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October 2007

HP releases critical patches to prevent corruption

HP released critical patches today which repair problems in the HP 3000 file system, a fix for any Large Files — which in rare circumstances, can corrupt data on a 3000. While the odds of the bug corrupting data in one case are technically 800 million to 1, HP is recommending that all customers who use MPE/iX 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5 install one or both of the patches at the earliest opportunity. The patches can be staged, but they will require a reboot of the 3000, an event that is rare at many sites.

The HP repairs, announced today just after 10 AM Pacific time through the HP 3000 newsgroup, the OpenMPE mailing list and HP Web pages, include the first fix for the 3000's millicode in 16 years, according to Bill Cadier of HP's MPE/iX labs. The millicode patch, which replaces the MILL.LIB.SYS file, is only needed if a customer's applications access mapped files and utilize Large Files.

Large Files are any which are 4GB or greater in size. HP introduced the feature in March, 2000. Applications which have not been modified since March 29, 2000 should be safe from the potential corruption. The possible corruption can occur if any one of five of the last six bytes of a Large File fail to transfer correctly.

Customers who sort these types of files, using calls to HSORTOUTPUT or SORT.PUB.SYS, are at risk according to the HP notice for the patches. The potential risk and the repair surfaced when an HP 3000 customer notified HP of a data corruption issue.

Some customers will have applications which must be recompiled and re-linked to eliminate the problem. An application that uses the HPFOPEN intrinsic, and creates or uses Large Files, is a candidate for this kind of repair. In some instances a customer must locate and use the application's source code for this kind of re-compile. HP defined the procedure as an install of the millicode patch, then a recompile of the application in some cases.

The majority of the 3000 community will be installing patch MPENX11, which is available to all 3000 sites at HP's IT Response Center Web site and also through telephone support. Customers with applications using Large Files will install patch MILNX10. But the millicode patch is important, too, because a sort of a Large File of 2-3 GB will create a temporary Large File of more than 4GB, where the risk of corruption is at hand.

HP's strong advice is for customers to install both patches. [There is] a high priority for MPENX11, since it is the patch that addresses the issues with SORT and the MPE/iX OS. However, MILNX10 is also important to address the possibility of continuing to use the millicode in question. Even if a customer is not using Large Files today, there is no guarantee that they won't experience growth that will cause their files to cross into the large range at some later time.

The primary link to details of the critical process has been posted at HP's e3000 Web site, At that page, a customer letter link as well as a link to the HP Jazz Web server provides a detailed page with explicit instructions — as well as a new HP-built utility to detect Large Files on an HP 3000.

HP's announcement takes place four years to the day that the company ended sales of the HP 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, will continue throughout 2009 and 2010, according to HP's 3000 community liaison Craig Fairchild.

Continue reading "HP releases critical patches to prevent corruption" »

Clock up patched support's value

HP still has about 48 hours to go before it might reply to OpenMPE's request to open up the HP 3000's source code. Only one value stands out as the chief benefit for such a license of MPE/iX to a third party: patches, and the ability of a non-HP entity to create or modify such modules of the operating system.

As of this morning, patch delivery and creation looks like the most obvious difference in service levels between HP's 3000 support and that of third parties. Even then, patches that are already released — beyond beta testing — can still be downloaded and used today, even if HP never begins its source code transfer for MPE/iX.

OpenMPE wants HP to announce something by Nov. 1 about starting the source code handover. The transfer should take about a year, by everybody's estimates. The OpenMPE advocates say that patch creation will be important to the 3000 customer who operates the system beyond December of 2008, when HP ends its patching operations. That means getting ready to patch should begin by the end of 2007.

But this weekend illustrates one of the few instances where a patch is necessary to run an HP 3000 safely. On Saturday evening around much of the world the clocks roll back, away from Daylight Saving Time. On a new weekend, for most countries. This is what passes for a critical patch in the days when many HP 3000s are locked down, frozen with few changes allowed.

Continue reading "Clock up patched support's value" »

Comparing next solutions for 3000s

When a 3000 utility goes dark — because its creator has dropped MPE/iX operations, or the trail to the support business for the tool has grown faint — the 3000 community can serve up alternatives quickly. A mature operating system and experienced users offer options that are hard to beat.

Such was the case last week when Walter Murray, a former HP development engineer now with the California Dept. of Corrections IT staff, wondered about an alternative for Aldon Computing's SCOMPARE. That development tool has compared source files for more than 15 years in the HP 3000 world. There was no record of a valid license on the Murray's server for How now to compare, Murray wondered.

