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January 31, 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.

Craig Lalley of EchoTech, who specializes in storage marriages with HP 3000s, told Landin, "MPE can HAFO. What I do is configure all the odd LUNs down one path and all the even LUNs down the second path. Then SYSGEN IO HA , (or is it SYSGEN HA...), and then create the secondary path."
It works on the VAs because all the LUNs are seen down both paths. Don't forget to put the correct firmware on the VA7410 controllers and disk. To update the firmware CommandView is required.

The latest firmware bundle (that I know of) can be found on HP's website.

Jack Connor of Abtech added details and a vote of confidence for HAFO on the 3000.

Under SYSGEN>IO>HA you define your LDEVs and primary path and then the alternate card path.  No need for multiple config groups.

I suggest you alternate LDEVs between cards so half are on one attached to Controller 1 on the VA, and the other half on card 2 going to VA Controller 2.

Works like a champ... you can lose a fiber card, cable, or VA controller and you'll get a series of tellop/replies on the console, but it keeps right on running using the single path.

When you've fixed the problem (say a failed controller), you can go into the HA utility under SYSGEN and move them back to the normal path.

Jim Hawkins, who supported the 3000 and engineered from inside HP's labs until HP shut the doors on both, explained the history of how HAFO solutions like the 7410 can work with the 3000.

HAFO could work on any SCSI Disk device where you can see LUNs on more than one port (really all the smarts are in the scsi_disk_and_array_dm code, which was used for all SCSI disks except the oldest SE devices). Original HAFO was with XP256 F/W SCSI, but that was a pretty clunky device even when it was state of the art.

HAFO really didn't become useable until FiberChannel. I led the FC-based effort and we did all of our work on XP and then VA devices because they were what worked at the time; those are the configurations that were officially supported, blessed, and used successfully by many customers. We did evaluate EVA products and they did "work" as disks but they didn't have this "LUNs visible on more than one path" feature until way too late for lab development and certification.

HAFO probably would work on EMC, though our co-development/marketing agreement with them had terminated by the time HAFO was developed -- they did continue to advertise support for MPE/iX systems long after we stopped working with them.

Signing off with the customary "Your Mileage May Vary" disclaimer, Hawkins added that he's noticed that "more stuff seems to be "findable" in the HP Business Support Center. A search for "MPE HAFO" gives many hits of PDF files including:

"support matrix"
"Product manual"
and an old Jazz article, worth reading if you're new to FC. 

07:56 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2011

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.

Our expert contact adds that the reason SQL Server and Windows Server are unbundled is because "most customers who would be buying these will already have an enterprise license for these products, so no need to charge them again. Also, for those that don't, the pricing will vary depending upon how many users are going to use the appliance. There are two ways the licensing is sold, by user and by socket, and normally the least expensive is what is ordered."


The way it is now, you sit down with a System Architect (sort of like the old SE) and talk to them about what you need a system for, and they figure out what hardware you need, and propose it.  Then the customer gets it, it gets set up, and they spend weeks trying to get all the pieces to work, get the OS configured correctly, get SQL configured, etc. In the 3000 days, this sort of integration was sort of done by default, since you could only buy HP disks, terminals, etc, and everyone used IMAGE.

But the Windows world has a lot of moving parts, and getting them to sit down and behave is hard. With these appliances, we're sort of back to that. In this case, the system, storage, networking, storage networking, etc are already set up, and the genius people at HP and Microsoft have worked it over for months and gotten everything to work. There's backup, redundancy, etc, all built in.

And the price point per socket? That means the software is being sold by the power of the processor, not the number of users.

For SQL they sell it by the socket, or by the connection, because it's cheaper. For TPCH, which is just a bunch of queries, they price it by the user, since there is basically only one user on the system. This makes the benchmark price/performance number better. In the real world, they pick the method that will make the price lower, same as the benchmark.  But most enterprise windows customers have site/enterprise-wide licenses for the software, so they don't have to pay anything extra.

09:59 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 27, 2011

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.

