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September 2012

3000 Memoir Project: Wins from Easy Use

The 3000 Memoir Project is a living and growing history of your community, told by the server and its software. There are excepts of the book to be published next year, in paper as well as e-book formats. 2013 will mark the genuine 40-year anniversary of the system, while 1974 marks the start of the user group that integrated community pioneers.

We're looking for your stories of the first time you encountered a 3000. Call me at 512-331-0075, or send an email to the NewsWire's offices.

In this installment, the 3000 tells about relative ease of use versus mainframe standard, stories told to, and told by, Paul Edwards -- a former IBM mainframe manager, US veteran, and director of several user groups. By the HP 3000

I was sold on ease of use, and fun. 

PaulEdwards-atSaltLickI like what Paul Edwards and the others said about working with me, versus those entrenched mainframes. See, HP didn’t think of selling me as a big datacenter computer at the start. I was supposed to be a wheel-it-in computer. Some of my early ads showed people “rolling it up to the side of the desk,” Edwards says. My early models, the Series 30s and 40s, even had me built into desks as if I was part of the office furniture, instead of running the office.

That’s because I was a new idea in computers: something that regular office workers could manage, with the help of people like Edwards at HP.

They had a great database they gave me for good in 1976, IMAGE, and one of the fun examples of it used statistics from the NFL. Orly Larson at HP had cooked up the demo of IMAGE, “and every HP sales site had a copy of it. It was just a six-dataset database. But we’d say to the Systems 3 people, ‘let me show you how you can retrieve something, or update databases. They were amazed. It was fun. IBM systems weren’t fun – they were work.”

Edwards says that back in those early days, you couldn’t take fundamentals for granted. Like just writing a file. Me, I did it like a swimmer just jumping in after years of practice, not even thinking about it. “When I came to the 3000, I didn’t have to worry where on a disk I was going to put a file,” he says. “I just wrote out a file. On the IBMs, I had to specify which sector, which disk platter.” He called it one of the most advanced bits of tech that I had when he first started using me.

Continue reading "3000 Memoir Project: Wins from Easy Use" »

3000 Memoir Project: Jousts with IBM

The 3000 Memoir Project is a living and growing history of your community, told by the server and software that made HP's first business server a landmark, enduring success. We're introducing the Project as an except of the book to be published next year, in paper as well as e-book formats. 2013 will mark the genuine 40-year anniversary of the system, while 1974 marks the start of the user group that integrated the community pioneers.

We're looking for your stories of the first time you encountered a 3000. Call me at 512-331-0075, or send an email to the NewsWire's offices.

In this installment, the 3000 tells us of its days besting the old concepts of IBM. It earns its place as a minicomputer alternative replacing mainframes in the 1970s. It's a set of stories as told to, and told by, Paul Edwards -- a former IBM mainframe manager, US veteran, and director of several user groups. He's still working as a consultant today.

By the HP 3000

My easy magic made mainframes look hard.

Print-ExclusiveI’m not starting at my very beginning, but I sprang to life against mainframes. I’m the HP 3000 and I always have been, even after HP stopped making me in 2003. My operating system — the muscles and organs that have made companies stronger and my life much longer — has been passed down from one generation of computing to the next. My hardware bones have changed in obvious ways, like a youngster growing taller. But even when my muscles and organs were still new, and my bones hadn’t grown, I was still knocking off bigger and older mainframes. It was my time to claim a minicomputer’s place in white-coated DP shops. We didn’t call it IT then. Paul Edwards, who’s only about 30 years older than my 40-year-old spirit, was a lot of help in making my bones against IBM.

Those jousts happened in Dallas with him at my console or his head inside a cabinet. He was coming into my HP realm after four years of working with IBM’s mainframes at Frito-Lay’s headquarters, plus a bit of time tending EDS, he tells me. A mainframe guy coming onto my team. It was kind of like having a new big brother to help you stand up against those bullies of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. IBM spread FUD in the 1970s about using anything but their batch beasts. Edwards and others found my easy magic and showed it off to win me new customers. Lots of them were using System 3s, he said, until they saw me.

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Is There a Glacier in the 3000's Future?

