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July 2010

Java migrations spin outside Oracle visions

With the recent announcement that the StrongHold tool is getting fresh opportunity to migrate PowerHouse 3000 sites to Java, we wondered if Java's new owners were a part of the solution. After all, earlier this year the Oracle acquisition of Sun completed, and Sun is the creator of Java. By one way of thinking, a move to Java could be seen as edging into Oracle's command and control structure.

Chris Koppe of Speedware, which signed a 7-year deal to market and use and support StrongHold, doesn't see it that way at all. Neither do other analysts, who believe that Java is a platform well outside of any vendor's control in 2010. The HP 3000 certainly hasn't had a Java option for production use since early in the last decade, but the prospect of the language carried an allure that has materialized for many commercial sites. Open source solutions are at work in the enterprise, and the awareness of Java pre-dates Linux.

"The option of Linux in the enterprise world has done a lot to support the adoption of Java in the enterprise world," Koppe said. "In the large to mid-size organization, Java does really well."

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What do you want OpenMPE to do for you?

Later this morning, another meeting of the volunteers of OpenMPE takes place on its usual conference call. If the group is fortunate, all eight members will be on the call. More likely is that one or two will have a conflict or a vacation week, so a half dozen is a more likely roll call.

This group is looking for something relevant to do for the 3000 community. This question -- what can we do for you? -- has lingered before OpenMPE for close to two years now. After six years of pursuit of the 3000's source code, there's been a void. It's a gap the group wants to fill. You might email your requests for action to new board member Keith Wadsworth, pushing for a business reorganization, or to mission statement committee member Connie Sellitto, another new board member.

We promised we'd only offer OpenMPE coverage if something happened. (The meeting minutes that say "Executive Session," sans any detail, don't count.) Perhaps by the end of today, a new host for the invent3k development server will be decided. We can't tell, because OpenMPE doesn't even post an agenda for any upcoming meeting. But this week the group sounds more serious about finding something you want it to do.

"We'll take the next six weeks to develop a mission statement," board chair Birket Foster told me this week. That statement is going to need response from your community. Just yesterday, a 3000 reseller said OpenMPE might do something to help everybody upgrading a 3000 over the next three years: Get clarity from HP on RTU upgrade license policies. The reseller suggested this because the OpenMPE of years past was always asking HP to clarify policy and procedures regarding the 3000.

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Eloquence beefs up data security, encryption

Marxmeier Software has announced a version 8.10 of its database Eloquence, the software for non-3000 platforms written to understand IMAGE/SQL structures and designs. The newest version, available for HP-UX and Linux systems, adding database encryption and item masking. A Windows-ready version will be available later this year, according to the product's creator Michael Marxmeier.

"If you are working to meet the PCI DSS requirements or exploring how to improve protection of sensitive information with a minimum of changes to your application and procedures, you are likely interested in this new functionality," he said in a note to subscribers on the Eloquence mailing list.

Encryption is a must-have feature to pass the Visa credit card processing rules that kicked in this year for online merchants. Encryption is also a feature that provides good IT practice to every system manager.

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UDALink expands access to 64-bit databases

WinSQLServer08 MB Foster has announced the release of a 64-bit version of its UDALink data access client. The new version will give HP 3000 managers a fast link into the expanded data spaces of SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008, as well as a way to pump 3000 data into the Eloquence 64-bit database.

The versions of the Windows enterprise tools are becoming more common in the strategies of the user base running HP 3000s in homesteading, or those planning to migrate to a Windows environment. While many applications don't need the vast headroom 64 bits provides, CEO Birket Foster said the latest generation Microsoft products represent the future for Windows.

Eloquence-logo-frei  "Microsoft has been pushing toward 64 bits in their operating systems and databases," Foster said. This matters to the MB Foster customers because the most frequently used configuration is having UDALink extracting data from IMAGE for a SQL Server database. The biggest value in using a 64-bit version of the database or the Windows OS is handing much more data in memory. Foster described the capacity as the power to identify "2,000 unique things for every person on the planet.

The new version means the same client can work with Unix, Windows, Linux and the HP 3000. The client talks to IMAGE, but also to Eloquence in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of that database.

