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May 31, 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 (hpcloud.com) 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.

Meanwhile, the users of HP 3000 MPE apps will have a cloud option available to them by the end of this year, so long as Stromasys has its way with the new HPA/3000 Charon technology. The most affordable instance of this emulator is in a non-host configuration, run from a cloud. There's talk about using Amazon's EC2 as the computing host provider. Some 3000 managers are still leery of relying on security over networks so remote. But other companies will be keen to get the high-powered iron out of datacenters, even as they continue to rely on high-powered MPE apps.

The power of such a worldwide web of networks extends all the way to my mom's table in her room at the Franciscan Care Center in Sylvania, Ohio. It's a modest and comfortable place that I'm visiting soon, but there's a limit to how much space she's got for scrapbooks. And with three great-grandchildren all under age 3, there's a torrent of pictures to share. We once mailed her paper photos and handsome albums, but now we send it all to a digital picture frame, one plugged into her phone line. Updates of the latest grandbaby pictures arrive in that frame, one that needs as little infrastructure management as the very best cloud computer. Meaning someone else is doing it, and including the admin in the cost.

No, it doesn't mean the picture frame and the network will take those pictures of Noah, Bree and Paige. Or even that it will load them -- that's our job as grandparents. But it will do the rest, so we can share with less effort. My wife Abby and I can spend our energy creating those picture-worthy moments — like you might spend energy improving an application or extending its reach into wider worlds, up in the clouds.

08:56 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2012

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. 

Oracle is a key component of what Quest connects with for commodity platforms. There's also This is how it became a public company worth billions. But the Bridgeware solution in the Bundle aims to bring non-IMAGE databases in step with the MPE data stronghold. Quest calls the software technology "to save time and money across physical, virtual and cloud environments." Taurus President Cailean Sherman said the joint venture in Bridgeware adds analysis capability.

"Over the years we've been working with a lot of companies who are either homesteading, or taking their time migrating off the 3000," Sherman said. "But they also want to take advantage of all the open systems tools to perform ad hoc analysis."

This type of analysis wasn't feasible for some homesteaders, because the access took its toll on the production performance of IMAGE and KSAM databases, she explained. A combination of recent projects, BridgeWare enhancements and discounting led to the partnership with Abtech. The result is a data store, including the relational database license and hardware fully implemented, priced between $10,000 and $75,000.

Dell, for those who haven't looked recently, has been reshaping itself as a provider of enterprise IT, having virtually ceded the consumer market to HP. Dell has been making acquisitions -- five already in 2012 --  to add software, computer storage and networking gear to its lineup of PCs.

01:37 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 29, 2012

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.

System admin tasks are naturals for scripts, according to the former chair of the SIGSYSMAN special interest group. "If you can script it or put it in a job, you should," Hirsh said. "And then you should schedule it. You should not be doing this stuff by hand. If you can automate a task you should, however you do that. You should manage by exception to cut your workload down."

MB Foster calls UDAXpress a tool "for power users, system administrators, developers and programmers who want to leverage the power of scripting, and perform both minor and complex tasks. Once you learn the basics, you'll see they’re not all that difficult to operate, and there is practically no limit as to what you can use it for."

03:54 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2012

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.

05:57 AM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2012

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.

Chris Bartram at 3K Associates has collected Stachnik's articles, as well as many other papers, at the 3k.com website. (Think about how long that site has been around. It's so fundamental it's got a two-character domain name. Fewer than 1,300 of those in existence.) Our community is lucky to have the riches of several of these kinds of sites. Open source software, at mpe-opensource.org. Tech papers at robelle.com, adager.com, allegro.com.

But most of those papers started out on paper. Because MPE's preserved its roots, even an article like Stachnik's written more than a decade ago will be useful at Disston Tools. The company's covering its MANMAN support needs with service from the Support Group, Inc. Terry Floyd there gave us a heads-up about the new IT guy, and we're glad to send the new member our printed May issue.

