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October 31, 2011

After one strike away, to return another day

One Strike AwayHere in Texas we're learning that there's no crying in baseball, except for in the World Series. Our Texas Rangers were only one strike away from winning the world championship -- not once but twice -- but we saw our heroes of 50 years' efforts fall out of the trophy column. A final effort at that strike (above) let the St. Louis Cardinals bang out a hit to erase a "Roy Hobbs homer" from Josh Hamilton that might have won that Series. It was a Series so epic that it sparked TV ratings unmatched since the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years. The penultimate loss in that Game 6 took 11 innings to complete. A 7 PM game ended nearly at midnight.

It builds character to continue to love something that falls short of ultimate success often. In the computer markets this kind of product gets shuttled to the museum instead of trotted out for another sales cycle. Success gets determined by business managers who can always go about building a new team of products. In baseball, the losing players lace up cleats and swing the bats again after a requeim for the death of this year's dream. Heartrates at my house got worn out Thursday night, the game nearly won when those two almost-champion moments came, and then went. This is the second straight year Texas has lost the Series. It's been nearly 20 years since a baseball team lost consequetive World Series. We will see what becomes of the Rangers in about 22 weeks, when a fresh season dawns. They're already calling this Series historic.

EpicenterIn your community of 3000 users, today is an important day in your history. Eight years ago this afternoon, the last official sale of a new HP 3000 was accepted by Hewlett-Packard. In memory of that milestone, thousands of community members, industry icons and gurus, and HP engineers and managers threw local parties to mourn and remember the glory of a great HP product. The computer continued to be a product for years afterward, but not a product which HP built new any longer.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo organized, through inspiration and outreach, what was called the World Wide Wake. As a celebration of a passing, the day was a success that might rouse the dead. As a predictor of the obituary of the HP 3000, the images of glasses hoisted and gallows pictures, the event was something else. It served as another marker of the slower timeframe that a computer known as a mainframe can employ for a lifespan.

We've created a Flickr photostream from the Wake pictures that were sent to Yeo's website back in 2003. He was kind enough to leave these memories in our keeping. They represent that one last strike that the computer failed to get on HP. But like those Rangers, there's always next year to buy new HP 3000 hardware. An emulator has given the HP 3000 a set of new seasons for many years to come.

Virtualized hardware took more than eight years to arrive in this marketplace, but it will deliver for many more years to replace the 3000s HP no longer builds or sells. There's not an obvious baseball comparison to what a virtualizer does, but maybe a rejuvenation of a late-game pitching staff, or a robust farm team system to grow new talents, will suffice. As a Rangers fan I expect to see both next year, just as I expect to see HP 3000s grown from fast and cheap PC hardware from Stromasys.

It's past closing time in Europe and the East of the US, even very dark in the 3000's heartland of California Across the International Date Line in Bangalore, India, where a few HP lab engineers toiled until the end of 2008, it's already Nov. 1. All Saints Day, we used to call the date back when I was a boy in Catholic school. Some community members probably think the 3000's survival in any number through 2011 is a miracle.

There are many saints who could claim some credit for the survival of 10,000 to 20,000 HP 3000s. There are also many systems that have been switched off, scrapped or dropped into deep storage over those eight years. The HP 3000 system populace could only decline from its census numbers of 2003. However, it's easy to assert that more 3000s will be running after today — and into the Tenth Anniversary of The Afterlife — than Hewlett-Packard or its partners ever could predict.

A good share of the populace is running because migration was no two-year matter, or even four-year project at some sites. In these companies the HP 3000 is earmarked for a decommission, sometime in the future, near or far. The Afterlife is a land which is rich in the unknown. We cannot know for certain who's still running, who's making migration progress, and who has put their IT futures in limbo. For some customers, they live in the Afterlife because there's no place else to go.

Until now, when an emulator will give a new option to the companies who need to put the same proven players of MPE and IMAGE on the field. It's good to congratulate Unix and Windows on a victory over HP's executive strike zone, so very small in 2001. While the neighborhood kids' voices echo through my open windows tonight in Texas, however, I hear an echo of heritage and tradition of trick-or-treating for sweets. A new future is not right for everybody. This October, the 3000 homesteader can say of new systems the same thing us Rangers fans say in hope: "We'll get 'em next year."


07:47 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 28, 2011

Emulator query sparks private volume tip

In an example of the newest HP 3000 technology linking to one of the server's oldest, one question about a 2012 product unearthed advice about a feature introducted in 1978. Next year's HPA/3000 emulator received some upgrades to its SCSI periperals support this week, according to the product's vendor Stromasys. These improvements will make it possible to better answer a question about private MPE/iX volumes, and how well HPA/3000 can handle them.

BuiltToLastCraig Lalley, working with Stromasys on the MPE/iX aspects of HPA/3000, said he hasn't tested private volumes yet, "due to an issue with the SCSI interface. But I intend to." At the same time, a question about private volumes' use in the current era prompted some advice from Applied Technologies' Brian Edminster -- who had to miss the Reunion briefing on HPA/3000 due to pressing work to open up the new MPE open source website, MPE-OpenSource.org. (You can track updates to the project through its RSS feed, which can be viewed in Google's RSS Reader, among others.)

The first package Edminster added to site was SFTP quick-start, a bundle "which aims to make installing SFTP easier on MPE/iX systems. It is a std file which includes all the components necessary to install and configure sftp, scp, and keygen under MPE/iX, with links to instructions for the installation process."

Edminster is well-versed in the non-open-source tools for the HP 3000 as well. When Dave Powell of MMFab asked during a HPA/3000 discussion if anyone was even using private volumes on an A400 Class of server, Edminster advised that the 3000 sites where he administers or consults are employing this bedrock MPE tool -- one first introduced 34 years ago in MPE III, on the Series III.

I've always considered it a best practice to divide your disk storage up into several Private Volumes. Why?  When a non-mirrored spindle in a PV dies, it only takes that PV out with it -- allowing the rest of the machine to keep running (unless the PV is the mpe_system_volume_set, in which case you're going to be doing a system install).  If it's only one of the data volumes that goes down, the 'system' is still up, greatly facilitating recovery.

Data volume protection has always been at the heart of MPE's private volumes.

If you can't afford arrays that protect the 'system' volume-set, at least you can get something (even if it's only HP's subsystem software Mirror/iX for RAID-1) to protect the data volumes. And if you configure it properly,  RAID-1 is wicked-fast on reads, and pretty decent on writes.

Oh, and to answer your original question:  Yes, A400s can be set up this way.  At least, the ones I administer are set up this way. The drives inside the CPU chassis are set up as "system volume set," and an external mirrored array is the "data' volume.

Works great. If the system volume goes down, data isn't likely affected. If a mirrored drive fails, just swap it for a replacement. This has gotten my client near 100 percent up-time for this system, for almost 10 years now.

06:14 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2011

Jobs respected HP. HP respects its PCs.

JobsMugBookcoverWalter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs remains atop the bestseller lists this week. It's a remarkable thing to have more than 600 pages of a bio, written by a man who chronicled the lives of Einstein, Ben Franklin and Henry Kissinger, on the streets within three weeks of a tech titan's death.

In an interview with Issacson, he reveals that although Jobs never wanted to work at HP, he admired the company's intentions right up to the end. By the time Jobs stepped down as CEO in August, Hewlett-Packard had already told the world it was thinking about getting rid of its $40 billion PC business. Isaacson said in an interview with CNET that Hewlett-Packard was no joke to Jobs.

When he resigned as CEO, he's in the board room talking to some of its members, and someone mentions that Hewlett-Packard is getting out of the PC market, and people sort of start laughing about it. And he got very serious, and later said it's a real shame, because "Bill Hewlett and David Packard left a really great company that should be destined to survive generations, and that's what I'm trying to do at Apple."

Today brings news that the newest leadership values the biggest part of its survival system. There have been rumors afloat that the spinoff of HP's PCs could turn out to be nothing more than an idea floated for effect. HP announced today that "it has completed its evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) and has decided the unit will remain part of the company."

HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."

Whitman said at a quickly-called briefing that she doesn't want HP to spread itself too thin. "HP tries to do a lot of things. And I’m a big believer in doing a small set of things really, really well." At the same time, Apple reported that it will double its capital investments to $8 billion in 2012, according to SEC documents filed today. Of that, almost 15 percent will be aimed at Apple's retail stores. Apple is creating its own retail PC space, since HP inhabits so many shelves elsewhere.

The company which still wants your 3000 support business, as well as selling you a ProLiant or Integrity replacement for that 3000, enjoys advantages by building millions of PCs every year. Component agreements with suppliers benefit all kinds of products the company creates. It looked to be a difficult thing to have a separate company, even a spinoff, keep providing those components and assembly services to an HP which has shorn off its PC business.

HP's employees, especially engineers, are said to be weary of all of the jibes and lashing their company has sparked over the past three months. "We're just trying to finish out the quarter," one said, noting that Apothker hadn't left Hewlett-Packard with a rosy outlook for 2012 business. The fiscal year ends on Monday, with a lot of deal-making going on today and tomorrow to lift up the final quarter.

