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May 2009

Used N-Class 3000s vary in price

A couple of months ago we reported on a re-boot of a migration plan at Washington state community colleges. A 3000 software vendor commented in the story that a used N-Class might be a smarter way to put a modern face on a system than a full migration. The vendor triggered some dispute with a claim about N-Class pricing, however.

John Ryrie of TAG Computing, a UK-based supplier of 3000 utility software, said that the N-Class could be purchased for "as little as $4,000." The claim, which we recently printed in our May 3000 NewsWire, drew this retort from broker Genisys' VP of Sales/Marketing Robert Gordon:

I would like to order 15 of the HP 3000 N-Class servers today that you mentioned in your article. When can I expect delivery of the machines? I am more than happy to pay the $4,000 per machine you quoted in your article. Where did you get your pricing from? When you put this in print, it is a disservice to the HP broker community.

Gordon makes a good point. Prices for the N-Class servers are not uniform at all. The N-Class offer Ryrie mentioned was the lowest price we've ever seen in the broker community for an N-Class. To be sure, there are not anywhere close to 15 machines available at that price.

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IBM, packaged app to replace 3000 system

Not many HP 3000 migration customers choose IBM's iSeries systems, but the platform notched a convert this month from a 25-year site. GNM Financial Services, a Culver City, California-based services firm, announced plans to replace its HP 3000 and applications with the S2K Enterprise for Distribution suite. The software runs on a low-end iSeries server, a Power 520.

The replacement software rolled in as a result of work by IBM reseller VAI, which released a Customer Relation Management (CRM) system last fall tuned to work with the i Series and its integrated database. IBM has promoted the iSeries as a logical next step for 3000 sites accustomed to the MPE/IMAGE database integration. But few converts have been announced since the IBM efforts began in 2002.

GNM's IT director Pam Tucker, who was a 3000 NewsWire subscriber for a few years after HP announced its 3000 exit, issued a statement for the VAI press release that said the company needed a newer solution with a more comprehensive future. She described their 3000 as "aging." The IBM press inflated that assessment to "archaic." But newer apps to replace aged 3000 software is an old story in this community.

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New HP exec forced to focus on servers

A Massachusetts court has ruled that new HP Enterprise Storage and Servers executive David Donatelli can work for Hewlett-Packard. But during his first year, Donatelli will have to focus on the latter part of his organization's solutions. Storage work is out until May of 2010.

That's because Donatelli comes to HP from storage rival EMC, where he signed a non-compete clause promising to forgo employment at any competitor. EMC filed for an injunction to block Donatelli's hiring as soon as it was made public. The suit took three weeks to clear the the Suffolk County Superior Court of Massachusetts. The result is that Donatelli will have lots more focus on less-familiar duties managing server business.

HP revised Donatelli's job title to executive vice president of Enterprise Servers and Networking, rather than executive VP of the larger HP organization ESS. He will report directly to executive vice president of the Technology Solutions Group Ann Livermore until next year, when the court's 1-year ban on storage work is lifted.

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Tukwila chip delay slows UX speed promise

Intel announced last week that it's going to run at least nine months late on introducing the latest Tukwila models of the Itanium processor. The delay might put the brakes on purchasing HP Integrity servers until 2010. That will be a slowdown in addition to the one the market is already applying to HP-UX server sales.

HP reported earlier last week — not a great five days for HP's Unix alternative to the 3000 — that Business Critical Server sales have dropped by almost 30 percent against 2008's Q2. (Xeon-based servers did no better.) HP-UX customers might have been waiting for newer Integrity servers powered by Tukwila. Experts agree the Tukwila chips could be twice as fast as the latest Montvale processors.

At today's Intel media event, the vendor was hawking the speed advances of its other, more popular processor, the x86-compatible Xeon family. Intel is talking up the new Nehalem EX versus the current Xeon 7400 chips. Itanium-based solutions such as HP-UX will have to wait until sometime next year for a similar performance boost.

How HP reacts to the Tukwila delay — the chip was postponed in February, then again this month — might be seen in prices for the current Integrity models using Montvale. Given the sales dive and now this extra wait, Montvale-based models could see a healthy discount. Nobody, however, expects HP to announce a skunkworks project to get HP-UX ported for Nehalem/Xeon.

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Get your printed memory of 3000 news

Our latest printed edition of the 3000 NewsWire rolled into the mails last week. Yes, we still do print, every quarter. Some might call it a memorial act to the old school of spreading news. We think of it as a memory device.

