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December 2006

Top Stories of 2006, Part 4

The year 2006 once represented a finish line for many HP 3000 customers. If you relied on the HP 3000 to handle your company business, well, by the end of this year you needed a new business server tested and ready, or a support extension from HP, or a new support provider.

HP's action of December 20, 2005 changed the distance to the finish line for many customers on the Transition trail. Sparked in part by HP's decision, users proposed a 3000 conference, warned the community about a flawed database feature, and reinvigorated user and advocacy groups which will deal with HP's endgame for its 3000 operations. Here's the wrap up on our dozen Top Stories of 2006.

10. Customers reported that HP's divisions didn't know the 3000's support got a two-year minimum extension. The 3000 group inside HP knew better, but couldn't get the word out as fast as customers were asking, especially during support contract renewals. Those contracts came to a head as HP looked for beta testers to get the latest 3000 enhancements into a PowerPatch for MPE/iX 7.5.

11. Third parties warned the community about data-corrupting Large File Datasets in IMAGE. A troika of some of the best 3000 vendors in the world — Adager, Robelle and Allegro — issued details to keep 3000 sites from creating or using any more of these "LFDS." HP responded with a report that it continued to work on a repair for the datasets, which were the IMAGE default for bigger-than-4GB datasets at the time of the warning.

Continue reading "Top Stories of 2006, Part 4" »

Top Stories of 2006, Part 3

Let's recap. Our 2006 Top Stories List, now half revealed, includes these tall tales and breaking bulletins:

1. HP retires its Large Files Dataset project for IMAGE/SQL.
2. OpenMPE earns its first revenues from HP
3. HP uncaps virtualization plus low-to-midrange 3600 and 6600 Integrity servers
4. HP chairman Patricia Dunn resigns over a HP spying program to stem board leaks
5. HP reinstates MPE/iX Professional Certification holders
6. HP releases third PowerPatch for its penultimate release of MPE/iX

Are we seeing a pattern here yet? Perhaps the inclusion of the same two letters of the alphabet in each headline?

News from outside HP also ranked high on our 2006 list. Third parties were busy, too.

7. Advant, working from its Immediate Recovery Systems operation, released the first Generic REplacement Boxes for HP 3000s. The PA-RISC servers shipped with only a Linux distro installed, but ready for either a HP 9000 or HP 3000 personality, applied by the IRS SSEDIT program. The software modifies stable storage of a PA-RISC server, something only HP could do until these "GREBs" are announced.

Continue reading "Top Stories of 2006, Part 3" »

Top Stories of 2006, Part 2

Some of the HP 3000 community's biggest stories of 2006 came directly from the vendor's officials and labs. While this was no surprise four to five years ago, when HP was parting ways with the 3000's future, the vendor's reach into the 3000 customers' future surprised us during the past year. No story was more surprising than the HP admission of a spying program conducted through 2005 and 2006.

4. HP informed the marketplace and the 3000 community that the chairman of the board Patricia Dunn had started a program in 2005 to stem leaks from its dissident board members to the business and industry press. HP-financed spying, which violated HP's own privacy policies as well as California law, netted the company the name of the dissident director, but also netted the firm a $14 million fine and the general condemnation of both the business and 3000 communities. Dunn resigned as chair, the second chairman in as many years to leave the post under fire.

The privacy-violating investigation included HP employees who had helped the vendor track down and prosecute third party HP 3000 hardware brokers in 1999. One such employee said the "pretexting" used in the spy hoax had been a regular practice of HP's for more than seven years. The disgrace and distrust amassed a greater damage to the company's reputation than to its stock price — although by the end of 2006 federal officials wanted to question HP's CEO on a stock sale he executed just before the spy news surfaced.

5. HP reinstated the certification holders who'd earned HP's professional credentials as HP 3000 and MPE/iX experts. HP had dropped the IT pros from its certification program for budget reasons. Although few in number, those who held the certifications have remained in the 3000 community as consultants and technical experts at third parties.

