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March 31, 2009

Eloquence brings Version 8 to Windows

Marxmeier Software released the Version B.08.00 build of its Eloquence database for the Windows platform this month. Among many enhancements, the release improves scalability through better threading, enhances recovery utility to support point-in-time recovery, as well as fine-tunes a utility that mimics the QUERY report tool used on the HP 3000.

Eloquence has notched many success stories during the Transition Era, starting with a notable contribution to Summit Information Systems' credit union application migration. The new features, listed in an extensive technical note at the Marxmeier Web site, deliver the same capabilities that Marxmeier rolled out in its HP-UX version of B.08.00 last fall. The database server now supports replication and case-insensitive indexes, for example. The product that has included its own programming language now has full Windows keyboard mapping, too.

Marxmeier has been adding the features through optional, soft-rollout patches throughout 2008, but this official release brings all of the software to the Windows 32-bit Intel (x86) and 64-bit (x64) architectures. HP's fifth-generation Proliant server line, one of the more popular blade-style hardware platforms for migrating 3000 sites, employs Xeon CPUs to run Windows Server 2008 x64.

Marxmeier has been developing software for many years that brings HP 3000 IMAGE experience to platforms like the Proliant BL line. QUERY, a default report tool from MPE/iX that's used in a surprising number of sites, made the jump to HP-UX in 2004 as a result of work inside Marxmeier's labs. Version 7.0 of Eloquence delivered a Windows version of what Marxmeier calls QUERY3K.

The newest release of QUERY3K — initially ported from the 3000 using the INTRINS/iX toolkit from Allegro Consultants — includes enhancements for Windows users. Version 8.0's QUERY3K improves support of the Eloquence database limits that exceed the previous TurboIMAGE limits.

Marxmeier reports that QUERY3K should now support the following limits

    • a record size of up to 5120 bytes
    • 2048 items per database
    • 500 data sets
    • 1024 items per set.
    • The item type 'B' (binary) is now mapped to 'X'.

Developments such as creating a threading engine faster than the one in the operating system, or retooling a ported 3000 utility to accomodate advanced Eloquence features, show the attention to detail that's made the database an easy choice for migrating customers. Some migrations can survive on technical choices which are less aware of the HP 3000 designs. More customized, in-house applications demand more explicit knowledge of the 3000 way.

02:22 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2009

Moving reports to HP's Unix

Querycalc One year ago today, AICS Research founder Wirt Atmar asked the 3000 online community a question about migration targets. The company had rewritten its QueryCalc product from the ground up, creating a client to run in Windows and server-side code to access Unix-hosted databases. QCReports was the result, avidly used by the Summit credit union sites who've migrated to HP-UX. Wirt, who passed away almost two months ago, posed the following query on March 30 of last year:

Is there any interest (meaning money) in us putting together host code for the HP3000 and IMAGE? I estimate that it would only take us a couple of months (in the Atmarian Calendar) to get it up and running on the HP3000.

As information rolled in, it became apparent that moving host code to the 3000 for QCReports was not going to net any appreciable interest, as Wirt defined it. But AICS Research will never turn its back on the HP 3000 customers who continue to use the original QueryCalc report writer, even as the company embraces the changes in the 3000 community's hosting. Reports need a smooth upgrade path to make a migration more efficient, and AICS is doing it right.

The AICS site includes a page that says although the company is emphasizing migration of QueryCalc data, "that migration is not mandatory. We will continue to support QueryCalc on the HP3000 until the last machine is unplugged."

QCReports will remind you of the best features of Excel once you download and start the client on your PC. What's more, AICS created a free terminal emulator, QCTerm, to aid in the evolution of QueryCalc. One Web page at the AICS site adds that the company provides an automated tool to move existing reports into the new format.

Although the reports are exactly the same, the file structures have been completely redesigned in the new version of QueryCalc in order to make them more compatible with Windows. To make this reformatting virtually invisible to you, an HP3000 program will be provided to convert all of your existing reports into the new format.

Reports are second only to a company's raw data when an organization ranks its corporate computing assets. They represent views into that data which create documents to drive decisions. The way that AICS rewrote its application, created its own emulator, then built a tool to put 3000 reports into a Unix-capable format — that's the way a migration is done by professionals.

The Summit credit union migration has been handled with similar aplomb, made easier by that vendor's choice of Eloquence as the database to replace IMAGE. We'll have an update on Eloquence and Windows in our report tomorrow.

02:14 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 27, 2009

HP makes changes to patch alerts

RedesignAlert Migration customers from the HP 3000 community will experience a change in the automated patch reports the vendors sends, starting in June. The new format removes some crucial and exacting information that was delivered in text-only format of the alerts. As a bonus, the service leaves new room for HP to promote its product specials.

Automatic notice of patches has been a vital and crucial service from HP's support department. Since we signed on for the alerts and notices in the spring of 1997, countless notices have been delivered via e-mail about HP's repairs to software and firmware. While this won't be much of a change for the MPE/iX user — HP ceased such repairs for all types of HP 3000 problems in December — HP's other enterprise computer users will be impacted.

Plainly put, this appears to be a reduction in HP's service levels. Perhaps the vendor always intended to reduce this free-to-the-community level of support. Anyone could sign up for the text-only notices, the most efficient gateway into HP's byzantine and overstuffed database of problem resolutions. Perhaps the new format, coming in a few months, will not sacrifice as much as appears today. But the revised format, a PDF file (shown above, click for more detail; here's a file to download), one that replaces technical details with sales information, suggests a slippery slope leading away from ownership value.

CurrentSupportDoc Patch notices such as the old format (at left) opened the door to the fair and balanced distribution of needed support deliverables. You didn't need to maintain an HP support contract to use patches that the vendor engineered. You do, however, need to know as soon as they are available if you're to avoid a system failure or service interruption. HP's support engineers have the most complete data on this — provided that your company buys HP support services. No support contract, well, then you get the circus flyer of the PDF file.

Third party support companies in the HP marketplace might see this change as good for business as well as the future ownership value of HP's enterprise servers. These good companies — many of whom support HP's Unix systems as well as MPE/iX servers — still have their own HP support contact to rely upon. But using a marketing tool for the rest of the community, dressed up around critical information, smacks of an HP now feasting on the growing complexity of using business computers in an enterprise environment. Selling printers alongside critical patch data is like being offered a cable TV upgrade while you're getting a medical consult on an MRI result.

Perhaps the increased revenues from the marketing will persuade Hewlett-Packard's Services executives they can afford to reconsider this change. There's has to be a pony somewhere underneath all of this muck in the vendor's stalls.

09:59 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 26, 2009

One Thousand Articles Later...

Articles Today's entry in the 3000 NewsWire's blog marks the 1,000th article in our news and community resource. For 10 years we took pleasure in reporting to the 3000 community on paper issues of the NewsWire, mailed monthly to offices, plus the Online Extra e-mails we transmitted in-between.

But we stepped onto a faster track back in June of 2005 with this blog. Less than a month later, the 31-year-old Interex user group slammed its doors shut overnight. I was never so grateful to have an every-workday news outlet to keep up with the collapse of a multi-million-dollar institution that was so close to the heart of the community. Sorry news for the thousands who lost millions of dollars, yes. But a blog was the best way to spread needed information in a confused time.

From 2005's "Less tangled SOX for 3000s" to this week's final resolution of that Interex bankrupcty, I've been blessed to have a community of wizards, gurus and wise-acres helping create all of that content. Sometimes it's just a quick e-mail reply that helps form an article; others come from an hour-long interview over Skype or even the regular phone. And you can find articles written by contributors like Gilles Schipper, Birket Foster and others. It's all in the archives.

One of the best ways to browse through our blog coverage is via that monthly archives page. It holds links to every month's articles, arranged in chronological order. Of course, the very best way to pinpoint what you need is through the search module, which is tuned to pick up articles out of the blog, or further back in the print-and-Web site era. Even those Online Extra e-mails are out there. We remain grateful to the man who helped us get our first articles onto the Web, solved countless problems since that 1995 debut, and continues to host the pre-2005 content: Chris Bartram of 3k Associates. (Chris has been online long enough to own a two-character Web address. There are less than 1,300 of those in the entire Web.)

