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January 31, 2008

The best CEO money can buy

Even if you're a homesteading customer, your steps back from HP can't keep you from seeing the CEO's windfall. Government securities reports said HP CEO Mark Hurd earned $26 million in compensation for the fiscal year 2007. If that seems like a lot of money, just remember that Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens got 2007 pay of $24 million, pro-rated. Clemens won just one-third of his games, including a flame-out in the playoffs.

Clemens may be headed to the baseball Hall of Fame, but Hurd will take a spot in HP's history as the man who made Carly Fiorina's outsized schemes work for Hewlett-Packard. I say outsized because Hurd did rightsizing on HP as soon as he took over for the fired Fiorina. 15,000 employees lost jobs, some of them who held key HP 3000 information which HP might call upon in a sticky support situation.

That's the darkness Hurd threw over the 3000 customer who's staying with the system and still paying HP support dollars. On the bright side, he brought on the light of a number 1 PC market share and the climb to top revenue rating once IBM left the PC field. Most of the largess on the HP board's part was due to HP beating its 2007 financial goals.

But no matter what the reward for HP, $26 million is a lot of compensation for one officer of any company. In one bit of irony, Hurd earned as much during his third year of HP employment as he directed NCR to pay for an entire company just before he left NCR for Hewlett-Packard. In 2004 he had NCR buy airport kiosk firm Kinetics for a total of $26 million.

Almost half of the $26 million came in stock options and purchases, and even housing perks. He earned
$1.4 million in base salary, another $1.4 million in bonus money and nearly $12 million in cash incentive payouts, according to a report to the SEC. Hurd also received shares of restricted stock valued at $6.8 million and almost $4 million in stock options.

HP also paid him more than a quarter million dollars toward the Hurd homestead, for a home security system (we assume this included some guards, rather than just gadgets) and a mortgage subsidy of more than $100,000, according to the SEC document. Real estate values in the Valley must be tough to maintain for anyone earning only $1.4 million in base pay.

But this level of compensation is commonplace for any $110 billion company's CEO, especially a vendor like yours — if you're migrating to another HP platform — which has tripled its profits since the CEO took over. Fiscal 2007 earned HP $7.26 billion, delivered by exceeding goals in every segment of HP's business, alongside the early retirement of 3,000 employees.

Some of those retirements reverberated through the 3000 community during that fiscal year. But the HP 3000 customer continues to contribute to those profits, earned during a fiscal year when HP was supposed to already be out of the 3000 business.


06:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2008

User conferences post savings updates

Both of the HP 3000 user group events of 2008's first half delivered more details this week, and the Greater Houston RUG (GHRUG) and HP Technology Forum can save community members money by using the news.

Ghruglogo2008 First, the soonest event, GHRUG's International Technology Conference on March 14-15. The $175 event has the lowest rate on hotels, with options that run from $69 to $99 a night. GHRUG has reserved a block of suites at $99 per night at the Residence Inn, just down the street from the conference venue at the University of Houston Clear Lake campus. You can call the hotel directly to make your reservation: 800-804-6835. There's also a Best Western NASA another mile down the street with a $69 rate on hotels.com. (But the conference has its rooms reserved at the Residence Inn, if you want to support the user group's efforts.)

Since the GHRUG conference is within two miles of NASA's Johnson Space Center, there's accomodations a-plenty. The user group has a map of the options on its conference Web site.

Time and travel costs often turn out to be the deal breakers in getting a pass to get yourself trained. GHRUG's meeting could cost less than $500 for the conference fee and hotel, not counting the cost of driving or airfare.

The Encompass user group, which is putting on the HP Technology Forum June 16-19, has extended its call for papers through this Friday (Feb. 1). If your proposal is accepted, you'll get a free pass to the show in Las Vegas.

Hotel rates in Vegas can run from the dirt-cheap to the gaudy, but The Mandalay Bay is the Tech Forum conference site, and its prices are running about twice those of the GHRUG event. We're waiting on news of what Encompass can wrangle for a conference hotel discount.

Las_queeexter1 But the more classic Vegas experience is the Four Queens on Fremont Street, just $52 a night on hotels.com. (You'll know the hotel as soon as you see its front, featured in countless films.) You'll have an 8-mile drive to the Mandalay Bay from the Four Queens. But if you're a player, the tables have lower limits down on Fremont Street.

Isn't this a training experience? Well after all, Encompass president Nina Buik said the user group settled in on Las Vegas because of its curb appeal — and that just has to include the gaming excursions. The Mandalay is swank at $210, though, including vast shopping and clubbing experiences both inside and on The Strip.

Flights to Vegas in June, versus Houston in March? We'll leave that as an exercise to the 3000 community member, who might try kayak.com for a good travel search engine across many discount booking sites like Expedia. Meanwhile, content at both conferences will include 3000 updates; more 3000 training at the GHRUG event, and a broader spectrum of HP contact and training at the 4-day Tech Forum.

Keynoter alternatives might be considered, too:

GHRUG: Adager's Alfredo Rego
Tech Forum: HP CEO Mark Hurd

Act by Friday to make a play for the Tech Forum discount; your paper has to be accepted to earn that free pass. The user group offered this help checklist:

Create an event account and submit proposal.

Review session content areas

Review presentation guidelines and tips for success

01:12 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2008

One important job OpenMPE can do

HP has unfinished business in its 3000 labs: testing and releasing the scores of MPE/iX patches created since 2005. Yes, some of that engineering is more than two years old, and still not being released to the 3000 community.

Just in time, OpenMPE raises up its collective head this week and announces another election for board volunteers. We remain on duty, the group says, with the desire to help 3000 owners who remain on their systems. OpenMPE needs a mission, one that won't tax its resources too much but feels essential to the customers.

CEO Rene Woc of Adager proposed a task. Let OpenMPE administer the beta testing of those patches, enhancements caught in HP's logjam. Right now only HP Support customers can do the beta testing of these lab creations. If they're important enough to build, aren't they important enough to release? HP must've considered the patches essential when creating them. But HP support customers aren't biting off these new bytes. Meanwhile, OpenMPE has pan-community service in its essential charter. Secretary Donna Garverick-Hofmeister says support — which includes patch release — is a big part of what OpenMPE wants to offer the community. It can speak for the thousands of sites which cannot test patches, she said.

If it weren’t for OpenMPE, all these companies coming individually to HP for post-end of life support wouldn’t have a collective voice. HP could tell each company whatever they wanted without letting them know that other companies are asking the same questions. In my opinion, it’s OpenMPE that’s uniting these voices.

OpenMPE volunteers take a lot of guff from community bystanders. The organization hasn't paid its board members one dime, nor have the volunteers earned any advantage except a ringside view of how HP considers the 3000 market. Off the record, as HP insists. But releasing those patches via a program that taps non-HP-support customers for testing — that could deliver as much benefit as creating any patch during 2009 or later. No HP source code license required, either.

The patch release is an issue for migrating customers, too. Many who intend to migrate will do so years from now. Patches frozen in HP's labs can help migrating sites make the best use of a system that will still be working years from now. What needs to change? HP's ideals for those who can test patches. Frankly, HP support customers might be the least qualified testers in the community.

We don't mean any offense to the HP support customer who's hanging on because vendor-branded support is all that top management will tolerate. No, the less-qualified support customer who doesn't know much better than to shift to a better caliber of support, dollar for dollar, or who leaves HP's support contracts in place out of habit — that's who HP expects to test its most advanced software updates.

Not exactly the most senior, seasoned sites. It doesn't make much sense, but the strategy does follow HP's past policies. At the moment, OpenMPE can't even garner an HP contract to oversee proof-of-OS-build practices. The vendor passed up giving OpenMPE any more of that work.

Patches already created, however, and ready to be released to customers don't fall into such confidential territory. Maybe, Woc suggested, 2008 is the year that HP can push its patches into the community. Someone needs to do the testing and study the reports. HP's support customers are unwilling to do the former, and so HP can skip doing the latter task.

