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December 2008

Top 2008 Stories: News Outta HP

The company which created the HP 3000 spent many months of 2008 quiet about the product and the 3000 community, until the final quarter of the year. As the deadline for ending HP 3000 lab operations approached, HP opened up opportunities and signaled its shutdowns of 3000 information and expertise. Nothing new will be available before the end of 2010, to the regret of OpenMPE and independent technical 3000 experts.

At the same time, more options showed up to motivate migrations, mostly in the form of new functionality Hewlett-Packard will never bring to its 3000 creations. Connectivity and efficient hardware design led the announcements.

1. HP said it will start negotiations for read-only reference licenses of the MPE/iX source code. The process will be conducted under confidential disclosure so the community won't be able to judge the HP offerings to the top technical experts. The value of source code to the community will be limited to creating workarounds and crafting object-level patches, and only for the community's companies with enough expertise to understand the code. However, new versions of MPE/iX won't be possible under the proposed source license.

2. Key technical information is being withheld in the form of locked-up configuration tools and technical manuals, all of which will remain inside HP even after its 3000 support operations end in two years' time.

3. Beta-test patches are staying inside of HP's support group for at least another two years, giving the general 3000 population no access to test completed 3000 enhancements and fixes. Only support customers will be able to use these patches, or test them, even while there's no development lab to modify any of the patches based on testing reports. But many other patches got their freedom throughout the year.

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Top 2008 Stories: Homesteading

The year 2008 delivered changes and insights for the homesteading 3000 community, but it would be easy to label the top homesteading stories as those from HP's brain trust. We'll get to the HP top actions tomorrow, but the major stories for those staying with the 3000 revolve around independence, adoption and initiative. A computer that just completed 35 years of service requires no less.

1. On the task of adoption, as well as independence, OpenMPE took on the duties of software keeper for MPE/iX, housing the Contributed Software Library as well as the binary files for HP 3000 programs and utilities which HP created over the past 15 years. With HP closing its Jazz Web server dedicated to HP 3000 education, white papers and software, a new resource is available at

2. HP 3000 conferences continued with MPE-specific content at the Greater Houston RUG in March and at the CAMUS ERP conference in August. While neither group has plans for a 2009 in-person event, these organizations showed that people will continue to travel to learn about 3000 administration and strategy, albeit in ever-decreasing numbers.

3. The community completed its fifth year of life since HP ceased building and selling the 3000. By this month, HP 3000 customers — still thousands of them — have spent more time creating an independent infrastructure than the years the community took to adopt Internet and open source tools before HP's Nov. 2001 exit announcement.

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Top 2008 Stories: Migration

The news and changes of 2008 lay behind us today, even though the year isn't over just yet. But in the quiet week between Christmas and New Year's, let's look at the Top Stories of 2008 to see where your community has traveled. In a few days we'll take a stab at where the 3000 arrow will be headed for 2009.

Let's break this down into three important aspects of community events: Migration, Homesteading and the year's News Outta HP. No matter what your strategy and plans for this year, one or all of these areas held significant developments for 3000 owners, partners and advocates. We'll look over the top six events in each area.

Migration seems the best place to start our review, since it offers more change than either homesteading or HP news. Right at the top of the year's list is the pace of migrations, which maintained its moderation despite HP's end of the year deadlines.

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What the Community Is Doing Now

In less than one day from this morning, much of the world will close up its commercial concerns for a little while. Hanukkah is already upon us, and Christmas is tomorrow. Year-end in the IT business is a quiet time. But there's action in the advent to this period, if you look for it.

Hewlett-Packard has taken leave of action for these two weeks. The company has put on a salaries freeze as deep as anything now gripping North America's weather. The supplier of the alternative solutions for 3000 migrators will be shedding jobs as soon as 2009 begins.

"We believe it is prudent and responsible to reduce costs where possible," the company said in a statement this month. HP will reward "high performing" employees with compensation. The vendor reported record profits for its latest quarter, all while cooking up plans on how to pare down a workforce of more than 320,000. Even IBM's employee roster does not dwarf HP's today.