Each quarterly issue contains a broad selection of choice 3000 stories from the last 90 days. We also print a catalog of the articles which only appeared online since our last print issue. It's organized by category to make the articles easier to locate online.

You can receive your printed issue for free just by supplying us with your mailing address. Remember mailing addresses?

Here on Memorial Day in the US we're thinking about what we've lost and want to honor. (Along with a good cookout or a ball game.) Printed news is not lost, though. Journalists need print publications to keep offering their vital contributions in the community.

You can sign up to get your print with a simple e-mail to my desk. Have a happy holiday, if you're having one.

Developers debate what to learn next

As 3000 experts see their jobs eliminated, or their employers refocus on other platforms, they face a challenge. What should they study next to develop marketable skills? One answer is the transition tools already available in the community for migration. Some of these tools open a new world of learning to the 3000 veteran. They provide an easier way into new concepts, one which is related to existing skills.

Michael Anderson is one of these travelers through that world, having left the Spring, Texas school district to build up his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Anderson holds a contrary view to the accepted wisdom to learn as much as possible about Microsoft products such as .NET. Microsoft will not always hold the market share it's riding today, he says. Linux and open source and the Web, these all press Microsoft to the sidelines more each day.

Instead, he suggests a good place to start, even before open source, are tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, and [creator Alan Yeo's] ScreenJet are both great products.They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to these that is in reach of the small companies and independent developers."

Anderson says that the caliber of tools like this, not available in the GNU/open source market, could change the future for the community's experts who are now at-large. But the expertise to build such wonders, for no compensation, is not on hand for the 3000 community. Free often falls short of expert.

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Solid state drives for HP 3000s?

Intel160GB Drives that don't need to spin? These are the Solid State Drives (SSD), a wad of RAM big enough to act like a traditional (but small) storage device. SSDs are now the talk of the Windows and Linux communities, groups which float like butterflies among the diverse fields of hardware. The HP 3000 has prospects to gain SSDs, too.

A technical leap from SCSI storage devices to cutting-edge hardware would be a life-extender for the 3000 users. One tech wizard who's investigating it certainly has the chops to pull off the leap. Stan Sieler of Allegro Consultants has started tests on the behavior of SSDs. But he has the 3000 and MPE/iX in mind. Sieler created DiskPerf for 3000 users, a powerful utility which must comprehend MPE storage rules to do its performance measurements.

"I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete- but still world's-best business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said earlier this month. "I'm hoping to do some tests in the near future."

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HP profits fall on flagging sales

Hewlett-Packard announced yesterday that its Q2 of 2009 continued a decline in sales and introduced a drop in profits. Even the company's vaunted printer business took a 23 percent hit in sales compared to the 2008 Q2.

In the Q2 report conference call with analysts, HP announced it will cut an extra 6,400 jobs. These cuts are in addition to the 24,600 jobs HP is eliminating as a result of its EDS acquisition. HP stock dropped 4 percent in today's trading, the first since the report was released.

Services, wrapped around support and the new EDS operations, offered HP its largest bright spot in profits. Services poured in an $8.5 billion quarter for sales, revenue which HP said came right out of the EDS acquisition. Toner and ink "consumable" sales were down in Q2 as well. Ink makes up about a third of HP's profits.

Enterprise Storage and Servers (ESS), the HP group where HP 3000 alternatives grow up and roll out, reported revenue of $3.5 billion, down 28 percent. Not even the Windows-friendly Industry Standard Servers could supply a bright spot; both ISS and the HP-UX Business Critical Systems posted 21 percent sales declines. The ESS blade revenue fell 12 percent as well. ESS operating profits fell by more than 60 percent over the prior-year period.

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HP, Microsoft ally for unified communication

Our intrepid at-large editor Birket Foster just called to point out a new alliance HP announced at today's Interop conference. The vendor will partner with Microsoft to spend up to $180 million (together) on Unified Communication (UC). If UC is new to the migrating HP 3000 user, HP summarizes it thusly in its press release:

It will enable customers to improve business output and reduce travel, telecom and IT operating costs. This would be accomplished by streamlining communications across messaging, video and voice with connected applications and devices.

Foster, calling from in front of the HP booth, sounded like he was awash in a wave of excitement. The solution runs, of course, using Microsoft Windows.

