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May 31, 2011

HP 3000 to get its Night at the Museum

By Alan Yeo

YeoDinner Stealing a headline from the title of Shawn Levy's movie is as good a way as any to start. Not that I'm suggesting that members of the HP 3000 Community are now dinosaurs or historic figures reduced to walking the byways of the Internet after dark. However, it is true that within this community there are many members whose computing careers date back to that pre-dawn era before the PC came to dominate the earth. You are part of the history of the development of mainstream commercial computing.

So if any venue is appropriate for a reunion for those who have worked with the HP 3000, the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley has to be it. For genuinely, we have seen and experienced computer history being made over the last four decades.
Now is the time for all good men
to come to the aid of having a party

I will only slightly paraphrase the sentence invented by Charles E. Weller to develop typing skills on the QWERTY keyboard. (A device that probably everyone reading this has used as the main tool of their working lives, although some of us remember hand punching 80-column cards before that.) Hopefully, this has also caught the attention of a few people for whom the initial headline was a bit dry.

But a “Reunion Party” is really what this is all about. On Sept. 24, a chance to meet again (or perhaps for the first time) those people from the HP 3000 community that we have worked with, met at conferences, used their software and/or hardware, perhaps have exchanged support emails with, or perhaps have only been familiar names on technical newsgroups. This is a group of people that coalesced around the HP 3000 and became a world-wide family and community.

But Weller's quote above also has real meaning, in that it's what is required if we are to make this happen. Since the death of the HP 3000 (whoops, bet that offended a few, but let's get real; we did have the “Wake” back in 2003) former community members are now rapidly dispersing into different careers, retiring, or unfortunately in a few cases no longer with us. There is no longer an HP that is interested in our part of its history, or a vendor or user group to organize an event,

There is only a virtual community of companies and individuals, held together by a common interest and history. So it's up to all of us to make something happen if we want it to, and it's probably better that way - as it makes it a community event.

Why, What, Where and When

Since the demise of Interex on the eve of HP World in 2005, we have managed to put together a few HP 3000 community events, in 2005, 2007 and 2009. So working on a biannual cycle, 2011 looks timely. What's more, 2011 also sees the passing of a few other milestones in the history of the HP 3000 -- much like the end of sales of the HP 3000 in 2003 gave us the impetus to get together for the “World Wide Wake.” 2011 marks 10 years after HP announced they were killing the platform. It is also the first year after all support from HP for the 3000 and MPE officially ceased.

It's fair to say that from 2011 onward the community is on its own -- and it may be the last significant time when there is a reason and the ability to get as many people together as possible for one last bash. Our plan is that we will organize a late afternoon and evening reunion event at the Computer History Museum on Saturday, Sept. 24. Other training sessions begin Sept. 22.

We will organize food and beverages and hopefully an interesting talking head/living legend or two. And that hopefully, you provide your attendance to make it a great event.

So let's go out with a bang, not a whimper.

The idea for organizing a get-together event has been circulating for a while, but these things usually require a catalyst to make them happen or at least to start the ball rolling. The consensus was that if it was going to be done, it should be an event to celebrate the history of the HP 3000 -- something that as many people with links to HP 3000 as possible would want to attend to renew acquaintances. Hence the idea that the Computer History Museum would be a great venue.

(More on the HP 3000 Reunion tomorrow. Visit hp3000reunion.com for ongoing details.)

Alan Yeo is the organizer of the 2003 World Wide Wake for the HP 3000, plus three subsequent Community Meets, as well as the founder of ScreenJet.

08:32 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2011

HP resale aid won't drive emulator launch

Third of three parts on the Zelus HP 3000 emulator; part 1 and part 2 appear on prior days.

Although some of the Stromasys emulators are resold by HP, Hewlett-Packard has no plans to resell the HP 3000 Zelus emulator. This isn't the Digital marketplace, where Stromasys leveraged its roots with Digital executives, keying on Stromasys' origins as the European Digital migration lab. Instead, the company is going to establish an HP 3000 customer base itself, selling to one site at a time.

Stromasys' CTO Dr. Robert Boers explained that creating a customer-specific emulator which replicates one HP 3000 installation is the first phase of the project. Going beyond that, to an emulator that could be resold by independent vendors in the 3000 community, is a phase that Stromasys is studying.

“Building one which is hit with every kind of customer environment requires a lot more debugging,” Boers said. “We have to add additional peripherals. What we’ve done with VAX and Alpha has been to work with one big customer for a year and a half, until they really got what they wanted. When that emulator got really good, then we productized it and put it on the market.” The Stromasys emulator for Alpha entered this general product phase in 2005. HP stopped new system sales of AlphaServers in 2007, and the vendor still supports the last generation of those Alphas through 2012.

In contrast, an HP 3000 emulator only got crucial HP aid in development in 2009, six years after Hewlett-Packard stopped selling HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard has been through many changes since the Stromasys bonds were forged with a DEC group that didn't start in HP, but ended up there through acquisitions.

Unlike its HP 3000 activities, the OpenVMS work of Stromasys benefits from a closer HP relationship. The company sprang up as SRI, formed from Digital engineers who operated the European R&D Center in the late '90s — the time when Compaq owned DEC. That was the fast path for an emulator. HP delayed the HP 3000 emulator process, by all vendors' accounts, for years while it tried to decide if it would cooperate with emulator development projects. HP announced MPE/iX licenses for 3000 emulators, but wanted no part in sharing key internal documents.

Several vendors believed they could create a 3000 emulator with little help from HP. One plan even surfaced to use PA-RISC chips bought on the open market and integrated into a hardware card, all to be plugged into Intel PCs. Buying these chips would turn an emulator project into task to integrate PA-RISC with Intel's hardware.

Strobe Data, which was founded on a similar market relationship with the HP 1000 group at HP, predicted that the lifespan for a 3000 emulator was much longer than customers might believe. Emulator products, said Willard West at Strobe, sell long after hardware becomes unavailable — at least in the DEC and HP 1000 markets.

Stromasys appears to be the last vendor standing in a group of three expressing interest and intent in emulating HP 3000s back in 2002. Decisions on Zelus general release plans are being made outside of Boers’ tech group.

“We’ll certainly provide [Zelus] to a couple of customers for whom we’re building it,” he said. “But they’re making a financial contribution. For some reasons, they absolutely needed it yesterday. I can’t imagine there are more companies like that. Maybe we could accept one or two more biggies like those.”

Given the company’s history building and selling VAX and Alpha emulators, in creating a PA-RISC emulator for MPE/iX “we certainly got the worst part,” Boers said. “Once you run the operating system you can run better diagnostics. You can write your own programs, and start to flesh out things. We got some help from HP. But as one of our guys said, you can’t reproduce documentation that doesn’t exist anymore.”

On the other hand, the aspect which has made the 3000 a superior investment in sustaining in-house systems — backward capability to run old programs on more recent serves and nwere versios of the OS — is what’s made Zelus so tough to build.

“If you wrote a program 30 years ago for MPE, you can still run it on the current version,” Boers said. “There are few operating systems who can claim that. Even something that ran on VMS 4, can’t run on the current version.”