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Encryption tools enhance 3000 security

FlatFile Encrypt Driven by this month's deadline from credit card processors, owners of HP 3000s can turn to another set of tools and solutions to apply encryption security for online e-commerce. FluentEdge Technologies has been offering a two-fisted product set to punch up the transaction security on a server that's still processing card payments.

The Visa/Mastercard PCI security standard kicked in this month for most companies that accept credit cards in web transactions. Encryption of credit card numbers and user data is a non-negotiable feature to meet auditor requirements. Visa insists on compliance to maintain the ability to process sales. Companies must show a passing audit grade or send transactions to a more secure platform.

FluentEdge co-founder Cliff Looyenga said the encryption takes place while the data is en route to IMAGE. "We intercept the DBPUT or DBUPDATE database calls, after the customers define which datasets and in which positions have credit card numbers. Our software encrypts that portion of the record, and likewise, when we see DBGETs from those datasets, we then go and decrypt. This allows the customer to implement encryption without making any changes to their software at all."

AES 256-bit encryption is at the heart of the software. FluentEdge has one solution designed for the Ecometry e-commerce site, and another set of tools ready for the 3000 application programmer to apply to in-house systems. There's also a stand-alone version, shown above, that encrypts and decrypts files via batch or command line, all running on the 3000. This Flat File Encryption Program gives the ability to an authorized manager to encrypt or decrypt files on demand. Even archival spoolfiles can be encrypted.

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Deadlines loom for few system upgrades

HP announced a few new deadlines this week for its wrap-up of 3000 operations. But the HP dates won't have an impact on how soon you'll need to upgrade a 3000 that's still running mission-critical apps for your business.

The issue rose up yesterday on the HP 3000 newsgroup after HP reseller Client Systems urged customers to hurry up and act on purchases for 3000 systems. "Be ready for ‘the end’ and beyond," said Dan Cossey. "The clock is ticking on MPE/iX software, upgrades, SLT’s, support, and e3000 hardware. The time to act is now."

How much time is left to upgrade? For nearly all customers these deadlines are in-house, not tied to HP's policies. Plans are independent of HP's timelines, unless you need an MPE/iX license upgrade or HP's software media.

"Our plan is to acquire an A500 with NS, move the COBOL and FORTRAN from the 928 to our 939, and retire the 928," said Mark Landin. "If we can't get this done before the end of 2010, what's the impact to our plan?"

We've talked with HP about this several times over the past 18 months. (At such length that a 2007 Q&A seemed to cover the RTU over two articles.) The impact will be zero, unless your MPE/iX licensing needs demand you buy a fresh HP Right To Use (RTU) license. According to resellers who've sold licensed MPE/iX systems, the need for these has been rare since HP introduced them early in 2007.

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MB Foster sets Web training schedule

MBFAWebLogo A 3000 software provider with a busy migration services arm has rolled out a busy September webinar schedule. MB Foster will be giving three straight Wednesdays of webinars, including a tour of the new MBF Scheduler which the company developed in its own labs, aimed at customers moving to Windows.

The company notes that the Scheduler is a good fit for an Ecometry customer who's making a transition to the Windows version of that e-commerce app. The Ecometry community has been choosing Windows in significant measure when sizing up environments to take over HP 3000 operations. MB Foster's Scheduler tour, showing off the weekly and monthly processing possibilities, takes place at 2PM EDT on Sept. 22.

Ecometry sites running on an HP 3000 today -- still prospects for migration -- number about 150, according to Cliff Looyenga of Ecometry experts FluentEdge Technologies. In the meantime, MB Foster's also delivering training on data replication, archival data migration, and even education issues. Registration for all the web training is online at the MB Foster site.

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3000 moves five years beyond Interex

SharedKnowledge Five years ago this week the HP Computer System Users Group, best known as Interex, locked its doors in a sudden bankruptcy. A Chapter 11 resuscitation was never attempted by the group's managers; a total overnight shutdown, direct to Chapter 7, was the only remaining option in the face of $4 million in debts.

