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December 2010

3000 sites proceed toward new year of life

We're taking Dec. 31 off in celebration of the New Year, one that will usher in the first days of a new era in 3000 management -- the demise of HP's support for the server, although one HP engineer reports that he recently took his first support call for MPE/iX and the 3000 in a year. We'll see you in the coming new year of afterlife.

NCMS Browser interface HP's Mature Support for 3000s ends in less than 48 hours here in North America. While the vendor still wants some business from 3000 owners, the 2011 HP services are limited at best. Hardware support? Yes, some parts of the worldwide support arm are seeking a renewal of existing contracts. Why not — the 3000 hardware failures are rare, and parts are plentiful.

For operational purposes, HP's going to pass away on Friday night if you're not using anything but 3000s and PCs in your enterprise. This is the "End of Life" Hewlett-Packard has been warning the world about for the last two years. Many customers simply don't have Dec. 31 on a calamity calendar, however.

Some are migrating (like the January go-live for a college data processing firm in browser-Linux-Eloquence technology, whose after-before screens are shown above -- click for detail). Others have no plans to move. But most customers checking in during this last week of HP's 3000 operations are working on their own schedules. "Two HP 3000s continue in use here," reported Mike Mayers of The Andersons, a grain processor and network of retail stores in the Midwest." One will more than likely be around 3-plus years, and the other at least another year or more."

Mayers used to support applications on another Andersons 3000 "that went out early in 2010. I sure like the 3000, but I now support Baan ERP on HP Unix."

Continue reading "3000 sites proceed toward new year of life" »

Fresh binary patch fixes 3000's diagnostics

HP announced last week that its CSTM diagnostics tools will run on January 1, 2011 without any HP support-supplied password on 3000s. But the HP engineer who enabled this homesteader's exemption reports that CSTM won't run as promised without a binary patch.

CSTM replaced the SYSDIAG tools for 3000s as of the MPE/iX 6.5 release. HP patched CSTM in 2008 to free up the use of these diagnostics starting on this Saturday, but patch ODINX19A/B/C. But Gary Robillard said that diagnostics stop when started up, failing because the Diagnostic Monitor Daemon (DIAGMOND) looks at a system's license level.

A “STM INITIALIZATION FAILED” message occurs is because it checks the license level and now determines that an “HP” license is installed. There is a code path to stop DIAGMOND if the session has an HP license installed because the expert tools will all be enabled. Since that is not the desired behavior, I have worked out a binary patch to solve the problem.

Continue reading "Fresh binary patch fixes 3000's diagnostics" »

How to Train Newbies on an HP 3000

Several migration and sustainability experts have noted that the biggest risk in staying on a 3000 is the community's brain-drain. The answer to replacing more fundamental skills is to train for 3000 use and administration. John Archer of 3000 site ThermoLink needs training materials.

I need to put together some training for one of my employees that will be working on the 3k. He knows nothing about the box. I have been trying to find material on the basics and I can fill in on the specifics and more technical issues that I deal with day to day. It looks as if all links to HP's material (training wise) is gone and I can't find any self paced or tutorial material.

HP's Cathlene McRae replies:

Some 3000/MPE/iX training material can be found at HP's website. [Editor's note: This is a comprehensive set of links to dozens of training manuals and whitepapers written by HP, ranging from Using FCOPY to a comparison of several IMAGE maintenance tools.]

Using HP e3000 fundamental skills  and advanced skills manuals are at the bottom of the list.

Marc Cordeau of Speedware offered a link to the HP 3000 Series 9x8 Computer Systems Task Reference, hosted at

Paul Edwards of Paul Edwards Associates notes:

All the links [to training materials] are gone because HP shut down MPE training and licensed Frank Smith and me as exclusive MPE instructors, and had the HP training linked to our website. Our website was shut down last year due to the lack of interest in MPE training, except for in India. I still do MPE training on-site and have the details listed on my web site, I don’t know if the old self-paced training modules are somewhere in the HP archives. Let me know if I can help.