"The third camp," Floyd said, "are the companies that have been bought by major corporations. They are now a tiny division in a giant manufacturing conglomerate. The majority of them have nebulous plans to get on board with their corporate ERP implementations, generally SAP or Oracle. This little manufacturing company in the middle of nowhere is on the list to someday get migrated from MANMAN to that corporate platform."

By "middle of nowhere" Floyd means the 3000 customers who make up SMB manufacturers in the US. These are companies, he pointed out, whose operations are in very small cities and towns. Up to now, a good share of these firms have been scrabbling to get out of the Great Recession. They're in the small towns for low cost of labor and incentives and general cost of doing business.

These kinds of companies, Floyd agreed, will be getting the benefit of polished and proven tools to use. It's simple economics to see that the early migrators paid more for their projects, since they paid in 2004 dollars, for example -- which were more costly (in valuation) than 2011 dollars. The prices probably haven't risen much in the years the un-migrated sites have needed to wait.

Drop me a line by email if you want to be sure you're getting that February print issue in your mailbox. It's mobile, and need no power source but a little light. You might even call our print issue solar-powered.


07:25 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 26, 2011

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...)

Michael Anderson of consulting firm J3K Solutions added that there is also a open source PDF tool, pdfcreator, with which a manager might setup a network PDF printer. "Some assembly required, and batteries not included," he noted.

Another vote came in for the Advant/X software from Tracy Johnson, the OpenMPE volunteer who's built up the Invent3K shared server. Johnson noted that the STR Software product "while intended to convert spool files and then e-mail or fax them, I imagine it can be used short of the transmission process

John Pitman combines an off-the-shelf FTP solution from a departed vendor, Whisper Technology, with a good deal of original integration.

Nominate a spooled ldev as always suspended (74 in our case - arbitrary). Users can choose this device as their printer in their Menu, and all subsequent reports (until changed to another real printer ldev) will go to these device, and therefore NOT physically print. Some reports that are commonly used to import to excel have been modified to make headings tightly lined up with the data columns, and only print one page heading, to ease the import process.

Run a job on 3000 that every few minutes scans for spoolfiles for this ldev, copy them to posix space specific to 74(for generality), with  the creating user and account in the file name(eg mgr_stock_O12345.txt), delete the original spoolfile.

We use a product called Bullet Proof FTP Server on Windows - this provides FTP  user/password secured access to directories . Last time I looked this was a bit hard to find, but was free in at least one version - it came out of Whisper Technology.

A scheduled program on the windows box (every minute!) FTP connects to the 3000. When it finds a spool files as above example, it checks for a windows destination dir of MGR_STOCK , and copies the file  to it as O12345.txt, and deletes the 3000 copy of the file. The account name enables segregation of reports for different applications in our case. If the file is > 1MB(arbitrary size of your choice, designed to reduce network loads when the file is downloaded by the user), its zipped. It could as easily be converted to any desired form - pdf via cutepdf? It could aslo readily email the output to a user, given access to a mail server, and a way to develop the email address.

Users have a client to access the FTP server and obtain their .txt or .zip files

This has been running for at 10 years now, with almost no issues. Occasionnally a large file might hang ftp, but cancelling and restarting the copy usually fixed it. I have seen report selection errors produce 500mb txt files.

You might use several suspended ldevs for different types or groups  of users. We run this on four 3000s in different locations, each with their own separate windows boxes using BP-FTP server. This means that users in Oz can run a report on the Houston or China system to the local printer 74, pause, connect their ftp client to the relevant ftp server, and download the report without having to print it.

The process also enables soft storage of month end reports , which can be very useful for comparative purposes, auditing , and general historical reference - we now have about 8 years of this information stored , with backups and CD copies. Much more compact than paper, and cheaper!

04:14 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 25, 2011

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.

McGregor runs a shop that used Powerhouse and other 3000-bred tools. He says the call accounting app on the 3000 was the last one to get transferred to Windows.

We migrated the final items we were doing on the 3000 last fall with the final one being our call accounting solution. We moved out student systems to software called Powerschool about five years ago, moved our business system to Windows-based software, and then had some smaller systems we moved to windows based solutions and some other various changes.

