Emulator creators boot product in real time
3000 Labor Plus User Group Management

Identifying Users for Next Year's Emulator

 Second of two parts

  The top management of emulator creator Stromays believes HP is washing its hands of the HP 3000. But Stromasys' Zelus cross platform virtualization software will need to resolve licensing issues beyond MPE/iX itself. Third party apps and tools have made the 3000 a great choice all along. In our Q&A with CTO Robert Boers and CEO John Pritchard, we talked about making Zelus look like a particular size of 3000 -- an aspect that impacts the cost of licensing for tiered HP 3000 software.

Boers: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, in order to provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]

    We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key.  Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.

    We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, in their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX], who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.

You say first attempt — how far back does your emulator work go?

Boers: We built our first 3000 emulator in 2003, but we never we never got to the end of that, because at that point in time, HP didn’t want to give us the technology needed to make the MPE licensing work. And we didn’t want to reverse engineer that part of it.

Pritchard: But I think the fact that HP has given us the data now is a clear indicator that they want the customers to have some alternate paths forward.

Boers: We’ve signed a number of CDAs, and Jennie Hou at HP says they’re trying to get us all the information we really need. They’re clearly committed to getting this to go.

    We have all the HP 3000-specific processor dependent call specifications from them. We showed them that we had an emulator which would boot Linux. In a few weeks we can verify the way we emulate the PDC calls acts correctly on MPE.

Is your emulation going to get rid of the slowdown code that hamstrung PA-RISC processors on 3000s?

Boers: We’re not using that. They’ve clocked them down to the equivalent of 55MhZ on the low-end models. They actually had a back-door to allow their support people to turn up the performance if they were in a hurry. We’re actually building an accelerator, but we won’t know what the final performance will be for a couple of months yet.

We’ve gotten this question from US customers: will you have support centers outside of Europe?

Boers: We have a development and support center in North Carolina. But I want to make a fairly clear distinction between virtual hardware and what’s running on top of it. Once we’ve done the virtual hardware, it’s the equivalent of the hardware. I don’t care what you run on it, even Linux.

    But I would like to work with a number of the established vendors who provide support. I don’t see a need, or a desire in our business from our side, to build MPE-specific competence.

Pritchard: And there’s a big community of support companies out there, and we’re going to reach out to that community.

Some in the community say too much time has passed to make this a relevant product. What’s your take?

Boers: To tell you the truth, HP’s been pretty slow. I feel concerned, because we should have been ready much earlier. We’ve been waiting about a year until we got an agreement on the PDC information, because their overriding worry was the ability to run HP-UX.
    What concerns me is that there’s only about a half year left to get additional HP licenses. We might have a working beta by then, but not much more by the end of the year.

So how much of a market in production 3000s do you believe is left?

Boers: I know some numbers. In 2008 they called us up and said there’s less than 30,000 left.  But we probably wouldn’t do this if we could only build an HP 3000 out of the technology. A lot of the code and the design is shared, and we’re working on more of these products.

(Ed. note: Stromasys also announced a Sun emulator at the same time of its HP 3000 product announcement.)

Pritchard: We’ve already had conversations with customers within 10 km of our door here in Switzerland. Our estimate of the maximum size is going to be about 20,000 installations on systems.

Your timeline shows you’ll be in alpha and beta tests in 2011. Do you need significant tech help from HP to complete the product?

Boers: Once we test that PDC call, I don’t need any help from them, so no.

You’ve said that you’re looking at pricing in the 3000 market, but not announcing yet. What’s your pricing in the VAX market?

Pritchard: Our price elasticity there is $5,000-$200,000. Some people just want to buy time [before migrating]. And so we can sell them time as well.