Previous month:
October 2012
Next month:
December 2012

November 2012

It's time to admit that IBM won at being No. 1

It's taken more than 10 years for all of the votes from the business community to be counted. But after HP launched into a campaign to become the world's largest computer company, by buying Compaq in 2001, the enterprise IT legend that HP's chased has finished at No. 1.

BernsteinNot in company sales, of course. As Kane's financial manager Mr. Bernstein says in Citizen Kane, "Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money." The trick HP wanted was to make a lot of profit while increasing shareholder's value. This week we received two pieces of news about that odyssey to be No. 1. Both suggest the game is over, and HP will need to try to win the next, different game.

First, the bond rating service Moody's has downgraded the value of HP's debt paper to just three steps above junk bonds. HP's debt carries the steepest risk ever at a Baa1 rating. This didn't matter as much when HP held so little long-term debt. That's not the case today. About $25 billion in debt is affected, Moody’s said.

HPvsPSASecond, the price of HP's stock has taken a tumble all through 2012. It's dropped so low in company valuation that Public Storage of America, a $1.8 billion storage unit renter, is now just below HP's valuation. Hewlett-Packard is the diving blue dot in the valuation chart, and PSA is the green. HP now needs 330,000 employees and $130 billion a year in sales to keep up with a storage unit company's value. HP lost that valuation that's charted there in a little more than one quarter. There seems little chance of regaining it while HP's built the way it is today. 2013's February 21 looks like a genuine fork in the road. HP reports its Q1 results that day.

In this week's New York Times, an op-ed piece written by a CEO contemporary of the Bill-and-Dave HP says it's time to split up Hewlett-Packard. Not to improve its valuation. To save the company, says Bill George, now a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.

Continue reading "It's time to admit that IBM won at being No. 1" »

Power of File Equations: HP 3000 Flexibility

Editor's Note: HP's George Stachnik spent more than a decade teaching HP 3000 customers how to use the best of the system, back in the days when HP was selling it, and then when the vendor was pushing migration. On the former mission, Stachnik wrote a 33-part series in InterACT magazine, The HP 3000 for Complete Novices. Our archives have revealed a paper copy of Part 14, which included figures you can't find anywhere else. The figures make the article, one of more than 20 available online at the website, even more useful. Here's an excerpt of this advanced MPE/iX tutorial.

By George Stachnik

Let’s turn our attention to more advanced characteristics of MPE files: file equations. 

Suppose you were writing a COBOL program to read data from an input file. Let's assume that when this program is placed into production, its input file is called INFILE. In COBOL, you could code the filename right into the file definition. When you run such a program on an HP 3000, it will look for a file called INFILE and attempt to read data from it.

Of course, Murphy's Law dictates that as soon as you have a program that is "locked into" a particular filename, a need will arise to have it read a file with a different name. For this reason, most commercial operating systems provide a way of assigning a temporary alias to a file. Perhaps the best example is the granddaddy of all commercial operating systems: IBM's MVS operating system.

Most mainframe applications refer to files not by their filenames, but by temporary aliases called DDNAMES. On IBM mainframes, DDNAMES are assigned using DD statements in a job control language called (fittingly enough) JCL. JCL is an old (and cryptic) language, but the concept of DDNAMES is a good one. It allows mainframe application programmers a degree of flexibility. 

The HP 3000 provides a similar capability. MPE allows you to assign temporary aliases called "formal file designators" using :FILE commands.

Continue reading "Power of File Equations: HP 3000 Flexibility" »

As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows

Within the next week, HP's going to ship a new generation of Itanium-based servers. Using the Poulson chipset known as the Itanium 9500, these blade-based systems are going to outperform the current generation of Integrity servers by a factor of 3.29, according to HP.

Rx2800i4The engineering gains are impressive. HP tested the new Integrity blades that use the 9500 series against the Itanium 9300-powered servers. Blades start at $6,490 for the 9500-based systems. "For those remaining committed to Itanium and its attendant OS platforms, notably HP-UX, this is unmitigated good news," said Forrester's analyst Richard Fichera. HP's building these new servers exclusively in Singapore, so it can offer three times the computing speed at about the same price.