Our main functions have been migrated for well over two years. Once call accounting was done, we had to pull employee info from our HR system for reference. We then left the 3000 up for two months before moving it just in case. That led to the Christmas timeframe. Of course, just last week, there was a request for a report from HR, but we should be able to satisfy it with our data extract.

As for those retirement reasons, it's as much change of staff, more than technology options, that led to the darkening.

The combination of [HP's End of Life notice], staffing changes, and application need really did the most of it. Our two main functions -- student systems and business systems -- needed new apps for the changing times. Also, my staff is completely different now, and hiring Windows skills is a bit easier.

A few years ago, I made the choice not to have my staff learn the 3000, so I am the only one with any understanding of it at all. While my career goes back to 1986 on the 3000, I am resting easier now for our district since there is no unique tie to it. I feel like the movie Apollo 13 when the crew bid farewell to the lunar module while it drifted away.

If you're still orbiting with your LEM, we'll have a roundup on the self-integrated solutions tomorrow.

11:52 AM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2011

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.

03:58 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 21, 2011

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.

HP's request to stay legal actions from an assortment of shareholders -- Brockton Contributory Retirement System, CLAL Financial Batucha Investment Management Ltd., and the Asbestos Workers Philadelphia Pension Fund, among others -- are protecting departing directors Hyatt, Joyce, Ryan and Salhany, as well as six other directors now standing for re-election. All are called "Director Defendents" in the HP request to launch its own investigation.

The suits are tied to Hurd for another reason, using one set of logic. Fisher's lawyer Gloria Allred accused Hurd of "[telling] her of HP's intention to buy EDS at an HP event in Madrid in March 2008," according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The SEC is very interested in that item.

A new group of directors named after Hurd's resignation -- the five directors joining the board this week, plus new CEO Leo Apotheker and Lane -- will make up an "independent Committee" to investigate matters. From HP's filing on Jan. 20:

According to HP and the Director Defendants, the investigation will be conducted by a committee of independent directors (the “Committee”), assisted by independent outside counsel – not counsel in this litigation – and will include, among other things, all of the matters included in plaintiffs’ amended consolidated complaint -- including, for example, the circumstances surrounding the departure of Mark Hurd and the Board’s decision to approve the separation agreement between HP and Mr. Hurd.

HP and the Director Defendants currently contemplate that the Committee will report to the Board on the results of the investigation and the Board will decide on the appropriate response to the [suits'] Demand. HP and the Director Defendants maintain that the investigation will thus cover the same subject matter and will undeniably impact this action.

In addition, the investigation will include allegations set forth in the Demand and certain other lawsuits currently pending in this Court and the Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, that include violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Anti-Kickback Act of 1986 as against each of the defendants in this action as well as former boardmembers named as defendants in one of the other lawsuits.

In a farewell to departing board members Hyatt, Joyce, Ryan and Salhany, Lane was generous in praise for their work on the board including the years when Hurd ran the board.

"[They] have offered invaluable service to HP over many years, and we are deeply grateful for their insights, counsel and commitment to HP’s business,” said Lane. “These directors worked tirelessly and effectively to navigate HP through a difficult leadership change in the last six months.

“As a recent addition to HP’s board, I have been incredibly impressed by Joel, John, Bob and Lucille’s experience and talents. I know the entire board of directors joins me in thanking each of these directors for their many contributions towards the long-term success of HP.”

Ryan, the former lead independent director of the board, said, "It has been a great privilege to serve on the HP board and see this outstanding company build on its legacy as a technology leader and innovator. HP is well-positioned to drive – and profit from – the changes under way across the technology industry, and I am confident that, with Léo as CEO and Ray as chairman, HP has a strong leadership team in place to continue moving the company forward."

12:12 AM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2011

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.

HP says that the Business Decision Appliance "is optimized for Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft SharePoint and can be installed and configured by IT in less than one hour." The PowerPivot add-in for Microsoft Excel is designed to streamline the collaboration over SharePoint 2010.

