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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.

This virtualized server replicates the PA-RISC hardware, which makes comparing report results between a 3000 and a virtualized server no crucial test of HPA/3000. Any MPE and application errors which take place on HP’s hardware will also take place on an emulator. The best designs strive to emulate everything — bugs as well as features. “But if that month-end test what it takes to convince them that the emulator runs the same, let it be,” Bergmans said.

Bergmans said technical issues around hosting an instance of a virtualized 3000 server, one which would be located in a cloud service, are nearly resolved. This matter doesn’t involve the security of customer data — it would be covered by a typical Service Level Agreement of the hosting provider. Instead, it concerns the security of the code which makes up the emulator. “Because it’s related to security, I can’t really explain what we’re testing,” he said. “it’s like the Army: they never tell you where you are while in combat.”

A hosting service such as Amazon’s is a possible place for the model which was called Son of Zelus to reside. But “we need to complement it with some access control to block the code which is running.” The issues of protecting the unique HPSUSAN ID codes for each HP 3000’s MPE/iX licenses are also being addressed, he said.

Licensing of applications for the virtualized 3000 remains a personal matter for customers to arrange, however.

Bergmans said that the initial customers for the emulator have arranged their own licensing of 3000 software for their installations. HP offers an emulator license for MPE/iX at $500, but the vendors of other software elements will be negotiating with customers' companies on a private basis, at least at first. Stromasys has no plans to arrange emulator licensing for independent software products.

“Dealing with the licensing is something that Stromasys will help to do, but we will not do it by ourselves,” Bergmans said. “Our own customers are the application vendors. In the two cases of our [impending sales] there haven’t been problems.”