HP's stock ticked up beyond $27 today, the first time it's cracked that mark since those that PC spinoff and Apothker ouster were announced. And that gain took place before HP announced PCs were staying in the fold. Over the fiscal year while Apotheker worked, the stock has lost 15 percent of its value, even considering its nose-dive in August. HP continues to pay 12-cent dividends per share. This may be a break in HP's stormy weather.

This Silicon Valley icon was not noted for products that touched the masses until its printers broke through in the 1980s, then crowded retailer shelves in the late 1990s. Jobs respected these ancestors of the ideal that was his Apple, by Isaacson's account. His book asserts that Jobs will join Edison and Ford in the pantheon of modern inventor-princes. Hewlett and Packard are just as revered across HP and its oldest customer groups. They simply didn't invent in an era of social networking and broadband media that promoted their work -- or live to have it celebrated at a bestseller rate.

04:17 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2011

HP, Connect to thump Unix drum soon, later

HP's Unix customers, or prospects for the HP-UX and enterprise solutions, are getting a couple of educational opportunities this week and next. The first makes a case for Unix retaining a lead spot in IT choices. The second introduces HP experts on power, cooling, and what you should know before moving to the cloud.

The settings couldn't be more different, a testament to the reach HP's enterprise arm is stretching. Tomorrow is a webinar "showing results from Gabriel Consulting Group's Unix preference study. Dan Olds from Gabriel will join," plus a HP speaker to present HP-UX specific results and commentary. "Come hear why users think Unix is still highly relevant and strategic for mission-critical workloads." You'll be coming to your browser, but you can sign up online for tomorrow's event.

In a couple of weeks HP takes its cloud-enterprise show into downtown Austin, at Sullivan's Steakhouse for a luncheon and talk about big-system product opportunities. Nov. 9 is lunchtime for HP's David Chetham-Strode, HP's product Manager for Data Center Power Solutions, and "cloud expert Clyde Poole, Chief Security Officer and Director of Professional Services with TDi Technologies. You can sign up for a lunch spot with Connect, which is sponsoring the HP event.

The briefings are the equivalent of attending a user conference keynote or session, but they're free. HP promises that Chetham-Strode will provide an insight into optimizing and adapting energy use, reclaiming capacity, and reducing energy costs. In this session HP’s latest advances in power protection, distribution, and cooling will be discussed and you will see how these new solutions save operational costs help extend the life of the data center.

You can save a spot for that steak lunch at the Connect website. HP said the Poole will tell you what to "learn what to ask yourself and your Cloud vendor before you sign a contract. This interactive session will define the cloud environment and then present some of these questions, along with what you should expect as answers from your vendors. Challenges Addressed: Compliance, Data Protection and Security Threats.

01:48 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2011

Emulator field trial adds virtual disk ability

Supporting multiple virtual disks is just one of several enhancements Stromasys announced this week for its HPA/3000 field test emulator. The technical note sent to the field testers said that SCSI controller emulation in the product requires the use of specific disk drivers.

The 3000 gurus and vets who looked over this product at the recent HP3000 Reunion have asked about performance headroom: how much faster can this emulator get than existing 3000 hardware? It's a matter of software refinement, according to Robert Boers, the Stromasys CTO. But the field notes show there's already tuning-up going on.

We experimentally added the ability to set the emulated HP3000 to a larger six (max 8) as described in the configuration file. For this to work correctly, you need to install on the [emulator's] host [PC] at least 4GB more than the configured HP3000 memory. This is for the field trial only; the larger configuration will be issued as a separate e3000-A500 product.

The October 22 field note suggests that Stromasys is polishing its software quickly (the demo for the product took place one month ago this week). But it also indicates there will be many ways to customize the software product to create servers and disc combinations that might've been impossible to configure using HP's hardware for 3000s.

At the same time, the software has got its authorized HPSUSAN licensing well in hand. A remote key update procedure will provide the ability to modify this HPSUSAN number that's on the USB dongle. This is the kind of board reset that HP used to do using its own software after you'd buy a replacement CPU board. Since the procedure is remote, you won't even need a Customer Engineer visit to change an emulator's ID.

How could this come in handy? One instance is if you've got a valid license for a third-party software product under another HPSUSAN number, and that software vendor has gone out of business and cannot update its product.

Stromasys seems to understand that this is delicate territory while licenses are being adjusted. "We have not yet decided on a HPSUSAN modification policy in the future product releases," the field test note stated. "We would welcome input from third-party software providers."

They will need the input to gain the trust and cooperation the emulator must have. These HPSUSAN numbers are the keys to the cars, so to speak, for the software vehicles that 3000 users drive in business. A vendor needs to know that any remote update procedure will remain secure and controlled by Stromasys, to avoid the prospect of using somebody else's HPSUSAN ID on an unauthorized 3000. The technical complexity of spoofing this kind of ID swap is well beyond most of the 3000 community members. But the software companies do want to protect their keys.

Field test users are receiving their license keys this week, now "loaded with the correct FT license indlucing a specific HPSUSAN number, if requested." Stromasys was having trouble with a European FTP site for US customers, so today it's supposed to have a US-based FTP server online. In addition to delivering software updates, the FTP sites are being used to upload user disk images for problem analysis.

09:11 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2011

Jobs jumped over HP's Garage to 2.0 life

Jobsin70sLast night's 60 Minutes story about Steve Jobs included a report that working for HP was the fate which Jobs strived hard to escape. Walter Issacson, his biographer whose book is both Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's #1 today, said Jobs toiled on the night shift at Atari, and then summertime work at HP loomed. Issacson said Jobs wanted to run his own company and avoid the 1.0 tech career.

There was within him this sort of conflict between being hippy-ish and anti-materialistic, and wanting to sell things like Wozniak's [blue box] board and create a business. I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in [the '70s]. Let's do a start-up in our parents' garage and try to create a business. [Leans in to camera] And Steve Jobs wasn't all that eager to be an employee at Hewlett-Packard.

There's a package online at The Atlantic magazine's website that includes some snippets from the biography, as well as the 15-minute segment of the 60 Minutes show.

04:13 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 21, 2011

Rare MPE admin gem glitters to lift careers

AdminBookThere's not much HP 3000 instruction and education that's still available in published book status. The IMAGE Handbook appeared in the 1980s; there was even a TurboIMAGE Handbook printed by Beechglen's Mike Hornsby, about the same time the market started to see printed anthologies of technical papers from VEsoft's engineers and alllies. Beyond PA-RISC offered a groundbreaking look at the 3000's architecture in 1987. HP engineer Mike Yawn led the publishing of The Legacy Continues, a 1997 book about developing with the 3000 alongside Windows NT and HP-UX. But six months before the end of HP's futures for the server, the first and only specialized and comprehensive book emerged about managing MPE/iX. Jon Diercks wrote the MPE/iX System Administration Handbook and it was published by Prentice Hall in 2001. It's nearly out of print by now; new copies are running at $200 at Amazon.com and used ones at $80.

But this book is still for sale in one way or another. Diercks even brought a few copies to the recent HP3000 Reunion. Author copies, as the publishers call them, and a signed one was given away as a door prize for attendees. Diercks said he sold a couple more to users on both ends of the MPE experience spectrum.

I was pleased that the buyers were at opposite ends of the spectrum. One was an HP veteran who was  responsible for the care and feeding of the MPE spooler for many years. I pre-emptively apologized for any inaccuracies, especially in the spooler chapter. He graciously assured me that he was confident I must have been faithful in my rendering of the material, and he was looking forward to reading the whole thing.

The other copy was picked up by a bona fide newbie, a young guy who had shared a table with me during the dinner and is picking up HP 3000 skills for the first time as part of a job that he just started. I was delighted to know that even 10 years later, the book still has new readers who want it not for nostalgia, but precisely for its original purpose. The price was personally negotiated for each sale. I believe the book has great value, but I didn't want price to be a barrier, not at that event, and not among this close-knit community.

There's another way to read the book: subscribe to Safari, the online reader service that gives you access to technical books for $27 monthly for 10 titles you can stock onto a virtual shelf. It's even got a free trial offer to let the technical pro see if the service is right for them.

Safari is a way to keep something in book format forever, simply by making it a digital title which O'Reilly Media and the Pearson Technology Group stewards on a set of servers. The greatest advantage to having a book sold or rented in digital format is that is never has a reason to go out of print. It's something like the HP 3000 PA-RISC architecture never going offline any longer -- because a virtualization of the chipset is being offered, based in software.

HP3000 EvolutionOnce HP cast its doubts upon the future of the HP 3000, HP 3000 Evolution was printed, sold and distributed by Robelle. It's probably the very latest dated paper book about HP 3000, with articles written by community leaders, included from the NewsWire, or revised for an era of migration and homesteading. (That Robelle Evolution link includes an impressive array of technical articles and papers from the community, as do others from Allegro, Adager and others.)