Continue reading "Top Stories of 2006, Part 2" »

Top Stories of 2006, Part 1

It's a week of rest and recovery for many HP 3000 shops, but some of our readers are still at work completing migrations by year's end, or finishing off year-end financial reports. The approach of year's end spurs us to select the top 12 stories of the past year, covering both migration and homesteading resources.

1. Most recently we heard from HP that its Large Files Dataset project is being retired, even after the patch was tested and approved for general release. LFDS is likely to be the last big-scale project HP undertook for MPE/iX, IMAGE and the HP 3000.

2. OpenMPE earned its first revenues from HP this year, when the engineers attached to the advocacy group eaned a consulting fee for reviewing HP's MPE/iX source code build process. Customers still await the release of source code and those build processes. HP's ability to use the veteran community technical expertise of the OpenMPE "virtual lab" was a milestone in the history of the advocacy group.

Continue reading "Top Stories of 2006, Part 1" »

Merry Christmas Wishes!

On this holiday we wish our readers and sponsors and supporters the best of this season of giving. We feel blessed to have retained the gift of your interest and involvement in the life of the HP 3000, a computer that is constantly given little respect outside its community; rarely given a chance of surviving in a meaningful role for more than a couple more years — and ultimately given the task of keeping a company running while a migration takes longer than expected, or starts later than planned.

Today we invite our readers to look over an editorial from just two Christmases ago, written long before we knew for certain HP would sell support beyond its 2006 "end-of-life" deadline. HP placed no such holiday present of an extension under the customers' tree this season like it did las December 20. About all a customer could ask for with any reason would be a clear message about licenses for MPE to use on generic PA-RISC servers. We bet HP will be sharing that message in the New Year.

It looks like Dreamgirls might be the Christmas Day movie for 2006 here at our home offices, amid a slate of slim pickings for holiday releases. You may dream of sugarplums dancing in your heads today and tonight, or a continued effort from HP to keep MPE/iX up to date until the support plug gets pulled at "the end of 2008, or later."

Continue reading "Merry Christmas Wishes!" »

More help in homesteading

Your marketplace waves more than one flag, as most of its citizens know. Much more unfurling takes place on the migration battlements, where projects proceed apace. But the homesteading front gains its reinforcements too. A new resource in California and elsewhere is raising its standard this month.

Data Management Associates (DMA) will be opening up two new Web sites at and The seasons greetings card from Ralph Berkebile, CEO and Software Engineer at DMA, promises "a unique venue that encourages interaction through blogs, newsletters, white papers and industry setting updates."

DMA, which donated a $100 check to the OpenMPE advocates at September's OpenMPE update meeting, said the new Web sites will let the company "help our clients with methodologies, tools and strategies supporting the continued use of their onsite or hosted HP 3000 MPE and HP 9000 HP-UX environments for years to come."

Syngistix demise: the 3000's circle of life

News reached us this week that Syngistix is tossing in the towel as a company, after years of working to serve the HP 3000 community. More longtime 3000 customers will know the firm as Distribution Resources Corporation (DRC), an asset to companies which did warehousing and distribution as part of their operations.

Syngistix did its best to try to acquire multi-channel commerce vendor Ecometry in 2002, but the financing on that deal fell through a few months after the acquistion was announced. At that time Ecometry was a public company; when Syngistix couldn't come through with the deal, Ecometry took itself private.

Rumors among the 3000 vendor community indicate that Syngistix shuttered operations because of the intersection of two unfortunate events: declining support revenues from an installed customer base; and a late project to develop a solution to run on a non-3000 server.

This is how your average HP 3000 supplier heads for that great repository in the sky. Revenues from what has served customers slip. The launch pad for new products gets fogged in.

