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March 30, 2007

Get that 3000 touch for disasters

One of OpenMPE's board members, Matt Perdue, is launching a disaster recovery (DR) business this month. Recovery can be a complex project for a company that doesn't know your HP 3000 and its needs.

But Perdue's Hill Country Technologies is the home of the famous $5 HP 3000, that system which went on auction last summer at an outrageous discount. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised to hear that the very same system is part of the Hill Country's DR outlay.

So you know that this DR host knows your systems. Hill Country Technologies yesterday announced the availability of disaster recovery and application service provider hosting solutions to the HP 300 community. Other platforms will be supported as needed for clients.

Perdue reports that his company's available facilities are:

  • A commercial computer room/data center installation, downtown San Antonio, TX,
  • located at major North-South-East-West transit for voice and IP traffic from Florida to California and Mexico/South America to Chicago
  • building security: key tag entry at building entrance, electronic lock at suite
  • computer room security: camera monitored 24x7x365
  • rack space: lockable racks can include alarm monitoring and web cam viewing
  • electrical: building power in ‘downtown loop’ that hasn’t had a power failure in more than 20 years; 110-220 single and triple phase available; DC available
  • air conditioning: in suite monitored and kept at 65-66 24x7x365
  • bandwidth: 1-100Mb available, 1Mb commit minimum, burstable to 100Mb without operator intervention required (use it any time you need it). Bandwidth is multi-homed from three providers, routers are using BGP
  • hosting: your box(es) or ours, based on rack space needed and bandwidth
  • network monitoring: 24x7x365 for traffic, uptime and alarms
  • data security: Cisco and Linux based VPN connections supported
  • service level agreements available
  • site is 10-25 minutes (depending on traffic) from San Antonio International airport
  • full-time certified electrician available 24x7x365

These services are suitable for any companies wishing to comply with auditor’s and SEC requirements for disaster recovery plans, application hosting or system availability for remote historical records access. Long term plans available, terms from 1 to 5 years with renewals. Client and/or auditor site visits welcomed.

For further information and to discuss your company’s specific requirements, please contact:

Matthew Perdue
Hill Country Technologies, Inc.
PO Box 460091
San Antonio TX 78246-0091
210-579-1700 fax

04:55 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007

Maybe the RTU isn't about you

Precious little has been posted or said about HP's new Right To Use (RTU) for HP 3000 upgrades. The policy isn't retroactive — unless you're upgrading, the new license has nothing to do with a customer's 3000 ownership.

But judging by the reaction to an e-mail blast we sent out a few weeks back, not many of the 3000 customers have paid much attention to HP's reach into the 3000's tomorrow. Few of HP's 3000 policies have been based so clearly around the system's future. The RTU means nothing unless a customer upgrades a 3000 today — and this upgrading is still taking place in an era when HP has been advising customers to leave the platform for more than five years.

If the customer base continues to purchase 3000s, in spite of HP's advice, well, wouldn't those customers prickle at HP's involvement, or praise the vendor's pluck in staying connected to revenues for the server?

Yes, and yes. But the surprising lack of response might mean

1. 3000 customers are disconnected with the vendor after 2001's disappointment
2. So few upgrades are happening that the policy has little impact
3. Upgrade purchases flow through a part of a customer's firm where 3000 policy is a minor point. In other words, parts is parts. If we buy them, we own them.

All three might be true, so long as anyone was listening to us or to the vendor. At least a couple of observers had a comment for us, though.

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet wondered how long HP's interest and licensing effort would continue.

How long do they guarantee to provide this service, post 2008?  If someone pays the price differential now for a system upgrade, is that investment worthless after 2008 if you can't then sell that system to someone else who can take advantage of the investment. Is it a penalty fee because you choose to stay on the 3000 and need to upgrade?

John Burke, the NewsWire's longest-tenured columnist, had a contrasting viewpoint:

I do not see what the big deal is. HP is still selling support and does not want to violate its past policies about supporting only legitimately licensed systems — so it needs to provide a mechanism for people to create "legitimate" systems from parts provided by the used market. Am I missing something? The only surprise to me is that they did not do it sooner.

We still want to know what the customers think of RTU. Or maybe it has nothing to do with you, upgrading or not. Tell us. Tell HP

08:06 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2007

First news surfaces on Tech Forum details

The Encompass Web site has opened up details for the June HP Technology Forum, showing a keynote on the conference's first evening (June 18) and sessions and entertainment running through June 21.

If a June 18 6 PM keynote from HP CEO Mark Hurd is not that important, you might schedule your travel during that Monday. Las Vegas hotels are famous for offering the lowest rates Sunday through Thursday. The Luxor Hotel, right across Mandalay Bay Road (less than a half mile) from the conference HQ at Mandalay Bay sold me a room at about 40 percent less than the Mandalay.

Details on the Encompass Web page are still sketchy today; the conference remains in the process of attracting and selecting papers to cover the four days of breakout sessions.

As we've said before, the Tech Forum could be important to the 3000 customer whose migration includes HP as a key supplier in the future. Talks from last year's conference featured many sessions on moving away from the system. OpenMPE's advocacy board presented just about the only homestead-related content.

Under the topics page of the Tech Forum site, MPE/iX is not mentioned at all. Such talks are aimed at the other HP operating environments. HP 3000 advocacy group OpenMPE, still working with HP on a weekly basis to plan the post-HP life of the platform, has submitted a proposal for a presentation at the Forum.

But the Tech Forum will excel at keeping a customer interested in HP's Unix + Integrity server combination. We see that hardware and OS configuration in a positive light for the first time in five years. HP-UX offers virtualization to make the Integrity servers deliver maximum performance, given the correct tuning. HP continues its commitment to the Integrity line, which replaces PA-RISC systems.