We made a commitment to putting 3000 news online back in an era when the Web was novel. Blogging, and the engines that make it easy to concentrate on content rather than Web design, raised up our news platform for your computer platform. Blogging becomes journalism when you know how to create fresh content, in addition to relaying what somebody else reported. It's a distinction I think about every time I must devise each workday's article.

Shirky Getting news from online sources has changed the reporting game. If you follow the migration of media toward the online default, you may enjoy this column by Web and media analyst and professor Clay Shirky, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. In it he says the world doesn't need printed media, but it does need journalism. (And in a little bit of multimedia treat for us, we can even see him lecture at last year's Web 2.0 Expo.)

Online archiving will be one of the greatest preservation aids for the 3000 community. OpenMPE is likely to have material available by the end of this year from a wider variety of sources than anyone — although Speedware has licensed everything that HP would release for the 3000, documentation, articles, freeware and more. hp3000links.com is a great resource as well. Chip in the content on stalwarts like Adager, Robelle, Allegro, and the on-the-fly dexterity of somebody like Alan Yeo at ScreenJet, who organized the 2003 World Wide Wake, and you have a library at the speed of light to keep you educated and entertained in your enterprise.

Perhaps what's been the most fun in blogging (using the tools of Moveable Type, hosting at TypePad and the nubile software of the Mac) has been the multimedia. Podcasts, videos, interactive tweets through Twitter and messaging via Linked In — all of this has been a richer reflection of the color in your community.

We remain true to our roots as print journalists, even among the sweetness of tweets. Every quarter carries our best stories in a printed issue, which still arrives in mailboxes with some articles that haven't been seen until you unseal the envelope. Print practices serve blog journalism well, I've found. Something that looks old school, like a newsletter or the HP 3000, can still be the vehicle for new ideas. Thanks for reading them a thousand times over.

12:30 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2009

SAP: Path for HP away from 3000

Hewlett-Packard has been migrating away from HP 3000s in its IT operations for years. The transition is becoming more complete in these months that remain before the vendor ends its support for the platform. Much of internal HP has been run using SAP as the base application platform, and now the massive app is taking over HP 3000 operations for the vendor.

A few IT managers at HP Canada have checked in to report that their HP 3000 duties are drawing to a close. "I am currently supporting HP 3000 applications for Hewlett-Packard in Canada," said Jennie Lo when she recently joined the Linked In HP 3000 Community group. "However, the applications are scheduled to retire within 2009."

SAP is popular with corporate organizations the size of HP: Fortune 500, multinationals, companies with an extensive IT staff and a dedication to the ITIL practices that Hewlett-Packard has helped to write and preaches to its customers. The solution is not inexpensive, however significant its benefits turn out to be. Lufthansa Airmotive has gone from a clutch of HP 3000 apps to SAP. PACCAR, which builds Peterbilt and Kenworth commercial trucks, has followed the path of SAP, but on IBM hardware. SAP is also picking up HP 3000 implementations that have been running at companies which are already using SAP elsewhere, such as Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.

SAP is a way up for a certain size of HP 3000 customer. Being a broad-spectrum solution, SAP offers a good array of persuasion tools to nudge a prospect onto this broad path: A list of top Webcasts offers a primer on SAP's proposed benefits.

To view these Webcasts, SAP would like you to register with them. But a direct link to the Web page on the SAP site will get you the same access. Titles in the series include:

  • Weathering The Economy
  • The New Face of Business Intelligence                                                                 
  • SAP Customer Relationship Management
  • Customer Enterprise SOA Deployment  Strategies and Drivers
  • Closing the Gap Between Strategy and Execution
  • Delivering Results with Business  Intelligence
  • Business Process Management in Action: No Detours from Model to Execution
  • Building an Enterprise SOA with SAP 
  • NetWeaver and Enterprise Services                                                                     
  • Business Objects: The New Face of Business Intelligence
  • Delivering Superior Customer Value through End-to-End Business Processes

09:38 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 24, 2009

Ways to Recover a 3000 Password

My operator, in his infinite wisdom, decided to change passwords on MANAGER.SYS.  Of course he forgot, or fat-finger-checked; I don’t know.  At any rate, I need some help.  Any suggestions, other than a blindfold and cigarette?

Chuck Trites offered this solution:

Do you have the GOD program, a part of MPEX, on your system? If so, it has SM capability so it will allow you to do a LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS=

Duane Percox of QSS added a simpler approach:

If your operator can log onto operator.sys:

file xt=mytape;dev=disc
file syslist=$stdlist
store command.pub;*xt;directory;show

Using your favorite editor or other utility search for the string: "ALTUSER MANAGER  SYS"

You will notice: PAS=<the pwd>  which is your clue.

Plus, Steve Ritenour suggested that a logon to the MGR.TELSUP account will unlock the passwords. The Telesup account usually has SM capability, if it wasn't changed.

For some 3000 managers, the subject itself should be filed in a place not easily found. "These responses are all well and good," said Bruce Collins of Softvoyage, "but shouldn't we be thinking twice about posting this kind of information (how to hack an HP 3000) to the 3000 newsgroup?"

Bill Lancaster of Lund Performance Solutions disagreed. Secrecy about password recovery is not really a secret, he said.

A Google search with the right words will yield far more dangerous information about the 3000 than anything in this thread.  The genesis of this information on the net came through BBS’s in the 1980s. I’m afraid the barn door is already open.

06:20 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2009

Contributed programs survive bankruptcy

Although the remains of the Interex user group have been doled out to creditors, the 3000 community is also getting its share of the assets which users helped create. The Interex HP 3000 Contributed Software Library has been available since late last spring, free to anybody with an 3000 terminal emulator. AICS Research has its free QCTerm for download to assist in your access to the CSL.

Tracy Johnson, one of the OpenMPE board members, collected all of the freeware from the CSL and hosted it on his HP 3000 back in May of 2008. These programs might represent some of the most significant assets for the community. It's tough to measure how much a program is worth if it saves you hours of development, or keeps a mission-critical enterprise running smoothly. But that value, collectively across hundreds of 3000 sites, is a lot greater than the $400,000 or less which the bankruptcy trustees distributed this month.

OpenMPE is at work on a different interface to get your freeware from the CSL. Matt Perdue of Hill Country Technologies is the hosting manager for the online assets of that user group. The organization, built entirely from volunteer help for the past seven years, is also at work on finalizing a licensing agreement for the Jazz freeware built and copyrighted by HP.

To be honest, some of the programs in the CSL were written more than 15 years ago. On the other hand, the community is still rife with applications for businesses written even farther into the past. On the HP 3000 the age of software is not always the most important arbiter of its value. 3K Associates also hosts a good share of the CSL on the company's Web site.

The open availability of the CSL freeware is a good example of a gift to the community. Anyone can use these programs, or employ their subroutines and modules to create newer, more customized utilities. (Brian Edminister of Applied Technologies suggested the latter in a blog reply over the weekend. He's got a great collection of MPE-capable open source utilities that will premeire this summer at his Web site. It could turn out to be a 21st Century CSL.)

The 3000 community grew strong on such utility software, from the commercial offerings such as Adager, Suprtool and database middleware to the contributions of a program like BOUNCER or REFEREE. (The latter makes any CSL program available for use on your current version of MPE/iX. You need to test these little gems on a crash and burn box.)

There are no complex legal agreements for using the CSL. Users developed these helper programs and brought them to Interex conferences — how retro! -- to be copied onto Swap Tapes. Eventually a CSL tape was created with the latest updates from a Swap Tape. Simple, easily employed, tools for those who knew how to take responsibility for themselves. Of course, that CSL was "an elegant weapon for a more civilized time," as Obi Wan said of his light saber.

