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January 2012

3000 connections still Padding in the future

SplashtopNot long ago, HP business server users started to ask about iPad connectivity once again. Some of the answers included pretty good advice on getting access to HP's Unix servers. The HP 3000 connectivity, which would be best served with 700/92 emulation nuances, might be a more complex prospect.

Back in the summer of 2010 we were waiting on the arrival of a 3000-grown solution. Minisoft intended to release its Javelin connection for iOS. It had even set a $9.95 price. But then the developer Neal Kazmi weathered some health issues and the project had to be tabled. But it's not canceled, according to Minisoft's founder and president Doug Greenup.

We were all set to do this with Neal and then had to pospone. He is back working on a number of projects here at Minisoft. The Javelin port to iPad is still on the "to do" list. I know there are people interested in a robust HP connectivity app for iPad. We just haven't had the development resources to finish the project.

So while we'll keep an eye on the App Store for the first 3000-savvy iOS app, there might be another solution available in the meantime. Something demoed on the Macworld show floor, just getting on its feet, can give users control over their desktop back at the office -- and so they'd be able to use a Windows PC running 3000 connectivity solutions, or even something hosted on the Mac.

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HP's not dumping Itanium apps, says editor

It's official: I've become an "industry pundit." The January/February edition of The Connection arrived in the mailbox while I was out covering Macworld, and I got myself put into an article about HP's Odyssey Project, in a footnote. It's a tale that like Sister Mary Ignatius, Explains It All For You. (Apologies to Christopher Durang's play, but I'm a lapsed Catholic boy and can feel a lecture in the air.)

At least I didn't get my knuckles rapped with a ruler. Dr. Bill Highleyman, managing editor of The Availability Digest and a past chair of the Tandem User Group, addressed the serious question about the future of Itanium in his rousing conclusion to The Connection article.

One industry pundit suggested that [HP VP] Markin Fink's reference to a "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future, probably meaning the end of the Itanium developments from Intel after its next two processor rollouts become a reality.

I remember writing that suggestion on November 25, indeed. There were a few other articles that followed it, but I'm not going to cry out "misquoted out of context." No journalist should ever bark that out, although I  invite you to read my other article that immediately followed my punditry. If you consider how long it's going to take Intel to do its next two Itanium rollouts, customers will be in the territory of 2016, or even later. (The last two rollouts took  a lot more than two years each.) Nobody at HP has shown a roadmap on the future of HP-UX beyond that date.

If Xeon hasn't "won out" already -- and those are Dr. Bill's words, since I'm no fan of racing metaphors -- it will surely represent a walloping majority of Intel's energy in four years. The end of proprietary tech at a vendor can come silently and quickly for no good technical reason. The HP 3000 did not officially lose HP's favor until a blind-side announcement. Right up to the late summer before MPE/iX got its HP dismissal, HP was still encouraging customers to ride that racehorse.

Dr. Bill quotes Pauline Nist of Intel in her company blog as saying

Intel remains equally committed to the Itanium and Xeon platforms, both of which represent our portfolio approach to bringing open standards-based computing to the mission-critical environment.

The next thing you know we'll be hearing how Itanium is "strategic to HP." Lessons from the 3000 division -- whose final GM, Winston "Coup de Grace" Prather, has become the Tandem/NonStop GM -- should make you want to race for the doors if strategic ever gets used to describe a product's future.

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Macworld makes Apple work for business

The noteworthy Macworld Expo unfurled its computing charms this week, but the 27-year-old show about all things Apple has a nouveau business patina these days. Almost 75 percent of Apple's historic Q1 sales came off mobile products. It's a remarkable tally considering that was a $46 billion first quarter. Apple is not doing it on the backs of consumers exclusively. Business has embraced the Apple brand, not only in mobile but also on the enterprise's desktops.