On Monday some all-day Pre-Conference Seminars unfold, but there's an extra charge to attend these. Many are focused on the Non-Stop HP line (formerly Tandem systems). But several could supply good IT fundamentals, independent of platform, OS or migration strategy. None of these have details yet, but Bill Hassell's talk on sysadmin tips and techniques was superb at last year's GHRUG HP 3000 conference for the old-school command line manager moving to HP-UX. We also see on the list:

High Availability Technologies and Best Practices
Ken Moreau, HP

Soft Skills for the IT Professional
John Delves, Southeastern Training & Development

Network Security
Laura Chappell, Protocol Analysis Institute

Full registration is $1,495 with discounts available through the end of this month. Certified HP Professionals (yes, there are 3000 experts who are holding his certificate) can do the entire conference for $1,295 before discounts. And a day pass is $595. Which day would be of most use to the 3000 manager migrating remains to be seen, but it's likely to be either Tuesday June 19 or Wednesday June 20.

As for that trip between hotels, Las Vegas casinos have made it easy to travel that half-mile. If you start from Mandalay Bay, you will stop at the Luxor — less than a 5-minute trip. The monorail is in operation 24 hours per day; trains leave every 3 to 7 minutes.

The waiting area at the Luxor is not indoors, and some walking is required to make the loop (there are stairs as well as an elevator to access the tram stop). Fortunately, everything is well air-conditioned. Even a holiday weekend crowd can be accommodated once the initial rush for a seat dies down.

06:41 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 27, 2007

Tricks with spoolfile redirection

Robert Holtz writes:

We have our 911 interface running on our HP 3000 24x7.  Once a week, we abort the Public Safety Systems Incorporated (PSSI) application to close out the spoolfile that the application generates.  Is there a way to keep the application running and redirect the output to a new spoolfile?  We are running MPE/IX 7.0 PP2 and this is on an N-Class e3000 system.

Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper replies:

I think the only way you could do that would be to actually modify the application program to periodically (say, for example, every 10 pages or every 100 pages) close then re-open the print file.

Olav Kappert of IOMIT International adds:

If the program can be slightly modified, then I would suggest creating a message file as a conduit to the application. The program would do a read of the message file with the nowait option every once and awhile.  If the application encounters a keyword indicating a new spoolfile, then the program would close the spoolfile and reopen it.

An alternate method would involve the application being modified to close and open the file at a particular day and time during the week.

Robert Schlosser of Global Business Systems adds:

Short of closing and reopening the after n number of pages, you could have the application read (without wait and checking status codes) a message file. It could then close and open the output file on demand and possibly even close down the application gracefully (no abort). I do not know if you have access to the source, nor do I know if you want to tinker with the innards of a working program.

05:30 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 26, 2007

Acucorp expands to COBOL data search

COBOL rules the records of the HP 3000 community. A business language with an oft-repeated death sentence — one it has always outlived — COBOL drives more than 75 percent of all HP 3000 applications, by our estimate. We'd quote an even higher number, but there are Speedware and PowerHouse apps a-plenty working out there, too. COBOL code dwawfs all other languages, however, when you sum up lines from 3000 sites.

These organizations have their business-critical applications written in COBOL, and now they can both query and manage Acucorp's COBOL data files much like they would data in a relational database. Acucorp announced today it's released a new single-vendor solution, AcuXDBC, which gives migrating 3000 sites that choose AcuCOBOL the flexibility to access data from ODBC-enabled applications. In essence, the product extends ODBC access for Acucorp customers who use ACUCOBOL-GT — so they have one package to take data into desktop tools like Microsoft Excel and Crystal Reports, as well as JDBC-enabled Java applications.

Acucorp built ACUCOBOL with the features of the HP 3000's COBOL in mind. That has made the compiler a popular choice among 3000 sites doing a migration.

The objective of the product is to give COBOL records a transparent bridge onto desktops that don't run COBOL applications. This is what any good ODBC solution can do, but Acucorp now has a solution to include Vision files, created by its ACUCOBOL-GT. When a site deploys AcuXDBC — either on standalone systems or on networked hosts and clients — these AcuCOBOL-GT data files can be imported into Windows apps. The application data that a migrating site has created with AcuCOBOL-GT is now available with transparent access.

Users on the Windows systems don't even know they are looking at COBOL files, Acucorp says. Not that they would care which language those files come from — but they want to see as much data as possible from that Windows desktop. Now these ACUCOBOL-GT files can join, as they say in SQL parlance, the data party.

AcuXDBC gives Acucorp customers and ODBC driver which understands the Vision file system. Vision controls the records of ACUCOBOL-GT. Acucorp is positioning the new product as a solution for accessing all kinds of data through a single piece of middleware — a step towards a "single vendor solution." That's the configuration that can reduce support calls, because there's only one number to dial for both database connectivity and COBOL issues.

“AcuXDBC is the single-vendor solution for COBOL data management, providing superior performance, adaptability, and support for SQL standards,” said Bob Cavanagh, Director of Product Management. “With this best-of-breed solution, customers can access their Vision data files from both ODBC-enabled applications, like Microsoft Excel and Crystal Reports, and JDBC-enabled Java applications.”

Acucorp said AcuXDBC has re-engineered drivers and an SQL processor to speed execution of many complex SQL commands on large data sets.  AcuXDBC works on performance through an advanced rule-based optimizer, one Acucorp created that uses the describe key information to determine what keys to push for the WHERE and/or ORDER BY clause.

AcuXDBC’s query tool gives businesses the ability to use SQL scripts and commands to manage the flow of company data.  This tool also allows permissions and views to be set up, providing extra security and even more flexibility in how data access is controlled.

07:46 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007

Keep the flight attendants trained on your 3000

People think that a computer system like the 3000 — to be cut loose by its vendor sometime in 2008 or later — doesn't need much. Those people would be wrong, most of the time.

Unless 3000 customers have their systems sealed up in a wire cage, their 3000 still requires know-how and training. (We're not kidding about the wire cage. More than 300 HP 3000s sat in such cages across the Long's Drug chain during the 1990s. Store owners could do little more than feed a backup tape into them, according to legend.)

But your system probably isn't caged up. You still need to maintain it, learn how to solve problems and update things. Like what? How about a Daylight Saving Time change? Betcha remember that one. (If you don't know what we're talking about, have a look at our articles from earlier this month. Your clock on the nightstand wasn't the only thing that had to be reset back on March 11.)

