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May 2012

Roomy HP Cloud considers Unix vs. MPE

WorldofWebWe're moving into a world where great-grandma's photo scrapbooks are virtual and HP proprietary servers live in clouds. With a little patience, one of those servers will be an HP 3000 this year. In an odd omission, this month the HP Unix servers don't qualify for cloud status with one supplier — Hewlett-Packard.

The HP Cloud ( has been open in a public beta this month. It's a spot where Windows and Linux computing services are available using virtualized servers. HP's got ProLiant boxes racked up and sliced up into customer-sized computing pieces in HP Cloud.

No, it's not free — but the cost starts to approach the fabled "too cheap to meter" claims from last century's nuclear-powered electricity rollout. Especially if you compare it to ownership of the iron. A Standard Large Instance costs 32 cents an hour. That gives you a 4-virtual core system with 16GB of RAM and a 240GB disk for um, $230 a month. A server you won't pay to power up, or ever have to move. Add bandwidth charges and you get $300 monthly. So HP will put your 4-core server into its cloud. Just not an HP-UX server.

One well-connected PA-RISC developer explained that HP's clouds are pretty much a non-starter for existing long-time HP customers. You can't host HP-UX apps in HP's cloud, just Windows and Linux. Long-time customers have both proprietary and industry standard apps. HP has a chance to change this, though, so long as it can find a way for HP-UX to live on Intel Xeon chips in the cloud host. Maybe an Itanium emulator is required.

Continue reading "Roomy HP Cloud considers Unix vs. MPE" »

Dell looks to acquire Quest's sharing tech

QuestLogoThe HP 3000 community might be getting its first multi-billion dollar acquisition in its history. Quest Software, which makes one element of the BridgeWare migration solution along with Taurus Software, is reported to be a Dell Computer buyout target.

A report from the business website Bloomberg said the software company is in talks to become a property of Dell. One analyst firm says the stock could be worth as much as $28 a share, which would put the value of the acquisition at $2.4 billion. Quest has branched into many other markets, including Oracle's database. But the deepest roots of this company are the Shareplex software that has been used to cluster MPE systems since the early 1990s.

Quest's director of sales John Saylor continues to point out the company still sells solutions for the 3000 market. Not nearly as many firms can point to sales of software for the 3000 customer as did in the '90s, or even 10 years ago.  Maybe most important to HP, Quest has been a driver in getting Sun's customer base onto the rolls of Hewlett-Packard. BridgeWare is the latest part of that package, Saylor says.

"Not only is Quest’s BridgeWare is a leader in HP 3000 MPE migrations through its partnership with Taurus, but the company is also the market leader in platform migrations from Sun-Oracle platforms to IBM, HP and Dell-Oracle platforms." Databases have been the heart of Quest's enterprise for two decades by now. Most recently, the SystemBridger Bundle was bringing pre-configured PC hardware to 3000 sites looking for a reach into other databases, migrating or not. 

Continue reading "Dell looks to acquire Quest's sharing tech" »

Easier scripting in Windows a migration task

Windows 2008 is a popular platform for 3000 sites making a move off the platform. Less popular? Finding an intuitive way to do job and process scripts for Windows. But existing 3000 tools providers keep cooking up new tools to replace those well-polished MPE scripts, once a customer gets ready for a Windows migration. Or they've expanded old tools into new territory.

Windows scripts might not seem easy. Reports from customers making transitions show that the MPE/iX batch and job-stream functions have been duplicated using a wide array of solutions. It's not unusual to see such job control replacements require some customized coding of scripts. MB Foster's going to show off a tool to simplify this MPE-to-Windows migration challenge, tomorrow (May 30) at 11AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern Time.

The software is UDAXpress, a tool that's grown up from its origins as a system data extractor. Migrations which still haven't been started could easily have advanced MPE scripts to be migrated. The Do It Yourself manager of IT is the kind of person who's got scripts to automate the daily, weekly or monthly processes. Taking a DIY approach to a migration might benefit from a tool to bridge the MPE to Windows gap.

The demo of key features in UDAXpress is being handled by Raymond Bilodeau of MB Foster's Professional Services program as well as the company's CEO Birket Foster. Clever and seasoned system managers have scripts that make the 3000 self-reliant. Our columnist Scott Hirsh believed that anything you'd do often ought to be automated.

Continue reading "Easier scripting in Windows a migration task" »

Programming Note: Holiday at Hand

DecorationDayLike much of the Interweb news community, we're taking Monday off to celebrate Memorial Day here in the US. As a nephew of a veteran killed in combat in WW II, it's a significant day to me. Uncle Nick was special in the family's lore, cut down in his early 20s as part of the Battle of the Bulge.

