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October 2008

The Afterlife, Now Stalking Its Sixth Year

Cheated The sun has set on the fifth year of HP 3000 life since its World Wide Wake in 2003. Across the International Date Line in Bangalore, India, where a few HP lab engineers still toil until December, it's already Nov. 1. All Saints Day, we used to call the date back when I was a boy in Catholic school. Some community members probably think the 3000's survival through 2008 is a miracle.

There are many saints who could claim some credit for the survival of 10,000 to 20,000 HP 3000s. There are also many systems that have been switched off, scrapped or dropped into deep storage over those five years. The HP 3000 system populace could only decline from its census numbers of 2003. However, it's easy to assert that more 3000s will be running after today — and into the sixth year of The Afterlife — than Hewlett-Packard or its partners ever could predict.

A good share of the populace is running because migration was no two-year matter, or even four-year project at some sites. In these companies the HP 3000 is earmarked for a decommission, sometime in the future, near or far. The Afterlife is a land which is rich in the unknown. We cannot know for certain who's still running, who's making migration progress, and who has put their IT futures in limbo. For some customers, they live in the Afterlife because there's no place else to go.

Oct. 31 is one of two dates burned into the memory of the community, and its shadow is smaller than Nov. 14. HP told everyone it would cease sales and manufacture of the 3000 on Oct. 31, 2003. The date was so widely known that ScreenJet's Alan Yeo organized a World Wide Wake, which commemorated the service this server delivered since 1974. (Note that the service provider above our 2003 story did not outlive HP 3000's utility.) HP sold this system over more than 30 years, counting the ill-fated launch of the System 3000 in 1972. Everyone who calls on 3000 skills and experience, or makes a living in this afterlife, wants to know how many more years of commerce remains. Approximately.

Continue reading "The Afterlife, Now Stalking Its Sixth Year" »

Micro Focus lifts COBOL to the clouds

Micro Focus operates many IT businesses, but its heartland is still COBOL. A couple of news releases from the vendor showed that this week, tying the veteran's business programming language with Microsoft's nascent Azure and preserving of the value of what some call legacy information systems.

In the more recent announcement yesterday, Micro Focus used time at the COBOL WG4 standards meeting to pledge

...commitment to current and future COBOL standardization and modernization. As enterprises increase their focus on ROI from IT spend, Micro Focus urges organizations to modernize COBOL systems and applications to maximize their investments in existing IT systems.

The vendor which acquired COBOL vendor Acucorp last year went on to remind the world that "In short – it’s time to start viewing COBOL as an asset. As COBOL evolves, it continues to thrive alongside the latest technologies to ensure that core existing applications can benefit from the interoperability of object orientation, XML and service oriented architecture."

This evolution of a tool first used in the 1960s can be difficult, but Micro Focus shows no hesitation. Microsoft announced its Azure Services Platform, the company’s new cloud computing platform, at the Microsoft PDC conference this week. Micro Focus was already demonstrating at PDC how COBOL and Azure work together. This is the kind of gusto that can drive a migration: the ability to embrace new tech that captivates business owners. (Whether the 3000's native COBOL II can be made to work with Azure is left to the community's forward thinkers to tinker with.)

Continue reading "Micro Focus lifts COBOL to the clouds" »

Retaining 3000 value, by the letter

918block In recent weeks the 3000 community has heard from a new user who's discovered the HP 3000. The latest system which Paul Raulerson has been raving about to the 3000 newsgroup is a Series 918, the rock-bottom of the 3000 server line still considered modern enough to run the latest MPE/iX version. (Take a click on the block diagram at left to see the 9x8 design.)

Back in the 1990s, our good friend and ally John Burke was shopping for a personal HP 3000, something to support his 3000 consulting business. We talked when he had found a couple of systems, both used. One was a Series 917, the other a Series 918. The price tags, including IMAGE and MPE/iX, were both a bargain back in the late 1990s: $1,600 for the Series 917, $2,400 for the Series 918.

That same Series 918 system now sells, about a decade later on the used market, for $1,800. You might note that this computer which HP stopped building and selling has lost only one-fourth of its used market value over a decade. Try matching that with any other business computing system.

Retaining value has been a mantra of the 3000 community ever since it formed up 34 years ago. Systems built and during the 1980s are still running and working. A 14-year-old computer like the Series 918 is a relative newcomer — and more importantly, a system which can utilize the most current version of the MPE/iX operating system and IMAGE database.