Employment is a 2009 issue for HP 3000 experts and veterans, too. Dale Pepoon lost his job at Circuit City tending HP 3000s last month. "I am open to contract or full time positions," he told us. "I am currently in transition. I have not been able to locate very many HP 3000 job listings, so I am trying to focus on my analysis and management skills when searching. It would be great to locate a company that is in transition to a new platform and needs the HP 3000 skills, but would be willing to train on the new technology or at least be willing to endure the learning curve."

There's hope for Dale. The largest migration services company in the community said that HP 3000 skills are even more important than experience in the target environment of a migration. He's also wise to emphasize the fundamental skills of managing enterprise IT. HP 3000 pros know much more than just the vitals of MPE/iX.

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Where they are now: Robelle founders

Robelle is a household name among vendors and leaders of the HP 3000 community, helping companies remain on the platform "until at least 2016," according to its Web site. Suprtool is also a key component in enabling migrations from MPE/iX to HP-UX. Good tools have a wide scope of functionality.

The company was founded by Bob Green in the late 1970s, and soon afterward joined and bolstered by David Greer. Early in this decade, Greer left Robelle for adventures on a two-year family Mediterranean sailing cruise, while Green took full ownership of the company and kept its offerings abreast of the community's needs, relying on the expertise of developer Neil Armstrong and the support team in the company's Vancouver, BC offices.

Bobbeach03 Green was at the birth of the HP 3000 inside Hewlett-Packard, writing for the company and documenting the launch team's work. During the 1990s he opened a branch of Robelle on the island of Anguilla in the British West Indies. Bob (at left on that beach) updated us recently on his development workplaces and Robelle's operations. Meanwhile, Greer rejoined the IT world after his sabbatical, taking on management and marketing positions outside the 3000 community.

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In HP's lee, solo experts keep up 3000s

This morning is the first of a two-week darkness at HP, the holiday time when the company has closed its doors. HP's labs are going dark for 3000 customers for good. It's a time when the independent wizards will rise up to create workarounds for complex problems. The wind of HP's changes for the 3000, even to aid support, has now fallen. The community is on the leeward side of 3000 Island.

Independents keep the breezes moving, though. These support sources can be small in staff. But compared to the number of 3000 lab experts who will work at HP from now on, the solo supporters still out-staff Hewlett-Packard.

Some of the slightly-larger independent companies are making strategic resources available by region, so a solo provider takes on support of clients across an area of a country. Jason Peel, who’s part of The MPE Support Group, said that the 3000’s reliability and stability keep support demands manageable for a single provider.

“I don’t really get that many calls at night,” he said. “It seems like everyplace I walk into now, instead of lights-out, 24x7 operations, it’s no lights on the weekends. After 5 o’clock, most of the [IT operations] people are gone, because the processing just runs.”

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Small supporters sprout up

    The 3000 community has developed a preference for non-HP support of its systems. But in recent years, even single-manned support companies are keeping HP 3000s in production. The lightly-manned support firms are serving both homesteaders and customers who are working on migrations.

    John Stephens, who founded Take Care of IT at the start of the decade, says his company not only takes up HP’s 3000 support work — he rarely sees HP support in a client’s picture.

    “I think it was about four years ago,” Stephens said of his contact. “I can’t say I got a lot of help from them.” He counts all sizes of customers among his clientele, including Fujitsu and Schlumberger.

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Vendor shivvers timbers of user conferences

Apple has torn down the legacy of its annual user conference, axing the vendor's participation in the 25-year-old event after next month's MacWorld and leaving a computer community without a supplier's support for a massive, legendary conference. This event differs from HP's 2005 actions to compete with and  hobble the 30-year Interex-HP World meetings. But the conference strategy is similar for these two computing vendors who, in all other matters, couldn't be more different.

The new vendor mecca for conferences is control, and the alternatives revolve around media coverage that is better-read than in the days of printed publications and no Internet.

