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January 2011

Making High Availability Work on 3000s

"We just launched a new A-Class 2-way running 7.5 PowerPatch5," reported Mark Landin not long ago. "This is our first 7.5 system; our two other machines are still on 6.5. The primary use for this system is MANMAN [ERP] with around 170 users."

Landin added that his storage resource for the A-Class is a VA7410 array running off of two PCI FiberChannel Host Bus Adapters, one DTC 16, and two SureStore DDS-2 tape drives running off the LVD SCSI interface. "So, for this kind of system," he asked, "what are the 'must have' patches that we should install on top of PP5?"

Advice from the 3000 community brought the High Availability Failover (HAFO) techniques into the discussion. An HP engineer who helped keep the 3000 up to date with storage added his take on HAFO abilities for MPE/iX systems like the A-Class.

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Why $2 Million SQL Server Appliances Sell

Earlier this month we reported on the HP-Microsoft alliance to sell a dedicated database appliance. That's the big Enterprise Data Warehouse appliance is hardware built specifically to drive a SQL Server resource, based upon HP's DL980 ProLiant hardware. The general price tag HP noted for the appliance was $2 million, which might seem steep to a company selling $50 million a year or less.

There's another way to look at the offer, though. It's got an extra cost of the Microsoft software, but that probably doesn't apply to most targets. We got educated by an HP staffer who's more technical than sales-oriented, a fellow who once ran his own consulting company and knows the 3000 from the 1980s. (We'd drop his name, but we don't want to complicate his life, or our long relationship with him.)

Ron seems to be taking a swipe at the $2 million price tag, but that is for the largest configuration. The main appeal of this type of hardware/software combo is that instead of you or someone from HP guessing what your app needs for hardware and software, HP and Microsoft have done the work of putting together a configuration and wringing it out, both from a functionality and performance standpoint, so the bring-up costs are next to nothing. $2 million may seem like a lot, but this is not a lot when compared with previous equivalent configurations.

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Three Kinds of Un-migrated Sites: One View

David Floyd, CEO of the Support Group, sat with me this week at lunch to answer questions for February's print-exclusive Q&A interview. (That's a story you can only read first in our print edition, then later up here on the blog.) While we whiled away an hour talking about this year's market, he summarized who's not yet migrated in a concise roundup. His view is of the small manufacturer, since his company services the MANMAN application users on HP 3000s. Here's a tease on the Q&A, so you can see if you're in any one of these groups.

"The first camp are the homesteaders, and they're still serious homesteaders," he said. "They're not going anywhere, and some have plans to 2020. They're plans, and we'll see if they get to follow through. It's like a Presidential administration creating a 20-year plan -- and the next administration comes around and says that's not the way we're going to be doing things. Terry Simpkins at Measurement Specialties comes to mind. He's got corporate buy-in for that."

"The second camp I see are the SMB companies that don't have the resources, $50 to $200 million range. They haven't made plans, and they haven't considered plans in many cases. They just don't have the resources to go out and buy a modern ERP package. I mean both technical resources, people, and money. It costs a lot of money these days."

The third camp has had an external migration deadline set for them -- something HP wanted to do with "End of Life" but didn't succeed with as much as it would've liked.

Continue reading "Three Kinds of Un-migrated Sites: One View" »

PDF techniques span integration skills

HP 3000 experts and veterans recently swapped a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer to getting a report into PDF format and out to Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest (called a slick solution by Dave Vogt of Miller Compressed Air Company) there are other commercial solutions -- and a raft of bolt-together techniques you might try if you've got very limited budget to homestead.

Bob McGregor reported:

We used txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.

Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, added:

I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the WinTel system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.

The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago...)

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Pushing Out PDFs Until Retirement Orbits

LEM HP 3000s can create PDFs in many ways. The user community has been reporting its methods this week, but one inventor in 3000 IT broke ground, and then broke away from 3000 use altogether.