Techology has raced forward since the 1990s, but it has also created a thicket of legal tangles and holding companies restraining freeware. Nobody is around to keep a CSL program from doing good work. Nobody's around anymore in HP's 3000 labs, either, but that's not true of HP's empire. It keeps up a holding company to ride herd on its freeware. You might say that being the overlord of overlooked tools is a less elegant fate, sad to say, than going out of business overnight like Interex did.

11:39 AM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2009

User group bankruptcy ends with pennies

HP's longest-standing user group finally experienced its death rattle this month when the Interex bankruptcy case resolved the outstanding debts to thousands of creditors. US government notices arrived in mailboxes of companies as large as Hewlett-Packard and as small as single members like the Hungarian News Agency. The March 18 notice was the last shoe to drop in a death dance that began in the summer of 2005.

Creditors who spent money with Interex received about 10 cents on every dollar owed, according to the latest documents filed by the US Northern District of California court in Santa Clara County, California. Hewlett-Packard took one of the larger losses, at $200,000, while a handful of major hotels across North America failed to collect six-figure deposits or never saw payments for hotel rooms which were either reserved in blocks or occupied during conferences.

Losses closer to home in the 3000 community came at software and services vendors who paid for booths at the suddenly-closed HP World show of 2005. Birket Foster of MB Foster said that "Interex took our booth deposit and kept it," he reported earlier this month. "We'll get a check for approximately 10 percent of everything."

Foster and others noted that the Santa Clara County tax collector got $8,700, then bankruptcy trustees, the accountants hired by trustees, and lawyers "all made out fine in this," since Interex assets and cash on hand went first to settle taxes and then to pay court officials. Interex closed its doors owing $4.1 million with assets on hand of less than 10 percent of that. The group folded up two weeks after its final deadline for payments for booth spaces.

The financial troubles mounted over more than a year at the user group that was founded at the same time as the HP 3000 was being launched by Hewlett-Packard. The vendor absorbed its losses in part because it created a user conference to compete with HP World. The first HP Technology Forum and Expo was scheduled to open just one month after the 2005 HP World. User group insiders said that HP's expo space was being sold as a vendor-sponsored alternative to HP World.

The Interex name was not listed as part of the assets sold to pay creditors. Even though the goodwill in that brand has probably evaporated after the group went broke and killed off its Web information overnight, some value might remain. Interex.com and .org now belong to the exhibit design and fabrication maker InterEx, while interex.net is the home of a designer selling capes, shawls and cloaks. The last user group to use the name, HP Interex-Europe, ended business under that title when it became part of the new Connect alliance of HP user groups last year. A computer cable company operates under the name, among other businesses.

Near the end of Interex's life, the group claimed to have 118,000 members. As debts mounted and the group chose to remain separate from the user group consolidation that HP desired — and took less sponsorship money from the vendor — even a large membership wasn't enough to keep the 31-year-old group's doors open. Unlike HP 3000 customer AIG, Interex was not "too big to fail."

Community members said in 2005 the user group’s management dealt itself mortal wounds by encouraging members to combat the vendor, rather than sparking close collaboration.

“The only chance Interex had to survive so long was through collaboration,” said Duane Percox, co-founder of K-12 school software company QSS and a volunteer at the Interex Solution Symposium conferences. “If you take a combative approach it will work for a short period, but then the vendor will tire of that.”

Percox was one of several in the 3000 community who cited HP Executive VP Ann Livermore’s advocacy as a reason Interex could let its users grill HP managers in roundtables. Some HP managers once had a bonus plan based on Interex advocacy survey results.

Interex had promised a “No Marketing” lineup of talks at the HP World cancelled. “This [closing] was an example of marketing beating the engineers,” Percox said. “People wanted stronger marketing from HP. Stronger marketing people don’t like it when you have independent user groups,” he added.

Connect operates on a different business model than Interex, which chose to manage all its own operations. Connect, and the Encompass enterprise user group before it, has contracted with Smith-Bucklin's user group management division ever since early in this decade. The group has named Speedware director of marketing Chris Koppe as president-elect for 2010 and vice president for the current Connect board. Kristi Browder, who served at Encompass president for several years, recently took over as Executive Director and COO of Connect.

03:12 PM in History, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 19, 2009

eFORMz saves trees, adds RTF, barcodes

Minisoft has rolled out a 7.0 version of its eFORMz paperless reporting utility for the 3000 community. The new version recognizes the Rich Text Format (RTF) used by Microsoft Word and understood by other word processing applications. Minisoft says the new support means

eFORMz users can now design forms in MS Word or other Windows publishing tools and not have to go through the steps of converting what they have designed to an eFORMz project. eFORMz recognizes the RTF format and uses what’s designed directly. RTF support also means expanded support for color and even faster printing.

EFORMz is Java-based, so Minisoft recommends that 3000 sites host the software on a non-3000 platform to avoid the Java on MPE/iX performance issues. But it works with applications common to the HP 3000 community such as MANMAN, Ecometry/Escalate — really just about anything that generates data for a report from 3000s. Users design forms in a favorite word processor (Microsoft Word, WordPerfect), desktop publisher (PageMaker, QuarkXPress), or drawing package. Once the form is designed, eFORMz captures the output and adds the electronic form to its library.

The eDirect module, which can help sites go paperless, is included in eFORMz 7.0. Using eDirect enables eFORMz to send any document via e-mail in PDF format. The new eFORMz also supports the next generation 2D stacked barcodes, which allow more information in a smaller space; data is encoded in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions. The money-saving new US Postal Service barcodes are also supported.

There's more information on the range of product improvements at the Minisoft site in its newsletter. The long-standing vendor of 3000 utility software and middleware has also announced OLE DB, ODBC, and JDBC driver support for Eloquence 8.0, the newest version of the IMAGE work-alike database and reporting tool for Unix, Linux and Windows.

09:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 18, 2009

Unix market braces for IBM acquisition of Sun

The Wall Street Journal has reported that IBM is in talks to purchase Sun Microsystems, a $6.5 billion deal that could give Big Blue a big edge in the enterprise Unix derby. Hewlett-Packard might hope that the deal is only a rumor — or that at worst, it has as much impact as HP's purchase of Digital did seven years ago.

Technically, HP didn't buy Digital outright, but it acquired Compaq, which had bought Digital. By the time Digital products like OpenVMS showed up on HP price lists, their impact was only on the installed base of Digital customers. HP killed off the Digital True64 implementation of Unix and axed one of the best processors ever sold in Alpha. You could argue Compaq did more to hobble Digital's Unix than HP in the three years Compaq owned Digital before the HP-Compaq merger.

The consolidation dance is supposed to help a vendor gain market share. Sometimes the edge shows up when a salesperson can say, "Oh, instead of buying a Sun system, why not move toward our Series p [IBM Unix] line? Unix is Unix, after all, and we'll be melding product lines before too long."

That Unix mind-meld has been more of a fantasy than a dream over the last decade. It's useful to have a Unix application already for sale when you want to offer it on another version of Unix. But unlike Sun's Java, Unix was never "write once, run everywhere." Unix differs too much to ever be the "open system" it promised 20 years ago.

Any assimilation of Sun into IBM is going to cause a ripple in HP-UX server business, however. IBM will pursue Unix enterprise server business more effectively than Sun did. Big Blue will use the same selling edge that HP enjoys: "We offer everything in computing that a company could want, from services to software to systems, of all sizes and capital costs." This could be troubling news for the customer who's hoping that HP can keep its HP-UX market share from sliding. (Industry-standard Windows servers make up all of HP's server growth these days.) Everyone in the 3000 community knows what happens to an HP product which experiences declining revenue growth.

The IBM-Sun deal is far from official. Even the WSJ noted that while the talks are underway, the acquisition may not happen. Neither IBM or Sun officials are commenting, a standard practice while you negotiate the sale of your company to a competitor. The WSJ story claims that HP was offered Sun and passed on the deal, having spent $13 billion on EDS last year to beef up higher-profit services business.