Some say that this retention of value mantra was a death knell for HP's 3000 business. Not for the server, but HP's business. How much has HP forgotten about its system? Not so much that you cannot find an HP hosting an HP Labs article from the Hewlett-Packard Journal, circa 1995, touting "A Low Cost, High Performance Multiuser Business Server System." (Go ahead, download it from HP.)

Continue reading "Retaining 3000 value, by the letter" »

Counting the 3000 up, or out?

At the community outpost called the 3000-L mailing list, veterans and customers and experts are tossing around visions of the future for the system still running at thousands of companies. Numbers and figures can add up or obscure — and this time of the year when polls and counting are everybody's mind, it's numbers that are on this segment of the community's mind right now.

Pro3K consultant Mark Ranft reported at that community outpost that he's supervised more 30 post-2001 installations of HP 3000s for his client, a major airline transaction processor. I have heard from more than one 3000 community member about new installations of HP 3000s. So despite what some community members think, new 3000 installs since 2001 are a non-zero number.

These are, of course, systems new to a company or a site, since HP hasn't built a new HP 3000 for almost five years. But new or old, the 3000 retains some value, in major part because of its MPE/iX license.  This week, a Series 918 system with only 40GB of disk was valued at $1,800 — the very smallest size of "K-Class" HP 3000 which supports MPE/iX 7.5, almost 15 years after HP introduced this series.

But at this stage of the 3000’s life, these numbers are not what matters anymore, although they are a very easy metric to count.

Continue reading "Counting the 3000 up, or out?" »

Counting down to changes in strategy

Here in the US we have only seven more days of campaigning to endure before our country votes for new leadership. At the moment the polls and predictions tilt toward Barack Obama, but some pundits and experts say that the sea change in world finances are a prime motivation to help him in his quest to gain the US presidency.

That upheaval in seas is going to have an impact in most parts of most lives. We are all likely to be spending less, or spending smarter and slower, while companies trim back and chart courses of conservation. Yours is a community that's been exhorted to make immediate changes in its computing platform, almost entirely on the basis of HP's business choices seven years ago.

If just seven weeks ago seems like an eternity now, imagine how far back seven years must seem. It took several years for much of the 3000 world to even acknowledge HP was not joking about leaving your community. Now, with capital, cash and resources drawn down tighter than in most of our lifetimes, spending quickly on a big project looks like a larger risk than remaining beyond HP's business lifespan on the 3000.

We don't mean to say that the recession is reason enough to remain on the 3000. Migration makes business sense for a serious share of you, but the pace and price will now undergo serious scrutiny. As Alan Yeo, the founder of 3000 tool and migration supplier ScreenJet says, "What price Oracle, now? People do not spend such serious money, or even plan to spend serious money, if things are looking dodgy."

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OpenMPE seeks new director for advocacy

News from the only HP 3000 advocacy group reveals an opening on the OpenMPE board.

Noisy volunteers with no sense of circumspection need not apply. OpenMPE operates with a nine-person board of directors, one Web site which costs $50 or less to host, and the experience of a community with three decades of development savvy. The group also operates under a simulation of a Confidential Disclosure Agreement that keeps any director from reporting what HP tells the group. The board has never signed a CDA, but "we have, however, agreed to work with HP under a 'gentlepersons' agreement," according to director Donna Hofmeister.

This virtual CDA is not news, nor is an open seat on the group. Directors have resigned before; just earlier this year Paul Edwards left these volunteers after more than five years of service, listening and advice. This month Chuck Ciesinski had to vacate his position when he went to work for a Maryland firm which had a strict "conflict of interest" policy, he explained. Later on he took a job in New York which limited any time to give to the group. Ciesinski has been managing HP-UX systems for many years, but had several decades of HP 3000 experience and ardor to bring to OpenMPE. He said still operates an HP 3000 in his basement for consulting engagements. His most recent news is that he's gone to work for Hewlett-Packard.

The group revealed a tacit announcement of the opening yesterday in a message on the 3000 newsgroup. John Dunlop simply noted that a new entry of meeting minutes from the Oct. 9 conference call meeting was posted on the OpenMPE site. "The Board will consider nominees over the coming weeks," said the minutes. (You can contact director Hofmeister to volunteer for the spot, or be considered.) Another director added that OpenMPE doesn't elect replacement directors, but names them.

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HP sets last liaison, constant migration for 3000

Fairchild07When the first of three HP communiques on the company's 3000 endgame appeared on Oct. 10, HP stressed that its development team for the 3000 will stop work on the system at year's end. Repairs to emergency, critical problems like the database corruption of 2007 are going to get workarounds at best. The extent of HP's departure will become more obvious in some non-emergency aspects, however.

Craig Fairchild, an HP engineer who's been speaking to the 3000 customer base since Jeff Vance retired from the vendor in 2007, is also taking his role with the community into the sunset, as it were. Fairchild said he's scheduled to be the last 3000 liaison Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group will have, and his duties end Dec. 31.

Some of the reason for that is the 3000 group itself — the veterans with the most tenure inside the vendor's walls — is disbanding at year's end. Fairchild has been a good source of information, working in Vance's stead. The final 3000 liaison told us:

Assuming that I don't get hit by a bus between now and December 31 (in which case a replacement would likely be selected) I may indeed be the last HP e3000 Community Liaison. As [Business Manager] Jennie [Hou] mentioned last week, the lab will be exiting after December 31, 2008, and lab work will cease at that point.

I'm sure that I'll still read the 3000 NewsWire for as long as you want to keep publishing it, though!

Thanks, Craig. We expect to be publishing the NewsWire at least as long as HP will be giving out 3000 migration advice. Which, as you might expect, is the kind of constant vendor information that has no end-date in sight. Many migrations are only announced as of today, with far fewer actually underway.

Continue reading "HP sets last liaison, constant migration for 3000" »

Approaching .NET from VPlus

Medford, Oregon schools will be moving to the .NET architecture and Windows from their HP 3000 systems, according to Senior Programmer/Analyst Dave Vorgang. He asked the users who gather on the 3000 newsgroup to advise him about his project.

He said, "I have just began working on a project for converting our existing HP 3000 VPlus screens to use Fujitsu COBOL on the back-end and use .NET for the forms. What I plan to do is create routines to emulate the VPlus intrinsics.

"Our student system is homegrown. All done with COBOL/VPlus/IMAGE. I’ve been assigned the task of wrapping all the VPlus intrinsic calls to perform their equivalence — the idea being that we can simply take our existing COBOL apps, run them through a converter to convert them to Fujitsu, and then have my VPlus routines display the forms."

His first design demands 25 percent of the CPU resources to execute a Do Loop, "a routine which will perform the Vreadfields, which basically blocks execution of my application until _KeyEntered = True"

Advice from fellow users in the community arrived in short order, as contractors reported their .NET achievements and strategies.

Continue reading "Approaching .NET from VPlus" »

Where else can you get wired?

HP detailed in more than 50 slides this summer what the vendor is working on in the wireless and new network protocol technologies. Last week we took note of some of the innovative topologies. There's a lot to improve in networking, a technology which has become the keystone to enterprise computing utility. HP is engineering many additions.

For example, Senior Technologist Fred Worley of HP brought along a slide deck that described 802.22 – WRAN, a Wireless Regional Area Network that delivers broadband access over unused TV channels. Uses include Rural broadband support,  a disaster recovery link for remote data centers, rapid deployment of T1 to T3 level service, and a Last Mile solution for residential customers.

Datacenternetworking WRAN might not be in the near-term requirements for your enterprise networking. But if manufacturing moves to rural envionments in China, for example, requiring network links, now there's a purpose for such a standard. And Worley was not shy about saying that Hewlett-Packard's labs – the ones still working on enterprise computing in 2009, unlike the ones for the HP 3000 — can offer the best, most complete solutions.

"These are technologies that we are driving," Worley said at the end of his hour-plus talk, one where he spoke as rapidly as any auctioneer. "And if you want to find the people who are building this technology, and know not only how to design it and put it into products, but know it so deeply that we're inventing it, and can ensure that knowledge is out there as a standard, and can bring it back and build it into products, you're at the right place."

