Staying on the road: Job 1 to own a classic
Stromasys unplugs emulator field testing

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.

Stromasys isn't ready to provide the names of the customers as reference accounts, but the founder Robert Boers said that reference accounts are coming. One of the customers is in Australia. That's about all we've been told for now about the entry of HPA/3000 into the working world.

We also got updated on the progress of the personal freeware version of this product. It's a version of the software for evaluation use, but it will operate at the capacity of a Series 918, which a few developers consider a useful machine. There doesn't appear to be a user limit attached to this freeware, but it's not available yet for downloads off the NewsWire's website, or any other.

However, Boers and the CEO Chang reminded us that the Stromasys site has a working version of the emulator available for remote use. This is a version of the software hosted at the Stromasys site, and it runs with the power of an N-Class HP 3000.

During a virtualization demonstration of HPA/3000 this spring, product manager Paul Taffel showed how MPE/iX, as well as the code to create a PA-RISC processor, could be compressed into a disk image and copied between systems. Not only was the hardware virtualized, but MPE/iX travelled in a file equivalent to the 4GB startup disk for 3000s.

Language on the Stromasys site which was spotted by Shahan sounded like it needs refreshing by the company. "The ZELUS products that are under development will be very similar to our current Virtual VAX and Alpha products and do not require modification of the MPE/iX operating system, database or application." With the release of this product into the production world of the 3000, the "will be" can be adjusted to "is very similar." And the "are under development" phrase should be replaced with "have been developed."

One point that Boers made during our briefing was that HPA/3000 (which was code-named Zelus) wasn't built piece by piece, each feature triggered by a customer request. That would have dragged out the development over many years. The success of the VAX/Alpha version put Stromasys on the direct path for a wide range of performance on initial release, Boers said.

As for being cost-effective -- another question of Shahan's -- it will depend on how HPA/3000 is employed. As a replacement for a migration project of more than $100,000, an virtualized solution which costs half that looks like a better deal. As a long-term development platform that needs access to advanced technologies only present in Windows or Linux servers, the virtualization is harder to cost-justify. But it's far too early to tell about return on investments. Until we learn who the early customers are -- and maybe more importantly, how the cloud-based instance of the solution works -- the jury will be out on the case for a virtualized MPE/iX.

But it's a reality, not a virtual concept.