Reading Potential in the 3000 Sector
September 30, 2009
Lalley has been active in the HP 3000 community for over 25 years, and he's worked on every model of the HP 3000 from the Series III to the largest N-Class servers. For more than a decade he was the senior technical support manager at Stone Container in Chicago, managing 60 HP 3000s around the country. When not busy reading memory dumps, he is busy chauffeuring his five children, who are not socially-deprived homeschoolers.
Lalley also consults on performance enhancement for business systems that go beyond 3000 installations. He's managed migrations as an outsourced resource and even maintains a replacement system for a company that hired him to help move off its HP 3000.
In his work as a veteran who both expands and replaces 3000s, Lalley sees the full scope of the transition choices your community faces today. We asked him to talk about the technology to extend homesteading as well as the realities of moving away from the 3000. We traded email for our interview in August, just after his return from a cross-country family vacation, during the week of the Twitter and Facebook outages.
What technology offers the biggest opportunity to improve the performance and value of an HP 3000 today?
For those considering homesteading on an HP 3000, the single best way to increase performance and reliability is to add a high-speed RAID array. The VA7410 will allow 2*2Gb per second fibre connections. The VA is rated at 45,000 IOs per second, which is well above the limits of an N-Class 750 4-way system.
Another option, given that a discontinued HP 3000 is relatively inexpensive, is to buy a second HP 3000 for reporting reasons. A second HP 3000 would make it possible to offload the reporting aspects of the system, thus reducing the load on the primary computer. Of course, the costs of licensing the software may make this option unavailable. A second 3000 could also be used for parts.
Are the 3000s built with PCI peripheral architecture capable of using more modern disk and backup storage? How do they compare?
Yes, the A-Class and N-Class products using the PCI bus are capable of 2Gb per second fiber connections. Compared the 2Gb/sec to the sustained throughput of 20Mb/sec on the NIO bus (9x9, 9x8 and 9x7 systems), the performance improvement is drastic.
How does the mix of 3000 and non-3000 consulting work shake out for you this year? Are there clients who engage you for both?
Clearly the HP 3000 user base is disintegrating. At the same time, there are quite a few companies that have not even started a migration.
I believe the main reason for the lack of those migrations is that there is no business requirement to migrate off the HP 3000. The second reason would be the economy. Most companies don't feel comfortable with the capital requirements for a migration at this time.
What is keeping the remaining companies from migrating off the system? Is it a roadblock that can be lifted with know-how?
I think which the faith in the economy is at an all time low, the costs for a migration are quite high. The tools to migrate off the HP 3000 are quite good, and there are several options available. I believe cost is probably the deciding factor.
Do you see a useful future for the 3000s out there more than three years from now?
I am old enough to remember the pending “Death of Mainframes.” I believe the death of the HP 3000 has been greatly exaggerated.
The HP 3000 is a powerful machine for its time, and its maintenance cost is an order of magnitude less the other products. A well-configured Linux box could probably give the HP 3000 a good run for the money.
What's the oldest HP 3000 you know of that's still in production use? What's the risk that a customer runs by identifying themselves as users of older hardware?
I know of a couple 918s and a 937 that are in production. I think the biggest risk is the availability of parts. FW-SCSI hard drives are going to be hard to find.
What are the top skills you've learned outside of 3000 techniques that pay off best for you? What have you added that's enhanced the value of your career investments?
I can think of two skills that have really helped me. First, my understanding of requirements for storage, which are growing at exponential rates. My experience with HP VAs (Virtual Arrays), along with HP's XP enterprise storage solution, can be reused in all data processing shops, regardless of OS.
I think the second skill set is to be able to communicate with the customers in their language Most customers don't really care about memory, MHz and IO throughput. Customers care about orders processed, credit card throughput and management barometers.