Making a market for an emulator

08:32 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 26, 2011

Making a Market for a 3000 Emulator

ZelusBook-e3000-2The boot process for the Zelus HP 3000 emulator takes about four minutes in the present version (screenshot at left; click for detailed view). But the time to market for the product has extended much longer than predicted. "We'll take ourselves another year," said Stromasys CTO Dr. Robert Boers, citing the complexity and limited documentation of the 3000's system internals. HP gave Stromasys the technical access required to build Zelus, but working through the details was harder than expected.

The extra time will carry into field testing, too. The software company with operations in both Europe and the US has plans to work with 3000 customers to polish the details of Zelus. What's uncertain is whether Zelus will have a life as anything but a custom-order product, a kind of bespoke emulator.

"We have a number of large and small companies, who don't want to be named, who will work with us on building the first versions just for them," Boers said. "We haven't made a decision yet on making it commercially available as a general product. We'll make that decision by the beginning of next year."

Boers described the market for 3000 emulators as a small one, which may have an impact on the cost of Zelus. But some customers who face roadblocks on performance using HP's 3000 hardware — and need to homestead to preserve in-house applications — could find even a six-figure product to be less costly than migration.

Zelus began its life as software that could boot a virtual PA-RISC server running Linux in November, 2009. The product's engineers moved on to the task of getting MPE/iX booted and running on the emulator. Boers shifted his role from CEO to CTO around that same time.

The initial schedule from Stromasys had the company arranging test partners — software vendors and customers — through the end of 2010, then testing a prototype through mid-2011, followed by a release sometime after July. Debugging this emulator for use under MPE/iX has extended that plan.

Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

08:35 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2011

3000 emulator boots MPE/iX on PC hardware


Stromasys offered screen shots of the PA-RISC emulator for MPE/iX as evidence that the software can serve as a virtual platform for the 3000’s OS. The screen above shows the beginning of the boot sequence (click for detailed view). HP provided internals documentation to assist in the design.

A product journey toward a 3000 hardware emulator took another significant step this spring, as the Zelus cross-platform software booted MPE/iX on an Intel server.

CTO Dr. Robert Boers of Stromasys reported that the OS has come up on a version of the emulator that will managed, eventually, by Linux. Although the test screens that Boers sent were hosted by Windows, the "fairly preliminary version" will be released on an open source OS. "Windows is a little passé," Boers said. "But we now have a first prototype."

Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

The accomplishment means that Zelus can do enough to create an MPE/iX image in memory and log to the files. For MPE that was complex, Boers said, while examining and transferring bits and pieces of 32-bit and 64-bit code. Linking to the Processor Dependent Code (PDC) calls that check for 3000 hardware held the project up. One decimal in a table — which turned out to be 666 — "kept us from booting for three months," Boers said. "It's an infamous number that turned out to be a coincidence when we found it."

The pilot milestone comes about one quarter later than the company estimated last year. Pilot versions of the emulator were scheduled to be in beta test by now, with a full release available by mid-year. Boers said the complexity and construction of HP's MPE boot code taxed the tech skills of a company which has built thriving DEC Alpha and VAX and hardware emulators.

"It was a tough one to write," he said of the 3000 effort that began in earnest last year but reaches through HP's licensing delays back to 2004. "It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator."

Hewlett-Packard said in the 1990s that MPE/iX was going to get its full 64-bit version when HP revised it for the Itanium processors. When the vendor cancelled its product futures, the OS remained in emulation mode.

Zelus product delivery to a limited number of sites will take some time, "because it's been such a long project and it's a matter of pride. This has been just a proof of concept. We started trying to build a 918, but then we decided to build something really good, so it now is [software that emulates] an A400."

Making a market for an emulator

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

07:24 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 24, 2011

Respect stands tall in champions' season

Disaster-Proof HP once blew up a computer with very high grade explosives, proudly. That Superdome was vaporized, probably. But the happy ending in that film was that an instant cutover of the system preserved all data. Not crowing over a computer as junk, to be sunk as a reef. HP also once wrecked a 3000 while it shot a video. George Stachnik, pitchman of the division, pushed that 3000 off a roof, and there was a happy ending there, too — they booted up the machine they’d tossed off a two-story office building.

CannonShot But the latest disrespect to the 3000 -- a schoolboy display of firearms online at YouTube -- feels like those years when our Spurs were winning their four basketball championships by playing defense, not being flashy. Preventing scoring was boring. But those four trophies and four banners now gleam and fly in their arena. Boring gets the job done. And as basketball fans have noticed over the last few weeks, scoring drops off during the NBA’s May. Like the 3000’s legendary defense against abuses of flood and fires, the absence of bad times is what we honor. Preventing calamity makes room for prosperity.

I guess if you’ve managed or consulted on one of these 3000s, you’d recall times when even a semi-automatic wouldn’t be enough. This spring I re-gifted a gag called a Tech Sledge, boxed up as a "data processing and technology tool." Just a two-pound wood mallet from the '80s. A gift I had never used, but it enjoyed a featured spot in my old Chronicle editor’s office. My friend Steve, who’s done IT since the ’80s, understood the sentiment in the gift. These days we both consider ourselves part of the old guard. You might, too. For some it's an honor, for others, an epithet.

It’s okay to admit your ardor about old guards. Steve Kerr literally is an old guard, even was, during his title days. When he says on a TV broadcast "we might be seeing a passing," he’s not talking about a basketball’s flight. He’s talking about the end of an era. It’s the kind of talk our community hears more often. And yet, there’s always next year for teams. Even hope this year, for some of them on the ropes. As one Laker loss after another stunned sportswriters this year, few scribes would write off LA until the end was more than near — it had to arrive, looking thuggish.

Thugs riddled that 3000 with bullets, shooting up a server no older than others which are still standing watch. The end arrives for every computer’s fans. Even as the short-sighted anticipate it, it's often delayed. Intuit retired its HP 3000s several years ago. This year it bought another company to expand the Quicken empire. Guess which old-guard server was supporting that newest part of Intuit? So another migration is underway, extensive work on a system nobody had in its gunsights.

While I watched the grisly fire foisted on that machine, I felt my 26 years of devotion to a marginalized, underestimated and now-dismissed ideal. Not a moment of those years ever felt wasted, though, not in the company of veterans who marched in the old guard. Your old guard is a playing unit that never needed an automatic weapon to make a point. As champs know better than chumps, making points is what you want to prevent -- if you want to exit the court carrying the honor and respect reserved for the greats in your game.

09:01 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2011

Ugly shots off target in season of old guard

3000 NewsWire Editorial

We’re watching a passing of the guard this month. May means basketball at my house, hours and hours of it during this month filled with the NBA playoffs. This year’s play includes classic characters: The LA Lakers, the Boston Celtics, and our beloved San Antonio Spurs. Each of these teams are fading, some faster than others. All are now eliminated from this year's championship quest. They’re being pushed aside by newer teams. It’s a lot like computer technology.

But nobody’s standing these still-young men up and shooting them with tommy-guns. That fate has been dished onto a hapless HP 3000 this month.