Diercks has his own website where he offers his consulting services as well as code samples from the book. Code samples have actually always been available for free on at diercks.net/mpe/code. And it's a good bet that with the right offer, you might be able to buy one of his remaining paper copies for less than $80. But what's more important is how much lifespan this technical resource deserves and the good work which it still has in front of it.

As for Safari, an all-you-want level of subscription even includes something called Rough Cuts, which lets subscribers "read drafts of pre-published manuscripts online. Interact with authors as they write about the newest technologies."

BeyondRiscSafari, Google Books and other e-book avenues are good means to keep technical expertise available throughout the lifespan of any enterprise server -- at least those rich enough to have books published about them. Brian Edminster, who noted those prices on the Diercks book as well as the Safari link, said that offering a tech title on an open license can help future-proof these published techniques.

"The only thing better would be to someday -- perhaps when Safari chooses not to carry it anymore -- release it as an e-book under an appropriate Creative Commons license. This is kind of like what Greg Lehey did with Porting Unix Software, which is why I'm able to host it on www.MPE-OpenSource.org. That's the license that enables another to update a book (or customized it for a specific platform) as long as the end-results aren't used for commercial gain. I'd still buy another copy of either book in 'dead-tree' format though.

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

October 20, 2011

3000 gets HP security alert. What the heck?

3000 users who still employ HP's support services got a bit of a jolt this week. The vendor that's still selling MPE support sent an email bulletin about an MPE/iX Security Alert. Even while HP was supporting 3000 customers without caveats, these notices were as rare as rain in a July Texas.

But how can security become an issue with an OS that HP hasn't touched in more than three years? Plainly put, the alert is a mistake. It's got to be, because a drill down into the details doesn't mention the OS by name. Instead, it's a problem with something called HP Data Protector, built for HP's laptops and desktops.

The corrected version of the alert still reads "Content Type: MPE/iX, PRIORITY: Critical." HP's new Support Center website has spewed out problems all summer, but this is the first mess-up marked critical. If you're paying HP to oversee your 3000, even during a migration project, you might take this as a sign that the level of support has fallen fall below classic standards.

Pivital Solutions is an HP 3000-strong shop (kind of like "plant-strong" to describe vegan diets.) President Steve Suraci was at the latest HP3000 Reunion, and he updated his competitive situation while signing up 3000 sites for many more years of suppor -- without caveats. HP, it seems, is still the chief competitor when companies size up support plans for the future of their 3000s.

There hasn't been a security bulletin on MPE in more than three years. DNS poisoning drifted through the websphere, and HP didn't make any change to BIND to resolve the issue -- it simply advised customers to move their DNS work to a non-3000 server.
Brian Edminster, who specializes in such open source software as it relates to the 3000, said updating the BIND part of MPE/iX to fix that 2008 problem would've been no small project.
Getting BIND updated is a non-trivial exercise -- because the existing version for MPE/iX is several major releases behind  (from an effort standpoint, it would be wise consider it a new port). Since it's easy to implement an 'up to the minute' version of BIND on a cheap Linux server, I don't blame HP for not expending the effort to re-do the port. [HP's] Mark Bixby did a fairly good job of documenting what he had to do to get the current version running, but we can't just re-apply the patches he submitted to get the latest versions to run.  
It's a lot like when car manufacturers do a major model change -- where the car name is the same, but just about everything else changes. When you have a major design change, you often no longer have parts commonality. Same thing with portable software. When a major version change occurs, it's often due to major changes in the software's internal design. Ergo, it's like starting over.
Edminster noted that there's an opportunity for a customer to sponsor this kind of work, but that's probably outside everybody's budget who's homesteading. (Although we might be surprised to learn what the pricing would be on that work, considering that $30/hour consulting has been advertised.)
There's been a two-day gap in HP's ability to catch its false-critical report. Since the technical details are far from easy to comprehend in the HP website's advice, managers who followed this trail wasted time on something which HP explained away as follows:

Note: This Security Bulletin was released with the MP (MPE/iX) software product category. It should have been released with the MU (Multi-Platform Software) product category. Please refer to Document ID c03058866 - HPSBMU02716 SSRT100651.

If HP is still the chief competition out there for support dollars on existing 3000s, perhaps this kind of critical alert could serve as evidence. Even the automated parts of HP's database are mis-tuned to the needs of the server. It's bound to be better to work with companies who see a long future in 3000 service.

02:07 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2011

Emulator license issues boot up discussion

By Alan Yeo
ScreenJet Ltd.

[Editor's Note: Migration and 3000 renovation software and services supplier Alan Yeo led the way to organize this year's HP3000 Reunion, where the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 was first demonstrated and dissected. Here's his views on software licensing matters surrounding the emulator HP has licensed to use existing MPE/iX installations.]

Having been at the Stromasys demonstration at the Reunion, I'm very impressed where they have got. In fact I would go so far as to say that it's a done deal -- at some point in the not-too-distant future there will be a deployable emulator.

YeoAtReunionAs Craig Lalley has described, the model is very clean. One processor runs MPE (not an MPE clone or emulator, but real MPE), whilst another processor emulates the PA-RISC hardware, aka the HP 3000. So the fact that they have MPE booted means that virtually any software or compilers that run under MPE will also run under MPE on the emulated platform (they just won't know they are). It's in the underlying PA-RISC emulation that work is still required to emulate SCSI, network interfaces and other peripheral hardware. But that, as they say, is a simple matter of coding.

As I understand, it the emulator license agreement with HP specifies an PA-RISC 2.0 chip set. So we are talking A- and N-Class hardware emulation and supported peripherals. A and N Classes only support MPE/iX 7.5. This means that whilst the emulator theoretically could be modified to support 7.0, one would have to ask if there was any benefit in the work to do so. 7.5 would be a far more desirable place to be than 7.0. I don't think 2.0 PA-RISC hardware, and therefore an emulation, can run anything less than MPE 7.0.

However as far as moving from an HP 3000 running earlier versions of MPE than 7.0 to an emulated platform, I don't think there is a licensing problem. If you have a licensed copy of MPE you have a license for MPE, not a specific version of MPE. Therefore, HP should allow you to transfer your MPE license. The fact that on the emulator you require version 7.5 should be irrelevant to that process.

So as long as your programs will run under MPE 7.5 they should run on the emulator unaltered. If they don't run under 7.5 for any reason then you may need new versions from your software vendors, or possibly to recompile. Recompiling may be an issue, as I think there were updated versions of some compilers for PA RISC 2.0 -- and as yet I haven't seen any details on HP's position regarding the licensing/use of later subsystem software. But I'm sure that is just a technicality :-)

Software licensing (other than MPE) on an emulated platform is going to be the proverbial can of worms. I suspect that some [third party and independent] vendors will take a realistic approach -- that the majority of customers are going to get very little advantage running on an emulated HP 3000 over running on a real HP 3000 -- and will happily continue to support and earn revenue from it running on an emulated HP 3000. Others may be less reasonable.

There will no doubt be some lively discussions over the coming year as to what an HP 3000 is. But if a piece of hardware boots MPE and reports an identical HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME it would be hard to say that it wasn't an HP 3000. As they say, 'If it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, it's probably a fish.'

As far as Tier-Licensed software goes, the argument that an emulated HP 3000 goes much quicker than the HP 3000 that it's emulating is a bit lame, I think. Consider if a third party vendor had released a utility that made a Tier 1 A-Class run 2-3 times quicker, or HP as a final gesture of good will had uncrippled them, or in fact had continued with HP 3000 development and introduced faster Tier 1 processors. Whilst there may have been a few companies disappointed that they couldn't extract more revenue, the bottom line is that it would have still been Tier 1 hardware. Others may disagree, but I maintain that a given piece of software has no more intrinsic value when running on faster hardware.

User Licensed Software that used MPE User Count restrictions is a different matter, as moving to 7.5 means unlimited user counts. I expect there will be some interesting discussions on this topic.

Whilst with my migration vendor hat on, the "CHARON-HPA/3000" emulator is likely to be disruptive technology as companies reassess their medium/long-term strategies. As we also use and support customers who had no plans to migrate from the HP 3000, it is good to see this solution becoming available.

It's impressive what Stromasys have done. I am looking forward to playing with an HPa3000 in the not-too-distant future.

03:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 18, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions on the Emulator

LalleyatDemoOne rousing surprise from the HP3000 Reunion was a demonstration of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator by Craig Lalley, a veteran MPE/iX and consulting expert called in to smooth the emulator onto the 3000's OS. Lalley ran the emulator off his laptop. In the weeks since that late-September demo, Lalley has been answering customer-posed questions. Here's an in-progress FAQ on what CHARON will offer by the start of next year.

(ScreenJet's Alan Yeo has also answered questions based on his study of the demonstration; one reply is included below. A longer discourse from Yeo examines prospects for license interpretations.) Lalley began with an overview.

The emulator recreates PA-RISC architecture in software. What this means is that I take a raw disk image (bit by bit copy) of a working HP 3000 system. I then transfer that file to my laptop. If the disk is 9GB it will be a 9GB image. If it is an 18GB disk, the end result is an 18GB file. Currently the system needs to be running MPE 7.5. The version of 7.5 we've used is current on patches.

