Sparking 3000 Changes through Transition
Transitions include community's headcounts

CAMUS user reports on emulator's value

The HP 3000 community is waiting on development and testing of its first PA-RISC hardware emulator. At a recent meeting of the CAMUS user group for ERP applications, one member testified about the emulator's predecessor, Charon -- already working in Digital shops running the MANMAN app.

Tim Envy of Peer Systems said Charon "gives you better performance" than customers get under native OpenVMS hardware, "especially because of the IO dependency you get under Windows." Stromasys has reported that Windows will be the controlling environment for its Zelus emulator for the HP 3000. "The system sometimes delivers many multiples of performance improvement. You have more configuration capability on the Windows platform in terms of optimization. Solid state drives fit nicely into the Stromasys configuration for OpenVMS."

Envy added that Stromasys told him the release date of the Zelus product has been pushed back by a few months. The original plan had the emulator selling in the second half of 2011. The new date is during Q3 of next year, which might be a matter of few extra months. Stromasys has hired a product manager for Zelus, and the company is on the hunt for HP 3000 software vendors and customers who want to participate in the 2011 pilot and alpha testing.

The CAMUS group met via a conference call rather than gathering in person. Peer said that Charon is a very stable platform for OpenVMS applications, plus it adds options such as hosting a tape drive as a virtual device. The Charon product has the advantage of being developed by Stromasys' staff which worked on the Digital migration team in the 1990s. Stromasys founder Dr. Robert Boers has said HP's delivered the technical information to let his company create a product as strong as Charon.

Boers also said in a recent newsletter that the boom of 1980s enterprise systems is creating an ever-larger field of customers for companies like his, which sell "cross-platform virtualization" solutions.

"The phenomenal growth of the IT industry in the 1980’s will soon create a surge in obsolescence," Boers writes in the newsletter. He spoke to "a group of people interested in how to replace older computer systems. "It was a surprise to many -- in spite of the convergence to the X86 architecture -- that the volume of legacy systems is still increasing."

In other words, legacy systems remain in production roles while customers look for ways to transfer their workloads to other hardware platforms. In the 3000 community there's been a lot of talk about how the Zelus emulator will arrive too late to survive in the homesteading marketplace. But Stromasys has been selling emulators for a decade now in the Digital marketplace, long after that vendor ceased production of early-generation VMS computers.

When the talk of emulators for the 3000 hardware first came up in 2002, the head of Strobe Data explained the extra longevity of any emulator in a market where platforms are dumped by their vendors. Willard West said in our Q&A that an emulator's business plan is designed to outlast even used hardware.

Our major competition has been the used market. We’ve out-survived that. Yes, we often lose sales opportunities to people buying in the (Digital) PDP-11 world. When people take those offline, they’re often worthless. Eventually you will need used equipment fixed or repaired, and we expect to outlive that situation.

Strobe has since sidetracked its own HP 3000 PA-RISC project, leaving the market field open for Stromasys. But that decision was not based on prospective sales base. Strobe backed away because of a recession that was crimping its Digital emulator sales, and so tightening R&D funding for new products.