One of my favorite pieces of advice is based on something that our At-Large Editor Birket Foster says all the time, giving talks about the 3000. In many cases, if the 3000 were an airline aircraft, "the flight attendants are flying the plane now," he says. So you need to train them, or they need to keep in touch with an expert, or keep up support, to ensure nothing goes down.

That's what a user conference does well. Especially if it's got a "flight attendant" track.

One way to keep the flight attendants trained is to look for HP 3000 conferences, or at least education. There's some of that education resource out there, supplied by third parties. But the conference? Well, Encompass will have some HP 3000 education in June at the HP Tech Forum. But there's a more affordable venue, too. Someplace that has more 3000 on its mind than migration. We reported on the first meeting of the HP 3000 Conference last November.

Don't misunderstand. For the right kind of customer, the HP Tech Forum is a good place to go get trained. Just the thing for the customer who will follow HP into the future — a long ways, well up to the 20-teens.

It's just that the 3000 market needs more than that kind of training. Chalk it up to those flight attendants, if you like. Nothing wrong with those maintainers. Your business server, after all, was supposed to be like an electronic filing cabinet, if the software got set up right and kept up to date.

06:19 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007

Leave trip wires to track modules

In his spare time, Mike Anderson of the Greater Houston 3000 user group helps a few local companies get ready for migration. Yesterday he shared a little trick with us. Leave bits of code, routines that act as trip wires, inside your forest of application modules. Go ahead, do it today, no matter how soon you will pull the trigger on your actual migration.

First, this counts as migration work. Creating code to identify when a module gets used, and report back to Routine Counting Central, can be the prelude to a savvy migration. Because like our At-Large Editor Birket Foster has said so often in the many talks he's given, you want to know how much of your code you will need to migrate.

Second, this kind of development can be a positive thing to report to a company boardroom. "Our migration project has begun with detailed research on the size of the task. Specialized code is being placed in our company applications. This software will deliver metrics we need to create budgets and schedules."

That's a report which may be good enough to buy some time to do the work correctly and efficiently. It's also true, too — this code must be specialized, because you will need knowledge and access to your source code to leave this trail of trip wires.

This tactical work won't help you nearly as much if your strategy is to replace your apps with what Foster likes to call Commercial On The Shelf (COTS) software. Yes, the use of these checking routines might help your search process for the best replacement package. But you're more likely to be ticking off company practices and business rules while you shop to replace.

It might be difficult to job out this "routine" task to an outsource supplier. A developer who's unfamiliar with your company's code could bill for quite a few hours figuring out the best spot to leave a crumb of this counting code.

HP has a tool to help inventory HP 3000 systems, the SIU, offered for free at the HP Jazz Web site. But the SIU won't report how often your data sits in each of the many trees in your forest of modules and applications. The SIU only counts and identifies files on your 3000.

This kind of bread crumb routine would be most useful if it could garner information over time. You'd think that six month-end closings would be enough to check if a module is being used. On the other hand, you might want to make sure one of those months is the end of a calendar year.

But every month in which your code does its checking might save many hours, or dollars, during the migration itself. Several migration suppliers charge by the line of code. Modules that you need not change would incur no charges, we figure.

02:13 PM in Migration, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007

Migrations demand synchronization

While some migrations take six weeks, like the SAP implementation at Aearo Technologies, many span months if not years. A customer needs to keep their current HP 3000 applications and databases in service while migration changes roll out, especially if there's a network of field systems to migrate, too.

Not long ago Taurus Software announced it is helping the express package and mail service Freightways Group in New Zealand move its databases — with hundreds of millions of HP 3000 records — to HP's Integrity servers. Bridgeware, the Taurus solution to move data between databases and Web applications, will smooth the transition, according to Taurus president Caliean Sherman.

“Freightways is benefiting from one of BridgeWare’s key benefits – the ability to run a seamless, trouble-free migration,” said Sherman. “BridgeWare and Integrity servers make it easy to move your data between various databases and the Web with minimal system impact.”

Taurus reported that keeping Freightways' network field operations productive during the migration added a challenge to the transition.

The challenge was doing so while maintaining service leadership and retaining the value of Freightways’ investment in existing IT assets. To make things even more complex, Freightways had to factor in its highly distributed network of field offices, which ruled out a single, full-blown migration.

Freightways' Information Services group is moving five TurboIMAGE databases worth of data into Oracle on five Integrity systems, but not all at once. [We note here that a one-database per server configuration is typical of the HP-UX installations we have seen. Those IMAGE databases might have been on just a pair of HP 3000s. But at least the Integrity servers deliver more performance for value.]

“With this phased approach," said Freightways Information Services General Manager Richard Mitchell-Lowe, "we must be able to move data back and forth between our legacy environment and the new infrastructure.” 

Data movement has become the keystone to a successful migration for many customers, leading companies like Taurus and MB Foster to deploy data extraction and transfer solutions to HP 3000 sites. Some are for ongoing 3000 operations, but many will ready the customers for a move to HP's current-generation Integrity systems, given enough time.

BridgeWare allowed Freightways to migrate both legacy and real-time data directly into a form usable by their new Oracle 10g database solution. Keeping IMAGE and Oracle in perfect sync at Freightways involves some 300 million records — and will likely extend through the end of 2007.

10:22 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2007

Premature obituaries for HP environments

Google scours the Web as well as many tools, and even better than most. Today our search-bot turned up an early obituary for an HP operating environment. Well, two such notices, if you know much about the HP 3000 market's current status.

Over on searchdatacenter.com, Google found us a story about HP server customer Aearo Technologies. This HP 3000 and HP 9000 shop had little faith in HP's Integrity offerings just last spring, according to Mark Fontecchio's report. But now the customer stands to save up to $80,000 a year in HP support by replacing its PA-RISC servers with Integrity units.

That's replacing both the HP 9000 as well as HP 3000 servers, according to the story. After 20 years on the 3000 — and who knows how long on the HP 9000 — neither environment looks like it's got long to live. At least according to searchdatacenter.com, Aearo

is considering getting away from the HP 3000 or HP 9000 platforms because the support end of life is either near, as in the first case, or they fear it's near, as in the second.