If the deal makes, however, it would mark a milestone far more important than Digital becoming HP. Sun grew up thumbing its nose at the established computing industry, growing strong on the dot-com boom while firms ramped up their Internet and Web resources. Sun was one of the last standing players in the processor derby, too, offering its SPARC architecture until it embraced Intel like nearly all other computer makers.

IBM remains the exception to these conceding companies. Big Blue still does a strong business in its POWER line of processors, sold for the Unix and AS-400 (Series i) systems. The most challenging part of IBM's effort to take in Sun would be combining cultures. Nothing could be more different than melding the culture of a company whose CEO wears a ponytail with the button-down mind of IBM. The clash of wills between Compaq and HP cultures comes to mind. Some HP analysts say the smaller of those two companies's cultures achieved dominance once that deal was finalized.

07:32 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 17, 2009

Used servers may have lost their licenses

The 3000 community can count on third party resellers to provide fresh HP 3000s for years to come. While these systems will not be factory-fresh, they bring new horsepower and connectivity to sites that need upgrades. Homesteading customers as well as long-term migration projects require refreshed 3000s.

But an offer of a 3000 system does not always include a license for MPE/iX. Even though HP once said that an MPE license can't ever be separated from a server, during the past several years that has not been true. Customers who toe the legal line for 3000 ownership might find a 3000 out on the market without a legal MPE license. And such servers turn up because Hewlett-Packard created them, through deals or oversight.

A 3000 can lose its license when an owner trades across for a comparable HP-UX license, HP has explained. The server does not return to HP in many of these cases; it can be difficult to get HP to pick up a retired 3000 system, even while the vendor is installing an Integrity server to replace the hardware.

Tracy Johnson of the OpenMPE board of directors said that HP's upgrade engineers sometimes have left a license-free 3000 in their wake.

There were chassis upgrades done by official HP CEs which after having done their work, sometimes they left the old HP 3000 in their place. So the [MPE] license was transferred to the new HP 3000, leaving he old HP 3000 without a license (even though the old HP 3000 would still function just fine).  These boxes were sometimes retained by customers as “test machines” and could possibly (even probably) be upgraded by simply using official HP SLT+FOS+SUBSYS tapes a second time.

These license-free systems are sold in the third party market. HP introduced a '"lost license" program for customers to get MPE/iX onto HP 3000s which don't meet HP's Software License Transfer standards. HP's process addresses a system "which has no documented history, such as aPO, invoice, or a support contract. We have created a stand-alone MPE/iX Right To Use license (AD3777A) that is not coupled with any secondary hardware system sales." But Johnson believes "I would think those [license-free upgraded] boxes would be ineligible" for the lost-license program.

The concept of a license-free HP 3000 surfaced on the 3000 newsgroup not long ago when Cypress Technology offered an N-Class server for $3,300. Competing hardware vendor Client Systems asked if the N-Class box was a "de-licensed State Farm server."

HP charges for its "lost license" program, although less than the RTUs cost at introduction now that the prices have dropped 35 to 50 percent. A N-Class system is not the usual kind of 3000 which has its MPE cashed in for comparable HP-UX licensiing; that kind of swap happens more often for older Series 900 HP 3000s.

HP has set a deadline on how long it will operate its lost license program for MPE/iX. When the vendor exits the market altogether on Dec. 31, 2010, the lost license RTU progam ends.

06:32 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2009

Economy presses 3000 vets out of work

Manufacturing firms are cutting through rough waters in 2009, rocked by the same waves that are sending bank stocks below $2 and removing clerks from retail stores in staff cutbacks. The Parker Hannifin Corp. in Cleveland, Ohio had to make cuts recently which sent 22-year veteran Edna Houston to the unemployment ranks. Most of us know someone who's been furloughed, laid off or some other term for less busy than they want to be day-to-day.

Houston took to her blog last week to talk about the steps that her employer, which has used HP 3000s for those two-plus decades, took before cutting staff:

They have explored every possibility to prevent layoffs. Temporary workers and part time staff have already been let go. Remaining personnel have been mandated to use their accrued vacation time down to below 100 hours. Last quarter we were required to take five days off unpaid. This next quarter we are required to take 10 days off unpaid. Merit increases have been postponed for 18 months. Now they have offered workers incentives if they will voluntarily retire or voluntarily quit. But make no mistake about it, layoffs are inevitable. The recession is just too deep.

There was a time not long ago when being idled was an HP 3000 expert's unique situation, unless they learned other skills. But the retreat from business expansion is pushing a much broader range of IT veteran onto the unemployment rolls. We only have fear itself to fear — but the first step toward fearing only fear is to look reality in the eye. The second step is to tell what has happened to you, and then network.

Learning something new and needed might be a third step. Just today my sister-in-law reported that she's passed her tests to become a Ohio State certified Nurse's Aid. The job couldn't be more different from her decade-plus in payables and receiveables. Her former employer was another manufacturing company in the Midwest taking a dip in its business.

Learning something new in the IT skill set is one of the ways to float upward in the downward undertow of today's business currents. This may not be news to some community members, but online training in complementary IT skills — something related to what you know but in a new area of opportunity — is one strategy to follow while you're looking. (No implicit endorsement in the link there to Skillsoft, but you get the idea.) Train from your home office (that's what we independents call it when we leave traditional employment) and put that broadband connection to good use.

Even as the Fed chairman predicts things will turn upward next year, consumer finance TV star Suze Orman thinks it will be another six years before the tide rises instead of ebbs. Nobody knows for sure. However, being unique in your skill set really can help in finding a place to land. The HP 3000 customers who aren't shedding jobs so quickly still rely on the system, even more so now that capital expenditures are being reduced. Add the fact that 3000 experience is becoming rare and you might have a formula for finding work. Houston's situation is new and she's begun a campaign of getting the word out without remorse or blame. Facebook, Linked In: Such resources help you build out a personal network, the asset that can turn the tide for employment future.

07:19 PM in User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2009

Jazz freeware emerges with restraints

LegalForest HP's only authorized reseller for HP 3000 products, Client Systems, unveiled the first public re-hosting of the Jazz software utilities today, but the programs are penned up behind a thicket of legal language from an HP materials agreement. While initial response from the community complained about the Materials Use Agreement, the terms gauntlet was tossed down by the HP Development Company, not Client Systems. (The screen shot above illustrates the standard display of the terms at the Client Systems Web site. Click to enlarge it, though it will not help.)

The dense legal restrictions might have been already in place in HP's mind before Jazz left Hewlett-Packard's 3000 division. But the agreement was finalized only about two months ago, and the vendor insisted that any re-hosting licensee accept the terms — and that re-hosting organizations demand that community users accept terms before using the freeware. Unless the users click to agree, they cannot access the Jazz materials. (Well, there is a way to access the software download page directly, although the path sidesteps the legal agreement.)

Computer users blast through such End User Licensing Agreements every day, from installation of updated software to downloads of freeware. But the Jazz software targets a more advanced user, the IT manager, director or administrator of business systems. Early responses to the document that restrains Jazz use were not kind.

"Give me a month to read through all that fine print, and pass it off to the legal department," said Craig Lalley, owner of consulting firm EchoTech. "Then I will be happy to comment on the content." While the agreement might make HPDC and its attorneys happy, the presentation to the user community could be some of the sorriest Web display I've ever seen for a critical piece of information. At the least, could it be in black type on the white background?

Client Systems is not the only outlet for Jazz and the Gordian knot of the agreement. Speedware also contracted with HP to host the software and documentation, resources that HP once distributed without this forced-click agreement.

That was a different HP era and a different segment of HP doing the distribution, however. Standard practices today include a 5,000-word, 39-page agreement which references four other HP licensing documents and lays out a $5 compensation fee for any damage caused by the Jazz freeware.

On the other hand, since the Web page collects no information by name of its visitors, it's hard to see how HP might be able to enforce or pursue any tresspass through its forest of controls. Client Systems admits the re-hosting is a work in progress. Dan Cossey invited the community to comment on the Client Systems presentation and hosting at his e-mail, [email protected]. For those who don't read these things anyway, the wealth of HP's programming is just a click-to-accept away.

