Previous month:
January 2013
Next month:
March 2013

February 2013

A Thorough Chill of the OS Business

LGFridgeThe consumer product maker LG has announced it's purchasing the webOS team, talent and tech from HP. This means a company whose lineup includes french door refrigerators now owns the most modern mobile OS in the world. As it turns out, great technology like webOS doesn't have much value in the hands of a company which can't create demand for the magic.

There's so little value left in webOS that the joint release about the sale says "HP and LG do not expect this transaction to have a material impact on either company's financial statements." And so, without even a report of what webOS cost, HP froze itself out of another OS product line.

Some operating systems not only have enduring value, but they are also drawing top talent to their community. It happened late last year for RedHat's Linux; Jeff Vance took his next step away from HP's 3000 guru days, when he made his transfer from K-12 vendor QSS to the Hat. Vance arrived at QSS with gusto for newer development environments and got to ply his passion for years there.

But the signals sent by selling off an innovative OS for "no material impact," well, they say a lot about how system makers create their value in 2013. The mobile OS that was going to unseat Apple made its HP departure with the same language as 3000 customers shared about MPE/iX. The end of the line wasn't really the end of the line, was it?

Continue reading "A Thorough Chill of the OS Business" »

Some version management required

Like the old saying of "some assembly required," the more current demands of application development will require version management, at the least, for 3000-bred apps. They are mission-critical programs, and we've not heard terrific reports about off the shelf replacements for 3000s during a migration. It's possible and has been accomplished, but many more stories are in our files concerning existing code, working on a new platform.

If you're moving code away from a 3000 to another platform, some version management is the minimum you will require. More likely, the solution will integrate a compiler suite with Windows Studio tools. There's something on the market called COBOL Studio from ATX II Tecnologias de Software, S.A. More familiar targets would include the Visual COBOL for Visual Studio, from Micro Focus.

What does it look like when a 3000 is doing more beyond a good programmer's editor? Perhaps like the story that Walter Murray -- who moved from HP's languages lab to a job managing 3000s for the California Corrections System -- shared with us.

For version management, I use HP SRC. I have one master library and one person responsible for keeping it in sync with what's in production.  We archive not only the source, but also the compiler listing, object file, and executable, each time a new version is migrated to production.  We also archive job streams, UDCs, tables, and so on. We have separate libraries for personal use and projects.

Continue reading "Some version management required" »

All Star year may be on horizon for 3000s

This is the story of two Tims, one who you may know and one you probably don't. But they have something in common. Tim Duncan and Tim O'Neill have enjoyed success over long careers with underrated groups. They're both seeking additional years providing their fundamentals at a great value. And they're both optimistic about unsung but praiseworthy futures.

Tim Duncan is a man with fans. The two-time MVP for the San Antonio Spurs is called the Big Fundamental in his basketball career. This Tim can be easy to overlook at awards time in the NBA, because his game is based on superior execution of the fundamentals. Passing. Blocking shots. Rebounding. Scoring. All without flash to call attention to his efforts. He makes success, selflessly.

Tim O'Neill makes his first appearance in public in this month's printed Newswire. He's been managing HP 3000s since the system was only seven years old. He came to his work by way of a career in math and statistics. He is reaching out for more years for his 3000 by way of the new emulator. His organization, a test facility for the US military, has sustained itself using only the fundamentals: IMAGE, VPlus, Query, plus some HP Pascal.

Both Tims are looking for extra years in what they do well. Making memorable minutes on the court. Making MPE do its work quietly, providing the best value. 

Continue reading "All Star year may be on horizon for 3000s" »

Forms? Are we still talking forms in 2013?

Well yes, we are. The HP 3000 is still attached and networked to printers which produce forms, based upon what we've heard out of the homesteading customer base. Much like the overall "paperless" dreams of the 1990s, using forms in some format remains a constant for companies.

It's not an inconvenience to IT. There's been multi-platform solutions in the market for MPE/iX, and other allied environments, for nearly two decades. Some companies have helped to eliminate the need for such software since the start of the PA-RISC era. Hillary Software comes to mind with its byRequest lineup. It works on reports to what seems like any platform, including the BYOD devices. The object with byRequest is to eliminate the need to ship off paper, and thoroughly automate the distribution of electronic files.

