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May 2008

Stages of Keeping a 3000 Living Onward

JeffkublercolorsmFirst of three parts

Jeff Kubler is making a living out of keeping HP 3000 customer computers living. The life might be as another platform, a different application or a longer existence as a key computing resource. The 25-year veteran of the 3000 community opened his own consulting practice in 2000, just one year before HP announced its 3000 business would be at an end in five years.

So Kubler, whose background ran to many years at Summit Information Systems (credit union applications) and Lund Performance (a broad array of the 3000 and 9000 users) found his future filled with both migration and homesteading prospects. Like the best of the 3000 experts out there, he’s engaging both the customers who are leaving as well as those who have good reasons to stay.

Kubler has made a career out of training, too, in tools and utilities such as Suprtool and Speedware, as well as general 3000 advice like system and database optimization. Last month he stepped in for me at the MANMAN Virtual RUG meeting to deliver a talk that spanned both homesteading and migration advice, pushing across information to a group of 3000 sites facing a large migration: the ERP manufacturing customers. With his diverse background, independent practice and constant customer contact, I wanted him to share what he’s teaching and what he sees in the 3000 community of 2008. We spoke on May Day by phone.

Which application users are in good shape for their final pushes of migration these days?

   Well, the majority of Summit [credit union] customers have already migrated, and part of the reason for that was that Summit chose Eloquence. It made the harshness of that migration step a lot less. They didn’t have to take the big step to re-engineer their application to work with SQL Server or Oracle.

   With Amisys and Ecometry, they did bite the bullet and take that big step. It made it a lot more complex. But those Amisys and Ecometry sites were also big users of Suprtool. That made it so they could get though their biggest production nights without buying bigger boxes.

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A Thursday to plan toward

It will happen on a Thursday morning, a day when most of the world will not be at work. Perhaps your HP 3000 will be finishing its year-end reporting, or month-end, or quarter's end, but on January 1 you won't be able to call HP and ask for a patch or lab assistance to support your 3000 system.

That day is exactly 31 weeks from today. Many HP 3000 sites will still rely on HP 3000s on that day. Many others will be migrated, but there will be some community sites where the HP 3000 stands alongside the newer and faster and more extensible Unix or Windows system. Even at those places, the users will decide when the migration will be complete.

Paula Brinson at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia is migrated already. Her IT group has built a new Customer Service application, Oracle-based, using a Web browser front end. The new system runs in the HP-UX environment at HRSD, a long-time HP 3000 customer. The users are less ready to make the change than Brinson.

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Migration era extends beyond 2009

    HP tells its customers that the company's HP-UX environment is the preferred platform for migration destinations. Reports from the community show us that Unix is just one of several choices 3000 sites are making about migrations.

    And then there's the sites that are choosing not to migrate for at least another two years or more. There may be a good share of migration projects ramping down, but the majority we've heard about are in mid-project or just getting started. Yesterday we related the story of a 3000 site which won't be finished before the end of next year in a best case.

    If that report sounds like a project far from the down slope, healthcare billing firm Quadax is at least able to use Speedware to speed up part of its migration. The company chose both Windows and HP-UX, and its HP Unix application written in Speedware “has been completely migrated for some time,” said Gene Calai. But “a separate application that is COBOL, using IMAGE and flat files is being migrated to Windows, VB.Net and Microsoft SQL. This migration should be complete by the end of 2009.”

    Companies like these, who plan to use HP 3000s as mission-critical servers through 2009 and beyond, are the reason HP has extended its support business deadline for the 3000 twice. Is it homesteading when your company relies on a 3000 beyond HP's support-including-patches period? That era begins in 32 weeks.

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Migrating sites choose both Unix and Windows

    Hewlett-Packard officials said this spring that migration efforts are on the down-slope for 3000 community, and its sees the HP-UX platform is the most popular target. Community members report a migration effort still well away from sloping downward, an effort aimed at an even array of destinations.

   The most common answer to the question of “what are you doing with your HP 3000?” is “migrating.” But consultants, suppliers and customers say that delivering the answer and doing the work still stand months apart.

   “We’re really doing nothing yet,” said Kim Borgman of National Wine and Spirits. “I’m guessing we’re going Linux, using Eloquence, and keeping the existing COBOL programs.”