Two questions remain relevant for the 3000 community after half a decade. Did Interex reduce the computer system's life resource for users by failing? More to the point, is there another user group resource to aid them -- or do 3000 users even need such a thing by 2010?

The chaos and turmoil of the July shutdown became our first big story for this news blog. You can revisit the highlights, or low points.

Interex closes its doors
A retirement, or a death?
The lights are off, the bankruptcy filed
Contributions frozen, one summer later
Interex customers may get auctioned
Two years on, Interex still being sold off
User group bankruptcy ends with pennies
Dust of Interex demise suggests virtual meetings

There's proof enough, in that series of stories, that a nexus was lost and millions of dollars were spent for naught. Over the same five years, Encompass became the Connect user group for HP 3000 users -- especially the ones who are choosing another HP enterprise to replace a 3000.

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HP expands on post-2010 policies

Slipped onto the HP e3000 transition website quietly this month: updates on the support, firmware updaters, RTU upgrade licenses and software distribution programs starting in 2011.

Some of the information on the HP web page expands on previously-announced company policy. "Customers with a valid Right To Use license [for MPE/iX] will be able to perform a valid [3000] upgrade without incurring an additional licensing cost" after December 31, 2010. HP is ending the sale of RTU licenses -- a product HP says it has discounted since introduction -- at the end of this year. Get yours now if you expect to need to upgrade a 3000 and want to comply with HP's MPE/iX licensing in 2011 and beyond.

Changes to a 3000 for such an upgrade may require the SSCONFIG or SS_UPDATE software magic wands. HP repeated its policy decision of 2009: "Because of intellectual property leveraged on other HP hardware platforms, the decision was reached to not license SSCONFIG and SS_Update tools to customers, third party resellers, or support providers."

Short answer: "Not for you, customers and support companies; some of this stuff works on HP 9000 (PA-RISC) servers." You contact a local HP office to arrange updates to HPSUSAN numbers (like after a CPU burnout) or other operations that require the magic wands. HP will sell this service on a time and materials basis.

The good news: HP says "There is currently no end of support date scheduled for these tools." This is one of several post-2010 services HP's maintaining beyond its "end-of-life" date in about five months. But life goes on at HP for 3000 board swaps and upgrades. There's hope for limited HP support in 2011 too, for the long-term migrator as well as a homesteader.

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Speedware tool migrates PowerHouse apps

StrongHold Speedware has announced a relationship with a company that's been selling a migration tool for PowerHouse sites, a deal that will extend the reach of StrongHold into North America and beyond. Through the agreement, Dutch software house Brains2B grants Speedware exclusive worldwide distribution rights to its StrongHold software. The arrangement also puts Speedware in charge of marketing and sales, as well as joint development.

StrongHold acts as a tool for what Speedware calls automated migrations. As Speedware announced the agreement this week, it reported that it will use StrongHold in situations where a company needs to move applications away from the Cognos PowerHouse language and into Java. 

Speedware will become a solution provider for customers interested in modernizing their legacy PowerHouse applications by converting the code to an enterprise Java solution. Legacy modernization projects are performed to resolve the current challenges facing organizations operating critical business functions on legacy platforms.

StrongHold first emerged at the end of 2004 as a solution for PowerHouse migrations -- but both Speedware and Brains2B also refer to the end-result as modernization. When we first covered the entry of this tool in the 3000 community, a Montana school district was evaluating StrongHold as an alternative to finding more PowerHouse expertise for its 3000 apps. Three PowerHouse experts were retiring at the Great Falls School District.

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HP to shut Cupertino campus, shuttle to HQ

CupertinoCampus Yesterday's email at HP included some watershed news about the company labs. The buildings that cooked up the ultimate generation of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX, as well as much of the company's current enterprise systems, are being closed down in Cupertino.

For decades, Cupertino was the heartbeat of HP's business computer operations, but by 2012 the entire staff now working across a lush campus will be relocated to HP's facilities in Palo Alto. The new Building 20, being constructed as a shining example of a green, efficient workplace, will house thousands of employees who've spent their entire careers inside places like Building 47.