Print-ExclusiveSponsors in your community still believe in the power of paper, even while they buy Adsense keywords from Google and build Twitter feeds and pursue Facebook Likes. We're always mindful that the NewsWire depends on support as well as new readers and faithful followers. We once led off with print reporting and archived it on the Web. But about the time Katrina was hitting New Orleans we switched out our lead horse -- with some exception. Every printed issue carries content that's only available in paper as an exclusive, for awhile. If you'd like your own printed copy in the US, we'd be glad to send it to you. (Click on the icon above to send us a message.) Our non-domestic web-only readers, thousands of them, have access off the page. Like the Times-Picayune, we're working with a blended model of the old and new, even as we link wisdom from the elders to our new readers.

01:50 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 24, 2012

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.

The 3.5 percent rebound the stock's enjoying today is about finance, not company futures. "HP beats estimates on earnings," the headlines go, playing the forecasting card about expected profits -- instead of the downward trend since last year.

Whitman knows, like you do, that "Our business is still declining," in part because customers like homesteaders are not with HP anymore. And the migration segment of the 3000 populace has left HP-centric alternatives behind, in the majority. Whitman said HP still needs to "invest to drive R&D and innovation in our core businesses of servers, storage and networking." It's work that's undone, and now the company will be taking what's special about its Unix and delivering it to the Linux market, pretty much without reward.

The Gartner Group looked over the exit-Itanium Odyssey Project and found that it's going to level the sales playing field for Linux at HP. That's what happened to the HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard back in the early 1990s. Eventually the product that had less in common with HP's innovation (read: MPEand IMAGE) and had to march uphill. The trend from the top managers in HP servers remains the same as it was: follow the sales. Gartner thinks Odyssey is good for HP -- to the extent it can stop the steep decline of the HP Unix business. But it's inevitable.

As these enhancements roll out, Gartner believes HP will be more inclined to market and sell Linux on an even playing field to Unix, which will add more market momentum to Linux and greater decline of Unix. As this decline occurs, HP will be able to delay migrations or reinforce HP-UX user loyalty by diverting its generally loyal base to a strong mission-critical alternative and viable replacement for Itanium. By accelerating the pace of x86 adoption for mission-critical workloads, HP will drive down the margins that it has traditionally enjoyed as a vendor of large-scale, non-x86 Unix servers. Although BCS only represents 10% of HP's server, storage and networking revenue, the margins are at a much higher proportion.

Those italics are ours, not Gartner's. With that language, any companies no longer doing business with HP can hear an echo of their chaos and trauma over the last 10 years. Although the HP 3000 represented a small part of the company's server revenue, its margins were at a much higher proportion. Now this kind of profitable business is ebbing away even more. HP's not going to chase PC business like it once did. (It's got a project in place now to examine the value of the Compaq brand it acquired in 2001.) But it's more than one annual buying cycle away from generating hope of innovation, much less a fresh value for companies who want integration -- or as HP likes to call it now, convergence.

You might have left HP behind years ago, but need to defend that decision as a homesteader. Or your choice going forward is the success of HP's strategy. Either position needs current information, the kind that can be tracked over time and pinned to a point of profits, sales and plans.

02:35 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 23, 2012

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.

Wall Street analysts were noting that the company beat earnings estimates for the second quarter, a development that can sometimes impress investors. The stock closed at $21.08 just before the restructuring announcement and quarterly results were released. After-hours trading was pushing the stock back above $23. For the first half of fiscal 2012, HP's profits are about half of where they were in 2011.

The last time HP announced a cut this deep in its workforce, it also froze pensions and retiree's medical programs. This year the company is offering an early retirement program to entice some staff to leave.

Business Critical Systems -- the Itanium-based business that's been under siege from Oracle's Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt campaign -- registered another drop of 23 percent in its sales. Overall, the ESSN unit's revenue declined 6 percent year over year. Even Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 6 percent.

After purchasing Autonomy's software operations for $10.2 billion last year, HP Software sales were up 22 percent. It's about a $170 million sales increase. HP will "help improve Autonomy's performance" by replacing Autonomy's founder Mike Lynch with Bill Veghte, HP's chief strategy officer and executive VP of HP Software.