Continue reading "Syngistix demise: the 3000's circle of life" »

HP grows, senior executives go

During the past quarter HP has seen its top executives in finance, R&D and legal affairs retire or resign. It's a sign the company is both maturing and changing that the likes of Bob Wayman, Dick Lampman and Ann Baskins will leave the company. HP is much changed since these executives entered HP's executive ranks. The corportion has made the transition from a business computing company to one where consumer products and commodity PCs account for well over half the business HP books.

Wayman is probably the biggest seat to fill for HP. The Chief Financial Officer joined the company in 1969, and he's held the CFO post since the Mighty Mouse HP 3000 (Series 37) showed that business computers could run in regular office spaces. (That's 1984 for those of you without a geneaology chart of HP systems.) Wayman steered the company through the tenure of four CEOs, and even held the post for a month himself between Carly Fiorina's ouster and the hiring of CEO Mark Hurd.

HP says that its treasurer, Catherine Lesjak, will succeed Wayman. He'll remain with the company until March to oversee the transition. HP's market cap and profits haven't been this rich since before the dot-com boom, so Lesjak will have to leap high to clear the bar that Wayman has left behind.

Lampman presided over an HP Labs which developed the world's leading inkjet technology, the designs that power more than half of HP's profits today. The Labs were also one of the birthplaces of the PA-RISC processor designs, the chips which still power every modern-day HP 3000 still running in the marketplace. Lampman came to HP in the same era as Wayman, joining the company in 1971. That was an HP still developing the 3000 and MPE, designing IMAGE, and unsure if a business computer was a good product to offer its instrumentation customer base.

Continue reading "HP grows, senior executives go" »

HP puts its best virtual foot forward

"We are absolutely the leaders in virtualization," said Mel Lewandowski, HP's guru for HP-UX. We were chatting back at this fall's HP Technology Forum, and Lewandowski said HP's designs have gone after the high availability sector of the enterprise market. That's a sector that should sound familiar to the 3000 owner, often running a server where failure is not an option.

Uxfuture Virtualization is HP's solution to creating a system that will never fail to deliver at least some part of your processing needs. The Gartner Group says HP has reached mainframe levels with its ServiceGuard product for HP-UX. Unix installations have long been associated with multiple instances of servers, unlike the HP 3000s driving many apps from a single host. The virtualization at the heart of the 11i v3 release lets that consolidation of UX servers take place in a single box.

HP's Unix, of course, is the vendor's first choice to capture migrating HP 3000 customers. Yes, the application is always the first consideration. But the customer who chooses Windows or Linux rather than HP-UX to host a migrated or new app is just as likely to climb onto a platform not manufactured by HP. HP's Unix keeps the hardware in the HP ledger, which keeps the even-more-profitable support revenues rolling into HP.

Lewandowski delivered solid reasons why an investment in HP-UX is a purchase for the long haul. "We're investing to outgrown the Unix market," she said, meaning that HP wants more Unix business than just the new customers coming over to Unix systems. HP believes that with the new virtualization and HP-UX 11i.v3, it's got a product that can pull market share away from IBM and Sun.

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HP drives out the word from its Road Shows

HP hosted a mighty road tour over the months that followed the vendor's Technology Forum this fall, spurred on by the Montecito class of Itanium chips driving the newest Integrity servers. But only 50 to 100 customers per city got to see the most current story about the company's alternatives to the HP 3000. We watched in San Antonio and took close notes on virtualization, which we'll share tomorrow. For the first time in four years, the Adaptive Enterprise seems to make better sense for a growing IT shop.

There are easier bits to assimilate from these presentations — especially for the 3000 manager who's used to looking at upgrades from a hardware perspective.  After all, HP's Dave Snow — who used to trot out the newest hardware from the 3000 line at user conferences — gave one of his classic "feeds and speeds" talks about the new honking hardware in the 3600 and 6600 models of Integrity.

PDF files of the slide shows are available online now from HP. Each slide set, Virtualization and Hardware, has good details about the landing strip for the customer now in flight from the HP 3000s which have served them for so many years.