The emulator starts at an ISL> prompt. It takes approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds for MPE to boot to a colon prompt. From that point on the system is solid. I can compile, run FSCHECK, stream jobs, and block mode works. I have worked on every model of HP 3000 from the Series 3 to an N-Class 750 8-CPU system. Now, I can boot MPE on my laptop. I find that amazing.

Does the emulator support HPSUSAN numbers?

It does indeed support the HPSUSAN number. It is the number that exists on each Stromasys USB license key. The vendors I have talked to have been very excited about the emulator. Several have offered demo copies, so I can test them in the new environment.

Can I run an emulator with an existing MPE/iX license from my old system?

HP is supporting a license transfer of MPE from the retiring 3000 system to the new emulator.

Is the current performance closer to A400, or a dual-core A500-200-14? The emulator needs a Core-i7, so would the best comparison would be the RP2600? Or does it run faster than a 99x?

The first release will only support a single processor. I would expect the first version to be around the performance of a 979 single 180-MHz processor. I am  running performance tests and will be happy to share the results when they are more complete.

In the prior Stromasys emulators (for VAX and PDP) it takes two cores to run a single emulated processor. One core is doing real-time direct instruction translation, to support the emulated processor (in this case, the PA-RISC processor). The overhead may indeed be 3:1, considering peripherals, because the SCSI bus is also emulated in the software.

The move to multiple processors will happen, but reaching the performance of an N-Class 750 is going to take some time.

Would a good SSD storage device get you beyond A-Class performance?

My guess is an SSD would only really help at boot time. My bet is there would be some slowness to the emulated SCSI interface.

What number of users would this PC architecture handle?

That is a question that can only be answered by heavy stress testing. I will post my results. Currently there are some issues with the network that need to be resolved.

(Alan Yeo) Theoretically, as many as MPE will -- as it's running MPE and the architecture being emulated is PA-RISC. However, I suspect you mean how many concurrent users will the horsepower of the emulator support. In which case the answer is "it depends on what applications you're running."

It will be a growing number as the emulation is tuned and moved from the current A-Class performance towards that of an N-Class. By the time it is ready for deployment, I would expect it to be significantly quicker than it is today.

However, if you are on a maxed out N-Class you may have to wait a long time. One tidbit I picked up at the Reunion is that whilst the software has been migrated and is running perfectly, the current biggest HP-UX Itanium server can't quite handle the maximum number of concurrent users that an HP 3000 can.

What are the requirements for the PC?

Stomasys will have its own PC as an option. The goal is to minimize configurations in the beginning. This will probably change as requirements/performance goes up. Currently a core i7 chip is required, because the emulator utilizes the SSE4 instruction set.

If your PC dies (anything that would have been a reload situation on a real HP 3000) do you get up and running faster on the Stromasys emulator than a reload would have taken on a real HP 3000? 

The emulator works with VMWare, so snapshots are supported. There is a plan to fully support ESXi 4.1. Stromasys is very committed to VMWare.

Are private volumes and big disk arrays supported?

I have not tested private volumes yet, due to an issue with the SCSI interface. But I intend to.

Is the architecture compiler-agnostic: BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, SPL, etc ?

In theory, you could compile on the emulator and move the object code to a real HP 3000.

I've written 99 percent of the software at my site, mostly in BASIC. Has there been any testing with Apache and CGIs or Samba?

I have not tested Apache or Samba due to some current limitations.

How are printers addressed?

Printers should work just like today: 1) through a DTC, or 2) through network printing.

Is the emulator freeware?

No, the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000 is a product for purchase from Stromasys.

Stromasys has an NCE (Non-Commercial and Educational) version of RSX-11, OpenVMS and Tru64 UNIX for hobbyist and educational use (which doesn't include their proprietary acceleration technology). Have they said if there will be a NCE version of HPA/3000? If 'yes' have they mentioned a likely price?

I am absolutely looking into that. I don't have an answer yet, but I will pass it along as soon as I know.

02:00 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2011

Fresh CEO carries HP rebound hopes again

WhitmanMeg Whitman took the HP CEO job last month with one similar bit of baggage as HP's last three ousted CEOs. Users hope she can rescue some part of HP's enterprise business that's in jeopardy. Her alternative is to unleash HP to spend R&D money to build a brighter future for Unix and VMS operating systems.

Carly Fiorina wasn't any help to the HP 3000 enterprise business, leading a "it grows or it goes" death march that felled several enterprise product lines. But HP had hired her to rescue a PC business falling further behind Dell by every quarter. Fiorina arranged to have HP swallow Compaq whole, at a cost of $25 billion.

Mark Hurd arrived in 2005 bearing the faint hopes that he'd see fresh opportunity in the exit-announced 3000 business. During that spring some customers dreamed HP would roll back its decision about MPE. Nothing got rolled back except HP's R&D, while the commas of multi-billion-dollar acquisitions rolled ever further to the left.

Just-fired CEO Leo Apotheker arrived with hopes that HP might become relevant in software, adding a dimension to the world's No. 1 computer company to match Oracle or IBM. Apotheker seemed to inflame Oracle by taking the job after leading SAP, a chief rival. Buying Autonomy for $10 billion will be Apotheker's legacy to serve up HP's Software as a Service hopes.

That brings us to Whitman, whose ascent from boardroom seat to CEO's hot seat sparked some hot hopes at this fall's OpenVMS Boot Camp. Those enterprise acolytes who use HP's other Itanium operating system hope Whitman can get Oracle to recant its stance to kill Itanium development of Oracle's database and apps. Intel insists Itanium has a roadmap to the end of this decade, but Oracle hoots at this forecast. This would be the first time that a new CEO at HP -- the fourth in 12 years -- needed to change an outside vendor's view of HP's enterprise future. She could do that, or give HP-UX and VMS a breath of life on Intel's other architecture, the one which Oracle supports gladly.

Whitman certainly did some deals with vendors and partners outside eBay during her tenure there as founding CEO. There really was nothing at eBay but its servers, developers and software, since all its inventory, distribution and manufacturing happened outside the company's realm. Whitman led a company that grew from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion from 1998-2007.

Whitman's team took over PayPal in 2002, one of the biggest relationships the company ever made with continued success. Her lowest point might have been to acquire Skype for more than $4 billion, then sell it off to Microsoft for about one-third less. She's worked on the boards of Dreamworks, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble and then HP. The Financial Times named her as one of the 50 faces that shaped the previous decade.

Now HP's Unix and VMS customers need Whitman's shaping again. The customers who use HP's proprietary Integrity servers need Whitman to walk back Oracle's Larry Ellison from his stance that the HP Itanium architecture is on a deathbed. Just after that VMS Boot Camp, Connect user group's chief marketing officer Nina Buik spoke to a reporter at eWeek about the prospects for such a rescue of the relationship. "Everyone I've spoken with is optimistic that with Meg's experience and proven communications skills, we can change this direction," Buik said in an interview.

HP has leveled the guns of a lawsuit, flogged Oracle's intentions in the press, and encouraged an uprising from the user group in reply to Oracle's claims that Itanium is a goner. But Whitman's a fresh face in the fracas, so hope can live another day. The OpenVMS users, who make up the deepest heartland of the Connect user base, can only see one other place to run Oracle databases if the software falls out of their OS camp -- Xeon-based servers like ProLiants or Dells. Like the 3000 target environment HP-UX, VMS only has Itanium as a host system today. Buik said running VMS on a ProLiant or Dell server is a non-starter for this HP enterprise community.

"I think that the OpenVMS customer would answer, 'OpenVMS does not run on a ProLiant or Dell,' " Buik said. At the same time the Boot Camp heard about the Whitman hopes, it also got a primer on Mimer, a Swedish database that specializes in mobile deployments and expedited migrations away from Oracle.

"The Mimer option is one that OpenVMS customers can evaluate and explore viability. It would depend on how the Oracle database is being used," Buik said. "There are tools for converting stored procedures, validating SQL and verifying that the data model will work in a Mimer system. According to Mimer, they also offer competitive upgrades. At the end of the day, it's viability and Total Cost of Ownership."

The only option left to the 140,000 HP-UX customers now using Oracle is some kind of migration or upgrade changes, unless Whitman can work conciliatory magic on Oracle -- a place that now sells competing Sun servers with a restarted SPARC processor development plan. The HP-UX and VMS sites are either migrating to Mimer, or migrating databases to those ProLiants or Dells while their applications remain on HP-UX and VMS.

Well, there is one other option for HP's Itanium base. It's a strategy Whitman has complete control of, given that she's now President and CEO of a company which will post more than $10 billion in yearly profits in just a few weeks. Whitman can green-light the migration of HP-UX and OpenVMS to a second architecture, other than HP's proprietary Itanium chips. Customers ask about running HP's Unix on Intel Xeon-based systems such as the Dells and HP's own ProLiants. VMS would have to get the same R&D green light from the top.