07:04 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2012

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 hpmuseum.net, 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.

In a summer more than 20 years ago, one thing that seemed fast to IMAGE users was HP's move to strip it out of the 3000's value. By August of 1990 IMAGE had been part of every HP 3000 sale for 14 years. This was the period that built the MPE application base. Companies invested in applications that used IMAGE underneath, or they bought tools that relied on IMAGE to roll their own apps. Languages like COBOL, Speedware and Powerhouse called IMAGE directly through intrinsics. Or developers used software that improved upon this common coin of a database, such as Suprtool and Adager.

In spite of customer devotion, at the Boston Interex show of 1990 HP felt heat beyond the summertime swelter of New England. Vendors and consultants and members of Special Interest Groups organized passionate meetings at the show around the HP unbundling scheme. They rose up to lash HP in a public forum, complaining bitterly in front of a host of reporters from national IT weeklies like Computerworld and InformationWeek.

HP lost face at the meeting while its top enterprise management tried to defend the business re-arrangement. IMAGE remained an included part of the 3000. A bonus from this revolt -- some called it the Boston Tea Party -- was extra investment in the SQL interface for IMAGE. The database went from being called TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL over the next two years. That SQL capability delivered opportunity for Open DataBase Connectivity middleware between IMAGE and outside tools on desktops and elsewhere. MB Foster's ODBCLink became part of the 3000's bundle in an simplified SE version.

This year Foster is hosting a three-day conference on the newest querying tool for Eloquence. July 25-27 will deliver training for developers and application architects on the latest enhancements for the database that's more than two decades mature and still improving. Even though HP won't be making IMAGE any better, there's 25 years of development on Eloquence so far. Marxmeier has shipped upgrades to Eloquence every year since before HP shuttered its MPE labs. He made a sound case for flying toward technology advances on Linux, Windows and even HP-UX -- the places that Eloquence operates.

Eloquence keeps evolving. Even for 3000 emulator users, there’s a good question to be answered. There might be some workarounds to implement some of the technology changes like PCI and encryption -- but does it make sense? Can you afford to miss all those changes that the outside world might be demanding from your business and your application?

We want to show the value that makes sense for applications. What’s important about this full text indexing in Eloquence 8.20 is that it will look like Google, where you it gets you a million results within a fraction of a millisecond. Eloquence was always designed to support IMAGE applications. Our original customers used IMAGE, too. Eloquence is a second- or third-generation IMAGE, I believe.

07:53 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2012

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.

HP saw as much when it partnered with Esvel Inc. The firm founded by Kapali Eswaran, one of the founding members of the IBM System R relational DB product, would develop "scalable database architecture for HP." The next product turned out to be Allbase, but HP already wanted a common database among its real-time, scientific (HP-UX) and office systems.

Like then, the vendor's reaching for some commonality with its Itanium futures. Last year Intel was announcing new underwear for the chip the industry forgot, promising that Xeon architecture would share base elements with Itanium. HP wants to have it both ways -- a market in a the commodity space along with the power of software built on proprietary hardware. You've still got that kind of power in your MPE-IMAGE world. Because Oracle's got HP by the scruff of its enterprise neck, the software still calls the plays. But now HP doesn't control the database -- to the point of seeing customers define themselves as Oracle shops. Oracle's not leaving HP computing. It's departing the computing most profitable to HP.

Esvel was the first step that HP took toward embracing an industry standard for its enterprise business. Back in 1984 the little company had already delivered the seeds of DB2 to IBM. HP was chasing Big Blue in every field but instruments back then. The vendor which created the HP 3000 believed in a pragmatic approach to open architecture: standards were less important than reliable value. In less than seven years HP didn't believe that anymore, driving the Open Enterprise with open systems.