Bob McGregor works IT at the Great Falls school district in Montana. We've written about him using Sanface software to do PDF file creation for his enterprise. There are better solutions available for the HP 3000, tuned by companies who know the server from long ago -- and so offer more native integration. (You know who we're talking about, Hillary Software, with your byRequest solution. It's ready for homesteading and migration.)

But McGregor hails from that generation of IT pros who never feared rolling up their sleeves to integrate themselves, taking tools from less-specific suppliers and making them work in a 3000 shop. He wrote us this week to report that he doesn't need to integrate like for his 3000, because the server was retired over the year-end school holidays.

There are many ways to bring 3000 reports into PDF formats, just as there are many reasons to retire an HP 3000 at a shop that has been a poster child for innovation. At Great Falls, the reasons seem to relate to retirement age of the staff vs. managers. It's a story we often hear these days when a 3000 is unplugged.

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Extra days to enter for free Connect full pass

The HP enterprise user group Connect has extended its Call for Papers through Thursday (Jan. 27) for the HP Discover conference in Las Vegas. The invitation to submit a proposal -- veteran IT pros know the drill from Interex meets -- might earn a free pass to the event, if your paper is selected.

"Approved session speakers will receive a complimentary registration to this year's event," the user group reports on its website today. Connect has obviously arranged its participation in the event, the biggest HP-wide meeting, but one that doesn't have much arranged for HP 3000 managers.

There is an exception, of course: reports from the field about migration projects either completed or in implementation phase. There's no guarantee of getting a paper accepted, but anything submitted by a user would stand out in a field of talks that's been crowded with HP and its partners in past years.

The meeting is best-suited for that sort of migrating customer, anyway. Details on how to submit are at the HP website serving the meeting. A full registration is about $1,400, which is pretty good compensation for building a presentation you probably had to start to get migration funded anyway. Then there's the Vegas factor and a performance by Sir Paul McCartney. The meeting is June 6-9.

HP strips four directors, restarts Hurd probe

HurdTForumMug HP is removing almost one-third of its board of directors this spring, with five new members taking seats effective January 21 -- just one day after the company filed a motion to re-investigate its actions during the removal and multi-million-dollar compensation of former CEO Mark Hurd.

HP announced on Jan. 20 that four incumbent directors will be stepping down after the HP Annual Meeting of stockholders in March, including Joel Hyatt (of cable broadcast group Current Media, and part of last year's executive search team to replace Hurd), John Joyce (Silver Springs Networks), Robert Ryan (Medtronic) and Lucille Salhany (JHMedia).

The new directors will be Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO who ran for California governor and lost in 2010; Shumeet Banerji, CEO of Booz & Company; Gary Reiner, former CIO of General Electric; Patricia Russo, former CEO of Alcatel-Lucent; and Dominque Senequier, CEO of AXA Private Equity. Each will have to stand for re-election in March.

HP will have a 17-member board between Jan. 21 and the March resignations of the four board members. Current non-executive chair Raymond Lane, who joined the board after Hurd was ousted, praised the new directors who are standing for re-election. Lane leads the board while not holding an HP executive position. Like the departure of four directors in one move, his standing, non-executive chairman post is unprecedented in HP's history.

Now the company promises to look deeper into the compensation processes and the events that triggered Hurd's removal, as a way of forestalling shareholders' charges of "breaches of fiduciary duties, waste of corporate assets, and unjust enrichment... which have caused damage to the company in connection with or arising out of the board's granting, and Hurd's receipt of, an allegedly unreasonable and grossly excessive severance award upon his resignation." Hurd took a $12 million cash award away from the company after a demand letter alleging sexual harrassment in his relations with contractor and former B-movie actress Jodie Fisher led to his resignation.

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HP pairs with SQL Server for data appliance

HP's made a joint product announcement with Microsoft: a $2 million-per-sale solution of a data warehouse appliance, built upon Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 OS. The OS and Microsoft's data warehouse software are not included in the price. Microsoft says it combines "the best software company on the planet with the best hardware company."