Sorting out these HP-Microsoft product solutions, sold by the vendor to large accounts and by HP/Microsoft Frontline channel partners for small and medium-sized businesses, takes the aid of a comparison fact sheet. HP's got one available online. But for an investment of more than $2 million, you'll have HP holding your hand while you prepare the proposal for your IT management.


12:16 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2011

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.

Apple climbed to this peak of its business without any strategy, fabricated or real, to pursue enterprise software or networking or storage products. HP has a much broader strategy than what the press is guessing at this week, speculation on a new push toward those three sectors at Hewlett-Packard. Software especially is high-profit, but HP has a long way to go to earn a significant share in that sector. Apple's software innovation lies in its operating systems, the Unix-based Mac OS and the mobile iOS too. Apple reported profits of $6.43 per share; analysts expected $5.38.

The numbers paint a stark contrast between a company that offers an integrated experience -- think your HP 3000 -- and one that demands the customer do integration, whether on a smartphone, a tablet, or in the desktop and even the datacenter.

Apple has no equivalent of the 3000 or Integrity, but it has built its business from the ground up with its own flavor of Unix on the Macs and laptops. Even though it no longer sells server-sized hardware, it still sells OS X Server software. And by the looks of these numbers, it's outselling HP's Unix, plus OpenVMS, combined, even when you subtract the $10.5 billion in iPhones.

One area where enterprise-grade solutions have soared is in tablets. iPads sold more than 7 million units in those 90 days, up from 4 million in the quarter before the holidays started. Apple acknowledges that it's had "no significant competition" in that space. But its COO Cook said the company believes that its top-of-the industry satisfaction ratings, across desktops, laptops and iOS devices, comes from "an integrated approach that delivers better than the fragmented approach." He referred to single payment system, single app store, and the highest number of mobile devices and computers on the latest version of the OS.

iPhones sold 15.2 million units against a wave of Android phones, including those from Verizon, of course. It might be a number to poke fun at, but since 2007, the company says it's put 160 million iOS devices into the market. This, with just one carrier to support its efforts.

Cook had a cogent comment near the end that will resonate with the readers here. He was comparing the integrate-yourself vs. integrated-by-vendor experience. "I don't know about you, but I don't know very many people who want to be system integrators, like in a corporate enterprise." Among the 3000's skilled integrators, this message will remind them of the days when the complete enterprise package was what you unboxed from Hewlett-Packard.

But Apple's a consumer company, you might retort. Not as exclusively, and less all the time. Apple boasted of the iPad and iPhone's 80 percent testing or adopting rate in the Fortune 100 IT. The enterprise message Apple wants to stress is that it's passing the IT proving points, listing several companies like JP Morgan as wins for its iPad and iPhone.

Finally there's the balance of trade to consider. $2.6 billion, or about 10 percent, of Apple's Q1 sales came from China alone. I know that HP's posting quarters overall of about 20 percent higher revenues, but Apple reported profit numbers to blow away HP's per dollar sold. That's tough to do in the short-margin consumer market; ask HP, which has clawed its way to the top slot in sales for PCs, printers and the like. While every electronics and office store sells ink cartridges and printers, even laptops from HP, Apple has places to introduce its product to everyday businesses as well as consumers; 338 retail stores that generated nearly $4 billion in sales, almost double over last year's holiday quarter. That included 850,000 new Macs, and Apple claims more than half of its retail customers never owned a Mac before buying one.

Perhaps it turns out that it doesn't matter who sells the most -- cobbling together a raft of vendors that coalesced on Android, or Windows -- when you look at innovation and integration as your engines of commerce and profit. HP's customers can only hope that that WebOS tablet coming from HP -- in September, by some internal reports -- shows the company the way back to integrated solutions.

An estimate of HP's yearly budget on R&D runs in the 3 percent range of revenues. That would give HP about $ 2 billion in spending per half to innovate. Apple, with a cash hoard of $59 billion now, is so flush that it has placed a pre-paid order for components greater than HP's 2010 R&D spending: $3.0 billion. By pre-paying, the company not only locks in a profitable pricing, but denies some parts to competitors.

