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November 2010

A Sterling Example of R&D Innovation

This month marks the 15th anniversary of our printed issue of The 3000 NewsWire -- we mailed copies of our November 2010 edition at the start of last week. Just as those copies (with print-first exclusives) landed in mailboxes around the world, I got a LinkedIn connection invite from Harry Sterling, the last general manager of the 3000 division to engineer a bigger market share for the server. When we first spoke with Sterling he ran the group's R&D, an aspect of today's HP that analysts and veterans believe needs a renaissance.

SterlingP221995I caught up with Sterling to learn he's still pursuing and loving his new career after HP retirement in 1999: real estate, selling residential property in his adopted hometown of Palm Springs. After he retired, Sterling spent a year off in consulting and renovating a house in New Orleans, but reports he's now pursuing what he loves -- contact with people. The sales have been hard in the recent market, a feeling he probably remembers from selling the 3000 in the '90s.

I have always been interested in Real Estate so I decided to give it a try.  My technical skills have given me an edge with web marketing. Most of my new clients come to me via my web sites. I got my license in December of 2002. It is a tough market now with lots of foreclosures and short pay sales. Hard work – harder than I thought it would be. But I do love it, especially sleeping in my own bed every night and meeting new people all the time.

I was surprised to see our very same November, 1995 issue included our first Q&A with Sterling, back when HP still had executives who could speak about the HP 3000 as something other than a dead product. With the HP campus where Sterling led a rejuvenation now sold to Apple, it seems worthwhile to study what a manager can pursue when customer delight is the goal. The interview with him revolves around Customer First and how it was practiced down to the lab level of the division, a group that once worked in a building HP owns no more.

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Apple buys HP 3000 campus to return home

AppleLandBuy2010 The home for development and management of the HP 3000 business has been sold to Apple Computer, putting the 98 acres between Pruneridge Ave. and Homestead Road back into the hands of HP's rival in the consumer computing business. That "return to home" view is being promoted by Steve Wozniak in an interview about the $300 million sale of HP's enterprise computing campus.

The Woz started his computer industry career on an HP campus back in the 1970s. The legend is told that he pitched the design and concept of a personal computer to Hewlett-Packard but got turned down, then left the company to found Apple with Steve Jobs. On the Cult of Mac website, The Woz commented on the site's story about the 98-acre sale, a transaction first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Woz worked for the most innovative HP group of the time, the Advanced Products Division, until HP wanted to move APD to Oregon. Woziak then logged about a month working at DSD -- home group of the predecessor to the 3000's General Systems Division, which finally was organized as a separate Computer Systems Divison. The General Systems Division contained the HP 1000 and HP 3000 operations during the years Woz worked at HP, the late '70s when the computer gained IMAGE as a bundled database as well as stole market share from IBM's batch mainframes.

Apple purchased the land and buildings where the 3000 gained its PA-RISC design as well as the creation of a 32-bit MPE. In the Mercury News coverage, its John Boudreau contrasts what Apple has done in 2010 against the cutbacks and acquisitions common at places like HP. "What most distinguishes Apple is the way it has climbed these heights," Boudreau writes. "While other tech titans spent 2010 cutting costs and acquiring new technology through mergers, this $65 billion company is innovating like a startup."

With the purchase of the HP campus, Apple's jammed main campus can now expand to the buildings where its co-founder did research that led to Apple's first product. Woz remembered when HP was his benefactor.

Apple really is returning home. Actually, almost all of the Apple ][ development occurred in the HP calculator division (APD) which was located in the section acquired earlier. When this HP division moved to Corvallis, Oregon, my wife did not want to move so I transferred to HP’s Data Systems Division (HP 3000) across Pruneridge and I worked there for about one month, at first choosing not to start Apple due to my love for HP.

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Thanksgiving, wherever you are in Transition

No matter where your HP 3000 experience is this week, you can give some thanks whether you're migrated, homesteading, or in transition someplace between the colon prompt and an open Window. A few of the more recent blessings come to mind this morning, the day in the US where we follow overeating at holiday feasts with conspicuous consumerism at Black Friday sales.

Solutions built from pioneer arrows: A long time ago HP said there might be a renaissance in 3000 software because migration was underway. That was a 2002 prediction that continues to be correct eight years later, a lot longer than anyone but 3000 IT managers expected. One example is ScreenJet's EZV, a product that's moved into its third generation of modernizing VPlus user interfaces. Like some of the best of these products, EZV can be used to sustain a homestead site as well as move a few dozen colleges' 3000s onto a Unix system.

Deals delivered to beat back competition: The 3000 Transition has gone on so long by now that big parts of the ecosystem outside of MPE/iX have morphed as well. Open source solutions like Linux have grown fast enough that HP's got to make much better deals to sell Unix gear. Free blade servers until April of next year, just for trying out HP-UX, toss up to $12,000 of incentives onto the table.