It takes five minutes to watch its demise, but a sad cavalcade of clips up on YouTube that are filmed in a cornfield look like disrespect, mistaken for humor. The firing squad treatment includes an array of weaponry best suited for a Yosemite Sam cartoon.

In the video, a cannon is misused, misses the mark and must be wheeled closer. These shooting buffoons act out a fantasy in the video: the final chapter of what they have titled “an HP 3000 mainframe computer.”   

That’s like calling the Spurs “basket-shooting athletes.” Inept as a tourist trying to lead a tour, the Brave Citizen Soldiers in that video perform some kind of work so they can stock their gun cabinets and ammo boxes. The work can’t be knowing a 3000. One of its points of pride is as the computer that ensured you didn’t need a mainframe.

People rush to dismiss things they don’t know. You take a dismissal seriously if it comes from a veteran, one steeped in the era. Steve Kerr now broadcasts his opinions on TV after playing as one of the old-guard players on the Spurs. When he suggests the NBA guard is changing, I look up and see how old Shaq looks. How slow Kobe has grown. How little lift our hero Tim Duncan can summon from his jumps around a May basketball rim. These guys have lifted millions of hearts in many dozens of playoff games.

The dirty little video wants to help push the 3000 onto the floor, just like the sportswriters and TV clowns want to hasten that guard-changing. Funny thing, though — and you might have seen this too — some of these legends of the game, on the court or in IT shops, have become a tough out to notch on the scorebook.

But we shouldn’t weep over that juvenile defilement of the HP 3000, right? That box taking the bullets is just a collection of hardware and plastic, I was told by one community vet, who should know better. He does know better, and maybe he loved the work he accomplished while a 3000 was on this watch. The utter debasing of a machine isn’t supposed to provoke emotion. It did for me, though, as unexpected as any cheer leaping from a heart in a playoff game.

We’re all about basketball here, Abby and I. It’s part of our glue together. We’re more than fans. We respect the game, even when our fellas lose. So even while our favorites fade, whether they’re teams or systems, we can stay interested in what’s still remaining to play. That’s called loving the game. If you can't respect what others remain devoted to -- well, someday it may be your career facing cheap shots, the kind that the old guard doesn't take.

08:43 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 20, 2011

Dismissal clears OpenMPE lawsuit's hurdles

A ruling from the 407th District Court of Bexar County, Texas has dismissed the claims against OpenMPE in a lawsuit filed by its former treasurer.

Chairman Jack Connor forwarded a document signed by the judge in the matter which granted a summary judgement to dismiss all claims in the lawsuit filed in November, 2010 by Matthew Perdue. Connor said that the board of directors of the group -- still on the hunt for $50,000 in contributions -- has decided "it does not feel it is prudent to comment further than provide what is available as a matter of public record."

Perdue, who filed his own suit and represented himself at an April 19 hearing, was given an extra three weeks to amend his lawsuit "to asset a cognizable cause of action" against the defendants. The extra time did not impress the judge, by a reading of last week's ruling.

"Plaintiff's First Amended Petition is sticken and dismissed in its entirety," the judge ruled, "because Plaintiff failed to assert a cognizable cause of action in [his] petition."

A counterclaim, Cause Number 2010-CI-19607, against Perdue filed by the OpenMPE board and its vice-chairman Keith Wadsworth, remains pending, "and none of the above orders dispose of [those] defendants' counterclaim."

06:16 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 19, 2011

3000 vet fancies fresher software staff spot

Connie Sellitto has made a move out of a long-time shop using a 3000 box, not long before the system becomes litter at the US Cat Fanciers Association.

Sellitto Sellitto, who's helped the community with advice online and served as an OpenMPE volunteer, had told us for years that the CFA would be a homestead shop for the foreseeable future, running an A-Class server and with no need to change platforms away from its in-house software. Then a new board of directors at the CFA came a-calling, and change swept in on the wings of new management.

It's not the technical failures of the 3000 that trigger this kind of migration. New management wants to shake off old gear, and the HP 3000 can easily fall into the gunsights of the short sighted. Sellitto asked for help this spring on mapping a "wireframe" of 3000 databases for a new migration team -- an effort led by a company that creates websites. "It will be interesting to see how this develops," Sellitto told us six weeks ago.

What developed was a fresh spot to take her 3000 skills and outreach. Hillary Software, "just a mile and half from where I live," embraced Sellitto as part of its staff. Hillary is a company vested in HP 3000 companies with its byRequest software, but also has an eye on migrations for companies in years to come. From Sellitto's report as she exited 23 years of CFA experience, years to come might be what's required for her prior employer to move off the A-Class.

"CFA is migrating off the reliable 3000 to a Windows server," she said. "An outside consulting firm is rewriting all 350-plus programs and converting 20-plus databases in six months," she said. "Right. All I can say is good luck with that, and "He who laughs last, laughs best."

Sellitto counseled the organization on keeping a steady course on a server that was in no danger of failure. Seeing her advice bypassed, she moved on to Hillary and byRequest.

I am managing Tech Support and learning byRequest, our flagship product. Having a background in the HP 3000 has been a plus, as we support several customers on that platform. We support most hosts, including all flavors of Windows, so I believe we're well-positioned to move forward. Lots to learn, new challenges, a great suite of products and wonderful people.

10:47 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2011

HP's quarter reports stalled growth

Hewlett-Packard announced its second quarter results this week, numbers that one business news source said were sparked by a leaked internal memo about inevitable layoffs and cost controls.

Channel News reported that "CEO Leo Apotheker issued a gloomy secret memo warning executives that tough times are ahead," and "a Q2 financial report was rushed out following the leaking of Apotheker's memo." HP quarterly report dates, attended by dozens of stock analysts plus the public via WebEx meets, are usually planned many months in advance.

HP Q2 ESSN report (Click graphic above for details.)

The HP Q2 numbers were respectable and even beat market analyst forecasts by a few cents per share. But HP trimmed back its 2011 forecast for total revenues by $1 billion, a reduction of less than 1 percent of its previous forecast. Sales from the Business Critical Servers divison, where HP-UX Integrity servers are built and sold, were virtually flat at a 1 percent increase. The HP-UX and Integrity sales now make up the smallest share, at 10 percent, of the ESSN operations. ProLiant business powered by Linux and Windows makes up 61 percent of the quarter's revenues.

However, with a 1 percent increase, Q2 marks the second straight quarter where these replacement systems for the HP 3000 have posted no decline in sales. Operating profits for the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit, which includes the HP-UX alternatives of Windows and Linux servers, increased by about 1.5 percent of operating revenue.

But the memo cited by Channel News said that Apotheker has forecast hard times ahead for a company so large that it employs more than 300,000 and will sell about $130 billion in its fiscal year.

Apotheker told top executives that he's bracing for "another tough quarter" in the July period and urged his deputies to 'watch every penny and minimise all hiring." The memo indicated that the company is continuing to come under pressure and that job cuts are now inevitable. Apotheker said the company's existing headcount plans are "unaffordable, given the pressures on our business."

"Q3 is going to be another tough quarter, one in which we will be driving hard for revenue and profit," Channel News reported that he wrote. "We have absolutely no room for profitless revenue or any discretionary expenditures."