Not for long. Within 24 hours the experts on the HP 3000 mailing list offered six alternatives to the now-defunct SCOMPARE. Resource 3000 partner Allegro Consultants offers a free MPE/iX solution in SCOM, as verified by Allegro's Steve Cooper:

And, it's free, too!

and scroll down to "SCOM."

Other candidates included a compare UDC from Robelle, GNU Diff, diff in the HP 3000's Posix environment, DiffDaff on Windows, and more.

Continue reading "Comparing next solutions for 3000s" »

Ubuntu option opens for Linux

Pete Eggers, an MPE/iX veteran looking toward the next best operating environment, describes himself as a Linux bigot. Not long ago he echoed another 3000 expert in recommending Ubuntu, a distro of Linux as a newly-polished tech tool.

Vista got you down?  Slow on last generation hardware?  Can’t load it on old hardware?  Just need the basics including a full featured office suite?  Or, a bunch more applications (18,000), but don’t have money to burn?

Give Ubuntu 7.10 a try!  Comes in a LiveCD version (runs completely from a bootable CD without need of even 1 disk).

Earlier this year we interviewed Matt Perdue, Hill Country Technologies support specialist and an OpenMPE board member. Ubuntu was on his list of tools to assist in 3000 administration. He'd even gotten the Linux distro to boot up on PA-RISC hardware.

Continue reading "Ubuntu option opens for Linux" »

Doubletree rooms full, but Meet has space for now

A few days ago we reported that the Doubletree Hotel, San Francisco Airport, was now full — and so anybody headed for the HP e3000 Community Meet, Bayside will have to stay elsewhere.

But we didn't mean the Meet was full up, just the hotel where the meetings take place. At last check, about 20 slots were still open for the meeting that will connect HP 3000 customers and partners for the only time in 2007. In person, anyway. There's a 50-person limit for the event.

The Meet's organizers only needed to reserve a 12-room block in the hotel, and that's now full. That hotel is convenient to the SFO airport, and the Nov. 17 Meet date falls over a weekend — so now the Doubletree is full. That's not the case yet at the Red Roof Inn, across Anza Boulevard from the Doubletree. See our entry from Tuesday to get Red Roof contact details.

More bonus for the attendees: Jon Diercks, author of The MPE/iX System Administration Handbook — best book ever on managing a 3000 — will be leaving some copies for attendees to win, I suppose. Somehow we'll get the books to several attendees.

Continue reading "Doubletree rooms full, but Meet has space for now" »

What 2008 means to migration

HP told customers last month that it will extend its product support for the HP 3000 through 2010, although the two years beyond 2008 will not include any new MPE/iX patches. One reason for the extension: Customers need more time to migrate. Sometimes those delays are completely unavoidable.

The County of Roanoke in Virginia is moving its governmental applications off their HP 3000. Just about a month before HP extended its support date, 2008 was looking like a very rigorous deadline for IT director Diana Wilson. She had reported back in 2004 the county expected to be all migrated by 2006. We checked back in with her and several other migration-bound customers.

Our current schedule puts us out to 2008. We lost about a  year of time when one of the new software vendors went bankrupt while we were in the middle of implementation (we are purchasing vendor applications to replace all of the HP 3000 apps). This caused us to have to start all over with the bid and  award process for those applications.

Yesterday's story about delays due to vendor changes offers counsel on what to do when a new app provider leaves your radar screen — or has its flight pattern changed by an acquisition.

Continue reading "What 2008 means to migration" »

Rooms filling for Bayside Meet

HP e3000 Community Meet organizer Alan Yeo reports that the $99 rooms for next month's 2007 meet at the Doubletree Hotel San Francisco Airport have sold out — but there's still an alternative nearby that's just as affordable.

And we do mean right nearby. The Red Roof Inn, just across Anza Boulevard and next door to the Doubletree, has $80-$90 per night lodging available as of this evening. Reservations can be made at 1-800-REDROOF or 650-342-7772. Or online at the hotel chain's Web site,

The Meet takes place in meeting rooms at the Doubletree, starting at 9 on Saturday. Both hotels have free shuttle service to and from the San Francisco airport.