Renovation of resources: HP 3000 advocates -- okay, some might call them fanatics -- are taking the future of their shared software into new hands. OpenMPE spent six years arguing with HP over what the vendor would leave unlocked on the 3000, but now the group has its first tangible resource: a donated server relocated from HP's source code labs, serving up contributed software during the year to come at a $99 price.

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Advocates tracking down contributed gems

Now that OpenMPE has opened up its own Invent3k 3000 development servers, the group is tracking down utilities and programs that have slipped out of the community's toolbelt. In specific, the search is underway for HP 3000 software which was once hosted by individuals on the HP public server for the 3000, Invent3k.

HP closed down this Series 9x9 HP 3000 in December 2008. The vendor notified customers who'd created accounts and built software -- items like an MPE/iX version of an open source tool like Perl -- before HP pulled the Invent3k plug. But when the server went dark, the only copies of the customer-created software dropped out of sight. OpenMPE wants to stock its Invent3k servers with these programs. It needs to find contributed software.

"HP told us if we could get the [creators'] permissions, they're willing to find an old Jazz backup and send it to us," said OpenMPE secretary Tracy Johnson. "We're looking for abandon-ware or demo software that people are willing to put up on Invent3k." These programs would add more value to a 3000 that is the first tangible asset for OpenMPE. The group will be charging $99 a year for membership to use all of Invent3k starting January 1. Since the Invent3k servers went back online in September, there's been eight new members signed on, and a baker's dozen returnees to Invent3k programming.

The creators of some of these programs are among the more profilic help resources in the community. Johnson said that accounts existed for Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster, Keven Miller of 3k Ranger, Craig Lalley of EchoTech, consultant Jeff Kubler, and Jon Diercks, who wrote the most comprehensive MPE/iX administration book. Johnson believe there may be many more programs. The goal is to make Invent3k an irresistible resource for the homesteader.

Developers can contact OpenMPE through an email to Johnson to give permissions or contribute programs.

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HP to share wealth, per Leo's words on call

HP ESS Q4 chart HP CEO Leo Apotheker spoke and took questions for nearly 20 minutes out of a one-hour broadcast on HP's fiscal year 2010 and fourth quarter report yesterday. He delivered some of the best promises and news that an HP 3000 migrator, or anybody still buying HP gear and services, might have heard across 60 minutes. The promise is that HP will be starting up pay increases for employees in annual reviews, a move that will return levels to the salaries received before HP cut compensation 5 percent company-wide and froze increases.

HP's employees were surveyed during 2010 by the company's own measure this year -- and 65 percent said they'd get out of HP if the job market were better. To counter the unrest, HP's going to match 401K contributions as a fixed benefit. E-Award bonuses have broader eligibility and better funding. And a new employee stock ownership program might be approved by shareholders next spring. HP shares would be available for purchase at a 5 percent discount.

Catching up to competitive pay could retain more HP staff, one of the best chances for the company to revive its R&D innovation. What's more, the company will fund bonuses once again, another way to retain those blue-chip creators. The changes are effective immediately. It's not likely that Apotheker had much influence about the timing of these changes, but they could have a lasting lift for a company which maintains about 13 percent of its enterprise operations in proprietary technology business.

The raw numbers on the report -- HP posted record sales of $126 billion for 2010 -- showed more good news for the users of such proprietary products such as HP-UX and Integrity servers. The Business Critical Systems group which manages these products posted its first increase in a half-dozen quarters, reversing slides in sales and profits. Revenue slides at BCS, the smallest part of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit (ESS) had been the fly in HP's otherwise admirable reports since 2008. BCS revenues were up 10 percent over those in 2009 Q4. The news was even better on ESS totals for fiscal year 2010. ESS revenues were more than $5 billion, setting a record and a 25 percent increase over Q4 of 2009.

Blade servers contributed a hefty share of the HP enterprise business, a business designation the company used frequently during the call. Revenues for the servers which reside in C3000 and C7000 chassis were up 50 percent for the quarter. HP also attributed the BCS rebound to sales of the new models of Superdome Integrity systems. Multi-million price points for Superdome 2 refreshes are a common level of deal.

Apotheker said he was speaking from Palo Alto HP headquarters, ending talk that he might still be evading Oracle's subpoena in its SAP lawsuit. The overall news of increases in most of HP's business ticked the stock up about $1 a share at today's opening bell. By the day's close, the rise fell back to about a 1.1 percent increase over yesterday's closing price. More important to HP 3000 migrators was the report of a $250 million increase in operating profits for the ESS unit. It's a source which can fund R&D increases which Apotheker said are already underway.

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Attachmate assimilates Novell in acquisition

Novell Several years after swallowing up HP connectivity vendor WRQ, Attachmate has announced a deal to make another brand vanish: Novell, the once-groundbreaking supplier of networking and workplace collabortion solutions. At the same time that Attachmate was paying $2.2 billion for Novell, a consortium of tech companies led by Microsoft was buying up $450 million in patents from the former owner of WordPerfect and Notes.