HP has sent off e-mails to invite the interested 3000 customers who didn't attend the road show. Come on, they say, at least download the slides and have a look. The links open up PDF files in a Web browser so configured. Or you can right-click on the HP landing page and same these massive files to a desktop or elsewhere on your computer.

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A Wiki arrives to teach 3000 skills

Chris Bartram, the HP 3000 veteran who's been at the center of the Web and Internet community for the system, has just opened up the first Technical Wiki for users, fans and customers of your redoubtable system.

This Twiki permits any registered user to edit or post articles about the use of the HP 3000. Bartram, a friend to the NewsWire since our newsletter's inception and even before, invited me to post the HP 3000 entry as a way of defining what the whole TWiki will be about.

This is a cutting-edge way to gather information and advice about the 3000 from community experts and veterans. Today, as a way of explaining what's so special about this server, I put up the start of a history of the system, marked with a few high points. Users are already registering to contribute to the 3000's TWiki. You can sign up to edit and post, or simply view the Wiki without registering, at

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Cherry job, still available in 3000 shop

Walter Murray once worked for HP in its MPE/iX languages lab, but several years ago he left HP in one of its downsizing, cost-cutting moves to join the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The CDCR organization, which operates the prisons in the largest state in the US, is also one of the biggest users of HP 3000s. By Murray's account, there are 75 HP 3000s still doing production work at the CDCR.

Now the organization needs upper-level specialists in HP 3000 software. Murray reported to the 3000-L newsgroup that the 3000s use COBOL and TurboIMAGE — like more than 4 out of every 5 HP 3000 sites — but also employ VPlus, PowerHouse and Oracle.

The open positions at the CDCR pay as much as $78,000 to $81,000 a year. It's safe to say that few community members might have imagined a job paying 80 grand a year to open up for HP 3000 work at the end of 2006. The California prisons are not chained to their HP 3000s. But for a long time to come, the organization relies on these servers which HP expected to be switched off by now.

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HP sticks to cost-cutting course

Hewlett-Packard advised securities analysts this week that the company intends to continue its cost-cutting measures for the foreseeable future. The strategy has paid off handsomely for your vendor, locked in a PC pricing battle with arch-rival Dell and competing hard for Unix system wins against IBM.

Those challenges drive down the price HP can ask for its systems and software. One way HP has kept up its bottom line: pruning off parts of the company, or keeping operations expenditures tamped down.

Travel has been high on the list of lowered HP expenditures since 2003. But in a company of HP's size — more than 90 billion in its fiscal 2006  — there are countless ways to scale back spending. R&D is a traditional savings opportunity, but HP cannot afford to flag behind HP in the development of advanced operating systems in the Unix campground.

HP's admission, if the cost-cutting news can be called that, came as Chief Financial Officer Bob Wayman announced his retirement from the company. Wayman, who's been at HP 37 years — more than half the company's lifespan — was so vital to HP he took the CEO post for about a month in 2005 until HP announced a replacement for ousted CEO Carly Fiornia.

Current CEO Mark Hurd — who on Wednesday was asked by the SEC to explain a sale of HP stock he executed just before HP revealed its spying on reporters and board members — told the analysts there is much more to trim from an HP that could hit $100 billion in sales in 2007.

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MPE readies for class load

Independent MPE/iX trainers are still getting inquiries about teaching HP 3000 skills, according to Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith. The two HP 3000 veterans operate, a third party instruction company which cut a deal with HP this year to offer classes on MPE Fundamentals.

Like so many other parts of the 3000 ecosystem, HP's gotten out of the 3000 training business. But the customers still rely on their systems even while migration projects lope along at varying speeds. Much of the 3000 marketplace relies on staff which never got HP 3000 instruction. Birket Foster of MB Foster calls the situation "the flight attendants flying the airplane."

This venture got onto the taxiway this summer, but couldn't muster real expenditure commitments from several prospects. The newest plan will let classes form as customers sign up.