You can employ any form created on printer with byRequest. It re-creates and fills in these forms, and it adds fax (needed for US government communications) and email distribution.

Indeed, there are workflows where the customer expects to receive paper. The dead-tree practice tends to involve paying and receiving revenues, especially billing. One of the 3000-friendly apps which handles this has gotten an update to add features.

Continue reading "Forms? Are we still talking forms in 2013?" »

Where You Can Check for 6 and 7.x

All 3000 customers have MPE/iX installed, but the operating environment comes in three flavors. In the homesteading world of 2013, two of those three will need to be served up by your community's comrades.

Last week 3000 manager John Watson -- one who says he worked for HP for awhile -- asked around to see who had a copy of MPE/iX. He was after a version 6.x or 7.x. If that request was for a 7.5 release, it's easy to obtain. In fact, the Stromasys freeware HPA/3000 emulator can be downloaded with a 7.5 MPE/iX included. No subsystem software, of course.

But the earlier MPE/iX versions? Ask your neighbors, because there's no official way to get that software. Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci, whose company was among the very last to be an official HP 3000 reseller, confirmed the comrade-swap situation. Pivital continues to support 3000 sites, as its primary business. But that won't make the earlier MPEs any more available, by the book.

"HP has made no provisions for this situation that I am aware of," he said. "My guess is that this customer will easily come across what he is looking for. But we would not be able to legally provide it to him."

Resolving this problem is not as simple as moving up to 7.5 from other releases, for reasons that anyone managing a 3000 would know well.

Continue reading "Where You Can Check for 6 and 7.x" »

HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles

HP is likely to remain intact for a long time, based on the comments from its CEO Meg Whitman at the latest quarterly report briefing. "The patient shows signs of improvement," she told an audience of analysts and the press. "We did better than we expected we would, and I think we should be encouraged by that."

HP EG results Q1-13Even though the company halted its quarters of red ink at two — Q1 delivered a profit of $1.2 billion, compared to the loss of $8 billion in the previous quarter — the top management delivered a dire report on business server enterprises at HP. Sales dropped company-wide by 6 percent to $28.4 billion. Its Enterprise Group sales fell $245 million, led by the continuing troubles at the Business Critical Systems unit.

"Our server business has a particularly strong market position in EMEA," said CFO Cathy Lesjak, "and the economic backdrop of that [region] is still dismal. The Itanium challenges within BCS are also still with us. There are key challenges still out there."

Lesjak said the news from the PC group — which HP said it has no plans to spin off — couldn't even meet HP's hopes. "Frankly, the business deterioration we are seeing in Personal Systems — particularly in EMEA and with notebooks — is worse than we expected."

One analyst on the call noted that the profit margins for the Enterprise Group have dropped for nine straight quarters. He wanted to know why, and Whitman laid the first pile of blame upon Business Critical Systems, the unit where HP sold 3000s until it dropped the server 10 years ago.

"The negative factor is the decline of BCS," Whitman said. "It was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]" Whitman went on to note that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.

Continue reading "HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles" »

One decade later, change remains complex

I just retired the pages and stories of the latest Newswire printed edition, our 137th. It's always a celebration day when the pages go onto the press for each print edition. But print, plus one monthly Online Extra email update, used to be all there was to the 3000 Newswire. There's been so much change since February of 2003 -- in your community, not just in the Newswire -- that I went back to look at what was crucial one decade ago.

Feb03FrontTo my surprise, the message from HP was mixed with migration as well as emulation. HP held a Webcast for C-Level staff at their customers' companies. About 70 people arrived online, but it didn't look like a lot of them were CFOs, CIOs, or any of the other Cs. There was a lot of talk to explain how HP got to its decision to drop the 3000 off its lineup. In 2003, every HP message was based upon future directions they believed customers would take. But the company also acknowledged some sites wouldn't ever migrate -- or take so long that HP would not be supporting the server by the end of a migration.

Yes, migrations are still underway. HP predicted that correctly.

In 2003's February, 18 print articles got the reporting done, along with another three articles' worth of Online Extra. In the month of 2013 that led to our printed date, we published 22 articles. A decade later we're one article up on our report count. But the news appears five days a week now, instead of once every 30 days, with one extra day of Online Extra.