By Brian Edminster
Applied Technologies

I heard about Amazon's Glacier service a couple of weeks ago, and was interested in it enough to pull the technical documentation for it. The front page for the service describes it so:

A storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable. With Amazon Glacier, customers can reliably store large or small amounts of data for as little as $0.01 per gigabyte per month, a significant savings compared to on-premises solutions.

Why did I pull the techncial docs? I wanted to see if I could build a 'client' for MPE/iX. The answer looks to be yes, but it's not quite that simple. Just because something can be done doesn't make it a viable solution, at least not for every situation.

AWSEarlier this week Infoworld posted an article that asserts cloud storage is the final nail in tape's coffin. The crux of the article is about the new Glacier service, and how the pricing structure enables the possibility to use the Cloud as your archiving store, rather than tape of one format or another. It would also eliminate the need to periodically refresh your backup medium (regardless of format, tape medium ages, even when not read/written. It must be read and transferred to new medium periodically; or more correctly, it must be if you intend to rely on it as a backup)

In analyzing Amazon Glacier's anticipated usage patterns, it looks like they're intending it for partial or application backups or archives, rather than massive full-backup archives to be used for any large full system recovery.

There's some kinks to work out though, that aren't talked about in the article. If a Glacier client were to be built on 'native hardware' MPE/iX instances, there are a number of things that need to be considered, in event of a system failure which would require a rebuild.

Continue reading "Is There a Glacier in the 3000's Future?" »

App design changes induce homesteading

At the e-commerce site Musical Fulfillment, ERP manager Chris McCartney would prefer to remain on the HP 3000 with an app which has been working well. But migration mandates at these kinds of satisfied sites are triggered by many things, including the loss of HP support or acquisitions by larger companies.

AMSLogoMusical Fulfillment has used the Ecometry application for more than 10 years. The company even moved up to the N-Class HP 3000s just a few years ago. "We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system," McCartney said. Her firm is the parent company for musical suppliers such as American Music Supply.

"Personally I love HP 3000s," McCartney said. "They are sturdy, they run forever, and they are just one box with none of this load balancing across multiple servers."

The alternative path away from the 3000 induces changes, sometimes ranging beyond a new environment. It starts with a new vendor, in McCartney’s case. Red Prairie acquired Ecometry’s creators last year.

Continue reading "App design changes induce homesteading" »

E-commerce sites examine migration plans

One year after the Red Prairie buyout of Ecometry's owner Escalate, the e-commerce suite is getting a more secure open systems future. Ecometry once represented the largest and most vital part of 3000 growth, especially during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. A list of 3000 customers circa 2003 showed that one customer in five was using the e-commerce software.

ElectricGuitarWhen satisfied users of 3000 apps are sparked to make a migration away from the server, they often rely on the considerations of their longtime app vendor. At e-commerce and catalog firm Musical Fulfillment, manager Chris McCartney is still searching for a solution that will improve on the 3000-based Ecometry software she's managing. Her company serves several e-commerce sites such as

Even though the Ecometry app's supplier Red Prairie sells a commodity version of the software, that migration target is not registering a higher note at McCartney's company.

"Unfortunately there is very little ROI in an upgrade to the Open Systems Ecometry," McCartney said, "so that is a hard sell."

Print-ExclusiveThe application and its creators have moved from part of the Escalate software group to an even less prominent part of Red Prairie, which now has 43 software solutions in its stable after a series of acquisitions during the last three years. But recent signs point to protection for this application suite -- at least its versions built for non-3000 environments.

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Stromasys unplugs emulator field testing

Development has passed out of a beta testing phase and into sales for the HPA/3000 emulator, according to Stromasys founder Robert Boers. The company is focusing on selling the product, an effort that led people away from kicking tires and onward to lighting the fires of production releases.

"So long as you're running a field test program, everybody is glad to participate," Boers said. "But then nobody buys. So we're pulling the plug on our field testing program."

The personal freeware version of the product will serve as a demonstration vehicle. It's been months since a bug request needed to be fulfilled, Boers said.