   While it’s not hard to locate an HP-UX migration — one of the biggest shares of our migrating readers say they’ve targeted HP’s Unix — the choices include as much Windows migration. Many still have not begun to work on their transitions.

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Community turns to Web as archive

    We consider the question often: “How did we ever get things done without the Internet?” The obvious reply is “much more slowly,” but that measure can describe many aspects. There’s the finding, then there’s the knowing. Finding an answer to a problem is one task the Web speeds up, especially for HP 3000 community members. While your vendor drains away its expertise on the 3000 internals, this vital information remains “online,” as those of us from the 1980s call Web access.

    As a case in point we offer the manual for a HP SureStore Autoloader tape library. The device is a decade old, which puts it in the same age range as the Series 9x8 and 9x9 servers. But HP’s storage business considers this library a relic, too old to have its manuals mounted on some disk in the HP empire.

   Not to worry: An enterprising customer tracked down the needed documentation, filed away on a system at a university in Ireland. How long will it be there, compared to a vendor’s Web archives? Not a fair comparison this time — because only the paper documentation was ever created or preserved by HP. The SureStore PDF file, which helped to resolve a configuration snag, could enjoy another home as well: a server operated by OpenMPE.

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HP moves away from HP 9000s

Hewlett-Packard has announced its exit from another of its enterprise server lines, ending the life of the HP 9000. The process mirrors the departure of the HP 3000 from the vendor's product line: Ending sales orders, then all shipping in 2009, with parts and support no longer available from HP after 2013.

As part of the transition to HP Integrity systems, HP has announced the retirement of the HP 9000 server line. As of December 31, 2008, HP 9000 servers will no longer be available for purchase. Support for these product offerings will continue to be available through 2013.

HP has now moved on completely from its PA-RISC server architecture, after delivering generations which ran from 7000 to 8900 covering the years 1986 to 2006. Two decades is an extraordinary run for any design, but especially notable for one like Precision Architecture, which made a business success out of Reduced Instruction Set Computing, a radical break from CPU designs of the 1980s.

The departure of the HP 9000 completes the takeover of HP's newer enterprise architecture, Itanium. HP continues to sell that technology as Integrity servers, the only units which run the HP-UX operating environment. The PA-RISC systems were popular among the HP 3000 migrating sites, especially in the four years when Itanium was working to surpass PA-RISC. HP had a goal of eliminating its PA-RISC sales in favor of Itanium, and by this year the company was more than 70 percent of the way there for new sales.

The older servers are still in use, of course, which makes the elimination more important to HP's business than that of its customers. Something like HP's decision to drop the 3000 and MPE/iX. The issue that migrating customers must consider: How long will HP support HP-UX on the PA-RISC 9000s?

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Where to optimize and find help

In our upcoming printed issue of The 3000 NewsWire  we interview Jeff Kubler, a longtime 3000 expert who's operated his own consulting business for more than eight years. Since much of that has been in the 3000's Transition Era, we chose Kubler and his Kubler Consulting experiences for our Q&A feature in that quarterly issue, mailing this week. (If you'd like to receive our print issue free of charge, e-mail me a postal address and I'll put one in the mails to you.)

To offer a sneak peek at the feature — which we will post up here next week, after our issue arrives in readers' mailboxes — I offer a few questions and answers which didn't make it into print.

Can you think of an engagement project that most 3000 customers don’t ask for at first, but turn out to need once you see their environment?

   They haven’t been doing database optimization. Maybe they don’t realize they need to look at performance and capacity. They need to look at upgrading since they’ll be on their 3000 for another five years. People are not looking at things clearly, thinking they’ll be off their 3000 in a year.

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Overseas business bolsters HP Q2

HP products are popular the world over. It's a good thing, too, because the company's growth in the quarter ended April 30 relied almost entirely on overseas sales.

The mix of growth and profit in Q2 of 2008 was just one of several notable changes to HP's financials, released in full detail today in a conference call with investors. US-based sales growth was nearly flat at 2 percent, a number that prompted one analyst to call the rise "the lowest rate growth we've seen in more than three years in the US."

What's more, HP's growth of profits was flat from its lucrative printer and imaging group — the sector that generates more than half of HP's earnings on the strength of ink and paper supplies which complement printers and cameras. The business changes explain why now is the best time to take on the 144,000 employees in the EDS services company, along with its $22 billion in business. HP will buy the company for $13.3 billion, pending shareholder and regulators' approval.