In-person meetings have become a footnote to both vendors' saga that is shared with customers. Everyone acknowledges that the quality of conferences exceeds the vendor-controlled events and online communication, even down to the most recent social network opportunities. Things are discovered on an expo floor and inside training rooms that can't be replicated in any other way.

Connect formed up this year to keep up its voice with Hewlett-Packard, growing from 10,000 member of Encompass to more than 50,000 when HP Interex Europe and the Tandem/NonStop ITUG groups were allied. HP never did anything so game-changing as Apple ending its participation with a major user group meeting. Apple is known for tossing out the rulebook, though. In the long run, the HP community might see the same kind of departure as Apple's, even from a conference now called the HP Technology Forum & Expo.

At the moment, however, Connect is creating new ways for HP to participate with the community. HP is stepping up, too. But the vendor, just like Apple, will measure its return on the marketing investment from meetings like the HPTF (now held annually in Las Vegas, at HP's behest) as well as the new Community Connect Europe 2008 conference. The Euro event wrapped up last month with just 450 attendees on hand. Connect notes that in addition to 450 people on hand, the event had

More than 30 exhibitors, a dedicated German track, 12 hands-on labs, two stellar keynote presentations, numerous networking receptions, and an Executive Question & Answer Panel session

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Retired 3000s pose problems of disposal

Hp_recycling As companies migrate away from the HP 3000, some are discovering one last task which takes some extra effort to find a solution: How to dispose of a venerable computer asset by using the right salvage resources?

When you want to get that system out of the computer room, where can you take it? Like any computer system, specialized recycling companies need to be called. Christian Schneider of PIR Group has a Series 937 on hand the company hasn't powered up in five years. Disposal of about 75 pounds of computer and terminal is an unsolved issue at the development and integration company.

Schneider also noted that such systems are not lightweight, so shipping them off as a generous donation can require some freight expense.

Let's see, the SCSI SE drive weighs about 50 lbs.The 937LX is probably 20 lbs. The 12-inch terminal and keyboard are nominal. I was going to donate ours to a Chicago historical organization, but they already had one. Scrappers won't take it. The plastic housing is now listed as hazardous material. I was considering using it as a boat anchor, but it would kill the surrounding fish.

To be fair, there are many better options for disposing of an aged 3000 than being a boat anchor. There are scrappers which specialize in used computers. Like in Chicago, where there's Computer Recycling

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MPE/iX source reference may help, Adager says

Adagerlogosm Adager Corporation, the company whose 3000 products are so omnipresent they held a spot on the Hewlett-Packard corporate price list, believes there may be potential in HP's MPE/iX source code offer to the third parties supporting and developing for the 3000 community.

But at this moment — while HP's offer consists of an invitation to negotiate a reference-use-only license agreement for MPE/iX — it's hard to be sure of any source value, said Adager CEO Rene Woc. HP reports that the source for the IMAGE database will be included in a read-only reference license. It's not the first time third parties like Adager have used HP's source.

"We haven't had access to IMAGE source code for a long time, since the MPE V days, but we have a feeling of what would be involved," Woc said. "I think that it all depends on how [the source] is made available. IMAGE is orders of magnitude more complex today, even though it hasn't had development in close to 10 years."

The source code "is probably a security blanket," Woc said. "In that respect, it's good that it will be available, that they're starting to offer some things. We'll have to see what kind of conditions HP will offer in their license agreements." 

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A generation grows proud of its grey

    This month I went to a supper of congratulations to celebrate my advent of becoming a grandfather. My son Nick and his wife Elisha are expecting a baby in July, a mitzvah that will launch a new generation of Seybolds. When I first wrote in this 3000 market, Nick was just a baby of 2. Now he and his bride are having a baby of their own.

    I don’t feel like it’s time to get a new job. This one keeps changing enough to remain fascinating and entertaining and enlightening. Change is most of what I’ve reported in this decade. The world of our industry has changed so much since Nick’s birth marked a new generation, the Millennials. Now his world doesn't even marvel at the Web, a word I hear less today as our online lives meld more into real life.