It has been many years since a large conference included HP 3000 solutions. Not even the final HP World show of 2004 could be considered large by Macworld standards; Interex was doing very well when it drew 7,000 IT souls, and Macworld hovers near the 20,000 mark these days. A few hundred vendors make up the show floor this week, although it's thick with vendors of covers for any Apple product you can carry -- which if you take a moment to consider it becomes the bulk of the Apple line: ultra-slim laptops like the Macbook Air, beefier models like the Pro and the iPads and iPhones. All accomplished solutions, but there's a growing number of companies that want to out-do Windows desktops here, and I'm not talking about Angry Birds on Windows Phone or MS Office. You can look beyond the common-cloth Unix choices if you're making a migration and plan to buy off the shelf replacement software.

Moka5This year a new player entered this market with a software shell that makes Mac management as simple as administering Windows desktops. Mokafive integrates with those Mac systems so an admin with Windows experience -- Active Directory, that sort of thing -- can manage everything from a single screen. (That screen above is on a Macbook Air.)  After all, inside the heart of Apple's products beats Unix, the original "open" system that's supposed to connect with everything. Mokafive isn't the only way to convince your IT staff that Macs won't be any extra burden. There are other products aimed at creating a homongenous workplace for computers which tap corporate data.

Okay, full disclosure here: The companies I've worked for and founded since 1987 have been Apple shops. It used to be the domain of pariahs and the source of derisive snorts, but the Mac world has gone corporate on us all. The pro-sumer movement, where iPhones and iPads get carried into an enterprise by C-level officers, has brought along Macs as a sticky complement. In a report on the $46 billion quarter, Apple's CEO Tim Cook said nearly all of the Fortune 500 is using Apple's products, including most companies adopting Macs. It used to be that a localized in-house datacenter kept Apple out. Now there's cloud computing to take the place of an IMAGE/SQL, if you're departing the 3000 world. This cloudy future is helping to make Apple's business outlook brighter.

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Amping up 3000s becoming commonplace

AmpedupThe farther away HP's end of support date gets from the system's present day, the more common become the skills to take the hardware beyond HP's constraints. Its processors were crippled by code in the server that threw away as many as three cycles out of four. HP was attempting to introduce a value chain in the lineup, but the customers soon saw it as chains around PA-RISC chips inside.

Now you don't have to ask around for very long to arrange for the chains to be broken. One prominent consultant said it's been six years since he was asked about any MPE/iX license needs while upgrading one of the servers HP's walked away from. The slowdown reverberates throughout a 3000. Its Fibre Channel drivers require CPU power, so crippling the CPU also cripples the IO.

As common as the practice is off the record, it's also common for companies to say little that can be traced to them in public when they do this to a 3000. The irony in the situation is that the HP 3000s which were released without user-based licenses like the A-Class servers got hobbled. On the upside, nearly every HP 3000 released since 2001 can run faster with a few judicious commands inserted at the ISL prompt.

The payoff? The LTO and LTO2 tape devices could get a streaming role on an N-Class. That server uses a speedier PCI bus than the Series 900 HP 3000s. LTO might seem like antique tech, but it's all relative in the world of the homesteading site.

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More changes resound at

H-L vendorsWelcome to another installment in the historic saga of the HP 3000 resources tracked by In our last episode we discovered that about a third of the vendor listings A-G were dead links, while about half of the remainder didn't do 3000 business any longer. The H-O group showed a lot more promise to lead toward active resources. But it's also a strong record of a bygone environment.

Still operating as usual, off the addresses on the links' list, are Horner Consulting (now also Publishing), Ideal Computer Services, MPE/iX Administrator's Guide author Jon Diercks, Lars Appel, Lund Performance Solutions, MB Foster, Cort Wilson's MANMAN Resource website, Mark Bixby of 3000 porting fame, Melander Consulting, Minisoft, Nobix, Opin Systems, OpenSeas and Orbit.