Memorial Day, of course, began as a commemorative holiday for Civil War veterans here in the US. When I was growing up the holiday was just as often called Decoration Day, for the custom of decorating the graves of the fallen veterans. There's a national moment of silence being observed today at 4PM EDT. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday while your HP 3000 keeps the flag flying.

One of our sponsors, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, noted a connection between memorials and the simple act of making a trail for others to follow. He spotted the parallel after reading an entry at Seth Godin's blog of Saturday, What Are You Leaving Behind?

"This entry reminded me of our US holiday," Edminster wrote. "And those of us who are working to preserve -- and when possible, advance -- our beloved HP 3000, with its most wondrous brain and nervous system: MPE/iX. 

"I couldn't help but think of [Godin's] post when I saw this, and wished more of us either took the time to pass along the history, knowledge, lore even -- of this venerable system, for those of us that follow."

We'll see you with a new report on Tuesday.

Paper passes on primers on MPE, and more

Imagine it's your first day managing an HP 3000. You don't have to travel in a time machine to find that kind of event. However, a magic carpet of the past ensures the delivery of time-tested fundamentals. The carpet is paper, where so much MPE lore first unspooled for your community. If not for articles on paper, much of the 3000's wisdom would never have made it to the web.

As for that first day, an IT manager at Disston Tools in South Deerfield, Mass. has had that date arrive just this month. He's a total newbie, taking over for a veteran who's leaving this manufacturer. Everybody's a newbie at something. It's just like publishing news: if it's something you didn't know, then it's news to you.

NewsprintNot many Interweb resources call themselves publishers, but we do. We started with ink on paper, my partner Abby and I, initially for a cross-platform IT publisher before the NewsWire was first delivered from our own offices. This week we delivered our 155th print issue. The May edition will be available to our community newbie, as well as one veteran that community icon Vladimir Volokh scouted out in Los Angeles. Vladimir hand-delivers print issues on his consulting trips, much to our delight.

With all that print heritage, I took note of a retrenchment in printed news this week. The daily newspaper in New Orleans will be daily no more. The Times-Picayune is going to three times weekly in print and everyday online. This is a newspaper that won two Pulitzers for its Katrina reporting. Sadly, the caliber of content doesn't bulwark many publications anymore. Advertisers, like our fine sponsors, determine how often the presses roll.

In the alternative, of course, there's the Interweb. I use the jokey term for online news because it's completely pervasive and so up to date that the future seems like yesterday if you bury your head in links. Knowing where to look, however, becomes a great mission for printed publications. We always hear that people have found our reports for the first time when they get a print issue of the NewsWire. It's nice to have that outpost, and essential to who we are and how we deliver. But for printed pages long gone, it's great to have host sites that preserve things like George Stachnik's instruction about using files in MPE, and much more. It's one of 21 articles in a series he wrote for the now-departed InterACT magazine. All are preserved for the education of newbies, as well as the rest of us.

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Why HP Financials Should Remain Relevant


File this article under News You Can Use. I'm about to make a case for why the quarterly reports of Hewlett-Packard -- a company posting more than $125 billion in annual sales -- should still matter to you. If your job is to plan IT resource deployment, like who's learning what skill or where investments go in 2013 and beyond, HP's reports remain relevant.

We've been dividing ourselves into two camps since late 2001: those leaving the 3000 and those remaining. For the ones who are leaving, or have a migration right behind them in the rear-view, HP's profile in 2012 is even more important than it was a decade ago. Hewlett-Packard is probably driving your technology and services choices. The success of adopting its products in Unix, Linux, servers or even the cloud gets reflected in HP sales numbers. And HP still announces strategies when it talks to securities analysts.

As an example, the CEO Meg Whitman told employees in a letter yesterday, prior to the quarterly results release, that this round of 27,000 layoffs is going to be different from layoffs of 2005. "Another difference from years past is what we plan to do with the savings," she said in her letter. "The majority of savings [via employee cutbacks] this time around will be invested in the business. We'll be investing to drive leadership in the three strategic pillars – cloud, security and information optimization."

HP drove its previous layoff savings right out to the shareholders, not the customers. As a continuing customer of HP products, these words of investing are finally those that you want to hear. Cloud has little to do with HP's consumer business. Same for security and information optimization. This is an enterprise play on a field where HP is way behind, by Whitman's own scoring.

Even though HP stock hit a 52-week low before her comments, today it's having a relatively good day. The investors just got told they won't see direct profit increases because of HP's changes, and its okay with them. Like you, the majority of them have got a long-term relationship with Hewlett-Packard. Of course if that's not true for you, then getting your homesteading choice reinforced makes the quarterly results relevant, too.