An independent organization feels like the best choice for this kind of quality assurance anyway. HP is likely to have its reasons to avoid tapping the OpenMPE resource for this work. Technical capability, however, seems like a unlikely reason to keep this untested software under wraps.

The proposal might be a way for HP to demonstrate that its work with the third party 3000 community doesn't have to wait until January, 2011. Such cooperation could silence community members who believe that HP is running out the clock by extending support, until no third parties can make a business out of serving the remaining customers.

Besides, OpenMPE still gets collective answers to questions which customers might have to ask alone. Test results are a form of certification of patch readiness. OpenMPE's Donna Garverick says work on behalf of the entire community has always been OpenMPE's mission. "The question for this year is, "Is this patch ready to do its work on my 3000?" One or two testers seem to be beyond HP's capacity to engage. More than 100 companies are on the OpenMPE membership roster. A simple release of liability — something the HP support customers don't even have to sign to do tests — is all that's required.

Oh, and there's HP's trust of OpenMPE and the community. The customers need that, too.

10:21 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 28, 2008

The best don't get hacked

Some HP 3000 customers survive security hacks through the blessing of obscurity. Most security experts will tell you that if a hacker wants to breach your system, there's not much you can do to prevent a focused attack.

But you have more going for you when you put sensitive data in the MPE/iX environment. You can prowl through a posting on the hacker site phreak.org to see how passwords — that so simple but powerful barrier — keep mischief and mayhem out of your IT life. (Hackers are busy, oh so busy. Have a look through securityfocus.com for the latest hijinks and sabotage. Today, Best Buy has to pull digital picture frames off shelves because some of the frames were infected with a virus.)

Somebody named "Eastwind" (don't they always sound like bad '70s spy names?) put up a report on phreak.org called Hacking the HP 3000. At the end of some rambling tips, Eastwind brags, "The best don't get caught, and the best know who they are."

But the best 3000 system managers use passwords on everything — account, user, group, even sensitive files. It would take more than the rambling (the hacker's own description) of phreak.org to get beyond good 3000 password skills. Good passworders, you know who you are.

Good passwords are different for different groups and accounts. Good passwords mix numbers and letters. Good passwords get changed on a regular basis. There's still an HP 3000 solution out there to manage passwords so they get too complex for phreaks like Eastwind. Security/3000 from VEsoft is the leading choice. That's software which might also be useful in passing an audit.

Passwords are a guessing game for Eastwind. He points to FIELD.SUPPORT,PUB as a backdoor "unfortunately locked off or removed by some worldly wise system managers." Then the hacker moves on to the obvious gateway of MANAGER.SYS,PUB.

This is the manager’s account, and it will usually be protected by a User password and an Account password. These will be invaluable later, since most managers hate to memorize more than a few passwords and they need to have access to more than a few accounts. I can’t really help you on hacking the passwords. That’s usually where guesswork and intuition come in. Sorry.

Don't be one of the "most managers who hate to memorize."

Showing this kind of information to hackers can rankle some system managers. It's as if writing about it will make it easier to breach a 3000 system. You might be able to use brute force guessing software to come up with an account.user password set. But the multiple attempts should trigger some alarm in your systems protection.

The protected levels of the 3000 throw up another dilemma for Eastwind, too.

An HP 3000 has a few problems from a hackers view. You see, once you get on with your very own account, you still can’t see any files no matter how powerful you are. What you must do is to logon under the different accounts on the system to see what each person has to look at.

There are ways to get around this I am learning, but it’s too much for a first time type of thing, so call back later.

Ensure your passwords are strong, unique, and changed often on your HP 3000. That's some serious protection to add before a phreak like Eastwind blows past your system. It's the locked door theory of burglary prevention. The bad guys tend to move to the next house, if the door is secured.

08:35 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2008

OpenMPE: Another opening, another vote

For the sixth springtime in a row, OpenMPE has opened its board of directors call which always precedes the group's annual election. This time around, however, two-thirds of the board of director seats are up for grabs.

In years past that has meant that nearly everybody who wants to volunteer for OpenMPE can win a post doing just that. In the past two elections candidates outnumbered open posts by exactly one. There's not a lot of perks to recommend this work. No pay, no office, not even a free e-mail account. Just hours of work talking to HP and one another about How's It Gonna End, to crib from a fine Tom Waits song.

What's going to end, someday, is HP's explicit involvement with the HP 3000, as well as sending out updates to the 3000's operating system. Not this year, no. But maybe next year, or in 2010, the vendor will be putting its source of MPE/iX away for good. OpenMPE has really always been about that moment. One of the three people in OpenMPE whose seat isn't up for grabs, Birket Foster, has long said the group only wants to make sure the operating environment is tucked away in HP's hibernation caverns so the community can wake it up way out there in the future.

If these two things seem in opposition — the need to dig up from the archives a product whichh HP wants to put to rest forever — then that explains why so many OpenMPE requests and demands have gotten the "we will see" answer your parents gave you when they didn't want to tell you no as a kid. HP never saw the need for OpenMPE, but the vendor has expressed gratitude for what the advocates have wrenched from HP's endgame machinery.

But you could see all that for yourself on the board, which is looking for candidates right now. Send an e-mail to board secretary Donna Garverick-Hofmeister to toss a hat into this year's ring. The voting begins Feb. 11 and runs through Feb. 29. You need to be a member to vote, but that's free, by joining at OpenMPE's Web page for membership.

I can't be expected to be objective about this election this spring. I care enough about the future of OpenMPE to have been a "neutral observer" for the last three votes. I don't think OpenMPE should be abolished or broken up like some Ma Bell monopoly, a sentiment I actually heard during 2007. The group has got its board to bird-dog questions like "who's taking care of HPSUSAN numbers in 2011?"

Frankly, if OpenMPE didn't exist, plenty of support-paying HP customers would be asking questions like those — and not under confidential disclosure restrictions, like the OpenMPE board members have to endure. One of my good friends in this community, John Burke, joined the board for a few years just after protesting the CDA handcuffs. Then he wore them for two years, while he watched the give and take between HP and 3000 advocates.

So that's already been done, the "protest and then join up" dance around this nine-member board leading perhaps 125 registered voters. Numbers don't mean what they used to in this marketplace, a spot where having a few thousand customers means you're one of the biggest players. You don't even have to admire the way OpenMPE operates to get a chance to volunteer.

Six spots are up for election this year, since five posts were scheduled to be voted upon and director Paul Edwards retired as well. One of the few genuine benefits of being on this board is the chance to hear from HP directly on the platform's future, with perhaps just a little more candor than a reporter like me will get. That's what confidentiality will earn you, along with the information about the 3000's remaining days at HP. There's always the chance that a board director's actions can influence HP's, too. That outcome would be the best you could hope for in serving on this board.

05:36 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2008

New slim solutions from HP

While Apple was using January to introduce its ultra-slim MacBook Air computer, HP rolled out a different kind of skinny computing with the introduction of three thin clients, the computer desktop choice with no moving parts. The only thing that moves are the bytes to connect to a company-wide server.

6720t HP 3000 customers are choosing Windows as a replacement environment when they migrate away from the 3000, and some of these migrating firms are pursuing a drastic reduction in capital costs. HP says that thin clients can offer up to 25 percent savings over desktops' capital costs and up to 80 percent in maintenance savings.

What's most interesting is that these new thin clients will not ship from HP bearing Windows Vista. Microsoft's Windows XPe is loaded onto solid-state wonders like the HP Compaq 6720t Mobile Thin Client. This is a thin client meant to be used like a laptop, but with all of its data hosted on a server instead of a local drive, HP says.

Mobilethinlaptop The newest model, one of the first three HP rolled out since it bought thin client specialist Neoware last year, looks pretty much like a laptop. What's of interest in this $725 solution is what has been excised from the traditional client concept. Weight. Storage (just a 1GB flash drive stores data locally). Oh, and power. If you choose HP's slimmest desktop (above), expect the energy consumption to go from 80 watts to 16. Even the mobile thin client laptop only draws 65 watts when it's plugged in for charging.