As evidence of HP's prowess in networking futures, he put up a slide listing the vendor's breakthroughs and participations. Toward the end of the slide deck, of course, HP hedged a bit by saying that the networking advances were going to come from the entire industry, not just HP. That is the only strategy that works; it does no good to engineer wizardry which other suppliers like IBM won't talk with. Is HP the best place to get networking on the cutting edge, the kind that other suppliers understand and implement less adeptly? Worley showed HP's mastery of the details as an argument in favor of making HP your networking supplier.

Continue reading "Where else can you get wired?" »

HP's very last 3000 Business Manager

Hou Last week I wrote in advance of a follow-up HP briefing to get details of the vendor's exit from your community. I called it the advent of a new season for HP's 3000 operations. Then I spoke with Jennie Hou, HP's e3000 Business Manager since Dave Wilde moved away from that post in 2006 to another portion of HP.

Hou confirmed that she will be the last Business Manager HP will ever have for its 3000 line. Her duties will end on December 31. Hou is one of a crew of 3000 experts who've been working with and developing for the platform since the 1980s — and for a few, even earlier.

She's not the only Hewlett-Packard employee to end 3000 duties at the end of the year. But as of January 1, the only HP personnel a customer can discuss the system with will be those at HP support Response Centers. HP is truly and completely closing down its 3000 labs at year's end. No surprise there, except perhaps in the extent of the shut down. The closure will be so complete that the Response Centers will be in charge of clearing beta patches for use in general release.

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3000 enters advent of a unique season

Img_1115 It's an old sweatshirt, but the HP giveaway is more than just a guy's worn-down garment to me, not just a bit of cloth burnished to a perfect feel. Somehow the blue all-cotton shirt had just the right heft, not too heavy to wear here in Texas, or too thin to survive 18 years of no-fuss washing. The shirt is blue, royal blue in the hue that HP wore in 1990, not blended with Compaq red. The shirt bears the color of a company that still rode unique, proprietary technology as an advantage, racing to give customers a reason to keep Hewlett-Packard wrapped around their companies.

I pull on my sweatshirt this morning because I have left open the window behind this flat-screen monitor in my study. The new season of fall, brief and delicious, crept into Texas yesterday and brought cool evening air through the state. I wear one of my best sweatshirts from HP because I will interview 3000 People at Hewlett-Packard in a few hours. I want to remember the heart of their intentions, so I have pulled on a editor's gift to wear over my own heart.

At the risk of becoming too maudlin, this season feels like the advent of an ending. Not the finale of the HP 3000. No, the 3000 and its users are following their own calendars to play out a future of transition. But what remains in the legends of the fall is a closing chapter in a story of innovation, neglect and renaissance, and finally the procession through a recession, arriving at the day HP ceases to create for a system it created. HP now has a business manager and some engineers, a lab director and cloud of support workers which know the HP 3000. Few of them use their stellar knowledge full time. The vendor has told customers they will lose their 3000 lab at HP in 75 days. There's no changing that, not any more than there's a chance the "CIMinar by the Bay" and sailboat picture on my sweatshirt will last forever. But another 18 years? Only with loving care, the kind of attention to detail which 3000 customers carry as a credo over their hearts.

Whenever I wear this shirt and work on 3000 news, I recall what Charlie from HP Press Relations told me on a stranded tour boat in the San Francisco Bay. "We look toward the day when we are not in the hardware business anymore," he said. Services, along with software, was HP's target we discussed on that junket. The concept sounded radical that night, but not now in a world of computing that has been rendered, rewoven and colored anew with every passing season. Change is apace, and computers are now piece-work instead of masterpieces. When I look beyond my heart on the sleeve of this shirt, I see aging hardware and aging masters of the 3000 arts — but all still useful and vital, years beyond HP's expectation. Still, old compared to most everything else.

I cling to my sweatshirt like I cling to the typical guy's mid-life dream: mature can be attractive, maybe even sexy, but surely loveable. Maybe gray can be the new royal blue.

Continue reading "3000 enters advent of a unique season" »

Newer networks spark reason to migrate

HP 3000 customers begin migrations for many reasons, ranging from a fear of being left out of a vendor's strategy to the loss of expertise required to keep an MPE/iX system running 24x7. One value that's falling behind, due to HP's decision to halt 3000 development, is a path to upcoming network standards.