Acquisitions can submerge brands, but well-established technology sometimes manages to retain its profile. Compaq created ProLiant servers before HP bought up the company in 2000, but ProLiant remains the top enterprise server brand among HP products. For awhile Attachmate called itself AttachmateWRQ when it purchased the largest vendor of HP 3000 related software -- by number of licenses anyway. At the time of the 2005 merger, WRQ said it served 6 million PC desktops across a wide range of host operating environments.

Within a year WRQ was dropped off the company name at Attachmate, as well as out of the lexicon of the product names at the firm. Attachmate maintains the Reflection brand for its Terminal Emulation product line, the Reflection for HP product is on Version 14.1 today, but the latest release of Reflection for 2011 doesn't have the 3000-specific protocols included. Attachmate does offer a limited time evaluation of Reflection for HP.

Novell has a product lineup that will provide a rich bed of technology for Attachmate: server operating systems, identity management tools, plus collaboration products including e-mail; a virtualization system called ZENworks and directory services. Novell also owns the SUSE distro of Linux, the most popular version of that OS after Red Hat's. The acquisition spells out Attachmate's intention to run SUSE Linux as a business separate from the rest of the company.

The deal will probably have the greatest impact on migrating HP 3000 shops which are choosing Linux as their MPE/iX alternative. HP offers a value-add for customers who choose HP's SUSE implementation plus buy the all-important HP Support service. HP adds in the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension an integrated suite of open source clustering technologies "that enable enterprises to implement highly available physical and virtual Linux clusters." HP says the Extension "helps organizations maintain business continuity, protect data integrity, and reduce unplanned downtime for their mission-critical Linux workloads."

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HP's CEO may speak up next week

LeoSmiles After three weeks of the trial between Oracle and SAP, HP's CEO Leo Apotheker appears to have won his bid to stay off the stand in the lawsuit. The former CEO of SAP has been subpoenaed as a witness in the trial, but Hewlett-Packard issued a statement that it would not permit the subpoena to be served. The announcement was timed with a listening tour Apotheker took of HP operations. Evidence testimony wrapped up today in the suit. Oracle didn't even bother to show the taped deposition Apotheker gave two years ago about SAP matters.

It's poor timing for Oracle, or maybe HP's calculation of the lawsuit scheduled, but next week might have found the new CEO within the reach of a process server, if one could get near the executive offices of the company. HP's year-end and Q4 report will be released and discussed Monday, Nov. 22 after the markets close. Nobody can be sure where the HP executive team works when it takes this reporting call for analysts. But 3000 Hanover Street in Palo Alto, is as good a guess as any, since it's HP's HQ.

The company announced today that it will pay its usual dividend to shareholders for the quarter, typically about 8 cents per share. Many tech giants no longer pay dividends, but HP shareholders have enjoyed one continuously for more than two decades. What's different about this period, compared to recent quarters, is that HP is not pre-announcing numbers for the quarter and fiscal year. The announcement is also later than ever, coming just three days before the US Thanksgiving break.

Any impact on 3000 sites making a migration is yet to be determined, but the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit will be watched to see if a string of declining quarterly profits and sales can be reversed. HP has extended a get-a-free-server offer for Integrity blades and enclosures when a customer adopts HP-UX and signs a support contract. Adding that can't be good for the bottom line on hardware sales of HP's Business Critical Systems unit.

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Beatle to bang keys at HP's Discover show

SirPaul Once only including the HP Technology Forum & Expo, the big-dog conference that HP mounts each June just got a legendary headliner. Sir Paul McCartney, one of the two living Beatles, is "scheduled to appear" at the "closing ceremonies" of what's being called the HP Discover Americas conference in Las Vegas.

The 2010 meeting that was HPTF touted a big name for its finale this year in Roger Daltrey of The Who. But Daltrey's 40-year-old catalog of music didn't make the same splash as The Beatles' hitting the Apple iTunes store this Tuesday. We didn't know Sir Paul was performing at corporation events like HP Discover these days. There's always the "scheduled to appear" disclaimer upon a spartan HP web page for the event, but there are contracts involved here, since HP's involved. There's also a partnership between McCartney and HP.

BeatlesiTunes We also didn't know the conference's title had been changed, but it appears that HP is doing more consolidating than just its datacenters. What was once three conferences -- storage, enterprise systems, and the Software Universe -- just a few years ago has become one mega-event, now moved into the home of the Software Universe, the Venetian-Pallazzo Casino & Resort with its indoor canals and resplendent ceilings painted to appear like skylight at dusk. The Mandalay Bay home of the HPTF was high-end for a Vegas venue, but far to the end of the Strip. The Venetian was the venue where HP laid out the dinner for press a few years back, dead in the center of the Strip. HP customers who wanted to attend the migration-tilted, non-3000 events once had to spread themselves across a mile of the Strip to see both software and HP's enterprise offerings. Everything's gotten bigger, and as Paul could sing on June 10, "getting better all the time."

