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March 2013

Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection

As a former Catholic altar boy, I learned a lot about resurrection during Springs in the 1960s. But the headline above isn't early April Fool's blasphemy. Some 3000 users -- more than a dozen, like disciples -- believe that an emulator in their market is a reason to believe in the server's revival.

RolledrockThey're somewhat correct, but how accurate is a revival of MPE/iX, versus the hardware to host it? Stromasys has accomplished the latter miracle with Charon HPA/3000. Servers as common as bottled water are running MPE/iX today, in production environments or proving the concept that PA-RISC systems have come back from a state of doom. Some are even succeeding with untested chips from AMD, somehow, rather than the approved Intel processors.

We've just approved a comment here on our blog that invests the emulator with these regenerative powers. HP would need a revival of its spirit to start to sell proprietary servers again, but at least there's powerful spirit among a few customers. None of them are paying HP any longer for the 3000. We'll get to that in a minute, and how it affects the salvation of critical MPE/iX applications. But to that prayer:

I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.

This manager doesn't want his name or company mentioned, but I assure you he's real and in charge of several HP 3000s. Third parties provide MPE and 3000 support at his site, and he runs HP's final low-end model of 3000, an A-Class. Although this is the season of miracles for hundreds of millions, marketing MPE/iX would demand a change of ownership at Hewlett-Packard. To kick-start it, people like our manager above would have to become customers of HP once more. The company took a conservative view of "customer" and "owner" five years ago this month. Nothing's changed there yet.

Continue reading "Hope floats today for a 3000 resurrection" »

OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server

AfterlifeEleven years ago this spring, OpenMPE was calling itself OpenMPE Inc. and proposing a business around the HP 3000. The organization was just getting on its feet, led by Jon Backus, a consultant and systems manager who ran his own business and took the first steps toward advocacy for the computer HP was cutting from its futures.

The hopes and dreams of a shell-shocked community of 3000 lovers came to the window of OpenMPE. But even in 2002, the group of volunteers' founders knew the holy grail was hardware to replace the boxes HP would stop selling in about 18 months.

A petition, in the form of customers' Letters of Intent, got presented to HP during that year's Interex 3000 Solutions Symposium. 

The document is asking customers if they would support the new organization’s mission to enhance and protect the HP 3000 community’s lifespan, though software development and creation of an emulator that mimics the HP hardware on Intel processors.

And after a decade, the community got its emulator. The software that's now making ripples in the calm pond of 3000 use emerged from hard work at Stromasys, to be sure. But OpenMPE laid the first tracks to demonstrating user interest, as well as an MPE license for emulated 3000s. The HP license is one of the few that were written specifically for the emulator. (Minisoft has announced another.) The other evidence of OpenMPE's work is an HP 3000, hosted at the Support Group in Texas, where it holds software that still matters to MPE managers.

Continue reading "OpenMPE's afterlife lives on a live server" »

3000's endurance replaced easier than yours

System managers who are in charge of HP 3000s might be concerned about the endurance of their hardware. Those who use systems built in the 1990s feel lucky as their 3000 disks keep spinning and the data flows into and out of servers like the Series 929. This is the smallest of the 9x9 3000s, installed in many places as the best 1990s value for entry-level computing.

More than a dozen years later, these 3000s remain on the job. Senior management in these companies might want to ride the lucky tiger as long as they can, to forestall the expense of transitions. However, there's an IT element much tougher to replace than an 18GB drive, a power supply or a processor board.

GoldengooseDuring an interview this week, a manager who inherited a 929 preached the gospel of newer hardware. It's a problem that has a solution in the wings, as Stromasys makes its way into the homesteading market with its CHARON emulator. This manager said running MPE/iX on Intel PCs sounded "loopy," but he hasn't dismissed HPA/3000. He did look away from a component even more essential than hardware. While that HP iron might go down, the manager going down can also be a major issue. The knowledge of the 3000 is like gold at most homesteading shops, even if management doesn't have a golden budget for the server anymore.

Birket Foster of MB Foster likes to call this the "lottery factor." What if a 3000 manager's circumstances changed overnight, like in winning the lottery? A big annualized jackpot could mean a retirement, and a homesteading company would need a replacement. In-house training before such a change could prepare a company for the day that its 3000 expert goes down, even while the hardware hums along.

Continue reading "3000's endurance replaced easier than yours" »

Review a plan for modernizing to migration

Many of the most dedicated HP 3000 users have plans. Not just for how to sustain a server HP hasn't built for nearly a decade. Not just for how to retain the tribal knowledge of business systems while preparing for a succession of IT expertise -- the latter in sync with MPE/iX issues. They're making plans to modernize their hardware and extend their software.

At a major healthcare provider in New England, there's an active project to bring an emulator to task, replacing the HP 3000s and their support expenses with inexpensive Intel servers. But the healthcare provider knows the long term probably won't include MPE/iX applications in production. It might be seven years, or 10. But migration -- or a lift and shift of applications -- is certainly down the road.

At another customer site, the prospect of eliminating HP 3000 applications would mean shutting off order entry, fulfillment, sales auditing. It's not impossible, of course. HP's Unix systems have taken over for a major financial module at this manufacturer. That means that somewhere deeper into the corporate calendar, those MPE/iX systems will give way to another OS. When the time is right, says MB Foster's Birket Foster.

March 27 is a Wednesday, so there's a Webinar on offer from Foster's team. Legacy Application Modernization starts at 2PM Eastern Time. Like all the others -- so many over the last three years -- signup is painless, free, and ensures a way to connect with other homesteaders who are eyeing migrations. They might need the latest strategy on what's important to succeed.