Over the summertime in Las Vegas HP bolted through dozens of slides to outline the Networking Technology Roadmap for 2009. These net technologies might only be available to 3000s if OpenMPE or another entity is allowed to enhance the system; what's more, some of the needed hardware will have to come from an emulated system. That's a long road of waiting, although a good deal of what HP outlined won't be available for years.

Still, network advances promise much that the 3000 cannot offer. HP said that it's reasonable for a network to be expected to do the following

  • Virtualize everything, to use "Stuff as a Service"
  • Put compute anywhere, to "Use the data center to coordinate disaster recovery"
  • Take everything with me, including "All employees, all the data, all the time"
  • Leave everything at home, so "Nothing confidential leaves the vault"
  • Simplify an IT expert's life, to manage a datacenter from a handheld; use a single cable (or no cable) to the desk for all content / communications; and a single method for server connectivity within the datacenter

As one example at this year's HP Technology Forum, HP outlined what a 10 gigabit Ethernet, wired, could do for an enterprise.

Continue reading "Newer networks spark reason to migrate" »

Experts inject value into eBay bargain

Picking up an HP 3000 on eBay has become commonplace today. Hardware brokers cannot justify selling any servers in the 9x7 Series which companies decommission. So too, HP has no interest in taking back these 3000s, even though every one has an MPE/iX license which comes at a dear price when an upgrading customer needs to purchase one.

Even the act of changing an HPSUSAN number will cost thousands of dollars, according to reports from the user community. Despite all these symptoms of a system with declining value, 9x7s still land in the hands of ardent computer customers as experimental systems, all the while doing everyday work in companies large and small.

So when Paul Raulerson purchased a Series 917 for a song on eBay, he acquired just the first in a string of valuable assets related to the HP 3000. Once Raulerson got a message off to the newsgroup devoted to the HP 3000, he learned how to bring up the system from a cold start, as well as the details of starting up a network. Veterans of 3000 management offered up the extra value, advice sent gladly and quickly.

I picked up what I think is a really cool 917LX from eBay, loaded with MPE/iX 6.0. I have successfully encouraged it to IPL and let me in, but just about the sum total of my MPE command repertoire consists of HELLO MANAGER.SYS;HIPRI and Control-A SHUTDOWN DTC. Oh, and my eyes glazed over and crossed when trying to figure out NMMGR. I’m not even quite sure what DTC means.

If a 3000 user has ever had to educate a new IT staff member on the 3000's networking, the counsel offered to Paul could be useful elsewhere, too.

Continue reading "Experts inject value into eBay bargain" »

The 3000: Always New to Someone

Even a computer more than 15 years old can appear new. When this happens — like when a company's lone IT manager first takes on a 3000, still running critical apps — then MPE/iX and the PA-RISC hardware seem like unfamiliar territory.

But this server of more than three decades has a mature community of experts online, cruising the newsgroup for the HP 3000. In messages on comp.sys.hp.mpe, a team of veterans led a newbie through the fundamentals of 3000 use.

"What a blast the past couple weeks have been," said Paul Raulerson. "I have fallen in love with this little HP 3000. I've been coming home from work and playing with it, learning and having a grand old time. Even running RPG programs on it. Great fun! I've been having an argument with it about talking on the network, and just got it completely up and operating."

Paul had questions a-plenty about his 9x7 system — a generation of HP 3000, by the way, which is still running some companies around the world.

Continue reading "The 3000: Always New to Someone" »

Yes, HPSUSAN, there is a transfer

When buying an HP 3000, how do you transfer HPSUSAN numbers legally?

OpenMPE director Donna Hofmeister replies:

I believe that you do not transfer MPE licenses. If you buy a 3000, you buy the license as well.

When another community member explained that HP transfers HPSUSAN numbers to new systems, Lars Appel, a former HP support engineer now consulting with Marxmeier Software, added:

Keep in mind, even if you arrange to move the HPSUSAN number from the old system to the new system... this might not solve all your license code issues with third party applications... because some of them might also check HPCPUNAME if the license depends on the system “size” as well... and your HPCPUNAME might be different when your new system is not of the same model and CPU count.

How should parts and entire HP 3000 systems be stored if stockpiled?  What ration of parts will be functional after being stored for 6-24 months?  What will be the level of workability for parts and systems after 2008?

Donna Hofmeister replies:

I’m not sure you (as a company) should be worrying about stockpiling hardware unless you’ve got some circumstance (like being based in the Yukon or something) that warrants doing so.  The hardware support vendor that you partner with should being doing this for you. This is an example of the kind of question you need to ask your hardware partner.