HP Technologies is a programming house that once tended to Amisys healthcare sites and alternatives like the IBM-based Facets. It's all alternatives by now, including the Amisys Advance replacement. Holland House is now at, but Holland House has been a member of the Solipsis Group since 2006. Unispool is still for sale there. HP 3000s, or any other specific platform, are not mentioned at the website. Idaho Computer Services became Evolve and then joined Harris Group as it left its municipal 3000 app business. Impact Digital Solutions has dropped off the map and taken down its Discover/3000 search tool.

It's interesting to see how businesses evolved in the turmoil of the post-2001 3000 shakeout. Infocentre's Canadian reservation systems business has become a development house for hotel software, web design and marketing-ecommerce solutions. Operations Control Systems moved its MPE/iX job scheduler to Unix. Instead of a 3000 consultant, the Jim McCoy linked on the site now does bookkeeping and accounting.

Then there's the blindside group, where a link like Interactive Software Systems now leads to a Columbian swinger's club, complete with pounding techno music on its website.

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Relying on a Product That's Market-Proof

AppleShareTrendThe thunder you might have heard today came rumbling down from the stock market, where Apple's shares rose $35 in trading after the company's quarterly report. HP's tablet and PC competitor is nearing the point where it laps Hewlett-Packard in PC sales, so long as you call an iPad a personal computer. There's great evidence you can use one for lightweight mobile tasks. Apple sold more than 15 million iPads, more than 5 million Macs (mostly laptops) and posted $46.3 billion in sales -- in just 90 days including the holidays. Apple is on track to out-sell HP in total numbers for the last four quarters, by a big margin. And speaking of margins, the profits on that $46.3 billion were $13 billion.

If you've forgotten, because HP's numbers don't matter so much to you anymore, HP recorded just $130 billion in sales for its entire 2011 year. There's a message here that matters to a 3000 owner, during this day when Apple's stock rose by more than the full price of an HP share. Public-traded companies are going to chase profits and market share. That's one reason why the life of a 3000 owner is a simpler existence today.

HP had no compelling technical reason for exiting its 3000 business. It was a decision based on revenues, profits and growth of the business. Apple hasn't exited the iPod business, but the popular Touch line got no updates during 2011. Sounds a bit like the 3000's offerings after February 2001, when the A- and N-Class servers finally surfaced. The canary in the mineshaft, warning of a lack of oxygen -- that's a lack of updates. This is something to be expected out of any tech product sold by a public company.

Is it too crazy to believe that in the post-manufacturing era of the 3000, its stable and static future could be a refuge? It's not like there's going to be any less HP involvement with the 3000. The server is now being cared for by the community of its users. Hundreds and hundreds of experts. They don't have investors or any public-trading demands to impact their 3000 curation mission. It's all about the customers.

No, that's not a scenario that will spark fresh installations of HP 3000s. Many a migrating company uses the departure of HP as a spark for a system's exit. But some companies have cleared out all HP gear except for their 3000s. So if a migrating company is stuck on the server for awhile longer, at least surprises are going to be few in that environment. This server has become market-proof, at least stock-market-proof. The history that we recall is that the axe descended after the 3000's creator hired a leader who was directed to boost HP's valuation.

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Quality, emulator futures slowing migrations

RoadblockSome of the migration tool and service suppliers are expecting migrations from the 3000 to slow to a trickle this year. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet told us last week that the chance of extending the life of 3000 applications, by using the Stromasys HPA/3000 software, is going to put on the brakes for the sites that didn't have a clear future strategy for their 3000 servers.

Even without the possibility of replacing Series 900 hardware with the PC hardware plus software that starts at $15,000, most of the 3000 programs in production are not broken. They continue to do the job they were built for, although they could work faster, or connect better to new peripherals.

3000 managers wonder about these things. "Am I the only one out here?" they ask, in public forums like the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup. The answer is no, you're not the only one out there. In fact, the populace of 3000 customers is surprising, both in its numbers and the work these systems do. The brand-new chairman of the Connect user group's board has managed a 3000 shop for many years. Steve Davidek is on the record as a fan of the 3000, even while his shop at the City of Sparks has migrated numerous 3000 apps.