The challenge in the acquisition lies in making EDS profitable once more to grow HP's earnings. Reducing expenses still takes a major role in keeping earnings up. CEO Mark Hurd vowed today to continue cost cuts at the vendor which sells alternatives to the HP 3000 for migrating customers. He may have better prospects of selling services, software and the servers outside the US; 70 percent of HP revenue now comes from overseas.

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Database recovery delivered

All databases can become useless. That is, they suffer some kind of corruption or acquire an unwanted flag. The latter problem came to visit an HP 3000 site over the weekend. The solution to repair a 3000 database ultimately arrived from Adager, the resource the 3000 community calls when trouble needs fixing pronto. James Dunlap called out to the community, via the 3000 newsgroup:

I was increasing a dataset’s capacity using DBCPLUS and thought my (remote) session had hung after already doing PER COM, so I aborted the session.  The bad news was that we don’t have a current backup of the database, and now the “restructuring” flag is set and the DB is “bad.”

That's HP's DBChange Plus utility that Dunlap is using, a tool HP obsoleted. In this situation, DBCPlus played a part in making the database bad. Old tools might be better than no tools; HP tried to put its customers in touch with third parties in 2000 when it dropped DBCPlus.

Dunlap tried to make a copy of the database too, and the copy was also “bad”. He reached out to the community through the Web, although finally the solution came through a call to Adager.

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HP raises hopes, profits and revenues

Hewlett-Packard intended to release its full Q2 2008 fiscal report yesterday, but a little event like spending $13.9 billion on EDS has pushed the full report back to next week. A full quarterly report is always enlightening, a bit like Kremlinology of the 1970s — watching which business sectors stand shorter or taller on the company's dais. The health of HP's Services business is one of the leaders we watch, since Services is the sector where HP still collects 3000 customer revenues. HP's Services growth was flat during the last quarterly report, which might explain why the HP board swallowed the EDS deal just now.

EDS wasn't generating much of a profit when HP announced its intention to buy the company, but that didn't push HP's stock down for very long after the announcement. By Thursday HP shares had recovered about half of what they lost on the EDS news — a loss of more market cap than EDS is worth altogether.

But HP reported good preliminary news of its finances that may have helped allay any uncertainty about EDS. The preliminary results reported revenue of $28.3 billion compared with $25.5 billion one year ago. The vendor also raised its "guidance" (estimates) for business in the rest of fiscal 2008.

In the second quarter, preliminary GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Practices] diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $0.80 and non-GAAP diluted EPS were $0.87, compared with second quarter fiscal 2007 GAAP diluted EPS [Earnings Per Share] of $0.65 and non-GAAP diluted EPS of $0.70. Non-GAAP diluted EPS estimates exclude after-tax costs related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangible assets of approximately $0.07 per share and $0.05 per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2007, respectively.

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Nothing much new, said by new speakers

About two dozen HP partners and customers took less than a hour today to log into HP's latest update on the system which it calls the e3000. The event was aimed at partners in the Europe, Middle East and Africa HP region (EMEA), but was accessible worldwide. By the time 45 minutes had elapsed, HP had presented less than three dozen PowerPoint slides to the partners, nearly all of which contained zero news.

At least none to our eyes, since we had seen presentations by HP about the platform and migrations at the March GHRUG International Technology Conference. In fact, the e3000 partners got less information from the vendor than GHRUG attendees received, as HP skipped the "Who owns MPE/iX" section of its March presentation. (Download your own copy of the GHRUG slides, as presented by HP e3000 business manager Jennie Hou.)

But we heard a new speaker or two. An uncounted number of partners listened on dial-in phone links to Bernard Determe, whose presence on the HP e3000 EMEA Customers Webinar served as the only new voice. Determe is HP's World Wide Support Planning Manager, a name and voice the world's e3000 users can attach to the vendor's decisions about how long HP will remain in the 3000 community. We say decisions in the plural because, as Determe pointed out today, HP has made three 3000 decisions in all, one following another until "we lose our lab."