Whispers of HP curtailing HP-UX support have been with us a good while now. It's probably safe to say the rumors of HP's Unix death are exaggerated. We could make an argument that MPE/iX support is not near death, either.

HP has been candid about its HP-UX future — well, at least as plain as the vendor was about its MPE/iX forecast just one year before it announced its pullout from the 3000 market. See the HP slideshow from last year to find HP-UX plans until 2016. See our recent rememberance to find HP's strong position on 3000s in 2000.

End of support doesn't always equal end of life. Support is a flexible term. In your market it goes beyond what HP provides. Stellar, seasoned third parties carry the load for 3000 shops all over the world. The only life that's ending soon is HP's 3000 lifetime.

And perhaps not even that is destined for a rapid demise. It's that "or later" statement in HP's 3000 support extension message that continues to puzzle some of this market. Like the segment that is still working on HP 3000 gear while they migrate toward HP-UX.

HP-UX might not deserve the doubt of Fontecchio's report, He only reflects what Aearo told him, of course. But customers can believe nearly anything, as we have learned over 22 years of talking to them. Especially if an $80,000 savings in support gets promised.

We do have to wonder just how old those PA-RISC servers are at the Aearo site. There's savings a-plenty when you upgrade from 1998 systems to 2007 boxes. HP has ensured this kind of discount will be available for a long time. At least until the HP-UX and MPE/iX end of life, whenever that might roll around.

06:29 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2007

Hot keynotes at HP's torrid trifecta

Encompass launched the drumbeat of marketing for its 2007 conference during the past week. Today HP chipped in a new verse to the "come commune with us" song. HP's e-mail shows how essential the user group meeting has become to HP communication with customers. Between the lines (as Adager's Alfredo Rego would say about a love letter), HP's e-mail also explains why the traditional autumn conference called the HP Technology Forum has jumped ahead to be a midsummer meeting this year at The Mandalay Bay.

HP now calls this year's June 18-21 meetings in Las Vegas "the trifecta" by including a long-standing HP Americas StorageWorks conference and a new "HP Software Universe" on the agenda. The Storage meeting has always been held much earlier in HP's fiscal year, unlike the Tech Forum held twice in HP's Q4. But since HP is ever alert to the possibilities of collaboration and consolidation (both good for profitability), the three meetings now merge in a single week.

It's kind of like having a "South by Southwest" week-plus rear its head in Austin, instead of the original three-day music festival. Us Austinites have watched the engine of the week, the Austin Chronicle, rev up just-ended SXSW to include Interactive (Web and gaming) and Film festivals, all overlapping by a bit. We see a lot of hipsters in the coffee shops here for about 10 days in March. We also see movies and hear music which may never see screens or ring ears again (alas, no distribution deals for much of the content). And if you design for the Web or create interactive software, well, you can find out how far you've fallen behind the cutting edge.

You will need cut loose an invitation to HP's StorageWorks meeting, held at the more tony Venetian resort  a few casinos down the street. For the HP 3000 customer, the new Trifecta could offer a way to combine three research trips into a single junket, and in the city of Lost Wages, no less. The only downside we can see is The Weather in June. The temperature on last June 18 topped out at 107 degrees. But it's a dry heat, my mom says, having lived there since 1990. Of course, those Las Vegas resorts boast the Superdome of air conditioning. A tram takes you between resorts for a few dollars a ride. At night, June's outside air almost makes it down out of the 80s.

If only HP and Encompass had decided back in 2005 to make their new show a mid-June event, perhaps the Interex HP user group would still be around. (Perhaps not, considering the debt which was already on the back of Interex.) Back then, the new Encompass event was scheduled less than a month after the promised HP World show. HP World never raised its 2005 curtain. The '05 Tech Forum ran into Hurricane Katrina, but retreated to Orlando to emerge as the only remaining North American HP technology show.

There seems little to be gained by recalling that HP technical conference of 1990 — called Interex after the now-defunct user group of the same name — held in Boston. Except that Interex '90 was a seminal HP 3000 gathering, something unlikely to occur at this summer's Encompass/HP Trifecta. The city of Boston cradled the 3000 community's Tea Party moment, with users railing and revolting at the vendor's attempt to separate the computer from its IMAGE database.

Las Vegas will bring HP's CEO Mark Hurd, plus the everlasting Executive VP Ann Livermore and CIO Randy Mott. These talking head-liners will only be the sprinkles of the three-layer cake of the week, though. We expect it all to be attended in even larger numbers now by HP's sales force. The Tech Forum has always had a strong HP training track for HP employees. Combining the conference with Software and Storage events will amplify HP attendance.

There is still room at the Mandalay Bay resort for the 3000 customer who wants to research migration options to keep their company in orbit about HP's sun, or learn more about target HP 3000 migration platforms. You can also bone up on HP's Unix, or discover the ways of Windows for an enterprise. Oh, and attend the closing party to hear the "Grammy-award winning, multi-platinum band Train."

At least that band has a distribution contract. Head to the Southwest by very Deep Southwest to hear HP make its case for your continued business. The vendor and the user group promise 7,000 attendees across the Technology Forum alone. High numbers mean high networking, once you find someone with experience you desire or a common configuration.

And if you're really lucky, Mom lives in the same city. We will see you there.

09:36 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2007

Jobs rare, but still there

3000 customers and community members report that most of the new jobs for the platform involve migration assistance. Knowing the HP 3000 seems to be of greatest value, consultants say, when you're helping a company move away.

But there are still homesteading jobs out on the employment boards. You have to look harder or wait longer for them to appear. A longstanding success like the HP 3000, however, will retain a customer base longer, too.

Monster.com, one of the biggest job sources on the Web, offered one such position this week:

HP 3000 Programmer/Analyst

Customer is looking for two experienced contractors with skills in HP3000, COBOL, JCL and Turbo Image Database. Candidates will write program specifications and submit for review. They will conduct code walkthroughs, and create test plans and test cases for the programs.