Continue reading "How to Train Newbies on an HP 3000" »

Website's silencing adds to holiday quiet

Although the days around Christmas and New Year's Day ring with the silence of vacation time, one community website has had its signal stilled with a planned misdirection. A visit to now directs readers to the website front page. This redirection cuts off the OpenMPE site from visitors, an effective denial of service.

But instead of bombarding with requests, the site has apparently gone offline through an inside job. Matt Perdue, the board member voted off the board in November due to his failure to issue an authorized payment, made a change to the website's domain name services registry on Dec. 23, according to the public records of Perdue is the only person with access to changing the DNS information for the group.

Perdue didn't respond to our requests for information about the change, either through email or by phone. A call to his DNS registry contact which he lists for the URL rings a phone number which reports "it is not set up to receive voicemail."

The move that made unreachable came about one week before the group planned to start taking membership monies for the first time through its website. A $99 yearly option would make the Invent3K's shared 3000 programs and development space available for one year.

Not all of OpenMPE's web resources have been cut off. An OpenMPE News blog hosted at remains in operation today. What's more, the group's Invent3K servers just gained technical papers from the proceedings of the HP World conferences of 1998 through 2004.

Continue reading "Website's silencing adds to holiday quiet" »

HP opens patch, diagnostics door for 2011

We're taking Dec. 24 off this year in celebration of the Christmas holiday, but will return to our reports on Dec. 27. In the meantime here's something of an unexpected present from HP's support group.

Hewlett-Packard has posted a fresh web page for 3000 users who'll run their systems on Jan. 1 and beyond, identifying a procedure for obtaining free patches, using 48 beta-version MPE/iX patches and employing the 3000's built-in system diagnostics.

However, HP is requiring users to contact the company's phone-in support center (which used to be called PICS) to get these system patches, both those in beta and those HP has general released. In September the company terminated access to its patches on its online ITRC website, unless a customer purchased a support plan from HP. The vendor explained the 3000 exception in its update, posted during this week just days before HP's Christmas break.

It is recognized that in the case of MPE, HP intended to make patches available through December 2015, even after the Worldwide End of Support on December 31, 2010. Therefore, an exception process has been implemented for users requiring MPE patches after December 31, 2010. As of January 1, 2011, MPE users should contact their HP Call Center to make their patch requests.

Reading these tea leaves -- HP didn't provide any phone numbers in the announcement -- it appears that after the end of the month, patches can be obtained by calling PICS and reporting that you're a 3000 site. The need for a support contract requirement is being waived, according to HP's message. The company included a reminder that customers can contact HP to request 2011 support for the 3000, but the service is not available worldwide.

Continue reading "HP opens patch, diagnostics door for 2011" »

Ways to Boost the HP 3000’s Effectiveness

By David Greer, MB Foster Associates

Many customers decide to stay with the HP 3000 because of its extraordinary reliability and the low cost of ownership. When working with both homesteading and migrating customers, we see a number of practices around application and data management that can provide benefits now and in the future.

Change Management

HP 3000 applications have been developed over many years. This makes the applications highly effective to organizations because they accurately reflect the business rules of the organization. Any application built over time faces challenges matching all source code to all running production code. Many HP 3000 sites do not have a formal change management process for their applications.

Change management typically is implemented in two parts: version control and governance. Did you know that you can put your HP 3000 source code under the control of a version control system such as Microsoft Visual Source Safe? Doing so allows an organization to identify and document all component pieces of each application. The effort and knowledge gained reduces the risk to the organization, by formalizing the knowledge that is often scattered around many individuals.

A governance process for the release of new versions of HP 3000 applications further reduces the risk of changes. A version control system helps. It causes organizations to assign version numbers and identify all specific files that need to be changed to implement an application change. A formalized development, test and release governance process makes sure that IT, users, and management are aligned when it comes to releasing new versions of the software. Not only does this reduce organizational risk on numerous fronts, it sets up an organization for future change. We have yet to see a successful migration that did not have strong change management and governance.