To register for the free Nov. 17 lunch and the all-day talks and networking, browse to the Meet's Web site at  Stick around after lunch and get your free copy of the HP 3000 Evolution handbook, compiled and published by Robelle.

What you should seek after a merger

HP 3000 customers migrate through a field of choices these days. And these are days of consolidation in the applications industry, especially on the platforms of Unix and other enterprise-only solutions. We keep hearing stories about the gap between promises and performance, between deadline and delays, while 3000 sites search for replacement applications.

This kind of disconnect rears its head highest when a prospective supplier gets acquired. Terri Glendon Lanza, one of the ERP community's top consultants, used the MANMAN mailing list to share an article from the APICS News about what to expect and what to ask when your new app provider, creating a replacement application, suddenly gets a new parent.

Lanza quoted the article Does Anyone Care by Al Bukey, founder of ABCO Engineering

The client asked me to provide advice on how to handle the situation when mergers and acquisitions cause the recently acquired vendors to respond late and have their decision-making capabilities interrupted, despite repeated assurances. The comforting words and assurances from the vendor that everything will be for the better should be taken cautiously.

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Observe who paints the 3000's past

The City of Brownsville is leaving their HP 3000, walking away from a 13-year HP partnership to join the ranks of IBM IT customers. Big Blue scoops sites away from HP all the time, and the opposite is true, too. But the motivation for moving off the 3000 platform often has more to do with its applications than the operating environment, or the hardware which hosts it.

Brownsville is being profiled in this month's issue of Texas Technology, a mailed and online information source that promises to be "the leading magazine providing solutions to Texas government in the information age." A freelance article by an Austin writer gave Brownsville's MIS director the article's leading role in moving the city off its 3000 and onto an IBM solution. But Gail Bruciak might have been repeating what IBM had to say when she assessed the future of the 3000 which is still running at the city.

"We're running everything for the city, with the exception of emergency services, on an HP 3000 from 1994. The software is COBOL  — it's old. Of course, there's no maintenance for it, we can't get parts for [the system] anymore," she said. "So we knew we had to migrate off."

I remember 1994 pretty well. In the year before we founded The 3000 NewsWire, HP was working on the Multiple Operating System Technology (MOST) that would've put MPE/iX and HP-UX on a single system. (Never released, but MOST was years ahead of the Superdome designs that eventually offered several server environments in one box. Just not MPE/iX.) RISC systems were the norm by that year, DDS-3 tape backups were rolling out, and 100 megabit LAN technology was just hitting the streets.

A peek at the 1994 technology of the 3000 shows some solutions that are rather elderly to be running in 2007. HP released MPE/iX 5.0 that year — five generations behind the current OS — and the brand-new 3000 systems of the day were the Series 9x8 servers. But unsupported? Not in the community we cover. Even today, HP will write 9x8 service contracts, and those servers will run the 7.5 MPE/iX release HP will still support (sans new patches) through 2010.

What seems to be unsupported is the idea that it's the 3000 getting too old to count upon at Brownsville. Every new vendor plays this card, coming in to convince a customer their system is historic instead of strategic. Something else is probably aging there, an element completely unmentioned in the Texas Technology report. My bet, sight unseen, would be the applications.

And parts for Series 9x8s? Just about all you want out there now, and almost at no cost. Disks, power supplies, boards — you can get it all from the independent market. I wonder why it comes as a revelation to smaller customers, however, that hardware a dozen years old may be harder to support, run slower than an application requires, and feels old in a presentation by a competing vendor. 

Continue reading "Observe who paints the 3000's past" »

Java: Useful business tool that needs updating

Customers were chatting this week about Java in the business environment: whether this language has a place in creating applications and clients for enterprises. The consensus on the HP 3000 newsgroup is that the language once touted as "write once, run anywhere" has already earned its stripes across the world.

That's the biggest reason, perhaps, that Java is in sore need of updating on the HP 3000. In yet another project where HP's forthcoming open source white paper can help, Java needs to be rejuvenated from a 2000 version last updated by Mike Yawn, the 3000 division lab expert who was the Java go-to guy for years.

Yawn even made it a point to report on the Java One conference for several years. HP laid him off, more than once, until finally this superior technical resource landed at Quicken, expanding his reach beyond your venerated HP 3000 system.