The product is stepping into an ecosystem where resellers are still providing upgraded 3000s at costs well below any of HP's 3000 list prices. But even those larger servers represent a proven solution which has tangible performance limits. So far, the embrace of the HPA/3000 emulator for PA-RISC 3000s has ramped up slowly. Outgoing CEO J.P. Bergmans said customers are ready to take their emulators from test to production status. Some are checking results from their 3000 hardware off a month-end closing against results from the HPA/3000.

“They’ve been running in parallel,” Bergmans said. “People want to see the same report executed before they take a decision.” But this kind of test represents the confusion over HPA/3000. Some companies who want to compare results don’t understand what the emulator product does in its design.

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Virtualizing MPE/iX? Check.

Last week Ray Shahan, a 3000 programmer at Republic Title in the Dallas area, asked about virtualizing MPE/iX. Could it be done, and how, and who has done it?

I was asked the question, "Can the HP 3000 be virtualized," and of course, I have not a clue. My intial thoughts would be no, it's not possible (or it would have already been done). But I don't know that it hasn't already been done.

For the benefit of the casual reader of the NewsWire, I'm pleased to report not only that MPE/iX plus an HP 3000 can be virtualized. It's been done, too. An interview yesterday with the new CEO of Stromasys (Ling Chang) and the company's founder confirmed that two customers have gone live with the Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine. Many in the community know this as The Emulator.

Continue reading "Virtualizing MPE/iX? Check." »

Staying on the road: Job 1 to own a classic

CartalkAs autumn bears down on us this week — it begins on Thursday — I'm struck by changes of more than just seasons. A pair of experts about older engineering are retiring from the radio airwaves here in the US. They'll live on in a virtual format, with older shows full of the same rich information — just a little more aged. The comparisons to the 3000 community seemed apt to me.

Riding on a very old technology this summer, I filled my ears using a bit newer technology, to hear about tech with both innovation and heritage. I rode my bike, tech first envisioned and built in the 19th Century. I listened to a radio show while I pedaled my 13-mile circuit around my hilly neighborhood. It's often an hour that's blessed by the miracle of podcasts, smartphones and Bluetooth transmissions to my earbuds.

But I listen to talk from a show first created for a medium that's over 100 years old. My ears fill with laughter, troubles, innovation and love for technology that's not new. I listen to Car Talk, and I sometimes think about all of you, and what you do and have done.

Car Talk is a top-rated NPR radio show created once a week by two auto-repair garage owners, the brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi. These fellows are winding down an amazing career of detailed engineering advice and inspired comedy. Known as the Tappet Brothers, they're ending their radio show creation as of the end of September. They've been on the air since the HP 3000 was brand-new.

There are a lot of similarities between a radio show that starts with a bluegrass riff followed by with hard Boston accents, and your community of minicomputer owners.

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Migration planning by application fits better

By Birket Foster
CEO, MB Foster 

Second of two parts

At the highest level, a 3000 site’s migration plans and due diligence are a process of discovery. Like planning out a dream kitchen, you will consider ways to improve your workplace. Innovation before migration can deliver an immediate return on investment. These investments will have a positive impact and provide dramatic improvements that can be carried forward when moving to your ultimate objective. Thinking of these improvements and how to set up things to accommodate life after migration during discovery will pay big dividends down the road.

Detailed Plan by Application

AppliancesApplications represent the appliances in your kitchen. Details in an application migration plan should include designs for your surround code and surround data. Surround code is the application code that interfaces between applications APIs, included in this category are extracts, and reports added by the in-house IT team. Surround data are often extra tables added to your database. These might be put in place to do a process like EDI, or reports, extracts and interfaces between applications, systems, suppliers and customers. While not in the main application, they support the functions and workflow of the company. 

This plan will need to include time for reviewing and implementing good processes to manage the changes in the application code and automating the testing. As an example source management software is used to check in/out the surround code (The VSS source safe is an example of a source code management application).

The details of planning for your application and data migration make up the next biggest share of your migration budget. How big? It depends on the number of applications you need to migrate. There's a wide range of activities which go into a detailed plan. These costs are what you’ll use to integrate the experience of your guide with your objective.