Allbase earned a few footholds in the Open Enterprise, but IMAGE ruled the 3000's roost. Just like Oracle does today, HP's database had become the common coin of computers for HP business. You couldn't switch over billions of records without a lot of magic in 1984. Hewlett-Packard had the right idea about touch interfaces, but the wrong technology and message. This May the message is in the hands of the software providers, not the hardware makers. HP used have R&D enough to be both, which is what still makes the 3000 value durable beyond all accepted wisdom. 

11:45 AM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2012

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.)

How close is the HP-UX end? Five years ago HP planned to end its Itanium revenues by 2013. Yeah, next year. Even that decision was costing the vendor $488 million over four years. HP spent it to keep its customers on HP-UX and the other OSs. All along, HP insisted again and again that Intel was doubling down on Itanium's future. It has even gotten some veteran customers to dig heads into the sand. That's easy to explain. Like concussion stats in US football, reports of HP leaving proprietary environments threaten long-time careers. Plus clients the size of Amtrak and McGraw-Hill.

At least now our community's customers can now see examples of the language and philosophy and schemes that made up the 3000's departure. "Don't possibly signal to world end of roadmap..." versus "We'll have roadmap updates in the future." A product relies on growth from the outside market, plus the technology becomes too costly for HP's budget. That's the 3000's story from HP's view. No different, except in number of customers, from today's Itanium story. Five years ago HP worked up an estimate of the price to move HP-UX to the commodity Xeon chips. About $100 million, it learned, to make the Itanium dead-end go away. But HP opted for a $88 million per year alternative with a short future for its commodity environments. It propped up the chip instead of reinvesting in development its own OS products. It made those decisions while its CEO slashed R&D budgets below the bone.

And that CEO continues to determine the future of HP-UX, even after HP fired him. See, Mark Hurd got himself hired by a company working to kill off HP's Unix. Larry Ellison called the board's ouster of Hurd -- after Hurd's creepy and sad debacle of chasing a reality TV actress, instead of his wife -- one of the worst decisions HP ever made. With the release of these secret emails, it looks like HP made a decision even worse. To a customer who uses HP's Unix, VMS or NonStop, HP never should have let a competitor in the Unix market hire Hurd.

A few months ago a respected tech icon in the NonStop market wrote about the future of HP-UX. Dr. Bill Highleyman thought that the forecast which I'd offered on Itanium was dubious -- that announcing an Odyssey project to get the best of HP's Unix onto Linux meant the end of Itanium, therefore also HP-UX -- and it was nearby. I would invite Dr. Highleyman, plus anyone in our community who remembers losing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars of MPE business, to have a look at the archive of documents that's been curated by All Things D.

Some of the least fortunate customers will now have to migrate away from HP's Unix. Or they can live in the fine-tuned OS afterlife beyond HP. Given the health of Hewlett-Packard's business these days, maybe that post-HP afterlife will seem more lively.

At the least, life in the afterlife will honor the economic advantage of an OS built for a chip the vendor owns, like MPE and PA-RISC. Unix planners are being invited on an HP Odyssey to commodity computing. How anybody can cost-justify that journey, instead of a genuine commodity solution -- well, that feels like a well-kept secret. What's going to be out in the open in the lawsuit trial is more muck, and murk, around the genuine future of the last proprietary OS that HP's ever going to build.

02:16 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2012

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.

"The choices appear binodal," said the email from Joe Lee in Sept. '07 about Itanium strategy. "An expensive plan vs. a crash landing. [Intel CEO] Paul [Otellini] added that we need to address the inevitable on the future of Itanium, stressed that Intel cannot keep losing money on the product line, and asserted that what's really needed is a compelling migration story."

That would be a migration from the Itanium-driven Integrity servers to the HP ProLiant systems run by the Xeon family of chips. HP didn't tell Intel it was developing a project called Octane, a next-gen mission-critical business system to be run on AMD chips. "[CTO] Shane [Robison] says they are most freaked about Octane," Lee wrote, "but discovering that we weren't porting HP-UX rocked their world. Shane wants the data on what it will take to port HP-UX to x86."