Even though Yawn is probably out of reach now, Java improvements are another mission that an independent lab effort could tackle if interest and income could be tied to the technology. It's easy to see how this language that HP announced with great gusto for the 3000 in 1997 can make development easier a decade later. Mark Wonsil, a sharp developer with XML and Web savvy reported on Java's bounty

I have written Java programs for database access across multiple platforms. Type 4 JDCB drivers require no licensing on the machine that you’re on, so I was able to access SQL Server and Oracle at the same time - without using ODBC - very cool.

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The hard work of the next 3000 lab

OpenMPE might have fired a flare this week with its open letter to HP, but that action may not light the way to new opportunity for keeping MPE/iX patches available in 2009. Nothing good comes without the pursuit being difficult in places, unless you're Kosmo Kramer in Seinfeld.

There are people in your community who have allowed the 3000 to get inside of them, so they love it, cannot let it go out of their lives. But to some others, the effort to keep MPE/iX maintained for another 10 or 20 years seems like it's getting hard. But the hard is not necessarily a reason to stop trying.

It's baseball playoffs season right now. I'm reminded of a few lines from the movie A League of Their Own. Dottie Henson, the best player on the all-female baseball team, wants to quit, and she argues with Jimmy Dugan, the manager who believes in her, and in the game.

Jimmy: Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie: It just got too hard.
Jimmy: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great.

Just to start, here are some hard things that OpenMPE and HP will need to work out to get your HP 3000 operating system code onto the volunteer group's test benches — indeed, into any lab other than HP's.

1. Indemnification. Might as well start with the legal hurdles here, because this is a license that OpenMPE is seeking. Once HP puts the code for MPE/iX into anyone's hands, the license must protect HP from any problems caused by engineering created by the licensee. It's like, using patches built outside of HP's lab should have nothing to do with HP's responsibility. While that seems obvious, threats of legal remedies to bugs and downtime need to stop outside HP's doors.

2. Caliber of the licensee. HP gets to measure this to grant its license, because MPE/iX belongs to Hewlett-Packard. And unless the company surprises everyone and sells the source code, the OS will always belong to HP, so the vendor gets to set terms. Up to now the company has said that HP intends to license the source code — but the specifics have not been announced about terms for the license. Private or public company, non-profit or for-profit, track record or none in the 3000 community: these are all up for HP's examination.

Continue reading "The hard work of the next 3000 lab" »

OpenMPE opens up request to HP

Advocacy group OpenMPE has endured some slings and arrows from impatient 3000 users during the last five years. Too much talk, too little action, say the critics. The complaints look unfounded when HP's trump cards are considered. The vendor needs to do only what it sees as vital to the 3000 customers. OpenMPE cannot insist on anything.

Meanwhile, HP retains the ability to dictate terms on the license: what kind of company, what kind of staffing. The source code is, after all, HP's intellectual property, locked up behind a generation's worth of legal restrictions.

But these volunteers are trying to crack open the HP vaults on behalf of the community this month, firing off a letter that says the time is now for HP to share the MPE/iX source. OpenMPE even suggested a deadline for the decision. The deadline could be useful to HP to help budget and fund the transfer process in its upcoming fiscal year.

Reminding Hewlett-Packard of the vendor's promises to share the operating system internals with a lab outside of HP, OpenMPE says in a letter released today that pruning away patch creation for MPE/iX in 2009 starts the clock on an outside organization's patch development effort. OpenMPE wants to be that organization.

The letter signed by the board's nine volunteers, asks HP to permit OpenMPE to take on engineered support of MPE/iX in 2009, since HP won't do the "sustaining engineering" of patching anymore.

With HP’s September 26, 2007 announcement, HP effectively split hardware support from software support and has left some customers in the position of requiring engineered software support after January 1, 2009 that will not be available from HP.

In light of these statements, OpenMPE calls upon HP to begin the transition of MPE source code responsibility to OpenMPE. Then OpenMPE can, in a timely manner, prepare for and deliver engineered software support to the members of the MPE community that require it beyond HP’s stated end of engineered software support, December 31, 2008.

HP said earlier this year that it is still considering when the transfer of the source code, or parts of the OS, to OpenMPE would be appropriate. OpenMPE makes a case that "the time is now."

Continue reading "OpenMPE opens up request to HP" »

Python snakes toward migration prep

Years ago, when HP did not yet offer an MPE/iX 6.5, 7.0 or 7.5, the company's engineers ported the open source tool Python to the platform. The fast, extensible, object-oriented scripting language is more self-describing than its better-known cousin Perl, with fewer add-in modules. Python also offers good support for XML, a technology that has been well-linked through the XML Thunder solution from CanAm Software.