This may be the highest point in Apple's history, but the company sounded confident that it felt no worries about how its products might eliminate each other (think ProLiants vs. Integrity servers, or the HP 9000s against 3000s). The future of the Mac operating system vs. iOS, or the company's laptop business vs. iPad tablets, don't concern a supplier that seeks only a top customer satisfaction rating to succeed. "There's not high walls between these product groups," Cook said. "If this is cannibalization [of our products with the new], it feels pretty good."

One example rang out in the soaring pep talk. If the Macintosh company and the iPad unit were separate companies, Cook said, what would the Mac company build to compete with iPad? The MacBook Air, he said, with instant-on and a light form factor. "We're introducting a lot of people to Apple who didn't know the company," he said. Innovation has a lure that simply being No. 1 in sales looks back at over its shoulder, wondering how long before investments in the whole package -- hardware plus operating environments, all integrated -- catch up to it.

06:11 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2011

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."

We noticed a Connect Community redirect on the way to the HP web page to submit paper proposals. Connect breaks out the content prospects for papers as follows (the complete papers are due for HP's approval by May.)

1. Solutions: Application Transformation, Converged Infrastructure,Information Optimization, Hybrid Delivery/Cloud,Enterprise Security, Unified Communications, and Mobility

2. Industries: Financial Services Industry, Communications, Media & Entertainment, Public Sector, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Retail and CPG, Energy, High Tech and Electronics, Automotive and Aerospace, Transportation and Logistics

3. Products and Services: Servers, Storage, Networking, Software, and Services


05:52 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2011

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 openmpe.org, which has been mis-directed to the hp.com main web page since late December.

Johnson and the volunteers have moved the group's web pages to the new server, but they haven't yet applied for a domain name to replace openmpe.org.

Some of you have noticed the OpenMPE domain has been down since Christmas. While the domain is still broken, the internal files are back online, second button from the left. Again, Keven Miller volunteered the coding effort.

05:48 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2011

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.

Jacob Van Ewyk, who works in HP's Business Critical Systems group as part of the sales enablement team, explained that he got to "spend some time with a customer yesterday talking about how HP runs its internal IT operations, industry best practices, trends and more." Van Ewyk, posting on HP's enterprise computing blog, skipped over the HP internals in his message -- because that's pretty off-limits in public communication. But in "Quick and Easy Power Savings for Servers," he did note how power management can be introduced as a benefit to using HP's alternative platforms to the 3000.

One of the interesting comments from the customer was that they were running all their servers at high performance or maximum power levels all the time, even though he knew that average utilization was 40 percent or less, even with virtualization. He also said that he was worried about the risk of reducing processor power and potentially impacting server performance.

One of his requests was a practical way to start implementing power management in a non-intrusive, quick and easy way. He hadn’t seen anything that provided that level of detail. Since he primarily had HP BladeSystem for his compute infrastructure, we figured that it made sense to implement HP Power Regulator dynamic power mode on his blades via the iLO 3 cards.

Essentially, this mode automatically varies the processor frequency based on actual utilization -- if utilization is low, it slows down the processor frequency; if it is high, it increases the processor frequency -- all automatically and without intervention. Details about how to set this mode are in the iLO 3 Users Guide on page 88. You basically set the new power setting mode (which may require a reboot) and it automatically manages it, reducing your power consumption.

You would likely start implementing this on your test and development systems. These systems are not mission critical, and even if they are virtualized, often have long stretches of idle time. Reducing the processor frequency, something that many of experience regularly, but rarely notice on our laptops, can make a significant difference in the actual power consumption, resulting in savings. If it works well in your environment, you can start implementing it in your production environment as well.

Of course, that customer had HP BladeSystem with x86 blades. If you are running HP Integrity servers with HP-UX 11i v3, you would use the Green Active Processors feature and the pstatectl command -- and HP Integrity servers with HP-UX 11i v3 don’t require a reboot.