But the names of the user groups who have built content and brought customers to HP's show in the past are missing from a no-frills press release about HP Discover Americas, an oversight that might indicate, as John Lennon would answer, the groups' profile "can't get more worse." We can't assume that's true, though, and Connect would be the first to say HP Discover wouldn't exist without the hard work of its many volunteers and presenters. HP says it's producing the Discover Americas show. It's doing this "in cooperation with participating independent user groups."

For now we can attribute this "what's my name?" absence to HP's ardor over a much bigger name at an event headlined by the music industry legend -- a fellow whose concert receipts far outstripped the average cost of even the biggest 3000 migration during 2010. The artist's shows earned $31.6 million over just the first half of the year.

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HP shrank its base, so you grew experience

Second of two parts

We don't let a November pass without insight into the HP 3000 exit announcement which HP GM Winston Prather pulled out like a motley magic rabbit in 2001. Prather and HP have stuck to their story over why it's ceased development and sales. But while the exit of much of the 3000 business at HP is only weeks away, it's taken years to understand another story, told by more than HP and then parroted by the Interex publication, HP World.

2001 was a time when the user group was courting HP's alliance in radical ways, like branding its conference as well as its monthly news publication with a name that HP owned. Ever the lapdogs of casual journalists, analysts were called in at HP World to confirm the pullout was good business. For somebody, anyway. A Gartner analyst said in the HP World opening story about the migration, "If HP moved MPE to Itanium, they'd probably lose most of the [software vendors] anyway. It's a fine line between taking care of customers on the one hand, and making money and staying in business on the other."

If you can hold off on the horselaughs for a moment, try to understand what the Editorial Director Mike Elgan was printing, without any opposing viewpoint. HP needed to stop taking care of these customers, or it was going to go out of business. Even back in 2001, you couldn't find the total sum of HP's 3000 R&D plus sales of the 3000 without a microscope. The company was doing $45 billion in sales that year overall. If the 3000 group represented even 1 percent of that total, we could never find the company saying it. Those kinds of product line numbers were HP's secret back then.

Those partners who were deciding the 3000 wasn't strategic? One, the exclusive North American distributor for the 3000, reported in the NewsWire that it broke all of its previous monthly unit sales records during October -- doing all that during a weak IT economy. "Dan Cossey, Senior Integration Engineer for Client Systems, said the pace of rolling out new systems has been good for reducing waistlines, “We’ve been so busy building systems that we’ve got to force ourselves to take a break just to eat,“ he said.

That's the same Client Systems that HP World predicted "will likely be busy over the next five years with migration work." Another HP voice assured us that Client Systems was "stepping up to take a large role in the mass migration." As it turned out, the years 2002 through 2006 had large roles for software companies and HP Services, but not much software stripe moving at Client Systems. HP's experts presided over a $14 million meltdown of one migration that resulted in a multimillion settlement and a restart by software experts.

WhoKnewShirt Like the 3000 vets fingering the architects of this mess with a clever mascot and shirt motto, who ever knew about the 3000's future? The customers, the engineers in HP who had to follow orders or leave jobs. If HP had moved the 3000 to Itanium... if the new hardware models, just six months old when Prather swung the axe, got a chance to gain converts... if the hacking away HP products wasn't in full flay in the months before that November nadir of news... things might have turned out differently. HP might still be migrating customers away from the 3000, but it would have uncorked an announcement with full-staffed programs, tools built for system and app experts — a way to take care of customers who'd had no intention of moving away from a server built to keep a smaller firm from building a massive, churning IT datacenter. They'd grumble and have to learn quick, but the vendor could help retrain them, then retain them with goodwill. Today, more than half who've left won't even boot an HP operating environment at gunpoint.

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The Day Your Futures Did Not Die

Prather cease to be We haven't forgotten the anniversary of one of the worst decisions HP ever made for its computer customers. This week nine years ago Hewlett-Packard broke the news to customers that a few third parties had known, and some had feared, for awhile: The HP 3000 was not going forward in the vendor's business strategy for enterprises.

There are two tales told about how we all got pushed into the 10th year of the transition this month. One casts you as the rebels in retreat. The other shows a battlefield that HP vacated behind the smoke of strategic slogans.

Strategy usually concerns some act in the future, but HP's Winston Prather used strategy to defend HP's act by pointing to the past. Looking for a friendly forum that wouldn't ask prickly questions, the HP 3000 GM crowed in a user group publication "It was my decision" to kill HP's 3000 business, then blamed the customers for a lack of HP business to meet his employer's desires for the mission-critical server.

In this HP world from down the rabbit hole, a column in the Interex user group monthly HP World slung marketing spin to make HP's lack of 3000 sales something that the customers chose all by themselves. HP had no role, apparently, in releasing refreshed hardware nearly a year late. Or expecting its Unix blitzkreig to do anything but feed the sales ovens with 3000 sites waiting for long overdue tech parity with HP 9000s and Windows. Or pruning back division labs in the mid-90s so sharp that the GM's overboss, Glenn Osaka, told us in a NewsWire interview he couldn't really recommend that a big company adopt a 3000. Imagine how robust the lab funding was after he spread that 3000 edict.