The Python software never made it to "supported portion" status on MPE/iX, but Joseph Koshy's work has been pressed into service on some HP 3000s. Back in 2002, a 3000 NewsWire contributor offered a Python cookbook for the HP 3000 user.

More than five years later, some customers can benefit from a Python that could brought up to date. HP has said the user community needs to take charge of this kind of revival of open source elements. Robert Mills of Pinnacle Arvato tried to contact Koshy about getting Python ready to play on the HP supported versions of MPE/iX: 6.5 through 7.5. Alas, Koshy had moved away from the 3000 group in Bangalore.

Mills sees a use for Python in his company's steady and careful transition away from its HP 3000. PowerHouse portable subfiles at Mills' firm could make their way to CSV or tab-delimited format files — if only the Python interpreter was up to date on the HP 3000.

Mills seems ready to roll up his programming sleeves to help do the work. He's waiting on the white paper HP promised for 2007, a document that will assist in porting open source software onto the HP 3000, or forward an existing solution to a more modern version. Pinnacle Arvato plans to be off their 3000 before HP's support of the system is ended. Taking the PowerHouse subfiles into a more common format would cut down on migration development.

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Audit-proofing IMAGE databases

Since HP 3000s work as mission-critical servers, the systems must weather IT and regulatory audits. The 3000 is capable of passing, of course, even in the era of HIPAA and SOX challenges which are more stern than audits of the past.

But establishing a database update procedure can lead to a gap in the security of an MPE/iX system. A discussion this week on the HP 3000 newsgroup identified the problem and searched for a solution. But many HP 3000 managers must take a hard look at how their users employ System Manager (SM) privileges. In the most strict accounting, SM privileges can expose a database.

Privileges can become a neglected aspect of 3000 operations, especially if the system's admin experts have moved on to other companies or duties. Mike Hornsby of Beechglen explained that the SM users which his support company serves have disturbed the integrity of 3000 databases. It's easy to do accidentally. The SM user can also update a 3000 database — a capability that can run afoul of some audits.

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Storage improvements for a 3000

The Transition Era for the HP 3000, years 2002 and onward, heralds fewer changes each month for plenty of 3000 customers. Many sites are frozen on a current release of MPE/iX. Others have locked down applications, adding only critical features to keep programs useful and productive.

But the cool climate of stability — no changes to something still working — has not frozen out storage upgrades. Some HP 3000s are linked to HP's virtual disk arrays. Others are plugged into the vendor's XP series. Storage is the only spot in HP's hardware lineup where the 3000 gets connected to later-generation devices.

Xp1200Evidence of this: The XP10000 and XP12000. These storage devices, called StorageWorks units, continue to serve MPE/iX systems. HP describes the XP10000 as "An entry-level enterprise class storage system in a compact footprint that increases business agility and decreases the stress of running applications where downtime is not an option."

The XP12000 is built for the more typical 3000 customer, one who cannot afford downtime. The array is aimed at "organizations that demand always-on data availability, seamless scalability, and cost-savings through data center consolidation."

HP 3000 hardware resellers in your community continue to sell these devices. In fact, storage represents the largest share of 3000-related hardware opportunity for many resellers.

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Fiorina and HP finances now in the news

Fiorinabook Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina has landed her first job since leaving HP in 2005 on the heels of an ouster off Hewlett-Packard's board. Fiorina will become a "contributor" on the new Fox Business Channel, a cable-only enterprise set up to compete with the likes of CNBC and Bloomberg TV. Fox Business News will be available to 34 million homes.

The former HP leader, the last person to hold both CEO and board chairman roles at the company, headed a 2001 campaign to prune out slow-growing Hewlett-Packard business lines. The effort accelerated in the wake of the September 2001 Compaq merger announcement, as analysts speculated which of HP's lines would be dropped to make room for Compaq businesses. The HP 3000 business received its termination from HP's futures, leaving the OpenVMS and HP-UX server lines as the only HP-designed enterprise environments.

Fiorina, whose role on Fox Business News broadcasts is still unclear, advocated an HP with fewer businesses which were growing at a faster rate. In the two-plus years since her exit, the company has acquired a handful of large corporations. The latest of these mergers, closed within the past 30 days, cost HP $1.7 billion for Neoware and Opsware.