You can excise more than just the bloat of Vista in this thin client solution, too. Microsoft doesn't even have to be on the system, although the XP's e does stand for embedded. A new thin client from HP doesn't have to put you in bed with Microsoft at all.

The non-Microsoft option is the Debian distro of Linux on the configuration menu. Choosing Linux might make plucking off the shelf applications more difficult. But Linux on a thin client is a choice that will keep a customer from being bound to both hardware (HP/Intel) and OS supplier (Microsoft) at once.

You know, the old HP 3000 business model. Single-source computing has been elegant and efficient, but captivity has its costs once the vendor changes business plans.

Selling a computer with not much on the desk has always been one of HP's computing dreams. Before laptops ruled the desktop, HP wanted little more than an intelligent terminal on your company desks, talking to the 3000 in the IT department, with nothing except keys moving in the solution. Customers wanted their full-featured clients then, but that was a world without the online options of today.

But the workforce still sees value in those desktops and notebooks. HP would like companies to choose to make incremental deployments as they look to replace older PCs. Or not so old HP 3000s attached to those older PCs.

EWeek ran an article that quoted Tad Bodeman of HP's Thin Client Business Unit, saying younger workers won't even miss the laptop their dad or mom used to carry back and forth from the office.

"The kids that are coming out of college today have grown up on-line," said Bodeman. "They are coming out of universities and they don't want to have [Microsoft] Outlook because IT went through this process of updating the PC environment. They just want to come in and go to a Web-based application and do what they have to do to be productive. So there is a very cultural transition that is taking place…We will increasingly see the PC become an on-line experience."

06:25 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2008

Leadership for the community

The HP 3000 community heads into its seventh year of Transition as of this month, and the customers both migrating and homesteading look toward leadership. Candidates abound for spots to direct the community, with the influence of ideas and the strength of customers — not to mention the years of dedication.

But who will stand out this year, the last one that HP claims to be fixing MPE/iX's bugs and problems? There's HP itself, with Jennie Hou speaking at for the 3000 operations. Ross McDonald is calling the shots on lab resources, however, and other HP executives in the HP Services group steer HP's 3000 future even closer – but make no appearance of leadership.

Platinum Migration partners offer a good prospect for leaders. HP began with four of these, but both of the remaining players serve both homesteading and migrating HP 3000 shops, which permits Birket Foster at MB Foster and Chris Koppe at Speedware to wield much influence among the community. Both men, incidentally, hold board of director posts — Koppe at the Encompass user group, Foster still chairman of OpenMPE.

Another leadership angle comes from the biggest customer shares among the 3000 community. Adager, Robelle and VEsoft all count their customers in the thousands, and each of these companies have offered solutions and solved problems since 1980 and even before, for Adager and Robelle. If there is to be a winking out of the light of the 3000, it's impossible to imagine these three companies not being on the scene to say goodnight to all.

But can any user or advocacy organization really reach for leadership of the 3000 community, both staying and going? Encompass has its eyes set on the migrating customers. OpenMPE has been serving the end-game needs of homesteaders. One group has resources but seems set to lead away from 3000 futures. The other is starved for resources and stymied to unearth any resolve from HP to dictate the vendor's end-game's rules. Always, HP has said, the most vital questions on post-3000 life will be answered later, closest the time the vendor exits.

This all comes to mind as another HP 3000-related conference (GHRUG's) opens up for registration, while OpenMPE nears its sixth board of directors vote, coming up in just a few weeks' time. I wonder if either of these organizations have the means or clear path to lead a community which is moving in disparate directions.

Others have led at times by example, most notably the European 3000 solution partners Alan Yeo of ScreenJet and Michael Marxmeier providing Eloquence. Yeo and Marxmeier have sparked two gatherings, aided by support from Platinum partners and other 3000 solution suppliers. They're done so by tapping a network of allies, sometimes on very short notice.

And then there's the Resource 3000 partners, both those with voting shares and the others who participate but don't determine that alliance's future. Few companies can count on the PA-RISC experience of Allegro Consultants, and it's PA-RISC that will drive HP 3000 systems until the last machine is powered down. Technical prowess and the savvy to support MPE/iX in its eldest versions can go a long way to leading the way.

Despite what you might hear from some quarters, the death march and hospice care hasn't commenced yet. There's no lack of resources still committed to the system, judging from the growing number of support providers, joining the ranks of Pivital Solutions, Beechglen and even one of the eldest 3000 support companies, GSA. Deep experience resides in the offices of the community's hardware brokers, too.

We could go on, to mention other players still deep in 3000 work, like Acucorp, Micro Focus and Transoft, all of whom have target-platform background to lean upon. But while I don't think this is a time to crown a king of all the provinces our your community, I am listening for a clear voice, perhaps a chorus in harmony, whose hot breath might clear a foggy 3000 outlook. Answers to questions about putting the 3000's source code in a safe place need to emerge from HP. Perhaps a collection of the voices above, working together, could elicit the replies so many have sought for so long.

If you're reading this and wondering why your company or name has not cropped up in my survey — why the application providers are absent, or a quarter-century of savvy doesn't earn a mention, forgive my incomplete search. I'd enjoy hearing from a community member who craves this leadership post but has been overlooked. In this time of Transition, which is lasting so much longer than HP ever estimated, the community needs all the vision that it can get. Some sort of alliance seems a good candidate for the voice of the customer and partner.

11:37 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2008

Spring GHRUG show moves forward

Bouncing back from a delay of six months, the GHRUG user group's two-day conference is proceeding to its March 14-15 dates, including Alfredo Rego of Adager as its keynoter.

The five-track meeting promises up to 70 speaker slots, with many already filled in at the event's Web site. The University of Houston Clear Lake Campus, just south of the city and on the way to the Gulf of Mexico's inviting shores, will host the meeting.

Pre-registration is already underway for the two-day meeting that will include tracks on Homesteading and Migration education, as well as a full track on the useful and efficient HP blade server technology. A PDF form, to be returned to the user group by e-mail or postal main, gets you in for $175. A Web page not only shows who's already set to present, but invites speakers to fill in still-open slots.

GHRUG is working with HP user group Encompass to promote the event, according to reports. The speaker lineup related to HP 3000s includes some of most experienced experts in the field for the Homesteading and Migration tracks.

Paul Edwards and Gilles Schipper, both independent support providers and experienced in HP 3000 techniques, will speak in the Homestead track. Migration speakers include MB Foster's Birket Foster and Speedware's Chris Koppe, both of whom delivered high-grade talks on the state of transition during last fall's e3000 Community Meet by the Bayside.

Other sessions include updates on Java for the HP 3000 and OpenMPE director Ann Howard leading two days of instruction on HP's blade server technology. Blades, according to Scott Hirsh of HP's leading reseller Logicalis, are a solution best-suited to the customer who's choosing HP as their replacement vendor.

Add the esteemed Unix guru Bill Hassel and best practices talks onn subjects such as application portfolio management, and you've got a very full two days of education. Plus, you could argue an extraordinary value at $175.

07:42 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2008

Homesteaders dodge risky business(es)

Long ago, it seems, HP said that risks revolve around using the HP 3000 as a mission-critical platform. There are risks in using any computing solution, from security breaches and malware to the general malaise of applications and platforms which under-perform while being over-promised, or exhibit flash-of-light lifespans.

For the HP 3000 site which homesteads, however, a risk does not lie in MPE/iX, IMAGE or the hardware that hosts those two marvels of software. No, the prospective fault lies not in ourselves, as customers, but in those stars of suppliers, to twist a bit of Shakespeare around. Put more plainly, providers going out of business pose the greatest risk, according to Resource 3000's Stan Sieler.

