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.
You say you go back to the beginnings of Cognos, even before the beginning. Your territory included Texas, our home state. It was a wildly different time for the HP 3000. Any stories about those days?
I helped establish PowerHouse as the premier 4GL in the HP 3000 market back in 1979. In those days the company was called Quasar. I took on the role of marketing and selling the product to HP 3000 sites in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico. I got to pioneer many of the sales techniques that MB Foster uses today. I was instrumental in the initial OEM sales to DRC and ASK (MANMAN), installing and teaching Quiz to their teams. This kind of sale plus the great power of the 4GL helped get Cognos a 25 percent market share in the HP 3000 market.
What kinds of things has your team been doing in migrating HP 3000 customers who use 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, 8 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 MBFoster 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.
What did MB Foster do to help Cognos with its Eloquence interface for HP-UX and Windows?
The team at Marxmeier made Eloquence so similar to the 3000's IMAGE database that there were only a few technical items to take care of. We had done the work to get MBF-UDALink to work with Eloquence on Unix, Linux and Windows, and we were able to help Cognos get PowerHouse to interface as well. Of course, PowerHouse has been able to work with many databases on the different platforms it supports for years.
By the way, Eloquence is our favorite way of delivering a low risk, low impact, and low-cost HP 3000 migration. By helping Cognos with its Eloquence interface, we helped ourselves and the PowerHouse community.
So where have these customers been going?
We have had customers who moved PowerHouse to Windows and to HP-UX. There is always a debate on target database during that migration, as many times the changes to normalize and take advantage of the RDBMS world will require lots of code changes both in Powerhouse — and perhaps a full rewrite for 3GLs like COBOL and FORTRAN. You can use the RDBMS in a similar manner as IMAGE, but you won’t be taking advantage of the capabilities that an RDBMS can deliver.
So selecting the database poses a challenge, even when using Powerhouse?
Yes. Knowing PowerHouse the way the our team does means we can help the customer with understanding the trade-offs, as well as help build and execute a plan to take the issues into account and deliver a working solution. There are definitely items related to KSAM and the use of MPE commands and calling programs from PowerHouse Quick screens. I like to say that our experience and knowledge of PowerHouse cross platform environments, and files and databases make us a great partner for PowerHouse customers.
So you're saying that MB Foster has been quietly moving PowerHouse customers for years?
Yes we have, and I expect that in 2007 many Powerhouse customers with questions will be calling us