Edwards and Smith announced a new business plan for their venture, which will teach HP 3000 skills online using the same interactive software HP uses for its own offsite training and remote meetings. Since the bandwidth for the software requires a capital outlay — not to mention the 40 hours per week of airtime on a voice dial in network — will now schedule a remote class when it gets three customers to commit with payments.

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Ideal, Advant merge on hardware, support

HP 3000 suppliers Ideal Computer Services and Advant have announced a merger of their companies, effective immediately. Ideal and Advant have had an overlap of services and customer areas for many years. Both companies sell used HP 3000s and PA-RISC servers, and both firms offer support for HP 3000 systems.

Advant's Steve Pirie reported the merger to us last week by explaining that national coverage of HP 3000 sites can now permit all of the Ideal support customers to make use of Advant's Immediate Recovery Solutions (IRS) products. These include SSEDIT, the program that Advant wrote itself to modify stable storage of HP 3000 servers for disaster recovery scenarios — like when you need a CPU board reset.

"This gives HP 3000 customers nationwide hardware support without the intervention of HP," Pirie said. Advant has been promoting its Generic Replacement Boxes this year, PA-RISC systems which don't require HP intervention to load a legal copy of MPE/iX or HP-UX.

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HP ponies up millions for boardroom spying

HP on Thursday agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle a civil complaint from California's attorney general that sprouted from the company's investigation into corporate boardroom leaks.

The agreement, filed yesterday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, has HP paying out millions, almost all of which is earmarked to help state prosecutors snare other companies which violate privacy like HP did over the past two years. $13.5 million of the judgement will create a new fund to assist California state prosecutors in investigations and prosecution of consumer-privacy and information-piracy violations. The remaining $1 million covers a fine, and money to reimburse the attorney general's office for its investigation.

The court document was drafted in such a way to keep HP from admitting it broke the law. The judgment's language states the document was issued by the court and agreed to by HP without

...this Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction constituting evidence of, or an admission by HP, regarding any issue of law or fact alleged in the Complaint on file herein, and without HP admitting any liability herein in so far as any other litigation regarding allegations of violations, which occurred prior to the entry of this Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction.

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Discounts drive down prices of late-model 3000s

The longer a 3000 customer waits to upgrade a system, the better the deal gets. Few are as good as the one this summer where Matt Perdue walked away with a high-end 9x7 server for less than $300. But the more modern models of the 3000 are going for less than 50 percent of the HP-levied prices of four years ago.

Client Systems, which operates the Phoenix 3000 used hardware company, sent us notice of an A-Class server selling for under $6,000. Keep in mind that this particular A-Class is a 110MHz  one-CPU server, so it has a relative speed rating of 17 — just about half of that 987's speed rating. But the A-Class draws less power, qualifies for HP support (if you want to pay for that at HP's pricing) and connects with the latest generation of HP peripherals. The 987 won't boot MPE/iX 7.0, either.

We won't pretend that a $6,000 system that runs half as fast as a $300 is a relative deal. But compared to what HP was selling this same A-Class hardware for new in 2002, this box has become a bargain. Including the IMAGE database, an unlimited user license, 1GB of memory and an 18GB drive, the A400 is now priced almost $10,000 less than four years ago, new.

If your calculator is on your desktop, you might do the math: that's a next to latest generation HP 3000, selling for 38 percent of its original list price.

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Homestead community reaches for ageless instruction

A comprehensive training resource for the HP 3000 community has resurfaced, risen from the ashes of the destroyed HP compuer user group Interex. Beginning in 1994 Interex worked with HP's George Stachnik to publish a series of articles teaching the technical nuances of operating HP 3000s. The 24-part series appeared in Intteract Magazine until the late 1990s.

Interex knew it had a valuable resource on its hands. You couldn't read the articles before becoming an Interex memeber, even though everything was posted on the user group's Web site. Interex user community assets such as the Contributed Software Library programs have been locked away since Interex self-destructed last summer. But now the community is at least taking back Stachnik's 3000 instruction.