Naturally, with HP Insight Control power management software and HP Data Center Smart Grid, you can do more advanced power management. However, these commands will quickly and easily get you on the road to power savings.

03:28 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 13, 2011

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."

Serving IT needs since 1977, MB Foster has been in the market since two of the newly-supported databases were flagship enterprise products for companies of the same name. During the 1980s and '90s, Ingres and Sybase were among the Big Five of database solutions for large corporations, along with Oracle, DB2 and Informix. TurboIMAGE, while never being offered for sale on its own, was so entrenched in 3000 sites that it took Oracle more than a decade to offer an alternative to the database bundled with MPE.

Ingres has become a commercially-supported open source product, backed by the Ingres Corp., which had been owned by ASK and Computer Associates. The database went open-source in 2006. It also spawned PostgreSQL, evolved from the Ingres project at the University of California. PostgreSQL is the most popular alternative to the MySQL database.

Sybase, which has not released its product in an open-source version, was acquired by SAP in 2010. The deal closed after current HP CEO Leo Apotheker had left SAP.

Cache, sold by InterSystems, is popular in healthcare organizations which have created their own applications. InterSystems bills the product as the fastest object-oriented database. A free download of the database for evaluation -- a feature also offered by Eloquence for its database -- is available at the InterSystems site. In addition to supporting Windows and Linux, Cache is supported on the Mac's OS X version of Unix. Eloquence is supported under Windows, Linux and HP-UX.

Eloquence, which has also been supported UDA Central, has a Personal Edition license option for download that is a "fully-functional version of the Eloquence product with a permanent license at no cost for non-commercial usage." The Personal Edition is restricted to a maximum of two concurrent users and a database size of 50 MB.

MySQL has become a property of Oracle, as a result of that company's purchase of Sun which closed in 2010. The database drives many of the world's top websites, and while it continues to be free to implement in a Community version, Oracle recently made support contracts a required part of the user license.

Both Ingres 10 and MySQLCommunity Server can be downloaded for free use under standard open source GPL licensing. MySQL is also offered in a commercial Enterprise Edition by Oracle, with a 30-day evaluation download. Ingres is supported for Windows and Linux, as is MySQL.




01:54 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 12, 2011

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.

Some programming ideas came from Denys Beauchemin, among others, the engineer who developed at HiComp for the HiBack 3000 solution. "For the next tape to be brought online automatically, I seem to remember there had to be a special setting with the dip switches."

As for being able to control the robot itself, you definitely need to have the [HP] SCSI pass-through driver configured and loaded, and then you need a program to actually issue the IOCTL calls to the robot with the properly formatted SCSI commands. There was such a program a long time ago from a vendor, but that's all gone now.

The pass-though driver is still available from HP for the strong hearted, a piece of coding designed to give 3000 sites control of SCSI devices HP didn't engineer or test for the server. Perhaps the high-test flutes and heavy octane horns of Powerhouse -- used in Duck Rogers and the 24th and a Half Century -- can be put up on the MP3 player while fitting the driver to MPE. ("Oh drat these computers -- they're so naughty and so complex," says Marvin the Martian in one installment. "I could just pinch them.")

Jack Connor of Abtech -- another OpenMPE volunteer -- pointed to similar complex answers about controlling DDS changers.

Typically, there's a second SCSI port/address assigned for the transport control which allows the selection of specific tape. For MPE, stacker mode is typically selected, which tells the drive to just mount the next tape in line when requested. I don't know if the DDS autoloaders have a network connection available like the C7145NA DLT autoloaders do; with that device's web interface you can reload any tape, bypass a bad tape, and so on.

Pitman checked in to report that a much simpler solution to his changer's control needs popped up. "On re-examining my code for HPDEVCONTROL, I found I had catered for 1- and 2-digit device numbers in the string passed, but I had configured the drive as dev 777. This produced a string dev number of 77, which doesn't exist as a tape drive. Once I fixed this, it works like a treat."