    The transformation of communication has helped your community. This season saw an historic election aided by the influence of the Internet, technology that all of you helped to cement into the world of 2008. If not for your long nights over the ENK/ACK debugging, finding the X.25 cloud, planning the networking protocol stack and tuning those Ethernet LANs, I couldn’t check on the vote predictions (remarkably accurate) at

    Over this weekend, the NewsWire's co-founder Abby helped me celebrate my mom's 83rd birthday. Ginny Seybold has spent about as much time living in Las Vegas as the HP 3000 has spent on HP's non-strategic list, between the system's doghouse status as a non-Windows, non-Unix solution and the Transition Era of more than seven years and counting. Mom tells us she never figured to have a good run well into her middle 80s. Everything ends, but the matter of when is rarely something we know for certain.

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HP offers museum pieces

As part of its exit from the 3000 community, Hewlett-Packard pledged to give the Computer History Museum a chunk of the 3000's heritage, from frozen code to hardware that can still heat up a room.

MPE/iX software will become part of HP's donation to the museum in Mountain View, Calif. sometime next year, according to HP's latest update on its end-game decisions about the platform. Museum docent Stan Sieler reports that there are already HP 3000s of varying vintages stashed away in the museum archives, although none are on display for the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

HP intends, but hasn't made a full commitment, to make a donation to the museum "to help preserve the history of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX," said Mike Paivien. The contractor has been brought back to his old HP division to help sort out the final decisions about what HP will leave behind for the community. MPE/iX source code is among the vendor's donations, apparently in a format far different from the one which requires an application for third-party support companies.

"There will be hardware and some level of documentation across the HP 3000 lifespan," Paivinen added. "As with most donations, it's things that are old. We're not necessarily going to try to create a complete view of everything. But we're looking at everythign that we have on hand."

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Medford schools learning to migrate

The Medford, Oregon school district is taking the road away from the HP 3000 and into the .NET path, signing on with UNICON Conversion Technologies to migrate the district's custom applications to Windows servers.

The district (MSD) issued an RFP in July requesting proposals to migrate its in-house developed Student Information System to a native Windows environment -- and the solution needed to avoid using emulation. The apps run today on an HP 3000 N4000/200 across multiple sites within the school district. MSD’s applications are predominantly written in HP COBOL, using VPlus screens and IMAGE databases. UNICON says it got the nod for the work because it will engineer a solution that's all-Windows, according to the company's James Harding.

UNICON was selected over multiple bidders after offering its pure ‘native’ migration solution. This deliverable does not employ the use of system emulation or proprietary middleware; thereby it does not lock MSD into the project vendor after the migration -- a very important consideration for future operations where dependence upon third-party vendors can seriously compromise the stability and ongoing viability of such implementations.

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Testing takes a multiple-level drive

    The most exacting part of migration projects does not appear as the code is created to mirror the HP 3000's work in another environment. Migration partners and customers alike report that testing consumes the majority of resource and time in every project. Only when the answers and operations are identical on both systems, measured over a reasonable amount of time, can a migration be considered complete.

    Migration testing takes place on eight levels, according to Chris Koppe, the director of marketing at HP Platinum migration partner Speedware. There's Unit Tests, determining if the code runs; functionality, checking the results of the code against a known application; then performance, integration, interfaces, processes, holistic system tests and finally user acceptance.

    Speedware finished up work on a migration at Tufts Health Plan this year. The customer took on the bulk of testing because they knew their business logic inside the application best.

    “At Tufts they wanted to make sure the application worked, because they wrote it,” Koppe said. In this kind of “lift and shift” migration, no rewriting or packaged applications are employed. A migration customer with this goal simply wants the same level of functionality on a platform that, like Tufts, they can describe as having less risk and more business continuity than an HP 3000.

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Migration plan increases odds of success

    HP 3000 migrations get compared to Y2K projects a lot, according to Speedware’s Chris Koppe. Not only for the complexity and crucial stakes of the multi-year efforts. When a migration project succeeds, users don’t even see a difference.