HP is touting the big Enterprise Data Warehouse appliance as 200 times faster and 10 times more scalable than traditional SQL Server deployments. The hardware include at least two racks of servers and storage, built around ProLiant DL980 systems. Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse will be licensed separately. These solutions don't use HP's Integrity servers; the ProLiant DL980 is powered by Intel's industry-standard architecture, with four or eight Xeon processors.

HP says it's faster than traditional SQL Server installations -- by an astronomical factor, matching its price point. At $2 million an install plus software, the Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance is priced just right for the Fortune 100 company already hip-deep in Microsoft products. Analysts, who don't have to find the budget to acquire such a behemoth, believe the offering is a counter-punch to the Oracle's Exdata database machine offering, or IBM's deal with Netezza, which also makes database warehouse appliances.

HP's price on the Enterprise Data Warehouse does include site assessment, installation and start-up, as well as three years of HP 24/7 hardware and software support services.

Datamarts have been the go-to strategy for the much smaller 3000 enterprise. More affordable for the traditional 3000 shop, migrating to Windows: The HP Business Decision Appliance, "a business intelligence system built on top of an HP ProLiant DL380 server with eight cores, which will start at nearly $28,000, not including the cost of SQL Server 2008 R2 and SharePoint 2010." HP ships this solution today. It's also being sold with three years of HP 24/7 support.

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HP vs. Apple quarters: innovation as engine

The financial reports coming from Apple yesterday made me take a sharp breath, and for all the most impressive reasons. The company derided as dead during the late '90s announced sales of $26 billion over the holiday quarter. Apple's on a run rate to post a $100 million fiscal year in 2011. All that, plus $6 billion in profits on a lineup with few products priced over $4,000, and most less than half that.

TopazTablet HP had a fine quarter in its last report, announced in late November. But the company needed more than 300,000 employees to sell $33 billion and post $8.7 billion in profits. The new CEO Leo Apotheker warned that profits would take a hit on increased R&D at HP. Apple's R&D has been built-in to its profits, at levels HP hasn't seen in a decade. At its flashiest, HP can point to a fall tablet from its Palm labs that could deliver hardware innovation to draw people to the brand. (The Topaz renderings, at left, show a 7-inch device sporting WebOS, innovation HP bought last year, rather than built.)

Why should an HP 3000 customer care about the glowing Q1 from Apple? Perhaps because the innovation at the latter could be a lesson to the former, a vendor most eager to retain the 3000 business that migrates. Apple's new numbers put the company within 25 percent of HP's sales and a $3 higher profit per share. There's something special in any computer vendor's sauce that lets it change the rules, as with the iPad, while it cranks out 71 percent higher sales than one year ago.

But it's the combination of innovation and integration that Apple's COO Tim Cook talked up the most in the company's quarterly analyst call yesterday. It recalled that integration was always an HP 3000 advantage over what the market liked to call open systems. Apple's invented a way to make it pay.

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Deadline looms for Connect's user papers

The biggest HP conference of 2011 has announced a Jan. 20 deadline to submit a proposal for a technical paper at this summer's HP Discover conference. The Connect user group, the last one serving HP's enterprise customers including the users of the 3000 alternatives HP-UX and Windows, is to be part of the HP Discover content experience. The verb used is "partnering," but we don't know much about what that involves yet. There's some speculation a Memorandum of Understanding is being worked out between the group and HP.

The vendor is taking much more of a lead in running this year's show. HP has final approval over all sessions. Last year's lineup showed that about two of every three papers offered came from HP or its very largest solutions partners. But there's a place for customer-delivered papers at the show, although none of them are likely to be approved from 3000 managers unless they're talking migration. (There's an opportunity there for a 3000-focused event, with room for both homestead sustaining advice as well as migration.)

HP's email of today points to an FAQ on the Web that outlines the areas where the conference will welcome papers. "sessions describing implementations of HP products, services, or solutions are particularly welcome. Sessions that share tips and best practices on innovative uses of technology that others can adapt are also very popular."