HP's Unix and VMS reps have reported that kind of engineering project is too expensive to start. Those words will sound familiar to the HP 3000 customer, who had to watch VMS get a port to Itanium while MPE remained on PA-RISC. When an OS maker won't move an environment to an architecture it doesn't own, but is bolstered industry-wide, it can signal the beginning of the end. HP's got a great reason to port these environments, given Oracle's competitive clamor. If HP doesn't have enough profit to make software engineering R&D investments on this level, it's demonstrating less reverence for software than is healthy for long-term customers who don't want to pay to migrate.

There's one more escape hatch for the VMS and HP-UX user, should Oracle refuse Whitman's communication charms. It comes from a company that's been in the business of emulating VMS environments for more than a decade. Stromasys, which is releasing an HP 3000 server virtualization package in January, could use its technology to let HP-UX run on Intel hardware. This might not be the migration that HP hoped to spare its users. But at least it wouldn't be turning over all those HP-UX Oracle installs to Windows and Linux competitors of IBM and Dell, or the Solaris-Unix servers from Oracle.

07:01 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 15, 2011

Ritchie's rich legacy: Unix both vital, hated

Dennis-Ritchie-CompositeOne week exactly after the death of Steve Jobs, Unix co-creator Dennis Ritchie died Oct. 12 of prostate cancer at age 70. In addition to creating Unix at Bell Labs along with Ken Thompson (above), Ritchie is credited with creating the first C programming language. The most technical of community members think Ritchie deserved the same outpouring of grief and praise Jobs received. Some writers compared Ritchie to Tesla, who invented AC current versus Edison's Direct Current. Edison died rich. Ritchie died alone.

Ritchie's inventions deserve praise, and he got much of it during his lifetime from his technical peers. But the invention of C and Unix had as checkered a past as anything Jobs and Apple sold, and a more caustic effect on better-designed inventions. The HP 3000 community in particular suffered from the snake oil of Unix. A better friend to the 3000 has been Ritchie's C -- and not coincidentally, it's that language that's still making magic that 3000s can use.

You can smell that snake oil burning when you read this week's post from Google's Rob Pike, a colleague of Ritchie's and the first man to report Ritchie's death.

Unix was the great equalizer, the driving force of the Nerd Spring that liberated programming from the grip of hardware manufacturers. The hardware didn't matter any more, since it all ran Unix. And since it didn't matter, hardware fought with other hardware for dominance; the software was a given.

Haters HandbookBell Labs was the industry tower that Pike patrolled in the late 1980s, and that certainly wasn't any province close to an HP lab or a 3000 development cubicle or a company's IT director office. Unix was no more of a given than "spoken language" means "something everyone can understand." Unix remains full of byzantine differences that made the hardware more important than ever, because every vendor sold theirs as the One True Unix. Especially HP, which fed 3000 customers into the Unix ovens while it cooked up a larger installed base for HP-UX. The only thing that was a given was that HP was giving away its customers to Unix, while the world was climbing the shaky rope ladder into Windows. Ritchie was writing an "anti-forward" to a notable book exposing fatal flaws in his creation.

The point here is that technology has always been essential to a product's success and the health of its inventing company. But without insight, passion and a drive to create customer appetites and loyalty, technology like Unix can become the DC of electric service. You won't see much kowtowing to Unix this fall, since it's been eclipsed and outclassed by Linux. The Ubuntu version of Linux will actually save some 3000 customers from the fate of those 1990s ovens. But it took more than 20 years of refinements to make something a given: hardware, now replaced by virtualized servers like the CHARON product for the 3000.

Unix meant HP-UX, Solaris, AIX, Tru64, Ultrix, Xenix, IRIX, A/UX (sold by the non-Jobs Apple) and countless more. Unix was such a rabbit warren by the middle 90s that one of its chief makers, Sun, created Java to bind all software together in "write once, run everywhere." That didn't turn out to be any truer than Unix being a force Ritchie created to spark all digital inventions, including Apple's.

Unix might be the only operating system ever to sprout a Hater's Handbook, one widely cherished by those who worked with the OS and now such a legend you can read it for free, after multiple printings by IDG Press. "The Best of the UNIX-HATERS Online Mailing List Reveals why UNIX Must Die!" To be fair, people might have derided Apple's Newton just as much. But the Newton never killed off worthy achievements in technology. And that is what's being stated here: An invention in technology is more praiseworthy than a successful product and company.

Just try telling that to an HP 3000 expert or owner, now looking for work or hoping for a replacement. Ritchie is deserving of the Turing Award, the US National Medal of Technology, the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal, and the Japan Prize. He was also honest enough to know what he'd invented was far from a magic catalyst. "UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity," he said. He started to inch closer to Jobs' hubris while saying that "C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success." Quirky would be generous for the language both Tymlabs and CCC tried to sell to the HP 3000 market in the 80s and 90s. C needed "lint," another of those four-or-less lettered Unix tools, to find all the bugs in a typical program.

Ritchie deserves a memorial, but working in technology's high towers won't summon the sorrows of flowers laid at doorsteps of Apple Stores. There are fine ones written to assay his genius at the New York Times, the Guardian and many more outlets. On that Hater's Handbook cover, Clifford Stoll said "The next time a UNIX addict tries to intimidate you, reach for this book." Intimidation was rife among the Unix acolytes. The next time an acolyte tries to tell you that Jobs was a mere pitchman while Ritchie was an underpraised genius, consider what each has left behind that is working as their companies built it, and what they were doing in the year that they died. We stand on lots of people's shoulders to make tech magic serve us. Nobody is perfect, but the carping about Ritchie oversight versus Jobs belittles both men. Ask HP 3000 customers. Great tech needs a great advocate to survive.

06:50 PM in History, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 13, 2011

3000 developer job requires no migration

Job openings for development work on HP 3000s have become elusive in 2011, some might say rare. But the job listed today on Dice.com is even more rare: a 3000 IT position with no mention of migration.

CybercodersA Pleasanton, Calif. company reports that it sees unprecedented growth and needs a COBOL 3000 developer to expand its ERP systems. Pleasanton is just seven miles down Stanley Blvd. from Livermore, home to Topcon Positioning Systems, a manufacturer of positioning devices for construction and other industries. The firm is large enough and old enough to show growth through acquisitions, as well as faith in MPE ERP systems such as MANMAN.

Whether this is a MANMAN post or just one that serves a home-grown manufacturing app, the job requires MPE/iX, IMAGE/SQL, Quiz and Suprtool experience, plus COBOL coding. Whoever wins the job first listed on Oct. 13 up on Dice.com designs, codes, tests, debugs, documents and maintains ERP systems using those technologies unique to the 3000.

Even more rare is a pay scale listed for the position: $90K to $105K. In a market where 30-year veterans are consulting for as little as $30 an hour, that's a healthy HP 3000 salary. You don't want to make too much of a single job opening, but this one might say a little about the health of homesteading.

Software as a Service and off-hours support are also listed in the job, which might indicate there's some forward glances toward non-hosted systems -- plus a light body count in IT, or a very important position. But consider what's being described.

In this visible and mission critical opportunity, you will be a go-to professional that will program, integrate, and maintain our COBOL enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. You will also participate in technical and architectural-solution design and decision-making and recommend technical solutions for business problems or opportunities.

There's going to be plenty of resumes to comb through in Pleasanton; the job is being offered through the Cybercoders HR company. In a world where a long-term position is offered to use COBOL, Suprtool, IMAGE and maintain Quiz reports, this manufacturer might help make up part of a customer base for the CHARON emulator, too.

06:21 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2011

What’s It All About, Posix?

By Brian Edminster

Editor's Note: The origins of HP 3000 Posix go back to 1992, when it arrived as part of MPE. Posix was HP’s first effort at making MPE more standards-friendly. The engineering led to the potential for open source programs such as Samba, Apache and more to make it across the porting divide — and give the systems their first genuine cross-platform tools. The Posix work in MPE made GNU C for the 3000 a possibility, back in the nascent era of the open source movement. Brian Edminster, who's establishing a repository for open source HP 3000 tools, explains what Posix means to the 3000 administrator and owner nearly 20 years later.

It’s really pretty simple. Posix is an attempt to create common ground – to facilitate creating portable software. It consists of file-system, shell, and programmatic interface specifications to the underlying system (Un*x or not!).

Posix standards came about because it was getting more and more difficult to write software portable across the various Un*x flavors – as each vendor created more and more proprietary ‘features’ into their Un*x OS variant. And invariably, the features – usually added in order to give that particular version of Un*x a competitive advantage, made the systems just a little bit more incompatible. This might be by making certain functionality easier to implement on their platform, or to make administration easier, or just to improve performance.

The downside of all this, is that the various Un*x variants were slowly diverging – even though they might well conform the the ‘Unix’ system standard. It was also recognized that it was becoming more and more difficult to create software that is portable accross systems. Something needed to be done, and IEEE came to the rescue.