HP's memo to the workforce came out yesterday and was reprinted at So the migration of HP's servers will include much more than HP's 3000 operations. Entire business units are moving across Silicon Valley to reside in Building 20, as well as into some buildings where HP grew up in the 1960s. In a bit of irony for 3000 users, HP is vacating a campus whose northern perimeter is Homestead Road.

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Data integration offers archival off-switch

Above, a demonstration of DBIntegrate, from a 10-minute YouTube video. You'll need Flash capability in your browser to watch it from this page.

Transoft, which has made its bones in the 3000 market doing modernization and migration of 3000 systems, is offering another way to transform an MPE/iX enterprise. The company is introducing sales of a stand-alone product for database integration, DBIntegrate.

Although the concept has been served already in the marketplace -- MB Foster's got three products to migrate databases to targets, including real-time transfers -- Transoft is now offering software that it's been using with customers for more than 12 years, according to its Sales and Marketing VP Bruce Kopkin. The company, part of the Iris Software and Services corporation, took a closer look at a tool that's already proven itself in customer engagements.

"It was working but we hadn't done much with it," Kopkin said. Formerly called Enterprise Join Engine, the new DBIntegrate takes data from multiple data sources "and allows it to be viewed as a single data source. Over the last year we recognized this thing has a lot more power than what we've used it to do. It does database integration, data migration, and some cleansing of data using rules as you're doing an integration or migration."

Transoft's goal with DBIntegrate is to capture some of the 3000 marketplace which is using systems as archive machines. This archival market is likely to be the last outpost of 3000 homestead users -- companies that find it simpler to keep historical data on 3000s and use the reports and databases there for lookups and business intelligence. DBIntegrate, which Transoft intends to be also used by application vendors for their clients as well as the sites running home-grown code, is a means to shut off archival systems at the end of their lifespans.

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Discount expires soon on Eloquence training

A $100 discount on two days of training for the Eloquence database expires tomorrow, according to the training's host MB Foster. Users of the IMAGE replacement database and replication tool must register with MB Foster by the end of Thursday, July 15 to receive their discount off the $500 list price.

The Eloquence training is the first offered in North America, in Ottawa, Canada, in several years. That period has seen a lot of installation and implementation of Eloquence. Creator Michael Marxmeier will lead 9-to-5 days on Thursday and Friday in concepts, TurboIMAGE compatibility, security and encryption, optimizing and even using the MBF-UDALink data extraction tool with the database.

Four hours of the training is offered by Marxmeier, including an explanation of new PCI requirements for encryption. The rest of the program explains enterprise databases such as IMAGE and Eloquence, led by MB Foster's experts. "We discovered that most programmers don't know the semantics of what IMAGE does," said MB Foster's Birket Foster. "Someone else designed the database. We're going to help set the scene on those topics for databases.

Eloquence runs on HP-UX and Linux, as well as Windows. MB Foster has a complete agenda, including lodging details at a discounted rate, in a PDF file. Training from the creator of such a migration platform is pretty rare in enterprise computing.

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OpenMPE pays HP's bill to notch a milestone

It's been two months since I've written about OpenMPE's doings. There's been a good reason: the volunteers stopped doing anything since HP issued them a license to use MPE/iX source code. Writing about the potential for an organization gets stale after a few months.

Now there's news from these volunteers, however modest. They've paid the bill for that 3000 source code license they received in March. Group treasurer Matt Perdue called over the weekend to report he was sending the check for HP's invoice. Although OpenMPE has paid some bills out of its own coffers, they've been for the likes of tax preparation or website hosting. HP's bill ran somewhere in the neighborhood of five figures, though the group cannot report the exact amount.

Perdue said that "not very much of that payment was in bridge loans, either." The loans have been extended by Keith Wadsworth of Orbit Software and Birket Foster of MB Foster. The two volunteers represent the bookends of experience for this group that talked HP into making 3000 source available to independent companies. Foster's been on board since the start of the group. Wadsworth joined this spring.

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Years remain until latest MPE date concern

The HP 3000's operating system is turning the pages toward a day when it will need date repairs. But the far-off approach of 2027 won't even be a concern to the most seasoned MPE/iX shop for a few more years to come. Allegro Consultants president Steve Cooper said that contracts and maintenance agreements will take a few more years to run into a bug similar to the Y2K issues of a decade ago.