Continue reading "Yes, HPSUSAN, there is a transfer " »

An FAQ view of HP's news

Wednesday's Web page about Hewlett-Packard's 3000 decisions ran about 850 words long, but HP's message was dense with subtext and strategy. While we arrange a follow-up interview with HP's e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou about the announcement, I thought an FAQ on the developments would help clarify new positions and identify same-song strategies.

I'm migrating, but we won't finish by the end of HP support at the start of 2011. Anything changing in here for us?

A company which needs to upgrade a 3000, or purchase a bigger one, to tide them over during migration gets some help from the announcement. HP said it has cut prices for a Right To Use license 35-50 percent, although the document said HP did this as of July 1. There was no announcement of reduced pricing on these RTU licenses before Wednesday.

Also, any migrating customer who finds a 3000 without a valid license — and HP itself has stripped MPE/iX licenses off 3000s during trade-in programs — will be able to buy an MPE/iX license through a new "Lost License Replacement" policy and fee.

We need HP support to keep our top management satisfied with relying on the 3000. Anything change there?

No. HP still intends to shut off an ever-more-limited version of vendor-branded 3000 support on December 31, 2010. That date is key to several other announcements, but this Web page affirms the HP exit deadline. A few other points on the HP page will hamper third party 3000 support, too.

Continue reading "An FAQ view of HP's news" »

First HP communique pens up patches 'til 2011

In the first of what Hewlett-Packard says is a series of announcements about the HP 3000, the vendor addressed a handful of issues regarding beta test patches, release of HP's 3000 tools and documentation to the third party community, and restatements of positions the company has already announced for the server's customers. Meanwhile, HP's Invent3k development server will be getting a new home outside of HP by December.

An e-mail message to the HP 3000 newsgroup yesterday drew attention to an HP Web page where the vendor has started to issue a stream of news about its end-game policies for its 3000 business. A plan to release beta test patches led off yesterday's announcement, but the news will keep any beta patch still inside HP's grasp until December 31, 2010 — in the hopes that somehow, some HP support customer will be testing this software up to that time.

Starting in 2011, "the majority" of these HP 3000 patches, in whatever state of beta test, will be available through the HP ITRC, a public Web response center which anyone can access. HP said any beta-test patches which remain untested will be marked plainly when they go into public release at the start of 2011.

The HP announcement also unveiled a "lost license" policy for any HP 3000s which emerge in the market without valid MPE/iX licenses — that is, no proof of ownership which HP requires to transfer ownership of the operating system from one customer to another.

There have also been requests for a process to replace a lost MPE/iX RTU license in the case where an HP e3000 system has no documented history, such as a PO, invoice, or a support contract... We have also created a stand-alone MPE/iX RTU license product (AD377A) that is not coupled with any secondary hardware system sales.

By adding a license policy that gives HP 3000s a way to gain a license, "HP hopes to make the HP e3000 hardware upgrade and software RTU licensing process clearer and more manageable." HP did not specify a cost for this equivalent of a "lost parking garage ticket." But related to that cost question, the vendor did announce that its prices for these Right To Use licenses, sometimes needed for upgrades, have been cut 35 to 50 percent.

HP's officials, from Business Manager Jennie Hou to HP e3000 Lab Director manager Ross McDonald, stressed that yesterday's announcement was one of several to come. "Since this is the first communication, not all the requests have been included in this release. We plan to have another communication release in the near future," said HP's community liaison Craig Fairchild. The vendor realizes, and wants customers to understand, that questions remain unanswered about HP's role after the vendor's 3000 business expires in about two years. Some questions, however, had negative answers yesterday.

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New Euro conference aims early, again

With the backing of Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest HP user group, and a European economy stronger than the one in America, the Connect European conference of 2008 is offering early-bird discounts once more. The latest extension of early registration savings ends on Friday, the last chance to register at the lowest possible rate for the first meeting which Connect is hosting through its European ally, HP Interex Europe.

HP 3000 owners and community members will now find a familiar face leading the Community Connect 2008 speaker list: Winston Prather, who handed the 3000 its exit visa from the world of Hewlett-Packard while he was general manager of the 3000 division. Prather will speak at the event in his new role as HP Vice President and General Manager of the NonStop Enterprise Division.

Content at the conference, which begins Nov. 10 in Mannheim, includes everything except HP 3000 strategies, even the migration advice Prather and his successors have offered for close to seven years. In one bit of coincidence, Community Connect 2008 including Prather's address takes place almost seven years to the day as the HP exit announcement during 2001. Subjects include blades, HP-UX, Linux and Open Source, OpenVMS, NonStop, storage, and Windows servers running on Integrity servers.

Signing up by Friday earns a 400 Euro discount. As an added benefit, a NonStop Business Update and Roadmap session includes Prather; Neil Pringle, Director, NonStop Enterprise Division, EMEA; and
Fred Laccabue, VP NonStop Systems Development.

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Earning a select place on a best-of list

Abbyyoga The 3000 NewsWire was born only because of a heavy-lifting partner. Even though our readers hear from me all the time, the spark of birth for our news service arrived from Abby Lentz, my partner in business and life. Thirteen years ago this month she nudged out oiur first paper issue, a venture some said would never survive. She believed even before I did. Today she earned a place in a best-of list of health providers. Her new career, along with the continuting advice from a publisher's chair, is teaching yoga to the overweight and obese. HeavyWeight Yoga, she calls it, a practice that Fitness magazine honored today in its first list of Fit 50 for 2008. She's even got a DVD to spread her practice.

Abby has been working toward her goal since HP announced its 3000 exit strategy. Stubborn and steady folks that we are, neither of us have abandoned this community, even when it looked to experts like it was a dubious decision to remain. Instead, we both got to work in leveraging what the 3000 and publishing had taught us, creating new acts for the long-running show of 3000 support and communication with community.

What we're doing here is adding rather than turning to something new, the same strategy which IBM has followed for its midrange, SMB solution the Series i (AS/400). Many of the contacts we encounter in your community have added to their skill sets and business since 2001, but remain devoted to the HP 3000. Just this week we talked with John Stephens, whose Take Care of IT is a one-man support company serving HP 3000 sites in manufacturing and healthcare. Stephens does MCSE Windows consulting, too, but it succeeds because of experience from more than 25 years of 3000 IT work.

Health choices which support special communities can be noble work, or feel isolated, or as steady as the Maytag repairman (who rarely had a crisis to solve, so reliable was his product). Whether it's supporting MPE/iX when nobody else in your metro area can do so, or putting the benefits of yoga out to a populace that doesn't look like human pretzels, specializing can be rewarding. 3000 support companies tell us that's so, especially with HP leaving the customer base this year.

Continue reading "Earning a select place on a best-of list" »

What's Not So Hot with Java

HP 3000 owners are now considering what a 2009 without HP's resources will look like, since the vendor is closing off its MPE/iX labs at year's end. The demise of HP's 3000 lab efforts already has a precedent: the vendor's abandonment of Java on the 3000. The strategy could play directly into HP's migration desires, leaving MPE/iX software frozen while HP hangs on to the code which others could improve to satisfy 3000 sites. The biggest irony might be that Java is the most prevalent open source product in the world, but it needs HP to release its source to gain freedom again for 3000 sites.

This language promised a "write once, run anywhere" future when Sun first introduced Java in the middle '90s, a portable programming platform to deliver on the dream of "open systems." Even though open systems needed to wait until Linux and ubiquitous Intel hardware established the concept, HP leaped in by 1997 with a Java/iX implementation, and in later years touted a small number of 3000 customers making use of the language.

But once HP 3000 companies didn't swarm toward the solution, the vendor's diminishing lab staff had to turn away from the language as well as needed updates. Java/iX has been frozen by HP at version 1.3 for more than five years, a version which becomes less useful with every month HP hasn't touched it. Of course, that will mirror the hands-off future defined for HP's 3000 labs, a group of wizard-like MPE/iX engineers being put to work on other operating environments.

We wrote about this issue this spring, interviewing the last HP staffer to add something to Java/iX, Mike Yawn. At the time that Yawn "owned" Java/iX, he was passionate about reporting from the annual JavaOne conference, as well as presenting in 1998 the prospects of graphical interfaces on the cutting edge for the language.