"The City of Sparks, Nevada will be running an HP 3000 and BiTech Payroll at least through 2011," he said on the newsgroup. "Maybe longer, as the process to convert to our new system was hampered by the amount of budget we are allowed. Then again, why the rush? It is still the best out there."

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Iconic Kodak product may fade to hobbyists

Zi8Eastman Kodak's filing for bankruptancy yesterday signaled a transformation for an iconic inventor. The leader in film for more than 100 years, Kodak faces a new future this morning, one that will be tied to printing success. The company's been given until February 2013 to produce a reorganization plan, and it will try to get the sale of $2 billion in imaging patents approved by June 30. But Kodak's breakthrough of film won't go away, not any more than an MPE/iX environment will disappear. For Kodak, the expectation is that film imaging will retreat to hobbyist and enthusiast markets.

Like MPE/iX, film photos will become the standard by which successors are judged. And what's possible is the same fate of vinyl recordings: a modest renaissance as lifelong digital picture-takers consider the advantages of older technology. The same thing will be happening to paper books in the future. Companies without a plan for these newer complimentary technologies will suffer. Most of the 3000's customers are using at least a Windows server somewhere in their enterprise.

Kodak's inventions in film and imaging have become its last stronghold, a redoubt the company fell upon while trying to sell off its patent portfolio. The stock was pounded again today, shares which were de-listed from the NYSE in a stunning reversal for a company of its age and reputation. But that reputation is what's likely to leave Kodak's products in a spot where they'll survive well. A later-era entry like the company's pocket video cameras (above) which included novel features like mic inputs might have the same kind of aftermarket that the 3000 has enjoyed. When you build it well to start, the value remains even after the vendor has fled.

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Where Automated Migrations Excise Work

BunnybreadSpeedware has been selling and using its AMXW migration software for more than eight years by now. The package has got reference accounts like Lewis Bakeries (think Roman Meal or Bunny bread) and Matco (think the tools in service departments of many a car dealership). The Automated Migration to Unix, Linux and Windows package has grown and been revised over this period, years that cover just about all of the bonafide migration era.

But there are some 3000 veterans who'd look elsewhere when deciding how to lift and shift a 3000 application suite on the way to a non-MPE platform. One argument we heard, while spreading the word about the AMXW Free Gift promotion of 2011, was that COBOL program layouts give you all you'd need to write an extract program "to convert to 'string' or 'numeric' field data definitions for loading into SQL."

While that is technically correct, it shows a fundmental misunderstanding of the field where AMXW can help. It's true that the software has been used by some very large IT shops (the Australian arm of ING's insurance group comes to mind.) But this is an automated tool, so its larger sweet spot seems to be with the more common 3000 site. That's the one run by an undermanned IT staff (sometimes just one soul) who's got little time to be writing data extract programs.

We've heard that using AMXW is "a case of comparing the cost/time savings to complete the project." It certainly is, but not in the sense that there's a less-costly way for anyone but the most savvy 3000 developers and managers. The trend that we've seen in your market is an exodus of these developers off company payrolls. A lot of the computer staff which is left doesn't know MPE/iX or COBOL II or a lot of other essentials. Yesterday we heard another story about a company going bareback on its 3000 support, because the system just ran by itself. And nobody wanted to ever turn it off, for fear it might not come back up. When you're avoiding the off switch, COBOL II extracts probably are a missing skill set.

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Windows 7 hosts MPE/iX admin software

GUI3000GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, a concept that's become so mainstream it's simply called UI. But in the days when graphical was a novel concept a software product delivered GUI to 3000 system managers and admins. The software developed by GUI innovations and Pete Vickers 15 years ago is GUI3000 and it is still selling today. The latest Windows can host this product that streamlines the management of multiple HP 3000s using the familiar Explorer Interface.

Gainsborough Software has distributed GUI3000 ever since the product was first released in 1997. Peter Griffiths of Gainsborough said the software has been updated to follow the Windows upgrade path.