While that solves the control needs of HP autochangers at Ryco, the exercise also leaves the devices and the pass-through software with a classic piece of music by jazz master Raymond Scott as a theme song. It takes a community of 50-ish experts in an enterprise computer classic to connect long-ago-written, or long-gone, software with a tune that Warner Brothers' Carl Stalling used in a dozen 1950s cartoons.

07:00 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2011

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.

Some HP 3000 sites which have not yet migrated, but plan to do so sometime in the future, hold out for existing IT solutions running in their companies. "We have no formal plan, but many options," said one 3000 manager at a recent MB Foster webinar. "We're more than likely switching to another internally-developed application platform," she reported.

That particular 3000 manager's quest, until the migration, is to find the best way to store the data from the 3000 for transfer to an Oracle database, a data platform usually hosted on HP's Unix servers by Hewlett-Packard customers. The security of the new platform, in a case such as that one, can be left in charge of the Unix admins who've been protecting the Integrity servers up to now.

Of course, if your IT shop is small enough that you or your staff will be coming up to speed with Unix security admin skills, that's another set of lessons. You can review the HP-UX security bulletins which the Software Assistant will analyze by visiting HP's archive of HP-UX security bulletins. The good news is that HP only issued 28 such Security Bulletins during 2010 for its enterprise alternative to the 3000's MPE/iX.

HP's stopped tracking security breaches for the 3000, by the appearance of the MPE/iX Security Alert Archive. Only one was issued for all of 2009, a January DNS breach that HP wouldn't fix (the lab was closed by that time. "The resolution is to discontinue the use of BIND/iX and migrate DNS services to another platform," HP said.

Of course, the MPE/iX security bulletins listed don't expose any 7.0 or 7.5 releases. That's the double-edged sword of working with non-standard file system implementations of stock tools such as Samba, sendmail and Apache. They're out of date, but the don't need to be patched for security.


05:17 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2011

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.

Connor, who supports HP servers at Abtech and serves on the OpenMPE board of directors (along with Orbit's Keith Wadsworth), found the hardware solution provided security to beat any SFTP transfer option.

I tested an encryption box that sits between the DLT and IO card a year or so ago and it worked like a champ. It maintained streaming mode and all. However, I believe it was in the $2,000-$3,000 range — and to be useful for a DR world, it would require two, so I haven't pursued actually recommending it.

3000 customers are using their systems in e-commerce applications today, even though some in the community say the credit card processors' PCI DSS security rules might block such use. But the Q3 webpage lists PCI specifically as a security standard served by this standalone box.

10ZiG's Q3 storage encryption solution assists in your compliance with the PCI Standard by protecting your customer's data with encryption. The Q3 storage security appliance encrypts data at rest without effecting your current backup procedures. Installation is quick and key management is strong yet simple.

One of the testamonials on the Q3 webpage comes from the Series i IBM community, a group of servers whose OS is just as unique and specialized as MPE/iX.

06:19 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2011

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.

Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group reports that the firm has LTO-2 and LTO-3 modules running on several N-Class servers the company supports. Dan Cossey of Client Systems takes note of HP's official communicator article regarding LTO support.

MPE/iX support of Ultrium 215 and 230 devices is limited to parallel LVD-SCSI connections only. Thus, these devices may only be connected to HP e3000 A-Class and N-Class systems running MPE/iX 7.0 or 7.5 Release. In addition, patch MPEMXJ3, version "A" for MPE/iX 7.0 or version "B" for MPE/iX 7.5, must be installed for the device to be supported. Finally, on 7.0 only, patch MPEMX74 "A" should also be installed.

Ultrium devices will only be supported for access/usage by certified third party supplied back-up products; certified products are currently limited to: BACKUP+/iX (ORBiT Software) and HiBackR (Mount10 Group).

The program devtool.pub.sys and the command file devctrl.mpexl.telesup may be used to load/unload media, but it will NOT support turning compression on/off for Ultrium. HP Ultrium incorporates "intelligent" compression that prevents attempts to compress data that is already compressed, so there is no need to explicitly turn device level (hardware) compression on or off.