The job is in Walnut Creek, Calif. Being a suburb of Silicon Valley, the town also hosts the headquarters of Long's Drug, which was once the single biggest user of HP 3000s other than HP. But we don't know if this position — a full-time temporary/contract job — is at Long's. It doesn't even matter than the employer prefers to hire Bay Area candidates.

What matters is that we can still find companies that need to reinvest in and refresh their HP 3000 resources. The job skills in this posting could come right off a to-do list for any of the last 10 years of a 3000 expert's career:

They will perform coding testing and system testing of batch COBOL and JCL. COBOL programs many involve interface to TurboIMAGE databases.

And if there ever was an apt description of the 3000's status in many companies, we'd say "full-time temporary" covers the situation well.

07:15 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 15, 2007

Java options grow cold on 3000

There is little on the HP 3000 platform that is broken. We mean "not working any longer" when we say broken.  Some solutions for MPE/iX are falling behind, however, a state that makes it difficult to keep applications abreast of company needs.

Java is an example of an HP 3000 solution not broken, but well out of date by now. The current Java version in MPE/iX is 1.3, a generation behind the 1.4 in use on most other platforms. At Quest Diagnostics, the HP 3000 there uses Java for its applications. Not all of the apps, but enough to prompt Jim Gerber in the IT operations to ask about getting Java upgraded for the 3000.

"We are using some Java here," Gerber said. "HP announced that the last supported version is 1.3, which is getting rather long in the tooth.  One of our Web developers wants to use an Enterprise Java Bean, for the extra security that it provides. But we would need Java 1.4.1, or later, on the HP 3000."

HP has turned away from Java on the 3000, after hailing the language nine years ago as a conduit for applications. Java works today behind the scenes and under the covers of many Web apps, or Web clients for hosted applications. Keeping the 3000's Java behind the times is putting shops like Quest under the gun.

HP took note late last year of its step away from Java on the 3000, in this brief statement on the HP Jazz Web site:

HP will no longer be able to offer sustaining engineering for Java/iX after December 31, 2006. As a result, HP will be unable to provide patches or fixes for new problems requiring modifications to the Java/iX source code. Existing patches will remain available from their current locations, and technical support for Java/iX will remain available from the Customer Support Centers through, but not beyond, the MPE/iX end of support date, December 31, 2008.

Let's overlook that statement's vision of when HP's 3000 support will end. (The vendor has announced its basic MPE/iX support continues until "at least" December, 2008.) Without new patches, for all practical purposes Java/iX support has ended at HP. HP dropped its unique support element for Java/iX — its ability to modify the source code first released in 1997, then carefully updated for another four years. In 2005 and 2006, the vendor couldn't even agree to release a 1.3.1 version of the language for MPE, an improvement that would solve some customer problems.

Two numbers work against Java's continued use on the 3000. Few customers adopted it. Far fewer HP engineers are even trained, let alone available, to support Java/iX with patches.

Of course, with an open source product like that, there's a better support community out in the customer base for Java's fundamentals. But not MPE/iX nuances The problem in this case, like in other languages for the 3000, is not support. This failure to support new features, by freezing or chilling releases, threatens the customers who need to develop on the 3000 awhile longer.

08:55 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2007

Former HP chair clears court charges

In the shadow of HP's annual stockholders meeting, one former HP employee and two private eyes plead no contest to charges in the company's pretexting scandal — while former HP chair Patricia Dunn was exonerated.

Shareholders met on the same day former HP employee Kevin Hunsaker and private investigators Ronald DeLia and Matthew DePante entered no contest pleas to misdemeanor charges of fraudulent wire communications. Dunn, battling advanced ovarian cancer, saw her name cleared when charges against her were dropped by the California Attorney General's office.

Hunsaker, DeLia and DePante will serve 96 hours of community service each, according to an Associated Press story. But the quartet of HP execs and their hired PIs got a rude surprise earlier today when the AG's office said everyone would plead guilty. The AG's office corrected that notice — "a mistakenly predicted" press release — later in the day.

Hunsaker, DeLia and DePante also must "make restitution" for invading the privacy of HP employees, executives, reporters and family members of the press. The restitution will be based on requests made by the victims of the hoax. The tactics included HP-subcontracted investigators pretending to be phone company employees to gain access to phone records. Congressmen lambasted HP's probe methods and ethics in a 2006 hearing.

HP has admitted enough complicity in the scandal to pay a $14.5 million fine to the State of California, but the matter never escalated beyond state charges and the testimony before the US Congress.

Dunn's lawyer James Brosnahan said his client was vindicated by the decision to drop felony charges. The state prosecutor was charging HP's former board chair with four felony counts related to the "Kona" and "Kona II" investigations. Each charge carried a $10,000 maximum fine and three years in prison.

That effort was reduced so completely that the State of California will drop all charges against all defendants in September, when their community service requirement is completed.

The prosecution's star witness Bryan Wagner, who agreed to testify against HP's execs and the PIs in exchange for dropping the California charges, pled guilty to the four counts in federal court last fall. Federal prosecutors said they continue to pursue the investigation of HP's leak probe tactics.

Dunn stepped out of the chairman's seat and off the HP board altogether when the scandal surfaced.

10:53 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

More ways to connect with vendors

A pair of vendor information resources for the 3000 customer are getting spruced up, using reports  straight from the community — with no gatekeeper. One Web list offers vendors enough access to update their own product listings, while the other improved resource will use research from a new volunteer at OpenMPE.

The longest-lived, deepest vendor list for 3000 products has been hosted at 3k.com for a long while. During the 1990s, Brian Duncombe of Triolet Systems began compiling HP 3000-related product listings. That list that just got a new nest this year when Chris Bartram of 3k Associates opened the community's new 3000 Wiki pages to the information. As of this month, Duncombe's vendor list is getting the Wiki treatment, complete with community editing of vendor information. In the old model, a single, overworked volunteer had to apply vendor-submitted changes to this comprehensive listing.