Rather than enforce complete uniformity accross various Un*x variants, the Posix working group defined a series of what are essentially ‘lowest common denominator’ standards for various parts of a system (file-system, shell, api’s, and so forth) that wished to be labeled Posix Compliant. By using these constructs, it became much easier to write software that is out-of-the-box portable. That is, the software will compile with little or no changes when moved between platforms that have the requisite Posix environment and compilers.

Yes, it was still possible to take advantage of 'platform specific' features, as long as there was a Posix way of doing that as well – or if it was okay not to have full functionality on non-native platforms. This is commonly achieved by use of 'compartmentalizing' platform specific code and/or by using conditional compilation directives. (I'll have more on that in future articles.)

The real boon to Posix, however: it is possible to make software originally developed for the Un*x environment available on any platform with a sufficiently complete Posix environment. Several excellent examples of this are MPE/iX, Mac OS X, z/OS, and some more recent Server editions of Microsoft Windows. There’s even a non-server Posix implementation for desktop editions of Windows called Cygwin – that makes much Un*x style portable software available for desktops as well.

So what does all of this buy? In effect, a very large pool of software that might be usable to solve problems that might have been prohibitively expensive to address via the traditional route of proprietary and/or custom developed software.

More importantly – since Posix was added to MPE (that is – when MPE/XL became MPE/iX), it too received the same benefits of improved portability and broader base of developers that other Posix systems enjoy. Porting efforts to bring open source software to the 3000 have come from both individuals (i.e. The GNU GCC Toolchain – bringing both C and C++ and related development tools to MPE/iX, plus: BIND, PostgreSQL, Perl, OpenSSH, and a broad host of smaller tools and utilities) as well as efforts from inside HP (Apache/iX, OpenSSL, Samba/iX, and SendMail – all of which became part of the FOS and/or available via patches).

The Posix filesystem was even used to enhance the TurboIMAGE/XL database system to allow ‘Jumbo’ datasets, spawning TurboIMAGE/iX. By allowing the ‘container’ files that carry datasets contents to be broken into file ‘chunks’ that exist in the Posix filespace – capacities far beyond what the ‘native’ filesystem could accomodate are now possible.

A secondary benefit is that most portable software is written to industry standards, using tools common across platforms. In short, it potentially makes it much easier for your MPE/iX based system to ‘play nice’ with other systems. By using this type of software, your systems will be more likely able to ‘inter-operate’ with the rest of your enterprise, and the world at large. By now having tools available that are common to the Un*x space (various shells, plus a plethora of command-line tools, utilities, and scripting languages), it’s easier to find fresh technical talent to assist with development and system administration tasks.

So, there are some interesting quirks that a Un*x admin or developer will need to know how to deal with when working on a MPE/iX system – but we’ll cover some of those, as well as some useful tips and tricks to make the best of both the MPE and Posix worlds, in later articles.

02:07 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2011

Webinar examines 3000 sites' plans for 2012

MB Foster is putting together a 45-minute briefing, including time to pose questions, for planning 2012 IT projects. The "Planning for 2012" training session is scheduled for 2PM Eastern US time Wednesday (October 12). Signup is at the MB Foster website. Participants will be able to ask questions and discuss data management strategies and plans.

The company's CEO Birket Foster says the webinar is based upon the "big plans" his company has discussed with some customers.

Some of them are related to the synchronization of data between applications, Business Intelligence (BI) and dashboarding. In fact, we have even seen some substantial RFP requests for solutions that match this requirement.

In other areas, clients are looking to unplug legacy systems through decommissioning -- but quickly realized that there are processes that need to be followed for compliance, and where data needs to be available for warranty tracking, or sales tax audits.

The scope of the webinar series this year from MB Foster has been broad. The latest seminar looks at dashboarding as well as putting HP 3000s to rest. These are topics that can be related, since dashboarding is a concept built around improving data reporting for an entire enterprise, regardless of platform.

You won't hear much discussion about dashboarding among classic 3000 managers, but it's had management fans for as long as BI has been crucial to enterprise planning. BI is one of the top 10 strategic technologies companies are investing in for 2012, according to reports from agencies such as Gartner.

Dashboarding is essential to growing a business in a smart way. People are realizing that if they could be planning more proactively, doing reporting and getting to a "single version of the truth," they could stay on top of their business better.

One business consultant, Benny Austin, has posted a superior checklist to evaluate what the four types of user groups need from dashboarding tools.

• Information Consumers: The decision makers who drive change management strategies based on the information presented. (In certain cases Information Consumers could be the general public.)
• Power Users: Those who build and publish dashboards.
• Developers: Those who build and maintain the information sources for dashboards.
• Administrators: Those who manage and regulate the hardware, software and application infrastructure.

11:23 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2011

Emulator stays on target, adds networking

The release schedule for the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator remains on track for a first shipment in January, news we're able to release since the vendor is sharing its fielding testing updates with us.

X11 emulator Sept24 The current plan is to process requests for CHARON-HPA/3000 field tests until the end of October. We are still on schedule for a first product shipment in January. The virtual PA-RISC CPU performance at first product shipment will comparable to MPE running on a single CPU hardware e3000-A400, for commercial applications with light Floating Point use.

(I happen to enjoy that Stromasys is using the classic HP 3000 slash-naming for the product. In the days of bedrock 3000 development, the database was called IMAGE/3000.)

Only two weeks after showing a deep dive of the product at the HP 3000 Reunion, the vendor has polished up Ethernet networking enough to include it as part of the latest field test release. Three more weeks remain to sign up for the bedrock time of the virtualized 3000 server era. 3000 owners and managers can do so with an email to CTO Robert Boers. The greater the number of dedicated testers who sign up, the better this solution into the future will be, and sooner. The HP 3000 would have had more HP lab work at the end if testers of beta patches had emerged.

"CHARON-HPA/3000 Ethernet implementation has become stable enough to be added to the Field Test binaries," Stromasys said in its Monday note. "The download areas will be updated on Tuesday Oct. 11. Xterminal emulation works well."

Xterminal was the foundation for the HP 3000 Reunion demonstrations of the emulator. The MPE veterans in the room during the Sept. 24 demo were impressed to see a 3000 run Glance, DEBUG and boot up, but many wanted to see a window larger than the 32-character-wide X11 one on top of Ubuntu Linux.

There are several aspects to the birth of a product that might add many years to 3000 homesteading (or extend migration calendars). There's how it looks to the system managers. There's the level of emulation -- how much like a 3000's chip it behaves, right down to re-creating the bugs. Developers have worked around these bugs for decades by now.

And finally there's the plumbing and electrical wiring of the 3000's structure. Ethernet is working enough this week to pump some test current through it, starting tomorrow.


09:12 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 07, 2011

Emulation key to any platform's survival

About halfway through the recent HP3000 Reunion, Roger Sinasohn came to me to describe his users group. It has been devoted to Atari game consoles and was once large enough to dominate a meeting space at Fort Mason, down at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sinasohn, a 3000 veteran, now meets in users' homes, but these users are still devoted. In this element, as well as another, the Atari user is a kindred spirit with HP 3000 managers. Emulators have been essential in extending the Atari experience, such as Stella, which runs on top of Windows, Mac and Linux.

Given enough time, all computer environments arrive at emulator futures. Sometimes the operating systems themselves emulate older functions. One of the miracles of the Apple renaissance was the introduction of OS X software, which somehow managed to run Motorola 68000 software atop the Unix core of the new OS. The HP 3000 had its own such miracle in 1987, when the CISC Classic MPE V applications were executed in Emulated Mode on the new PA-RISC hardware.

The rap on emulator choices from the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the CHARON HP 3000 emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like the Intel Xeon chips will. A $600 gaming machine already runs the fledgling CHARON as fast as an A400 HP 3000. That's in field beta test. Stromasys promises a 4x performance improvement in less than four months.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts believe in CHARON's emulation future. This year there were a lot more of them than could fit in any single home when the first HP 3000 Reunion took place. It's even possible that the Reunion could grow in size. After all, MPE is running businesses, not eradicating aliens like Atari did.

Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group manufacturing and 3000 support firm, posted glowing comments about the future of CHARON in the CAMUS.org report of earlier this week.

It was amazing to learn that within a year, MANMAN (and everything else that runs on MPE/iX 7.5) will be running on Intel/AMD 64-bit machines. MPE Virtualization: what a home run! Dr. Robert Boers, who came all the way from Switzerland to give his speech, showed MPE/iX running on a small Linux PC costing about $600 and it is expected to run many times faster than on an HP 3000 A-Class machine. They also had it running on Craig Lalley’s laptop in the same room; he’s been consulting on this project, but now it’s open to any developer with a good reason to download it.

It was non-obvious to me that MPE would boot up in 2 or 3 minutes, mainly because all the memory, IO, and disc checking had been done by the underlying OS (Ubuntu Linux in this case), but also because of the PDC rewrite they must have done. No more watching all the dots and 1s, 2s, and 3s etc. going by on the console for 10 or 20 minutes (or longer on large-memory HP 3000 machines).