Continue reading "Ways to Boost the HP 3000’s Effectiveness " »

University's migration aims at simple goals

Bob Adams, director of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical College's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has planned his 18-month migration off of 3000s with basic goals. Moving the apps intact, without changes, has been his aim since September 2009.

Some third party solutions used at the colleges were ready with a version for HP-UX, the SBCTC project target. One solution which moved from the 3000 to the Unix environment was Hillary Software's byRequest e-forms and PDF report solution. The software is used by the colleges in varying processes. “It's been pretty transparent,” Adams said of the tool that's been serving the colleges since 1999.

Hillary engineered byRequest to work with a bedrock technical solution, Speedware's AMXW environment emulation tool. AMXW takes the place of SBCTC's home-grown job scheduler, for example. But some 3000-specific pieces will be replaced with new software, created by 3000 developers. Adams pointed to the Dictionary/3000 data repository, which feeds the colleges' reports.

“We didn't actually replace Dictionary/3000,” “[UDA Link] still uses that database to get its file and database structures," Adams said. The TransAction replacement for the colleges' Transact supplies the needed replacement for the repository.”

Speedware's Didem Chatalolu said that the company had five full-time staffers at one time dedicated to the Transact/TransAction issue of the project. The migration vendor said it's been able to apply resources as needed to accomplish the code migration within schedule.

Continue reading "University's migration aims at simple goals" »

HP-UX to serve 10,000 college users by 2011

Speedware is leading work from four vendors to enable the migration of a 10,000-user HP 3000 site to HP-UX servers in Washington state. The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) has relied on Speedware for management of the project since the September 2009 inception. The vendor promotes a “lift and shift” approach for many of its projects that move complex 3000-based systems to newer hardware. Sometimes that means recreating tools and technology that wasn't broken on MPE/iX, just hosted on a platform the customer wants to leave.

ScreenJet's TransAction, as well as its EZV screen generation tool, are two prime examples of this kind of recreation. While exploring the programming behind hundreds of application user interfaces, ScreenJet's Alan Yeo documented VPlus anomalies and bugs in the UI. To keep the coding straightforward and the project basic, the EZV replacement for VPlus recreates all of the known and discovered UI behaviors.

“We had to find out what's going on” in the VPlus interface, Yeo explained, “and then we have to replicate the bugs and the undocumented features, because we don't know for certain how many times they're being used.”

A system with thousands of programs, using tens of thousands of reports across more than 30 servers is simply too complex to succeed at anything but this lift and shift strategy. The key is to put all the pieces back in their places on a new platform, so an interface behaves exactly as it did on the HP 3000.

Continue reading "HP-UX to serve 10,000 college users by 2011 " »

34 colleges start testing 3000 migration code

A team of four vendors led by Speedware has been helping 40 IT staffers at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges wean itself off 34 HP 3000s around the state. After the first year of planning and work, the principal delivery of millions of lines of migrated application code has been accepted.

The vision of moving this three-decade HP 3000 customer, a plan first conceived in 2003, is becoming real enough to test with users on the college campuses.

SBCTC now goes into user test mode for the next six months or so before it starts to power down the major 3000 applications that have supported higher education in the state since the 1980s. Bob Adams, director of the SBCTC's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has been managing HP 3000s since the start of that decade. He's now leading the group's efforts to move away from hardware HP will stop supporting in less than two months.

The biggest risk that prompted the move off the 3000 was parts availability, according to Adams. Several of the colleges use the Series 9x7 generation of servers, for example, hardware which HP stopped building in the 1990s.

Continue reading "34 colleges start testing 3000 migration code" »

User advice: have a spare CPU board ready

At the most recent CAMUS online user group meeting, Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties shared advice about getting a 3000 CPU board configured by HP in a downtime crisis. Don't do it, he advised. You can be ready for this with a on-site spare, just like his worldwide manufacturing company does for its 3000s.