Sieler, who's part of the Allegro Consultants' brain trust, addressed the question at the most recent e3000 Community Meet in the Bay Area. "The biggest risk I've seen is vendors going out of business," he reported. "We've had customers using Bradford's SPEEDEDIT, and SPEEDEDIT has a bug in it as of 2007 which made it stop running because of a weird clock limitation." Allegro patched around the problem for those customers. Bradford Business Solutions supports SPEEDEDIT no more.

But there's a more widespread risk: Being unable to move any application or solution from one system to another. Upgrade your 3000 at the sweet prices of today and you might find some programs are frozen onto the older hardware.

HP suggested just this scenario when it said the 3000's "ecosystem" was at risk before HP decided to curtail its HP 3000 business plans. Looking into the matter's history is a matter of chicken-or-egg coming first. Would Bradford Business Systems have gone so dark by 2007 if HP had maintained its 3000 business? Difficult to tell, but any system vendor dropping out of the server's market certainly doesn't help.

What helps avoid this risk is choosing long-term, stable HP 3000 suppliers, ones with a lengthy track record and an avowed dedication to continuing to serve your community. HPSUSAN numbers identify new HP 3000 servers; active and dedicated vendors can accomodate new HPSUSAN numbers. Gone-dark vendors' software can only run on older system HPSUSAN numbers.

Sieler suggested one way to solve the problem might be contacting HP to request a move of an old HPSUSAN number to a new server. After all, every customer is paying $400 to have each MPE/iX license transferred from old server to newly purchased system.

There's little a customer can count upon, either from HP or a gone-dark vendor, to dodge this kind of software risk. But Sieler mentioned another risk that's cropping up. "I've seen a surprising number of sites that have hit the Third Bear of IMAGE, from Fred White's paper," he said.

This third bear is "BABY BEAR," wrote White, who created the IMAGE database along with Jon Bale at HP. "It is represented by 'paths,' another feature whose misuse, while normally not disastrous, may have a negative effect on response time and/or throughput."

White's exacting and detailed paper is available to read either online at the Adager Web site, or as a downloadable PDF file. But the awareness of this bear will depend on who's left at a 3000 customer base who understands the database at the heart of their 3000.

"They're running along fine, and suddenly their database stops performing well," Sieler said. "It's a problem that's well-known in the 3000 community, but [it's] only [identified] if they have people in their business who know anything about the 3000. That's when people call me with sudden performance problems."

The way to beat the bear is the same solution as dodging the HPSUSAN and new bug risks: HP 3000 expertise, engaged either through a support contract with a third party, or continuing your support with an application or tool provider. Risk aversion is the HP 3000 owners' hallmark. Keeping a budget alive to maintain links to expertise is a 3000 habit which can avoid risky business.

Just because the HP 3000 lunch has gotten inexpensive doesn't mean it's free.

06:11 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2008

Small support shops fill big shoes

Across the 3000 community, from one end of the US to another and on to the lands beyond North America, individuals and small companies keep 3000s running. Not necessarily just their own systems, either. In various sizes, firms deploy years of MPE/iX experience, sometimes from a single expert, to make sure a 3000 stays mission critical.

Michael Anderson left the Spring Independent School District in Texas this year, taking his knowledge to launch J3K Solutions. He emphasizes in COBOL for now after doing freelance support for a Houston-area 3000 customer. He tended to the customer's application faithfully. A disk failed a few years ago at this client's site and Anderson introduced the concept of "backup" (don't laugh) and created scripts to apply this essential process.

The range of support from independents runs from the Pivital Solutions and Allegro/Ideal concepts, with multiple experts and a team to send on-site, to teams specializing in PowerHouse like id Enterprises, all the way down to one-man operations. Somewhere in between are companies like Data Management Associates, run by Ralph Berkebile and dedicated to users in the Southern California area. Re-dedicated with a sense of reprieve, he reported recently.

The shoes these supporters fill are those of HP, still making its exit from MPE/iX and even HP-UX support.

Berkebile is still working on the homesteading and data migration initiatives for his company. Meanwhile, there's 3000s to support. DMA was at the Bay Area e3000 Community Meet in November, and came away with a sense that there's ample time left on the 3000 community clock.

We will focus on our local West Coast clients in 2008,  in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and three potential California Government clients by continuing to provide software support and development for their applications and systems. In addition, we will provide decision support, data marts and data warehousing for our clients' research.

All of our associates will continue with their migration and homesteading training. We plan on teaming with Paul Edwards for our MPE training and MB Foster for additional migration training. HP’s extension until 2010 (beyond for some) and the sense of reprieve we felt at the Bay Meeting 2007 has changed our focus for 2008, but not our long term goals!

The goals, shared by hardware suppliers like Genisys, Black River Computer and Bay Pointe Technology, as well as support teams like Resource 3000 and Pivital, is to let the 3000 customer set their own schedule for migration. Or push on with the version of MPE/iX while isn't broken and doesn't need to be fixed.

Whatever is possible can be done with this small-to-medium-to-large support network. But expect a lot of small players to continue to enter the field. Their clients can be real boutique operations, after all. Just this week we heard of a customer requesting independent support for MPE/iX 4.0.

Who else but a modest support company would even consider supporting an operating system released more than 15 years ago?

05:14 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2008

Do 3000 people score 5 on openness?

More than five years ago, debates still raged over which desktop environment was best for business. HP 3000 pros and veterans discussed the subject at length on the 3000-L mailing list. Everybody agreed that the Mac was a minority choice; many of these pros overlooked the fact that the HP 3000 was a minority choice, too. The system never cracked 70,000 units sold. Today's VMS and AS/400 communities still count more than 300,000 each.

Air But Mac vs. PC must have become less of a technical argument, because a growing number of the most seasoned 3000 developers and management experts now use Macs. I spent some time with a few of them during my MacWorld trip this week. Many others have adopted the Mac as their desktop of choice, if not switching altogether.

You might be surprised at this list of users. Alfredo Rego and Rene Woc of Adager. Former SIGSysman chairman of 10 years Scott Hirsh. Java on HP 3000 guru Mike Yawn. IMAGE database creator Fred White. 3000 consultant, developer and aide to backup vendors Bruce Hobbs. Father of the HP 3000 open source revolution Mark Klein, who's the former lab director for Orbit Software. Michael Casteel, who wrote the Unison Maestro job scheduler (as well as a Solitaire program for Macs.)

I'm sometimes surprised at who I find booting up with an Apple logo on their screen after decades of HP 3000 use, coupled with Windows experience. Pleasantly surprised, because like all of those above, I boot that way, using a Unix that's had its thorns pulled. A Mac chooser is what a branding company calls "a customer with Openness 5," according to a Computerworld article. I think openness goes right alongside using HP 3000s. Your community still thinks different — even when it is migrating.

It might all sound like hooey to our community members, especially they can quote chapter and verse about how Apple has let them down before in the IT enterprise, or their Windows wizardry is beyond compare. But choosing to use a Mac, on a desktop or otherwise, shows an open mind, according to Mindset Media.

People who prefer Apple’s Macintosh computers over PCs have long been thought to be on the artsy, hip end of the personality spectrum -- and now a study proves that “Mac people” indeed are more liberal and open-minded than average folks.

According to Mindset Media, people who purchase Macs fall into what the branding company calls the “Openness 5” personality category -- which means they are more liberal, less modest and more assured of their own superiority than the population at large.

Just a few years back that all would equate to "arrogant" in the minds of the Windows advocate. The branding even suggests getting into the Mac world is more than fleeing the complexity of Windows.

So-called Openness 5 types tend to seek rich, varied and novel experiences, according to the company, and believe that imagination and intellectual curiosity are as important to life as more rational or pragmatic endeavors. They also are receptive to their own inner feelings and may experience life with more emotional intensity.

But the Mac also shows evidence of embracing Openness 1-4. Windows has turned up running on Macs in darn good emulations from the likes of VMWare and others. And then Vista surfaced, which IT shops have rejected so roundly that InfoWorld is cooking up a "Save XP" campaign.