Later, in a more technical briefing at the Reunion's hotel, Floyd noted that all the right answers flowed from Boers.

It was like Christmas and Boers was Santa Claus (there is a slight resemblance). MPE booted on both the laptop and the little Stromasys server Dr. Boers carried under his arm on his flight from Europe. Fun was had; DEBUG was run; Glance worked in Block Mode! Stan Sieler asked if it crashed in all known ways -- and pointed out that if it didn’t, it wasn’t right yet.

03:31 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 06, 2011

Why Your Life's Work Deserves Praise

The news wires are full of praise and remembrances of Steve Jobs today, the first working morning since he passed away. Billions of people never used Apple products, however. Some swear they never will, just because they don't want to get sucked into Apple's sparkly universe.

Bicycle for minds,jpg But as a computer professional, you might consider how admired and revered your skills were by Jobs and his company. A 90-second video on YouTube shows an interview of a boyish Steve Jobs who is explaining why the computer is the greatest tool ever created by mankind. Because, he says, it's the bicycle for our minds. That's a sentiment that goes a long way in the NewsWire offices, considering how much time we're in the saddle to stay fit, or to help fundraise for surivors of cancer, or AIDS.

JobsWhiteboard Jobs was also plainspoken about stealing to create great products. The HP 3000's MPE bedrock was mined out of the Burroughs operating system, something that Allegro's Stan Sieler likes to remind us. Windows, of course, came straight off the Mac and now represents the most popular migration platform for 3000 owners. 

In another YouTube interview Jobs admits how theft propelled Apple. But he also reminds us that it's thievery with a heritage of beauty. "It comes down to exposing yourself to the best things that humans have done -- and then trying to bring those things into what you're doing," he said. If you ever felt like your developments for this "bicycle of the mind" should be considered as art, the "Good artists copy" 30-second interview is worth a look, too.

This morning, here in the offices where we're peeking into our 17th year of publication of the NewsWire, we're teary eyed. We've lost a genius on the level of Edison or Disney -- the latter especially so, considering that Steve Jobs died as the largest shareholder of Disney. But honor the memory of one who always allowed that death was the greatest change agent of all, because it sweeps away and clears room for something newer. His passing is a day of mourning for us, because from the earliest days of our publishing careers, Apple products have been our greatest tools. Thanks to people like yourselves, they are our swift and stylish bicycles of the mind.

10:45 AM in Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apple founder, HP alum Steve Jobs dies

Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 8.30.54 PM The man who brought more innovation to 21st Century computing than any other has died at age 56. Steve Jobs passed away with his family Wednesday, falling victim to the pancreatic cancer he'd been battling for more than seven years. His passing marks the end of one era in business computing: The period when a CEO and company leader could use vision and desire to lift a massive, sinking ship into leadership, powered by his control and drive and passion for tomorrows.

He has an HP 3000 connnection, since he worked for Hewlett-Packard just before starting Apple in the 1970s. Over at Wired, Steven Levy writes that HP was an essential part of making Apple a Jobs dream come true:

From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP, David Packard, and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. After his call to Packard, Jobs worked at HP as a teenager. He later had a job at Atari, when the video-game company was just getting started. Yet he did not see the field as something that would satisfy his artistic urges. "Electronics was something I could always fall back on when I needed food on the table," he once told me. Later, he told [a friend] about the prices he was getting for parts, and they were favorable to the prices HP was paying.

One other thing Jobs did was convince Wozniak to quit his job at HP and work full time for Apple. When Woz originally demurred, Jobs called all of Woz’s friends and relatives, putting so much pressure on that the gentle engineer capitulated. Once again, Jobs had gotten what he wanted.

That David Packard-era HP had too much talent and not enough focus to entice such a man, who with his partner Woz, believed in computers for people, instead of computing for companies who employed computer people. The two men first met at HP when Jobs held a summer job there.

I had a brush up against his darkest era while I was a journalist nearly two decades ago. He'd been exiled from the company he created and so went out to found Object-Oriented pioneer NeXT and then Oscar-snatching Pixar. I had a near-miss in getting to interview him while he was toiling away at NeXT. At PCI, where we published and I edited the HP Chronicle, we were starting up NeXT World, and he was to be the interview for our inaugural issue. I left the company, ultimately to start the 3000 NewsWire, and NeXT withdrew the interview access. It was a matter of timing, but now it's a time for some personal regret. I feel like I've lost a bigger brother today. He was maddening and a lightning rod for criticism and never somebody you wanted to ride in an elevator with -- unless you had a great answer to "what are you working on today?"

Nobody ever missed NeXT World, or even NeXT the company. But for the computer world, a big disturbance in the force opened up Oct. 5. He never took more than $1 a year as a salary, instead compensated in stock, shares whose value rose from below $15 each to form the largest capitalized company in the world this summer. A CEO who takes that compensation, and then leaves in a golden parachute that's drifting as high as his ideals and ideas, may not grace our industry for a long time to come.

In 2009 he had a liver transplant to treat a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, his mortal diagnosis that he outlived for an extra two years. But even earlier, in 2005 when his doctor had told him to go home and get his affairs in order, he gave a now-legendary address to the Stanford graduating class entitled How to Live Before You Die. It's up on TED, that nexus of brilliant talks about humanity and technology and science. (Being a brilliant writer, Jobs had this words worked out on paper before he talked, and the transcript is online, too.) His own words on that day serve as the best epitaph, and the brightest light forward, now that his own searchlight has gone dark. There's advice in there for anyone who's still distilling a future in their computing life. You can only see how the dots of your life connect looking backward, he said, not forward. but faith is essential to doing good. "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Getting kicked out of Apple may have had the same sting as watching HP cancel the future of a computer you came to love, one which supported you. "It was awful tasting medicine," he said of losing Apple. "But I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. Don't waste a minute of your life," he says in that speech. His own achievements and leadership, from a man who built a computer "for the rest of us," are a marker for the rest of us and what we might do so long as we believe in what we love.

02:06 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 05, 2011

Did HP return to emulator to save servers?

Stromasys has always believed in a sizable HP 3000 marketplace, but its beliefs haven't aligned with the size of some people's reality. In the summer of 2010 the company said they thought 20,000 servers will still at work around the world. But what Stromasys CTO Robert Loers said at last month's Reunion was more about the size of the remaining customer than the numbers. HP reconnected with the emulator makers because large sites had headed away from HP's enterprises.

"I think HP just counted systems as if they were all systems, but we know that the large configurations are still there," Boers said. After the company's success at creating a VAX and Alpha emulator -- one that HP will support VMS upon -- "HP had the idea in 2009 that we would take six months to finalize the [3000 emulator], and that they could offer something similar."

Boers-Abramov But the engineering took longer than six months to complete. Part of the delay came from discovery of portions of MPE whose documentation "was really just folklore," said developer Igor Abramov in a Skyped-in from Moscow Q&A session (above) with Boers (at right). When January of this year arrived, no new licenses could be issued for 3000. HP probably waited too long to return to assisting Stromasys. Boers said HP's liaison to Stromasys would frequently report that one segment after another of MPE/iX code "had never been used."

The company still believes there are many thousands of servers running around the world, but the specific number falls into that same category of folklore. Just this week we were asked by a software migration supplier how many 3000s were still "in the fleet." There may have been more, if companies could have bought fresh licenses for an emulator.

"If we had completed the emulator by mid-2010," Boers told a room full of the most senior 3000 experts at the Reunion, "HP would have been able to provide additional licenses, specifically for the emulator product. But for some reason they'd set their deadline for January, 2011. Since we didn't make the deadline, that value went away."

At the meeting, Birket Foster speculated that HP's 2011 deadline was wrapped around expiring licenses for the MKS (Posix) and Mentat streaming parts of MPE/iX.

The product name Charon refers to the boatman in legends who ferried dead people across the river Styx. Whether the Stromasys product can ferry enough 3000 sites into a new life to justify its design costs remains to be seen over the coming year or so. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo is among several vendors who believe that even the raw demonstration of an emulator and the field testing will be enough to delay migrations of some sites, especially the large configurations with large costs. Virtualized hardware buys people time, to the benefit and deficit of both suppliers and 3000 owners.

"In some ways an emulator is a negative for us," he explained, noting that migration projects may stall and stem revenue to vendors like ScreenJet. "But in other ways it's a positive for the community. The emulator market may be a good one for [support companies] who can help people stay on the 3000 using an emulator. I don't think it's going to help much over the next 12 months."

The connection of SCSI peripherals and networking remains to be done, but Yeo, after watching the demonstration at the Reunion, believes that's not more than a matter of testing and coding. What will open up a "can of worms" is the software Licensing -- other than MPE itself -- on an emulated platform

I suspect that some vendors will take a realistic approach that the majority of customers are going to get very little advantage running on an emulated HP 3000 over that running on a real HP 3000 and will happily continue to support and earn revenue from it running on an emulated HP 3000. Others may be less reasonable.