HP-UX training arrives free today only

Connect gives a taste of the HP Unix content from the HP Technology Forum & Expo today, a Webcast launching at 1 PM CDT. The conference begins in earnest four weeks from today in Las Vegas, where an expo floor has filled three more open booths since we last checked 10 days ago.

Today's free content is presented by longtime HP-UX expert Bill Hassell. This IT pro has been a fixture on HP user group agendas for more than two decades. I enjoyed sampling a seminar on HP-UX secrets and tips at the 2007 Greater Houston Regional User Group conference. Well worth the time; even those with everyday Unix experience could be seen taking notes and nodding their heads.

Attendance is free for today's "Sneak Peek." Register online with Connect.

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One man who's no fan of OpenMPE

I checked in last week with HP 3000 consultant Jim Rogers, who had called us earlier in the year to inquire about a user group meeting in our home state of Texas. While I could only report meetings being held to plan an upcoming meeting in the Houston area, Jim shared his views on what OpenMPE has accomplished for your community.

In his words, not much. There's more than one way to look at what winds the 3000's clock. I find folks with Rogers' point of view regularly in the community. Their opinion usually includes a note of disgust over what's been foisted onto the 3000 customer.

Last week I summarized what's been accomplished for the community off the "Gang of Six" list of requests that OpenMPE assembled in 2004. Rogers wrote up a rebuttal that says whatever's been accomplished is the work of the market, not volunteers. "All of the six items were vendor and market driven," he writes. "I would not attribute any of the items to OpenMPE and their work."

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Google returns to a sound database design

GoogleCode This week we heard about Google's App Engine from ScreenJet's founder Alan Yeo. The free tool in Google Code "is sort of like a distributed computing environment that anyone can use," Yeo said when he called a few days back. "You can create Web applications and use Web-based datastores." Datastores for Google's App Engine use an SQL-like syntax, GQL. "See what database this reminds you of," Yeo asks.

GQL intentionally does not support the Join statement, because it is seen to be inefficient when queries span more than one machine. Instead, one-to-many and many-to-many relationships can be accomplished using ReferenceProperty(). This shared-nothing approach allows disks to fail without the system failing.

The where clause of select statements can perform >, >=, <, <= operations on one column only. Therefore, only simple where clauses can be constructed. Switching from a relational database to the Datastore requires a paradigm shift for developers when modeling their data.

"I think Google has just re-invented IMAGE," Yeo said.

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OpenVMS survives, but will it thrive?

When HP canceled its 3000 futures, the company was still acquiring tomorrows for Digital's OpenVMS. The two communities were similar in nature but wildly different in size. HP 3000 installations never reached 100,000 servers, and had declined to under 50,000 by 2001. OpenVMS could count more than 400,000 systems running worldwide that year. These numbers decided much of the future for the two multipurpose computer systems.

But each of these environments runs an OS built by a vendor. MPE's nuances made porting it to Itanium a longer shot to pay back the investment. OpenVMS was the darling of the Digital customer base, so cutting it some slack (in engineering time) to earn Itanium status also earned HP goodwill with Digital's customers. After all, they'd already been acquired in the late '90s by Compaq.

News broke this week about changes to the OpenVMS leadership at Hewlett-Packard. Sue Skonetski, manager of engineering programs for the OpenVMS software engineering group, will be "pursuing new opportunities." She's leaving HP after 15 years as the main advocate of the OpenVMS platform, but her tenure with VMS goes back to Digital founder Ken Olson's days. Imagine a GM like Harry Sterling departing the 3000 world and you get an idea of what OpenVMS is losing.

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User group keeps 3000s in the game

HP 3000 user groups have grown uncommon and small over the past seven years. The demise of regional groups, as well as national organizations like Interex, has almost eliminated face-to-face networking opportunities. The 3000 community is learning to rely on virtual gatherings, but it does miss the chance to break bread and share stories and tips.

But OpenMPE, and to a lesser extent the Greater Houston RUG, remain on the scene. Nobody will mistake their efforts for the 1990s volunteering offered by the 3000 community. HP listened and got to work on requests back then, attending public meetings and speaking up. During 2006-08 HP was in the room among fewer users and saying even less. Doing more with less HP attention, OpenMPE remains a player for the 3000's future.

Users with broad-brush attention still say OpenMPE delivers next to nothing and keeps what it knows to itself. The meeting minutes of the group haven't been updated since November. But the groups' directors have spoken up about their tug of war with HP since last fall. Nobody else stepped up to host the Invent3k public access server when HP shut it down last year. As for what else OpenMPE has accomplished, you need only look at what the group asked HP to take on five years ago. It's a batting average an All Star might envy.