Continue reading "Why HP Financials Should Remain Relevant" »

HP to cut 27,000 jobs, reports 24% profit dip

ESSN Q2 2012


Hewlett-Packard watched two indicators drop during its latest quarter, and then pushed a third number downward on its own. Company revenues fell 3 percent in HP's Q2 of 2012, while profits dropped 24 percent versus last year's second quarter. So while HP dispensed the sour news of its quarterly report, it also announced it would cut 27,000 jobs over the next two years. That's 8 percent of its workforce, the largest cut since the 10 percent layoff of 2005 when 14,500 jobs went on the block.

The company said it will save up to $3.5 billion yearly by the time these layoffs are complete in October, 2014. HP's current yearly revenue rate is about $120 billion, so the 8 percent job cuts will yield savings of less than 3 percent of revenues. But that $3.5 billion is a chunk of money equal to 40 percent of last year's profits. The company says it will invest in "research and development to drive innovation and differentiation across its core printing and personal systems businesses, as well as emerging areas." HP said the moves are a "multi-year restructuring to fuel innovation and enable investment."

The cutbacks are going to cost HP in the short run, a total of $1.7 billion within the next six months. The last time the company cut back this deeply, it was an enterprise of 144,000 employees. In spite of those 2005 job losses, Hewlett-Packard now employs close to 350,000 people worldwide. CEO Meg Whitman said these cuts "are necessary to improve execution and to fund the long term health of the company."

The enterprise computing operations at HP, which include replacement systems for migrating HP 3000 customers, came in for special mention in the layoff announcement. The company plans to drive some of the saved money into more R&D.

Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) will invest to accelerate its research and development activities to extend its leading portfolio of servers, storage and networking. Together these assets create a Converged Infrastructure which is the foundation for top client initiatives such as cloudvirtualizationbig data analytics, legacy modernization and social media.

Continue reading "HP to cut 27,000 jobs, reports 24% profit dip" »

A 3000 plucked barren of IMAGE never flew

"Options offering a lower-priced version of the Series 920 server, without database software, are available on the July HP price list."

With those words, HP went to war on the wings of a bundled database. IMAGE was not only the heart of the 3000's value. IMAGE had become the rocket fuel of the 3000, a constant in a formula that produced better transaction values than anything offered by Hewlett-Packard. Or elsewhere in the industry.

PluckedBut HP didn't know how to sell it. You can read as much at, where a July Channels newsletter about the "confusion" over 3000 pricing was being cleared up. Sort of. "Our objective is to price the HP 3000 systems at a price/performance advantage for transaction processing over our HP 9000 family." Fair enough. But then "We anticipate that much of the confusion regarding price/performance may have been caused by the higher prices of the HP 3000 version of a PA-RISC processor."

Except there was no such version. The same chip was used in both 3000 and 9000 server. HP had just locked the 3000's software to the higher prices. There was a version of prices that was higher, to be sure. So HP looked around for what it could clip from the 3000 value. It tried IMAGE for a month or so, until its partners and customers revolted in public, in the lap of the industry press.

Unbundling databases became the norm for the classic business computing vendors, even through the HP 250 Business minicomputer included a version of IMAGE when HP brought it out in 1979. A good thing, too, for current business computer users who are planning or deploying a move away from the 3000. The HP 250 gave wings to Michael Marxmeier and his Eloquence database, starting in 1987. It's the only drop-in replacement for the 3000's IMAGE, using its TurboIMAGE compatibility mode. Eloquence is also getting a turbocharged full-text search ability this summer. The open beta test program for 8.20 just started; full release is in July.

Continue reading "A 3000 plucked barren of IMAGE never flew" »

HP runs ahead and behind, then and now

The iconic entity called Interex emerged this month 28 years ago. HP had announced it would catch up to 32-bit computing with Spectrum. And the vendor whose sales still didn't exceed $7 billion said in 1984 that touchscreens were the most intuitive interface. Being ahead and behind all at once is a sign that you're still developing, making leadership while you catch up your customers

RandomAccessInteract84Hewlett-Packard used the 1980s in your community to push out new ideas. Touch-based personal computing hit the market in the HP 150, one of the Series 100 PCs that transformed the International Association of Hewlett-Packard Computer Users. Before HP cast its seeds of PC innovation, Interex didn't exist. In a May column from executive director Bill Crow in InterACT magazine, the user group renamed itself "to define the association's independence" from HP.

Although that user group has been in the grave more than six years, its members' insights haven't evaporated. An era of ink on paper (click above for detail) has preserved milestones like HP running more than 25 years ahead of the industry with touchscreens. It's easy to forget your community was reaching for a breakthrough office experience even while it was dragging along chips devised a decade earlier.

Ed McCracken, a GM of HP's Business Development Group, announced in early '84 the seven basic principles guiding HP's "office automation strategy:

1. The workstation is the most important component, followed by the distributed data processing system (DDS)
2. All workstations will be personal computers
3. The touchscreen is the most intuitive interface
4. Workstations will not tie directly to mainframes but to an intermediate DDS
5. A pragmatic approach to open architecture is required
6. High quality is essential
7. There must be an intuitive integration linking managers' workstations, secretarial workstations, and the other components of the system.