How could the news stay so constant, given the reduction of installed 3000s over 10 years? Well, this has been an era full of migrations, as well as the transitions to sustain which the homesteaders have pursued. The migrations are as complex as ever. The homesteading has new wrinkles to write about, like that emulator. But like the change factor of migrations, it turns out we were writing about emulation during 2003, too. 

Continue reading "One decade later, change remains complex" »

HP aims at Enterprise ally uptick for 2013

Hewlett-Packard will be reporting about its past in a couple of days, briefing analysts at 5 PM EST Feb. 21 about the quarter just ended in January. But the company will be looking ahead at its fiscal quarters to come starting tomorrow, when it briefs HP allies at its 2013 Global Partner Conference.

Global PartnerIssues and opportunities for customers who are migrating, or have already moved, will dominate the conference. That almost goes without saying; HP's closed off all other 3000-related business including support. But HP is also going to share information that could be just as useful for those analysts, being briefed in the same week. HP's going to talk about its Oracle alliance at the meeting in Las Vegas (see the detail at left). The story might be the same for partners as analysts and the business press. Sales ally presentations will have an optimistic slant in Vegas. Eveyone wants to be hopeful in that town, at least when they arrive.

What HP sketches at this sales meeting -- the year's largest partner conference -- will shape what these partners say to customers about Oracle. The database vendor has been forced by the courts to keep working with HP on Itanium server technology. Nobody knows what that enforced alliance will yield yet. The court ruling and Oracle's capitulation only happened in September. Partners have fielded too many questions about the FUD that Oracle spread, and HP's said in previous quarterly reports that FUD choked off Enterprise business.

However, it's an article of faith: applications determine where a customer will go when they leave the 3000. But an application off the shelf always needs a database, and Oracle is underneath a lot of them, especially on HP-UX. If a migrating customer can ask an HP partner, "What's the database feeding that application?" then the answer -- leavened with this week's Oracle alliance message -- can shape a migration decision. You'd want to know if you were entering the Oracle enterprise airspace by migrating onto an app in Itanium, wouldn't you? Especially with a court order driving Oracle development.

Continue reading "HP aims at Enterprise ally uptick for 2013" »

When Bigger Isn't Better for Commerce

JDA product lineupThere are at least 60 companies in the world that are still using Ecometry direct commerce software on an HP 3000, according to members of that software's community. Perhaps four times that number have already made a migration off MPE/iX, many taking the road to Ecometry Open on Windows.

But that path might have become steeper than the migrated sites expected since Ecometry's owner RedPrairie decided to join JDA Software. JDA is to logistics software as Infor is to manufacturing: a company with a practice of purchasing other companies. Bigger is better to these kinds of entities.

A deal announced in November to combine the two companies says that RedPrairie is acquiring JDA by purchasing JDA stock, but it's a reverse takeover. RedPrairie is the smaller entity, buying up JDA stock to plow through the regulatory scrutiny if the deal was the other way around. The merger was announced as complete about six weeks later, during the Christmas week where news gets dumped because nobody is supposed to be looking.

A larger owner can sometimes not be looking at the best of interests of smaller, acquired customers. It matters enough that some users say say they're freezing Ecometry projects until they get convinced the software will still exist in a year. The 131 products that are now part of JDA, post-merger, suggest something's got to give -- at least in the software development resource derby. At Infor, plenty of software checks in with an ability to continue to pay for support. But development often slows for these acquired products, such as MANMAN.

There was a time -- and not so long ago -- when Ecometry was the sole focus of its ownership. Those owners included people who'd grown the customer base from its HP roots while the server was rebranded the e3000.

Continue reading "When Bigger Isn't Better for Commerce" »

3000 pro uses open source version control

We've been polling the 3000 community about its choices for development tools, but the range runs wider than QUAD or versions of Notepad. One enterprising veteran has tapped the free, open source toolset git to create a batch transfer system for EDI.

GitThe git solution is one of those software choices that seems to defy the traditional structures for care and feeding of software. Like the Joomla Content Management System, git is supported by a vast range of users, comes free of charge for any Windows, Unix or Linux-based workstation or server, and is used by very large companies as well as untold thousands of smaller ones.