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HP to present 3000 report

HP 3000 community members might want to have their browsers tuned to the Hewlett-Packard Virtual Rooms Web site tomorrow. At 10 AM EDT (4 PM CET) the vendor will present a 90-minute Webcast on its view of the 3000's future and the past:

    * Review last year activities for MPE
    * Discuss latest announcements
    * Discuss migrations and transition tools and partners

You can dial in to the conference to hear HP's audio presentation. Call from the US at 866-832-0714, Germany at 069 2222 3190, the UK at 01452 555 574 and Canada at 866 530 4984. Other countries throughout the world have dialup numbers as well (listed at the end of this posting); the main number is the UK-based 44 1452 555 574. The conference code to supply at the prompt is 50 63 65#.

HP will present the PowerPoint slide deck for the Webcast at its Virtual Rooms site. The meeting key is EPAAPKCNJ9. Testing your browser and PC/Mac configuration beforehand is a good idea; links to do so are available at the site. HP's software won't use the Firefox browsers on either Windows or Mac PCs.

The Virtual Rooms technology from HP is also for rent by the hour, so the Webcast will offer one way to assess the potential for using this tool for your own company communication.

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HP, EDS to serve as one

HP announced its largest acquisition since the company purchased Compaq, buying services and integration provider EDS for $13.9 billion. EDS, founded by former US presidential candidate Ross Perot, still manages about 200 HP 3000s, according to a CEO of a software company in the 3000 community. One community member who knows both EDS and HP from earlier times said the two firms are more alike today than they ever were in the 1970s and 1980s.

"The corporate cultures at HP and EDS were totally opposite in their treatment of employees [in the 1970’s]," said former OpenMPE director Paul Edwards, "when I was an employee of each company. HP has now the attitude toward their employees that EDS did back then. After watching my new DVD Origins from HP, which shows the way they valued employees and the HP Way, I really miss that environment."

Edwards sent us the message today from Dallas, which is the EDS headquarters city. He pointed out that EDS has been "a very IBM-oriented company." This might make an HP enterprise customer, mostly the ones who will stay with the vendor through their 3000 transition, wonder why HP wanted to spend so much for a consulting and integration company. The deal more than doubles HP's Services revenues; that sector billed $16.6 billion last year. EDS generated $22.1 billion in revenue in 2007 and has approximately 140,000 employees in 65 countries. HP's headcount has nearly doubled immediately to a total of 312,000, with more than half of its workers now dedicated to services.

The markets dealt out a sharp sell-off of HP stock in their immediate reaction. HP lost more market cap during the first 24 hours after the announcement than the total value of EDS.

Services is high profit, so much so that HP will create a separate EDS group as part of its strategy. The only HP businesses which generate more profits are systems and HP's ink sales. Services is long-term money, not the constant battle of printers and imaging or the tough sell and churn of enterprise servers and storage. Services is lucrative, which is why HP has been after this kind of company ever since the Compaq deal's ink was dry.

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Escaping an HP 3000

We’re having trouble entering an escape character in MPE’s editor. Is there a trick to it?  We’re trying to change the instructions it sends to a printer.

Lars Appel replies:

I typically use some form of change or changeQ command when texting a file that contains escape characters and before saving it again.

/text myfile
/changeQ ‘27 to ‘126 in all
... edit file ...
/changeQ ‘126 to ‘27 in all

Using something like ~ (ASCII code 126) during the edit session. Of course, it only works if there is no ~ normally in the file.

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The Software Library opens for lending

An OpenMPE volunteer has presented the first full catalog for the legendary Contributed Software Library on his own server. Tracy Johnson reported that “The programs can accessed at You may log in as USER.CSLXL and it will run the old CSL Catalog system.” The CSL has been in stealth mode since the Interex user group went bankrupt three summers ago.

The CSL catalog system is the easiest way to search out gems for 3000 adminstration such as ALLOWME from the Interex CSL library, or DBSAME, which makes extensive use of the DBINFO intrinsic to compare two databases.

You could get any of this, one program at a time from Charles Shimada, a volunteer whose hard work kept Interex computers running at many a conference. Shimada was holding the archives of the CSL when Interex melted down in 2005.

Now with the catalog back online, it's simpler to pull off your own utility after doing some shopping. Interex once made the CSL a benefit of site membership, but users who brought utilities to a conference got a Swap Tape with all contributions included. Most were placed on the next edition of the CSL tape.