"We are still selling the product and it works fine on Windows 7," Griffiths said. "It is also a great tool to have for migration of data from IMAGE, KSAM or MPE files to a range of open system formats including SQL, Excel or comma-delimited."

Back when GUI3000 was supporting Windows 95 and 98, our reviewer John Burke said the software evades a simple summary of its features. "GUI3000 is so feature-rich that no single phrase can adequately describe it. GUI3000 is not just a toolbox, but a collection of toolboxes, each with specialized tools for different tasks,  all with a common interface," he said. Other HP 3000 Windows solutions reach across to non-3000 management, too.

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3000 emulator speeds up, links up

Although the Charon HPA/3000 software-hardware bundle is still several months away from selling as a customer-installed emulator, the product is taking steps forward with both engineering and compatibility. Reports have been emerging about third-party essentials starting to run with the Stromasys product which will bring MPE/iX to the Intel Xeon hardware.

The hardware was the lead item in a brief status update we received today from the Stromasys CTO Robert Boers. The Intel i7 is already doing the job of achieving performance equal to the original A-Class 3000 hardware.

We are moving faster than expected.We now run MPE on our core i7 Charon-HPA system at or above the execution speed on A400-100-110 hardware. Installations are updated this week. Experience shows :-)

Meanwhile, another 3000 software vendor checked in to report on compatibility with the emulator. We'd already heard that Robelle's Suprtool has been run successfully on the HPA/3000. Not long ago, Minisoft's Doug Greenup said his company's software, used to link the 3000 with databases, has been tested against the solution. "Our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000," he said. "So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work."

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Picturing your community's future history

January is the month of last year that ScreenJet's Alan Yeo began to envision the first HP3000 Reunion, enjoyed by the community last September. It takes many months to bring together this kind of event as a grassroots organized effort. But that kind of patience is not a problem when it's hosted by IT pros seasoned enough to endure old-as-dirt mainframe and minicomputer management.

UNIVAC9030After the historic reunion was in the air, Yeo shared a picture of one such beast, a Sperry Univac 90/30, "their version of the IBM 360. (Click the picture at left to enlarge.) The two dials on the right were also used to dial in the register address to which code should start to be loaded on boot, however I think it was a long binary number indicated by the two rows of lights along the front."

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the System 3000 as an HP product. The official rollout date is this fall. Bob Green, who attended the Reunion, helped to sponsor it and brought memories of working on the first 3000 documentation team, said the motto for the 3000's intro was "November is a Happening." How '70s it all was during that era.

Syntronic_ComputerWe've put our set of pictures online from the Reunion, a set you can browse as a Flickr photostream. I hope our community has got another Reunion in its tank for this 40th year. After all, there's seed money for the next event already banked, plus organization in place to process tickets. The venue couldn't have been more appropriate, too. On this US holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., let's all celebrate another kind of freedom -- from the likes of the 360, that Sperry beast, or even HP's predecessors to the 3000 (as shared with that photo above from Terri Glendon Lanza, an ASK/MANMAN pro who won the signed poster of the night.)

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Eloquence smoothing UX-Linux migrations

IntelXeonThe HP 3000 isn't the only Business Critical System that's weathering the winds of migration. Some companies are seeing the light at the end of their Unix tunnel and making the move onto an open source environment. Linux has been the choice for CASE, a maker of banking software which had a 3000-using customer base not so very long ago.

A recent chat on the mailing list devoted to the database Eloquence pointed to another HP-UX refugee. Rick Gilligan commented during a discussion about HP-UX future platforms that the company had dumped HP's Unix at the close of 2011. The applications made the move to Linux, where there was "Some minor amount of work in going to Linux on x86_64, to handle the [Big vs. Little] endian issues. Eloquence was the trivial part of the port to Linux on x86_64."