Any vendor can head out to the 3k.com Web site's Vendor Directory to update a listing. In the Wiki tradition, anyone — vendor or not — who's registered can edit an item. The result is a resource where 3000 customers can browse these product and company lists. They're grouped by category as well as posted by vendor name.

To update a listing, or contribute what you know about HP 3000s at 3k's 3000 Technical Wiki (Twiki), you  need to register. Get a free username and set your password at www.3k.com/twiki/bin/register/Main/WebHome Bartram explains that the new resource eliminates an old bottleneck, "An online, up-to-date HP 3000 Vendor and Product directory, where the biggest bottleneck (a single overworked maintainer) is no more!"

Since Brian Duncombe took his [HP 3000] directory down a few months ago, I decided to resurrect it on the Twiki. I've been busily cutting and pasting to recreate the directory as it last appeared. Though still a work in progress, the HP 3000 Vendor/Product directory has been resurrected, and in an "All New Improved" formula. The directory is now all Wiki, with each vendor and product entry set up as a separate user-editable page.Once I get all the remaining old data converted into the new format, vendors will be able to log in and update their own contact info and product data.

Bartram's idea is catching on, too. Another revived, community-driven effort surfaced this week to update the application listings at the OpenMPE Web site. Both projects call on an important common element: contributions from a 3000 community which is still maintaining its tight knit of connections.

New OpenMPE board member Tracy Johnson is leading a similar effort. Johnson, named to fill the spot that Lund's Bill Lancaster had to vacate to tend to company business and growth, announced the OpenMPE project with an invitation:

Upon joining the OpenMPE board, I have taken the task of determining which vendors on our Web site are still supplying HP 3000 software and services:

This task is turning out to be fun as I’ve sent quite a few e-mails and spoke to interesting new people.

It also means, that within a month or so, the Web site will be up to date.

The OpenMPE vendor listings, which include a lively arrangement of information about application communities, are at www.openmpe.org/mpeappvendors.htm

01:59 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007

Hours spent outside of migration

Monday morning dawned with a small smile on North American IT managers' faces. The "mini Y2K" of the new Daylight Saving Time deadline passed without incident. Unless you were a migration manager at an HP 3000 site, watching hours of productive time drip away in yet another unforeseen diversion.

The DST dance — first, we've got a bit of software for you to keep your time straight, then oh wait, it needs more work, so back out those changes — is all too typical of today's IT change calendars. These events suck up manpower and money, the resources that many average-sized 3000 sites try to reserve for migration projects. The smaller the shop, the harder they must work to set aside migration resource.

Even a homesteading 3000 customer must deal with a DST event, but at least that kind of shop has more modest computing plans. Rather than changing platforms, or applications plus a platform, those sites manage day-to-day challenges. The dirty little secret is that those day-to-day ops in IT now include plenty of governmental compliance work, satisfying auditors more than ever before. Some companies have calculated their bill for remaining a public company — and paying to make regulated, mandated changes — and decided that buying back their stock and going private is cheaper.

DST typifies the reason most migration projects are taking longer than estimated. As important as migration may be to a 3000 shop, there's no ticking time bomb in that project unless your application provider has gone belly up. In contrast, we see 2 AM on Sunday morning, or this coming September for customers running banks and encrypting data. Real deadlines, soon, and with easily measured consequences if you miss them.

On Friday afternoon I talked with a president of a company running HP 3000s, HP-UX, Linux and Windows workstations. A pretty common mix of systems for a 3000 user. This was not a massive shop, either. Fewer than 20 servers including blades, fewer than 100 workstations.

Their bill for DST? Four man-days, and a ticking clock of work that could only be started when Microsoft finally released the needed patches for DST at the beginning of the week. He said his lead engineer on the DST project had only left the shop at 8AM Friday morning, after working all week.

HP didn't do a lot better on its go-ahead-time for 3000 DST changes. MPE/iX customers got their needed patches about a week before this weekend's deadline.

There are some IT historians, especially in the 3000 community, who say that the Y2K event was the only thing that kept the 3000 migration march from starting sooner than late 2001. That viewpoint might be correct, but migration managers shouldn't take much comfort in having such a large system change out of the way. the path toward the future will be littered with things like DST changes, often instigated by governments and regulators. Every one of them will have to take a higher priority than migration — and will pull resources off migrations, too.

Adjust your migration calendars accordingly.

08:44 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2007

Some other ties to bind

Dsc04214 Long ago HP was "Hewlett-Packard" to most of its HP 3000 customers. In those days Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard were still on the scene, around the offices, managing by walking around, if only in the boardroom. And back in those 1980s, HP offered some customer retention gifts and awards you can't see the likes of today.

But here, perhaps 15, maybe 20 years after HP introduced them, are some of those gifts. They are on offer, as the British would say, for the modest cost of a donation to a favorite charity of mine.

We use the British term because these ties come from the archives of Dave Wiseman, a long-time friend to the HP 3000 community who was associated with many 3000 vendors and enterprises. ScreenJet, one of our founding sponsors for this blog, came to the community through his help and efforts, along with his partner Alan Yeo.

Dsc04202 We have seven of these available to our readers. Make a donation to the Hill Country Ride for AIDS charity — a favorite 50-mile cycling event of mine, to raise money to help AIDS survivors — on a secure Web page to claim yours, which we will send you one postage-paid, as the old-school offers once said. Add a note in your donation to identify which tie you'd like. E-mail us if you'd like more detailed pictures.

These silk and rayon blend garments remind us that not all of HP's "ties that bind" come in the form of license agreements in perpetuity. HP's dreamed up some other gimcracks (or gems, if you prefer) to keep up the faith in the 3000 community. Reach out for these sweet antiques if you want to to fasten up your customer archive — and enjoy a bit of evidence that says, "I knew HP when I thought of it as Hewlett-Packard."

11:09 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 08, 2007

License means HP never cares to say goodbye

Many members of the HP 3000 community assume that HP won't have much to say about their computer's use, sale or transfer once HP exits the market.

But those members would be wrong. HP considers its intellectual property — the MPE/iX software that's is as essential as an engine in an auto — to have license terms which extend in perpetuity. That's forever, until HP says otherwise.