Regarding the change HP will do for a Time & Materials fee to copy an HPSUSAN number to fresh hardware, Simpkins said, "It baffles me about why anybody would get themselves into a situation where they had to react like that -- why they wouldn't have a spare processor board already set with their system name and SUSAN number sitting on the shelf. Unless, of course, you're paying Hewlett-Packard to provide your hardware support."

HP won't offer that kind of hardware support full-time in about two weeks. (Well, for much of the world, although the vendor wants to retain support business on a selective basis.) Simpkins said creating this kind of hot spare is an easy thing to do. "I wouldn't have anything to do with HP when I'd get my extra board set to my SUSAN number. They are not the only people in the world who can legally perform that service."

Measurement Specialties is a $230 million company with operations in North America and China. It's not a firm that would fly under a legal radar just to have its 3000s supported independently.

Continue reading "User advice: have a spare CPU board ready" »

Transitions include community's headcounts

As the year 2011 draws to a close, we're taking note of some changes in company and organization lineups that affect the 3000 community. Groups and firms sometimes take the year-end to revamp rosters, even in a community with so much continuity.

• David Greer reports that he's seeking new clients after a year of full-time service for MB Foster as director of marketing and sales. He may contribute further to Foster's 2011 efforts. Following up on his broad message to prospects, Greer told us that "Birket and I are talking about my doing some project work as I transition out." Greer said in his letter that "In a change from the past, I am looking at both non-technology as well as technology businesses" to help. MB Foster's 2010 was busy and full of new partners and product rollouts such as the company's Windows-based job scheduler. Greer's note summed up both this year and the one to come.

I have spent all of 2010 working full-time at MB Foster Associates helping my long time friend Birket Foster and his team to engage with his markets and generate sales, while focusing MB Foster on the critical next steps needed for business success. I'm wrapping up at MB Foster this week and am now turning my attention to the next business I can help.

• Connect's board of directors has gained a fresh slate of three extra volunteers, but the terms of its officers have been extended to two years instead of one. That means that Speedware's Chris Koppe will remain group president through 2011, and vice-president Steve Davidek, system admin for the City of Sparks, Nev. -- also a 3000 community member -- will be in the wings waiting for his 2012 term to lead the group. 172 members voted to approve a slate of directors, rather than cast ballots for individuals.

• OpenMPE also has announced a change in its group of directors, effective last month. Matthew Perdue was voted off the board by a unanimous vote of the six remaining directors. Perdue, who as treasurer was charged with the stewardship of the group's accounts, servers and the Invent3k revival, was taken off the board over a matter of non-payment of a check, according to minutes approved late in November from a Nov. 12 meeting. Tracy Johnson has taken over treasurer duties.

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.

Continue reading "CAMUS user reports on emulator's value" »

Sparking 3000 Changes through Transition

Sdavidek_gray A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. In Friday's interview we talked with him about how the 3000 came to a turning point at Sparks. We also wanted to know where he's networking to stay current on migration issues, and the potential for user group Connect to help the 3000 homestead community.

It sounds as if your migration was never approached as a calamity. How are you able to weather all this change of  the situation, given all your 3000 work?

Well, I took the city from a Series III. But then we started with Windows NT, and before that an OS2 LAN manager. We started going in the Windows direction for a few things. I did HP-UX OpenMail for a number of years. We’ve kind of evolved over the last 26 years. I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward.

You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?

When you say hard to manage, do you mean the way the new tech is designed compared to the HP 3000?

Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much move robust than people ever realized.

But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.

Continue reading "Sparking 3000 Changes through Transition" »

Warming to Sparks of Change for 3000s

Sdavidek_gray A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. During that same year, Davidek will take another step, into the chair of president for the one remaining HP user group, Connect. He’s been serving on the group’s board of directors since 2008, volunteered in Encompass user group advocacy programs before then, and even worked in Interex local and regional user groups for 20 years, until the group went bankrupt in 2005.