That's 64-bit Linux on Intel's Xeon lineup, usually presented to HP sites as a ProLiant server installation. Eloquence is a equal-opportunity database for 3000 migrators, operating on Linux, HP's Unix as well as Windows. HP's Unix, on the other hand, is locked into the bit-map Endian issues of Integrity/Itanium systems. HP-UX is Big-endian and the current Xeon hardware line is little-endian. That's where the Eloquence list chat began, when someone asked about a new Xeon-based BCS server for HP's Unix. Turns out there is no such thing, despite the hopes from HP's Unix market.

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Oracle serves Nordstrom's ex-3000 users

Nordstrom-shoppingEcometry e-commerce software once landed the HP 3000 some of its best-known customers. Store chains seen in shopping malls were also among 3000 owner ranks. One of the best-regarded retailers has replaced Ecometry when the company shut down its HP 3000. Both catalog and online sales were changed at Nordstrom. The beneficiaries of the multi-step move at Nordstrom were IBM and Oracle, but HP didn't get shut out completely.

Nordstrom-logoBob Thompson of Nordstrom's Sales Systems group said that the company's HP 3000 was used only for Ecometry processing. Triggered by HP's pullout of the marketplace, the retailer started to re-evaluate its e-commerce software along with the platform. Ecometry lost out to Sterling Commerce, a software provider which has become part of IBM. The software is listed under IBM's Selling Solutions.

Thompson said the company converted all of its Ecometry data to Oracle. The Sterling solution is running on Java, Oracle and Linux, but Oracle isn't a complete winner: There are a few Solaris boxes waiting to be replaced.

The migration started with a new COBOL program. Nordstrom wrote one to read its IMAGE/SQL data and convert it into XML. Then services were developed to use the Sterling APIs to add the data to Sterling's Oracle database. Nordstrom converted two years worth of data to import into the new software. Then even more Oracle embracing commenced. Nordstrom was not rewriting or doing a lift and shift migration. The strategy called for an application replacement and data migration.

"This part involved a direct conversion of all the Ecometry IMAGE datasets, for all time, to Oracle for historical reporting," Thompson said. "The initial COBOL conversion effort took close to a year," Thompson said, "plus another four months for the second part" to create the historical reporting facility. After leaving behind the HP 3000 and Ecometry and IMAGE, HP was left with a hardware assignment to fulfill at the company. But the Business Critical Systems, running Itanium, haven't been tapped from the HP product lineup.

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HP's 3000 software practice once wide open

HPWebOSOver the past month, HP has released the source code for WebOS into the open source community (or at least announced its plan to do so). It's been called a watershed event for open source -- the first commercial mobile OS ever nudged onto the homebrew free software shelves. But software was once a passion at HP that invited much more design from users than software gets today. Instead of rising on the energy of volunteers after its lifespan, software once grew up on the power of the user experience. The HP 3000 used a different model than the built-inside, respond to the outside modification requests. One of its best examples was the creation of Transact, a reporting and language solution still working at some sites today.

TransactCOBOLDavid Dummer created Transact, software that became a part of HP's Rapid family of products. In that era of advanced productivity for programming, Rapid was Hewlett-Packard's entry. But HP bought Transact and Rapid from Dummer, a deal which gave him the rights to re-create it based on direct input from users. When this project rippled through HP 30 years ago, those users in a classroom were programmers who worked with many languages. "It was like having 35 design engineers in the room," said one ex-HP developer who shaped the product.

Over 16 days of meetings, these programmers discussed each feature in Transact. Dummer wouldn't take lunch, but go off and code up "some of the more simple changes" and bring them back to the users in the class. After-lunch and then overnight coding and tests produced a period "when the product was completely re-invented, and now feature rich enough to support most best practices that we all used to code by hand."

We're not talking about an era of worldwide networks or change management repositories. (HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. That was 27 years after Transact grew its robust features in a 16-day open development cycle.) Thanks to the open input on design, the dynamic data handling in Transact was built well enough that it served on 3000s for decades. Dummer went on to create DataExpress, the founding product for MB Foster's UDA Central. He wrapped up his 3000 career consulting on the 34-server Washington state community college migration to HP-UX. Besides using open input to create Transact, Dummer developed technology to move Transact apps to Unix or Linux.