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Volunteer server acts as time machine

1984Proceedings Volunteers in the 3000 community, some working with OpenMPE, have placed a chunk of its history online. Conference proceedings from the 1984 Interex meeting, the one where HP announced its project to create a modern, PA-RISC 3000, are on the Invent3K disaster recovery system. (1984 was a significant one for me and eventually the NewsWire; it was the first year I reported on HP 3000 activities, writing for The Chronicle, a trade publication focused on HP that I edited through the early 1990s.)

These scanned papers join technical submissions from 1996 through 2004, the final year that Interex hosted an HP user group conference. Tracy Johnson, who manages the Invent3K outpost and still acts as secretary for OpenMPE, reports, "Most of the bugs in the links for the earlier iteration of the Proceedings Libraries have been fixed. This inspired new input from Frank McConnell.  As such I have received more scans of the Proceedings from yesteryear."

The proceedings for 1984 are on the third button on the left, now included in the indexes of other years, Johnson said, adding that "More years will be offered in the future." He also commented on a stop-gap fix for the outage of, which has been mis-directed to the main web page since late December.

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Shaping server use and power at HP's IT

Community members are still interested in how HP uses its enterprise systems, especially how much 3000 computing is in place even in 2011. There's been speculation that so long as HP needs support for internal systems it may be using, the "end of life" for the 3000 will not occur.

Garry Smith, director of information systems at the Charles McMurray Company, asked if we can "investigate how many HP 3000s are being used by HP internally for their ordering and fulfillment (parts)?  Support revenue streams are a great cash cow for most computer companies. And if they can get the users to pay for their internal support team while offering “minimal” support to contracted end users, that's great for their IT department."

That's a great question, but HP has never shared information about its internal IT makeup. As close as we ever came to seeing a representation was during the CIO's presentation at the HP Technology Forum three years ago. HP was using its IT as an example of a best practice -- a lesson often useless for the small and midsize companies who don't have 100 servers or a massive IT budget. But HP 3000s appeared on a slide briefly, just as an icon. CIO Randy Mott flashed another slide that showed no 3000s in the consolidated HP datacenters.

But if our experience with customers is any indicator, then 3000s have moved out of HP slower than the CIOs expect. One manager at an IT datacenter gave us updates for years after HP was hawking migration, confirmations that 3000s were still in use. Very unofficial reports, these were, and purely anecdotal. That doesn't make Smith's HP support strategy any less viable, however.

HP does like to talk about what it does with IT to show customers how to manage their enterprises, however, especially when it can promote a fresh feature or a product which can use the recommendation. Earlier today an HP manager blogged about power management in the HP blade server line, with suggestions on how to start. The message includes good news for any customer who's chosen HP's Integrity blades as a migration target, rather than the ProLiants.

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Database migrator adds open sources

UDACentral MB Foster is supporting new database connections for its UDA Central migration tool, adding targets popular in the open source enterprise community. The additional databases will make let migrating sites make the transition to a LAMP environment -- Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl, one of the top standards of open source architecture for OS, web, database and programming.

UDA Central Workbench and Server now includes MySQL, Ingres, Sybase and Cache support. The latest targets join Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, DB2, Eloquence and TurboIMAGE. The software can move any of these databases' data between one another, using a Java-based facility.

"UDA Central’s newly added databases expand capabilities for customers," said Birket Foster, MB Foster's CEO. "Over the last year, we have seen IT projects within the healthcare industry that needed access to these databases as part of regulatory and business requirements. We wanted to be sure that we were prepared for our customers growing needs to fully automate the hunt, capture and delivery process for this data."

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Tape drive controls lead to Looney Tunes

Duck Autochanging tape drives used to be the stuff of science fiction among 3000 managers, but those days passed by before HP cut off making its Classic 3000 MPE V systems. Just because an autochanger is a standard storage option does not make it automatic to program, however.

A question posed to the community by systems manager John Pitman of RYCO Hydraulics reached for help on "programmatically controlling such autochangers -- to select a slot, and load the tape and come to ready." Advice is at hand, including a detour to a Looney Tunes classic. As it turned out, Pitman didn't need his programming, but the advice can make some autochangers toot smoother.