Number 3 is the most striking of the guides offered by McCracken, the man who drove the genius of bundling the rising DDS of the 3000 with a crack database. But in '84 HP was already considering IMAGE a database that needed a successor. The vendor was following in IBM's wake, right down to a new partnership with a small company built by an IBM ex-pat. Interex also recognized that Alfredo Rego -- "the man behind Adager" -- was on par HP's CEO, John Young. Both gave 1984 user conference speeches, but Rego recognized that IMAGE was to remain the force behind the 3000's success.

It wasn't going to come through a new processor family -- although the Spectrum project's 32 bits were critically overdue. Like today, software mattered more than hardware like Itanium. Oracle's database, built upon the same IBM roots, will determine the fate of the last remaining OS that HP ever built with its own R&D. Databases are lynchpins.

Continue reading "HP runs ahead and behind, then and now" »

Rising Sun, setting Unix: HP's next migration unfolds in secret slides, emails

TopSecretEver wonder what the demise of the 3000 inside HP looked like? The event that reshaped all of our careers surfaced suddenly for some. For other community members, the vendor's departure was inevitable, given the indicators they followed. The week the US courts lifted the inevitable veil off HP-UX. Hewlett-Packard used its business acumen to decide the lifespan of its 3000 business. Now we can see what that kind of review looked like, thanks to Oracle and a fired HP CEO.

ItaniumPropupPOThere is little explanation for how Oracle knew which secret emails and slides to uncover but one -- Mark Hurd and his leave-behinds at HP had these maps in hand. They knew exactly what to request in the discovery phase. It's unprecendented, to my eye. I saw an HP purchase order for $22 million per quarter paid to one vendor. If you wonder what something like an $88 million annual PO looks like, click on the graphic above. HP was spending like this for years, all to ensure that Intel would keep developing and creating Itanium processors. It wasn't spending anything to migrate HP-UX to a non-Itanium, commodity chip. Before long, these Unix customers -- plus ones using VMS, NonStop and more -- will do that migration instead. Linux on Intel. I can't even guess what NonStop or VMS will do.

These are the heart of HP's remaining proprietary computing environments. NonStop, OpenVMS and HP-UX use Itanium as crucially as a liver in a human body. Pull out Itanium from HP's futures and you have no more reason for any customer to leave their apps on these operating systems. Because the OSs don't run anywhere else. HP knew this and talked about it, both in its internal meetings as well as high tension negotiations with Intel. It's just that HP was saying something very different to the public. So was Intel. Anybody who believes Intel has other ideas about Itanium futures needs to read a few of the released emails.

If you don't have time for that, just scan the PowerPoint slides. There's a stunning one below from 2007, mapping steep declines to zero for the Itanium computers. (Click it for details.) You can look at the "Blackbird" proposal from an exhibit, too -- the one where HP sized up the pros and cons of buying Sun. (View the Blackbird)


A reporter from All Things D, the tech website run by the conservative Wall Street Journal, posted these emails and slides that were once secret, but now released by the court hearing lawsuits. Arik Hesseldal's article is must-reading for anyone who needs to plan an IT architecture or report on futures to CEOs or VPs of Finance. Hesseldal sums up HP's own view of the future of the company's only single-vendor 3000 migration target.

Key phrase: HP-UX, its version of Unix developed specifically for Itanium servers, “is on a death march” because of Itanium’s inevitable demise.

Why care, if you're already migrated off the 3000? It's as simple as an ostrich. If you've put your company's money on the HP-UX platform -- and think it's got a good run left in it -- you're hiding in the sand. It pains me to have to acknowledge anything that Larry Ellison's Oracle asserts. But there's no other reason to believe this won't work out the same as the 3000's evaporation off HP PowerPoints, strategy statements or price lists. The end is more than near. It's nearly here.

Update: HP's also dropped its own stink-bomb of documents, later in the same day, several emails plus pages of text message transcriptions between Oracle salesmen and execs. Most notable: an email from Lorraine Bartlett last March, just days before Oracle's pullout from Itanium. Bartlett, VP of Marketing for the HP-UX host Business Critical Systems, is effusive in praising her company's message about HP-UX futures. HP's "Kinetic" strategy, shared with analysts in March that was "a big hit, and really resonated," included messages about "HP-UX unbound" and a common socket design that Intel was announcing to give Itanium chips the same underwear as Xeon chips. The texts between Oracle sales people and managers have a college frat-boy tone to them -- but seem to be in HP's bomb only to show that Oracle knew the HP-UX competitor Solaris was "a pig with lipstick." (Warning, salty language there.)