Java, as it turns out, was one of the first projects which the OpenMPE advocacy group identified as a way for an outside lab to help 3000 owners. The language has a lot of momentum in the IT world. Today Charles Finley of Transformix, a migration company working to move 3000 shops to other platforms, said Java has become a lot better than what HP left on the 3000 years ago.

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Important work proceeds under OpenMPE cover?

This week OpenMPE reminded the community about work with HP. The rules of engagement between Hewlett-Packard's 3000 group and the OpenMPE advocates are designed to reduce news. The advocates and an HP 3000 liaison enter executive session to talk about the most important elements of HP's end-game. It's a Cone of Silence, just like the one you may have seen in school board meetings, to discuss sensitive issues with no detailed reporting. This cone works better than the one Max and The Chief used on Get Smart.

While we don't know the details of those talks, we do know what is being discussed in general: licensing needed to operate a 3000 emulator. HP and OpenMPE have said as much during the summertime, although HP would never announce such a process before it was completed. HP was never keen to announce features in upcoming versions of MPE/iX before completion, either.

But it's safe to assume that when a conference call takes place in two successive OpenMPE meetings less than three weeks apart, between a half-dozen advocates and HP's Jeff Bandle, the groups are discussing more than football or fall foliage. OpenMPE's Webmaster John Dunlop pointed to meeting minutes of the group he posted online, minutes that show who's talking and when.

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HP steps up Internet storage efforts

Hewlett-Packard has purchased Left Hand Networks, a producer of Internet SCSI storage solutions, for $360 million, a cash buyout that shows HP wants a better offering of iSCSI products. The iSCSI architecture connects SCSI storage devices — either drives or arrays of drives — using the Internet's protocol. These kinds of storage advances are unlikely to be available to HP 3000 customers until an emulator for the 3000 is offered.

Storage is an HP focus in its enterprise business, so much so that the company's business computing unit is inside a group called Enterprise Storage and Servers (note the order of computing device there in the name). The purchase of LeftHand will help HP extend integration between LeftHand's iSCSI networking and HP's business server solutions other than the ProLiant line.

It's not that ProLiant servers are left out at LeftHand; these Xeon-based SMB-sized systems are already supported in an OEM deal. What HP will offer through its acquisition is storage over networks to the smaller customer which is less complex than the Storageworks EVA products. "Customers need a faster, less complex, and more economical route to storage networking to protect critical business data," said Dave Roberson, senior vice president and general manager of HP's StorageWorks Division. iSCSI definitely has an overlap with existing HP storage solutions — so much so that the company's storage resellers will need to revisit which product fits best for an SMB customer.

Storage Area Networks (SAN) are an accessible technology for HP 3000 sites today, so long as an intermediate server is controlling network access and architecture. But iSCSI simplifies SAN, and simple design is a favorite with HP 3000 sites. Plus there's the fact that Dell purchased iSCSI provider EqualLogic last year for $1.4 billion. Since Windows and industry-standard solutions are favored among HP 3000 migrators, keeping up with Dell is important for HP to continue relations with companies leaving the HP 3000.

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The Coming Skills Crisis

It won't matter which environment serves your organization: In the next 5-10 years, there's going to be a drought of information technology workers on hand. Even in a rocky economy the world is likely to face through the rest of this decade, HP says IT has lost its sheen.

That's because of the retirement of the baby boomer workers, although recent developments could keep a lot more of the old-timers from easing into hobbies and arm-chairs. Micro Focus, which makes its living off a redoubtable tool of great worth in the 3000 world — COBOL — reminds us of this while it touts the durability of the language. The Micro Focus ACTION program gets COBOL back onto college curricula.

With more than 70 universities worldwide, the ACTION program has seen a new member university join each week. This will help balance the potential “IT skills crisis” that some expect as baby boomers retire.

The HP 3000 community sports plenty of gray hair and seasoned faces, but its members also possess a skill that seems in scarce supply these days: Application know-how, learned from the user base. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet took note of the lack of youth in the business world where he plies his trade, supplying migration tools and expertise and keeping 3000s modern by moving their apps out of the VPlus screen era.

"It's almost as if there's nobody out there under 40 who you can ask about a Bill of Materials system design," he said while checking in with us recently. "I'm not just talking 3000s. If we were talking 3000 application people, fair enough. But even when you talk to these people running apps on IBM, Unix, Linux — they're old, too."

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