That's a port that Fink just told the world wouldn't be happening. Itanium's leash looked so short in '07 that both sides thought it wouldn't be alive in 2014. HP might have had a reason to move its Unix forward, if they'd bought Sun like they proposed in 2009. There's a fascinating PowerPoint deck that describes that proposal, too. HP figured it might help prolong Itanium's lifespan.

The HP documents released by Oracle are online in a Scribd storage area for anyone to read. One PowerPoint deck says that HP-UX "is on a death march" because of Itanium's demise. But HP was more worried about IBM at that point than about Oracle. IBM might have bought Sun, and "it [then] isolates and exposes HP-UX as 3rd tier player, accelerates our decline (product/service) as customers look to consolidate vendors." HP threw its money into supporting extra Intel manufacture and design of Itanium's 9300 and Poulson series, while Oracle gambled on the Sun Unix. The lawsuit's outcome might help determine who won in the short run.

01:20 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2012

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.

"You can find entries in your database in new ways," Foster says. "For example you can find all customers who had a transaction > $10,000 in a date range (May 1, 2012 - May 15, 2012) without doing a table scan. You can also index each word in a text field or description -- it could be looking for all customers with city = 'Dallas' or with the word 'shipping' in the transaction description." 

To get this kind of retrieval very little change needs to be made, and a program or even QUERY/3000 can use this capability. "Little work, new flexibility in retrieval, means lots of new possibilities for our customers," Foster said. DBFINDs, DBGETs, and DBINFOs have extra commands and new modes.

The UDA Central extract, transform and load (ETL) tools at MB Foster are being prepared to employ the new indexing, he added. On July 25-27 a three day, $950 workshop is scheduled for full training on Eloquence, hosted at the MB Foster HQ in Southern Ontario outside of Ottawa. It's designed to help developers do the database architecture based on the kinds of retrievals they'd like to do. Details on registering for that training -- which culminates with Foster's annual BBQ on July 28 -- are available from Foster at 800-ANSWERS.

07:23 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2012

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.

Tuerk told the members of the CAMUS users group that getting to the 500 level is important to making LinkedIn a successful tool.

Link with as many members as you can. Some experts say that you will only show up in search results for your skillset only 3 percent of the time if you are linked to fewer than 200 people. That incidence is supposed to climb to 90 percent if you are linked to "500+." Look for "Open Networkers" and LIONs that will link with everybody. Drop them later if you like.

Add Groups related to your professional field. You are allowed 50. Concentrate on ones that have thousands of members at first, then add local ones that seem relevant and have at least 100. Check them out, and as you near your 50 Group maximum, drop some that are less relevant and add the most relevant for you. Most have jobs tabs. Link to Group members you like or that have 500+ connections. Find jobs on Discussion tabs also.

There's more details on how to use a group membership and LinkedIn to improve a job search at Tuerk's post here in the NewsWire blog. LinkedIn group membership is a great way to stay in touch with a community that can seem smaller, if you believe some reports. Let us hear from you.

06:48 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2012

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?"

Smith wrote on a Powerhouse mailing list that "With the exception of Unix and Windows, Powerhouse runs on antiquated hardware." This consultant working with OpenVMS took the official HP view of the 3000, saying the "3000 MPE is done; HP offers help to move these sites to Unix or Windows platforms." (Those 3000 vintage support customers might want to correct his view.)

But even community members with direct 3000 migration exerience see Powerhouse as a waypoint instead of a destination, even when a system built in the '80s would cost millions to replace. Charles Finley of Transformix reported that a high-dollar replacement cost "does not ensure anything" about application longevity.

One prospect hired their web content developer to "completely replace" a working application in six months, because the developers assured them that the 300-program project could be replaced in that amount of time. This was done against the advice of the existing developer and, initially, without consulting her. Four months into the project the web developer asked the programmer for a printout of the database structures. They were TurboIMAGE schemas, so they needed the HP 3000 developer to explain them. The VP running the project who'd hired the web developers suggested that they print out all of the data in the database and have volunteers do the data entry. When the programmer pointed out that there could be lots of errors, she stopped getting invited to the meetings.  