One 3000 IT pro, James Byrne of the trading specialist and freight forwarder Harte & Lyne Ltd., checked in to report how git is helping him manage the development of new modules which connect to newer enterprise environments. The git techology supports Behavior Driven Developments. BDD provides developers and business analysts with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development.

Last year I had to create an EDI batch transfer system from one of our suppliers into our billing system hosted on the HP 3000 and written in PowerHouse. For that project I created a git repository for the HP on our source archives' Linux host, and then transferred over all of our source code, job files, udc and cmd files -- and anything else I believed to be locally developed source -- into the git repository using the HP 3000s HFS layout.

I then checked out the specific directories and files into a working directory on my Linux workstation, wrote the new stuff and edited the old stuff in GVim, and checked everything back into the remote repository. 

Continue reading "3000 pro uses open source version control" »

Can a new IDE push a migration forward?

We're looking for evidence of this concept in the 3000 community:

"If you get more modern development tools, then a migration to a new platform is worth the effort. Well, more so."

We've received reports from the user community about what they count upon when they need to code for their 3000s. Some answers have run to Whisper Programmer Studio (a fine piece of software that lost its vendor, WhisperTech, years ago) or the QUAD Editor. Even EDITOR/3000 got some votes in our simple poll.

A robust editor -- Robelle's Qedit, ready for both 3000-hosted use and Windows, cited most often -- is a great tool for keeping HP 3000 software maintained. When a company grows fast, however, the change sometimes seems to spark a major uptick in the demands on development. The next thing you know you're being challenged to support mobile versions of applications, integrating with existing apps that were developed elsewhere on other platforms, or tying into expansive Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) in the company that acquired you.

We're thinking Eclipse there, but the product names don't matter as much as the concept.

Those larger companies and wider scopes of app delivery can trigger a need for a bigger IDE. We're pretty sure of that, but just missing some stories that it's been true in the 3000 world. We're on the lookout for reports that the bigger IDE can help push a 3000 migration down the slide. At customers like SBCTC (that college consortium in Washington State) and at an Australian insurance company, 3000 sites became Unix and Linux operations. Did they base their decision, in part, on getting a chance to use big IDEs for growing application development needs?

Continue reading "Can a new IDE push a migration forward?" »

Where they've gone: TV George, on from HP

NewGeorgeFor awhile in the 1990s, George Stachnik was the equivalent of Ed McMahon for the HP 3000 world. He hosted the first set of telecasts, via satellite feed to HP offices, directed at improving the HP 3000 customer experience. You were likely to see him at Interex user group events. And then he had a reprise as HP's voice of migration advice in a series of Webinars, back when that was still a new medium.

This year Stachnik has made his exit from HP, after more than 29 years of service. He has joined the staff at Porter Consulting in the Bay Area. The company develops marketing programs, collateral material such as articles and white papers, enterprise marketing management, and content delivery via websites and mobile channels.

CookingGeorgeIn summary, it's the same kind of work Stachnik did for HP for the past two decades and more. He made a transition from HP support engineer to marketing in 1991 and never looked back. After the era of educating customers via satellite and videotape ended, he trained customers for HP's NetServer Division. These were Windows enterprise servers. To the last of his HP days, Stachnik was an enterprising face in the 3000's cast. One of his wilder moments involved destroying an HP 3000. Or attempting to do so.

Continue reading "Where they've gone: TV George, on from HP" »

Our Chain of Succession, and Yours

Early last week I fell victim to a brief bout of flu, but the fever was intense. It kept me away from the newswriting screen for the Newswire, and so we appeared to be off the air and away from our regular schedule.

There is a way to prepare for something like that outage, by simply banking stories in the CMS engine that powers the Newswire. I say simply with a little shudder, because writing ahead of developments is the heavy lifting that goes into sustaining the only HP 3000 news information resource.

A genuine chain of succession, in a pinch, would be to have another writer-editor at the ready to call or text and say, "take the helm for today, Brian." And Mr. Edminster, who's written and researched articles, would kick into gear. But that's still in the planning stages, as people like to say who don't have a plan finalized. There used to be other news resources for the 3000 world. But the likes of Interex, HP Professional, HP User and other former competitors has vanished. A lot like the raft of companies who wanted to help you migrate in 2003.