We weren't surprised to learn that Microsoft won't be selling XP by the middle of this year. That's business as usual in IT. But the move is also a rude bum's rush, according to the weekly trade magazine that's often been a bastion of Windows.

Today, January 14, we’re formally introducing the Save Windows XP petition. That’s right, with Microsoft saying it will stop both OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of the OS come June 30, the clock is ticking. But we know lots of you want to keep XP alive, to not be forced to upgrade to the less-than-stellar Vista, if I may be euphemistic. “Millions of us have grown comfortable with XP and don't see a need to change to Vista. It's like having a comfortable apartment that you've enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice," Randall Kennedy explains.

You can sign the petition at saveXP.com.

There's no need to start a religious war over this choice. Switching is a personal matter, but at the MacWorld's IT Conference, experts who administer the OS on thousands of their organizations' desktops believe they have the upper hand on support, user interface and even interoperability, now that Vista has galvanized the buy-new-peripherals marketplace.

Vista, says one reviewer for InfoWorld, is like a Boy Scout on espresso beans, reminding you of everything you're doing. The Mac is more like a butler, staying out of your way until you need help.

It's silly to believe that the tide will turn in the marketplace and Mac OS X will ever come close to the 90 percent market share Windows counts upon. "What does it matter whether you live in a large city or a small town? The real life is within."

Napping Your 3000 community is becoming a small town, but not anywhere near as fast as HP or the experts predicted. I was told in 2002 by a marketing staffer at Interex that the NewsWire "had better get a new business model" instead of covering the 3000. That person was not even among the Interex staff finding new jobs when the user group melted down in 2005.

To be sure, the Mac community is rabid and odd in some places, but developers now offer solutions for both Windows and Mac. Even the Pzziz power-napping software, used at Google and other places, has both Mac and Windows versions. Can I say my best 20 minutes of the MacWorld show was spent napping right down on the expo area with 10,000 users all around me? (Oops, I guess I just did. Insert your own joke here, if you want.)

Migrating on your own schedule, or choosing a cross-environment desktop and server solution, those show open mindedness. I won't try to assign a number to this quality, but for 23 years I've seen open in ample supply among 3000 users.

04:26 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 16, 2008

Your next Unix platform?

Go ahead and snigger, or scoff. Dismiss another version of Unix if you want. But when you're considering a replacement for the HP 3000 in your enterprise, you could think beyond Windows. Being at MacWorld this week, as I have been, makes it easier to promote Apple's OS X as your next MPE/iX alternative.

We have posted stories about enterprise level applications on our blog last year, during the 2007 MacWorld. But never mind about this year's Steve Jobs Turtleneck Talk, sending out hours of hot air with the new MacBook Air portable. This conference also has an IT track, where the advice to managers mentioned a major change for Apple's environment.

OS X is now one of just four Unix implementations with official certification:

The official UNIX 03 certification, which entitled the company to use the Unix brand came from the Open Group thanks in part to the efforts of Apple's OS boss Kevin Van Vechten and his team and puts Mac OS X Leopard alongside the Big Three: Sun, IBM, and HP, according to Infoworld.

Of those three, HP really wants to sell the 3000 customer HP-UX. Except oops, that environment doesn't have a desktop client. OS X does. Sure cuts down on the learning curve.

Then there's the question of app availability. There are company suppliers for large enterprises here, though not the SAP-level solution peddlers. But that absence is not really a bad thing for the average HP 3000 shop, serving a small to medium business (SMB)

A few examples show the range:

Hansaworld Enterprise, just entering the US after 70,000 customers landed in 90 countries. Not all of it OS X; the vast suite of ERP, CRM and all that surrounds those key apps, well, it runs under Windows and Linux, too.

MacPractice, a series of programs to serve the small medical practice. So tailored they've got magnetic imaging, dentist, family practice and even chiropractic versions. The HP 3000 has a dental practice solution, so MacPractice could step in. Even work under that standard Unix.

Lightspeed, a Point of Sale and e-commerce integrated solution for retail sites. Web sales, storefront — you can even check on daily sales from an iPhone.

There's more, like a slick shipping package that prints the 4x6 labels on standard Avery forms, updated at $20 a month with the latest UPS and USPS rates and rules.

The biggest impetus to starting the shift to Mac OS X turns out to be tradition: the traditional think tank report from the likes of Gartner, claiming OS X isn't enterprise ready. (Don't tell that to Genentech, which has been running its company on Macs for many years.)

The other roadblock will be the remaining IT staff, often versed and comfortable in the Windows solutions. At the IT Conference here, the customers who spoke suggested a sell to your company's top execs. Most of the time on the desktop, the calls are 1:10, Macs to Windows machines. That's productivity for both users and help desks.

Finally, there's a swelling support for open source solutions that work well with OS X. The 3000 sites that are leaning toward Linux will do well to measure open source options for both Linux and OS X.

By the way, some of your community's most savvy developers are using Macs on their desktops now. And loving it, even after years of Windows. You don't need to wear a black turtleneck to believe them, either.

02:48 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2008

Be exhaustive and Eloquent in show choices

Even as I research the world of the enterprise Mac and OS X today, I recognize that's further afield than many HP 3000 sites are willing to migrate. There's good choices for conferences much closer at hand, in the sense that they are nearer to what you know. One show even features the closest solution to IMAGE, the one tool you will miss the most in Life After the HP 3000.

Eloquence is hosting its 2008 conference for the IMAGE workalike database, with a special focus on the TurboIMAGE user, next month on Feb. 22. A discount rate for a hotel convenient to the Ratingen, Germany show venue expires on January 21. Marxmeier AG, creators and suppliers of Eloquence, call their meeting the Eloquence TurboIMAGE Conference.

This technical conference is a forum for customers and partners with a special interest in the Eloquence TurboIMAGE compatibility functionality. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about recent developments for Eloquence and the Eloquence TurboIMAGE option. Meet the Marxmeier Software AG R&D team, obtain the latest information on new releases and features, discuss your experiences, share thoughts and network with peers.

View an agenda online at the Marxmeier site, and register there. Enjoy a Feb. 21 pre-conference dinner, much like the productive one at last fall's e3000 Community Meet.

HP's opened up the registration for its Software Universe in June, too:

Register now for HP Software Universe. It’s the Venetian in Vegas again this year

Optimizing the business outcome of your IT efforts is what HP Software Universe is all about. We’ve got even more solutions this year to help you contribute to your company’s success, so join us at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas on June 17-19, 2008.

HP specialists, industry experts and IT professionals from HP customer firms will present more than 150 track sessions that span IT concerns from business and IT alignment to application quality management to service management to data center transformation. It’s your chance to learn how to get more out of the solutions you have—and explore possibilities you haven’t considered yet.

Now the Universe costs $1,395 at the moment, and will be more expensive before long. But hey, it's the Universe we're talking about. I hope to be talking about it on my June trip to the desert.

07:08 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2008

Off to look at another Unix

Sooner or later, the community's experts say, your computing will be done on a system other than an HP 3000. More to the point, your applications — whether you replace them, migrate code, or dream up another alternative — will run on an environment other than MPE/iX and IMAGE.

Your time to migrate may not have come. It might never arrive while you're in charge of IT at your company. But when the movement comes, why not choose Unix?

And if you're choosing Unix, why not choose OS X, and the Macintosh?

I mean to get more information to that question, so I'm heading off to San Francisco today for the 2008 MacWorld conference. No, I'm not standing on line at 5AM to hear Steve Jobs talk about his latest movie download service or phone feature. Jobs is a powerful speaker, and Apple is quite the visionary about Thinking Different. But the Black Turtleneck talk is more sport than business.

But since we spend a good slice of our time these days thinking about business on Unix here in the 3000 community, why discriminate? Apple may not practice all that it should yet to pursue IT enterprise business. But neither did HP when the 3000 market changed in the 1990s, and suddenly Unix and Windows were right alongside the proven MPE/iX environments. HP had to evolve the 3000 message.