03:48 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2009

Taking a Tour of IT History

2120Disk The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. has a wonderful gallery of gear on its floor, but tonight may be one of its more special evenings for HP 3000 folks. VEsoft founder Vladimir Volokh is in the Bay Area, visiting customers to consult on one of his multi-week tours. He's planning to meet with Allegro Consultants co-founder Stan Sieler after-hours at the museum, where Stan volunteers as a docent.

A member of the Interex HP user group's Hall of Fame, Stan will lead Vladimir tonight as two of the 3000 community's leading technology lights walk through the CHM's aisles of history. For any of you who wish they might be alongside to hear some of Stan's histories, we've got a few minutes' worth recorded from a tour he led last year. Take a moment to measure the passion in Stan's voice as he touts the merits of the most technically-advanced personal computer of 1974, the first year that the HP 3000 advanced enough to do serious computing. (He goes on to mention the CHM's donated Apple I — not anywhere near as superior, but the foundation of a company analysts are eyeing as a new member of the Dow Jones 30 blue chips.) What made the Intel 8008-based MCM-70 PC stand out was included software, the same kind of bundled resource behind the 3000's success.

Sad to say, as Stan notes, that technical superiority does not ensure commercial success. Hewlett-Packard created many advanced computing products during the 20th Century, including your community's server. As a for-profit business, HP measured its return on investment for each one. The company has a history of dropping low earners. But the 3000's value to the owners is higher than the value to HP. Your success with the 3000 doesn't require commercial embrace of your computer to continue its return on your investment.

History of computing is becoming an interesting study because so much has occurred in so little time. Unlike the span of governments and wars and languages, the leaps of computing have been observed within our lifetimes. It's hard to say how long something will retain value, regardless of when it was engineered.

As an example, Allegro sells a software product called Avatar, whose chief use is as "a disassembler / patcher / code-explorer" for software which was written for HP's Precision Architecture Reduced Instruction Set Computing (PA-RISC). Avatar hasn't had much attention since Allegro released an HP-UX version in 1997 to go along with the HP 3000 version. But Avatar remains in use today on porting projects to carry software from PA-RISC to other platforms.

Allegro still offers Avatar for 3000 developers, a component in its System Manager's Toolbox suite. The toolbox is sold by Lund Performance Solutions, one of the initial HP Platinum Migration Partners. For companies looking back into the history of their HP 3000 applications with eyes on migration — or those simply practicing good maintenance to sustain homesteading — the toolbox offers the prospect of a good return on investment. Plus, it's got a history of achievement, like the HP 3000's MPE/iX.

04:33 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2009

Washington colleges continue study of migration

This week's issue of the Olympic College's newspaper The Olympian includes news of the HP 3000. In specific, the paper reports about the fate of systems which support admissions, registration, financial aid and graduation tracking. This nearly-total range of college operations relies on an HP 3000 the college has been working to replace since 2003. In fact, more than 30 colleges continue to count on this 3000 that college IT directors like Jack Hanson say will be hard to maintain and find parts for after 2010.

Projects move more slowly in the academic world, a fact that could be even more true at the Bellingham,
Washington community college. Olympic College is part of the Washington Community College Consortium (WCCC), a group of schools which operated HP 3000s that were destined to become a single .NET server. Hewlett-Packard first earned the approval to do the migration, with Transoft to perform the work. In the fall of 2003 we reported:

The deal with the Washington colleges migrates 34 colleges' HP 3000s into a centralized data center to be run by the colleges’ Center for Information Systems (CIS). The applications written in COBOL II on the 3000s will become AcuCOBOL applications under Microsoft’s .NET, said Transoft CEO Paul Holland, after about 18 months of migration work between Transoft and HP Services.

The Olympian and the reports to the Washington State Student Services Commission & Councils tell the rest of the story. Plans for a move away from an in-house system failed, so HP had to back away from the engagement and settle up on what couldn't be finished. The colleges still intend to run on another platform by 2010, The Olympian reports, the end of HP's support. One bit of the delay might stem from what the colleges hoped to convert: reports written in Protos, a unique mix of COBOL and fourth generation language.

Sure enough, since the colleges are public entities with open reporting, you can locate online documents on the 2004 schedule of migration and progress report, the options assessment more than four years later (PDF file, see page 7), and now the news that the colleges want to move forward after "a $14 million rehosting project was cancelled last year." The project was big enough to involve services in Atlanta, London and India. Not to mention the oversight from Washington's colleges.

That migration's 2003 target platform, Windows, was influenced by nearby Microsoft (perhaps donating software) and HP Service's desire to put up a win for the .NET solution to show 3000 customers. Protos, however, can be a knotty piece of software to unravel into another language, since the vendor has closed down operations for many years now. Protos distinguished itself by compiling into COBOL, but the gap between its reports and .NET — the latter created 10 years after development ended on Protos — may have been too wide to span.

Then there's this bit of information from an early draft of the 2004 report: "HP's contractual obligation is to transfer 400 reports from the current systems. This leaves a great many reports needing to be developed by CIS and/or campus resources."

There's little to be gained by now in finding fingers to point, but something can be learned here. Understanding how to move code to a new platform requires an understanding of the 3000's aspects even more than expertise on the target, according to several migration services firms in the 3000 community. Even a vendor-assisted migration might require significant in-house resources to finish a mission-critical rehosting like the one at WCCC.

The migration could now carry the WCCC's 3000 apps anywhere, according to the latest report. Collegiate Project Services is contracted "to do an assessment of the needs of each college campus through a variety of questionnaires and one-on-one interviews," according to the Olympian's story. Colleges are having more input this time around than during what was called Re-hosting, but was actually rewriting. The effort is now called "Go Forward," to leave room for whatever solution seems best. One big difference this time around — the colleges are looking at replacement software. Rewriting is still on the table according to a resource manager at Olympic College. But keeping that Protos-type element in mind might make a strong case to try to replace.

In about a month, the assessment will be completed along with a recommendation, with the results distributed to all 34 colleges by May. This will all be in advance of the work to be done, like testing a replacement set of applications or plunging into another rewrite. WCCC figured to have HP's migration project complete by 2005. Considering that migrations take about 18 months on average to finish, the schools will only be five years behind their plans.

Missed deadlines and canceled projects are all routine steps in making a migration, even though there have been many sites which have skipped both of these snarls on the path away from the 3000. But the lessons to be taken away from these schools are fundamental to understanding the challenge of leaving the platform. The older the application's history, the more business logic must be moved, and the fewer IT developers will be on hand to help understand. Factor in key software that's not supported any longer and you get both a hurdle as well as a reason to make changes, like moving away from a language like Protos.

Since the Olympian's story is online, it's available for comments, and one HP 3000 veteran has already offered an alternative. John Ryrie of TAG Software in the UK said that maybe getting some inexpensive replacement 3000s, parts and non-HP MPE support might be a smarter course to follow.

Perhaps another option for IT to consider would be to look to companies who supply second-user equipment, especially given the current shortage of cash. In my opinion there will be HP 3000s around for a long time to come, as well as operating system support from companies other than Hewlett-Packard. If it works...

That's not exactly helpful for almost three dozen colleges who have already agreed on migration and financed their intention. But with N-Class servers on the market for as little as $4,000 these days, standby hardware and a good contract for third party support seem a small backup investment for these interim homesteaders.

08:05 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 10, 2009

Tested tools convert the costs to migrate

Speedware has developed and offered tools for self-migrators, the companies in the 3000 community who prefer to do the work of migration with their own staff. (And perhaps some consulting to start, advice to help organize what will be the biggest project ever for most IT departments.) Using a formula that's become proven in the marketplace, the 3000 toolset for migrations also includes some software best used by a migration services team rather than in-house staff.