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How to Budget for a Migration

By Birket Foster
CEO, MB Foster

First of two parts

KitchenWhether you’re renovating your kitchen, or migrating your IT platform and applications, projects that change your life need planning to succeed — and planning starts with details including a budget. If you’ve never created a dream kitchen, how do you know if you can afford it? Adding new refrigerated spaces that pull out like drawers, or rerouting traffic between refrigerator, sink and stovetop, you’ll need an expert to guide and help you get the job done on time and within budget. A guide’s experience not only saves money, by ensuring you can muster all the resources needed to mitigate challenges and prepared for the tricky bits.

What are the drivers?

There has to be a reason for the project. Whether it is more mouths to feed or equipment that is too old and doesn’t function properly there is always some reason for the kitchen project to get chartered. The same is true with a server or application replacement project – is there a need to scale up the processing because your business is growing or the business wants to mitigate risk on an old server? There is always a driver for this kind of project. Start by documenting your business drivers and what the cost is to keep the status quo versus making a change.

The following aspects of framework will determine what you’ll spend.

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Stromasys names ex-HP exec as new CEO

Ling_W._ChangHP 3000 emulator maker Stromasys named a new CEO this week, with the current chief executive retiring Oct. 1. The privately-held company, still headed by its chairman and founder Robert Boers, named Ling W. Chang as CEO after her 13 years at Compaq and then HP.

Chang, who holds an MS in Computer Engineering as well as business education from the Wharton School, said she's excited to be joining Stromasys "as it embarks on a higher-growth journey." She added that the company's products such as the Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine "offer a bridge to the future where customers can leverage the cost savings for new initiatives such as cloud services and big data."

Boers thanked Jean-Paul Bergmans "for his contributions as COO and CEO over the last years, which has seen a strong growth in sales as well as new products that are about to enter the market. Jean-Paul will assist Ling with the transition and remain on the board of Stromasys."

Stromasys said Chang's group at HP, the Integration and Technical Services unit, "partnered with Stromasys to increase our mutual share of customers for several years." HP revived its contacts with Stromasys in 2008 regarding the 3000 emulator, which Stromasys had to delay due to a lack of HP technical cooperation. Chang will make her office in New York City, but Stromasys will retain its headquarters in Geneva, along with labs based in Moscow.

The company will proceed with its project to release the Charon HPA/3000 product for emulation in a personal freeware version, Boers confirmed.

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The Actual Size and Start of the 3000 World

Ask around to discover how large the 3000 world grew to be, or when it all began. You're likely to get a couple of stock answers. The size of the world counting every system ever sold might be reputed to be more than 50,000 servers shipped. Its genesis is regularly quoted at 1972, so this November would mark 40 years of the 3000's lifetime.

That genesis is only correct if you count the 3000s days of gestation. An out-of-print book by one of the longest-termed 3000 veterans, Thomas Harbron, tells a story of a often-patched, crashing computer. In Thinking Machines, Harbron reports that so pot-holed was the 3000's start that the delays gave HP enough time to rename the system the 3000CX, instead of the System/3000. As has been reported all over, the start was so flawed that HP's founder vowed no HP product would ever be announced before it could be demoed.

Harbron shared a section of his book with us that explains why HP needed the lengthy delay. (We'd love to bring Thinking Machines back into e-print, especially as part of the 3000 Memoir Project.)

After all, is it still a 3000 without a database or a business langauge? He says neither IMAGE or COBOL were ready to demonstrate until mid-1973. BASIC and the 3000's unique SPL were the only languages a customer could use to create software for most of 1973. (And creating your own software was the only way an application suite could go into work in the early 1970s on a 3000.) HP limited access to its lab 3000s in 1972 to communication via teletypes.

Harbron also reported that the first 3000 training seminar of two weeks in California was "classes that were mostly taught by Bob Green," the founder of Robelle. Even at the 3000's start, familiar faces of today were there spreading its seeds.

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Emulator to add personal freeware version

Print-ExclusiveReaching out for a way to let the 3000 community experience its emulator, Stromasys will be delivering a free, personal copy of the software as a download. The personal experience could be starting as early as this month.