The OS X environment now has VMWare selling a virtualization solution. You can hardly swing a dead mouse at an HP Windows talk without hearing about the vendor's close partnership with VMWare. An enterprise server-based virtualization solution for OS X Server is on the horizon, too.

Wednesday kicks off a two-day Mac IT conference within this week's MacWorld, a conference that's like the old Interex conferences of the 1990s: A solitary gathering point for the user and management community of OS X. Developers get their own once-a-year show in summer, sort of like the IPROF meetings of the old 3000 days.

I expect Mac IT users to have the same needs they had last year — namely, Apple needs to beef up its support for enterprise customers. This has a familiar ring too, if you attended the HP Management Roundtable events from the Interex days.

The OS X advantage is that this OS X experience won't be assaulted by open source, or balloon into paying the Windows upgrading price. OS X is an environment known for a low level of maintenance and long lifespan of utility.

I've heard about the health and medical community's solutions and prospects for using OS X as a solution. There's even an Amisys user out there in the 3000 community right now which is considering OS X as the right Unix to migrate toward. Even through Amisys Advance isn't supported on Macs.

But small business solutions are out there for the 3000 user who's headed off the platform. Just as one example, MacPractice is a leading Mac developer in healthcare, with 2,000 doctor’s offices representing 14,000 Mac users. At the show they'll demonstrate new features including integrated EMR, and medical and dental imaging.

Now 14,000 might not be a number to impress the 3000 site moving to Windows. But a focused application like medical practice management probably doesn't have a single vendor servicing, oh, more than twice as many offices, even on Windows. And the apps are the life of the computing customer. The environment is often secondary.

Analysts say that Apple could do more for the enterprise customer. And given that Apple is flush with cash, and seen its stock rise to the point that the company has a market cap bigger than HP's, Apple has the money to invest.

For a look at the state of today's Mac IT enterprise prospects, read this report from Information Week. (Not exactly a publication known for being Mac rabid.) Don't forget to check out the clear-eyed and realistic comparison review of Vista and Leopard, the two desktop choices du jour.

If you must think different about your company's IT future, you might as well reach for more than different. Maybe better and different.

06:25 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2008

Learning about a missed opportunity

What would HP have looked like, or dreamed up, if not for a choice it made 30 years ago? We found this quote out in the IT enterprise trade journal world.

HP had a campaign for its new Touchscreen desktops in the 1980s called "Imagine." It even had a cute butterfly. So your vendor is capable of letting its corporate hair down, more so now than ever.

But not when it mattered, at least back in the days when choices were being made like Bill Gates bringing on MS-DOS. Here's the story, one that Steve Jobs may not tell next week at MacWorld:

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.' "

With Apple's stock now trading at almost three times the cost of HP's, Jobs still hasn't gotten through college. I don't believe Bill Gates has, either.

Apparently there's an education to be earned in many places.

06:49 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2008

Mission-critical, disaster-ready, in big places

HP eased your community into the Transition Era for 3000s with a tidy sweep of the broom. Companies would be staying on the HP 3000 for years to come, yes. But they'd be small companies, or enterprises with little to no growth.

You get the idea. The large companies will be migrating, or already have done so. This has been true in lots of places. But don't think that the message is always homesteading = a small, static company.

A few days ago I heard from Matt Perdue, who runs Hill Country Technologies. He's a vendor and partner to the 3000 community who offers Internet services, 3000 consulting, Amisys expertise, and disaster recovery, even down to a turnkey level. His clients are 3000 sites around North America. He passed us a report of a new client, still using a 3000 — a finance firm of hefty size, undaunted by the risk, as HP maintains, of using the system in mission-critical operations.

Perdue, who serves on the OpenMPE board of directors and also supplies HP 9000 and Linux disaster recovery, wrote us:

Hill Country Technologies, Inc. is pleased to announce that it will be providing disaster recovery services to a leading financial services company in Mexico whose parent company has operations in more than 60 countries and is listed in the top 15 in Forbes Global 2000 and Forbes International 500 lists (2003).

Perdue probably made the greatest deal in the history of the 3000 market in 2006 when he bought a used Series 987 from the Spring Independent School District in Texas, paying just $100. He said the server, a real workhorse of its day that Spring listed in an auction starting at $5, is carrying DR and administration duties nicely.

That 987 is still serving well. I use it to install and test disc drives and get them formatted for use. It sure comes in handy to have a machine to dedicate to that task. Also it’s served as a backup server for a client for a short period of time — it matched what they had in production.

12:03 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2008

Open source technology, or products — choose, dude

Dude Last fall I reported that an HP manager cast doubts about the mission-critical stature of some open source software. David Claypool said in an HP Technology Forum talk that an open source solution better have evolved beyond technology to product status, if you want to consider using it. Evolve here apparently means being part of a company's product line, from what I understand.

Okay, October of 2006 seems a long time ago, but Claypool said he just located the blog report. He sent me an extensive rebuttal, attached to the original post. I love comments on blog entries, even when they tell me, like this HP Product Manager in Technical Marketing did, "I think you took my comments out of context and you missed the point."

Claypool has a lot more to say about his talk and how he believes I misunderstood it. "The important thing," he says, "is to distinguish between open source technologies and open source products. When it comes to a bet-your-business decision to adopt a product, no one in their right mind should plan on doing an Internet search and download a zero-dot-whatever release of something an individual has crafted."

Using that zero-dot stuff is pretty foolish, to be sure. But the cartoon above spoke to this creeping commercial elitism I see entering the open source world. Apparently, if your open source solution doesn't have a company attached to it, and collecting support fees and managing your updates, you're riding bareback.

I think perhaps David doesn't know much about the HP 3000 community, which only got its first working Web server once an individual, the brilliant Mark Bixby, ported Apache to MPE/iX. HP later took it on as a supported product, but millions of sites use Apache in commercial situations without a care for what company the solution gets sold by. Apache is well tested, yes. But in 12 months, HP won't be patching it anymore.

Missing the point? People are choosing open source for several reasons, but one significant motive in the 3000 market is a way to avoid a trap by a vendor. Forgive this community if they don't feel safe in the arms of a single supplier. I know of one vendor who's active in migrating 3000 customers, and they don't want to use much that isn't open source. Products, yes, but not always offered by companies.

Claypool makes a good point about using tested products in mission-critical enterprises. Typical HP 3000 shops are risk-averse and late adopters, so they test like a fish draws water. What’s more, HP has often given the community open source products with no support except the open source community. Python, now Java, the list goes on and on. Some were candidates for support, but never made it. Others were never considered. Still, HP does a good thing by making the latest software available on its Jazz Web site. Disclaimers abound, sure. But sites use this open source to run their companies.

Company-supported open source products aren't available for 3000 shops now, and you might argue that's a  reason to migrate away from the platform. Technologies are just about all that the staying-on-the-platform 3000 sites have left in open source. I don't think I misunderstood when Claypool said:

“I’m not going to trust my business to some hacker in Denmark who’s got a ring in his nose and is awake when I’m asleep and asleep when I’m awake.”

And thus, the cute cartoon above, complete with beanbag chair. One wonders what developers outside North America wear, or when they work. But they do develop for HP, even while you're asleep.

This kind message paints independent work from in the open source community with an insinuating brush. The vendor is of more than one mind on this subject. HP believes its 3000 customers are capable of keeping up open source solutions, or the company wouldn't have put out an open source porting paper last month all about updating Samba. That's not bedtime reading for a home computing hobbyist. It's doing your own support, using the power of the worldwide open source bazaar, instead of a commercial cathedral. And frankly, the value-for-money measure of paid support for open source products varies widely.

I still believe Claypool's point sounded like only a company could provide an open source product for mission-critical user. There's this sound of vendors using source code to slide toward profit, even while they capture customers who want independence. Lots of companies bet their business on open source products not  offered by companies. There was a time when the Contributed Software Library, the 1980s version of open source, powered some operations at companies like Boeing. Just like many customers, such as air carriers like WestJet, still use a product called the HP 3000  — despite HP’s declining-to-zero-someday support.