The MPE/iX shortfall will take place sometime in 2027, when the 3000's internal date representation runs out of bits and wraps." Our report on the Ametek Chandler Engineering Group's plan to run a 3000 until 2023 sparked a warning about 3000 dates from MB Foster's Birket Foster.

"The date issue will happen if a loan or mortgage is put into the system that has a due date past the 2027 mark," Foster said, or a contract, warranty or best-before date. "You have a date this will happen in your application -- if is just a matter of your date range of your planning and activity. It is only 17 years away."

Cooper and Foster both know that date representation issues have been addressed by the 3000 development community before -- in an era when many companies were still engineering for the system. Cooper, however, sounded confident that if any 2027 date repair is needed, it will be available on time.

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Series 42, from '80s, heads for 2010's net

HP built its 3000 servers well in the 20th Century, a fact that a former HP division engineer is proving from his California garage. HP's first products came out of a famed Palo Alto garage, of course. But Lee Courtney isn't trying to make a living with his 1980s server -- he's just putting a past tool onto today's technology.

Courtney has been working with a Series 42 HP 3000, a server first sold in the 1980s. The 42 was the 3000's middle of the road workhorse before HP turned to RISC chip designs in the late 80s. They called them Classic 3000s, once the PA-RISC servers went on sale. I toured HP's US disk drive assembly plant in 1988 -- when the vendor was still building indestructible disks, and making them in North America. I saw a rack of 42s in the Boise, Idaho factory's test bay, hard at work. HP was doing burn-in testing with the servers for its brand of drives, more than 20 years ago.

Even in that summer, the 42s seemed like relics. Imagine how refreshing it will look if Courtney can get his system onto the Internet. He's just one network card away from doing it, he believes. If you've got a LANIC for one of these, a system built before the Internet can make an appearance, you can help. It might also prove something about 3000 hardware supplies.

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HP flashes UX futures on freshest roadmap

RoadmapUXMay2010 HP has started a Twitter feed for its news about HP-UX, the operating environment recommended for 3000 sites that have no passion for opening more Windows servers. While following a Twitter feed from @hp_ux might not be the most comfortable way to get news from HP, the enterprise server group is pointing to some strategic documents through the feed, like this year's futures roadmap. (Click it above to expand for easy reading.)

Even though HP 3000 customers have learned the hard way that a roadmap isn't a promise, planning the lifespan of a server is not an easy task. HP's PowerPoint slides for the future of HP-UX help. The vendor is extending the sales life of the HP-UX 11i v3 generation an extra two years, until 2014. HP will have been selling the same enterprise release of its Unix for more than seven years by this end-of-life -- a lifetime in Unix years. 11i v3 support continues through 2017, according to the HP document.

Flashed as a footnote early in those slides is a link to PDF file that warms the heart of a hardware jockey. The Hardware Support Matrix for HP-UX hardware reports "expected support continuation" end-dates, as well as end of sales dates, system intro dates (not easy to find) and a column called Final End of Support Life. That's the "Dec. 2006" date that HP has moved up twice for the 3000. As you might expect, there's a lot of To Be Determined notes in that column for HP's Unix servers. No news can be good news.

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Last Half Looks: News beats future guesses

We're in the last half of HP's 3000 adventure, the final six months before the 3000's creator turns off its lights on the system. But just because HP's interest is gone soon doesn't mean the community's exits are steaming with customers. Not any more so than at any point during the last eight years, anyway.

The debut of business plans and negotiations -- and a product name -- for a 3000 emulator is just one fact you'll want at the ready if you're being squeezed into a rush migration plan. Stromasys has been in the "cross-platform virtualization" business since 1998. The company was formed when Digital was spinning off assets after its merger with Compaq; Stromasys was the European Migration Center for DEC and bought itself away from the systems maker.

The good news is that there's news, not just assumptions to follow from old information. For reference, here's a list of accurate replies to the mis-information people believe about the 3000 community.