Continue reading "Rising Sun, setting Unix: HP's next migration unfolds in secret slides, emails" »

Emails show HP studied Itanium's end in '07

DeadEndOracle released a thick sheaf of HP emails this week to prove HP-UX has a dim future. Oracle sells an alternative to HP's Unix, Solaris, a campaign led by former HP CEO Mark Hurd. There's juicy goo in these pages that shows how a loyal customer base using an HP product gets treated during that product's downturn.

In Oracle's campaign to convince customers that HP's been managing an Itanium demise for years, lawsuit emails are the ammo. The two companies are at legal war by now, dueling lawsuits that will go to trial later this year. HP wants a database for its Itanium server customers. Oracle wants to quit maintaining development for the Integrity machines. Being ever-eager to do battle, Oracle released documents for the public to "use in deciding who's right about Itanium's future." You can look over the originals online. The emails are from HP executives and are part of the lawsuit evidence.

Over and over, in emails between the GM of Business Critical Systems Martin Fink and others at the top of HP's computing food chain, the messages show that Itanium -- and the future of HP's Unix -- has long had an inevitable end. One that HP has seen clearly and communicated less so. HP has been pressing Intel to continue with Itanium development for almost five years by now. While Hewlett-Packard hasn't been planning the end of HP-UX, the end of Itanium amounts to nearly the same thing -- because HP's Unix won't ever be ported to the Xeon/x86 Intel processors.

The flood of HP's email from Oracle offers a look into HP's corporate plan to hang onto enterprise customers who use a proprietary HP enterprise platform. It's a situation similar to the one HP 3000 users faced in 2001, when Hewlett-Packard made an internal decision to stop developments on MPE/iX and to shift onto the Itanium hardware. HP held all the cards in that decision: OS, PA-RISC chip design and manufacture, even the database. This Email-Gate, however, shows how relying on Intel and Oracle for the Unix chip and database left HP with a "binodal" choice, according to a 2007 company email to HP's Executive Council. At that time HP was a strong supporter of converting your HP 3000 to a Unix system.

Binodal, for anyone not familiar with thermodynamics, is "the boundary between the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for the system to be fully mixed, and the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for it to phase separate." HP had a point in '07 where Intel told the vendor that carrying Itanium further required core redesign. Costly, in the set of conditions to rebuild. Or Intel could crash-land the processor family, and move away from the wreckage.

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Eloquence fast indexes on display Thursday

Eloquence logoThe Eloquence database and language gets a curtain call tomorrow (May 17) at 11AM PDT (2PM EDT) in a Webinar devoted to the speedy enhancements for the 8.20 version of this drop-in replacement for TurboIMAGE. Creator Michael Marxmeier led a Webinar late in April in conjunction with Birket Foster of MB Foster. That program was so popular it was fully subscribed before it began -- a rare thing in the online training world.

The fast indexing features included in the newest release "is like Google-class searches, but on text databases," said Foster. "If you use COBOL, Fortran, or Powerhouse with it, for example, it allows you to do very graphic text indexing. It allows flexible ways of dealing with data. If you have a description of a part, every word in that description becomes a pointer back to that record." 

The work from Marxmeier's team is now in beta status until July's full rollout. This latest Eloquence brings the performance of an IMAGE indexer such as Omnidex to this replacement for IMAGE, a tool for any migrator who needs a database that requires no changes to a 3000 app's database calls. These are changes that carry no extra charge for current customers of the database. Eloquence was at the heart of the Summit Technology Spectrum/3000 credit union customer migration. Its new indexing is power a developer can understand and love easier than any C-level executive -- who will be glad to learn it's very fast.

Instructible SpeakersRegistration for the free Webinar of 45 minutes with Marxmeier and Foster is at the MB Foster website. Audio is being offered both as Internet VOIP worldwide, and also as a toll-free call in North America. Attendance at the last webinar included Eloquence users who have never had a 3000 relationship, Foster said. The customers already deploying Eloquence are excited about these changes, too. "You can create new queries that are kind of Google-like," Foster said.

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Link-In, to put 3000 over the 500-pro mark

LinkedInPeopleWe're now very close, up on LinkedIn. The HP 3000 Community on the business social network counts 497 members as of today, a collective of hundreds of developers, managers, consultants, employers and software suppliers. After four years of connecting, we're just three members short of the magic 500+ mark for this group. You can put this group into the special ranking, by simply joining it. LinkedIn ranks members of 500-plus groups higher when searches are returned. Searches like someone pursuing experience, expertise, or a skill like coding business applications.

The members of the HP 3000 Community have all of that. So many of them come from the ranks of 3000 IT development and management pros. An IT manager leading a group that maintains and develops apps for a hotel chain. A support manager for a vendor who's still got 3000 customers using a document management tool. The inside sales manager at the largest remaining COBOL vendor in the market.

Join us, and become better connected to your colleagues and employers.