    Koppe, who directs marketing for the e3000 Platinum Migration Partner, said his firm’s services team owns a 100 percent success rate in migrations so far, a period of work and research covering all of HP’s march to the end of its 3000 business. Staying perfect over more than six years boils down to three fundamentals.

    “We leverage automated tools almost everywhere,” he said. “The next cornerstone is proven methodology and processes. The last one is resources — and if you don’t have enough deep knowledge of the legacy system, you won’t know what it’s supposed to do on the target platform.”

    Speedware completed a migration recently of HP 3000 applications at Tufts Health Plan, an HMO running a mix of COBOL, PowerHouse and three dozen other technologies related to the 3000. At the end of a 30-month period, the HMO had 14 technologies running in concert on HP’s Unix, completed to move one batch and one online 3000 to HP-UX partitions mirroring each other.

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Connect director slate includes 3000 ally

Koppe The Connect user group has offered its slate of directors for posts which start in the coming year. The organization that was created out of Encompass, ITUG and Interex Europe groups wants members to vote on the slate by Dec. 14.

A full profile of the lineup is available at the Connect Web site. The group is naming five directors to fill the board seats that expire at the end of December, and it offers its board of directors as a bundle because this year all three organizations needed representation. This is the first combined board for Connect. So members can vote to accept or reject, but not cast ballots for individual directors.

A face familiar to the 3000 community is among the slate of new directors. Speedware's marketing director Chris Koppe, a veteran of the boards of both Encompass and Interex, is on the track to joining the Connect leadership. Koppe has been instrumental in founding Connect and establishing the HP Technology Forum and Expo as a keystone for Encompass and Connect. He's currently chairing the user group's IT committee.

Connect members have received an e-mail to collect their "accept" or "reject" votes. Joining the group is affordable and a way to have a voice in HP's business decisions for its migration platform products.

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Migrating data made easier

Billmiller Bill Miller, founder of Genesis Total Solutions, runs his business to serve both homesteading and migrating HP 3000 customers. He's even looking for new business this year and next, by selling his company's suite of financials into HP 3000 sites which are thinking of migration someday but aren't his customers already.

Part of Miller's comfort with both sides of transition comes from his adoption of Eloquence as his database on non-3000 platforms. In a Q&A with him we asked why Oracle, much more of a perceived industry standard, was not as good a choice as the IMAGE-workalike Eloquence. Since the Genesis applications are included inside Ecometry e-commerce installations, we also asked Miller how Ecometry migrations are playing out today.

Since there’s been so much movement from the 3000 to Windows, why not go with a SQL Server database on open systems?

   Microsoft SQL is a proprietary database. It just runs on one place. We liked the idea that Eloquence would run on multiple platforms, and it looks just like IMAGE. We had no learning curve to go through. There was almost nothing we had to do to get the Eloquence database done. We were happy with the new features on it, and thus far we haven’t had a single problem with Eloquence.

   That was the smartest decision we made, because if I’ve got a Linux, Unix or Windows platform, I’ve got a database that will move. I sell it that way. To me, it’s not an open platform if you’re selling a Windows-only product. That’s a proprietary operating system. We offer an open system and an open database.

    Selling an open system helps us with the new clients we have who’ve never heard of an HP 3000. We tell them we’ve got a solution that runs on all sorts of platforms, database included. Windows seems to be the hot product now, but it may not be in the future. Linux may take over one day, or something else.

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Q&A: Toting Up Transition's Tally


Bill Miller finds solutions that add up for 3000 sites, no matter where a client is headed. The founder of financials app vendor Genesis Total Solutions, Miller has a customer base that is both migrating and homesteading. His firm supports either choice with no end date for staying and no changes required for leaving.

The solution at Genesis was to build a work-alike version of the company’s application and then give the clients a choice to carry them into the future. As a 3000 community veteran of more than 25 years, Miller respects the value in a stable platform, but he’s also founding his future on the opportunity offered by moving to Windows, Unix or Linux.