We have a brand new VA7410 disk array. Is the CommandView SDM really necessary? I know it won't run on MPE, so I have to have a Unix or Windows host with an FC card to run it. But I also know the VA arrays have a serial port for command access. Can I do everything I need to do through the array's built-in command line? What can only be done via SDM?

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro Consultants replies:

You do want SDM running on something, because you need to be able to get to the array's log file and I don't think you can do that through the serial port. SDM will tell you (via logging) if your array is healthy or not -- probably something you really, really want to know.

But Craig Lalley demurs:

You can do most everything you need to do through the command port.  However, you cannot update the firmware, or monitor the array. If the firmware is correct, you can semi-monitor the VA through the serial port.

Jack Connor of Abtech adds:

You need either the HP-UX or Windows version of Command View to manage and diagnose the VA. You can configure it somewhat from the serial port in the back, but if there are log entries, such as a controller going bad or other issues, you’re going to have problems identifying them. Also, disc and controller firmware updates require CommandView.

While it will run on a WinTel platform, in my experience the fiber cards for a PC are (or at least were) cost-prohibitive compared to something like a J6700 workstation. 

07:57 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 06, 2011

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.

So while the cloud PCs are on the horizon, other parts of the 3000 ecosystem at Sparks have been replaced, although Davidek is not enthusiastic about how robust some of the Windows the replacements work.

Windows scheduling, for example, is one case of "it being odd to find replacements for things on the 3000," Davidek reports. "When you go towards a Windows environment, a lot of what you used on a 3000 is just part of Windows. But scheduling is really a pain. Nothing like the old SLEEPER jobs of the Contributed Software Library."

Windows scheduling is "not as pleasant as it could be" in its native functionality, Davidek admits. (MB Foster released a Windows-based enterprise scheduler in 2010 that's built to include all of the functionality of MPE/iX.) Reporting based on 3000 tools has been replaced by Crystal Reports at the city, Davidek added.

04:23 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2011

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.)

Migrations are the topic of two different looks at Transition Era activities. Data Migration challenges get the attention of the MB Foster staff on March 2, when the company covers one-time migrations -- including a live demonstration of a copy between an HP 3000 IMAGE database to a SQL Server database.

Best Practices will be examined in a March 30 migration webinar. MB Foster says it's been working with clients from all sectors of the business world for more than a decade in migrations. The broadcast will break down the process into manageable steps.

The new Identity Management and Scheduler products, designed for non-3000 platforms, available from the company are topics of Feb. 23 and March 16 webinars, while the established 3000 Application Support services are detailed on February 2. All of the the webinars are free, and registration takes place through the MB Foster website; click on the webinar title links on the main webinar page to register.


02:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 04, 2011

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.

"Grain [system management] would be fine," he said. "I have experience with North American Chemical that might be relevant, multimodal commodity shipping and inventory stuff. The Andersons appears to be a quality company. They have a good reputation with people I have talked to so far. Locals love their retail store in Toledo."

At Weltman, Weinberg, and Reis, Darnell supports the collections system on the 3000, including EDI. "They have a couple of youngsters handling the conversion to Win/Tel," he said. "They're moving their 3000 and the new Microsoft "data warehouse" interface to a canned package on the HP-UX.

In the Cleveland area for the healthcare operations of Qualchoice, Darnell said, "Qualchoice was closing up when we were re-badged to WellPoint/Anthem. I stayed with Qualchoice after the doors closed (under University Hospitals) as a part time contractor through 2008."

Some 3000s have gone dark as a result of mergers and acquisitions, an event that's been commonplace for more than 15 years in the IT business. In other places, the system is being taken down by a desire to move to a packaged application. But large firms relying on the 3000 still need expertise to sustain their operations -- even if only for a few more years, as in the case of The Andersons.


04:58 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 03, 2011

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.

"We did have significant support interest expressed by several good members of the HP 3000 community to step in when HP abandoned us," Bell said, "three of which I would consider 'strong possibilities'."



07:12 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)