In the earliest years of the migration march, Speedware developed a database transformation and migration tool, DBMotion. But migration can mean moving much more arcane elements than old databases to new platforms. This year Speedware is offering an RPG to .NET converter for the world of applications which reach back into the 1980s.

Admittedly, there's not much RPG out there on HP 3000 systems. But Hewlett-Packard offered the language alongside the almost-omnipresent COBOL during the 1980s, partly to lure IBM sites using RPG. While the three-letter language has far more fans in the IBM AS-400 marketplace, RPG can be moved with the ML-iMPACT software created by Sykora-ML and now resold and used by Speedware. RPG applications, Transact code — nearly anything can be moved off a 3000. The question to ask about such tools is "how much hand-coding is required to complete the job?"

As it turns out, ML-iMPACT stands out because the answer to that question is "very little." In a report to a group far more fascinated by RPG use, Speedware's Chris Koppe told the AS-400 Web site ITJungle that the software "does some really fascinating things in the area of automated transformation to Java and .NET," changes that most software tools don't do well. ITJungle's Alex Woodie also noted that Koppe "sounds more like a seasoned systems architect than a marketing director."

That comment on the skill set of a classic HP 3000 expert illustrates why migration might take a long time for some companies, but it's available for any which can muster the will and budget. With more than six years of research and experience behind them, 3000 professionals are becoming seasoned in the nuances of the most complex IT task, migration. Sykora-ML wasn't the first RPG to .NET tool Speedware tried. It's just the one that finally impressed the .NET veterans in Speedware's stable.

RPG skills become less available with every retirement of a 50-something IT pro, just like knowledge of Transact. Transact, another '80s relic, can be carried to COBOL using the T2C tool from ScreenJet — one that appears in the migration partner MB Foster's toolbox. Such conduits of code can make the difference between maintaining a single app on a 3000 and cutting all ties to the server. Companies smirk when they hear of tools that bring Transact and RPG apps into the 21st Century. But a tool is often what is needed to make a migration affordable. Testing emerging tools has expanded the options for a migrating community like the 3000 customers, or its cousins in the AS-400 world.

10:42 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2009

Datacenter embraces outsourcing for 3000s

David-Terry The Texas road meanders around sharp bends and stands of juniper trees, eventually revealing a resource for retiring 3000s. On a few acres just southwest of Lake Travis stands a concrete fortress of modest size and significant ambitions. A remote, outsourced datacenter, operated by the Support Group, inc., is adopting 3000s, data and applications from companies moving away from their 3000s, or firms just looking for a way to free up IT resources.

The datacenter is relatively new, a project started about a year ago by tSGi, which has supported MANMAN and ERP customers for more than 15 years. From a thick slab to six-inch walls to redundant telecomm and power resources, the datacenter has grown up and gained customers. It's probably the only one in the 3000 community that's managed by a father and son, too: The Floyds, Terry and David.

Outsourced resources for 3000s aren't a brand-new concept. Disaster recovery operations, some with hot-site replication and automatic fail-over, have been available for more than two decades. But in more recent years the 3000 market is finding and using datacenters like the one at tSGi. The blockhouse that houses a handful of 3000s sits on a road with a unique sign at the curb. "Computer operaters wanted," says the sign. The Support Group is reaching globally for 3000 customers, but hiring locally.

"We wanted to hire people who live just up the road," said tSGi's founder Terry Floyd. "If there's an issue with operations, we don't want them delayed by traffic or weather."

TerryAtConsole A flyer which tSGi posted in the area advertises two openings for "Part-time, entry level computer operators." The datacenter was hiring for night shifts, and training in the mornings. "Pay: Twice the minimum wage," the flyer says. "They certainly weren't operators before they came to us," David says.

Training for HP 3000 operator skills is a dwindling practice in 2009. But the datacenter was established to deliver services now becoming rare to a community that finds its expertise retiring. Companies want to retire their HP 3000s to the outsourcers, so the work of migration can proceed faster. The 3000s are still required to serve such companies, but they want to leave the stewardship of the systems in tSGi's hands.

The servers hum with the nonchalant sound of ageless HP 3000s, running redoubtably for months and years at a stretch. But tSGi makes efficient use of its space with a hot-aisle/cold-aisle layout, a modern-era strategy to conserve energy and maintain effective operating temperature.

DavidAtRack "Every HP server is designed to take in cool air from the front and blow hot air out its back," David says. "So we've got two hot aisles and one cold aisle, and we've had to block off as much air flow as possible to keep that hot air flowing this way and the cold air flowing this way." He looks at his father. "Terry's been reading a lot of theory on this, and HP's actually one of the leading companies working on airflow in datacenters." Terry reports that datacenter designers are now walking the aisles of computers with a "wooly," a trailing piece of yard like the ones used on sailboats, to track the direction of airflow.

The hot/cold theory has a positive impact on the environment, David adds, but it's also a key element in the datacenter business model. "It keeps down the cooling costs," he explains, so the expense of running the center is reduced and can keep pricing down, too. Chutes and flumes route the air in the space to achieve the desired effect. One 3000 shipped to the center behaves backwards: somehow a vintage Series 987 takes its cool air in from the back and pushes warm air to the front.

OverheadRack The datacenter is dotted with consoles dedicated to the systems. The lineup spans a broad range of 3000s, from a Series 920 to a 928 to a 969 and on into enterprise servers. An HP 9000 has taken up residence along with an Integrity server. All are monitored by a temperature/humidity sensor unit which sends text message warnings if things get too hot or humidity changes in a significant way. Trays of wire racks overheard carry cables for power and telecomm for ease of access.

Datacenter business gets flexible in the outsourced world. One customer arranged a service agreement which sent its 987 into the tSGi inventory in exchange for support for one year. The second year begins payments for the offsite support, Terry says.

Eleven HP 3000s and three Windows boxes sat in working residence in the datacenter last month. Some customers ship off a system which contains all data and applications for a retired server; once a month tSGi boots up the 3000 to check its operation and backup. Other servers are linked directly to customer sites around North America across broadband connections.

The 3000 community has begun to seek out this type of offstage setting for the companies dropping the curtain on their 3000 operations — those who are making their exit, as well as the enterprises which prefer to cast experienced players to run 3000s on a road show in Texas and elsewhere.

08:50 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2009

Memorial fund honors 3000 pioneer

Having contributed so much to the 3000 experience in his lifetime, Wirt Atmar wanted a simple finale on the occasion of his death one month ago. No eulogy, a cremation instead of burial, and no funeral. Accolades and thanks flowed over the 3000's Internet newsgroup to celebrate his life. But enduring gratitude, and recognition, still seemed out of reach.

The 3000 community has organized a fitting memorial to this important man. Wirt was a research associate with the famous Field Museum in Chicago. OpenMPE secretary Donna Hofmeister contacted the museum about establishing a memorial fund in his honor. Hofmeister received immediate assurance this was the best way to thank him for a questing mind that found and spread solutions for the HP 3000, like his Plan B for staying on the 3000 instead of migrating. Plan B is a good start for considering the complete set of sustainability decisions.

"Both Both Bruce Patterson," Hofmeister said, "Wirt's friend and colleague, and Sheila Cawley, Vice President Institutional Advancement at the Museum, think that this is an excellent way for us to both help the Museum and preserve Wirt's legacy." The HP 3000 and its community has earned that unique attribute, a legacy, so it's fitting that a memorial is underway. You can make a donation at www.fieldmuseum.org/annualfund and click on the "Join Now" link.  At the bottom of that page, click "Online."

3000 community members can associate their gift with the Wirt Atmar Fund by sending a separate e-mail to Cawley at the museum. One community member, Wyell Grunwald, pointed to the generous nature of this leader and took note of the continuing products from his ongoing company, AICS Research.

He has some extremely good software developed for the HP 3000. QCTerm was free to anyone.  Wirt and I have had many discussions over the years. I will miss his expertise tremendously.  I actually met him once at a INTEREX show. He was always very kind. Wirt had a very brilliant mind.  Perhaps the best thing that could be said of him was that he was very willing to share his expertise with the HP 3000 community, and always strived to educate others. His writing of several years ago about staying on the HP 3000 was excellent. I still work on the HP3000 every day for my job, and have two HP3000s at home.

