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Emulators will arrive too late for some

Even as several vendors move into testing for an HP 3000 hardware emulator, the product will arrive long after it could have helped some sites. Edward Berner of Yosemite Community College couldn't hold out, even though he said as far back as 2006 he could use such a product.

Fortunately (for the college, but unfortunately for the emulator companies) we've finally managed to retire our HP 3000. It's been powered off for about eight months now (and was inactive for a while before that).  Once it's been off for a full year, I'll start advocating that we sell the hardware to a vendor or something.  After that we can rent a system, or use a service if we need to refer to something from our backup tapes.

The delays in emulation made up the dread that 3000 advocates and advisors felt about the solution. HP had a change of heart, according to one emulator supplier, about creating a license mechanism for emulation. After awhile Hewlett-Packard began to see a large share of the migrating 3000 sites were choosing a replacement system without an HP badge. That's what happened at Yosemite, where the Sun rose out in the west.

Berner said the college made a transition to Sun Microsystems servers from the 3000. (We know, there's a bit of another migration issue in that environment as well -- depending on what Oracle decides to do about the Sun server business it will acquire along with Sun's software.)

Berner said HP's exit announcement in '01 didn't spark the rise of Sun at the college. "Our decision to migrate was pretty much independent of HP's announcement," he said, "though I guess the announcement probably did provide additional support for the decision." A Series 979, running one CPU and two in-house apps, was powered off at the start of 2009.

Our main application, DSK, was a vendor product, but they went out of business in the mid 90's and we maintained it in-house since. Our payroll application was separate and also in-house, being based on a system we got from another institution in ancient times. We migrated to Datatel and Oracle running on Sun hardware.  The selection of Datatel software was the result of a large RFP process. The selection of Sun hardware was the result of a bidding process.

I probably shouldn't get into comparing the different applications.

The migration was largely done in-house, Berner added, and retraining was necessary.

An emulator wouldn't have kept MPE/iX and those applications in production use at Yosemite. "Our main use for an emulator would have been for running the HP 3000 software for a couple years after the migration was mostly done, for historical data and while the last few stray things were migrated," Berner said. "The attraction being that a 1- or 2-processor Intel system is a lot smaller than a 979 -- and the HP 3000 A Series always seemed too expensive to me."

A price point for emulators will be difficult to set at first. Some companies homesteading on the 3000 report they don't migrate for budgetary reasons. Berner said a price point of "less than the 3000 hardware support contract" fee would have worked for him. That might be a lean business incentive to launch emulator products.

Even while a couple of companies have pledged upwards of a $1 million to invest in an emulator for their 3000 operations, the IT managers who understand the value of emulation are sometimes moving on before their 3000s migrate. Paula Brinson, the datacenter operations manager who we quoted in our Monday story as saying "sorrowfully, I might have to use an emulator," won't have to oversee such a step. She's now retired from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia after 30 years of IT service. As of this spring, a 3000 application very popular with the users remained online at HRSD.