpenMPE, founded by Jon Backus, it became possible to do advocacy on behalf of HP 3000 users. The result has been that HP has made some changes to actions they were taking, as well as made changes to the OS and utilities. Examples of these changes are in the 3000’s new FTP features, and the ability to use the first 500GB of a disc added to the 3000.

    Now OpenMPE is trying to put in place a funded business plan that would let it become the steward for the MPE/iX operating system and utilities source code. Some basic planning shows that it is doable, provided there is enough interest in funding the project. If you haven’t read of this project you should take a look at the official home site and catch up. If you want the HP 3000 to last beyond HPs support window, you ought to be talking to OpenMPE and financially supporting this project. In this world there are spectators and players – only the players get to direct the ball.

    “The difference between a pipe dream and a great idea is persistence.” — Anonymous.

    The thing that allows me the freedom to persevere as a volunteer at OpenMPE is that MBFoster provides software and services to both homesteaders and to migrators. I would be remiss if I did not provide my team at MB Foster, who are persistently looking at lowering the barriers to moving data between platforms, a lot of credit for the evolution of the abilities of the HP 3000 to play well with the world of Windows, Unix and Linux.

Persist into the future

   So here we are with four years passed of the five that HP made available in 2001– and lo and behold, HP recognized that there are still many customers using HP 3000. So many, in fact, that HP saw a business proposition, an opportunity for HP to continue the profitable business of supporting the customers.

   HP 3000s have persisted for a 30-year lifespan — incredible in this day and age of built-in obsolescence. In customer visits we often have them bring out the budget numbers for the support of the various platforms. Many senior managers are very surprised at the low total cost of ownership that the HP 3000 platform has demonstrated, compared to the resources dedicated to supporting Windows desktops.

   Although you might decide to stay on the 3000 for some time to come, you will be well advised to keep up on the technologies that will shape the applications of the future. In general, most of the future will be based on Web delivery of services. To keep up on what is going to happen, you can check up on the World Wide Web Consortium (, the standards body where Web service standard are determined. At their site you will find the latest RFC (Request for Comments) for such technologies as Web Services and XML (eXtensible Markup Language). By understanding the concepts behind these standards, you can plan how to evolve and incorporate the technology into your application strategy.

   We know that the world will evolve and that the risks and investments of customers will and must change over time. We appreciate the opportunity to serve your organization in whatever capacity will help you reach your goals. At MB Foster we would like to apply for the role of “trusted advisor” to assist on the journey your team is on.

   I hope that each of you will find an occasion to build a plan for how you will evolve your applications for the next five years. In the plan you must have a recruit and retain strategy for your application talent, both users and technical, and you must keep it aligned with the evolution of your business. Then you should plan to make the platform you that run your applications on sustainable and extensible — so it will be a persistent factor in the success of your organization.

    At MBFoster we have persisted in the evolution of our data access and delivery tools. We first built Oracle loader files in 1985, using our DataExpress product. Since then we have established ODBC and then JDBC access to data on the HP 3000. We continued the evolution to include Unix, and then Linux. With the persistence of our customers saying they need things simpler and faster, we now deliver data between all of these platforms using UDASynch, UDAConnector and UDACentral. Thanks to our customer base persisting on the HP 3000, we have been encouraged to evolve our UDA series to include the ability to allow BEA Weblogic, J2EE, Websphere and other Web Services Architectures to view the HP 3000 as a group of services — and through the process of persistence, to deliver those systems’ value to other parts of the enterprise.

Birket Foster ([email protected]) is chairman and CEO of MB Foster, a software company offering cross-platform data access and delivery solutions in the HP 3000, HP 9000, Unix, Linux and Windows markets. He travels a lot and hopes that he has made a difference for NewsWire readers over the years. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions on this article, please feel free to contact him at 800-267-9377 (800-ANSWERS), extension 204.