To draw the focus away from this weathered keyboard artist, a chain of succession works well if you have people in your network who could do your job. At least half as well for a little while, or a team of them to call upon serially, until you're back in the saddle. Your special knowledge of your company's business operations? Probably close to impossible to succeed, unless you work in a team where tribal knowledge is shared religiously.

The MPE-style backstop is an independent support company. In time, this sort of resource could even learn your business practices. We just got a request from a long-time 3000 customer who's started to look around for this help. Things as basic as "where in the world do I get patches" come up on the succession to-do list.

I am instructed to learn what kind of  software support is available for MPE. We are on 7.5 already. What this means is how we get important patches, especially network subsystem patches. This is to try to prevent systems being penetrated. Is anything available from HP, for fee or for free? Can third parties obtain and provide these to us?

Continue reading "Our Chain of Succession, and Yours" »

What'll you do if they bring their own?

SmartphoneWhether you approve of outside devices or not, they are in your company. Pretty few places have no smartphone users checking their mail. Many want to tie into company mail systems. That's just the beginning of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) surge. It's said that PCs are pretty much considered dead tech, although that seems severe considering how many laptops you'll see. But the tablets and phones have already assumed their place, even alongside HP 3000s. What happens next is up to you.

HP pushed this message out last week in a small business newsletter article. Management of the BYOD's is their aim, a sound one for a company that's looking for business management opportunities. 

Adopting a BYOD strategy can also lower your initial capital expenditures. To manage and secure a wide array of personally owned and hard-to-track devices, your IT team needs to implement clear policies, procedures and safeguards to protect applications and sensitive business data against malware, device loss and failure.

A Wednesday Webinar this week from MB Foster gives the 3000 community, migrated or homesteading, a chance to ask questions and see strategies localized for managers of these systems.

Continue reading "What'll you do if they bring their own?" »

Software Love, Marriage and Breakups

In every IT manager's life they'll experience emotions. The ones that come from a deadline beaten, budget broken or program crashed seem most expected, even if managers cannot tell if the news will be good or bad. But the love between software companies, their marriages through mergers, and the breakups of product lines or entire corporations are a different matter to manage.

Wedding riceSoftware love is evident when two companies make their products work together to complement one another. You don't see as much of this as you did even a decade ago, not on the midrange level. Tick off the list of apps and utilities you use and count the ones that take data or processes from another. The 3000 vendors excelled at this, even while they were competing. That's what you get out of firms where the lab is three coders, and as they used to say in the old days, "sitting in a room across from each other and yelling." Software love comes out of labs at first, is blessed by marketing, then approved by the sales force or resellers at its culmination.

Marriage is everywhere by now, but it usually has little to do with love or with needs of customers. At least not the midrange customers of older products. When one software company acquires another -- like JDA being acquired by Ecometry-Escalate-Red Prairie in a reverse takeover -- not many customers get consulted. Those big enough to be already using products from both suitors get a handful of rice to throw. Users of older, established software get something tossed, too, but it is often at them, or overboard.

Companies acquire each other because the expansion of customers, coupled with retraction of jobs and products, makes the deal look good to finance chiefs and big shareholders or investors. It's too early to tell what's going to come of the smaller, but public, Red Prairie acquiring the larger JDA. One early metric is that this new conglomeration now has 131 products -- and fewer product managers than the former aggregate of these two corporations.

Marriage looks good on financial paper, attracts large customers who prefer large vendors, and triggers big change. In some cases, like when Infor bought MANMAN and dozens of other companies, everything got to live together on a massive product list. Your support-paying experience was uninterrupted, but these things signal the end of new features for old products, in many cases.

Continue reading "Software Love, Marriage and Breakups" »

Deals can improve for customers who wait

In the two years that the Stromasys emulator has been talked about, touted, tested and installed, the value of the product has fluctuated. In its earliest days it was a technical marvel which its creators figured could be a $200,000 collection of software and hardware to replace a half-million-dollar 3000. There was always room for smaller installations in the plan, but Stromasys seemed to be swinging for the home run, or the bicycle kick goal as regular time expired.

10 months of market and technical realties have set in since the product's first public demo over the Internet. About 8 months after that date a freeware version of limited licensees poked its way into the markets. Now the number 8 is being discussed as a new price point, as in an 8-user license. It's not fair to say the company's creators misunderstood the 3000 community. I dreamed right alongside them in a Skype call a couple of years ago, when they thought there might be as many as 20,000 systems running worldwide.