The markets sold down HP shares in the first trading day after the report. But a look at who owns most of HP reveals an overwhelming amount of Hewlett-Packard is owned by institutional investors, according to a CNBC graphic.

Top HP Shareholders

(Click for more detailed view.)

This ownership breakout of HP shares isn't a new development, but it shows that large voting blocks control the reactions to the HP forecasts and reports. In the day after the report, investors sold down the stock by about 10 percent, ending at $36.50. The stock has not rebounded since Apothker's team took over, following former CEO Mark Hurd's ouster.

 HP noted that its enterprise businesses, rather than consumer PCs and services units, lifted the company's recent quarter.

"Continued strength in commercial businesses resulted in commercial revenue increasing 8 percent year over year, with Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking revenue up 15 percent, Software revenue up 17percent, and commercial PC Clients and Printers revenue up 13 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Total revenues for HP in the latest quarter were $31.6 billion, up just 1 percent over Q2 of 2010 when adjusted for affects of currency changes. The company grew its profits by 14 percent over the prior year's quarter, beating analyst estimates by a penny per share.

10:40 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2011

Responsibility paces 3000 migration costs

Swapping software tool costs for services engagements is one way to reduce the expense of a migration. When a company can use tools and do a migration themselves, taking responsibility for the accuracy of migrated code cuts costs.

Speedware believes that a company that takes full responsibility for the caliber of its migrated apps can save most of the cost of a fully-outsourced migration. In that latter model, Speedware's Chris Koppe said the company will do everything, “compared to the do it yourself approach, where you can save 90 percent of those costs.” An offer to the first 50 companies which contact the company to purchase the AMXW software suite will include those outsourced services, rewarding the early DIY companies with the added value of consulting.

Other vendors’ migration suites have fallen out of market consideration. Koppe pointed to Ed/Win from Ordina-Denkart, Legacy Liberator from Transoft and Unicon’s conversion tools as becoming footnotes in a search for 3000 DIY tools. While Unicon never sold its suite as a customer-only solution – it used its internal tools to convert COBOL — the other vendors combined software sales with training, the same combo Speedware will offer to the 50 companies.

But AMXW “was the market-leading tool, and that’s why we bought it,” Koppe said. “We’ve helped over 100 customers in the market get off the 3000, and through the course of our practice we’ve retired 730 HP 3000s. Every customer is successful, happy and can be referenced. The number of boxes we’ve retired using this is the true proof that this really works.”

AMXW is not a collection of scripts used in the back offices of Speedware for conversions, the company added. The suite was designed as a software product, notching early success at Expeditors International in 2003 when it helped retire 165 HP 3000s, and most recently at the Washington state college consortium, where an HP-UX replacement for 34 servers goes online this month.

COBOL is at the bull’s-eye of the target for AMXW. Speedware is the North American distributor for the commercial open source COBOL-IT, a COBOL replacement supported by AMXW that cuts the costs to switch away from COBOL II – which never had runtime fees.

Customers who respond to the offer will get a first consult to “put together the right timeline and scope,” Fisher said. “If they want to go beyond buying the product, we can put together whatever their training needs are, to help them get to their desired outcome. We definitely want to help customers if cost is a factor.”

Speedware will assist in moves from Powerhouse and other languages, “but AMXW is primarily for COBOL and JCL” applications.

10:07 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2011

3000 gains new function via migration work

Keven Miller of 3kRanger is doing migration work for a customer, but his labors have delivered a new function for the 3000 namespace of the HP 3000. HP added many useful functions for the server after the Posix introduction of the mid-1990s. But since some programs don't run from the Posix namespace, Miller needed to make a faithful replication of the putenv() for the 3000 namespace. putenv() changes or adds a value to an environment's variables.

You can download Miller's work for use on your 3000 at his website. "I found that the provided LIBC.LIB.SYS (MPE/iX 6.0) does not provide a  putenv()  function. So to whomever it may be useful, you can get one  under MPE Software, in the MPE issues in libc section. Now this can work in the MPE programming environment as well. Besides putenv(),  there are also a couple fixes for  sleep() and abort()." Miller explains further.

HP's Cathlene McRae noted that putenv() is a Posix function. In Posix, the environment is part of each process. In MPE, the environment is part of the job or session which allows all your processes access to the variables.

ANSI-C describes a getenv() function that retrieves environment variable values and is included in the MPE C library. It uses the HPCIGETVAR intrinsic to do so. However the putenv() function is not part of ANSI-C** and so I suppose that is one reason why it was left out.

A large part of migration projects I'm involved in is testing, to make sure the new environment works the same as on MPE. Therefore I attempt to make my code run on both environments. In this case, some built in runtime debugging code used putenv() which I happened to put back onto MPE for testing. I need to do this in the MPE environment, not Posix, since I'm working with MPE programs for migration.

So I put together a putenv() that uses the HPCIPUTVAR intrinsic; making a good match for the exiting getenv() function.

"The CI already provides SETVAR to set and change variables," Miller said "similar to the export command in Posix or other Unix-type shells. putenv() is a library function to give programs access to the environment variables." He cited the ANSI-C specification.
The definition of getenv is designed to accommodate both implementations that have all in-memory read-only environment strings and those that may have to read an environment string into a static buffer.  Hence the pointer returned by the getenv function points to a string not modifiable by the caller.  If an attempt is made to change this string, the behavior of future calls to getenv is undefined.

A corresponding putenv function was omitted from the Standard, since its utility outside a multi-process environment is questionable, and since its definition is properly the domain of an operating system standard


08:35 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2011

Webinar migrates practices into plans

RiskMitigation MB Foster has spent every other Wednesday teaching the principles of HP 3000 data management, best practices which customers are still using to structure their IT transitions. At a webinar this spring, one attendee said his company has been talking about migrating from the 3000 "ever since I've been here, 13 years," he said. "From our standpoint, the first decision that has to be made is, 'What platform?' "

That the kind of approach that flows from in-house apps, where doing a lift and shift onto another system means not purchasing a replacement software suite. Only 15 percent of customers are migrating code, while even fewer build a new system to replace what's on the 3000. MB Foster's Birket Foster said the decision to buy rather than build makes sense only to a company which has the resources needed to do the work.

"We look at whether customers should build, buy or migrate," Foster said, "and most of the time people buy. These days most folks don’t have the skill set to build. Only in a totally unique business will you get some competitive advantage from building the application. Otherwise, you should really consider buying something off the shelf."

Foster said that following a three-phased approach ensures the fewest risks. First you assess, then plan, then implement. Migration might not be the end of what you're going to do, he said in the 45-minute webinar. "It might be the first stage, to integrate better into the company's operations. While HP 3000 migrations have come into sharp focus during the last 10 years, MB Foster's got 25 years' experience migrating data. That data is the fuel that drives any migration.

Migrating data is a process that requires time. "Data migration is the fuel that drives applications," Foster said. "Without data, there's no point in having applications. We know that implementation of data in the new environment will take at least three tries. Always allow for extra time, because you will be waiting for data."