And you can make a case for the length of the lifespan of Transact  -- software that's going onward into Unix and Linux -- resulting from the open design that happened in that classroom.

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What becomes legacy: everything eventually

What can you do about it? Embrace the virtualized future for any platform you use, or migrate onto. It's the only way to keep the business of the old republic vital.

Wars-the-old-republic2When Stromasys showed off its first test runs of the HPA/3000 Charon emulator, the company pointed out that the market for virtualization is only getting larger. Some companies have retained environments no longer supported by the vendor. While HP comes to mind here, this is also true of Microsoft. Some people are surprised when they learn MPE/iX drives manufacturing companies as large as Measurement Specialties. That's only a few dozen servers, however. We've heard of one organization that has more than 3,000 Windows NT systems to support.

That story comes from Robert Boers, the CTO of Stromasys who makes a compelling case for virtualization of all environments, whether a dated Windows release or the classic MPE/iX. "The industry is looking away from a growing problem of legacy systems," he said, "one that's got nothing to do with HP or VAX and Alpha servers." Stromasys has sold more than 4,000 installations of those DEC systems, developing a business model and tech design they're applying to HPA/3000. He cited a military organization "who have 3,500 Windows NT 4 servers. They can't run that stuff anymore on a modern [hardware] platform."

While Boers said this legacy wave has little to do with the HP 3000 opportunity, the issues remain the same. Everything which IT purchases has an end-of-life date coming from the vendor. Once that day arrives the IT customer can choose to go independent. But at some point a PA-RISC system like the 3000 or old HP 9000s, or the Itanium servers hosting HP-UX, it all becomes a legacy system -- even the relatively nouveau platform of Windows NT. All of these computers host business critical applications. Boers said the average lifespan of such an app is now 22.5 years. It's not tough to find in-house software that was created more than 20 years ago in your community. What's become harder to do is find gear to keep it running which has room to grow in performance and connectivity.

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Vendors preserving 3000s for historic use

Keeping 3000 History AliveOur ongoing mission to help clean up the site uncovered a new line of business at AICS Research. Once known mostly for its QueryCalc reporting software, AICS has expanded its 3000 oursourcing for sites that don't use its software. AICS calls this Keeping History Alive. It's aiming the product at migrating users of HP 3000s.

Archival HP 3000s will be increasing in number over 2012. System migrations will be complete this year, some of them anyway. Even though these 3000s will go to recyclers or resellers, the systems' data lives forever. What's more, the applications refuse to fall to IT's axe.

Enter companies like AICS, The Support Group, Speedware and others, all who will move applications and data onto offsite servers. The accounts will live in password-protected volumes on disks or arrays. And the software needed to run those apps? Support must be maintained for third party tools such as Adager, Suprtool, byRequest, UDC Central or MPEX. This surround code -- even extensive products such as PowerHouse -- will continue to be crucial to make such historic systems deliver accurate reports.

"You may be concerned about how you will access the mass of data you currently have on the HP3000 in five or 10 years from now," says the AICS website. Migrating customers who come off a reliable server that's been active for several decades need to include this aspect in project planning.

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TSG taking MRP into the cloud during 2012

No-ERPThe Support Group hung out its shingle for cloud-based manufacturing solutions this week, posting webpages that outline how it will integrate the new offering of the Kenandy replacement for MANMAN and other 3000-flavored suites. TSG calls this migration target Social MRP, and it's been chatting up the potential for the Chatter networking feature inside Kenandy's software.

It's early in the social-cloud evolution cycle, but TSG wants to be one of the charter Kenandy Consulting  Partners. The business model calls for migration, implementation and customization of a new manufacturing system. TSG's reminding the market that the vendor was the original third-party support company for ASK’s MANMAN system developed in the 1970s -- software that's still running a few hundred manufacturing companies around the world.