Since it's a number a lot lower than that -- and the homesteading sites are running on must-need budgets --prices have come down while the prouduct has matured. This week the vendor held a meeting to brief partners sitting beside some prospects about the tech marvel which wants to play a role in stabilizing the future of the un-migrated sites. Or at least slow the exodus considerably.

ScreenJet's Alan Yeo was part of that meeting this week, and he's preparing a report on what was said and promised and how it might affect customers in your market. He called the product a disruptor in December, but now also sees that it might have wheels, ones that even migration partners could ride for the customer's benefit. However, the emulator is no different from any migration project in a crucial way. Emulation is going to demand genuine planning on the part of the customer installing it.

Continue reading "Deals can improve for customers who wait" »

Personal emulator may help indie vendors

For some small but stellar vendors, holding the fort on aging MPE software, a little help with HP hardware costs wouldn't hurt. If the creators of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator didn't have this in mind when they built a 2-user freeware license for the software, maybe a report from the field could spark some discussion.

A vendor of more than 15 years' experience in the marketplace was getting files on a PC into a format that the 3000 could understand. Why? Months before it rolled out, this vendor was preparing for the A-202 version to be released. The personal-sized freeware emulator turns out to be just fast enough for an MPE developer to keep their code alive, even while the code is not running live at the developer's site.

At least not live on a Hewlett-Packard box, sporting the 3000 badge.

These days I don't run my 3000 unless I have to look at my code. For simple questions that need a quick look at the code, it would be faster to have the source on the PC and not have to spin up the 3000 for the few times I need to actually read the code to answer questions.

I still have a significant number of 3000 sites. They run into problems that, with the passage of time, I can't recall the answer for, so I have to go to the code for a refresher. One question last week took about 10 minutes to find the answer, after starting the 3000. And each time I start that 3000 I cringe. It's old, you know? With the code on the PC, I could find the answer while reading the customer's email.

Nowhere in the Stromasys user license for the A-202 is there a provision for software companies to use the personal emulator for this kind of support purpose. But if you think about it for a minute, these companies and Stromasys are in the same business. Both of them are working to keep MPE software alive and useful. And on many of those revived systems, small vendors' software is essential, as is the need to have it supported by its creators.

Continue reading "Personal emulator may help indie vendors" »

Planning for a Chain of Succession

Editor's note: I missed posting an article Monday because of a serious bout of the flu. (If you think 103 is tough on the outside themometer, try it on the inside.) One of our dauntless and profound supporters and sponsors, Brian Edminster, emailed to ask if everything was okay here. He reads us religiously and often sends articles which I'm happy to publish.

Today is one of those lucky days for me, while I get back on my feet. Brian asked about a chain of succession here at the Newswire, a great subject that most of the community should consider about their own operations, too. I plan to write a bit more about our succession here, later on this week.

By Brian Edminster

Some things are more noticeable by their absence, than by their presence. Highly reliable systems (like the 3000) fit in this category, as does regular delivery of news -- or any other product we've come to regularly rely upon. Can you imagine suddenly not receiving a newspaper or magazine because a key person became permanently unavailable?  Most well run businesses have succession plans in place to cover this contingency.

And succession planning for a small business isn't that far removed from the Continuity/DR/Growth-Upgrade-Path planning process for an IT department. Or to put it in even more 'close to the heart' terms: For a small business run by it's founders, succession planning isn't too far removed from the planning required to successfully homestead on a 3000.

Continue reading "Planning for a Chain of Succession" »

Unix's Future: How much does it matter?

FutureofHPUXA group of HP's Unix users figure Linux is their next stop

At the LinkedIn HP-UX Users Group -- as friendly a spot as you'll find on the Web -- users are deciding that the future of the environment won't matter much to them. As users, of course, and administrators and developers.

Naturally, Linux is talked up as the replacement for HP's proprietary OS. Plenty of HP 3000 migrated sites went for HP-UX over the last decade, although nothing close to what HP desired or the number of Windows replacements for MPE/iX.