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To-do list for documentation

HP 3000 veterans preach on the merits of documentation. The practice is especially important for any enterprise system like yours, one which has information slipping away from the vendor every month, through retirements, revision of Web resources, and a declining support capability.

When a vendor support call to HP can be greeted with "what kind of printer is your 3000 anyway?" it's time to ensure you know as much about your server as you can. You might be teaching it to a support engineer. Only a System Manager's Notebook can keep a site going forward safely as a homesteader.

One of the most experienced 3000 experts on the planet, Paul Edwards, offers a free homesteading white paper on the Web which includes a contents list of his Manager's Notebook for 3000 sites. His Web-based paper is available for download, which is more than you can say for HP's availability of some of its 3000 peripheral documentation.

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Document your homesteading

In a world where the wealth of digital information now outnumbers that on paper, printed documentation can still be important to homesteaders. Actually, all documentation is important for homesteaders. An experienced storage and networking guru made a comment about this on yesterday's HP 3000 newsgroup.

While I want to ensure I don't quote Denys Beauchemin out of context, he noted that securing documentation on older hardware — the sort you might use to replace devices like external tape drive libraries — can be "a fun issue."

Another fun issue for those who are considering homesteading; make sure you have all the documentation available for all your hardware.

Nobody here is talking genuine fun. A 3000 user was striking out while searching for documentation for his SureStore DLT Autoloader, apparently purchased used. I suggested that documentation is an issue, but it pales before some others — and plenty of issues also loom large for the migrating customer. I said, "Really, manuals as a reason to migrate?"

That was too much for Denys, and we had misunderstood one another. Manuals are important for a homesteader, no less so than the migrating customer. It's just that the documentation for older hardware can be harder to locate. That's an issue for any IT manager, experienced or otherwise, no matter what HP platform they're using. It's hard to imagine that every HP-UX system manager has all the manuals to all of the hardware in their shop.

The autoloader user got a 3000 community member to dig up the needed manual, online at a university in Ireland, since those docs have been pulled from HP's Web sites. HP has plenty of manuals online. So does the rest of the world — and sometimes more than HP can provide, online or otherwise.

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Encompass, Euro Interex, ITUG Connect users

Four user groups became as one this week when the Encompass, Interex Europe, ITUG NonStop and Encompass Pacific joined hands as Connect. The new name is a result of the research required to acquire Web addresses and trademarks, according to president Nina Buik. But the user group alliance, now 50,000 strong, took its name as part of its primary mission.

"That's what we do," Buik said. "We connect members to each other, we connect members to HP and HP's partners, we connect members to education — so we thought it was a very appropriate name for the new organization." She invited members and the HP IT community to visit to get "the feel of the new networking tools." The HP Technology Forum employed user networking tools in its 2007 conference.

It took 27 directors of the allied user groups to decide on things like names and committees, but only a dozen will be serving on the Connect board. Board representation includes members from each of the founding users groups. Buik, former president of Encompass, will lead the board as president. Margo Holen will serve as vice president, Glen Kuykendall was elected secretary/treasurer, and Scott Healy, former ITUG president, will serve as immediate past president. Newly elected directors include Steve Davidek — formerly of the Interex advocacy committee, and an HP 3000 site manager — Bill Johnson, Jay McLaughlin, Henk Pomper, Joe Ramos, Dr. Michael Rossbach, Gerhard Wedenig and Brad Harwell (HP).

Buik said that seating a vendor official on a user group board is not new to the ITUG members, but it's a novel appointment among most user groups' leadership. The HP user group Interex never had an HP employee on its board in 30 years, but had an HP liasion each year.

"We maintain numerous executive relationships," Buik said. "Brad Harwell is an HP executive and was named as the liaison to the new board. For clarity, David Parsons is a director." Parsons is an executive VP of Hewlett-Packard and ran point for the Technology Forum in its first year, when Interex had folded. Harwell is director of marketing in the Technical Solutions Group for the Americas at HP.

Advocacy efforts will be "stronger than ever" for the Connect group, which calls HP its strategic business partner. Encompass embraced the enterprise customer base as "an independent, pre-eminent worldwide community of users of HP enterprise technologies." The Connect advocacy to HP on behalf of the 3000 enterprise community might not be able to reverse HP's decision to drop MPE/iX certifications next month.