    The Genesis apps run standalone on many 3000 sites, and ever-more industry standard platforms, but they’re also embedded in Escalate Retail’s Ecometry e-commerce applications. This app-within-an-app perspective, bolstered by experience and knowledge of the 3000 customer, gives Miller a profile we couldn’t resist. It’s not easy to find a Founder who’s as facile in the world of open systems as in the homeland of HP 3000 users. We contacted him to tell us how the company has modernized the interface of its 3000 application with ScreenJet, but discovered a story even deeper.

What’s your mix of homestead and migrating sites now, seven years after HP’s pullout announcement?

    We probably have at least as many HP 3000 customers, if not more, than we do on open systems. Most people who have the 3000 would just as soon not change. They’ve invested time and money in it and it works, or they’d be using something else.

    I think most of our clients are facing the situation that a migration is going to have to be done. They’re looking at their options, but I rarely find someone who’s in a panic to do something about it. What we’ve told them, and the reason they may be going slower than some migrators, is that we’ve already migrated our software over. And with the Eloquence database that we’re using [for migrations], it’s basically a similar database to the one on the 3000, so we can migrate your data. We tell them if they give us a few days, we can migrate programs and data over to an open platform. They say that’s great, they don’t have to worry about it anymore. If they want to migrate next week, or six months from now, or five years from now, fine.

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Source code can help support rise above HP's

Allegro Consultants is the keystone of the Resource 3000 operation, and Allegro is coming up on its 25th anniversary. That's only a few years less than the HP 3000 has been serving businesses, and Allegro's services now trend toward support of the community, customers using both HP's Unix servers as well as MPE. Allegro is glad for HP's offer of a reference source code license.

"For most of those years, we have been offering premium MPE Operating System support for our customers," president Steve Cooper said of Allegro's mission. "We applaud HP’s efforts discussed in their latest announcement and intend to apply for the privileges offered."

"The availability of source code access will allow us, as support providers and developers of system-level software products, to further improve our ability to provide 'at least as good as HP' products and services to assist customers with their HP e3000 systems."

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HP lists what it will end this year

HP's announcement of 2009 plans included some subtractions along with the addition of a new source code licensing program. Software providers in the DSPP developer program won't be able to get HP 3000 software from the vendor starting in 2009. The number of DSPP members who only have an MPE/iX membership is few; many more have ongoing memberships for development under HP-UX and Windows. Plainly put, HP won't be shipping free versions of MPE/iX to any developers next year.

Another loss won't be missed much. HP held out the possibility that it would convert HP 9000 servers to HP 3000 systems if the marketplace needed hardware. But after more than two years of making the offer, the vendor said only a couple of customers were looking for A-Class servers and couldn't find what they needed on the used marketplace. HP is ending the potential for 9000-to-3000 conversions, starting immediately. 3000 hardware availability has kept pace with the market's needs.

Another activity is wrapping up as well, but this one might be more missed. The vendor's liaison to the OpenMPE advocacy group will stop. Jeff Bandle, the liaison who replaced Mike Paivinen, is ending his duties. Bandle talked with OpenMPE directors in conference calls every two or three weeks or so. The communication is ceasing because HP's lab efforts for the 3000 are at an end.

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Eloquence 8.0 boosts throughput

    Marxmeier AG is releasing the 8.0 version of its Eloquence database, but the product’s improvements have already been in use for months. That’s because the vendor has been patiently rolling out the enhancements in patches for the many 7.10 users around the world.

    The database continues to win high marks in migrated 3000 sites both small and large. In migrations such as the N-Class powered in-house apps at Tufts Health Plan and Summit’s Spectrum credit union software, this IMAGE work-alike combines a familiar database’s functions with a multi-faceted tool suite for Linux, Unix and Windows. Customers don’t need to change 3000 app designs if Eloquence is the target database in a migration.

    The changes in 8.0 embrace a shift in computer architecture since the last major release, said Eloquence’s creator Michael Marxmeier. “When we wrote the last major Eloquence architecture, it was a point in time when the industry had less CPUs, but the emphasis was on faster CPUs every year,” he said.

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