LinkedIn is free at its basic level, which is all you need to join the HP 3000 Community. And for a modest upcharge of $20-$30 monthly, LinkedIn will send your mail directly to other members that you'll find in groups like this one. LinkedIn even guarantees a response to its InMail (by providing you with an additional InMail, if your first goes unanswered.)

Another advantage to joining a large group: you have more people to link with elsewhere, because you've got something in common -- group membership. These personal links also boost your profile, according to job recruiter Linda Tuerk.

Continue reading "Link-In, to put 3000 over the 500-pro mark" »

Powerhouse drives users toward transition

Fourth generation languages may well be an artifact of a classic time in development, but 4GL code still powers some 3000 applications in enterprises. Powerhouse is the 4GL with the widest installed base, and some of its users are wondering how much time is left on the clock for this advanced development tool.

After its genesis as the Canadian company Quasar, Cognos released and developed this range of tools during the '70s and '80s for HP 3000 reporting, screen design, data dictionary work and applications. At first the Quiz report writer ran standalone on thousands of HP systems, including a bundle as a part of MANMAN's services. But when QDesign, Quick and QTP made their way into companies along with Powerhouse, the whole lineup wrapped itself around commercial apps such as the Amisys/3000 healthcare software -- plus many an in-house 3000 app.

Powerhouse users aren't holding out much hope for improvements to the tool which was purchased by IBM in 2007 along with Cognos. This Advanced Development Tool software didn't drive the IBM acquisition -- the Cognos Business Intelligence tools motivated the purchase. Established Cognos managers retort that ADT continues to produce profits for this business unit. Support contracts for even the smallest of HP 3000s run more than $500 monthly, revenue paid for service now called Vintage Support.

The good news is that Powerhouse for MPE/iX has outlasted Powerhouse for the IBM AS/400, in any vintage. But the language labors under the same yoke that COBOL carries, a profile of a tool built for another time. "The PowerHouse business has to have seen substantial decline for IBM over the years," said Vaughn Smith, a consultant in Canada. "How many more sites can convert to other development environments, reducing IBM's revenue, before they shut down Cognos?"

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Smiles, but less joking at 2012's HP Discover

WhitmanDiscover SherylCrowHP's announced its executive keynote lineup for the June HP Discover 2012 show, the biggest HP-centric conference for the year. At the last HP Discover the company was still debating with Oracle over the future of the database on HP servers, but it stood on the verge of a splash into the tablet marketplace. That was just two months before the TouchPad belly-flop and one quarter in front of the ouster of a second CEO in as many years.

Current CEO Meg Whitman will speak on Making Technology Work for You, "focusing on the challenges that enterprises face today, and the breadth and depth of HP solutions that help them to address those challenges." The conference runs June 4-7 in its usual location on the Las Vegas strip, this time at the Venetian Hotel and Sands Convention Center. A SWSMYT code at registration earns a $300 discount.

Like last year, another Discover keynoter has a strong entertainment platform. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will be onstage with Whitman and later hosts an exclusive preview of DreamWorks' Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Less obvious comedy won't be on the stage this year, after Jake Johannsen opened for CEO Leo Apotheker in 2011. One ironic Johannsen joke that's not likely to be recycled: "As a comic, it seems to me there'd be a joke I could make about HP's last CEO... but there's not."

Whitman might not see the humor in such a barb, but the commentary on HP's show -- produced with the aid of the Connect user group -- may run just as unfettered. Last year the vendor hosted a raft of bloggers in a new program to earn more notice for the conference. Geekzone made the conference a feature on its tech blog, and the longest keynote of that show was an HP Cloud marathon full of boardroom-level buzzwords for IT planners. HP's putting the buzz on after-hours with a closing show a bit less legendary than last year's Sir Paul McCartney concert. The closing celebration sponsored by Intel starts with Sheryl Crow and finishes with the founder of the Eagles, Don Henley.

Continue reading "Smiles, but less joking at 2012's HP Discover" »

Intrinsic Advice: Finding HP's 3000 Savvy

While I fine-tuned (okay, corrected) yesterday's report about the current lifespan for MPE date intrinsics, my associate technical editor Vladimir Volokh suggested we include HP's documentation page for HPCALENDAR. That's the intrinsic HP wrote for the 6.0 and 7.x releases of the 3000's OS, a new tool to solve an old problem. Alas, HPCALENDAR is fresher, but it's only callable in the 3000's Native Mode.

But poking into the online resources for MPE Intrinsics, I stumbled on HP's re-shelving of its 3000 docs. No longer available at the easy-to-recall, these manuals are at HP's Business Support Center. And just about nowhere else within a 10-minute search across Google's search engine. (Bing did no better.) So where are the guidelines to intrinsics for MPE/iX?