HP's Jennie Hou — an HP 3000 R&D project manager with focus on the customers, partners, and business — confirmed the tenure of HP's ties to 3000 customers in a brief e-mail. Hou explained the new Right To Use 3000 license (RTU) recently in our February print issue, as well as on the pages of this newsblog.

Earlier this week, Hou told us

All HP Intellectual Property licensing requirements must be observed beyond End-Of-Life. As part of the HP e3000 post-2008 planning, we are evaluating how to provide RTU licensing continuity beyond 2008.

The impact of HP's interpretation of your MPE/iX license? Like Diana Ross sang, the vendor "never cares to say goodbye." One way to ensure a never-ending relationship? Put a third party in charge of those licenses. Enter OpenMPE, perhaps? 3000 customers will have wait, but not too much longer, to learn how HP's ties will bind, and who might do the binding.

09:51 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 07, 2007

Search for unexpected in HP's 3000 world

A routine check on our search engine at the 3000 NewsWire main Web site today turned up a seminal story. Give the 3000 NewsWire site's "Advanced Search" engine a run to do your Web-based 3000 research. Our Web mentor Chris Bartram hooked up Google's search code to the site just last night.

I usually search on the name "Prather" (as in Winston, HP's final 3000 general manager) when I test an engine. Winston Prather has been mentioned in more than 110 articles from 1995-2005; he was the leader of the 3000 labs for much of that time, then had a three-year tenure as GM. This was a fellow who drew a lot of copy, because he influenced HP's efforts for your system so profoundly.

Winstonwalk0010 By chance, I happened to click on our Winston Prather story from the Year 2000 HP World conference. Yes, a great deal has changed since then; there's no more HP World, or Interex. HP's got new leadership at the top of the company, as well as different people in the foreground to help the vendor get its 3000 business wrapped up. Oh, and there's that matter of the 3000's future with HP. People in this market know the future of HP and the 3000 pretty well, or they believe they do.

But that 2000 story still strikes me as emblematic of how things can change without warning. In October, 2000 HP was telling customers that the 3000 had a secure future with the company. Executive VPs Ann Livermore and Duane Zitzner both taped "don't worry" messages for the 3000 faithful. Those videos aired about a year before the system got scratched off HP's futures lineup.

You never know what might happen, even in the face of what look like clear messages.

Like so much of life, pledges and forecasts can vanish in a matter of months. These kinds of swift changes sometimes happen because of departures, or arrivals. Someone new to a decision team changes the vendor's course. Or a long-time advocate departs, taking the reasons for business practices out the door with them.

What's that mean for today, and your stewardship of your 3000? That depends on whether this month's early retirement program at HP takes much 3000 leadership out of the company. Some 3000 customers will address the system's exit off HP's price lists by saying "I'll retire before then. That's my plan."

Many key 3000 managers inside HP have that option now, too.

This comet has passed through the HP 3000 skyline before now. Early retirement has become HP's way of cutting costs, letting the best-paid and most experienced employees leave the company with a retirement offering somewhat less than full retirement pay. HP also gets to eliminate the salary and benefits when a senior employee retires.

This month HP employees older than 40 who've worked with HP since the 1980s will be eligible for retirement. That's a lot of HP 3000 personnel. Nobody could imagine that HP would take such a sharp 3000 turnabout between the fall of 2000 and the fall of 2001. Just like it might be hard to imagine that those who are leading HP's 3000 exit plan may not be around to see it happen.

11:45 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007

OpenMPE votes are in, with a new director

Balloting for the OpenMPE board of directors ended at the very end of March 2, an election that returned all but one incumbent and gave Anne Howard the seat occupied by Strobe Data's Alan Tibbets. Chuck Ciesinski, Paul Edwards and Birket Foster returned to the board. Foster has served since OpenMPE's inception in 2002.

Annehoward Howard, a longtime HP 3000 community member, has been in the HP 3000 community since her COBOL programming days at the European Division of University of Maryland — where she completed her BS in Computer Sciences. After graduation and return to the US, she served as DP Director at a Texas school district.

In taking her board postion, Howard made a case for OpenMPE being a key element in the success of HP 3000 futures. HP has less than 22 months before retiring from the community, unless the vendor extends its support and licensing operations yet again.

"I'm excited about this," Howard said about her new post, "as the group elected this go-round will be in place when HP finally discontinues its support for MPE. HP's extension of support gives many sites that time needed to transition to other environments, but we all know there are an awful lot of HP 3000s out there. Solutions will be needed after HP finally ceases support."

In 1989 Howard joined Carter-Pertaine, Inc. (CPI) a national software ISV based in Houston and developing and supporting financial and student accounting software for K-12 school districts. She was one of the lead architects of CPI’s Vista student accounting system used in numerous school districts throughout the US. Howard became CPI's VP of Operations when the company was bought by QSS in late 2000. In 2004 she was named President of CPI and became a member of QSS’s Executive Management Team. 

Since HP’s announcement to discontinue the HP 3000, Howard has been heavily involved in the migration of applications written in COBOL, as well as 4GLs Speedware and Cognos's PowerHouse to HP-UX and Linux. She has also led projects that are developing new integrated browser-based applications.    

She left CPI when it was sold in July, 2006 and now works as an independent consultant, providing outsource staffing to systems integrators and migration specialists. Howard has MCP certifications and is a certified HP-UX CSA. 

Howard continues her involvement with the HP community by serving on the Board of Directors of the Greater Houston Regional Users Group (GHRUG), one of the most active regional user groups in the country. GHRUG continues to work on a second HP 3000 user conference, a project where Howard, based in the Houston area, will play a key role.

10:31 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2007

HP provides this weekend's time fix

HP has announced the ultimate version of the time zone table for the HP 3000, key software to letting the systems keep up with the new changeover date to Daylight Saving Time this coming weekend.

HP engineer Jeff Vance sent out word late today that the new TZTAB file is available at the HP Jazz Web site page for the software. The patch is LBCMXY5 and will soon be available from HP IT Response Center. [Ed. note, March 2010: Since HP's Jazz Web site was shifted in 2009 to independent hosting sites, you can download the file from the Speedware or Client Systems Jazz hosts.)