But if an admin who's loyal to the OS isn't bothered much by this evolution, why should a company concern itself about the decline of another Hewlett-Packard OS? In this case, the vendors selling off-the-shelf applications will decide how severe the pain of change will be over the next several years. Be sure to ask your app provider about their plans for Linux. If you're astute, like the school districts using the QSS K-12 apps that grew up on MPE, Linux was always the migration target away from the 3000.

Unlike the transition away from MPE/iX, however, a migration off HP-UX to Linux represents little change for the IT pros and their skill set. Nobody is suggesting that HP-UX is the same as Linux or IBM's AIX or Solaris. But in a world where Linux is so ubiquitious that it acts as the cradle for the 3000 hardware emulator, the Little Penguin that Could seems to have almost chugged to the top of the mountain of enterprise choices.

HP 3000 users and vendors remember what happens when new sales fall off in an HP product line. The company cares for its installed base as best it can, all while it keeps its eyes trained on the business figures.

One member of the Linked In group knew his history. "I guess open systems and the Open Software Foundation weren't such a bad idea after all," said Martin Anderson. The OSF, formed two decades ago, supposed that every Unix was alike at its roots. MPE never had a chance at joining those Open Software ranks in the market, not even after HP added Posix extensions and renamed it from MPE/XL to MPE/iX. The technology trench-workers knew the differences. The differences made MPE better in many cases, but bigger mattered more to system suppliers.

Anderson, a former Compaq technologist, belongs to two Red Hat Groups. And so it appears that Linux is the cradle of all virtualized servers, and the graveyard for any OS not named Windows or Mac OS X. The latter seems headed toward its mobile progeny iOS, from the signs I saw this week at the annual Macworld/iWorld show this week. The name of the conference tells the future well.

An Emulator's Obstruction, or Opportunities

Change has always cut through certainty with a double-edged sword. HP's elimination of the HP 3000 from its product line is a great example of a stunning swing of that sword. I learned from users immediately that they felt abandonded and betrayed about that decision. I've written novels' worth on that.

Over the years I also heard from some IT directors -- who didn't have much invested personally in MPE -- that cutting the 3000 from HP's line was the opening they craved. Now their IT center could be uniform, in step with something they knew better and admired for different reasons. It might be Unix, so their corporate masters would be pleased, or Windows, to make it easier for them to hire newer, less costly (younger) talent.

Then there has been the migration challenge which introduced new commerce opportunity. Companies could sell services and especially know-how, as well as tools to make changes (almost like Y2K, but with a more serious impact when the work fell short of expectations).

Change is a disruptor, even when it attempts to sustain the status quo.

This sustenance is the role the Stromasys emulator plays in 2013. Some software and service suppliers have been frank about it being an obstruction and a disruptor. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said just that, while he was testing the freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 Model 202A. He also said that after wading through a lot of installing steps, it worked as promised -- and he was impressed with the marvel, one that gave Intel hardware plus Linux a way to preserve MPE/iX. Yeo added that he figured just the promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012, and he was correct about that, too.

Some of the 3000 software vendors have seen the HPA/3000 software tested by their customers, and that's good enough for the vendor's proof. If their customer wants to pay Stromasys $25,0000 to sustain MPE/iX, that's just fine with the vendor. It helps preserve the 3000 -- and its support payments to the vendor. If staying on a 3000 is an obstruction to vital growth, well, a company will see that at the right time. It's always been about timing, since HP's exodus. HP wanted everybody off the server six years ago, even expected it. That didn't happen, because risk is something that's a personal matter.

Risk shows up as problems, and problems always come up when software and hardware get together for mission-critical computing. Homestead or migrate, there's always risk. Perhaps the vendors who will make products for the emulator figure that's why you'll buy support from them, as well as from an indie company like Pivital Solutions, Allegro, Beechglen or others. In IT, things break and you fix them, or you hold your nose and use a workaround.

By now, there's a new aspect to the change introduced by the Stromasys product. People are writing software to help use it. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the "virtualized 3000" in the HPA/3000. This week's newest wrinkle: a product license created especially for the emulator, one that works inside the limits of the freeware version's 1-2 user license.

It's a small and initial development that almost lets you believe there's a marketplace emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000's change of life. There's been a decade of evidence of the commerce for the exodus of HP from the 3000 world.

Continue reading "An Emulator's Obstruction, or Opportunities" »