HP's pass-through SCSI driver came up in some advice. The software built by HP's labs and "not for the faint of heart" can assert a program's control over autochangers, although third party programs such as the Orbit Software Backup+/iX do this work. If you've never seen an autochanger at work, OpenMPE's Tracy Johnson pointed to great theme music, a tune called Powerhouse you will know as soon as you hear it, if you've ever watched a Warner Brothers cartoon.

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Keeping Up with Unix's Critical Hacks

Migrating away from a boutique environment like MPE/iX opens fresh doors to the world of IT for some sites. But for everyone who embraces industry-common platforms like Unix, a new level of scrutiny must accompany a migration.

Over the four weeks that ended 2010, HP released eight alerts about security breaches for HP's Unix servers, including the newer Integrity servers. Security alerts from HP usually describe ways that Denial of Service attacks (to bring a server down by unavailability) or hacks for illegal access to data. The four weeks was a tough period for the OS, one that kept HP busy revising HP-UX 11i.

Unix on every platform has foundation programs, and it seemed nearly every one was targeted for a breach by the end of the year. HP posted security patch bulletins for the Samba file server, OpenSSL, threaded processes running in HP-UX, poisoning of the DNS nameserver cache, and two separate bulletins each for the Apache server and Java.

There's so much security work to be managed after choosing HP-UX that the vendor's deployed an automated security bulletin checker, the HP-UX Software Assistant, (which replaced the HP-UX Security Patch Check.) "It analyzes all Security Bulletins issued by HP and lists recommended actions that may apply to a specific HP-UX system," HP explains. "It can also download patches and create a depot automatically."

The best security case for a site migrating to HP-UX is to be able to transfer 3000 application data to an existing app in the company -- on a server which is already secured and managed by Unix administrators.

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Hardware appliance links up MPE encryption

Q3 HP 3000 sites are encountering a growing need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software.

Several software companies have offered encryption solutions for various scenarios. Orbit Software's Backup+/iX encrypts data during backups. For the part of the 3000 market that still uses TurboStore, however Orbit's software requires a move away from the HP software -- which isn't supported now that HP's gone out of the 3000 support business.

FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites

But a hardware solution that's been tested with the 3000 may offer a different method to keeping data secure in transit. Jack Connor of Abtech reports that 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances, one of which Connor put between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host.

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Users reach for new IO connnections

Linear Tape (LTO) and virtual disk arrays might not be common players at many 3000 sites. But as these servers mature in production settings, these higher capacity storage solutions are gaining attention from system managers. HP's engineering is better for the VA solutions than LTO, but both can perform in 3000 installations, according to user reports.

Are the LTO and LTO2 drives supported on Series 997 and N-Class servers?

Mark Ranft of Pro 3K replies:

They work, but they are not supported (if that means anything) with HP TurboStore. Other third party backup software vendors do support LTO. We do DLT backups to two, three or four drives with success.

Craig Lalley of EchoTech notes that N-Class LTO use yields the best results:

The 997 has a NIO bus that is capable of a sustained throughput of 20mb/sec. That is 20 megabytes per second. I seriously doubt that a 997 can make an LTO drive run in "stream" mode. Hence it would just "shoe-shine," back and forth. The N-Class is a different story, as long as it is not crippled.

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Replacing precedes virtualizing in migration

At the City of Sparks, Nevada, the HP 3000s are working in their last complete year of service for the municipality of 80,000. Migration is scheduled to be complete sometime next year, a period when some of the PCs in the IT picture may be virtualized -- that is, taken off desktops and into the cloud.

Well before that begins, the tools from HP 3000s must be replaced with counterparts on the Windows target platform.

Steve Davidek is waiting on a courts building remodel before the virtualizing proceeds. "It's been held up for six months, waiting on funding to get the remodel done," he told us late last year. "We can't do the virtualization until we rewire the building, and they don't want to rewire until they've moved all those walls."