You'll be waiting for data, he adds, because "All applications have some bad data. You need extract, transform and load -- or extract, clean, transform and load tools in place. You need to do this early. When we get into these, we find people start looking to learn what their history policy ought to be."

One customer in the webinar said his company using MANMAN had narrowed the target applications to SAP and Oracle, but had also started to contemplate when to begin migrating work. Foster said the more important question to ask is when you want to be finished.

The customer said, "We've been hearing 'by the middle of next year,' but we've been hearing that from our senior management  for 13 years now." In that case, he added, "it means they should have started more than a year ago. But it's hard to commit when we don't know what we're moving to, or when."

Buying a replacement application means "you'll probably look at three to seven packages to find the correct application," Foster said. "You also have to understand any reengineering tasks involved. That's the hard part, the things that take users through a lot of pain, because they have to re-learn the way they do things. Plus with SAP, "Most of what you need to do is understand what the business re-engineering piece will be."

Building an assessment report identifies all the tasks to be completed, organized in order of magnitude. One choice that shouldn't consume much time is deciding which platform to migrate toward.

"It doesn't matter," Foster said. "The only thing that counts, to tell you the truth, is something that your team will be able to support for a 3-5-year period. They all perform about the same, they're all starting to cost about the same. The cost is much less than it used to be.  You'll probably spend between six and 24 months doing this process. Once you've got everything ready to go, you have to figure out how to do the cutover."

10 other systems surround the customer's MANMAN system, with the 3000 feeding data to all of them. There's plenty of chatter but no movement yet, a logjam that could be broken with an assessment. "You need to determine time, and the big thing people underestimate drastically is the amount of testing you need to do before you go live. Typically, people estimate about one-third of the time it really takes."

Migrating companies should not rely on doing their own work with existing staff. "You want to make sure the project is staffed properly: that you're not trying to take full time people and leave them on their job, plus make them do this migration as well," Foster said. "You can do that for a week or two, maybe, but it gets old after six months."

The bedrock best practice is knowing what's to be done through an assessment that leads to a plan. If you don't do the planning, "you'll end up with a stalled project," Foster said as he wrapped up the webinar. And even the best planning needs to have people with experience and a great project manager running it. Planning solves the problems with applications and making sure you've mapped all the functionality, the problems with mapping data, and makes sure you have the right skills on the other side of the migration when you need them."




08:01 AM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2011

Graceful shutdowns slip Sharky's memory

Not only is the HP 3000 being dismissed by some for its indie futures, the computer is shedding its legacy in some quarters. Up at the Computerworld website, a story about operating computers in the data processing days included a canard about 3000 recovery.

The system's ability to reboot safely and swiftly, with no data loss, is a bedrock benefit. The powerfail protection for IMAGE data slipped away from the memories shared with "Sharky," an anonymous columnist who's spread a fish tale about a server that he never knew. And apparently, neither did the anonymous "pilot fish" telling the tale about a time he was cleaning floors and minding a 3000.

Eventually comes the fateful day when there's a power outage. And not just any outage -- something has taken out both the power and phone lines... "Fish" turns off his flashlight and waits in the dark for the return call, listening to the UPS beeping, and waiting, and listening to the HP 3000 drive heads crash... The tech from corporate determines that the NT server has lost a drive and has to be replaced, and the HP 3000 is "going to need some work."

Clever story, but unless somebody took a hacksaw and hammer to that NT-era 3000's disc pack, the novice operator doesn't remember the 3000's recovery any better than he could coldstart the system. Powerfail recoveries have always been an HP 3000 advantage, even while communicating with UPS systems didn't arrive for years -- until HP launched its own PowerTrust line of UPS units.

"That is a nonsensical story," said Pete Crosby, a veteran of the Hewlett-Packard 3000 support center. "All of the 79xx series of discs used the rotational mass of the pack to operate the motor as a generator to complete IOs and pull the heads off the packs. Winchester drives would occasionally crash, but not as a "normal" result of an extended power outage."
If battery backup survived the outage, the system would come back like nothing ever happened. If not, then you would reboot and you might lose the last few transactions, but Transaction Manager would ensure physical integrity.

"Cute story," added consultant Craig Lalley, "but it sounds like the writer did not get far from his janitorial work. I do remember the noise some of the full height drives use to make, sort of a metal on metal sound. And the 7933s used to vibrate enough to walk across the room if not secured. As for shutting down the system without passwords... well with physical console access, it would not have been required."

Why does it matter? Because like full backward-compatible program operations, powerfail was something special about the HP 3000 when HP sold it against NT servers and Unix systems.

By the 5.0 release of MPE/iX -- which may have been running the 3000 described by Pilot Fish -- HP had wired UPS communication into the operating system.

The introduction of the UPS onto HP 3000 systems is an evolutionary step in providing system protection against utility power failures. In a minimal UPS-based system, the degree of power failure protection is equivalent to that of the traditional Battery Backup method systems. This means that the HP 3000 system simply pauses for up to fifteen minutes of AC power failure, then resumes normal operation from the point of interruption when the AC power is restored

By 1999, when NT had come and then gone passe in IT, while the 3000 remained at work, the Y2K weekend drew these plans onto our pages, from George Roth of Umpqua Community College:

We will perform our standard full nightly backup on Dec. 29th (the last standard working day of the year for our college) and wait and see. We will leave power on through an APC Matrix 3000 (3000VA) UPS. Security staff will page/call/cell phone of any power issues. We will check the system on Saturday. Our biggest worries are with lots of other equipment/systems, not the HP 3000. All network and HP 3000 staff are to be in town and available during this weekend.

As for the idea that the NT server would be in better shape than an HP 3000 after a power outage, it's too foolish to address. It's most likely that NT servers didn't house the corporate database back in the days of "brick-sized" portable phones.

The best news is that the database recovery ability remains alive and well in 3000s of today. After all, a stable system also freezes what's working in its design. And that's no joke. If it's comedy you're after, the relative location of a 3000 prompted a grin from Duane Percox of K-12 vendor QSS.

Reminds me of one of our long-ago customers (I think they were in Burlington, WI) who installed their HP 3000 in what was a working water closet.

This was not the primary bathroom, as there were other facilities, but they never did disable the toilet and you could sit and operate at the same time. And it gave graphic meaning to requests from the Response Center after a system crash :-)

05:03 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 11, 2011

MB Foster links up again with webinar today

One of the companies leading the market into tomorrow is doing its work with people, with software, and with a blend of both online. Later today, MB Foster is linking its expertise with users in the latest of its line of Wednesday lunchtime webinars.

Today's meeting at 11 AM Pacific (2PM Eastern) answers questions and introduces an upgrade program to get 3000 sites to use UDALink, the company's Universal Data Access flagship product. An MB Foster webinar always includes time to ask questions, but the company will offer answers to the most important query: "Where it came from and where it is today and where it is going."

UDALink is the most current generation of software that was hailed by the 3000 community when it was scratching its way to parity with HP's other enterprise servers. MB Foster provided ODBC capability for MPE/iX in the 1990s in a deal with Hewlett-Packard, putting ODBCLink/SE on every 3000 shipped. When you register for today's program, the company says, you can learn about how to transform that database link tool loaded on your 3000 into something that could keep that 3000 relevant.