    Davidek is managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline already, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than managers expect. For all of the devotion and experience he’s developed for the server, however, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles two 3000s, hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. It’s the sound of humor you would expect from a man who’s an Honor Society Order of the Arrow award winner as a Boy Scout leader, the kind of leadership that seemed to fit into a story of transition, told by a pro whose first HP IT chapters were written on Series III HP 3000s.

You work in IT at a US city that’s cut back in a big way. How did that affect moving  away from the HP 3000?

Just before they started cutting things we signed on the dotted line for a new financial system and get us off the HP 3000. Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward. 

   We went live with that part of the project last December. After our HP 3000 died in April, they decided this July to give us a little money to get the payroll system moved off, too.

The payroll 3000 died? What happened?

I just came in one day and the system board died on the 969. We’d moved that 3000 in here in September of ‘96. We’re at 7.0 MPE/iX. Every time we tried 7.5 we had issues with it not reading the second CPU in it.

Did these failures present the first reason to move away?

We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.

    Back then the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.

Continue reading "Warming to Sparks of Change for 3000s" »

Community LinksIn faster to pursue futures

We've been leading a LinkedIn group for the HP 3000 Community for two years now, but the last 30 days have seen a 15 percent increase in membership. It's not always easy to figure why Web interest rises and falls, but one theory is that 3000 community members are creating a new set of alliances -- the Transition away from an HP-centric world.

HP's been spinning off talent for years by now, with regular layoffs and exits of some of its more senior tech experts. They're a good example of one slice of community member -- technical resources still in a community, looking for engagements, the next job in their career saga, or just a way to help answer questions.

While the numbers might seem modest, 240 LinkedIn members have joined the HP 3000 Community since we kicked it off in 2008. LinkedIn is free at a very useful Basic level. Recruiters look for experts, while members keep in touch with opportunities and comment about community news. There's a regular feed of articles to spark discussions. And it revolves around more than just homesteading 3000s.

One new member, Michael Tilford, worked in HP's support division up until this year. His last day with HP is Dec. 31, when he'll be available to anybody who needs more than three decades of 3000 experience.

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One Genuine Dec. 31 HP 3000 Issue

HP's been telling the community that 3000's life ends on Dec. 31, but there's plenty of evidence that's just a point of view, or a vendor's wish, rather than a fact. (Selling HP support for 2011, and no HP software or hardware failures wired to occur on January 1 are a couple of facts contrary to "end of life." This isn't Y2K, this time around.)

But one HP 3000 software supplier has announced a real 2010 deadline for running some of its products on computers including the HP 3000. Lund Performance Solutions has sent a message to customers to explain why Dec. 31, 2010 is a hard stop for running ClearView -- at least until Lund sends out a revised version of the product. The problem: A "permanent license" for the software expires on that day.

Lund Performance Solutions has become aware of an effective expiration date in our software licenses that affects your Lund software. Unfortunately, “permanent” licenses that have been created to-date will actually expire on December 31, 2010. Your Lund software will not continue to run after this date without a correctly updated license.

We are preparing a new software release for all of our ClearView-supported platforms that will be released with a new product code which will truly be “permanent.” Revised license codes for all of our MPE customers will also be sent to resolve the issue on the MPE platform.

Lund adds that it's using email to contact its customers about the issue. Those who are still on support can head to a Lund web page to make a formal request for an updated license code. Software written for the HP 3000 -- some of it crafted 15 years ago -- can run into end of life, but it's less of an issue for customers if the creators have remained in business. Funny enough, but that "remain on support" choice for customers makes it more likely that a vendor can remain in business to look after show-stoppers like this.

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HP tries to retain some 3000 support deals

In the early response from the community, it looks like HP is continuing to ask customers to keep their 3000 support deals with the vendor. But in many cases, HP is learning that the support business has already moved on to independent providers. In some cases, third party companies have partnered to provide both hardware and software ends of support.

