HP's Alvina Nishimoto, who attended the second half of the Meet, said HP is still observing customers migrating, and "migrating late, which is kind of surprising." But on the whole the vendor is seeing a very quiet picture of the community, she said. "We have 9x7 customers coming out of the woodwork," a data point that would seem to suggest more than 1,000 customers continue to use a 3000, since the 9x7s were first shipped 15 years ago. Nishimoto said these 9x7 customers were sites HP didn't know about. But a comment about the community having more than 10,000 customers drew sustained laughter.
Peter Anderton of Micro Focus said during the roundtable that his company, which purchased AcuCOBOL during 2007, is moving forward with a modernization project for AcuCOBOL to help customers get into cloud computing. "We're working hard to migrate the AcuCOBOL GUI into the cloud," he said. As for cloud demand, Anderton shared a typical briefing with a customer who said they didn't want cloud computing - but wanted virtualization, software as a service, thin clients, Web 2.0 and Service Oriented Architecture, all elements of the cloud concept.
"At the heart of it, the big change will be in billing," Anderton said. "When you can start billing customers by the click, the gigabyte, or don't charge them at all but show them an advertisement, that's when you'll see a difference."
The Micro Focus official also pushed back on observations that AcuCOBOL is dead, talk sparked by the fact that it's owned by a company selling another COBOL compiler. Six months into a one-year push to put COBOL into cloud use, Micro Focus "is developing AcuCOBOL again. We're putting enhancements in, and our roadmaps for it talk about a Version 9, and a lot of it will be based on the Acu user interface that's done so well on the HP 3000. We're thinking of keeping the Acu core, with the new cloud interface. We didn't know what we were doing with Acu, and so we said why sell it new if Micro Focus COBOL and it do the same thing?" The new bottom line look at the future of AcuCOBOL, Anderson said Micro Focus would be selling Acu to new clients as of October.
Michael Marxmeier, creator of the Eloquence database, made a case for some kind of clearinghouse that knows new technologies and could interface with smaller customers.
"You have large organizations that do migrations, and they're good for large companies," he said. "Are they a good fit for small companies? Maybe, maybe not. But if you've worked with a company on a 3000 for years, nobody can actually replace you. It has worked because there was a user community, and now it's deteriorating. The question is how can we all make a living from that as professionals? Consulting knowledge is all-important."
Birket Foster believes the future of the community is a generational issue. David Floyd of the Support Group inc. was the only attendee under the age of 40 - "and a long way from 40, thank you," he told attendees. Floyd is leading the Support Group in providing outsourcing and support services to help sites continue to use 3000 applications. But tSGi leadership aside, for Foster "the issue is that we're going through the end of the Baby Boomers in IT, and as we all retire the kids behind us don't know how to do any of this."
Foster's presentation included news that MB Foster has started to host data marts for some clients. A newer venture he's invested in, Storm.ca, operates co-located servers in addition to its core business of wireless broadband for rural customers and businesses around Ottawa, Canada.
He said Storm co-locates hosts because "I believe in five years you won't be able to support your small business without having a Rolodex of at least five people. The people in this room are the people who could be doing that IT service for you. The problem is that companies of that size can't afford to be in the IT business themselves."
Organizations large enough to manage mainframes will continue to work through IT issues. HP's Nishimoto updated attendees with a story about a migration not away from an HP 3000, but from an IBM mainframe to an HP-UX system. The customer could only satisfy its auditors that the migration wouldn't trigger a recertification by proving the app was the same code, line for line. An calculation error in the migrated system was tracked back to the mainframe app, she added.
Details on adding HP's 3000 software after 2010 remain to be worked out, Nishimoto explained in a response to a customer question. While there's a process in place to transfer MPE/iX licenses once HP leaves the support field, purchasing a product such as a 3000 C compiler or Glance doesn't have a clear path today. Walter Murray, who manages the 3000s at the California Department of Corrections, asked about adding the software to his environment. The state agency is migrating, but said the process will take years.
The next bang-up meet up
"There's a time to do something, or you'll never do it," Yeo said in closing the meeting. Yeo sparked the World Wide Wake to mark the end of 3000 manufacturing, and Birket Foster said that 2003 was "too early to do the World Wide Wake - but I said then that if we waited any longer, we'd lose contact. Look around you now, and see how many people we've lost contact with since then."
The close of the day's meeting included some proposals for a gathering during 2010 of 3000 professionals. Yeo said while the year doesn't mark the end of the 3000's life, the 2010 is "as far as HP is concerned, when the 3000 dies as a commercial platform." Yeo mused aloud about the first steps for a meeting that would give HP's 3000 ending a bang, rather than a whimper, by adding training in transition technology.
This year's attendees agreed that adding the educational component to the next meet will enable more customers to make room for attending the next meet,
"We'll kind of have a meeting event where we can do this kind of networking," Yeo said, "but then tail onto it some real training sessions again in available technologies," he said. The training would focus on migration targets and tools such as software from the community's migration solution providers to engage the smaller customer who's doing a migration in-house, with limited outsourcing.
When Yeo introduced the briefing from OpenMPE, he suggested some help in keeping the community connected could come from that group. The Meets could evolve into a conference of "people who were using things on the 3000 but aren't anymore. Some of those knowledge sets are applicable."
As experts like those in that hotel meeting room stretch their skills, "the question is how do we keep that knowledge base within a community that isn't purely HP 3000 based anymore?" Yeo asked. "We don't know. Hopefully in 10 years' time we can still meet up - because it's good to meet people - and there's a mechanism to keep people in touch."