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Assisting Off the 3000, En Route to Linux

Europ AssistanceA worldwide travel and healthcare insurer is making the move off their HP 3000 starting this year. While that's not remarkable, the destination is notable. Europ Assistance is starting the work to replace its MPE host with a Linux system, right down to considering a Powerhouse license re-purchase.

Adrian Hudson is part of the IT team at Europ, a firm which sells insurance for travels as well as supplemental healthcare. Since these policies are purchased one-off, as the UK-based firm might say, customers pay for them with credit cards. That's the spark to replace the HP 3000 with Linux, Hudson says.

"As Europ Assistance is involved in the Payment Card Industry, one of the key drivers for the migration away from the 3000 is regulatory compliance," he reported. The PCI regulations have been a challenge for some companies to master using the 3000. Last year Hudson was researching a way to permit the HP 3000 to process payment card information using Secure File Transfer Protocol. SFTP was not entirely supported by HP prior to the Hewlett-Packard lab closing in 2008. Hudson was diligently working on a way to involve the 3000 in these data transfers. The alternative, to use intermediate SFTP support on non-MPE servers, turned out to be the solution.

"We ended up piggy-backing files through a Windows server with SFTP installed," he said, "and then FTPing them to and from the 3000." Now the operations once handled by that 3000 are heading to a Linux server. Hudson is investigating the cost of keeping Powerhouse in place on the application. It's one of the simpler ways to migrate code to an alternative platform.

One of the first steps, with the most exciting outcome, is discovering what the charge to moving to Linux will be on the Cognos price list. In the years since Europ Assistance first bought Powerhouse, Cognos has become a part of IBM. The 4GL -- it's called an Advanced Development Tool -- is licensed differently for Linux developers than on the MPE/iX systems.

We received a quote from IBM and it is for a license per ‘named’ developer. I understand the licensing structure is now only for a development license and there is then no need for a ‘Production’ license.

In the past, one would buy a Full License for the Development machine and a Runtime (maybe with reporting) for the Production box, and I believe there was no limitation on the number of users.

The Powerhouse product manager Bob Deskin explains that the definition of user under Linux Powerhouse has shifted only slightly from the classic 3000 terms.

The license model has not changed very much. What you're probably thinking of is the HP 3000-MPE/iX platform, where we would typically license by machine size. Therefore, it was unlimited users for however many you could run on that machine. With other platforms, the approach was to use the number of users. In most cases this became the number of sessions, rather  than unique named users. In other words, if a user opened two terminal emulator windows on a PC, that would count as two sessions and two users.  The only exception was PowerHouse for Windows, where it was assumed that there was only one user.

Under IBM, instead of sessions, it is truly a concurrent user. And further, they specify named user as in unique user. They do not expect you to name all the users. So under IBM, the above scenario of a single user opening two sessions would only count as one concurrent named user.

There is still a distinction between development and runtime, but it depends on the platform and use. If someone purchases a single development license on Windows, there is no need for anything else. It's a single-user machine. But if you buy a single development license on a Linux server, you require runtime licenses for your users.

License structuring for other development tools on Linux may not require runtime purchases as a matter of course. But it's interesting to note that Powerhouse Linux demands this extra cost, while Powerhouse Windows doesn't. Many migrating HP 3000 sites have chosen Windows as their alternative platform. However, of late many others are looking at Linux -- with its improved and still-enhancing enterprise features -- as their best alternate to MPE/iX reliability. IBM/Cognos might be choosing its license terms in response to the enterprise's migration to Linux. Managers routinely point at Linux's affordability as important to their choice, however.

The runtime licenses you didn't need on an HP 3000 are required for Powerhouse Linux. The overall cost is likely to be less. MPE/iX licenses for Powerhouse were legendary for their cost -- support alone can easily be five figures a year -- and inflexibility during upgrades. Current customers like Europ Assistance, with services and servers on five continents, may be considering how many runtime purchases they can afford to purchase for what was supposed to be a more affordable platform.

Hans-Ole Kaae, an IT consultant, also wants to understand these costs to migrate MPE/iX-based Powerhouse to Linux. "If you have, say, a new or a current customer, heading for Linux or Unix, is this all it takes these days: X developer licenses and Y run-time licenses -- plus, of course, X + Y data access licenses?" Deskin says that's about it.

You may need an extra runtime if you're running batch jobs as a separate user. And data access is per source. So if you're using  C-ISAM and Oracle, you would need two data access per user.

Also note that IBM does not distinguish between platform. If you're on HP-UX and move to Linux, you can move the existing concurrent user licenses over as long as you don't exceed the overall entitlement.

Deskin said nothing on the Powerhouse-L mailing list about moving MPE/iX licenses over, because the HP 3000 Powerhouse was licensed by system, not by user. There may be a need for custom quoting to determine how much Powerhouse on Linux will cost. There's support to be paid on every extra license, after all.