I last heard that the system was finally going into testing two years late. What did that cost? This was a non-profit and they did it to save money! Also, as an extra incentive they would have nice web screens instead of those dull terminal screens.

Finley didn't mention the prospect by name, but those details match up with the migration situation in 2010 at the US Cat Fanciers Association.

Costs to carry Powerhouse forward are not a show-stopper for some companies leaving the HP 3000 -- an article in our print edition this month examines such a shift toward Powerhouse on Linux. But the world has changed a lot since the Cognos products were re-engineered in the late '90s to include separate versions for the Web and the Axiant Windows toolset. Much of the product line demands runtime licenses.

One developer who's preparing to make a move to Oracle on Windows and Linux outlined his work, as well as the reasons for doing it. "Once we are fully converted, I expect to start replacing QTP extracts with Oracle stored procedures," said Ken Langendock, "then replace screens with an HTML version that simply gets the data."

I believe, at the end of the day:

1. There are only going to be three databases left: Oracle, MySQL and SQL Server.

2.There are only going to be two OS left: Windows and Linux, because they can be implemented rather inexpensively.

3. There will only be one look and feel for all applications: Web

If Cognos wanted to get back into the running, they would have to follow these assumptions and revamp (combine) all the products into one suite and stop charging for Runtime licenses. They would then have a leg up on all the other tools with their Dictionary, but I don’t see this happening.


04:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 11, 2012

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.

The executive VP of HP's enterprise computing business is now Dave Donatelli, more entrenched than ever after HP kicked Ann Livermore into the company's board of directors suite. Donatelli leads the list which HP offered of its key executives speaking at the show. Todd Bradley appears, now executive vice president of both Printing and Personal Systems, even after that TouchPad debacle. Others include Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and EVP for HP Software; Mike Lynch, executive vice president, Information Management; and John Visentin, executive vice president for the company's support and consulting arm, Enterprise Services.

HP's Q2 '12 quarterly results report (on May 23) will be about two weeks behind in the rear view mirror when HP Discover opens up. This has always been a show aimed at an audience well below the financial analyst crowd. The company discounts professional certification for IT workers who attend. Last year's show had more than 10,000 attendees and 1,000 partners on hand, the vendor reported.

Discovering something to hear before the gentle humor of Madagascar or the dulcet tones of Crow can be planned using the online session discovery tool at the event's website. Three months ago, only four sessions were listed online as being delivered from customers. Now that wing of content is beefed up to 160 with the likes of a strategy review from Brian O'Reilly of the Las Vegas Sands, who's giving a case study to show "how Las Vegas Sands (Venetian) accelerated its IT transformation program." IT managers from Royal Bank of Canada, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and payroll provider Paychex will also speak.

11:23 AM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 10, 2012

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 docs.hp.com, 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.

By the time The HP 3000--for Complete Novices, Part 17: Using Intrinsics was posted on the 3K Associates website, Stachnik was working in technical training in HP's Network Server Division. He'd first written these papers for Interact, the technical journal devoted to 3000 savvy for more than two decades. Even though Interact is long out of print, Stachnik's savvy is preserved in multiple web outposts.

Stachnik explains why intrinsics tap the inherent advantage of using an HP 3000.

When an application program calls an MPE/iX intrinsic, the intrinsic places itself in MPE/iX's "privileged mode." The concept of privileged mode is one of the key reasons for the HP 3000's legendary reputation for reliability. Experienced IT managers have learned to be very wary of application programs that access system internal data structures directly. They demand that MPE/iX place restrictions on HP 3000 applications, to prevent them from doing anything that could foul up the system. This is what led to the development of the intrinsics. Application programs running in user mode can interact with the operating system only by invoking intrinsics.

Even if your company has a migration in mind, or doesn't have an unlimited lifespan for the 3000, knowing how intrinsics work is an intrinsic part of learning 3000 fine-tuning that might be inside classic applications. Tools can help to hunt down intrinsics, but it helps to know what they do and what they're called. You can fine-tune your 3000 knowledge using Stachnik's papers and HP's Intrinsic documentation.