Data stores on HP 3000s reach far back into many companies' business history. Connecting that data to other servers in an environment has more potential than empowering corporate decisions. The links can also elevate the stature of the 3000 in business enterprise planning. IT managers with a strong 3000 background can benefit personally from using these kinds of tools.

The UDALink software continues its climb from classic roots of DataExpress, built in the 1980s, to a tool that spreads 3000 data into the rest of an IT environment.

It supplies high performance data access and delivery services from server to website, to custom data stores and the desktops of your organization. UDALink makes it easy to get data from legacy HP 3000 application databases. UDALink’s heritage is from DataExpress, to which we added ODBC/JDBC, Powerhouse and TPI interfaces and an evolving group of functionality and datasources.

The software is more than an echo of 3000 accomplishments. Versions are also available for Linux and Unix servers, so if a company plans to move more than data around, it will find a tool waiting to take over the work on transition platforms.

02:14 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 10, 2011

Speedware celebrates with free migrations

Speedware is celebrating its first anniversary of employee ownership by giving something away, instead of receiving gifts. The software and services company is making an offer to the 3000 community to mark its first year of refreshed self-management: 50 companies will get free migration services when they purchase the AMXW migration tool suite. The company wants prospects to connect them via the email address [email protected].

The offer throws the spotlight on the software that Speedware reports has helped take more than 700 HP 3000s offline during the last eight years. AMXW, purchased in 2003, is a vital tool that has automated migration work for most of those years. The software speeds the migration of HP 3000s to Unix, Linux or Windows, remaining installed to manage the distinctions between 3000 specifics like job control and the software processes used on target systems.

Jennifer Fisher, the director of Speedware’s sales and marketing, says the services giveaway is targeted at the 3000 owner who’s been unable to assemble the manpower or budget to migrate away from MPE/iX. Fisher said Speedware has matured along with the 3000 customer, so it wants to help them move onward if that’s the company’s goal.

“This program is really about giving back to the community,” Fisher said. “Speedware has grown up with the 3000 community and we understand the challenges of the small to midsize customers that are left out there. We want to bring something to them to facilitate their start with conversions.”

Speedware believes the expertise to get a migration done isn’t easily found in the remaining 3000 shops. Speedware director Chris Koppe said migration “is a one-time skillset to do something like converting COBOL or converting databases. If someone wants to tackle this themselves, there’s a learning curve. This is a throwaway skill, and we have people at Speedware who do it all day. It will be so much faster to crunch it through and give these companies their converted results.”

Koppe added that because these migrations will be performed by Speedware, it can be as much as “five times more proficient than if the customers do it themselves.” However, the AMXW toolset is aimed at companies who can budget for tools and some training for themselves, but not full-on migration services. The proficiency in purchasing the tool comes from its continual enhancements, the company added. Koppe estimates that AMXW is getting three major updates per year, refining its features through contacts with migrating customers.

Giving away tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in migrations would have been more difficult under the Activant ownership that Speedware had until last spring, Koppe added. “They were very numbers-oriented,” he said. “There is a labor cost for us, because we’re giving away the services for free. “Ultimately it will come out of the software price. If you look at it as doing services for free, or getting software for less, in one way or another Speedware is eating that cost. We just think it’s the right thing to do for the remaining customers who are left.”

09:56 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 09, 2011

OpenMPE hearing: fresh note, or last verse

Tomorrow the OpenMPE volunteer group gets its second and perhaps ultimate day in court. On April 19 the group's lawyer appeared before a Bexar County district court judge to offer four motions against the lawsuit filed by former treasurer Matt Perdue. The judge has been patient in the matter, because Perdue represents himself in the suit he filed on Nov. 23.

But reports from those on the scene show that three of the four motions filed by OpenMPE to quash the suit were granted. Only the final motion, to dismiss the matter entirely, remains to be decided. The OpenMPE attorney and Perdue present to the judge late in the afternoon.

OpenMPE chairman Jack Connor has been removed from the suit, because he doesn't live and work in Texas. The lawsuit Perdue drew up doesn't give the matter jurisdiction over an individual outside the state. Perdue's arguments didn't persuade the judge, who gave him a few weeks longer to come up with reasons why the matter shouldn't be ousted -- just like Perdue was removed from the OpenMPE board last November, a few weeks before he sued the group.

Once the matter is settled, the road opens up for OpenMPE to do some good for the community the group has served since 2002. There are plans to provide liaison with HP over unresolved post-support processes. It's chair Connor will be offering software to cut down the wait time for Time & Materials calls when a CPU board goes bad -- and an HPSUSAN number must be altered.

Plus there's the offer of HP subsystem software for sale at 50 percent off HP's list price. The programs are resold via Client Systems, which is extending a discount to OpenMPE so the volunteers can earn revenues on the sales. Sales of COBOL compilers or DEBUG would net the group somewhere between $400 to $1,600 per purchase, according to prices that Connor has forwarded.

This is more significant revenue than OpenMPE has ever seen; at the moment it's begun to attempt to collect $99 yearly for accounts on the Invent3K server.

Little of the above will move forward if there's a setback in the 407th District courtroom tomorrow afternoon. The volunteers now have director insurance and industry-standard treasury practices in place, plus a disaster recovery mirror of the Invent3K server.

02:22 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 06, 2011

One HP3000 hour takes its place at Discover

The HP Discover conference takes place one month from today, and MPE/iX has retained a small foothold among five days of labs, sessions, meetings and keynote speeches.

The daily session lineup for the biggest HP conference in company history includes 60 minutes of one meeting for OpenMPE, the group of volunteers who led the vendor through a more complete set of exit practices for the HP 3000. HP is assembling a summer conference lineup dotted with star power and a peek at the company’s new CEO Leo Apotheker. While Sir Paul McCartney will give a private concert at the new HP Discover, a session with MPE interest is almost as rare as a sighting of the deceased Beatle John Lennon.

The 3000’s OS issues are represented by the OpenMPE Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting set for 11 AM on Friday June 11, the final hour of a conference that opens with HP officers’ fanfare on June 6. Even sessions with the word migration in their title have become more rare, a sign that HP’s vision has shifted away from its advice and training about leaving platforms.

HP is promising the lowest possible conference pass price to users who attend a webinar on May 12 that outlines the return on investment for attending the show.

The conference in Las Vegas has changed its vendue from the Mandalay Bay to the Venetian Hotel and Casino. HP began collaborating with the user groups which became Connect in 2005 to create the HP Technology Forum and Expo. The Tech Forum has been transformed this year with more extensive HP involvement. Servers, Storage and Networking leader Dave Donatelli will also deliver a keynote at the conference.

OpenMPE is joined by SIG meetings for Linux, Enterprise Unix, OpenVMS, Windows and NonStop, plus Java and virtualization technologies. All but MPE are scheduled to have technical sessions throughout the week. A Triple Crown Community Party in Emeril Lagasse Stadium, a Monday welcome reception, a reception before the McCartney concert and free testing for up to five $175 HP ExpertOne tech certifications are also part of the event, one that starts with Vivit (HP Software) and HP-UX day-long labs on Monday for an additional cost.