The Intrinsics Manual for MPE/iX 7.x is a PDF file at MMM Support. Independents like that support company help the community in using HP's resources for 3000s these days. It used to be much simpler. In the 1990s the Interex user group ran a collection of well-written white papers by George Stachnik. We're lucky enough to have them with us today, cut loose from ownership and firewalls. One is devoted to the system's intrinsics.

Continue reading "Intrinsic Advice: Finding HP's 3000 Savvy" »

Which bits produce the 3000's stall in 2028?

Vw-egoUpdate: We advise you to read our following day's report about HPCALENDAR and the CALENDAR intrinsic, for a complete view of the future viability of MPE. Also, the first entry in this series, including advice on what to expect from a 3000 running during 2028.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, we will return to the 3000's roadblock in 2028 one last time. We can wrap up our CALENDAR intrinsic discussion with an explanation of the reason for its hold on the 3000's far future. But it might be useful to consider that 2028 is not so far away that engineers aren't already conceiving its technology. When you merge VW and 2028, you can get an image like the one above.

Before the future, though, there's always history. When MPE was created in 1970, it started as a project called Omega. The miracle of this engineering was its use of 32-bit computing, still a novelty at the time. But when HP canceled Omega in favor of a 16-bit 3000 -- a management choice that prompted black armbands among HP staff -- it sealed the server into a 57-year period of service.

That's because, we were reminded by MPEX co-creator Vladimir Volokh, 16-bit 3000s left only enough intrinsic room for 127 years of accurate dates. The intrinsic CALENDAR, written for the eldest MPE Segmented Library (SL), uses only 7 bits to describe which year is in effect. That delivers a maximum number of 127 years which you can express, and MPE was built with 1900 as its base for dates.

From HP's Intrinsics Manual:


16-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return)
Returns the calendar date in the following format:
Bits Value/Meaning
Day of year
Year since 1900

HP only allotted 7 bits to describe the year for MPE. Who'd expect that the OS would have a lifespan of more than 50 years? Someone who figured newer and better tools would take over by then. It's commonplace to believe in the equivalent of flying cars -- Volkswagen's 2028 model concepts (shown above) are online in the company's German video and Flash site. Maybe cars will fly in some places, maybe not in others. Oh, for one extra bit. But HP ordered 16 extra, just too late to influence the heart of MPE.

Continue reading "Which bits produce the 3000's stall in 2028?" »

Taking the Console at Your History

In a community that spans decades of IT, history is around every corner of memory and experience. This year the HP 3000 marks its 40th birthday, a milestone that prompts examination and recollection in everyone. (Not to mention an HP 3000 biography I am working on. Your stories are most welcome.) A veteran of the system is offering parts of that history, as well as a small monument to a simpler time for this computer.

S III Console-webDave Wiseman has a few HP 3000 items he wants to donate to a good home, including a Series III console. The hardware at right (click for detail) drove the CPU cycles that were first establishing the 3000 as a business-critical platform. Being a Series III, it harkens back to the times when third-party software of any sort was a novelty, plus the need to understand the iron underneath at a level which younger IT pros can only imagine -- when they take the time to do so.

Wiseman splashed into my notice at a user group conference in the early '90s in Nashville, where he toted around an inflatable alligator as an icebreaker stunt. Awhile later he helped to found the ScreenJet experience with his partner Alan Yeo. By now he's moved on to other technical and sales work, but he owns a serious collection of these markers of 3000 history. In a storage closet here in my office, hung over a clothes rod, rest a handsome set of HP-branded ties he shipped me five years ago. Some of us wore such things with pride at these conferences. Wiseman would like to ship you his historic console for a tiny fraction of the hardware's original cost.

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App replacement may spur emulator evals

The 3000 community continues to examine the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator from a capital cost perspective. It sounds like a costly investment for a customer who's already working on a limited budget. But there's some evidence from migration prospects that the $50-$100K price tag for the software and Intel hardware may be a price that can bridge the timeline to app replacement.

Users and managers in the Powerhouse community have been studying the future of remaining with HP 3000s, some 16 months into a period where Hewlett-Packard stopped providing support for the OS and hardware it created. While the debate included one "get off, anyway" opinion -- a consultant said Powerhouse users should "put a bullet in this OS and IMAGE database and move on" -- another view is that the emulator might be a stopgap for replacements.

Anne Quirke of the Dublin, Ireland consultancy Uturn Ltd. said that one client prefers to replace an app now on the 3000, instead of migrating it. Replacement is a different set of costs and efforts than lift and shifting business apps. But it still might spur some attention during plans to sustain computing resources.

Migration is not an option for a long, long list of reasons; replacement to a new application is preferred. The time-line to these new applications is not directly in our control, so in the meantime we are looking at options to reduce the risk associated to the hardware.

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One-vendor solution emulates '80s devotion

DevotionOwners of the HP 3000 have toiled through decades of being devoted to the work of a single vendor. In the 1980s when the 3000's success started rolling, one-vendor IT was not only smart, but also the only way to get things fixed and keep them working.