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HP-UX hardware rises on Itanium adoptions

HP 3000 migrations to Unix trip up on a few fronts, but one hurdle is declining of late. Sales of the Itanium chipsets used in HP's Integrity servers are on the rise, measured both by sales and by percentage of market.

"While the server business is certainly mired in difficult times, the multifaceted community that surrounds Itanium-based systems has special cause for optimism," said Joan Jacobs, president and executive director of the Itanium Solutions Alliance. For more objective markers of Itanium — which must run servers at any site choosing HP-UX — the figures from IDC and Gartner analyst houses back up the claims of the Alliance.

Gartner's report might be most important, stating that in 2008 Itanium machine shipments outgrew RISC-based alternatives. Itanium grew in both sales and shipments, although revenues have not kept the same pace as discounting becomes steep in the non-Windows server world. HP is responsible for most of the Itanium increase. The vendor also has reduced its RISC-based sales to the point where more than 80 percent of HP's non-standard server dollars come from Integrity sales.

This is good news for an HP Unix community that has seen declines in HP's new-customer success, as well as a drop in the HP Unix training at the Connect HP Technology Forum. Selling this Intel-HP solution was not supposed to be this difficult, so the better figures of adoption give HP-UX some breathing room.

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Secure transfers come out of open shell

The Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) is a suite of transfer solutions that's in a transition position for the HP 3000. Enough work has been completed to bring this software into use under MPE/iX.

Donna Hofmeister, an OpenMPE director, has reported that

When Jeff Vance was at HP, he wrote a FTP script that used the Posix program ‘crypt’ to encrypt/decrypt files leaving an MPE system. If the destination system was also MPE, the file would be automatically decrypted upon delivery.

An expert in open source solutions that run on the 3000 says that SCP clients already have logged work on HP 3000s. Server-side SCP components are still in the future, though, for MPE/iX.

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Connect promos Tech Forum nonstop to HP-UX users

HPTF-ExpoMap HP user group Connect is pushing this year's HP Technology Forum & Expo as "the HP-UX Gathering of the Year. But the June 15-18 Tech Forum counts fewer than 30 HP-UX breakout sessions on its current lineup. The 55-exhibitor expo also includes a 27-booth NonStop area, while HP's got more than 25 percent of total booth footage. HP, of course, will work its booth to illuminate the advances of NonStop, Windows and Linux along with HP-UX and so much more.

A check today showed 21 of the 100 exhibit spaces are still unbooked. This is a situation that generates deep discounts for vendors who have waited.

If all that sounds like a declining presence of HP-UX resources, Connect assured prospects this week that HP's Unix will never be covered better than at the HPTF&E. "Some highlights" included

  • A Full-day Pre-Conference Seminar June 15: "HP-UX Power Tips and Techniques for System Administrator" (Connect hosts a sneak peek at the seminar this month in a Tuesday, May 19 Webcast)
  • An HP-UX track kickoff session with HP's Brian Cox and M.J. Robinson June 16
  • 29 breakout sessions dedicated to HP-UX technology
  • HP-UX Showcase Demonstrations in the HP booth with access to HP experts
  • HP-UX Special Interest Group Meeting

What else can a user migrating to Unix do with four days in the desert in Vegas? Track down attendees with Unix experience, or more likely, Windows expertise. Connect has always said that it books Forum sessions on the measure of how many attended a track last year. This is one of the reasons the HP 3000 has vanished from this year's talks.

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Closed Circuit opens 3000s to market

CircuitCity The lights went out at Circuit City IT operations building last week, part of a bankruptcy action that closed the consumer electronics retailer. The IT building was a Virginia facility that has housed a handful of HP 3000 servers. These recent-vintage units were up for sale by Circuit City's liquidation contractor.

Connie Boyer of the IT group is taking a few months off and might retire, although she says "I can't imagine not doing something technical." It took quick contact to snag one of these fully-licensed HP 3000s at a liquidation price.

In today's challenged economy, closings and bankruptcies have a silver lining in them for the 3000 community. Low-cost systems can become available to the sharp-eyed buyer, ready for use in another enterprise. It's something like reading the obits to look for apartments, but fair game with a bit less mercenary practices.