E3000Robe Some in the HP 3000 group tried, with clever ideas, to keep the faith up in the customers it still could hold. Even though there was even an e3000 bathrobe giveaway to a lucky few, the year to come hasn't become the time to say goodnight to anything but HP regarding the 3000. HP's strategic support for the server was always extracted like a barber pulling a miner's tooth. The leaders all wished it were different, even if few could locate a genie's lamp to rub. GM Harry Sterling gave the best effort, even put his own career on the line to do things like buy an application company, OpenSkies, to win new 3000 business.

Others had far fewer ideas. "I wanted HP to be able to continue to enhance and support the HP e3000," Prather claimed in his headsman's note. "But in order to do that, HP needed more revenue than we were getting from the business. The HP e3000 had ceased to be strategic — not to HP, but to its customers."

Prather — or whoever was writing down this gem of jabberwock-speak — went on to pummel home this concept. HP's muffing of its sales goals somehow proved the system was not strategic to software partners, many of whom still pinned the 3000 in the center of their business plans on Nov. 14, 2001. A few of the clever ones got an HP sneak-whiff of this stink, but only by a month or less. Meanwhile, HP's unbaked loaf of logic got sliced and served out to companies.

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Resources meet some 3000 training needs

One of the sharpest prodding-points that gets customers moving away from HP 3000s is brain drain. MB Foster's Birket Foster said it well at last week's CAMUS user group meeting. "It's not the software, it's the wetware," he said of the departure of 3000-savvy IT pros. One such staffer at the City of Sparks, Nev. has been in the city's IT shop for 32 years, preserving the knowledge of in-house apps.

Even more basic knowledge of the 3000 can be needed today, too. How to log on, manage accounts, administer disk space (represented in sectors, rather than GB, for example) — all these have unique techniques. Finding a place to train new IT staff on your 3000, as well as guides to teach them in a few hours — both can be elusive.

Jack Connor of Abtech, who serves on the OpenMPE board of directors, needed this kind of class content in a hurry over the weekend. He was asked to give a day-long tutorial to "a group of operators that have never worked with MPE as they are outsourcing replacements. There used to be a Computer Based Training program on HP's site, but it's no longer there."

Connor was on the hunt for HP's basic "Here's a 3000 and here's how to drive it a little" info. "The set I remember started out with describing the accounting structure using file cabinets as accounts and drawers in the cabinet as groups, and so on."

Through the magic of the Web, Glenn Cole dug up Understanding Your System Concept Guide for the HP 3000 Series 9X7LX. The eight chapters which include that filing cabinet tutorial are still online at HP's website. (It would be a good idea to download these pages to support your plan of succession for yourself — a vital component of sustaining a 3000 into the new year and beyond.) The fact that the training was written in the 1990s for MPE/iX 5.0 makes it no less fresh for teaching 3000 skills.

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HP's Instant-On to light largest datacenters

HP chose little-known executive Leo Apotheker as its seventh CEO this fall, confounding analysts who expected an in-house candidate to take the job. But while Apotheker spent his first week far away from HP headquarters, his "listening tour" might have picked up the sounds of HP's enterprise marketing roaring. The message from the new HP Instant-On Enterprise is being barked at a pitch better suited for the big dogs of the IT world: airlines, worldwide delivery services, or multinationals.

These sectors were the examples of how an integrated solution for business and government helps enterprises tun on new ways to serve customers and citizens. Citizen are being served today by HP 3000s, but Instant-On offers new ways. "The best mix of traditional, private and public cloud environments" is being called HP Hybrid Delivery. Then there's Application Transformation (think legacy modernization for 3000s), Enterprise Security, and Information Optimization.

Apotheker is listening to customers on his worldwide tour this month, a trip scheduled to keep the new CEO out the grasp of a subpoena. Oracle wants HP's new leader on the stand in a lawsuit to win billions of dollars from SAP, the last company Apotheker served as CEO. An SAP company stole Oracle programming and products, and Oracle would like to prove Apotheker was involved. He killed off that alliance now long after he took the reins at SAP, and he was deposed about it all during 2008.

Instant-On is targeted to compete with Oracle -- now hectoring Apotheker after hiring the ousted Mark Hurd to sell Sun's hardware -- as well as IBM. It's a new way of trying to tie HP hardware, software and services business into a bundle for the big customer which Oracle, HP and IBM battle for.

Unlike court testimony under oath, Instant-On is at the other end of the new CEO's communication tasks. His job, along with the thousands of HP enterprise marketers and engineers, is to push a plan that leads to HP managed services and cloud computing. But at the moment the CEO's message will only be scaled to the kinds of customers an HP leader would hear in person. That's not the City of Sparks (serving citizens) or maybe not even the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (modernizing and migrating IT that serves 100,000 students and 10,000 users of its 34 HP 3000s.)