Some of HP’s own employees were still looking for approval to attend the conference as late as one month before the event kicked off. Hewlett-Packard has continued to keep tough controls on spending even after cost-slasher Mark Hurd left last the company summer. Attending the meeting costs $1,495 with all discounts available to members of Connect. Entering ZONE2011 in the registration promo box earns a special discount.

Labs during the meeting include multiple primers on building webOS apps, Superdome 2 partitions management, getting familiar with the new HP StoreOnce de-duplication technologies, several hours of HP-UX server surveillance and early threat detection labs, and managing HP BladeSystems and private cloud computing with HP Insight Control Management software.

The booths for exhibitors with some knowledge of the HP 3000 on a 151-vendor Discover Zone show hall are Canam Software Labs (providing XML tools) and Stromasys (which is building the Zelus 3000 emulator). Both had booth numbers to be determined as of one month away from the show.

As it did last year, HP is making its subject matter experts available for onsite one-on-one meetings with attendees. Registered users can submit a request for a meeting at the show website, https://h30496.www3.hp.com/portal/newreg.ww.

10:36 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 05, 2011

Bridgeware moving 3000 sites' databases

Database migration tools have become important tools for 3000 sites, whether they're staying with the platform or moving apps to another environment. One of the most senior has had some makeovers, as Taurus Software's Bridgeware has been the selected tool to move Ecometry customers.

Cailean Sherman of Taurus brought us up to date on the latest for this software created in conjunction with Quest Software. The newest version replicates IMAGE files in real time, as well as MPE files, Eloquence database and the usual suspects in the relational roster: Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, My SQL, or any ODBC database.

A good share of the Bridgeware work has been supporting customers who want to stay on the server. "We’ve been building a lot of operational data stores lately for customers who want to stay on the 3000," Sherman said. "These people want to have their production data available real time in a relational environment for reporting and analysis. The data can be ported to open systems once a migration is over, to replicate data between databases and files on open systems."

Taurus made its entry into the 3000 marketplace at the same time the server was getting PA-RISC hardware. When the new Series 900 servers emerged in 1987, Taurus came out with Chameleon, aimed at letting managers employ both Classic and MPE/XL command interfaces.

Bridging technologies continues to be a Taurus mission. A few hundred customers have used the tool to migrate to other environments, Sherman said.

"Currently, Ecometry uses it exclusively for all of their customer migrations. It is unique in that it allows a staged migration, should someone want to straddle the fence and have some of their business on the 3000 and some elsewhere – we can keep these environments in sync."

Taurus gained a fresh set of customers when the company embraced the Oracle user base. In addition to the 3000, Unix-Linux environments and Windows, Bridgeware is now moving data between all these servers and the IBM AS/400-Series i servers.

03:57 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2011

HP Support Forum still a work in progress

Initial reports about the June 1 migration from HP's support portal show that the HP 3000 customer might have been shown the door from HP's support -- just in time.

Bill Hassell, HP-UX guru and former HP SE, is still holding out hope for HP's replacement for its ITRC portal. The ITRC Forums still contain thousands of posts about support for HP 3000s and MPE/iX. But after a conference call and web preview last week, Hassell -- who's now the HP-UX expert for Source Direct -- is waiting for a clear content path to emerge. Right now, there's more emphasis on new functionality like podcasts and webcasts than evidence HP's maintained links to fixes from prior years, when the vendor was still supporting the HP 3000.

"The current Forums won their awards based on content, navigation and participation, not web designer creations," Hassell said in a report he forwarded from a LinkedIn post.

The user interface needs work. Too much white space, very little in site navigation, way too many clicks to get to a meaningful category or topic. In the current Forums, there are 20 major categories, all non-ambiguous and with 3-5 popular related categories listed under each category. All told, there are about 100 direct links to technical content with just one click. But on the (albeit preliminary design) Enterprise Business Community, there are the ever-popular Converged Infrastructure and Business Support Forums.

Big sigh...

HP seems to be using its support arm to steer customers into new product architectures and models. Regular users of the HP Web services might be more likely to need platform-specific directions to these user-contributed answers. With this loss of direct access, the ITRC migration makes the web pages from the HP 3000 indie support vendors even more of a value. "Like most technical users," Hassell says, "we need answers quickly."

With the migration deadline to the new HP support portal less than three weeks away, Hewlett-Packard's support unit still has many document links to repair, Hassell said. HP's looking for input on customers' favorite links, since this work must be done by hand. Links to "docs.hp.com were not addressed in [our] conversation, as they were broken many months ago -- but it is still a major issue that perhaps can be pursued at the HP Discover conferences."

In this month's version of the HP Support Portal of the future, the HP 3000 has become an Appliance Server. It now takes three clicks just to get to the top of that category.

The changes don't all fall into the status of declining service. Hassell reports that an improved search engine is coming online. Perhaps best of all, for 3000 managers still searching this information on a free basis, the new Community pages won't lose any of the ITRC Forums' content.

There will be a new search engine to replace the aging ITRC search capability. One of the reasons that HP is moving to Lithium is the age of the Forums code -- it is difficult to maintain and enhance as a lot of it is two decades old, with a lot of expertise having moved on to other opportunities. Lithium's products are very well suited to the type of user interface found in the Forums and will constantly be enhanced and maintained. The Advanced search has 4 useful search refinements:

With all the words
With the exact phrase
With one or more of the words
Without the words

I did ask about the new search engine's limitations with respect to special characters, a common oversight with technology searches. A summary of special character capabilities and restrictions will be forthcoming. I know that most of us will be concerned about characters we can't use in a search.

HP's taking experts like Hassell on another tour on May 18, and there's an indication that the migration deadline is being rolled back to mid-June while the vendor works to get customers satisfied with a site that won an award in 2007.

02:59 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2011

LinkedIn 3000 group grows, opens its posts

LinkedIn-Logo The HP 3000 Community group on the LinkedIn social business network is growing up, even while HP's 3000 operations have been shrinking. A shift in the group's structure is giving the rest of the world a way to get group intelligence with just a simple search engine request.

The group was founded less than three years ago, during a period when HP's lab presence was winding down for the community. In that period LinkedIn was still a relative newcomer to the social networking space, but it has a distinct difference. It's based upon business relationships and career intelligence.

The HP 3000 Community grew slowly at first, recommended from one member to another. But two thirds of its members have signed on since spring of 2009 -- the period when HP's online presence about 3000 matters declined the most, while independent resources and channels opened up in full flower. More than 300 professionals with specific 3000 experience and resources are on the LinkedIn rolls today. The information shared covers both migration and homesteading issues that are important to the 3000 community.

Earlier this spring the group threw open its doors to become a LinkedIn Open Group. The shift makes the discussions and resources available to the rest of the world, including potential members, through search engines such as Bing and Google. The members consist of working 3000 managers, developers with decades of experience in MPE/iX, vendors who've supported the system since the 1980s, and even people looking for 3000 experts to hire. LinkedIn is free at a basic membership, which is plenty to connect with other 3000 pros and opportunities.