02:20 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2012

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.

Working in the realm of the original 16-bit MPE intrinsics, "You cannot make less than 9 bits for the date of the year," Vladimir said. "That would be less than 365 days. So that leaves us 7 bits to express the year."

The vintage-'90s HPCALENDAR, reaching into the new elbow room of 32 bits, can use as many as 23 bits for the year. That intrinsic will cover 8 million years, even more. HPCALENDAR is available in Native Mode MPE, and it remains the best choice for any new work done on a 3000's applications.

But MPE's existing intrinsics provide the barrier here: the oldest are in Segmented Library (SL) -- and the newer HPCALENDAR is in Native Library (NL). And the only companies with any chance of adjusting the 3000's dates into 2028 and beyond are those which have insight into MPE/iX source. Then there's knowing what to do with it. They must get into the MPE source and recompile it to use HPCALENDAR.

For complete reference, here's the manual page for HPCALENDAR:

NM callable only.

This intrinsic returns the date in the supported
date type code 4 listed in the table, 
“Supported Date Formats.”


   date := HPCALENDAR;

Operation Notes

Where date is the 32-bit unsigned integer
(assigned functional return). This returns the
calendar date in the following format:

Bits Value/Meaning

23:9 Day of year

0:23 Year since 1900

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir reminded us. It can do operations with DATE. "If you have MPEX, and who doesn’t," he says, "DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Vladimir also talks, on his return from consulting trips to 3000 sites, about the level of 3000 knowledge he sees in even long-time users. Management relies on the HP guys to tell them what’s up, and the HP guys don’t know.

"There are all kinds of excuses not to know what you’re doing," he says. He tells of his philosophy about learning. You draw a circle to represent what you know. "Inside the circle is what you know, outside is what you don’t know. You go along the circumference. Only by going along there can you see what you don’t know. So you learn, and you draw a bigger circle, a bigger circumference. The more you know, the more you know what you don’t know."

In converse, consider the smallest circle of knowledge, just a point. Vladimir adds, "When you know nothing, you think you know everything."

No one knows who will be working in the years near 2028 on HP 3000s. But in an era where Amiga computer games can be played on iPhones -- and companies now earn money for such a creation -- it's easy to say we don't know who will break this 2028 barrier. And they might be driving a car called a Volkswagen, and using a computer called the 3000, and neither will resemble what we know today, more than 15 years away.

05:16 PM in Hidden Value, History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 08, 2012

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.

"Do you know who might be interested in these?" he asks. "I want don't want money for the items – just shipping costs."

SIIIMemorabilia-webThe full array of the memorabilia above includes multiple editions of the VEsoft Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, which include papers by Robelle's Bob Green -- plus Robelle's own HP 3000 Evolution, collecting other papers and some NewsWire articles. Even more fun is the DVD of Chris Gauthier's Growing Up with the HP 3000 short film, the Seldom Met User Group (SMUG) guidebooks, and some of those HP-branded giveaways we knew from the era when alligators followed software vendors.

Wiseman will ship it all for $40 to the US or France, or 25 Euros. "The console has protective plastic still on it," he says, "so this is new, unused item! I have a second console -- and I intend to wire it up by my bed so I can press 0003006 and then Start/Enable, to boot myself in the mornings!"

You can contact Wiseman to get your history at [email protected].

11:49 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2012

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.

Reducing these risks around the PA-RISC iron is a reason cited for the move away from the 3000 platform and MPE/iX. Quirke said the company considers the Stromasys product "one option we are considering looking into." That's language which suggests months may pass before that 3000 could be replaced with an emulator. But hardware issues rise up during the examinations of 3000 futures.

"We are have been in situations where we have to wait and pray that replacement parts can be found," Quirke said, "or we rob parts from test boxes. As hardware availability and support is a key factor which brings the migration discussion to the fore, virtualization, on paper, offers some solution."