Customers are still reluctant to identify themselves by name, but the reports of HP extensions are consistent. "Our HP 3000 System Manager got a renewal notice this week for HP 3000 support," a contractor said today, working at a Georgia-based manufacturer. "The System Manager called the HP sales office, who confirmed they are still offering HP 3000 support though 2011. Unfortunately, they gave no advance notice, and our company had to make other arrangements."

HP's support levels haven't been uniform enough to retain some customers who would prefer to stay with the vendor. In one case, a snarl in getting a part reconfigured led to more than a week of downtime.

Until an incident last year when HP took over a week to fix a hardware issue on a corporate critical system, HP would have been the preferred vendor. HP’s problem at that time was in getting parts -- a lack of willingness to modify an in-stock backplane to our needs. After that incident, it was perceived that we can’t do much worse.

After that case, a backup hardware onsite was negotiated with a new hardware support vendor. A separate company is working with the hardware firm for that site. Meanwhile, some HP support customers just want to know how they can ensure they've got the final HP MPE/iX release tape before Dec. 31.

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Will Apple scuttle its legacy like HP did?

Apple's been held up as an example of what HP once was: an innovator and powerhouse that built its own successes. The iPad has become so popular so quickly that it's now outselling Macs. And so the mavens of the Apple world now consider how much longer the Mac can survive Apple's own clever creation: the iOS environment, now driving 70 million iPhones and 15 million iPads. It's the new nirvana. Those ideals are promoted by the people who have little invested in the Mac OS X. They forget to nurture their ancestors' wisdom.

Exhibit A: A column from new contributor John Gruber on the back page of MacWorld. He seems to wonder if Apple is as typical as HP, because "At typical companies, 'legacy' technology is something you figure out how to carry forward. At Apple, legacy technology is something you figure out how to get rid of."

There's some problems with that thinking. First, enterprise legacy only gets carried forward at a big customer's insistence. At typical companies like HP, legacy technology is something you figure out how to marginalize and push into the boutique shadows. Much of the decade before HP's announced departure from the 3000 world -- just four weeks from being complete -- was spent pushing MPE aside to trumpet Unix. (How's that choice working for you now, HP? Those footsteps you hear are Linux, not WebOS.)

It's always easier to sit in a developer's chair and say the future lies in the newest design, especially if it's growing more popular by the quarter. But customers -- millions of them using Macs today, even in business -- sit in different chairs and see investments they want a vendor to protect. A great company learns to balance protection with the innovation. Disney didn't stop making cartoons just because it discovered live-action movies and amusement parks.

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HP lets Hurd battle its own Unix business

Under the heading of Things We'd Never Expect, how about the news yesterday that Sun -- er, Oracle -- will be making leaps to give the Solaris OS a way to attack the HP-UX? Chief soldier in this Solaris 11 assault via technology and R&D? None other than HP's ousted CEO Mark Hurd, now leading the charge to take Business Critical Systems customers off the HP rosters.

Oracle has big plans for its Unix alternative, the "free" Solaris Express, too. With the Nov. 15 rollout, "Oracle is preparing for the planned availability of Oracle Solaris 11 in 2011 by releasing Solaris 11 Express, to provide customers with access to the latest Solaris 11 technology." In its Solaris 11 Express it's using a business model similar to HP's own now, the new era when Hewlett-Packard will be selling HP-UX but makes you buy a support license. (To be fair, you could always buy this "enterprise-class" HP environment without HP support. Good luck getting the patches you will need to survive security holes, or the ones that add functionality that's not strictly security-related. Independent support firms can help in that challenge, however.)

Oracle offers this new non-commercial version of Linux, but its Unix environment is only licensed if you're a Solaris support customer via Oracle. None of this barracuda competition can be good news for HP, which has been scratching for new HP-UX installs for a long time. The sale of 400 Superdome 2 servers made a nice spike in the report for the BCS group in Q4 2010, but that might be a limited-scope success. Superdomes are a long way from the typical server capacity for the classic HP 3000 shop migrating to Unix.