But even with all that improvement, HP needed to remind the market that these gains were also heading to its Intel x86 Xeon systems. The reason for that reminder: more of HP's customers, such as those leaving the 3000 in migrations, are moving to Windows.

We're not hearing nearly as many reports of migrations which landed on HP-UX systems. The latest news arrived today from Bob Thorpe of National Wine and Spirits. At the Detroit-area IT center, this 3000 pro turned migrator said their customized system is being moved, COBOL and all, to Windows.

"We are in process of having our in-house designed app (using COBOL, IMAGE, and VIEW) converted to NetCOBOL," he said. "We will migrate to a Windows Server platform by March or April next year."

It doesn't matter so much that it took NWS 12 years to leave MPE/iX. What seems more meaningful is that in spite of the Itanium speed-ups, HP couldn't lock NWS into its single-vendor, OS-plus-Itanium environment during those dozen years.

Continue reading "As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows" »

Coding, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

Ask around and you'll find nearly everybody has heard of the Rolling Stones. Do the same asking, outside of our community, and you'll find just the opposite for the HP 3000. You probably already know the cock of the head or the squint of the brow that signals "what's that?"

MickBut the Stones and the 3000 have something in common. They're both performing long beyond their expected retirements. This past weekend in London, the Stones performed in concert. Their average age is hovering around 70, and certainly nobody could see a day when Mick and Keith and Charlie and Ronnie would bring their raisin-like faces onstage. 

Of course, the reviews from the British press have made a lot of the Stones look. But no one is spreading anything but praise for the sound of their music.

Even more remarkably, the years barely seem to have made a dent in Jagger’s voice, nor dimmed his stockpile of restless energy. He leapt and danced across the huge stage, doing that old electric eel impersonation, as if it was still the Sixties.

Alan Yeo of Screenjet, headquartered in England, brought the commonality to my notice.

Which is the most remarkable -- that there are still users of a 40-year-old computer (or at least a computer that will run 40-year-old code), or a band like the Rolling Stones who at nearly 70 were onstage last night for the first of their 50th anniversary concerts.

It's kind of interesting that the development of computing has sort of marched side by side with Rock 'n' Roll, and also the combined interest in that Folk/Rock genre that so many we know in computing have.

Then there's the possibility that the just-released 3000 emulator is the equivalent of a tribute band.

Continue reading "Coding, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll" »

Experience a future of corrections, together

On the front page of our latest printed issue, now arriving, we've reported on a snarl that sprang up when Stromasys tried to give away HP 3000s over the Web. Not the actual hardware instances of the 3000, of course. These were the 2-user freeware emulators you will be able to download and install onto commodity computers.

The emulator itself is getting strong reviews for its capability. We'll have a report in full from the first production site soon, once our paper subscribers enjoy it first. However, a file full of HP's add-on subsystem software got slipped into the first zipped package, a mistake that didn't seem to meet Stromasys standards to introduce this virtual 3000's licensing strategy.

The calamity was held in check by the Internet. In the days before the Web, when we had only paper and land line phones and a fax machine, plus the delivery of the mails, this might have been a lengthy crisis. To start, thousands of customers would have had the incorrect bundle, not just the handful who downloaded that too-bundled Stromasys package over 24 hours, before it was withdrawn.

The postal mailboxes would have been full of DAT tapes, or even 9-track reels: the small ones which indie software vendors shipped out. You'd be expected to destroy those tapes and wait on the postman to deliver something a vendor had to re-manufacture, both in the coding sense as well as the writing of bits onto mylar sense. It might have taken weeks.

But now that it's nearly 2013, this kind of snarl becomes a bump in the road. A better version of the emulator freeware is being coded. And it may even be downloadable before our paper issue arrives in all mailboxes. We finished this issue's writing on a Wednesday. Less than seven days later, we were in print. The Personal Freeware version of the emulator will enjoy a uniform delivery schedule, a soon to South Asia as to South Dakota.

Continue reading "Experience a future of corrections, together" »

Programming Note: Holiday at Hand

TurkeyWe're taking today and tomorrow off from our newswriting and analysis duty to give thanks for all that we enjoy in our world. In particular, Abby and I are thankful for the devotion and attention your community has graced us with over the past 17 years.