The Charon HPA/3000 freeware will be fully functional but trimmed back in its horsepower. It's the same kind of model the company has used for many years in the Digital marketplace, where the Charon product has built its reputation. Charon is powering MANMAN sites in the world of DEC servers. Some IT managers there have testified during CAMUS meetings about the success of using an emulator.

Stromasys director Jean-Paul Bergmans invited the 3000 NewsWire to host these downloads, which would be the first program ever to come off a NewsWire web host. There is no competition in the world for a product built to emulate the HP 3000’s hardware.

"People will be able to play with it, test it out, and even run small archival solutions," said Stromasys director Jean-Paul Bergmans. The freeware emulator will have a 1 e3000 Performance Unit rating -- equivalent to a Series 918 -- and it will be limited in its number of users. Details were still being arranged about how to handle support questions arising from using the freeware . But Stromasys has already managed a similar program for the VAX and Alpha hardware emulators in the Digital community.

Bergmans also announced there will be "more granular price points" for HPA/3000 in the near future.

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HP reports new job cuts as computers slip

Hewlett-Packard gave notice this week that its job cut program will run 2,000 employees larger than forecast back in May. The total reduction in HP's workforce will run to 29,000 by the end of fiscal 2014, according an Securities and Exchange Commission filing. HP has already seen more employees take enhanced early retirement (EER) than it expected.

Those early retirements are part of HP's workforce reduction plan. Some of the enterprise talent is being forced out, while others are taking HP's EER offer. Bob Chase, an experienced Business Recovery Specialist in HP Support, started his own consulting practice after a WorkForce Reduction. Chase counted 16 years of HP experience including years of 3000 support. The company expects to spend $3.3 billion on workforce reductions through October of 2014.

At the same time these fresh cuts were announced, analysts expect to demote HP out of the top spot in computer shipments. Although HP has been left far behind in computer company measurements of market cap, as well as total sales (both figures eclipsed by Apple), until this month HP had shipped more computers per quarter than any maker.

SpectreOneBut the IBM spinoff of its PC business, Lenovo, is poised to take first place from HP. Even as HP tries to capture and retain the 3000 migration server business, its biggest revenue generator has slipped. HP shipped more than 13 million business servers and PCs in the second quarter of 2012. The September figures for PCs will change that, confirming a slide that Dell has also been experiencing -- even as HP tries to retake some sales with Apple-like designs.

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The First HP 3000 You Can Download

Print-ExclusiveWe are on the cusp of a milestone here, one that's bigger than the impending start of our 18th year of publication. As part of our desire to help the 3000 community, we hope to be sending out HP 3000s. Virtually, of course. There's never been HP iron or MPE code here in our offices.

We've had an offer to distribute the freeware copies of a new Personal-sized Charon HPA/3000 emulator built by Stromasys. We haven't been shy about the prospects for this product, one that has no competition. One of the experts with the longest tenure in the marketplace, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, said at this time last year that the emulator has the potential to be a game-changer. It's already taken on the role of a governor — as in the part of an engine which keeps a limit on how fast an auto will barrel forward.

WideWorldHead185When we last checked in with Yeo, he was saying that the migration business had slowed to almost a trickle in the first half of this year. Six months earlier, he believed that emulator would be giving companies a reason to reschedule their migration plans. A tough economy would be another reason, but having a vision of a virtual 3000, to replace aging iron, would be the newer and more novel element in the postponements.

We've never served up anything off of our web hosts besides video, audio, PDF files and contents of web pages. So being an outlet for these freeware downloads is a new mission for me to manage. I ask your patience if there's a beta period of the downloading process.

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Core memories spark a cold start for 3000s

Editor’s Note: Jon Diercks, the author of the only comprehensive MPE/iX administration book, offered us this story of the 3000’s very first year. It was a time of HP retreat from the minicomputer market: HP staff resigning, others unselling a system touted just months earlier as “a happening,” as the slogans of 1972-73 said in HP labs and offices.

Diercks worked at Anderson University in the 1990s alongside Tom Harbron, who’d been the college’s computer department director during 3000’s first months on the market. Diercks said Harbron was heavily involved in early discussions with HP about MPE and IMAGE. 