Some of the best advocacy opportunities during Wirt's most active years came as an improvement on the Interex user group efforts. We'll have a report on Monday on the last shoe to drop in that user group's bankruptcy dissolution, more than three years after the group went dark overnight.

09:00 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2009

Enterprising IMAGE ideals arrived from outside

One month ago today community pioneer Wirt Atmar passed away, but his contributions to the 3000 user continue to keep the system sustainable in a world far different than the era when HP 3000 was created. The server did not include a database for its first four years of life, but when HP added IMAGE to the bundle, the computer took off for new heights HP had never scaled in the industry.

IMAGE beefed up to become TurboIMAGE as the 3000 shifted to the RISC architecture, but it took efforts led by Wirt to give this included database the technology to keep it included in IT models. Built as a networked database, IMAGE gained SQL. Jim Sartain led HP's liasion with the 3000 community in this period of change, and he reports that IMAGE/SQL started as an HP design, but the vendor wanted to segregate this enhancement from the user population by making it an add-on.

Wirt was a major influence in making IMAGE/SQL capabilities available to customers. HP had architected the solution and planned to offer it as an expensive product upgrade. The need to justify a capital purchase, plus the initial low installed base of users (which would have meant there were few tools or training solutions), and the lack of focus from HP sales on selling software would have almost certainly doomed the Image/SQL product to a short lifespan.

The SQL extensions for IMAGE ultimately gave the 3000 users a way to connect mission-critical HP 3000 data with databases and desktop tools on other platforms. Without SQL the database couldn't participate in ODBC connectivity or the Java links that succeeded ODBC: middleware that made 3000 data a mainstream player. IMAGE has propelled the 3000 through decades of waters because the database is included in every system. SQL needed to be as ubiquitous as IMAGE.

Sartain, who kept moving up from HP to Intuit, and now to Senior Director, Software Quality Engineering for Adobe, told us that a middle ground between free and for-purchase had to be found. It was the 3000's users, organized as a Special Interest Group (SIG), who devised the IMAGE enhancement plan, one that Wirt promoted with zeal.

The addition of SQL started in San Diego at an Interex user conference in 1991, Sartain says, beginning with a concept from Ken Sletten, a user group volunteer, federal employee working for the US Navy and a key player in the 3000 community:

In the same San Diego Interex conference where I met Wirt I got a great idea from Ken Sletten. Ken explained it was very difficult to get approval for any capital software purchases from the U.S. Navy. On the other hand, software maintenance contracts were approved nearly automatically.  Ken made the initial suggestion of giving away Image/SQL. We discussed this problem in a small SIGIMAGE executive committee meeting that Wirt was part of and came up with the idea to offer a no-charge upgrade in return for an increase in the IMAGE software maintenance fees from $0 to something more substantial.

Wirt tirelessly championed this idea with the user community.  The result was the HP decision to go forward with this. This was a complete win-win for everyone involved. Customers received the software that enabled them to transform their HP 3000 applications. HP received a revenue stream to support and enhance the product. Because the IIMAGE/SQL solution was now generally available a vibrant ecosystem of people who knew how to use it, tools, training, and applications sprang up around it. It is hard to overestimate the part Wirt played in causing this outcome to occur. After that my team and I frequently consulted with Wirt on our development priorities, and our architecture and design decisions.
The praise Wirt (and others) shared about the work my team and I helped my team to become one of the mostly highly motivated and productive in the Enterprise Systems Group (per two consecutive Group GMs). We had no attrition and we had strong people joining our team. The partnership we had with Wirt and SIGIMAGE was part of our great productivity and esprit de corps. Our collaboration with Wirt and some others allowed us to know precisely what customers needed from us. We saved lots of effort by not doing any feature work that was not of the upmost importance. One other outcome: the team received three software quality awards from HP’s CSY [3000 division] — Three releases in a row! The teamwork with SIGIMAGE and Wirt was part of all of this magic.

02:20 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2009

3000 resources held by HP's IP division

The 3000 community thinks of Hewlett-Packard's 3000 operations and sees faces it knows and voices it has heard. While the master of R&D Ross McDonald made a career of staying out of sight, the computer has had business managers since 2005 in Dave Wilde and Jennie Hou, and liaisons such as Jeff Vance, Jeff Bandle, Mike Paivinen and Craig Fairchild. Every one was at least a part-time employee of the HP 3000 division, or virtual CSY as they liked to call it.

All these faces and voices are now gone. HP's 3000 operations are run by two overseers. Bernard Detreme manages the Worldwide Support ops, just about the only place a customer can still buy something 3000-specific from HP. Determe made a conference call appearance last spring, but he's not a face well-known by your community.

The other overlord of 3000 intellectual property is the Hewlett-Packard Development Company. The CSY staff always had to deal with HPDC, and four initials trumped two. In a matter for lawyers and licensing, the Development Company has insisted on hanging on to copyright and property rights for software that HP will not support by 2011 — as well as software HP never supported, like the freeware programs from the Jazz server.

    There’s some good luck in what’s happened to the programs of Jazz. But there’s also bad precedent being set, even as good companies arrange to re-host Jazz contents. Good is the cost in dollars, and the fact that 3000 friends outside HP have wrangled licenses to share. Bad is the concept of open source getting branded as HP goods, as if the Jazz server’s disk drives don’t have enough space for the idea of giving something away with a generous license to share.

    HP is staking a claim on some Jazz programs which live a life outside the vendor’s reach. LDAP, Java, perl, sendmail: the list of what HP says it “produced/ported” includes almost every standard utility or subsystem. These fine-print, split-hair portions of software rights represent inviolate opportunity and control for the vendor.

   The software of Jazz that HP produced/ported was “supported” by HP, according to its own language. HP added the quotes around support, even for integrated parts of MPE/iX like Apache and Java/iX. If quote-marks support seems a tad below the 3000’s league to you, well, the 3000 wandered in that HP netherworld for more than a decade: not dead, but not alive in the sense of the rest of HP’s enterprise systems. So, even though HP created a special, remote neighborhood for its 3000 software, the unique status of the system isn’t recognized by HPDC. It’s all HP’s IP, even if some of it only runs on a system HP has been urging you to dump for years.

   All of Jazz ought to be free, as free as the Gnu license that controlled the open source where things like Apache and BIND began. In one extreme bit of down-the-rabbit-hole policy, BIND/iX re-hosting is controlled by HP, even while the vendor refused to close a security hole in that software in January.

    BIND might not ever have been worth much to many 3000 customers. But I remember the software starting its 3000 version many miles away from an HP lab. Mark Bixby built it when HP would not, gave it away to the community like good open source. Then HP hired him for 3000 work, taking BIND out of a free market in the process.

  The law gives HPDC the right to do all these things with its IP. Hewlett-Packard isn’t violating any copyright with its re-hosting police action. Saddest of all, the most ardent group of 3000 backers inside HP, the CSY faces and voices, got handed the job of laying down the IP policies — that bad precedent toward good customers.

    There’s no way to calculate how much damage in dollars HP’s business exit has cost 3000 owners. Think a host of hurricanes and you might be estimating on target. You can even subtract the cost of migrations which customers wanted to do, but needed HP’s nudge. It still adds up to millions in forced spending.

    What did all that spending buy the customer in HP’s goodwill, the no-strings donations to ease the exodus away from the vendor’s well-crafted creation? You got HP’s seven-year itch, scratching away at a migration strategy that should have been carved out clearly on the day HP made its 3000 music die.

    The community also gets one copy of MPE/iX to watch at the Computer History Museum, along with a donation of a 3000 that can run version 7.5. The system and its customers deserve more than HPDC’s rummaging under every rock for loose change out of community pockets. You deserve to have your system set free on the day HPDC frees itself from 3000 responsibility.