There will no doubt be some lively discussions over the coming year as to what an HP 3000 is. But if a piece of hardware boots MPE and reports an identical HPSUSAN and HPCPUNAME, it would be hard to say that it wasn't an HP3000. As they say, 'If it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, it's probably a fish.'

From the sounds of Boers' reports about HP strategies, Hewlett-Packard would rather see a 3000 customer remain out of the fish ponds of IBM, Oracle or Dell -- especially the larger fish.

08:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 04, 2011

Cloud ERP replacement looks for lift off

"Just imagine that all we do is get rid of all your hardware and IT costs. Do we need to talk about anything else?"

Kenandy_logo_208x73 Rod Butters is talking up his company's cloud-based ERP replacement for the 3000-based MANMAN app suite. He's standing amid more than 40 IT managers and market experts at the CAMUS user group social, chatting it up in their stretch of the recent HP3000 Reunion. So far what he's got to say to get his share of attention is the stock promise of cloud-sourcing a system.

What's unusual is that Kenandy, Inc. is promising those things for manufacturing sites. Which are the hardest sorts of sites to lift onto the cloud, a strategy that comes down to massive bandwidth, endless storage, rock-solid servers and services from an attentive IT staff. That's your staff that Butters means to replace with Kenandy Manufacturing Management, "built for the Cloud." The software in the Kenandy Manufacturing Cloud app is built on Force.com, salesforce.com's enterprise cloud computing platform.

Terry Floyd -- one of the CAMUS user group officers who's spent a full 40-year-career advising, developing and supporting MANMAN to found The Support Group -- is high on the Kenandy promise. After seeing a 30-minute presentation at the CAMUS meeting, Floyd noted one big advantage to Kenandy: its design and development came from Sandra Kurztig, who's crept just a bit out of retirement after building the first generation of MANMAN.

Floyd, who had his own 90-minute briefing with Kenandy before the CAMUS meet, said that re-thinking is the key to making a new generation of manufacturing software. In a note on CAMUS.org

I think Sandra Kurtzig has done it again with the new Kenandy “no-erp” manufacturing applications. Kenandy was developed over the last year and a half using the SalesForce toolsets which really gave them a good head start. It will be very recognizable to any MANMAN/MFG user, having an Item Master, BOMs, Routings, WO’s, PO’s, demand management and MRP. Apparently Sandy wrote some of the code herself, just like the early days of MANMAN.

One of the roadblocks to putting classic ERP into a Salesforce cloud model is the customizations. HP 3000 sites were so locked in to customization that the MM II application included a Customizer tool. "A lot of people are rethinking all the crazy customizations they've done," Butters said. "This is where Sandra's experience makes a huge difference for us. If we didn't have her insight, this wouldn't be the same."

Kenandy's developers consider "what do you really need to do to make your inventory more effective?" By considering what things genuinely make a difference, people can back away from the complexity of ERP that's been running for decades.

More than four years ago we saw a MANMAN migrator embracing this kind of clean-the-slate thinking. Because this process manufacturer had to leave the HP 3000 platform, the IT manager was anticipating a streamlining of old software that had gotten bloated with this kind of complexity.

Butters claims that the other migration alternatives for ERP, such as SAP or Oracle, can take up to 16 screens to process an order. Force.com uses "a completely connected data model, so it only takes one screen. If you want to get to any piece of information it's probably only two clicks away."

Reliability is crucial to the manufacturing customer, since downtime is more expensive than anything except perhaps web commerce. Cloud apps don't have a spotless reputation at the moment; even Google's go down from time to time. But Kenandy gets the advantage of building on salesforce.com experience for reliability, Butters said. "They've been at this game for some time now, with lots of datacenters, full redundancy, full replication. They have a very managed way for you as a customer to decide when you want to take the new [upgraded] objects into your system."

The company's website suggests that traditional ERP systems don't hold up well "in the new reality of global supply chains. That's because ERP was built for vertically integrated manufacturing, when companies typically produced 80-90 percent of their own products' content, and manufacturing management systems didn't need to handle much beyond the four walls of the plant."

The company has been giving demos since early summer, and it has some companies which are making the switch to cloud-based manufacturing management. Butters wants prospects to sign into a webinar, because "that's an experience where there's actually somebody on the other end who can answer questions." Questions are certain to come up as manufacturers back away from complexity. At least there's the manufacturing insight from a classic founder, Kurtzig, to help with the answers.

03:43 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2011

Emulator's field test program steps onstage

Key procedure Stromasys is conducting a wide-open field test program for its new CHARON HPA/3000, starting with a note shared by the company's CTO Robert Boers late last week. The note -- one of a series to be shared with any prospect or vendor who's interested in using PC-gaming hardware to emulate a 3000 server -- is especially interesting when it describes HPSUSAN IDs (see instructions above from the process document. Click for details). These IDs are the keystones to the walls which comprise the MPE/iX software castle.

USB dongles will carry these IDs in the virtualized hardware configuration. (That's the emulator, if you're using the old nomenclature). The USB keys are in the total control of Stromsys for manufacture, although they are metered by the MPE/iX license attached to a 3000. HP's not creating new licenses, so every CHARON HPA/3000 needs to descend from a licensed 3000. Boers said HP expressed no interest in managing the HPSUSAN process for these USB keys. For field testers, "We will provide the ability to set, upon request, a specific HPSUSAN number in the license key," he said.

Several vendors have already said they're willing to participate in the CHARON HPA/3000 market with their software -- at least on the basis of what's been demonstrated at the recent HP3000 Reunion. "Since Robelle still adds enhancements and continues to develop on the HP 3000 we are of course interested in supporting this environment and ensuring that our products can work on the emulator," said Robelle's Neil Armstrong.

Boers said the field test program will cost nothing, will pay testers nothing, but will earn them a discount on a licensed version next year. Testers can contact developer Igor Abramov to get FTP access for a download of the executable code for the emulator.

As of this week there's no Ethernet support; it's expected in the second half of October. Boers said that field testers could "count on several incremental field test releases per month. We expect a speed up of 3-4 times the current [115MHz A400] with the first product release," after the field tests conclude.

Stromasys has outlined the hardware configuration for running the software. The latter won't go on sale until Jan. 1. Field testers will need Ubuntu Linux installed in an Intel server with two CPU cores of at least 3GHz. CHARON-HPA/3000 runs under VMWare, "but you have to make sure that the VMWare environment provides enough resource to this client," the field test notes state. The hardware demonstrated at the Reunion used SSD storage.

The emulator's support only embraces PA-RISC 2.0 at the moment, so software that wasn't upgraded to the late-90s version of the 3000 chipset won't work today. Boers said at the Reunion demo that he'd have to give a lot of thought to engineering the product to support 1.0 code. The exclusion probably won't reduce the market for an emulator by much, although a few of the most prime prospects are sites where MPE apps haven't changed in more than a decade.

Birket Foster, whose OpenMPE work led to the creation of an emulator MPE license -- back in 2005 -- noted that some major apps like MANMAN only appear to have nobody left to approve a USB HPSUSAN scheme. "The intellectual property for MANMAN was transferred a couple of times," he said, "and is currently owned by Infor, who would have to be consulted on the topic of a licensed version for archive purposes."

Minisoft's Doug Greenup said his company would be interested in supporting the HPA/3000 with middleware and connectivity. Speedware's Jennifer Fisher said "we are very excited about this offering as well. We have many clients both on Speedware 4GL as well as a base of clients on MANMAN/3000 ERP who could benefit from this solution. We would love to get a beta version to test on behalf of our installed base."

Questions about which software can run on the emulator depend on licensing, as far as Fisher can see. "As with most software, technically it should run," she said. 'You just need to ensure you are not in breach of any software license agreements.  As a reseller of most of the technology that runs on the HP e3000, I'm sure most companies would just require a license transfer fee to continue using the software on the new hardware."

05:27 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heartfelt plea for cancer survivor's bike/run

RonLivestrong2009 I have never done this here on the NewsWire's blog, but I am reaching out to our readers to help support a good cause this month: The LiveStrong Foundation's running-cycling Livestrong Challenge. I'm raising money to support this group that spreads millions of dollars among programs like a series to assist caregivers of cancer patients. I have less than two weeks to make my goal. We run on Saturday Oct. 15, and then ride the next day through the scorched Texas Hill Country.

I've ridden a bike thousands of miles to support charity causes since 2003, and some of my friends in the 3000 community have been generous donors to events supporting AIDS, MS, and now cancer survivors. But this cancer thing touches closest to my home and life -- perhaps to yours, too. I'm raising money after my bride Abby is pushing through her third year with skin cancer, getting screened, scraped, and burned, and having micro-surgery to remove sites that can be much bigger problems without these treatments. My friend Candace is surviving breast cancer after chemo and surgery, and my biking friend Ron is still clearing margins on prostate cancer.

Please help me help LiveStrong, so it help those we all care about. Every contribution counts, so we can ease the lives of people we love. Donate at my webpage, secure with your credit card:


Thanks for your support. My miles on the bike, and those in my first-ever 5K run, will fly faster with your donations!

02:27 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)