Sources of systems in good condition are in short supply

Not from our latest reports. We've talked with customers who are adding systems to their 3000 stables, ranging from very large companies to those much smaller. Just last week, a supplier of migration and 3000 tools needed storage upgrades for a customer. The advice he got? Look into MOD 20 HP disk arrays. HP hasn't built a MOD 20 in more than five years. You can still get them, though. Ditto the 3000, according to the system resellers.

"A couple more years yet" is the best report you'll get on current 3000 customer plans

No, not the way it's scheduled now. At many sites they talk about a couple more years' use of the server. But at manufacturing sites in particular, a couple more years behaves like the horizon -- the closer you get to it, the farther away it appears.

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Last Half Looks: Oracle's Sun-ny value flip

Welcome to the final half-year of HP's 3000 enterprises. Six months from now Hewlett-Packard will be out of the 3000 marketplace after 38 years of solution releases and support. Migration-bound companies might be away from the 3000 by next year, but some will not. Those still choosing alternative tech platforms should know the rules of value in the next world.

Oracle purchased Sun more than a year ago, but the dust from that acquisition is only settling now. Even if your target is neither Oracle (like manufacturer Ametek -- in 2023) or Sun (like Expeditors International, which moved by 2005), the business flip of Oracle might have a bearing on your open source alternative. MySQL, an open source database so popular and powerful it drives Facebook and Wikipedia, is now owned by Oracle.

And Sun-Oracle (Snorkle!) has an upside-down strategy to deliver software and support for Sun products. "In the Sun world, the [Solaris] operating system is freely downloadable from its website," said Steve Cooper, co-founder of independent support company Allegro Consultants. "But Solaris patches are only available when you have a maintenance contract." That latter wrinkle keeps a customer tied to the vendor's support, unless they learn to live without patches.

A patch-free environment is what 3000 users are facing, since this is the last half of any HP patches, even the remaining workaround code. But a migration to an environment that uses MySQL -- popular among open source migrators -- could land you in the same lifetime support corral.

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Untold technology carries MPE toward 2023

We're celebrating the US Independence holiday with a podcast. This is just another of the list of technologies and designs we didn’t have 13 years ago, but ours for this weekend is only five minutes worth of listening (MP3 download, 5MB -- about the size of some of the early thumb drives, ones that didn't exist in 1997).

When we're done thinking of what we didn't have back in 1997, roll ahead to 2023. There’s still an HP 3000 running a factory in Oklahoma 13 years from now. Technology just emerging today is going to help the customers who want to carry their MPE computing deep into the second decade of the 21st Century, even 13 years beyond this weekend.

We're taking Monday off to celebrate the US holiday, but we'll be back with our reports about the 3000's future on Tuesday, July 6. If you're celebrating, have a safe and glorious Fourth.

A Baker's Dozen More Years of 3000 Use

AmetekArrays I may be at full US Social Security retirement age, 66, when Barbara Nimmo retires her HP 3000. The IT manager at the Chandler Chandler Engineering unit of Amatek Process and Analytical Instruments, Nimmo is in charge of an Series 918 -- smallest system that can boot MPE/iX 7.5 -- and says the company plans to migrate to Oracle.

In 2023.

"I hope it's still running by then," she reported today as we chatted about the longest-range IT plan I've ever seen. She only got the migration date this week.

For the HP 3000 customer, long-range plans never used to include a date for changing a platform. For Amatek, this server could well have no effective changeover. After all, MPE/iX itself is supposed to have a date problem that could stall the environment in 2027. Nimmo is doing her own MPE/iX maintenance and using BlueLine Services for hardware support.

Don't be thinking this is a tiny customer site, either. Ametek is a $2.5 billion manufacturer of aerospace components and assemblies. There's a massive array of Ametek business units around the world, a field of companies that looks as big as the solar array above, one of the company's markets. Just today Ametek announced it bought a manufacturer of linear actuators and lead screw assemblies. Ametek paid $270 million in cash for the new subsidiary. Nimmo says there are four other HP 3000s running in the company besides her 918. But that little 3000 is more than proof of the lifespan of MPE/iX.

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