    Because there’s that old song about a hound dog crying all the time, the vendor’s version insisting that MPE/iX licenses get transferred for a fee. Elvis said that dog never caught a rabbit, and you can’t say that about the 3000 people who’ve been pushed into other work to keep HP jobs. They caught plenty of hares since 1974. But the other HP, that DC crew? Like the King said, they ain’t no friend of mine.

   So say goodbye to all the HP jazz about the 3000. The HP Services team still has some experience to deploy that knows that a 3000 is not just an HP printer. What has left the building altogether is any tangible sense of gratitude for helping Hewlett-Packard create its first business computer business. Thanking customers, like HP has, for that business is polite. The notes which are missing are the HPDC respect for the value in customers’ co-creations — and paying that forward to the community with a forward-thinking coda to the 3000’s song, the ending that it deserves.

02:23 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 03, 2009

HP Development Company signals HP exit

During a briefing with the OpenMPE board yesterday, chairman Birket Foster noted that the former e3000 business manager Jennie Hou is now working at HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers group. Ross McDonald, Hou's supervisor while at the 3000 division, is reported to be at work on technical projects for HP's Unix servers. Much of the 3000 community at HP has moved away to other parts of HP. This exodus, sparked by the flame-out of 3000-style products at Hewlett-Packard, was kindled by the relatively-new HP Development Company L.P., organized to wrest maximum value from the property rights of HP products.

HPDC is a very different HP from the company you may have known over the past three decades. Changes to any business are inevitable over as many years as Hewlett-Packard has operated. The rate of change and depth of difference can vary, however. The differences represented by HPDC what the migrating 3000 customers, staying with HP on new platforms, must accept and embrace. If a business cannot manage $100 million in revenues per quarter, HPDC can't find a place for it.

And for the homesteaders, that sound you heard this quarter starting with the final HP advisory on the 3000? It was the footsteps of HP, the Hewlett-Packard you knew when you bought your first HP 3000. And like Elvis ending a night of songs, HP was leaving the 3000 building. When HP’s labs finally shut out the MPE lights, some of HP’s last friends of the computer had to leave the vendor’s tough bouncers guarding the door. HPDC now has its hand on the spigot of software for the community.

If you don’t know HPDC, don’t feel left out. This strong arm of HP prefers to remain out of the spotlight, even though every HP top executive carries a job title with the company name attached. It’s a group that polices the intellectual property of Hewlett-Packard. Whatever HP created anywhere, anytime — even the software the vendor improved but did not create — it all carries a price now.

Everyone is entitled to ask to be paid for what they create. In these tough economic days intellectual property, the other IP, is under siege in the markets. Information wants to be free, a mantra that makes more sense when there’s less vendor effort to maintain programs. Software costs pennies on the dollar, compared to the prices vendors collected back when Elvis had already been in his grave for two decades.

It’s now more than three decades since The King shuffled off to a higher jam session, but HP expects no low notes on the IP that it says it controls. Jazz, that rich double-album of software gathered or created by HP’s labs, now falls into the hands of HPDC. That’s why there’s a re-hosting license that HP expects community members to negotiate. No sharing, unless HP approves. HPDC is in charge of keeping the leash tight on every software pup the vendor created.

The reach of HPDC pinned down the sharing of HP's IP in source code as well as freeware created for the 3000 customer. Tomorrow we'll have a look at the impact on the Jazz programs' license program for re-hosting third parties.

02:00 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 02, 2009

OpenMPE moves beyond HP efforts

The OpenMPE advocacy user group ratified its 2009 election results today. The 63 ballots put four directors into seats for the next two years. Birket Foster, Anne Howard and Alan Tibbetts were returned to seats for the volunteer organization. Tony Tibbenham joins the group from a unique perspective, as a board member who has already migrated his HP 3000.

The ballots equalled the number of 2007 votes cast in an election with contested seats. Meanwhile, th contest between which would last longer, Hewlett-Packard's 3000 division or OpenMPE, has been decided as well. 3000 community members will see proposals and action from OpenMPE while HP has retired its lab and division expertise.

"I think it says something that OpenMPE is still here, and HP is not," Foster said today in a conference call to ratify election results. "This is not the only marketplace that HP is in that things are fading out on. IBM, Sun, all the rest of those guys have the same issue: At some point it's not economical for them to run the platform."

OpenMPE has a list of active issues about the 3000 the vendor hasn't addressed, but there are some crucial items the group had to retire from its list. HP 3000s will never get the un-throttling code to release the full power of the N-Class and A-Class processors. HP will never make MPE/iX 7.0 run on the eldest Series 9x7 systems, despite years of asking from OpenMPE's directors. But the additions of programs and processes is impressive, from a rudimentary source code licensing plan to the transfer of HP's 3000 programs from Jazz onto third party servers at Speedware, Client Systems — and soon, OpenMPE's own server.

The group started with a "Gang of Six" issues, with a deadline of 2006, crucial to continued 3000 use:

  1. Remove or publish passwords for MPE-unique system utilities no later than end of 2006.
  2. Enable MPE license transfers, upgrades and hardware re-configuration (add/upgrade processors) to continue after 2006; for emulator usage, changing user license levels, acquiring used e3000 systems.
  3. Allow non-HP access to and escrow of MPE source code
  4. Allow third-party creation of an MPE emulator
  5. Enable third-party HP e3000 software support after 2006
  6. Enable availability of all public documentation after 2006

Numbers 2, 3, 5 and 6 are a reality today after five years of OpenMPE effort. The passwords present a distinct problem because some utilities are identical to HP-UX server programs. As for Number 4, the MPE emulator, work is proceeding on a 3000 hardware emulator project, and emulator features exist in MPUX and AMXW products from Ordina and Speedware, respectively.

The four directors from today's election join Donna Hofmeister, Matt Perdue, Tracy Johnson, John Wolff and Walter Murray to make up the nine-member board. This month the group will meet by conference call to decide what's on its 2009 agenda. Jeff Bandle of HP still has some answers to issues the board considers active, so a meeting with HP's OpenMPE liasion is in the future.

In the meantime, e3000 business manager Jennie Hou has moved on to join the Enterprise Storage and Servers group at HP, moving from the HP Services sector where HP 3000 activities were based for the past several years. HP's actions, steered by R&D Lab Manager Ross McDonald for the last three years, were hemmed in by the HP Development Company L.P., which calls the strategy plays for the entire corporation. With HPDC at the reins, controlling HP's intellectual property, the open transfer of MPE/iX and 3000 work was never going to come off with as much cooperation as when HP retired its previous server, the HP 1000.

"I am just wishing that it could have been as pleasant as it was with the 1000," said board member Alan Tibbetts, who was essential to the 1000's IP transfer to the customers and user groups. HP 1000 operating system code for RTE made its way into the Interex user group repositories during the earliest part of this decade. OpenMPE made its attempt to let the older HP school the 3000 division.

"At one point, OpenMPE had Don Pottenger of HP communicating with [HP's OpenMPE liaison] Mike Paivinen," Tibbets said, "going over the way that we had done it on the 1000. The major difference between now and then is the structure of HP at the time" HP left the HP 1000 market.

HP opened a patents division in 2004 which became the HP Development Company after HP sent former CEO Carly Fiorina packing. Future advocacy efforts — for any of HP's products which may see a sunset in the corporate price list — must deal with the shadow efforts of HPDC. As an example of how broad HPDC LP is established at Hewlett-Packard, every one of its press releases and Web pages carries the organization's name in the copyright information, and all HP officers are listed as employees of HPDC. We'll have more on what advocacy groups like OpenMPE are up against in tomorrow's editorial.

There are patterns to a vendor's strategy for its proprietary server products, such as the HP-UX systems, "and I think [the 3000] is just the first one that HP pushed through the chute," said OpenMPE chair Foster. "It was pushed because it was part of the merger process with Compaq, and also because it was part of HP's need to do discovery — because they had never done one of these [exits] in HP's living memory."

07:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)