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When COBOL heat lights up the future

One year ago this month, Micro Focus announced its purchase of its most prevalent COBOL competitor for 3000 sites, Acucorp. The Micro Focus juggernaut was righting itself after a discouraging era that saw profits and revenues falling. Acucorp had built a successful solution of a COBOL compiler for HP 3000 sites in migration. AcuCOBOL is built to mimic the 3000's HP COBOL II as closely as possible with something created outside HP's labs.

After that $40 million purchase of Acucorp, Micro Focus reported today that is has gone on to set a record for yearly revenue, beating its "Drive to $225 (Million)" sales goal. Now the owner of two-thirds of the COBOL choices for HP 3000 sites will be purchasing NetManage, another $25 million spent to get into a business allied with IT enterprise operations. NetManage sells software "to transform core applications into new Web-based business solutions."

Two years ago, Micro Focus pursued an old, familiar business solution as its new management's goal. In simple terms, stemming the loss of business revenue was Job One. Legacy platforms were the primary means for the solution.

"The primary focus of the new management team is to continue to restore the business to achieve significant, sustainable, profitable growth and to enhance shareholder confidence over time," CEO Stephen Kelly said back then. After two years of buying businesses at a cost that's almost 50 percent of 2006 Micro Focus revenues, it looks like Micro Focus is making progress on the business it desired: Restoration of the Micro Focus operations. Stock traded about $250 a share on May 5.

It took COBOL revenues to make this restoration a reality. Clearly this is a compiler technology that still produced heat, since billions upon billions of lines of COBOL run the world's business. Buying ownership of newer technology is one thing that a company can do with its success in legacy offerings. COBOL for 3000 migrators comes from individual suppliers like Micro Focus. But a move away from it is just as possible as the Micro Focus drive to solutions not tied to COBOL. An HP 3000 software vendor is working on a design that not only leaves Micro Focus out of the picture, but in time erases the need for COBOL altogether.

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HP's 3000 voice sounds like silence

We could almost call this entry "A lack of news outta HP," but even no news is notable. It's not good news for 3000 customers that HP's gone so quiet, the subject of our podcast for this month (6 MB, six minutes of 'cast.)

Notice how quiet it has become out there? When an advocacy group for MPE hears no HP answers to the big questions, when the vendor speaks up only in a room of 50 people or less, when the messages in forums show up less than a handful a month, you get the picture HP wants to deliver. “We’re curtailing our 3000 work,” the vendor says to anybody in earshot. Been saying it for some time now.

The voices which know the answers sit very still inside the HP Services group. More often than ever, the HP 3000 group at Hewlett-Packard issues increasing sounds of silence.

A bleak Vista faces a mature OS sibling

Some veteran HP 3000 developers and consultants are taking note of how unloved Microsoft's Vista has become. The newest generation of Windows got an ugly reputation from its first month of release, kind of like that stain that lands on your dress shirt as soon as you step up to the buffet table. Windows is the leading choice for HP 3000 sites who are migrating, but apparently not many Windows users are choosing Vista on purpose.

What's more, Microsoft is in total denial of the OS warts and birth defects. Vista is so bad that PC users have begun to cheer for its older sibling, XP. You could have gotten good odds that an XP cheering section was a fantasy five years ago. Now XP fans are not only legion, but Dell will now scrape Vista off a new PC to get you to buy it. HP and Lenovo, Numbers One and Three in the Windows platform derby, also give customers a way to avoid Vista.

Microsoft has begun to treat XP like MPE/iX has been treated by HP. That's to say, XP had a deadline for its demise (dead from the vendor's point of view, but like MPE/iX, still living and working well outside the vendor's marketing chambers.) Microsoft extended the deadline. Still, the vendor is curtailing its XP support since it has delayed the Service Pack 3 for XP. These moves are all in the hopes of making Vista look like a better choice for companies. Individuals are forced to take Vista on a new system, but enterprises can push back.

Bruce Hobbs, a veteran of HP 3000 development and a consultant to 3000 software supplier ROC Software, keeps passing along notes from the outside world about the demise of Windows. The collapse of something that's installed on 90 million PCs could take awhile to ripple through the IT world. But the analysis shows that getting deeper into Windows than XP — and drinking the Vista Kool-AId — is a decision ripe with possibilities, many of them immature.

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