Now that we've been through the "open systems" adolescence of the 1990s, and the young-adult years of open source, companies have learned to embrace multiple vendors for computing. At the nerve center of enterprise management, however, a single vendor of bigger size still makes managers feel less risk. Whatever the costs of staying in the MPE environment, at least a bug fix for MPE was going to come from a single source. Usually a company where you paid for support, too.

Here in this century's Teens, 3000 users are still courting single-vendor solutions. Yes, HP is long gone from the community for homesteaders. But the sensible managers are now using a single support vendor for their rare problem from MPE, or the occassional hardware failures of memory boards, 10-year-old disks or even older power supplies. That's not an unreasonable risk. You can replace a failing support company with another. There's a marketplace wide-open for support.

On the question of emulation (or virtualization, if you prefer), a single vendor is a different prospect. Back in the Oughts, a 2003 picture identified three prospects to build an emulator for 3000 iron. Strobe Data and Allegro didn't produce such a product, for very different reasons. Strobe ran short of development resources. Allegro's experts were usually mentioned by other parties in a hopeful tone, based on deep PA-RISC experience. What the community is being offered today is the Stromasys Charon HPA/3000. Like MPE always was, it's a single point of failure. Or success.

It's a good thing this isn't the first dance for the Stromasys emulator creators. They have thousands of satisfied DEC VAX/PDP customers. These are early steps the company is taking for PA-RISC and MPE, however. Nothing comes risk-free, and one community vendor thinks that maybe some software companies might require archival 3000 iron to support HPA/3000.

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Eloquence assembles more DB advances

MB Foster filled up its room for yesterday's webinar about the advances in the new Eloquence database and language. The drop-in replacement for IMAGE at migrating 3000 sites has been popular -- in part because of its pricing, but also because Eloquence's creator Michael Marxmeier has been persistent about updating the product. One of the highlights will be full text search in the database.

The updates don't cost extra for customers currently on support, which is not always the business model software providers use. Some vendors such as Cognos like to charge for upgrades just between performance tiers of computers. Marxmeier follows the path of the most reliable tool suppliers in the 3000 market: revenue via support.

That doesn't mean there's no good reason to make an initial Eloquence investment. A beta test period is underway for the 8.20 release of the product. Full release will come this summer, and the MB Foster webinar took 45 minutes to walk through new features. The online meeting was popular enough to schedule a second show on May 17. Signup is at the MB Foster site; Marxmeier will be on the call along with Birket Foster.

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How to Install a VA7410 RAID Array

By Craig Lalley

First, I would only install a VA7410. Over the years, I have learned the VA7410s are much more reliable than the VA7100s.

You want to make sure that you have the latest firmware on the controllers. And yes, max out the controller memory to 2GB per controller. Then make sure you have the latest firmware on the drives. The good news is that the firmware has not changed, so hopefully it will already current. Contact me if you need the latest drivers.

The official HP supported configuration specifies either a PC or HP-UX workstation running CommandView.  Since the VA7410 has a dual-head controller, you can have two connections to the HP 3000 and one connection to the CommandView workstation. The CommandView workstation is required to update the firmware, and do performance logging.

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RAIDing LDEV1, finding code for migration

What are the solutions for replacing our 4GB internal LDEV1 with something that supports RAID -- or at least disk mirroring? We currently have our production data in 'Jamaica' units, fully mirrored (Mirror/iX), but I've been worried about that ancient LDEV1. We do everything possible to not shut down power. It has reached the point where I have concern that if the drive ever lost its taste for power, it might never spin up again -- and the thought of a RELOAD is not fun.

Mod 20Jack Connor says

There are two fairly low cost solutions which could handle RAID for your 3000. These would be the Mod 10/20 (at left) and Autoraid 12H units, both of which connect via FWD SCSI. A Mod 10/20 would require two FWD cards/connections to be available; the 12H, just one.

Gilles Schipper says

If the HP 3000 is not an A-Class or N-Class, then the best solution would be a Mod 10/20 or an Autoraid 12H. If it is an A-Class or N-Class, the best solutions include any number of fiber-capable devices -- such as a VA7xxx, an XP unit, and others. You could use the Mod 10/20 and Autoraid, but why would you, unless cost is the most important factor?

Craig Lalley says

One problem to consider is the model of HP 3000. The older "NIO" backplanes used in the 9x9s and earlier do not support native Fibre Channel. The N-class boxes do. To boot from a VA7xxx array, you would need the A5814A-003 Fibre to SCSI "brick" if you are not using an A-Class or N-Class.

We have recently begun our migration off the HP 3000. How can I determine what programs reference the data items in our TurboIMAGE databases, since the application vendor we currently use did not provide us with a data dictionary?

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