02:29 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2012

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.

Plenty of 3000 software companies won't need this. They are modest in size and responsive and you can often talk to the creators of their products. These companies tend to produce tools that you will want to continue to use on an emulator. Adager. Suprtool. MPEX. DataExpress (now the UDA Series). ByRequest. The sort of products that helped the 3000 toward that 1980s success.

Other companies are still a mystery on the emulator-support front. Chris Koppe, who's managing business development for Fresche Legacy (nee Speedware) said he didn't know how emulator support might work at larger software suppliers. Cognos -- now an accessory of IBM -- came to mind.

"I think you'll end up getting companies in the vendor ecosystem that'll say, 'I'll keep your support money, but I'll give you best-effort support," he said. "In the end, can you move to Stromasys [products] and still get support from the software vendors? If you're running Powerhouse on [HPA/3000] and it has a problem, will IBM really support you? Did you buy your license on that kind of infrastructure, or will IBM -- or Robelle or VEsoft or any third-party vendor -- will they support you? If there's a problem, will they say, 'Put it on a 3000 box and call me back?' "

There is history to review on this subject from the Stromasys DEC customers. Those who use MANMAN, for example, don't need an archive system for support of Charon-hosted emulated servers. They're delighted with that mature product. We keep trying to get IBM's attention, to ask about this in relation to Powerhouse. But as other software vendors have learned, getting official response to Powerhouse issues of license and development from IBM is a slow process.

Whatever the prospect for support and licensing from third parties, Stromasys becomes the first party in an emulator-user's shop. You can call your PC hardware company to get a board replaced or a new unit installed. But the emulator is software, as essential as MPE. It comes from a single vendor, just like HP provided the OS. Stromasys will need to show a profile as stellar as the old HP's in order for some customers to extend more devotion to a single vendor.

08:06 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2012

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.

"Due to the high volume of attendees trying to get in at the last minute, we have decided to repeat the webinar on May 17 at 2 PM EST," MB Foster's sales director Chris Whitehead reported. "You can register at http://www.mbfoster.com/aboutus/events_detail.cfm?On=78." Once the database is in place, users can deploy the Eloquence language in development. For example, WebDLG is an Eloquence component which enables dialog-based Eloquence programs to use a web browser as a user interface.

Foster said that the 8.20 beta starts in mid-May with a release in July, and "documentation is coming soon. These are the high level items that were discussed:
Database full text search functionality
Major language enhancements
PCL to PDF conversion
Improved WebDLG
Improved JDLG

Eloquence's Ruth Schurrle said that after the summer break, they will offer a bi-monthly training webinar to explain aspects of Eloquence functionality in depth. The first webinar is scheduled around beginning of June. Keep an eye out here, or at the Marxmeier Software website, for more schedule details and registration on those Marxmeier training webinars.

12:44 PM in Migration, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2012

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.

When configuring the VA it is always better to have lots of small LUNs instead of a few big ones. What that means: make your LUN 9-18GB in size. Use Autoraid, not mirrored. The VA7410 is rated at 45,000 IOs per second, there is nothing the HP 3000 can do (especially an A-class) to make that VA sweat.

The HP 3000 supports 2GB/second.

Yes HAFO is supported, and is set up in SYSGEN. What I do is put the even LUNs on one controller and the odd LUNs on the other. Since both controllers "see" all the LUNs, HAFO is a snap.

Make sure you have the correct PDC firmware on the HP 3000. (The N-Class is 43.43, the A-Class is 43.50.) If you don't have the right PDC, don't even bother with the VA.

And remember, FCSCAN is your friend. TDUTIL to verify the path, i.e  TDUTIL "0/12/0/0"

09:57 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2012

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?

Robot3000Michael Berkowitz says

Since you're using COBOL and probably use copy libraries, you could use Robot/3000 from Productive Software Systems. (Screen shot of Robot shown at left)

Larry Simonsen adds

Another option is to use the 3000's grep command in MPE/iX.

01:55 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)