Fiorina left HP with a $21 million severance package in 2005, then was in the running as a candidate to lead the World Bank, but was passed over. She said in a statement that she is
"pleased to have the opportunity to continue to speak out on issues of vital concern to our economy and our nation." Her name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for US Senate in California.

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Acucorp leads COBOL users to AcuXDBC

Tomorrow, October 10  at 11 AM EDT, Acucorp will offer the fourth in its series of customer Webinars. These free programs outline the details of the latest COBOL offerings from Acucorp, which became a part of the Micro Focus organization in a merger this summer.

The two companies have sketched a view of how ACUCOBOL Version 8 will evolve over the next two years. A July Webinar outlined dates for releases of Version 8 along with an overview of the new features in AcuCOBOL-GT. Version 8 and Beyond is available for download. Tomorrow's program describes and demonstrates AcuXDBC, a database connection module that specializes in feeding data to AcuCOBOL applications.

To reserve a Webinar seat, point your browser at The events are broadcast using Microsoft's Live Channel, and they include a question and answer period. Acucorp will send an e-mail with connection information. The company is archiving its Webcasts as well, in case the timing for watching live doesn't fit with your schedule.

The next Acucorp Webinar is scheduled for October 24 at 11AM EDT: New Productivity-Enhancing Features of AcuBench

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3000 Community Meet opens registration

The only HP 3000 meeting of 2007 opened up its registration Web site this week, giving the 3000 community a chance to meet and exchange reports and expertise on managing the systems through the remainder of the Transition Era — no matter how long that might be.

The Web site at gathers fundamentals on attendees, including the request for a $20 fee to attend the weekend event Nov. 16-17. The charge is to keep attendees on the roster, explained organizer Alan Yeo.

As we only have 50 places on a first come, first served basis, and we have no way of vetting anyone's real intent to turn up, we thought that a nominal registration fee might sort the wheat from the chaff. The idea is that the $20 won't be used on the event — but we are going to organize a memento of the event for the attendees. So the Event is Free, but you pay for the memento.

The meet's roster of speakers spans the 3000 community's experts, from keynoter Jeff Vance, retired from HP this spring after 28 years of MPE development and liaison, to MB Foster's Birket Foster on APM, Chris Koppe on migration lessons learned from the field, Gavin Scott of Allegro on modern-era support options, and Donna Garverick-Hoffmeister on the plans of OpenMPE.

Perhaps most interesting are the 5-minute speaking slots available to any attendee, starting Saturday morning after Vance's keynote. The registration site reports that "These slots have been made available to attendees who need to initiate contact with vendors of a particular service; would like to network with peers sharing a common migration challenge; or to communicate with any other group or individual."

The slots are also being offered on a first come, first served basis; to reserve your five minutes, contact the slot scheduling organizer by e-mail.

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HP sells 3000 software, today and tomorrow

HP told the world it would remain in the 3000 business an extra couple of years in an announcement last week. All of the focus was on the obvious 3000 business of support contracts, with emphasis on what HP won't do anymore: create patches. But in the process of learning what the vendor continues to do, through 2010, I stumbled on a product list.

These are HP 3000 products still for sale from Hewlett-Packard. Yes, software, much of it well-proven in production around the world.

The HP e3000 Web site has some twists and turns to it these days, but tucked away in a cozy corner is a list of what MPE/iX products the vendor will support until 2010. Turns out this list is two-thirds full of software products you can buy from HP during the next three years. Thirty-two of them, to be exact.

And while HP may sell precious few of these products through 2010, it hasn't turned away from any potential revenues from the 3000 community. (We've even heard of a brand-new HP 3000 customer going online this year in the education sector. Perhaps they will need a few of these HP products.)

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Application measurements for more comfort

Most HP 3000 customers could use more help, or more budget. They can develop a compelling reason to get more room on their tight-fitting IT suits, even if they are simply staying put on their application platform. (Migrating customers have many, more obvious reasons to increase resources.)

Whether staying or going, however, the 3000 customer is like a fisherman floating in a well-stocked lake: sitting on top of a deep pool of assets, the company's applications. Most HP 3000s still run mission-critical operations, doing the work with applications. There's an emerging process to measure how much applications are worth to a company. Hiring a guide to use the process makes as much sense as taking a good guide to locate the biggest fish.