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HP's XP marches onward into new decade

XP48 This week marks a fresh decade for HP's XP, the StorageWorks disk array that Hewlett-Packard has been selling since 1999. From humble beginnings in an XP48 configuration, the storage units have grown to XP12000 arrays. The XP48 could take on 48 devices for up to 3.5 terabytes of storage. The XP12000 now acommodates up to 12 petabytes of storage, or about 3,000 times as much as 1999's XP48.

An HP executive of more than 18 years storage experience recalls this week that HP 3000s were in the earliest target market for the XP devices. But the storage arrays didn't even gain the XP name until storage competitor EMC sued HP. Hewlett-Packard landed on the "XP" years before Microsoft picked those two letters to stamp its latest Windows. The XP arrays are a homesteading solution as an upgrade to existing internal storage, and the latest models can serve multiple operating environments all at once in migration and transition environments.

3000s were one of the first two targets to sell XPs. StorageWorks Marketing Communications Manager Calvin Zito writes in the Around the Storage Block blog on HP's Communities site, "One of my roles was to work with our server divisions--our HP3000 and HP9000--about the coming XP Disk Array.  Since HP was reselling [Hitachi's] high-end product, they needed to be in a position to integrate the XP into their offerings."

Zito goes on to comment on a "Five Nines" initiative for the HP9000 group, a clue that these big arrays had more initial targets in HP's Unix enterprise customer sites. But he had his start as an HP 3000 CE in the 1980s before moving into HP marketing and then storage.

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Buzz begins on low Tech Forum turnout

About six weeks away from this year's HP Technology Forum & Expo, the exhibitor community is fretting about show attendance. A post on Linked In's Connect HP User Group Community, from a VP at security vendor XYPRO, asks of the 2009 attendance "Will it be a record low?"

We did a survey and only 25% of those that responded plan on attending the show. I've also been contacted privately and been told that several of our customers aren't sending anyone due to the location being Las Vegas and the potential bad press that may invite.

There's nothing new about the Las Vegas venue for the "HPTF&E," led by Hewlett-Packard experts and Connect user group members with its expo operated by the user group. The show has been in Vegas for the last two outings at the same Mandalay Bay resort hotel on the strip. But the current economy is going to drive down traffic at every meeting, according to Connect's Community Manager Kees den Hartigh.

Going to the HPTF&E is a fruitless journey if you don't have a migration off the 3000 in play. If you're finished that transition there's plenty to learn, at least from HP.

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Paper clip enables resets for disks

The HP 3000 was designed for satisfactory remote access, but there are times when the system hardware needs to be in front of you. Such was the case for a system analyst who was adding a disk drive recently to a A-Class HP 3000.

Central to this process is the 3000's Guardian Service Processor (GSP). This portion of the A-Class and N-Class Multifunction IO card gives system managers basic console operations to control the hardware before MPE/iX is booted, as well as providing connectivity to manage the system. Functions supported by the GSP include displaying self-test chassis codes, executing boot commands, and determining installed hardware. (You can also read it as a speedometer for how fact your system is executing.)

The GSP was the answer when Larry Simonsen asked

I need to configure some additional disk drives and I believe reboot the server. The GSP is connected to a IP switch and I have the IP address for it, but it is not responding. I believe I need to enable it from the console. Can this be done from the soft console, using a PC as the console with a console # command?

A paper clip will reset the GSP and enable access, says EchoTech's Craig Lalley.

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HP nabs EMC storage exec as ESS chief

HP named a new top executive to its Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking group this week, a new hire leading HP's business server group after he left EMC following mandatory pay cuts there in March.

David Donatelli takes the executive VP post at Hewlett-Packard on May 5 after leaving his job as chief of EMC Corporation's storage group. Donatelli, who saw his EMC pay cut by 10 percent in March, takes over for retiring Scott Stallard, an HP veteran of 24 years who oversaw the company's blade server success.

EMC's CEO cut pay for five top executives including Donatelli. HP's CEO Mark Hurd said “I am pleased to have David join the HP leadership team. He will be a key contributor in driving growth and innovation for HP.” Donatelli, who saw a pay cut from $700,000 to $630,000 at EMC, has filed a lawsuit against his former employer to protect his move to HP. EMC filed a suit against him that charges he violates a non-compete clause through his jump to HP.

Donatelli comes to lead HP's server business with significant experience in storage, but little current work in the server segment. The HP enterprise server unit, which develops and sells HP 3000 migration targets such the Integrity server line, posted the largest drop in revenues in the latest quarterly report. Donatelli heads to HP with detailed knowledge of EMC's new server-network-storage alliance with Cisco.

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