I'll give Claypool his last word, to be fair. Watch for his warning that using raw code means that you have to be self-reliant — a skill which much of this community has been polishing since 2002.

Certainly, it’s possible and may even be prudent for some to download and run the bits from a raw open source project — but it’s incumbent upon the adopter to understand the commitment to self-reliance that’s being made if it’s being used in any operational or revenue-producing capacity.

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

January 08, 2008

Using a migration general contractor's blueprint

After six years of HP 3000 migration work and experiments, there's a lot of software and experience to use to ensure a migration succeeds. But how to educate yourself on what's right for your company?

A sensible solution is to engage a migration "general contractor" — a company that knows the details and can match the right materials, if you will, to build your mission-critical system that's a reliable and efficient as your HP 3000.

Capturing that knowledge can seem like a tall order for smaller companies, especially those who need to do the migration themselves. Speedware's Chris Koppe, whose company is one of several serving as migration contractors, outlined the advantages and options of using such a guide at the recent e3000 Community Meet.

For example, database migration tools need to make sure every byte has come across. Since the Eloquence database is a common choice for a migration, Koppe said his solution and others have data integrity tools to check Eloquence migrations.

Customers at the meet wondered if Eloquence can be a final database destination, or an interim choice. "Thirty to 50 percent of migrating customers walk in with a concept of Eloquence being a transitory solution because it's low-risk," Koppe said. "But once some of them see how it works, I've seen them scrub other projects. Once Eloquence is working, it's there, and customers have halted projected of 30 40 developers creating Java solutions."

Koppe noted several sites which have performed successful HP 3000 migrations, but no matter how big the IT staffs are, they often use a migration contractor. The education process from these guides, which is usually free, saves a lot of time and money.

For example, knowing about integration of new solutions is a key question. Eloquence also has extensibility through specific ODBC drivers from Minisoft and MB Foster, as well as its own ODBC layers. "It is easy to take the Eloquence technology footprint and extend it," Koppe said. "It's very easy to create a stable platform using it, one that can go on for 10 years or more." Suprtool created a version highly compatible with Eloquence for the fundamental "lift and shift" migrations.

Then there's the OpenTurbo tool from iMaxsoft. Koppe said it's the only company on the market we've seen so far to create successful bi-directional data migrations, to and from IMAGE databases."

Eloquence has served as a target database in conjunction with iMaxsoft's OpenTurbo for a  customer using bi-directional transfers, carving their monolithic COBOL application into chunks and bringing that to the new platform over six-months. "They could do bi-directional synchronization to keep the data snychronized during a multi-phase cut-over," Koppe reported.

Speedware has been a partner, along with its solutions providers and its contracted 3000 experts, for big HP 3000 sites. Koppe mentioned one firm, Expeditors International, which had more than 160 HP 3000s and migrated them one by one over a nine-month period. Another company he "couldn't mention by name, but we can probably figure out, a large insurance company with more than 400 HP 3000s," which executed a successful migration — because it utilized the best solutions from a wide range of companies.

The overall message: Getting a general contractor, so to speak, gives a migrating company a way to tap the experience of using a wide array of migration tools. MPEX commands, for example, need to be migrated if a customer leaves the HP 3000. AMXW does this, to some extent, in its current version.

How to discover such capabilities becomes a time-consuming research project for a migrating site, without experience from Platinum Migration Partners, or companies who reach out for technology partners. "We've seen projects go off the rails because of poor project management or poor planning," Koppe said.

Testing is the most labor-intensive part of the migration project. "And if you outsource the testing, it can become the most costly part. It's also the thing the organizations are most skilled to do in-house, because they know the applications."

There were things not to do:

  • Don't underestimate the effort. It's takes a lot of time and lot of effort, especially on the testing. Don't underestimate the test planning process; there's a lot of different types of testing. Koppe said his company has identified eight different types of testing.
  • Don't include too much. If if you're working at a modernization level, don't modernize everything at once. Pick out a few core pieces.

Typical phases of a migration begin with education and proceed to planning and budgeting, so management can approve and the IT staff can begin to deliver an overall cost. "Then they are nailing down the price of the work and nailing down the vendors for the software and the tools."

Platinum Migration Partners Speedware and MB Foster begin with a Migration Assessment, which is free. "It's a way to shortcut this education phase, and it's designed to tell us what you have, and we'll tell you what your options are.

The presentation which MB Foster and Speedware show to high-level management is "a blueprint which anyone can use, even if you plan to do your migration yourself. We can give you some level of assistance — to sell what you want to do to your executive management, even if you intend to do the whole thing yourself."

08:01 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2008

Scoop up an array of migration savvy

A migration project can fail even if its budget is in the tens of millions. As our WestJet report relayed on Friday, $31 million wasn't enough to keep a co-developed effort from crashing at the regional Canadian air carrier. the company continues to rely on HP 3000 software that it's been using for more than seven years.

One of the ways to avoid this kind of crash is to make the best choices across the whole menu of migration entrees. WestJet, which is still hiring for 3000 help on an interim basis, was developing a replacement application alongside a single software supplier.

Not so effective, says Chris Koppe of Speedware. The marketing director and Encompass user group board member spoke at the recent e3000 Community Meet. He cautioned community members about searching for migration solutions in a single spot.

"I think its a poor approach to go to one vendor and have that one vendor build everything in-house, and do everything in-house," Koppe said. "There's a lot of great technology out there, and a lot of technology out there to automate different aspects of the migration."

Koppe was laying out strategy for a genuine migration — that is, the movement of code and systems from the HP 3000 to another platform, in the hope of retaining business logic and sustaining design continuity. The greatest challenge in these kinds of projects, he added, is the complexity of the typical 3000 system. Dozens of programs and utilities, usually, make up a reliable system.

  just about every customer migration at some point or another, and the average count of technologies on a 3000 is somewhere between 20 and 40. That's things like Suprtool, MPEX and Adager, data transfer tools such as ODBCLink or its full-bodied cousin UDALink, the bedrock layers like IMAGE and COBOL II. Each and every one has to be replicated on the new system, or if not, the migrated system must replace the functionality, somehow.

"When you're transitioning off the box the problem is not the COBOL migration, or the JCL integration," Koppe said. "The problem is the integration of all of these technologies." Speedware's got a list of 3000 technologies that it uses to discover what a migration customer has installed. It's a 200-technology list. There's more there on the 3000 than even a diligent manager might know about.

With a list that large, even the companies which use off the shelf solutions have unique integrations. "Two companies with the same technologies do not have the same migration challenges," Koppe said. "They've coded things differently, or used different intrinsics, implemented in different ways."

Koppe did offer a list of Key Tools for the do-it-yourselfer. Ordina Denkart's MPUX, the AMXW suite — there are a host of these automated migration aids — that a migration coordinator, the companies HP called Platinum Partners, assess and advise for a migrating customer. (For the record, there are only two remaining e3000 Platinum Partners from HP's list of four in 2002: Speedware and MB Foster.)

Even thought modernization offers more dazzling results in a migration, that kind of project is still rare among the migrating 3000 site. Koppe said Speedware's been surprised at the number of "Lift and shift" migrations, whose aim is to get the working applications and systems off the 3000 and onto any other platform. This is an aim that's "very low risk," he said.

"I think it's part of the 3000 community culture," Koppe added. "If you're still on a 3000, it's because you're not an early adopter." Chuckles followed that statement at the Meet. "You aim for business continuity, and technology that offers the least threat to the business."


08:01 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2008

The migration stakes fly high at WestJet

Many HP 3000 customers are looking toward the future with plans to upgrade their computer systems. The plans these days often lean away from extra years for the 3000, which CIOs and executives consider unsupported — at least in the shorthand of the business press.