HP recommends that all HP 3000 customers "install this updated copy of TZTAB at your earliest convenience. The changes included in this file are:

Atlantic (AST4ADT) and Newfoundland (NST3:30NDT) Timezones now include the U.S. 2007 DST definitions.

Also added, for compatibility reasons only are the AST4ADT#CANADA and NST3:30NDT#CANADA Timezones which are identical to AST4ADT and NST3:30NDT respectively.

The Aleutian (AST10ADT) and Yukon Timezones (YST9YDT) now include the 2007 U.S. 2007 DST definitions.

A Western Australia Timezone (WST-8WDT) has been added covering the trial period 2007 though 31 March 2009 while Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time) is evaluated. Note that if Western Australia permanently adopts Daylight Saving Time the TZTAB file will need to be adjusted accordingly.

The Canadian versions of the standard North American Timezones for Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific, i.e. EST5EDT#CANADA, CST6CDT#CANADA, MST7MDT#CANADA and PST8PDT#CANADA have been updated to recognize the 2007 definitions. These are now interchangeable with EST5EDT, CST6CDT, MST7MDT and PST8PDT respectively.

Since Mexico will not adhere to the U.S. 2007 Daylight Saving Time definitions new timezone definitions for Mexico have been added, they are:

  • CSM6CDM or CST6CDT#MEXICO - Mexico Central Timezone
  • MSM7MDM or MST7MDT#MEXICO - Mexico Mountain Timezone
  • PSM8PDM or PST8PDT#MEXICO - Mexico Pacific Timezone
  • MXST6MXDT or MXST6MXDT#MEXICO - Mexico City, Mexico Timezone

10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 02, 2007

EER and You

In our first podcast of 2007 (7 minutes, 6 MB) we talk of the early retirement program offered by HP during this month. Many HP 3000 advocates inside the company — some say nearly all of the most prominent managers and engineers — got an offer in a Fed Ex envelope a little while ago.

   Inside HP, the highest-minded talk is about “giving this system the finish that it deserves.” But that finish is taking longer and longer, as the vendor lingers around support money you’re still paying. So that exit of the experts, those best-versed in how to make HP help its 3000 customers — that’s what the community is facing this month.

   These are experts who told customers in 2003 that “HP intends” to make an emulator license of MPE available. There were a host of other intentions in that springtime statement, most made by people who got a Fed Ex envelope not long ago.

Have a listen to our commentary and brace yourself for the prospect of even more change. HP will be changing, as it always has. That's one more reason to hope for, and support, an organization dedicated to the 3000's long term: OpenMPE.

05:18 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 01, 2007

PowerHouse customers eye new alliance

Migration business picked up during 2006 for several segments of the 3000 community. One group of customers who made plans and began projects: PowerHouse sites, especially those who want to stick with the Cognos language while they make the shift to other platforms.

Speedware's Chris Koppe, director of marketing a frequent presenter at 3000 events, has told customers one of the fastest migrations is a "stick-to-your-fourth generation language." Speedware-to-Speedware success stories quote fast turnarounds. Recently Speedware's migration unit started to migrate Cognos customers with the same strategy.

This Speedware-Cognos alliance announcement prompted concerns from a portion of the PowerHouse customer community. On the PowerHouse mailing list, a few customers said they feared the deal will accelerate Cognos’ detachment from PowerHouse futures.

Robert Edis, an independent PowerHouse consultant, took note of Cognos’ Automated Development Tools (ADT) income dropping out of Cognos’ shareholder reports, along with eliminated or reduced mentions of these ADT tools in Cognos conference presentations, sales force pitches and product lists. He sketched a forecast of PowerHouse futures.

Cognos took the concerns in stride and pledged loyalty — point by point — to a product still earning revenues for the company.

“Business is business,” PowerHouse product manager Bob Deskin said to customers on the mailing list. “Now that [Speedware] are primarily in the migration business, it makes sense since we have many common customers. It's a good partnership."

Edis speculated the Speedware alliance would mean less Cognos effort toward the Cognos Automated Development Tool (ADT) products.

Edis noted the following trends:

1. ADT income no longer included in shareholder reports
2. ADT tools disappear from product list on Cognos Web site
3. ADT tools no longer mentioned by sales people
4. ADT tools no longer included in conference presentations
5. Dramatic slowdown in development/enhancements/new features
6. Deal made with Speedware —once only mentioned by Cognos in disparaging terms — to support ADT tools. Speedware advertising in past put down PowerHouse and encouraged Cognos customers to port PowerHouse apps to "modern" tools (i.e. Java).

My prediction:

7. Development/enhancement work on PowerHouse stopped completely by Cognos
8. Cognos and Speedware announce deal where Cognos sells PowerHouse to Speedware.
9. Speedware takes over support (taking a few of the youngest and most promising ADT developers from Cognos to boot) and license income.
10. Speedware induces PH customers to "modenise" their PowerHouse apps by offering special deals and perhaps increasing annual license fees on PowerHouse.
11. PowerHouse RIP

Edis wondered if his forecast was pessimistic. “Maybe the Cognos-Speedware deal is just a case of ‘if you can't beat them, join them.’ “

Not RIP, but a reply

PowerHouse product manager Deskin noted in reply to Edis concerns thatPowerHouse is healthy product still earning for Cognos:

#1 - True, but then we don't break out any specific product unless we want to highlight major sales (like a new product)
#2 - We have our own Web site @ powerhouse.cognos.com
#3 - We have our own sales people
#4 - A business decision based on attendance
#5 - Not true as can be seen by what's in E. See some of my Supportlink articles.
#6 - Business is business. Now that they are primarily in the migration business, it makes sense since we have many common customers. It's a good partnership.
#7 - Eventually everything comes to an end. But we have a while to go yet.
#8 - #10 - Are you trying to start rumours?
#11 - Not for a long time yet. Too many customers and too much income regardless of who runs the show.

12:06 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)