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OpenMPE resource revives source server

The CAMUS manufacturing user group held a phone conference meeting today, an event I chronicled at the offices of the Support Group inc here in Austin. The one-hour confab of questions and presentations was well worth the time spent, and you should sign up for the next meeting this legacy group schedules in the spring.

But I needed a much shorter amount of time at the TSG headquarters to find a legendary resource up and running once more. TSG has volunteered its datacenter as the host for the official Invent3k public access development server, something HP hosted for the community until the end of 2008. For close to two years Invent3k was dark, but starting this week the primary host burns with a light that may seem everlasting.

The server that's up and running, with a fresh master password, came from HP's labs by way of a Client Systems 3000 contribution. This Series 959 4-way arrived with HP's name for it labeled on the rear access panel. The yellow sticker reads MPESOURC. Those eight letters -- it's an MPE system, after all, and is so limited to those characters -- suggests to TSG's founder Terry Floyd that this is the HP Labs server where the 3000's source code once lived and grew.

Those millions of lines of code have been wiped off the 54GB of SureStore disk arrays attached to MPESOURC. HP shipped out major parts of that code to eight licensees this year, an accomplishment that OpenMPE takes a reasonable share of credit for sparking. But the whole MPE/iX enchilada once coursed through the same PA-RISC processors and memory which just started serving OpenMPE and its members. Another part of the day's news was an affordable offer to use Invent3k during 2011 and beyond.

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Veterans resign their skills to transitions

1stCav In a pair of interviews with 3000 veterans -- IT pros who total more than 55 years of MPE experience -- I've learned that even the most embattled managers employ a surprising tool. It's a sense of humor, reflected in the tone of their descriptions of mothballing the likes of 25-year-old third party apps during migrations. They have to laugh, and get to do so, because their attempts to advance might seem like folly at first look, or even in a second attempt.

Really, putting Transact code into an HP-UX environment? Or working around financial application software from Bi-Tech -- who "really stopped developing it for the 3000 10 years ago," said Operations & Systems Administrator Steve Davidek -- to keep the city of Sparks, Nev. finances running? There's some really old stuff still doing everyday duty in HP 3000 shops, but the age of the applications is usually in line with the tenure of the project management. Davidek counts his experience from the days of the HP 3000 Series III, while Bob Adams of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has 40 years of IT experience, 30 with the HP 3000.

These pros typify the definition of veterans, a term we'll use liberally in the US tomorrow on the day that celebrates their sacrifices and courage. Facing battle and bullets is not at a par with understanding aging code and logic. But they have something similar at heart. Veterans have been tested and know how to improve the odds of success in a conflict. Youthful passion is important to bring fresh energy to any engagement, military or technological. What earns the peace is experience, however grey-haired it looks next to Windows warriors.

With each mission accomplished -- from what looks like a relatively simple Y2K effort of 10 years ago to embracing Unix in place of MPE's integrated toolset -- the veterans move forward in their careers. "Our knowledge base is renewed with this work," Adams said. "We're on the latest products."

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Hurd's aftershocks emerge in two reports

HP CEO behavior looks overdue for a clean-up, but it's not certain that new company leader Leo Apotheker can scrub up the image anytime soon. Former CEO Mark Hurd's flings keep tarnishing the office, based on a pair of reports released last week.

Hurd-Ellison In stories published by Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, reporters are pulling back the rug tossed over Hurd's behavior with sexpot actress Jodie Fisher. HP's rival Oracle made a stink about Hurd's firing; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hired Hurd as soon as the ex-CEO's HP parachute opened up. Ellison, who's gotten to be 66 somehow, doesn't turn a saintly profile when it comes to female relations himself. (We don't know who this woman is who sits between Hurd, at left, and Ellison during an Oracle event -- but the most hopeful story might be that she's Ellison's granddaughter.)

This story runs far afield of the technology reports that occupy everyday IT managers at HP 3000 shops. But those who are migrating might care a little about the company's leadership choices, as they impact decisions about product and technology futures.

HP 3000 owners, and the vendor's partners, may have shrugged or scratched their heads over Hurd's booth-babe hijinks. If your IT strategy is based on bottom lines and sharp pencils, or the data sheets that glow brighter than legacy highlights, then Hurd's ouster doesn't matter much. If integrity and honesty -- elements that are rarer than ever at Fortune 50 suppliers like HP -- figure into your partner formula, then maybe these Fortune and WSJ stories make you feel a little safer about HP.

People want to know why there's probably no more than 10,000 HP 3000s running today. At its most strategic level, the vendor has been angling for sweetheart deals with pinups like Fisher, while its smaller customers-next-door were faithful to a fault.

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Unix Xserve line gets a rapid Apple boot

Talk about sudden migration plans. HP 3000 customers might have been stunned to learn back in 2001 that HP was halting manufacture of the servers in two years. But Apple has announced it will cease producing its Unix Xserve systems in three months, ending manufacture on Jan. 31, 2011. The move gives a stinging meaning to the proposition that Unix boots quickly.