Hurd's new work is a genuine surprise, not the winemaking or politics that the last two CEOs drifted into as they left the industry. It's among the reasons you want to keep an eye on your HP market, even if you're just making your Transition toward options that don't include HP.

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News feed flows with unexpected events

Among the things that make life interesting are those things you never expected. After 15 years of publishing The 3000 NewsWire (thanks for your support) Abby and I took a 20th anniversary vacation to sunny California. Starting with afternoon highs in the 90s in Yosemite Valley, the trip and this fall broiled with such unexpected events.

These are the things that keep a couple reaching out together, as well as events that should keep you reading for many years to come. Some occur as “I never would've expected that,” and others drift into “who knows how long it will be before I see that?” Surprise enriches any story, whether it's a tale of travels, the innocent drama of sports, or an IT career around a computer no longer made or sold, and in less than a month, not supported by its creator.

WhoaNelli A gourmet lunch at a gas station: This one is attached to that Yosemite vacation above. Abby and I lounged in the luxury of the Ahwhanee Hotel in Yosemite's valley, but we also took a day-trip across the highest road pass in California, descending to the shores of Mono Lake. Aside from the three-times-saltier than the ocean lake waters, the unexpected was fabulous fish tacos and buffalo meatloaf at the Tioga Mobil gas station on the lakeshore. We ate at the Whoa Nellie Deli, food as good as a four-star eatery, and it wasn't because we'd just come down off a 9,900-foot mountain summit.

 A Fortune 100 migration starting in 2010: Speedware announced that one of the world's top 10 insurance firms is only now starting its move off the HP 3000. The company, which doesn't want to be named, has a profile of the customer most likely to be long-ago migrated. Such companies have lots of IT money, but as Speedware put it, the insurers believed “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” You might continue to be surprised at who's still in the un-migrated roll call next year.

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HP engineers connection with Integrity R&D

Rx2800 Lab Manager Hewlett-Packard launched another communique from its R&D labs to customers with the recent introduction of the rx2800 i2 Integrity servers. We first saw this approach to using HP engineers to speak to customers this spring, when the newest generation of Superdome 2 servers took a bow at HP's European enterprise customer event. That Web-based package included a pair of videos starring R&D leaders. The rack-mounted rx2800 -- a good fit for SMB-sized customers -- got the same treatment at its rollout.

Matt Harline, HP's Integrity Servers R&D Lab Manager at the Business Critical Systems unit, introduces the rx2800 in an HP video. Even if Harline's presentation is an obvious read of a script, there's a certain kind of customer who'll be more impressed than if an HP exec VP is doing the pitching. For one thing, Harline is somebody who knows what they're saying when they report "this means any 2D RAMs on the DIMMs will fit well, and your system will continue to run without error."

HP 3000 customers making a switch to HP-UX hardware might have to dig deep into their own memory sockets to recall an R&D chief being visible to customers. Once Ross McDonald took over the 3000's R&D, he made it a mission to let managers like Dave Wilde talk to customers -- once reporting this to me with a bit of a smirk at a user conference, as if it was an accomplishment to lie low. For Harry Sterling's R&D unit of the 90s, it wasn't that way at all.

Harline's news talks up the 2U form factor of the rx2800, with technical feeds and speeds (PDF datasheet) including "more cores, more memory, more IO, more storage, more bandwidth than your other legacy servers." He might be talking about legacy HP 9000 servers inside customer sites, built upon PA-RISC rather than Itanium, or even less modern Integrity boxes. But even compared to the rx6600 systems, the new boxes look like a significant upgrade. What's more, they're one of the few new products introduced as something other than blade servers. The Superdome 2, also not a blade solution, probably offers too much cost and power for the needs of the SMB customer so common in the 3000 community.

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