A sample of members shows the wide scope of the group. Glenn Osaka ran the HP 3000 division as GM in the 1990s. Steve Suraci is president of Pivital Solutions, a supplier of support services and systems to the 3000 customer. Jim Phillips is the system administrator at Epic Techologies, managing both HP 3000 and HP Unix systems. Larry Van Sickle wrote the Protos advanced development language for 3000s. Lars Appel worked in HP's support operations on HP 3000 accounts -- and ported the Samba file-sharing tools to the 3000 -- before joining Marxmeier Software's support network to help Eloquence database users.

There are other means to connect with the 3000 community members; the most noteworthy is still the 3000-L mailing list, delivered by email messages every day. But on LinkedIn you know more about each member's experience and background, as you can see from the summaries above. LinkedIn has built in mailing and messaging features even at its most fundamental level, and there are news feeds (yes, from the NewsWire) and discussions afoot at the site.

IT pros whose careers are moving, instead of stagnant, praise LinkedIn for being some things that Facebook cannot be -- focused, business-like, and free of advertising or sponsor observation. It's a worthwhile membership for a resource that's still growing its community. Joining is just a matter of making a request -- I process these myself. We hope to see you among our members if you're not already contributing to the growing knowledge base.

10:48 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2011

HP, Oracle OS promos take hard, soft paths

Over the weekend HP ended an Itanium promotion program designed to win customers for HP-UX. For six months the vendor was giving away $12,000 Integrity servers to any company willing to try out HP's Unix. Analysts said the deal was HP's play to lure Sun's Unix users away from Solaris. Sun's answer came after HP's former CEO took over Sun hardware and OS operations. Oracle, the owners of Sun, simply won't support HP-UX beyond version 11.

Actually, Oracle said it wouldn't support Itanium servers on Oracle 12. But since HP-UX runs only on Itanium, the Oracle Itanium ultimatum amounts to cutting off HP's Unix from its most installed database. Oracle is betting HP-UX won't migrate to x86 hardware. It's probably a safe bet.

HP took the hard-ware path to pushing its Unix, while Sun-Oracle shot a soft cannonball across the bow of Good Ship HP-UX. One was a carrot, the other a stick. Since some users began to ask if HP's creating a port of HP-UX, Kristie Popp, a social media rep in HP's Enterprise Server, Storage and Networking group has replied, "Please note, HP has no plans to port HP-UX to x86."

The HP 3000 faced a similar crossroads 10 years ago this spring. At that time Itanium chips were the early-decade darlings of HP's enterprise futures. HP-UX was already ported to run on Itanium, whenever HP could get its act together and ship servers driven by the chips. HP "had no plans to port" MPE/iX to Itanium hardware. Users heard at the 2001 Interex conference that PA-RISC had plenty of headroom for years to come. One HP 3000 leader in the community believes HP should be preparing its Unix users for a transition to Linux. Free hardware promos won't keep the HP-UX business alive.

"HP should be trying to buy SUSE Linux," says Donna Hoffmeister of Allegro Consultants, where they support both MPE as well as HP-UX. "If they want to offer a soup-to-nuts Linux-oriented solution, that is the way to go. I'd be utterly delighted to see HP do something to keep and attract folks to HP-UX. One might think that they'd figure out that it takes capital investment to keep an OS alive. They certainly have recent experience with the results of the inverse of that policy."

HP's 2001 assurance that no investment was needed in MPE/iX-on-Itanium should give any migrating system managers pause if choosing HP-UX. The x86 port for HP-UX looks like an even longer shot than porting MPE/iX to Itanium in 2001. Just like HP's message of a decade ago, the new Unix message is that fresh chips don't matter to an enterprise.

It will take years for the ripple of Oracle's decision to swamp the HP-UX boat, especially since some shops have put Oracle on the x86-based server while the applications run on Integrity systems. But customers already feel like T-Rex during that era when it just kept getting colder.

"Are we headed the way of the dinosaur? Will we one day be Solaris?" asked Unix admin Court Campbell, administering HP-UX and Oracle 12 at a Houston employer. Campbell noted that Red Hat and Microsoft have also pulled away from Itanium. But those moves make more sense since they come from operating environment vendors.

When Campbell asked in LinkedIn's HP-UX forum if there's any truth to rumors about moving HP's Unix to x86 to create "HP-NG," Olivier Masse of Hydro-Quebec expressed serious doubts.

"I don't see why they would do this," Masse said in a posting. "I think they'll milk the cow for as long as they can, catering to current enterprise customers, and call it a day when it will become not profitable enough to keep all the R&D and support infrastructure for HP-UX.

Hydro-Quebec has already seen its exit from MPE/iX once HP cut off hardware futures for the OS. They're now running on two Itanium-based environments, HP-UX and OpenVMS.

"The x86 platform is already saturated and it would cost a lot of dough to port HP-UX outright to x86," Masse said. "The Linux kernel is more modern, and has benefited from R&D from both academia and the private sector for years. I don't see new customers flocking to an 'NG-UX' anytime soon."

Customers see the adaptive infrastructure HP promotes as including more than one processor for HP-UX. It looks like a gaping hole to Charles Ruedi, the senior Unix system engineer at Almac Clinical Services. "The reason HP should have done this long ago was so customers who wanted to do a proof of concept or something similar didn't need to purchase an expensive itanium box to test with," he said. "Also, it would be great for the development space."

HP's got history in supporting software such as HP-UX, but the veterans from the HP Way days don't recall the legend as a positive note. Tom Lang, who worked at HP's Office Products Division in Pinewood when the company was breaking ground with HP NewWave. "They purchased Compaq," he told us, ,"then they abandoned MPE. Then they purchased a hand-held [company in Palm]. Now they claim to be in the software industry?"

I was working in the internal EDP department at HP Pinewood when they were developing HP Office about 1987. What a mess that was! Every OPD developer had their own 3000 to develop and test their piece of the action. Never did it cross their minds to test the full product on one machine. I foolishly tried to point this out, suggesting that the verbose product required a lot of disc and memory, notwithstanding that it was a CPU hog. Management didn't listen, and anyone who remembers this clunker uses it as an example of why HP is not a software company -- hard as they may try.

Then they tried NewWave. Then they purchased the Apollo group, acquired a version of Unix and label-engineered it as HP-UX with HP Workstations. Then they offered the HP 9000 as a product. Unix was developed by Bell Labs as a means to speed-up testing on an IBM mainframe. By removing all the security in the IBM OS, they were able to develop faster, then do full testing on the full OS. Everyone wanted a copy of Unix, Bell Labs provided, and the cat was out of the bag -- operating systems with no security. Textbooks were written about Unix, they taught it in colleges and universities, but nobody thought to warn business users that they were taking on a business system with no security. But it sold, and it continues to sell.

Everyone now scrambles to develop versions that have some form of security. But a reasonable person knows that if it's not there at design-time, it'll take a bigger effort to try and put it in later. Unix textbooks today still do not have sections/chapters dedicated to security. It is understandable that 'security' is not fully explained, but no mention of it, not even in the index, is self-explanatory.


02:40 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)