Xserve_rack Ending product line investments is never announced without cries of suffering from the companies who invested in IT environments. In an odd twist on the HP exit plans and migration hopes for the 3000, Apple is not dropping a fundamental environment so much as its hardware. Unix, in a much modified and improved version, drives every Macintosh system running today -- the reason it's called OS X, just like HP added the "iX" when it added Posix commands to MPE in the '90s.

The website The Register -- not a shrinking violet when reporting on HP's Itanium hardware plans -- had similar invective in its article about Apple's Unix server pullout.

To put it bluntly, this bites.

According to the Xserve Transition Guide that Apple put out last week, the company will sell Xserve machines through January 31, 2011 with the standard one-year warranty. The company also pledges to honor any and all warranties for Xserves and will ship 160GB, 1TB, and 2TB disk drive modules until the end of 2011. When supplies run out, that's it. You'll be hunting around the Web for second-hand dealers for parts.

The Register goes on to figure that Apple was never serious about selling Unix to enterprises (not at all a mirror of HP) and that the company has many other ways to make a profit aside from beefing up an IT shop Unix solution (probably right in line with HP's situation, so long as Services and printer ink continue to perform at a profit.) But the demise of any Unix solution, or even a decline as in Sun's fortunes, is important to any company's transition situation. Every technology gets "sunsetted," as the most gentle CIOs call the end of building a server. The enduring question becomes when the end arrives, and will an IT pro have to manage the transition.

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Vladimir spreads 2011 news to 3000 sites

VladimirNov2010 If you're wondering who Vladimir is and what he's done for HP 3000 customers, the founder of VEsoft would be glad to educate your IT pros. Mr. Volokh's been on the road visiting his customer sites in Texas since Nov. 1, one of numerous two-week trips he makes in modest rental cars across the US. A very limited number of 3000 solution vendors still do this sort of personal contact. It's especially notable considering the size of VEsoft's 3000-only customer base.

"We have 1,700 customers today," he told us as at lunch in San Marcos, just after a consulting visit at a manufacturer in the city. And so the debate and estimates about the size of the 3000 market just got a fresh, first-hand data point. (We'd like to point out that if one vendor can count 1,700 companies, the total number of users has got to be a lot bigger than 2,000 firms worldwide.) Volokh, whose company has sold MPE/iX extension software for 30 years, says the majority of his customers do business on 3000s in North America alone.

As for his news that he's spreading, this 72-year-old dean of 3000 vendor firms was most effusive about his sons. The most famous is Eugene, another 3000 icon known best by this first name only. By now this 42-year-old has become a professor at the UCLA School of Law and often-quoted expert in the media about First Amendment matters. The most senior 3000 IT pros remember Eugene as a precocious, brilliant developer who with his father founded VEsoft (the first two letters stand for their name), cutting a wide swath by extending the 3000's OS with MPEX.

Vladimir still consults at a reasonable rate to teach security and management (also using his Security/3000) as well as lessons on MPE/iX built-in features. He doesn't see much use of any of these products' manuals, however. His honesty in evaluating the 3000 market spills over to its future. "Luckily for us, if it's dying, it is dying very slowly," he told my partner Abby and I over grape leaves and pita at the Cedars Greek restaurant. "But when they laugh at this, I tell customers, 'We are all dying very slowly.' "

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Oracle support makes case for open source

SkySQL Back in July we looked at the potential impact of Oracle's ownership of MySQL, the database at the heart of migration-bound sites who want an open source alternative to Microsoft or Oracle databases. "Oracle's history of tough contracts, however, indicates that Sun's paid-only patches could become a MySQL bug -- er, feature of relying on MySQL."

We guessed right during the summer. Oracle is embracing and extending the support mantra that's spreading through enterprise vendors: support is not an optional item any longer. Prices are going up at Oracle for its small-company solutions; this week it doubled the entry-level support costs for MySQL. Industry watchers were wondering if Sun might ignore MySQL to death after Oracle acquired Sun. It's just the opposite: Oracle has decided that the open source alternative will now become a "better earner," as the gangster movie phrase goes. Support is high-profit, built to fill high pockets.

These are issues to consider for any company moving out of the known world of HP 3000 ownership. Some small-customer alternatives, acquired by larger vendors, will have stark changes waiting in the future for small companies investing in them.

The alternative to such price hikes is third-party support, while you can still get it. For MySQL users, SkySQL opened for business this summer, peopled with engineers and staff from MySQL AB, creators of the database. "Growing big business’s bottom line has once again taken precedence over ensuring that MySQL software, services and support is readily accessible to customers that need it. Fortunately, you have an alternative," the company said in an open letter this week. Unfortunately for the open source fan, even this kind of independent company is falling into the gunsights of Oracle. The latest evidence of that aim is in the courtroom next week, where Oracle's CEO is trying to make HP's new CEO testify in a lawsuit.