The institution began as Anderson College, and its very first HP 3000 was one of the earliest models. Diercks said the bragging line in those days was "Anderson College has the first HP 3000 ever installed anywhere between the Rockies and the Appalachians."

Harbron’s report on the 3000’s 1973 is part of Diercks’ 3000 memories, and so he’s contributed the writing as part of our 3000 Memoir Project — in all of its authentic, human and humbling beginnings. It's the first story I've read that details the 3000's retreat. An HP employee who couldn't look his customers in the eye about the 3000, and so resigned. A man whose job was to unsell the 3000s -- and later would bundle the greatest software HP ever wrote, IMAGE, to the Classic hardware, which not long after, fell behind the state of the art.

By Tom Harbron

Reports of problems with the HP 3000 operating system, MPE, continued to be received in the opening weeks of 1973. While it was not encouraging, I had confidence in the basic soundness of the 3000’s design and the integrity of Hewlett-Packard to ultimately deliver what had been promised.

HP’s Phil Oliver called and scheduled a meeting with me for February 6, 1973.  He brought along Bob Stringer, who had replaced Ed Pulsifer as the District Sales Manager; Ed McCracken, who was now HP's Market Manager for Government, Education, and Medical Markets; and Jay Craig, who was a new HP salesman from Indianapolis. McCracken would tell me, years later when he was the 3000 division manager, that the morning in my office was the most difficult day of his career. The people that HP hired were, mostly, an honorable group of people.

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HP's migration target gets Oracle green light

After spending almost a year and a half telling the world that HP's Integrity servers are doomed, Oracle has changed its message. In the face of Hewlett-Packard's win in a lawsuit against Oracle, the database vendor looks like it will back off the warnings and continue to service the future of HP's Integrity users. Those users include customers running HP-UX, a frequent choice for HP 3000 migrators.

GreenlightA second phase of that year-long court battle begins soon. A jury will decide what damages to award HP, if any, in reparations for that 18-month campaign against Integrity. When a preliminary decision went HP's way on August 1, Oracle continued its campaign, promising to appeal Judge James Kleinberg's ruling in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. The ruling became final August 29. As of a Sept. 4 statement, Oracle has dialed back the doom.

Previously, Oracle announced that it would stop developing new versions of its software on Itanium microprocessors. For example, that meant version 12c of the Oracle database due out in early 2013 would not be available on Itanium.

However, a judge recently ruled that Oracle has a contract to continue porting its software to Itanium computers for as long as HP sells Itanium computers. Therefore, Oracle will continue building the latest versions of its database and other software covered by the judge's ruling to HP Itanium computers. Oracle software on HP's Itanium computers will be released on approximately the same schedule as Oracle software on IBM's Power systems.

IBM and HP are Oracle's leading competitors for non-Linux business server installations, so the "as soon as IBM gets it" timeline might be a fresh way to drag development feet. Oracle hasn't started to campaign against IBM's Unix and OS400 platform hardware, Power. However, you can still find Oracle's pot-shots about Itanium on the corporate newsroom webpages.

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New software checks 3000s for PCI2 rules

Allegro Consultants has released the latest in its lineup of HP 3000 software tools. PassPCI2 is software which scans HP 3000s for unencrypted credit card numbers.

Safe_card1But to return to that lead for a moment: This is new software which runs on MPE/iX. That's a item all by itself. The 3000 has become a highly stable environment to use in business computing. But part of that stability flows from the lack of change to the system's ecosystem. We haven't seen a new app in awhile.

Security and audits drive PassPCI2. Allegro's president Steve Cooper said the product grew up from a customer's need to pass audits on a 3000, security inventories which are needed to protect credit card numbers in IMAGE databases.

The latest PCI2 compliance requirements demand that credit card numbers reside in one of two states on a 3000: encrypted, or off the server completely. "There are lots of ways to do encryption on the HP 3000," Cooper says. The new product ensures that everything in every field of every record can be scanned for the 13-to-16-digit signature of a credit card. Encryption is a matter for other tools. Removal of the numbers from the 3000 is a more likely resolution.

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