Kenandy's Rob Butters told us back in September that one objective of the cloud-based solution was to start with a clean page to serve small companies that want streamlined operations to get the most from their manufacturing apps. ASK's founder Sandy Kurtzig has steered the Kenandy designs to get a simplified approach to manufacturing software systems. Small companies that fill the ranks of 3000 owners have a surprising array of unique manufacturing workflows and business rules. 3000 users who need to move onto a new platform are in a position to leverage the transition into a new way of thinking about MRP.

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Good foundations support 3000 managers

Editor's note: Yesterday we got a call from a company which had read this "Worst Practices" column written in 1999 as if it were brand-new. Scott Hirsh, who's now leading the charge into cloud-based storage solutions at Nirvanix, wrote these columns for the NewsWire after his years of managing an HP 3000 operation for a capital management firm in San Francisco. It's robust advice for anybody new to managing a 3000, and the guidelines are still useful today. If you're inheriting 3000 management, or passing it along to someone younger and newer, account structures are still a great place to get things correct before anything else happens. He called this one "Shaky Foundation."

By Scott Hirsh

As we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. (To keep this discussion simple — and typical — I will discuss the standard MPE name space, not the Posix name space.) I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.

What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix or Windows account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.

As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.

In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”

Continue reading "Good foundations support 3000 managers" »

Tracing 3000links to Their Breaking Points

BrokenRobotOnce upon a time there was a vast and charted territory of HP 3000 websites and webpages. The resources that appear on still include some detailed, straight-line jumps to companies still serving 3000 sites. Or at least companies which still have support customers for software products, or contracts to migrate companies off the server.

We rolled up our browser sleeves and waded into hp3000links this afternoon to see what's gone past its sell-by date. If you've been in the marketplace long enough you'll recognize the list of vendors that pops up on the site's front page -- even if some of those company names are all that remain of community resources. More than a dozen out of the first third of the list's vendor links are landing on dead pages or websites that have evolved into other ventures.

VendorList 3-GFor example, 5 Diamond IT Consulting drops you onto the website, where fine jewelery is sold. The old Diamond Optimum Systems once gave HP 3000 users "the Windows interface to MPE management," but the company was merged with Serena Software. Computech's address has become a racing parts website, CSI Business Solutions' a maker of jars for the cosmetics industry. But the 3000links page pop-up (click for detail) still mainlines directions to community stalwarts like 3k Associates, Adager, DIS International (Mark Klein's consulting), G. Schipper and Associates and even Gainsborough House in the UK -- one of the few places where you can read about MPEX from a supplier of the product. (VEsoft doesn't do websites, just the now-rare customer visits.) At 3k Associates, you'll find a Tech Wiki that traces the last known 3000 businesses across a vast list of companies -- and you can contribute what you've learned yourself, wiki-style.

Continue reading "Tracing 3000links to Their Breaking Points" »

Happy New Year: Now we're 400 or so

Most of our in-boxes are full and the calendar planning is in overdrive today. It's the first full day of office work for the new year in many companies, what with the Jan. 2 Monday being a holiday all over. But there's already expansion afoot in the HP 3000 community.

Specifically, the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community now numbers more than 400 members. Fresh faces include Peter Prager, whose company sells XML solutions that work with MPE/iX; AMISYS/3000 developer Blanchard Carter; Lendy Middendorf, Senior System Administrator at Smurfit-Stone; Gavin Scott, VP of development at Allegro Consultants. Some are homesteading, others have moved to new platforms. And sure, there are recruiters in there, but they do have a line on jobs.

LinkedIn is a go-to destination to expand your career options. One of our favorite members, Scott Hirsh, used to manage the HP 3000 System Manager's Special Interest Group. He's long beyond the 3000 community these days, tending to cloud computing storage needs at Nirvanix. But Hirsh said that showing a strong LinkedIn profile with plenty of connections scores you higher when an employer or partner researches you.

If you don't belong to the group, join today. There's hundreds of people there who will make good contacts for you, as well as a news feed and discussions about 3000 issues and the future we're headed for in this new year.