Leo Apotheker has only been on the job for HP since Nov. 1, but Oracle's working to get $2 billion in damages from a company once owned by Apotheker's prior employer, SAP. HP said that Oracle only wants to harrass its CEO. The offending SAP company, TomorrowNow, was already flushed from SAP by the time Apotheker took the helm. TomorrowNow was in a business familiar to HP 3000 customers, though: Providing service for products sold by much larger vendors like PeopleSoft. Oracle bought those larger vendors, and its march toward winning damages began.

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HP gives away servers to sell HP-UX

For customers who want to begin training on the hardware and system configurations of the latest HP-UX servers -- part of a responsible migration project, don't you know -- there's a free HP deal that's been extended through April of next year.

C7000 When a customer purchases licenses for HP-UX, as well as an HP support package, the vendor will throw in a new BL860C blade server -- as well as the c7000 BladeSystem enclosure with two power supplies, a power module and four fan. HP is loading the blade server, one of the best ways to stay on the leading edge of Integrity hardware, with 8GB of memory.

HP calls the deal the Integrity Blade Starter Kit, but it appears that starting an HP support contract as well as HP-UX use is the primary revenue point for the vendor. There are fine print points to observe in order to qualify, and HP is enabling the free blade and enclosure through a credit of what the vendor calls "up to $12,000."

BL860C i2Hardware capital costs are not a major part of the expense of making a migration. HP 3000 customers rarely mention the price of the iron while they make a transition; often the replacement software package (off-the-shelf) can cost at least as much. For example, there's database expenses to shoulder (Oracle or SQL Server license seats, as well as the third party tools to replace built-in 3000 functionality like jobstream management, for example.)

But any five-figure HP discounts on hardware are welcome in an era where 3000 migrations are proceeding more slowly due to budget constraints. We haven't seen a hardware giveaway on the enterprise level in a long time from HP. As you might expect, this freebie comes from HP's proprietary systems line. There doesn't appear to be a complementary industry-standard server giveaway for ProLiant systems running Windows or Linux.

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NonStop note flows from 3000's eliminator

NonStop News



November is a month filled with memory for many a 3000 owner and user. Some of the sting of watching HP stop its futures for the 3000 is sparked by the enthusiasm offered by HP's NonStop general manager, Winston Prather. NonStop enjoys its first exclusive conference this fall, the same year that Prather is finishing up his fourth year as GM of the server's Enterprise Division.

Prather held the very last post of General Manager for the 3000, a job where he said it was his decision alone to announce the "end of life" (as HP loves to call it) of the server still running many a major organization. You can pretty much see the retread from his 3000 talks in his message in the NonStop bimonthly magazine, The Connection, from his fall issue intro (pictured above; click for details).

With all the changes we've made... we've stayed true to the what NonStop has always done best: delivering the scalability, availability and integrity you rely on to run your business. It's a NonStop, not a Tandem. The difference is real, the fundamentals remain.

Fundamentals remain on duty at many HP 3000 shops which Prather predicted would be long ago migrated. But the struggle continues to eliminate an IT asset as quickly as he eliminated 3000 futures. One customer wrote us -- and didn't want their name used, for fear of risking a severance package -- about a second attempt to replace a custom-built application. "The packages we’ve been sold, complete with rosy allegations of full asset management functionality, simply don’t have it," the manager said.

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3000s' IDs protect independent SW vendors

With HP now leaving your community in less than two months, extra focus is turning toward the protection and transfer of HP 3000 ID strings. In particular, the HPSUSAN numbers for 3000s are getting fresh attention. These are the numbers reported from your system to almost all of the server's independent software, from tools and utilities to off-the-shelf applications.

Some independent providers and supporters of 3000s -- companies that will be the primary source of 3000 aid in just 60 days -- have been noting that HPSUSAN numbers can be transferred to fresh systems without any help from HP. (Hewlett-Packard would like to prevent this, but that's a matter that cannot be controlled by technical restraints; HP thinks you're bound by a license, but it's changed the terms on that without customer consent.) Customers consider these servers to be an asset their company owns. It's listed as such for federal tax entities, so reporting it as a "licensed" product won't fly very high in the accounting offices.

But that HPSUSAN is in place for better reasons than to satisfy HP's Development Company (holder of 3000 license rights). This unique string is checked by just about every third party piece of software on the 3000. That fact seems to fly in the face of a bald question posed to the community on the 3000 newsgroup.

Does anyone know what one of these softwares [sic] are SUSAN-number-specific? I have an end user that wants to buy a better 3000 box, but wants to know which ones are locked to his old box via the SUSAN number: Speedware, Suprtool, DBGeneral, TurboIMAGE, Omnidex, Vesoft.

Reseller Jesse Dougherty of Cypress Technology asks this question because a customer wants to know how much protection is on these tools and utilities which are essential to the 3000 experience. These are important numbers to protect an endangered species: Reasonable revenue for the software and support licenses paid to 3000 vendors who will outlive HP's interest in the server. Cracking these numbers -- which so far nobody has advertised -- would harm the very companies still dedicated to keeping the 3000 productive.

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