Chris Thompson of The Internet Agency reports the company "has copies of the set of 34 tutorials by George Stachnick, which we downloaded just prior to the demise of Interex. Most of them have been recreated in MS Word format; the last few being PDF’s. I suppose we could PDF the others too."

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PowerHouse migration support, from the beginning

PowerHouse customers who use the HP 3000 are making a move away from the platform, and Speedware officials say that a transition to PowerHouse on another platform (Unix or Windows) is their safest bet. But another company, with a longer tenure of working with Cognos, reminded us today that they have been migrating longer than anyone in the 3000 field.

Birket Foster of MB Foster — in strong competition with Speedware, by his accounts — called up to note that he was with Cognos as a sales rep since the days before the company even called itself Cognos. That's the 1970s, when the firm was called Quasar, a company selling its only product, now called Quiz. The Quiz report writer represents the vast majority of Cognos installs on HP 3000s, but that's not the point Foster wanted to make. He said that working with Cognos on migrations is not a new thing to MB Foster.

There's more here, so we thought we'd pose some questions to Foster about the current alliance between the companies. We reached him at his office, at the phone number he's never been shy about announcing: 800-ANSWERS.

What kinds of things has your team been doing in migrating HP 3000 customers with PowerHouse?

The first migration of PowerHouse was done by our CTO George Marcinek. George was working for Cognos at the time and moved Powerhouse to the VAX, and then to HP-UX, IBM-AIX, DG-UX, and even the AS400 — eight platforms in all.

So when it came time to advise on architecture and migration planning, nobody was better suited to write the checklist than George. In fact MB Foster sold its first PowerHouse installation to a customer in the financial services industry in 1984, and we have been a PowerHouse partner for migrations since 2002.

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Speedware embraces the constant growth of change

    If there’s an HP 3000 vendor who has made a bigger set of changes than Speedware in the 3000’s Transition Era, we’d be hard pressed to find it. The company purchased development solutions as well as companies that create applications, saw itself purchased twice, and now is working to establish a migration services relationship with former arch-rival Cognos.

    The companies just announced their agreement to work together on migration projects. Speedware's president Andy Kulakowski said his company had a meeting at the Cognos facility in August, preparing to combine forces on migrating PowerHouse customers to other platform versions of that 4GL.

    Kulakowski says that more than half of his company's revenues now come out of Speedware’s  professional services work. Speedware's director of marketing VP Chris Koppe said that for a PowerHouse customer, moving to PowerHouse on a non-3000 platform is the least risky migration strategy.

    PowerHouse and Speedware in step together, to work for a 3000 customer on the move? What’s next, cats and dogs living together? We asked Kulakowski, as well as the company’s Koppe, about what has led the company down these and other unexpected roads.

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Speedware, Cognos, working together

Speedware issued a press release yesterday that took the wraps off a long-term project: a working relationship with its arch-rival Cognos. Talk to the companies' officials and you won't find much of that kind of language, but the arch-stuff is still a strong memory for the 3000 community. You used a 4GL back in the 1990s, or especially the 1980s. And it was one of these two, more than likely; at one point Cognos had 7,000 companies using PowerHouse.

Cognosinspeedware Speedware and Cognos have been meeting since late summer to firm up the new relationship, one which deploys Speedware's migration services to help PowerHouse customers move to PowerHouse on a platform other than the HP 3000.

We poked our heads up to mention this briefly back in September, when Cognos showed up as an resource in Speedware's booth at the HP Technology Forum. Speedware has a lot to say about this alliance, so far, including an article we mailed out in our November print issue of the NewsWire. Above are Speedware's Jennifer Fisher and Chris Koppe giving some love to Cognos's Charlie Maloney at the Houston-based show this year.

What did Speedware's president have to say to us about this, months before yesterday's release made the matter more public? It seems to be a matter of adjusting how you look at the companies which once made the bulk of their business off of 4GLs.

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