Davidek calls the virtualization "my nightmare project that I want to get done, but don't know if I'll ever get it done. It'll be my first true foray into desktop virtualization." The city's courts found funding for a new server and software to enable thin clients. These virtual PCs will live on the server at the city's IT shop, connected over a private network. "It'll be the start of the cloud, and if they need to run court over here at IT because there's a problem at the courthouse, they can do that. Their desktop lives wherever they can connect to it."

HP 3000 tools have been replaced even more slowly, in some cases, even while the city's migration has moved forward over five years' time. The Cognos PowerHouse language is still in place -- Sparks has been using it since the late 1980s -- but the PowerHouse release is so elderly that Cognos doesn't want to sell the city a support contract for the software.

"We haven't paid support on it in years, and Cognos just allows us to run it. I bet there is not a soul at Cognos, or whatever it is today, that has the knowledge of the HP 3000," Davidek said. IBM purchased Cognos in 2008, mostly for the company's business intelligence product line.

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MB Foster hosts datamart, retail webinars

After its CEO Birket Foster surveys the landscape at the 100th Annual National Retail Federation next week, the company will offer webinars on retail practices, datamart optimization and more during this spring. The HP 3000 is still a hub of ecommerce activity at some firms, so those NRF insights can help these customers plan for future IT. Other training events include advice on databases,

In total, MB Foster's got seven webinars scheduled between this month and the end of March, many aimed directly at HP 3000 issues. In addition to the NRF innovation broadcast, set for February 16, the 2011 season kicks off with a Jan. 19 briefing on using Operational Data Stores, and what use your business can make of a data mart. (Hint: your business use of the 3000 don't have to be in retail to use a mart of this kind.)

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3000 vet pursues remaining installed sites

Editor's Note: We've been checking in with HP 3000 veterans to survey their plans for 2011, tracking migrated sites as well as those which are still relying on 3000s through this year and next. Our story today combines both homesteading and migration situations.

Dave Darnell wants to move across Ohio to take his 3000 skills out of migration and into management. He's leaving a site where the younger talent is now taking over the closing steps of a migration to HP-UX. Darnell is in search of a spot with The Andersons, a retail and grain processing corporation with outlets across the Midwest. At that firm, the 3000 remains in charge of grain operations, tracking the purchases and movement of the fruits of farmers' labors.

Darnell reported on a pair of 3000 sites that have moved away from the system, using his help.

I administered the systems retirement and data archive project for all systems at Qualchoice/Wellpoint. (To replace the 3000 we did Microsoft SQL, VB, and Access w/VBA work on that, too, including SQL database work.) I then moved to Weltman, Weinberg, and Reis, where they have been trying to get off the 3000 for 10 years.

Darnell's departure isn't triggered by a lack of work for him at the largest creditors' rights firm in the country. But he's moving to western Ohio this spring. Andersons offers a potential 3000 post, he hopes.

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Support continues, even as 3000s move on

Welcome to the new business year for HP 3000 owners, a time when things have changed for some 3000 sites, while for others they're pretty much the same.

Sites are still checking in with reports of 2011 support offers from Hewlett-Packard. At the University of Washington Medical Centers Pharmacy, the 3000s are under HP's care -- and the vendor wants it to stay that way, here in this year after the vendor's "end of life." Computer services coordinator Deane Bell reports.

I received a proposed contract in mid-December from HP to continue our HP3000/969 support post-2010. The proposal is for the same level of coverage (7x24x365 4-hour response).  It will now be two contracts (I had to specifically request the separate 'mature product support' contract). The standard contract covers LDEV1 and not much more. The 'mature product support' contract covers the rest of our equipment, except for the Jamaica disk drives (9GB and 18GB) which fell off support two years ago.

The combined cost of the two contracts is significantly more than last year (but less than two times last year's cost) Since we're hoping to be off the 3000 (sadly) by the third quarter of 2011, most likely we'll accept the HP contract proposals.

The University was courted by third party support firms about its system support, too.

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