WestJet is one of the leading low-cost Canadian airlines and a long-time user of HP 3000s. The company installed Open Skies software back when the solution was available to individual firms. More than a decade later, the solution is still working as remote-hosted application, but WestJet has been working on a migration.

An article in the Canadian Financial Post showed how much the work has cost, and sad to say, reported a disappointing outcome of the migration. The overall outlook at WestJet is upbeat, according to the article. The carrier is working to become one of the top five international airlines by 2016. It's a more than $2 billion company now with 70 aircraft.

This is no Southwest Airlines, but WestJet wants to be one. It has also wanted to shift away from the HP 3000. The Post report took note of the price tag for a migration away from a working application.

Even through WestJet set a record for single-day ticket sales this year using an HP 3000 solution for $10.6 million in bookings, it's been working to leave the Navitaire Open Skies solution behind. The reasons for the departure of the 3000 quoted in the Post article centered on the HP 3000 being "unsupported."

The cost of the migration that failed was more than $30 million. And the old joke about that being "in Canadian dollars" doesn't fly anymore. Canada's dollar trades above the rate for the US Dollar by now.

The Post said in its story from late last month

WestJet reported in July a $32.1-million non-cash write-down related to a failed reservation system project, AirRes, with Travelport Inc.

WestJet is now in the fourth and final phase of upgrading its existing OpenSkies reservation and distribution system with Navitaire.

But [CEO Sean] Durfy said some decisions on the new reservation system will have to be made going forward, as it runs on an HP 3000 operating platform.The platform is archaic and likely won’t be supported by 2009, he said, so a decision will have to be made on that.

“I can tell you we won’t co-develop another system with anybody,” Durfy said.

Durfy is a CEO, and so can't be expected to know what the support outlook is for the HP 3000. But he's now seen a lesson on what it's like to make a well-working application take a back seat to something co-developed. Taking an application off the shelf, with some in-house modifications, or completely port what's working — those look like the migration choices which fly the furthest.

08:21 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 03, 2008

Mine those reports and data for value

When it comes to experts on ERP, the customers who use MANMAN are hard to beat. You take an class of users running an application that's been powering manufacturing sites for more than three decades, then carry the solution into the 21st Century, and you get a critical mass of expertise. Data mining is one skill these customers are practicing, an art that makes an HP 3000 work harder at a company, no matter how long the system's expected lifespan might be.

The heart of MANMAN savvy resides in CAMUS, a user group that began in the 1970s and is still holding conferences and putting out newsletters. The latest CAMUS news came to us over the holiday, an issue that includes an article on data mining of MANMAN information. Mining for data is not much different than mining for high-grade ore or gems; what you net is of greater value to your company.

Inside the latest issue of the CAMUS newsletter, Eric Estes of Titan Tool outlined how he used Monarch, a PC-based tool from Datawatch, to reformat reports from MANMAN. The GUI revival never did make it to MANMAN, at least not without third party solutions. Estes showed how a standard MANMAN report that looks like this (click to get a larger version):


Can have key information extracted by an administrator and imported into Monarch, to end up looking like this


Monarch may be very well known, but it is far from the only tool to be able to transform MANMAN's information into a more powerful corporate asset. Estes's example illustrates how the mission-critical data reports can be refined with third party solutions. The MBF-UDALink from MB Foster performs this kind of magic, and a lot more, by creating a data mart out of MANMAN information. Monarch works all over, but it has limits to what it can do.

A full data mart, as opposed to the relatively simple reformatting of a report, gives a company a wide range of solutions. A UDALink data mart can offer views such as vendor performance reporting, lead time analysis, reports on where components are used, tools to plan and forecast sales, and detailed operational analysis, just as examples.

Both of these products have the power to pump up a 3000's data, which often has untold value because it covers a decade or two. The Monarch solution sells for less than $1,000, but as a data mart tool it simply doesn't show up. Monarch makes existing MANMAN reports look less complex, something that regular end users can make some sense of. As Estes reported in his article

I’ve got the fields highlighted that I want to extract from the report, using what’s called a template in Monarch, and once I execute the import I wind up with all of the fields I require in what Monarch refers to as a table. I can then name the fields any way I want, or simply use the default names.

It looks much like an Excel spreadsheet with the field names across the top and the part numbers and related data in rows from top to bottom. A few more clicks of the mouse and the results are exported to an Excel work sheet. I primarily use this file as a source to lookup data for other exports.

A data mart supplies a more complete solution, considering what it delivers. At MB Foster, in addition to UDALink, the company delivers

  • A set of procedures for extracting and loading the data into the data mart structure
  • File Definitions (FDs) modified to suit your specific requirements
  • PSO personnel working with your team throughout the entire process to ensure a successful implementation
  • Deploying into your environment
  • Supporting the initial load

08:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2008

Help define your story's resolutions

On the first business day of 2008, the new year offers some opportunity to define the finish of your Transition Era. This is the 12-month period in which HP promises to wrap up its patch development for the system. HP hasn't confirmed it, but perhaps this is final year to have an impact on the release of the completed 3000 beta patches still not tested to HP's standards.

Things are changing and HP's role is coming to a close, at least in the cubicles of HP's 3000 labs.

This year also holds the prospect for being a period where HP doesn't change its ending date for servicing the 3000 community. With no changes, this strategy would give the migration companies — some of whom, like MB Foster and Speedware, have been preparing for migration service and offering it since 2002 — a spark to prod some sites into action.

A new year can arrive with resolutions for 3000 community members, where they are leaving the platform in an orderly procession or staying until 2027. Resolutions work best when they are positive statements, rather than negative denials of existing actions. With that in mind, here's a few to consider taking up and practicing during 2008.

You might resolve to

  • Take HP at its word about the exit date of the vendor from the marketplace. While some customers are happier with the chance to call HP a support provider through 2010, the company could move on and give the migration suppliers and third parties a chance to develop business in the market.
  • Beta test a few patches that will benefit your fellow customers during 2008. Dozens of repairs and a score of improvements are locked inside HP's support customer environment. HP still has not announced a program to deal with whatever is still on the test shelf when 2008 wraps up — or 2010, if releasing a beta patch to general release is possible after this year.
  • Establish a detailed migration plan or a sustainability plan for your HP 3000 operations. Planning shows command and confidence, and it's the least costly step of a transition.
  • Vote in this spring's OpenMPE board elections, and join the movement while it's still a cost-free proposition. About a third of the customers are not going to migrate, but the registered membership of OpenMPE is nowhere close to that number of customers.
  • Set up a disaster recovery plan that represents a genuine view of being a 3000 customer in 2008. There are more independent choices than ever, but on the other hand, some application companies simply cannot issue new activation codes for applications which would have to move in the event of a disaster.
  • Learn a new technology skill, preferably something open source. So many HP 3000 experts are crack MPE shots, but haven't taken aim on the wide range of technologies outside of the Windows world. Better still, take a course in something like Application Portfolio Management or ITIL standards, even if it's on your own time — and make an impact in a board room near you.
  • Take a brave step into a new line of business or a new venture of independent service. The rules are changing fast in our community, especially with the advent of falling cost of communication and sinking hardware prices. Instead of looking for that elusive MPE position, put your skills on the market to all comers. Job security can feel a little like privacy, in my opinion: a concept prized by many, but existing mostly in the mind.
  • Keep up with what's still in play or changing in the 3000 community. A lot of the news is out on the Internet, and more can be found in user conferences like the Encompass HP Technology Forum and events such as the e3000 community meet. It's news to us to find so many people who say the 3000 market has frozen up and gone as static as their 3000 environments.
  • Keep a light heart and let wounds from the past be forgotten and forgiven, if possible. It's not easy to say "Somehow, I'll find a way" to solve a problem when the answer doesn't seem to appear along a line of logic. Technical wizards are susceptible to leaning on the magic staff of logic. Find a way to demonstrate faith as a counterbalance to analysis. You never know for sure what will come your way.

10:32 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)