We'll keep an eye out for anything important to break before Monday. Stromasys has said it'll have a downloadable freeware emulator (2-user limit) ready very soon. But for many of us, this is a time to share with family, either the one you've chosen or the one which chose you.

Have a great holiday if you're celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday made permanent by Abe Lincoln. We'll be back at the recording of your community history on Monday. 

One month, Twin markers, News on Paper

NewsWire Editorial

For the past 11 years I've written a story during the month of November about the greatest un-natural disaster your community experienced. It's shameful and inappropriate to compare the end of 3000 futures at HP, announced on November 14, 2001, as anything like Superstorm Sandy. Lives haven't been lost. But livelihoods have been, at least. More than a decade after that business-only decision, we all are suffering through the changes HP dished out during that fall.

As it turns out, fall was also the season when we launched the 3000 NewsWire. The mashup of creation memories with what HP's always called "end of life" makes for a complicated, bittersweet time. The same energy -- change -- gave the community our printed publication as well as HP's exit announcement just six years later.

NewsprintpaperBut we have survived along with you, although the suffering metaphor to powerful climate change storms will stop right here. It was scary and uncertain in those first months after a suprising announcement that wasn't a surprise to some skeptics. Now everyone is crossing into our 12th year beyond that ill-fated Nov. 14. And this month we are watching a virtual 3000, the HPA/3000, take its first steps, probably into even more years to come.

However, we used to mark our newsletter's anniversary with our October printed issue. Within five years of that HP exit plan, our printed editions evolved to quarterly products, rather than monthly. We have sponsors and readers who prefer to read this vehicle in print. Amazon sells a lot of paper, even in 2012. But the trend is toward online reading. It's why we moved our reporting toward the news blog more than seven years ago. By the time you read this, we will be crossing the milestone of 2,000 stories reported on the blog. That's happened in less than half the time the NewsWire has published.

And today the 149th issue of the 3000 NewsWire went into the US Mail. As they used to say on TV, more to come. 

Continue reading "One month, Twin markers, News on Paper" »

CEO Leo's defeat now complete with loss

NewsWire Editorial

HP's stock dove 10 percent this morning on the news that its last big-ticket acquisition lied about its net worth during the 2011 buyup of Autonomy. Aside from the spectacular flame-out of the HP TouchPad and its subsequent fire sale -- and the loss of WebOS futures -- Autonomy was about the only other thing Leo Apotheker could manage while CEO. Manage, it appears, being a term used hopefully.

Now comes the news that HP believes the UK British company it bought for $9.7 billion lied about its finances. Current CEO Meg Whitman didn't call it fraud, but the undervaluation triggered an $8.8 billion write-down of the value of the UK maker of big data software.

Whitman said in a statement there were "serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation PLC." The former CEO denied the charges, but the Associated Press ran a story this morning that tallied the tricks that Automony used to fool HP.

StrikeoutHow bad is the strikeout? This time HP is asking the SEC and Britain's Serious Fraud office to look into criminal charges. The inevitable HP lawsuit, this time against its own operating unit, is in the wings. The AP story said Whitman revealed "a senior Autonomy executive volunteered information about the accounting shenanigans, prompting an internal investigation." The internal investigator? None other than PricewaterhouseCoopers. HP tried to buy PWC during the Carly Fiorina spree, but the boardroom held that one in check. HP got EDS instead, along with another $9 billion writedown.

The result is the second straight quarter of losses for HP, a first in the company's history. The maker of replacement systems for migrated HP 3000s is having a dark chapter in its turnaround story. Now it heads into a winter season where tablets -- a product HP failed to launch under Apotheker -- will be bleeding sales off the PC business which HP has been using to generate cash, if not many profits.

The turnaround story will have to start in earnest come mid-February. No one knows what it would mean to see HP fail to turn a profit for nine consecutive months. While its cancelled HP 3000 business didn't deliver enough cash to survive the company's new wave, at least HP knew the valuation of the 3000 for certain. After it cleared Y2K, that year was the start of HP's era of buying companies like Autonomy which triggered moves like easing the 3000 out of HP's future.

Continue reading "CEO Leo's defeat now complete with loss" »

Looking for MPE Expertise

Speedware has become Fresche Legacy this year. But the vendor which is one of two survivors of the four original HP Platinum Migration partners continues to search for MPE and HP 3000 expertise, even while its name has changed.

It's actually that name change that reflects what Katie Flynn Bernard is seeking. She's Freshe's Human Resource Generalist and just joined the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn. Her experience description up on LinkedIn reports that her mission is attracting the necessary expertise for the renovation and migration of legacy applications. Including those which run under MPE/iX, although the company is also doing business in the AS/400- Series i community.

We checked in with Bernard to see what Fresche was looking for, 3000-wise

Right now it is more of a Case Test Builder or Test Analyst that we are looking for. Both are contract positions based either in our Montreal office, or initial training in our Montreal office and then working remotely, or at our client's site in Iowa.

Continue reading "Looking for MPE Expertise" »

Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky

Editor's Note: I asked several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation of the new freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator worked for them. In yesterday's article, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet led us through a weekend-long journey to get the right VMware and a 2GB Player-ready file onto a server, rather than a desktop. A genuine HP 3000 played a key role. Now with an ISL> prompt on his screen, Yeo plunges forward.

By Alan Yeo

Second of two parts

Okay, so with no documentation at hand (as of last weekend), let’s try ISL>START NORECOVERY

This starts the MPE launch, I get prompted for date and time which I correct, and it continues with a normal 7.5 launch, right the way through to starting JINETD and logging on as OPERATOR.SYS.

You know what they say. "If it looks like a Duck and quacks like a Duck, it’s probably a Duck," and this thing looks like an HP 3000 and would have probably quacked like one if it could.

As far as I can tell I'm sitting at the console of an HP 3000! I’m running in a Putty Terminal, so I'm not going to be able to do any block mode stuff, but it’s good enough to run a whole load of MPE commands and have a look at the created environment. Yes, it still quacks!

Continue reading "Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky" »

Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor

Editor's Note: As soon as the freeware personal edition of the Stromasys 3000 emulator went live for downloading, I sent the FTP links to several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation worked for them. Before we'd follow through on helping to host this freeware, I wanted to see the state of the packaging. Allegro's Gavin Scott also installed it at our request, and his report appears in the forthcoming 3000 NewsWire print issue.

By Alan Yeo

I'm not sure why I agreed to Install the Stromasys CHARON-HPA/3000 freeware. It's disruptive technology to the HP 3000 migration business that my company depends upon. However, as I have spent most of my working life using an HP 3000, it would be nice to always have one available after all the old hardware dies or becomes uneconomic to keep alive.

This is almost one of those stories that went nowhere. There seemed so many stupid obstacles to overcome that I almost gave up a few times -- and that was mainly down to lack of documentation that could have saved hours of work. There was also the fact that instead of wanting an emulated HP 3000 on my desktop, I wanted one on a server where a few of us could test drive it.

Hopefully, the lack of documentation last weekend will have been resolved by the time you try the freeware. But here, over today and tomorrow's articles, is the tale of getting my HP 3000 Emulator into the delivery room and smacking its little bottom until the first little colon prompt appeared.

Part 1: Getting things downloaded and installed, starting with a compatible VMware Player and a 2GB Stromasys file.

Continue reading "Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor" »

What day is it? Oh, it's THAT day

14thCalIt's November 14 in the US for awhile longer. If the date isn't significant to you anymore, or you never knew why the middle of this month represented a visionary cliff for HP, let us bring you up to speed. HP announced a five-year plan to the HP 3000's end of life on this date. Eleven years ago.

I know, you must be confused. You've probably looked over at the 3000 in your server closet or the office and had a thought. Hey, this machine has already had it's end of life. How can I still be using it? Didn't HP promise dire consequences and risks galore for anybody using that computer after December, 2006? If the maker didn't kill it off, who's in charge of that anyway?

To assist in marking the anniversary of HP's jump off the cliff, we've assembled a short FAQ.

Who was in charge at HP when they made this decision?

Good question, although it doesn't matter much because everybody's moved on. The CEO, Carly Fiorina, wrote a hardcover book and ran for US Senate after leading HP around for six years. She had a "it's growing or it's going" mantra once the company wanted to buy up Compaq. The high-growth march left HP's 3000 plans on the cutting room floor.

Wasn't it some general manager who decided to end HP's 3000 life?

It was, but don't let anybody tell you it was anyone but Winston Prather. On the strength of a promise to preserve the jobs of people in his division, he told the world "it was my call" to chop off the futures of the HP 3000 at Hewlett-Packard. He might have been the first GM in the company's history to kill off his own product line without any involvement from above. Or, there might have been a series of elaborate PowerPoint slides presented to the VPs who had some access to Fiorina. The CEO wasn't fond of giving much authority away. Prather took the credit for the hit, but he wasn't the single shooter. It's tough to imagine a 28-year-old product line with 25,000 servers worldwide, including some inside of HP's own datacenter, being slashed by a general manager who'd held his job for less than two years.

Prather has taken on work outside of product general management at HP. Christine Martino, the marketing manager whose job involved selling 3000s in marketing, has hung on in something you might have heard of called cloud services. The HP Cloud is up against Amazon's, so there's got to be some real deja vu going on there against another Goliath.

The last general manager who tried to grow the 3000 was Harry Sterling, and the last marketing manager to truly try to sell it was Roy Breslawski. His successor told us that putting Oracle 8 onto the 3000 wasn't going to help, because IMAGE was enough, and advertising wasn't part of her job, either. Things didn't get better for new business on the 3000 from there -- unless you count the dot-com boom that created scores of new high-profile customers in retail and catalog sales. You hadn't heard about those? That doesn't come as a surprise. Nordstrom's just turned off their HP 3000 last year.

Continue reading "What day is it? Oh, it's THAT day" »

8 decommission tips on a significant 14th

Tomorrow is a very special day in the annals of the life of the HP 3000. A "where were you" afternoon 11 years ago -- but tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, Nov. 14) you can get free advice on how to decommission data that's no longer needed on your HP 3000.

Of course, HP never intended for anyone to leave data behind in that infamous Nov. 14 advisory. Just the rest of the mission-critical enterprise, software, a career full of expertise. At one point, I advised Computerworld that the data in IMAGE databases would be a serious drag on 3000 migration. Not so mcuh, by today. Well, enough of that tomorrow — and not a moment of it until after MB Foster has educated us on 8 Things to Consider when Decommissioning Legacy Data. 

It's a Wednesday webinar starting at 2 PM EST, one you can register for at the MB Foster website.

Decommissioning is the forgotten stage of an application migration project. All too often it is an afterthought – this webinar puts a framework around decommissioning. Experience has shown that there are eight things to consider when decommissioning legacy data

Continue reading "8 decommission tips on a significant 14th" »

Intel takes Itanium towards Xeon's standard

Intel-Itanium-Processor-9500_3HP has introduced a new generation of Integrity servers powered by the Itanium 9500 chips, computers which will start to ship in December. For the HP-UX adopter of migration platforms, the Integrity systems have been high-value, high-performing, and high-attraction computers. The servers are blazing fast and a good value for a high transaction box (something crucial to 3000 migrators). They've also been attractive as in sticky. Because taking steps down the HP Unix path has meant treading the tar-pit of Itanium. No other processor will run HP's Unix.

However, Intel is starting to take its own steps to open up the Itanium architecture. With the Intel 9500 announcement, the chipmaker added that there would be shared technology between Itanium and HP's acknowledged industry standard for processors, the Xeon family.

Future generations of Intel Itanium processors will adopt an innovative "Modular Development Model" that enables deeper commonality between Intel Itanium and the Intel Xeon processor E7 family, from shared silicon design elements to full-socket compatibility. This will provide a more sustainable path for Itanium development and greater design flexibility for Intel's partners.

HP itself calls the Xeon server business Industry Standard. When Intel starts to talk about taking steps to sustain Itanium development, it's a sign that the future being sold to HP customers was wearing thin. Oracle tried to prove as much in its attempted pullout from Itanium development, but a judge ruled against that ideal. However, the evidence submitted for the lawsuit trial showed HP's Project Redwood documents were aimed at shoring up Intel's Itanium interests. The project was proposed before Oracle bought Sun, and Itanium sales have gone nowhere but down since then. Those sales have the advantage, however, of still being far more profitable than all of HP's PC business.

This "but it's profitable" perch provided no safety for HP's 3000 plans during 2001. The 3000's sales and installed base were not growing to Carly Fiorina's satisfaction. And so the customers were given an "end of life announcement." In every company's product line, all products die one day -- at least a death of manufacturing. Then there's some loose cannons that cook up an emulator, and heaven knows when the 3000 will see an end of life.

Even if Itanium growth continues to decline, Intel's fresh plans will let the chipmaker keep developing new iterations of Itaniums. However, they're likely to be more incremental than innovative. Innovation requires marketplace growth. In HP's world, as well as Intel's, growth is Xeon's speciality.

Continue reading "Intel takes Itanium towards Xeon's standard" »

Emulator freeware users input HPSUSANs

Stromasys has completed the engineering on its Personal Freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator. The software is available for downloading will be available from the company's FTP servers once issues with subsystem software licensing are resolved. Several bundles are available -- more on that in a moment -- but even more flexibility comes through assigning an HPSUSAN number for the emulator.

According to the Stromasys CEO Ling Chang, a user who's downloaded and installed the freeware can simply type in the HPSUSAN which belonged to a legal HP 3000. No certified USB keys are required, an element that would've made the freeware a $50 item, according to CTO Dr. Robert Boers.

Hurricane-sandy09Chang said that a warning message upon bootup of what it calls the A200 emulator says "The configuration file of this freeware allows you to set the HPSUSAN number. Please know that you should only set the HPSUSAN number to a value that you are legally entitled to." 

Chang added that Stromays would like freeware users to send a donation to the American Red Cross for superstorm Sandy relief.

The packages available include a full 2GB VMware kit, including the A200, which a user can uncompress and open with VMware Player.

A freeware user will also need a 64-bit Linux Desktop distro; the A200 freeware runs under Ubuntu and Fedora (both free) or commercial RedHat 6.2. A smaller set of files, without the VMware Player-ready kit, will also be available.

Continue reading "Emulator freeware users input HPSUSANs" »

HP flies its Fink just as Poulson pokes up

FinkMartin Fink because a lightning rod among HP enterprise users over the past year. The former general manager of the Business Critical Systems unit, which has led the HP enterprise sales slide for the last five quarters, was bumped into HP's top engineer spot this month. HP named the man who'd battled Oracle over Itanium, and won, the leader of HP Labs and the company's CTO. Those are two positions which have never been combined at HP until this month. Personnel moves at HP can spark head-scratching in 2012, but this one baffles me in a way that says something about the HP Way.

Fink took the reins of HP's R&D empire just as Intel rolled out its latest -- and maybe the last -- upgrade to the Itanium chipset. Poulson arrives as the Itanium 9500 Series for Mission-Critical Computing. Way back in the history of HP, the HP Labs once worked on the keystone of VLIW architecture, which it once called HP Wide Word. That work was turned over to the Intel Labs while the two companies partnered. Of late, the HP Labs output runs to the world's greatest device fans (and I'm not kidding about the greatness) and experimental designs for chips that couldn't be built in 10 years of continued research and design.

Although Fink's unit will likely spill even more sales blood in the figures to be released at the start of Thanksgiving Week, he's the man that HP's Board of Directors has assigned to lift up R&D in the company. The CEO Meg Whitman has spent much of 2012 saying HP ought to be building tech instead of buying it. Perhaps, since Fink's line of business relied upon a chip and an OS that were built out of HP's wizardry, he'll get the budget to demonstrate a new R&D gusto required for enterprises.

But to start off, he'll want to backpedal on one of his 2011 predictions on HP technology development. It may not be an HP Labs-caliber project, but you'd think he'd head for his engineering throne with a mission to make HP-UX run on Intel's Xeon chips which power the ProLiant series. In other words, to make HP's Unix an industry standard product. Long before Fink grew into a GM, HP-UX was touted as a standard by Hewlett-Packard. A migrating HP 3000 site would do a lot better with a Unix investment if it became a standard. HP calls the successful part of its enterprise lineup the Industry Standard Servers.

Continue reading "HP flies its Fink just as Poulson pokes up" »

Catalog to dotcom to dash: Ecometry path

Ecometry software was called MACS/3000 back in the days when HP was slinging new 3000s into a market eager for a 32-bit MPE system. But the software suite that was built for mail-order and catalog sales became an ecommerce tool when it was re-released as Ecometry during the dotcom heyday. Now after a sojurn in the Escalate Retail group, this 3000-sparker has glided into the realm of Red Prairie. And just last week, Red Prairie made another buy, this time of software company JDA. This buy bridges a path that's led to a data stable which looks so complete that its scope evokes the classic and massive Enterprise Resource Planning designs. Analysts call the merger a shot across the bow of companies as big as Oracle.

JDALogoJDA sells software for "planning, optimization and execution of supply chain merchandising and pricing processes for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, retailers, government and aerospace defense contractors, travel, transportation, hospitality and media organizations." That sounds like a wide range of customers, but it does fit the profile of HP 3000 customers who first employed the system as a general purpose computer. In the modern era, well along that Ecometry path, a dashboard helps them move forward.

Both JDA and Red Prairie help customers move goods. JDA allows retailers to figure out which goods should be on the shelves and how much to order. Red Prairie is primarily a warehousing company, with a lot of its customers in retail -- such as the likes of Hickory Farms and PC Mall, both still using HP 3000s running MPE-based versions of Ecometry.

A manufacturer and a school district listened to a roundup of prospects for Key Performance Indicator data dashboards today, a solution offered by MB Foster. Since Birket Foster estimates there are still about 100 sites using the Ecometry software on a 3000, the data dashboard is a tool that could make their futures more productive.

Dashboard Example MBFA


All they need to motivate them is a search for an answer to this question: "How are you going to pull all your information from all of your data silos just so you can have a dashboard?" The goal is to make the massive stores of data work harder at companies who've done decades' worth of business . A dashboard is a way to employ Business Intelligence, because given a large enough history of transactions, the data stores from a 3000-based company can constitute Big Data.

Continue reading "Catalog to dotcom to dash: Ecometry path" »

Voting for Security, Obscurity and Propriety

As I write this the polls have closed in the eastern-most time zone for the US elections. Nearly all of the ballots cast in this election have passed through some kind of electronic device, from a touchpad to a click wheel to other, non-uniform interfaces. You might visit a dozen counties in one state alone and see as many proprietary devices. Proprietary carries a negative vibe, this decade as well as this evening. A troubling report in Forbes related how experimental software patches in Ohio might be on live production voting machines today. Those are likely to produce unintended results, as such beta patches often do on HP 3000s.

But the word proprietary has a root of propriety, and that means proper: according to agreed-upon and accepted processing. You'd never sling out beta patches on an HP 3000 because it's just not proper. Your intention is to produce expected, reproducible and fact-checkable results. The fallout from using a proprietary interface, software or patch is simple: someone who's an insider needs to check it. And in a sinister aspect, knows how to crack it.

EugeneblogDecades ago the steady value of the HP 3000 and MPE was its security, one which flowed from privileged mode code. Then during the '90s it was the system's obscurity, once open-source and open system computers took the IT lead. Few people knew the 3000 well enough organize a serious breach. You were much more likely to be hacked from the inside, according to Eugene Volokh's classic Burn Before Reading. The same might turn out to be true this week, if the worriers from Forbes have conjured up a plausible nightmare about election machines. This evening, the biggest news outlets also fretted about the prospects.

Even during this data revolution, the 3000 is remaining settled in its nest of propriety as it's become ever more proprietary. The solution to the balloting mess is to standardize on devices and open the software. Not because the latter is harder to hack, but because an opened-up system is easier to scan for malware. The HP 3000 didn't need security patches after 2008 because the systems practiced propriety to earn their keep, and they were secure through their obscurity. National election voting systems don't have to meet that bar today. It costs too much, apparently.

Continue reading "Voting for Security, Obscurity and Propriety" »

Accepting Irregular Statistics

Nov. 5 538We're on the eve of the US national elections today, so a lot of stories are being told about statistics. In many segments of the country, one-third of the registered voters have already cast ballots. We are told that statistically there are under 1 percent of the voters who remain undecided.

A small percentage might continue to matter. And the trends often do matter statistically. For example, Microsoft's Windows XP still represents about half of the PCs still in use, according to metrics company Net Applications. And just this week, the number of Mac users who are clinging to three-year-old Snow Leopard Mac OS still leads the installed base.

And maybe just as surprising, some large and well-known companies are still continuing to embrace their HP 3000s. It's irregular to believe that major corporations continue to use an operating system this dated. Well, maybe not so dated. MPE/iX got its last security patches in 2008, just a little bit farther back than Snow Leopard was created. Maybe because of their stability, both Snow Leopard and MPE/iX continue to serve in the market. One place we discovered this morning is PC Mall, an online sales outlet selling computers that will run Snow Leopard and Windows XP. And they're doing it off software written for MPE/iX.

Continue reading "Accepting Irregular Statistics" »

Manufacturing Projects with HP Cloud

Gladinet offerHewlett-Packard has been promoting the concept of cloud computing for more than three years, culminating in the opening of its own HP Cloud service this year. This month there's a special offer of 1 TB of extra storage in HP Cloud. It's available by signing up for a Team Account at Gladinet, a provider of cloud storage access solutions. In its simplest configuration, Gladinet is a shared and collaboration workspace like Dropbox for Teams, or Box.

HP Cloud will chip in 1 TB of space with a Gladinet Cloud signup in the deal. There's also a Gladinet Enterprise version that can be modified for more extensive work sharing. But the HP Cloud's got some other possible uses for enterprise customers, perhaps as a means to host the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Terry Floyd of the Support Group checked in to ask about an update on the Personal HPA/3000. Floyd's company supports manufacturing sites running HP 3000s, as well as some non-3000 operations and prospects.

"I recently joined a free partner program for HP Cloud and can supposedly specify what kind of system I want, and deploy anything I can make fly on it… for just a little bit a month," he said. Floyd's working on calculations about how big HP's little bit of cost will be, "and what happens when I decide to pull everything off of it and stop paying." Cloud-based hosting poses this "take-my-stuff-back" issue, one which is new to the 3000 IT manager who's hosted everything locally up to now.

This morning Floyd reported that "I have not activated my HP Cloud space yet. It would take a phone call to them to get the configuration I want – it wasn’t among their standard offerings." One thing that's held Floyd at bay about HP Cloud is the sophistication of the Salesforce cloud offering. "HP Cloud is probably a long ways behind what Salesforce is doing," he said after attending the recent Dreamforce '12 conference.

Continue reading "Manufacturing Projects with HP Cloud" »

November wasn't a-happening for 3000s

EdMcCrackenArticleHP intended for a November of 40 years ago to be the debut month for the HP 3000. But delays swept the 3000's stage entrance more than a year farther into the future. One of the key players during that year was one of the system's best advocates, Ed McCracken.

He was charged with un-selling HP 3000s as his first job in public related to the system. According to Tom Harbron's Thinking Machines, the month of November 1972 was the final month that HP tried to keep that inevitable postponing of the system at bay. The future was obvious by December at Anderson College, where Harbron was leading the push to put a 3000 into the datacenter.

During the period from April to November, 1972, we continued to learn of delays. Cobol and IMAGE were pushed back from December 1972 to June 1973. We also wrote the 1620 simulator during this time, using HP’s new language called System Programming Language or SPL (not to be confused with SPS on the 1620).  SPL was essentially Algol with some machine dependent extensions.

By February of 1973, McCracken "was going about the country, visiting customers, and unselling the 3000," Harbron wrote in his book. At the time McCracken was only the Market Manager for Government, Education, and Medical Markets. Within a few years he became essential to putting the IMAGE database on every 3000. It was a move that most of the community's veterans consider the turning point for your server's survival in the markets of the 1970s.

About 10 years later, McCracken was on his way toward becoming the CEO of Silicon Graphics, but still working in HP as a VP. InterACT, the magazine of the Interex users group, interviewed him about HP's business server strategy in the spring of 1984. McCracken called the earliest days of the 3000 a time when customers were buying a database machine to create their own applications. He was taking note of a shift in the enterprise computing market space that would make outside software companies essential to 3000 success.

Continue reading "November wasn't a-happening for 3000s" »