The process is Application Portfolio Management (APM), a topic that will be explored at this fall's HP 3000 Community Meet Nov. 17. MB Foster's Birket Foster has turned in an abstract of his talk to explain what benefit APM can offer to the 3000 enterprise — really, any enterprise — as well as a list of things to examine to establish the value of critical business applications.

Inventory is the first step in executing APM. Some customers have a fuzzy tally of what's on their HP 3000s. HP a rudimentary tool on its Jazz Web site to get started on a 3000 inventory, software included with the MPE/iX operating environment: the System Inventory Utility (SIU). (As a coincidence, HP's supported SIU was written by the November Community Meet's keynote speaker, Jeff Vance.)

Most important in the APM strategy? The concept of getting executive buy-in on IT projects by showing the applications' asset valuation. Just like a portfolio of stocks, or a stringer full of fish, the applications running HP 3000s can be assayed and then assigned the resources to maintain them — or tossed back to start over again.

Migration partners like MB Foster, as well as Speedware — two key supporters of the Community Meet — are using APM practices in the 3000 customer community. These are real assets, proven over many years. After all, some HP 3000s run apps with longer lifespans than many dot-com businesses which have issued stock.

Continue reading "Application measurements for more comfort" »

3000 luminary lights up luncheon weekend

November's HP 3000 Community Meet gained a gem in its crown of speakers for Nov. 17. Jeff Vance, winner of the HP e3000 Contributor of the Year award and an HP 3000 veteran of 28 years, will give the keynote speech on that day at the lunch. Oorganizers say that only 50 attendees will get the free lunch, plus the time to network on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Vance will offer his first keynote after countless talks about HP 3000 expertise as well as briefings from the vendor over the past two decades.

Vance retired this year from a 28-year career in HP's 3000 labs, one of the longest MPE/iX tenures of any IT pro anywhere. His contributions to the 3000 community have been lauded by HP as well as countless user groups and customers, from his work as liaison to users and customers to the brilliant work of system enhancements — some cooked up in the span a rainy weekend. HP and a panel of HP 3000 gurus have honored Vance with the HP e3000 Contributor of the Year Award. His software runs on thousands of HP 3000s around the world.

But the HP 3000 pro has moved on to new technical tools and project challenges, working for Quintessential School Systems (QSS) as a senior developer. While his keynote is certain to spring off of all those years of 3000 history, Vance will talk about crossing the bridge to The Next Thing after MPE/iX — and getting a job doing it.

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An archive includes an HP 3000

HP 3000s may have a longer lifespan than even homesteaders can kindle. Being such a different system from its replacements, this computer might even continue to do useful duty as an archive device.

Mike Hornsby of Beechglen took note of this in a message on the HP 3000 newsgroup. "Given the complexity of recovering and rebuilding an HP 3000 system from tapes only, many HP 3000 shops are continuing to run the HP 3000 in archive mode or contracting the hosting of their HP 3000 out."

Hornsby's company is one of several in the HP 3000 ecosystem offering a hosted home for archived data. "We have seen many HP 3000s converted to other applications/platforms, only to find out that they have ongoing issues requiring access to the data," he said. He reports that companies are keeping data on their 3000s for periods that run from 10 years into the future to an indefinite period of time.

"These requirements tend to be concentrated, but not limited to, payroll and healthcare records," he added. "One recent urgent case for historical data access from an archived HP 3000 application came from a school district that needed to produce a high school transcript to satisfy a very political and public request."

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The ticking clock of releasing source

HP's big news last week extended its HP 3000 business by two years. But the announcement of the new Mature Product Support, without Sustained Engineering, didn't sustain HP's patch development business. That's the part of the new '09-'10 plan that remains the same as the support plans announced in December, 2005. As scheduled, Hewlett-Packard engineers will halt writing, building and testing patches for MPE/iX on December 31, 2008.

This unchanged date brings up a question from the OpenMPE board of directors.  When does the 12-month clock start for the transfer of MPE/iX source code to OpenMPE? HP engineers have said HP believes that 12 months is enough time to transfer MPE/iX to an outside licensee. OpenMPE thinks that one year cuts it close. But the amount of time to transfer is HP's decision to make.

But when to make it? If patches stop on December 31 of next year, then January 1 of 2008 might be the time to start the hand-off to let OpenMPE offer patches in 2009. After all, when the patch lab closes, that's the end of that HP support service. OpenMPE directors are hoping that the 3000 business extension over at HP doesn't extend OpenMPE's waiting time a couple of years, too.

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