SuprtoolSQL slips into Windows to migrate
Early gravedigging surrounds HP solutions

3000s still busy enough to make messes

Robelle's lead Suprtool developer Neil Armstrong laughed yesterday when I asked him about the state of the 3000 market. He was not snickering at whether the 3000 market's state was history, either.

"I was just poring over a HowMessy report from a 918 when you called," he said. "That should tell you something."

Armstrong has been hard at work servicing the 3000 customers -- we'd estimate several thousand -- who continue to rely upon the Robelle products, including Suprtool and HowMessy. He's been leading the former in steps toward other platforms to serve the needs of migrating Suprtool sites. But HowMessy is strictly an HP 3000 tool, used by companies who want to improve the database performance on their systems.

Not exactly a leave-the-platform utility -- and the generation of the computer said something about the market's state, too.

Community veterans, customers and developers have been using HowMessy since I started covering the HP 3000 25 years ago. Maybe before, since HowMessy is one of those programs that's not sold, but bundled with a Robelle purchase. Those kinds of tools have a life off the books, a lot like that Series 918.

HP won't support a Series 918 in about eight months, but that doesn't mean that this 3000 that's at least 10 years old is going out of service. This is the smallest of the 9x8 line, which began its life in 1992. It's not a challenge to find a 918 still working at a development lab, as a disaster recovery system, sure. But in production? You'd think that a 3000 with a meager Performance Rating of 10 would be out of everyday critical use.

After all, the Series 979 in the OpenMPE rackspace hosting center sports a Rating of 184. And that server ready to go online Very Soon Now isn't even the fastest generation of 3000s. If you want to survey the Relative Performance of the 3000 line, the best table of the entire lineup is at AICS Research, makers of the QueryCalc reporting tool. HP also created a matrix of times-more-powerful-than systems, using the N-Class servers of the final RISC era. A single-processor N-Class is still 7 times more powerful than that Series 918.

But power is not really the issue that is separating 3000 lovers from their systems, nor is it the reason that Armstrong still gets HowMessy reports from a Series 918. These Elder Era computers are in place and working at a phenomenal value, considering how long they're been paid off. HowMessy reports aside, the 918 is working because it always has, and even in an improving economy that's valuable. With migrations restarting and making headway while IT spending rises, a system built in the 20th Century still can do the job in the 21st -- if it's an HP 3000, and you can count on the experience of a supplier like Robelle.

If you're new to 3000 management, or just want to remember what HowMessy helps clean up, you might recall this advice from Adager (which also bundles HowMessy in its installation packages). In its technical paper Do Migrating Secondaries Give You Migraines? Alfredo Rego writes:

Messy synonym chains, with entries scattered all over, will probably contribute numerous bad synonyms. Cleanly-packed synonym chains, on the other hand, may contribute good synonyms which will be, for all practical purposes, equivalent to primary entries. Intra-memory operations are, after all, significantly faster than disc operations.

Under any circumstances, short and tidy synonym chains are much better than long and messy synonym chains. Use Robelle's HowMessy (available in the Robelle and Adager installation packages) to get a good view: