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December 2012

Artisanal Computing: A Future for the 3000

ArtisalPowersYou've probably heard of the artisanal concept. That's a hand-crafted, customized product or service that never intends to compete with commodity options. It's better in ways that only the elite can value. You can buy your cheese from Kraft, or your bicycle from Trek. Or you can get a delicious wheel of Terraluna from the dairy up the road, or ride a hand-tooled bike built in that little shop outside Seattle. This might become the stature for the HP 3000 in the years to follow 2012.

Much of what remains in the homestead community is running custom-crafted code and applications. The pros managing this software and these systems are artisans. These companies are doing business with a computer that's become a re-creation of its original design. HP once stamped out 3000s at factories in Roseville, Calif. and in Boeblingen, Germany. The parts rolled out in an industrial process, and the operating system software was bolted together and tested in corporate labs.

An artisanal offering is an alternative to the processing which is usually viewed as industrial. With no more hardware being stamped out of an assembly line, the 3000 is going artisanal with its emulator -- and the OS is sitting in the cradle of Linux, an open-sourced OS of artisanal heritage. You go old-school with your 3000 computing, using tested and proven technology that is as bedrock as the sourdough bread that's baked with decades-old starters.

Brian Edminster, who's been cultivating a repository of artisanal open source software for the 3000 user, pointed us at a web essay that illustrates how artisanal is more than just a step beyond industrial. It's a step forward into something entering a new stage of life, evolving. "It seems to me," he said, "that the entire post applies just as well to our beloved HP 3000." The essay explains.

Only when a thing is made obsolete can we discover if there was some underlying value — beyond utility — that some people found compelling enough to keep alive or evolve into something new. The horses bred today for “recrea­tion” are dramatically different from the workhorses of the past, but they are still… horses.

While horses don't do the work of transport they once did, there's still a $40 billion a year recreational market in them today, more than a century after they dominated the world's transport. "What else is being made obsolete now," the essayist asked, "that might emerge from the ashes in a new, powerful form?"

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2012 marks 3000 flights of Linux penguins

By Ron Seybold

Third in a series

The year 2012 might have been the first to signal a significant decline in the number of migration projects among the HP 3000 installed base. But for those who were making their transition, Linux was more popular than ever, in either a supporting role to protect HP 3000s, or as host environment.

LinuxAdd in the 2012 doubts about Oracle's database support for Itanium -- with the attached concern about HP-UX -- and Linux took steps forward to stand as an equal migration target to HP's Unix. In an allied story, since Oracle's technology looked doubtful for HP's Unix futures, other database solutions took a higher profile among 3000 migrators.

Marxmeier Software's Eloquence database 8.20 gained indexing features in 2012 so valuable that the 3000 community members once paid extra for them. With a decline in the availability and future of the '90s-era Omnidex indexing tech, Eloquence's creators added a fast indexing technology, one which its advocates called "like a Google search through your database" in speed. The database has been in 3000 migration toolsets since the earliest days of the transition era, in part because Eloquence applies relational database management for Linux (and HP-UX and Windows) in an IMAGE workalike design.

Migrations in total started to show some significant declines at selected service-providing vendors during 2012. Speedware became Fresche Legacy in the spring of the year, a shift that embraced IBM midrange migrations. The company's president said that the period from the start of 2011 through March of 2012 posted no new 3000 migration projects. Fresche's Chris Koppe said he didn't think the era of migration had ended for the community, while fellow Platinum Migration vendor MB Foster said it was still engaging new 3000 migration business.

The shift in the community's migrations was running down to individual companies, said the Eloquence database creator Michael Marxmeier, after ISV customers finished their transitions. "By now the majority of that migration business is over, and that's okay," said Marxmeier. "ISVs have settled in place; they've probably already moved on. At the beginning they had to come up with a solution to keep their customers successful, and quickly."

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2012 top losses: Itanium's future, HPQ value

By Ron Seybold

Second in a series

ReporterNotebookDuring 2012 the recent legacy of Hewlett-Packard pulled down the company's futures and values openly for the first time. The company's 73 years of business had devolved in full. A lawsuit exposed completely the new wart of borrowing R&D dollars, over a full decade, to boost HP revenues via mergers and buy-ups. The future of competition was mortaged for commodity computing. The same lack of R&D appetite that'd left the HP 3000 out in the cold after acquiring Compaq business computing now showed HP was bereft of enterprise intellectual property. Nowhere did the cupboard look more bare than the tech choice that had dumped its MPE/iX futures: Itanium.

ExpandIt became plain that the VP of the BCS Unix-Itanium unit, Martin Fink, pushed a plan that might have grown HP-UX stronger just as 3000 sites were getting serious about investing in Unix. The decline of HP 3000 support contracts was even noted in a 2010 document, one that tried to prove that moving Unix to x86 would benefit HP -- by way of sparking new Integrity sales and stronger support revenues for the last OS developed by Hewlett-Packard, HP-UX. One that remained utterly tied to a single chip, Itanium -- until the HP Odyssey emerges from development.

Concocted as a replacement for Intel x86 chips in 1992, the processor that powers all HP Unix servers was uncovered as a product reduced to earning support profits for HP, while taking earnings out of its partner Intel's pockets since 2007. Oracle did lose its lawsuit to halt Itanium releases. But the magnum of evidence uncorked by Oracle -- hundreds of emails that spoke an astounding honesty about the final HP-built enterprise tech environment -- overflowed in the press as well as the courtroom.

Damages to HP from the Oracle lawsuit may fall on the database maker, but the wreckage will not be measured by HP's greatest loss: company valuation. HP sloughed off 43 percent of its market cap during 2012, the largest US slide for the year and a loss attributed to failed mergers fueled by R&D cuts and layoffs. The evidence from HP emails and slides in 2012 made its case of losing up to $4 billion yearly in Itanium-related profits -- even while the company knew, and withheld, facts from its own sales regions about the dire futures of the chip family. The BCS unit continued its slide as of the November financial report (see p. 7 of HP's PDF).

I revisited the turning point of HP's 3000 and MPE/iX exit, but written much larger -- hundreds of thousands of servers put at risk because HP didn't control its own intellectual property for chips anymore. Intel would have to be satisfied, or paid off. In 2012 we learned the latter plan was picked by a board that was still fleeing R&D in 2010.

I wrote a host of articles during 2012 to keep driving home points about investments in HP's Unix. Most of the analysis meant to show that the customers who transitioned HP dollars from MPE to Unix were re-investing in a technology no longer growing (like HP's measure of the 3000 in 2001), one that needed hundreds of millions of HP R&D to keep moving forward.

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A virtual 3000 leads the top stories of 2012

Analysis by Ron Seybold

First in a series

When summing up the last year of 3000 community news and developments, the story which appears the biggest covered the first 3000 which a manager could no longer see.

ReporterNotebookEmulator news from Stromasys, whether about ship dates and demonstration, adoption for production, or a free version including HP's MPE/iX, pulled the system's future into the present day. The Charon HPA/3000 became an installed reality at production sites and a free download for the widest share of the community. At the same time, HP's Unix platform shed the FUD from Oracle, thanks to the courts, and cloud hosts clambered into the server picture.

A dozen stories floated to the top of my news view during the past year, some of them related to another, others standing alone in their importance. The year didn't carry a marker like the 2010 end of all HP support for MPE, or the first-decade anniversary of the HP pullout (and subsequent HP3000 Reunion) of 2011. But 2012 marked 10 years of serious migration plans and actions, and we looked for evidence that the greatest share of migrations were ended. Whether a vendor or a customer was homesteading or making its transition, the year delivered that constant element of any IT calendar: change.

Emulator solution: from demo, to adoption, to freeware -- A virtualized MPE server, working as a 3000 emulator, made the transition from alpha test to a springtime beta demo, and finally a production and freeware reality. The last state of existence emerged as a target in mid-year when Stromasys announced new plans for a 2-user freeware version of HPA/3000. It took more than four months to create a evaluator and hobbyist version of the software. Stromasys referenced production status at an Australian company in October. A public webinar demonstration in April showed how an LDEV 1, acting like the entire HP 3000 cradled on a beefy laptop, could be virtualizated in a disk image file -- to reduce the need for further HP iron to preserve MPE/iX.

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A Newsworthy Gift That Keeps on Giving

Over the past two weeks, it could seem that we've written about little else than the new HP 3000 emulator. After all, there was the interview (in three parts) with Warren Dawson, who's put the software to work in his company in Australia to replace a Series 9x7 in production duty. There were the early reviews of the first edition of the freeware emulator, conducted by a couple of MPE veterans in Gavin Scott of Allegro and Alan Yeo of ScreenJet.

I believe that those two reviews represent why the emulator is so important to all of the 3000 community. Alan serves migrating HP 3000 sites, both with development services as well as the ScreenJet and TransAction software. Gavin is among the brain trust of experts at Allegro Consultants, which still provides software for MPE/iX servers, plus supports some of the sites which continue to homestead on them.

The emulator is newsworthy, but especially at this moment. It has finally become technology that anyone can afford on a hobbyist, non-commercial basis in a 2-user version. It has also earned its wings in Australia, in Ireland, and even in the US as a choice for replacing HP 3000 hardware. This is more than a proof of concept this month. It arrives in working condition at the end of a fiscal year, one where companies will be planning their 2013-15 strategies for exiting or sustaining MPE.

Even at production-grade pricing points that represent a fresh five-figure expense, this is likely to be a product that pulls revenues into a community that's been hungry for any new sales.

Playmobil_CatalogueI recognize that the adoption of a software virtualized HP 3000 server will be slow at first. But we are in the opening period of this game, and it's one that's being played for the long term. That schedule is emblematic of the emulator business. In 15 years, when MPE/iX will be facing its own Mayan end of days crisis -- and I mean that literally, since the CALENDAR function will need replacing by then -- virtualized HP 3000s might be the only servers running that could use such a replacement. That's a future that will need imagination to keep giving new stories.

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What'll you use to code in the New Year?

A few weeks back we began to ask the 3000 community about its tools for development. Companies committed to the platform need to develop, as business opportunities arise, acquisitions close, or efficiencies of scale trigger changes. The answers from the developers using MPE/iX included many well-known tools. 

But anything resembling a development environment, with change management or a workbench of testing tools, looked like an unknown in the first phase of our survey. There's code being cut and maintained, but lots of the change management is happening with the ol' noggin, as we suggested in the LinkedIn version of our poll. (Take a minute and tick a box there, to give us all even more data.)

Cortlandt Wilson, an independent consultant and contractor who's aided MANMAN customers for many years, watched the reports of Quad, Qedit, vi, Edit/3000 and more roll across the 3000-L replies. He believes there's more in the developers' toolbox that wasn't being mentioned.

"I wouldn't be surprised if others use some kind of Software Change Management or version control software on their PCs but didn't think to mention it," Wilson said. This is the kind of toolset that coders in the non-3000 worlds take on faith, because there are so many options there.

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Teaching in legacy tech: a Fresche mission

COBOLProgrammerNotebookCOBOL is a technology essential to success with HP 3000s. While there are a handful of servers working with other languages under MPE/iX, it's safe to say nothing runs on a 3000 other than Powerhouse and smattering of Speedware 4GL and Transact, once you get away from COBOL. Fresche Legacy is taking steps to ensure the staying power of COBOL. The company which transformed itself from Speedware this year is now educating the world about COBOL.

Fresche Legacy has been working with the IBM AS/400 customer base to extend its business with legacy computing users. Using the IBM Series i servers in its datacenter, Fresche is providing the students and staff of Champlain Regional College with hands-on instruction in legacy technology.

"To a certain extent," said the company's CEO Andy Kulakowski, "Fresche thinks of itself as the retirement home for COBOL and RPG. Our ultimate goal is to help customers modernize, but that can take time."

Here's a surprise to the graduating workers in IT. "We also need graduates with the skills to help our customers with their current legacy technology," Kulakowski said. "And students with legacy IT skills can often count on higher salaries and more opportunities when they graduate." COBOL skills, as it turns out, are much more rare than Java or .NET training.

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Freeware MPE/iX systems get first tries

Stromasys put its freeware edition of the HPA/3000 emulator on the Web yesterday, giving the 3000 community its first taste of a free HP 3000 server, complete with a pre-installed 2-user instance of MPE/iX 7.5. Using the software requires a valid HPSUSAN number to activate it, a string of characters which users type in themselves. Stromasys download procedures require a user to tick a box "yes" to make a promise about only using a valid HPSUSAN.

Stromasys reports that the very first time the freeware starts up, no HPSUSAN is defined, "and so the emulator is designed to stop, after displaying a helpful error message," said product manager Paul Taffel. "After the user specifies an HPSUSAN number, it should then start up with no problem."

John Stephens of Take Care of IT was curious about whether any HPSUSAN would do the job. The independent support consultant, like some early testers, wants to look over the size of his desktop or laptop PC for the best trial performance. Stromasys instructions say that an i5 Intel processor -- much more common in the marketplace -- will run HPA/3000.

"I have to verify if any of my collection of computers has the correct CPU," Stevens said, "I know I have an i5, but I don't think if have an i7." Martin Gorfinkel, who worked with OpenMPE while that volunteer group was negotiating transition needs with HP, also said he's making his list and checking it twice for a PC.

"I need to get a new PC to load it," Gorfinkel said, "and that will likely take me a few weeks. The newest PC I have is now about 5 years old."

The head of OpenMPE Birket Foster mentioned the prospect of talking to HP about licensing subsystem software -- currently not a part of the bundled MPE/iX install on the freeware. Foster's company is among several vendors which are testing the emulator against complete MPE installations, as well as its own MPE/iX products.

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Freeware 3000 Emulator gets download link

DownloadLinkAfter a mid-November teaser, Stromasys has made a 2-user, freeware version of its Charon HPA/3000 emulator available for downloading once again. The software that lets an Intel-based Core i7 PC, Linux system or Mac work like an HP 3000 has a new link, live from the Stromasys website in Geneva:

The webpage prompts downloaders for their name, phone number and email address, then asks them to affirm two licensing questions: agreeing to enter only a valid HPSUSAN number to identify their virtual HP 3000; and limiting the Freeware to be used only by individuals, for personal, non-commercial use, with no time restriction, or by companies for evaluation purposes only, for up to 60 days following the initial download. 

Stromasys notes that the freeware emulator may not be used in commercial production environments. After submitting simple "yes" answers and contact data, Stromasys emails a download link and a link to a 2-page PDF Read Me file. Each emulator link remains good for only 24 hours. The download file is currently 1 GB, a collection of files which automatically works with VMware's Workstation or Player products on Windows or Linux systems, or using VMware Fusion on the Mac. It includes a 1GB LDEV 1 disc image.

"We've set everything up so that it's as simple as possible," said product manager Paul Taffel. "You don't need to know anything about Linux to actually run the emulator, although of course some knowledge will always be useful. VMware is an amazing product, and allows us to send the whole environment out, completely pre-configured."

The Freeware Edition emulator is a reduced-capability version of the company's commercial A-Class A400 emulator. The performance has been artificially limited to "approximately 2 EPUs, roughly 2/3 that of an HP 3000 A-Class A400 system (when run on a 3.4 GHz CPU) This A202 model is made available as a VMware virtual machine image of a Linux system, in which the HP 3000 emulator has already been installed and configured."

To run the emulator you just need to run the virtual machine using VMware on a Windows, Mac, or Linux-based system. When you start the virtual machine it boots into Linux, and the included HP3000 emulator then starts up automatically.

The CHARON-HPA/3000 emulator functions exactly as a "real" HP 3000 – you can load any HP, third-party, or user software onto the system, and it will run exactly the same as if you were running on HP hardware. It has no expiration date.

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3000s get healthy admin tool for iPhones

Allegro Consultants has followed through on its promise to bring an iPhone-iPad admin tool to 3000 users. The company's iAdmin software, coupled with a $9.99 a month subscription service, This week got an MPE/iX version for management of HP 3000 servers.

IAdminScreensA free 30-day demo of the service for iAdmin is available for one server. OS Software Support customers of Allegro receive free subscriptions for all of their servers under Allegro support. Others may pay a small monthly charge per server.

The mobile app available is a free download from the Apple App Store, one which requires that back-end subscription based service. The utility for iPhones and iPads provides visibility into the most important datacenter servers. For example, the app identifies CPU loads for systems.

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HPQ fights its way back, but riding Icahn?

HPQ Nov-DecHewlett-Packard stock prices made their way out of the $11 range and back into the $14.50 territory this week. The backing for the vendor which makes the migration target environment HP-UX saw a rally of 26 percent over the last 15 trading sessions. That's the period since HP last made a comment or a report on its Autonomy debacle, or the second straight quarter of red ink overall.

Carl_icahnLooksupAfter trading 154 million shares during that rock-bottom November 20, HP's fortunes have risen. But for what reason, the analysts are asking. Not on the strength of the HP Discover announcements in Germany last week. HP didn't push above $14 a share until Monday. Its appointment of new EVP Mike Nefkens to lead HP Enterprise Services emerged a week earlier. Its beefed-up Converged Cloud Portfolio made its debut December 4. No seemingly plausible connection there, either.

HP announced its bedrock quarterly dividend of $.13.2 a share as usual, payable to stockholders of record as of Dec. 12. That would have helped get the cart out of the trading ditch this week. But another rumor about the maker of Integrity-Itanium servers emerged over the last few days. Takeover king Carl Icahn might be purchasing HP stock.

Or not, since the 5 percent purchase of outstanding shares threshhold hasn't been triggered yet. Once a stock gets a buyer at that rate, SEC rules kick in and the curtain is pulled away. Nobody knows if Icahn could make a difference to a company whose printer business has stopped growing and whose PCs are now running behind Lenovo's. And some are asking if the legendary activist investor even wants to shake up HP's board.

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Testing and waiting: Top 2 emulator tasks

Testing-robotAt least every other day, a 3000 user calls or emails us to ask about the arrival of the Stromasys emulator's freeware version. To recap just a little, this 2-user version of the HPA/3000 would be free to run on any Intel Core i7 or faster PC. The freeware user would input their own HPSUSAN number to get third party software running.

I have to say would because for the last 30 days the freeware has been stuck in the Stromasys development and approval cycle. It surfaced as briefly as a salmon on a summer stream on November 9-10. Then the too-bountiful bundle that included HP's subsystem products was taken off the Stromasys FTP site. The full-scale emulator is being tested, however, by some customers as well as vendors.

MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster just reported today that "We are still testing it, and just added the disc to get ready for throughput testing." Like the managers at some of the other beta test sites, Foster posted a command line stream that showed DISCFREE operating by way of the emulator. His company which sells and supports software for the 3000 community is looking at how extra disc space would impact the use of the product.

There are also other sites in the community which are doing their own beta tests, probably of the full product. Frank Gribbin of the law firm Potter Anderson & Corroon said he's been doing some limited development. He's impressed with the speed.

I am still using BASIC, some FORTRAN and a little SPL. I like the interpreter for rapid development. The compiled code is fast, even faster on the Stromasys emulator.

Gribbin has been on the trailblazing path with the 3000 before this breakthrough. His company was among the first to put Java/iX to work in its production software. Now the emulator software is looking for a foothold, but the delay in releasing that freeware code might be costing the HPA/3000 some early adopters. The holidays are only a week or so away.

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Robelle adds to history with its horse tale

Robelle Solutions, mostly known as Robelle in our community, has started to unbridle its Suprtool prowess this fall. The company is offering a Suprtool scripting service for the first time. It's a creation and maintenance service which, for $999 for 10 hours of work, helps "extend the life of your current system and keep it in tune with your company's current needs."

Although a lot of Suprtool is running on MPE/iX servers, this is a data extraction and manipulation tool also performs under Linux and HP-UX. These are favored environments for the IMAGE workalike database Eloquence. The most recent HP-UX version of Suprtool, 5.5, now supports 268 fields in an Eloquence database. The company was the first to integrate Eloquence into its product, "opening up new migration options for TurboIMAGE users. The same Suprtool commands that clients are familiar with on MPE now work on HP-UX, so porting of Suprtool tasks are very little work."

RobelleLogosBut there's a good deal of ardor left at Robelle for the use of HP 3000s in a production environment. It's a company which took off at the start of the 1980s, when many of today's biggest MPE vendors were establishing a customer base. The company's founder Bob Green recently talked about the humble beginnings of Robelle. In case you're in possession of one of the older conference giveaways, like the Las Vegas splash towels or a simple desktop document clip, Green's latest story explains a little about why that cartoon horse carries the Qedit logo.

Robelle grew up on a horse farm, Green says, a place where it raised software alongside rural creatures great and small.

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HP 3000 contracting experience, all for hire

HelpwantedkeysAn HP 3000 site which wants to go unnamed was interested in a 3000 contractor website. A place that lists available help, I suppose, with information about what experienced MPE pros still do. I posted a simple request without much background information, midday Saturday on the 3000-L mailing list, to try to find someone interested in helping.

Within 48 hours I had the contact names for 22 companies and consultants, all ready to do business with this HP 3000 shop. It's a pretty good-sized system, and the IT manager expected some real effort in finding somebody. After all, HP 3000 expertise is supposed to be hard to find.

"I'll be looking for a couple of experienced HP 3000 MPE resources very soon, and I know they won't be easy to find," he said. "Been there and done that." He didn't want his company name, or his own, used in any report. Some companies are buttoned down like that; we can respect it.

It's a 750Mhz N-Class with four processors that's working at that company. Even their backup system is an N-Class, a 500Mhz 4-way. This recently-installed N-Class 3000 is not going away anytime soon, and about two dozen 3000 citizens would like to come along for the ride. Yes, even in 2012.

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Attempt at migration preceded emulation

At the newest HPA/3000 Charon emulation site, IT manager Warren Dawson said the decision to keep MPE/iX running was not the first choice for his company in Australia. Migration was a prospective strategy at the organization, but it didn’t pan out for the application.

Print-Exclusive“We were rewriting our software in a VB and .NET version, but in the end it turned out to be taking too long and being too costly,” Dawson said. “In the meantime we’d tied down the migration of the databases into SQL databases, so that was already running smoothly. Now they use those databases for other applications. We’ve done that migration, but our main system is still the TurboIMAGE/SQL system." A nightly extract through Minisoft's ODBC drivers creates a mirrored version of the database in SQL Server.

Even while the company has eliminated the risk of hardware failures, the challenge of finding replacements for its 3000-savvy talents remains the same. “COBOL programmers here are few and far between,” Dawson said. “In terms of my own job security, it’s cemented that somewhat — great for me, but from the company’s point of view it’s an issue. It will be an issue to get someone to replace the skills in COBOL, because that’s what we mainly use."

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Software allies smooth path onto emulator

Customers of the HPA/3000 emulator will be watching to see which software companies want to collaborate with Stromasys, to make sure this source of modern, updated MPE/iX servers on Linux iron gets into 3000 shops.

The first HP 3000 manager to take an emulator into production moved the services of very old iron onto a very new MPE/iX platform. IS Manager Warren Dawson’s company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations.

Print-ExclusiveNearly all of Dawson's third party vendors have come on board and made efforts to ensure their software works. “One was a little slow in doing so, so we made a workaround," he said, "and I made it a permanent workaround. I didn’t know when they would come on board. They came on just before we went live, and we’d already decided to move away from their product.” 

In the case of the switch in backup processes, Dawson’s procedures now back up twice as much data, using HP’s standard STORE and RESTORE programs — in less than than when the backup was done using the third party software on the 3000 box.

The change from using HP’s native iron to emulation has also reinvigorated some of Dawson’s MPE software vendors.

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First production emulator wins IT's respect

The first HP 3000 manager to take an emulator into production moved the services of very old iron onto a very new MPE/iX platform. IS Manager Warren Dawson’s company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations. That 3000 had 112 MB of memory. Now it’s working on the HPA/3000 Charon emulator with 2 GB of memory. “We’ve really increased our speed, our memory and our disk,” Dawson said. 

WarrenMug“I was testing the emulator over the last 10 months, and I was most impressed with the speed gains,” he said. The gains on month-end processes on the emulated 3000 system slashed the time from almost 10 hours to 65 minutes. “That was phenomenal, and it was on the main database. The guys at Stromasys were very pleased to hear some of the statistics I was churning out. They could emulate, but couldn’t have someone hit it every day, and hit it hard.”

Print-Exclusive“The users are very happy. They’ve notice their reports are coming up a lot quicker. Instead of 15-20 minutes, in a few minutes it’s done. Performance gains are bigger in some areas than others. The lowest performance gain I’ve found is in backup itself.”

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Freeware emulator rates zippy in early test

Print-ExclusiveStromays product manager Paul Taffel updated us today on the freeware HPA/3000 emulator project. Company officials have said that "very soon" they will share a link on the FTP servers which, over one November weekend, were serving up files ranging from 2GB to less than 500MB, depending on configurations.

The full commercial emulator is not only available and fully tested, but installed at a reference customer site in Australia. We'll have an interview with the manager at the customer site on our website tomorrow.

The personal freeware edition had some bumps during its first rollout to the 3000 community. Limited to 2 users, that download included an MPE/iX disk image along with files to run in a VMware Player to enable an unzip-and-load experience.

Taffel said that earliest peek at the freeware included some MPE/iX ancillary software such as TurboStore and COBOL II, subsytems which are not covered in the blanket freeware's licensing. After releasing the download addresses for publication by the NewsWire, Stromasys moved quickly to turn off the FTP addresses while it works on creating a download file that would remain within licensing restrictions.

But during the few hours when the freeware was alive, it impressed a pair of development veterans of the 3000 community. Gavin Scott of Allegro was the first to report on the speed and functionality of the freeware. He compared its speed to a much more advanced rate than the promised Series 918.

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HP Cloud adds SLA as prices drop on Amazon's, Google's cloud services

HP customers who have been patient with the vendor's ramp-up of cloud services are being rewarded one last time this month. The HP Cloud service is moving from a beta period that started in May to a full Service Level Agreement (SLA) version, starting on January 1.

Host ItTerry Floyd of the MANMAN services company The Support Group said he received a notice over the weekend that HP is "particularly grateful for your business and feedback as we build HP Cloud Services' portfolio and service offerings. In appreciation of your engagement through the Beta period, we continue to offer the service at a 50% discount off the list price through December 31, 2012. The full list prices shall apply starting January 1, 2013."

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Floyd said, might be a logical place to host an instance of the HP 3000 emulator, or experiment with the forthcoming freeware version. (We're still listening for news of when that freeware will be an available download.) On the other hand, a cloud instance could be a useful place for a test environment of a new platform for migrating customers. Migration partners such as MB Foster see a future where it will be the rare small- to medium-sized business that hosts its own hardware.

But even while HP muscles up to a 99.95 percent uptime SLA, its competition is racing to a lower bottom line. These aren't small competitors, either: Amazon and Google have been in the cloud longer than HP. Amazon is finishing up its sixth year offering virtual infrastructure.

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