Continue reading "Review a plan for modernizing to migration" »

Searching for help in all the right places

Today a long-time 3000 site in the candy business called to find out if anybody was available to help with a little contract work. Maybe about two or three years' worth, because that's how long it would take this 3000 stalwart to pull out of their existing 3000 applications.

They've already pulled out of some. Oracle Financials now takes the place of an MPE/iX app, for example. But while Oracle is more popular with the market's experts, the in-house software that it replaced performed better.

The search for 3000 expertise led us to recommend a couple of favorite webpages. The OpenMPE contractor-consultant page has added new consultants in the last few weeks. Over at LinkedIn, the HP 3000 Community is fast approaching 600 members. And while LinkedIn would like the employer prospects such as our candy company -- and its Call Center, Order Entry, Order Fulfillment and Sales Audit apps, all running on N-Class servers -- to pay $295 to list a job opening, it's not needed. You can start a discussion in several places for free about an available job.

Continue reading "Searching for help in all the right places" »

AcuCOBOL's bench is a means to transition

COBOL-only 3000 sites have been working with the same set of tools for many years. HP closed its languages lab early in the previous decade, so Hewlett-Packard's brand-name source code managers and the like were last enhanced sometime late in the 1990s. That age doesn't matter very much to the strategy of homesteading. Suppliers such as Robelle have enhanced editors like Qedit in the interim.

There are options for improving COBOL development and managing application maintenance and creation. COBOL has many experts and advocates in the 3000 community. One of our favorites is Alan Yeo; his company ScreenJet created an interface between the 3000 and the development toolbench from Acucorp, AcuBench. Yeo has been a realist about the transition of AcuCOBOL toward a melding with Micro Focus COBOL. It's taken a long time so far -- AcuCOBOL hasn't achieved its melding in more than four years of plans and work on the project.

But the state of an AcuCOBOL-Micro Focus meld doesn't change one axiom: better COBOL project tools will help a 3000 site which is migrating. Micro Focus acquired AcuCOBOL's expertise and its customers in 2007, and first talked about a Project Meld in 2008.

"If you're COBOL shop and you're on the HP 3000," Yeo explained, "and you wanted to move to a very structured and complete environment -- where you've got a lot of development tools, debugging tools -- then the Micro Focus environment wouldn't be bad. But as of this minute, they haven't got anything that's as good as their AcuCOBOL GUI product."

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Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?

Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.

(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)

Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.

Plug-InYou can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.

Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.

The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.

Continue reading "Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?" »

Emulator connects to terminals, POC efforts

What was restarted as a pilot project more than four years ago at Stromasys is now a full-fledged product. The CHARON-HPA/3000 operations inside Stromasys are receiving continued investment, according to company officials. The emulator is a proof of concept project at several companies who've contacted us, but it's a full-fledged software solution at the vendor which created it. 

The software's starting to caper through springtime on laptops and low-cost desktops across North America and elsewhere. One manager who briefed us about the POC work at his site said he put up the A-202 Freeware edition on an HP desktop with an i3 Core Intel chip. The desktop came off eBay with a $150 price tag. The demonstration yielded "a sigh of relief I could hear across the room." Top IT managers are happy to see a way for MPE applications to run onward into the future, independent of HP-built servers. 

Installing the emulator software and setting it into service requires an ability to know how to put an IP address into a terminal emulator, in order to connect over a network. Any A-202 freeware users who have limited networking skills are presenting special support needs to Stromasys. The company says it's working in a couple of directions to find a method to help such users in a cost-effective manner.  

Stromasys has two versions of the HPA/3000 documentation, one for the A202 Freeware Edition and one for the Demo-to-Production Edition.  The company is restructuring these documents to turn them into User Guides, an upgrade from the comprehensive collection of notes available at the moment. Fortunately there are very few issues that only concern Freeware users, so having to spend time supporting freeware users — with advice and instruction that doesn't benefit the vast majority of its customers and prospects — has not been an issue. 

Product manager Paul Taffel is at the nexus of this springtime growth. "The momentum is certainly building," he said, "and it really is fulfilling to talk to users who had no hope of finding a solution like CHARON, and to be able to show them such a high-quality product." 

Continue reading "Emulator connects to terminals, POC efforts" »

HP's expert estimates Itanium's end-date

We return you to California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, where the future of Itanium and HP-UX is already in progress. HP and Oracle continued their battle over the future and value of Itanium yesterday, with each side trying to wring dollars out of their dispute over whether Itanium is finished at HP. The lawsuit's final phase addresses damages. Oracle hopes to prove HP's public and partner strategies cost them sales of Sun servers where Integrity had already lost the business.

StopwatchOracle's expert estimated the company lost $95 million in profits, working on the premise that HP lied about the future of its only HP-UX processor line. The Integrity servers have been a popular platform for Oracle's database. A lawsuit that wrapped up in September forced Oracle to continue its development for the server line. The database vendor wanted to stop enhancing Oracle for HP's platforms including HP-UX, all tied to the Itanium chip.

HP's expert Jonathan Orszag of the consulting firm Compass Lexecon had to counter by estimating the lifespan of HP's Itanium business. Orszag said the ending date for Itanium looked to him like 2020. HP would have surely reviewed Orszag's testimony before he offered it to judge James Kleinberg. HP's expert witness in the damages phase of the suit said he based his testimony on Itanium road maps from HP as well its chip partner, Intel.

If Orszag and Hewlett-Packard are on target, then 2020 would mark about two decades of actual service to the enterprise computing customer. That's a mark that HP's initial chip family for the 3000 didn't achieve. But the period of 1974-1989 was nothing like the 21st Century. For one thing, Intel didn't have competing versions of an enterprise business processor on sale during the '70s and '80s. That split focus for Intel showed up again last month, when the chip maker announced a couple of downgrades to Itanium's future.

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Still Patching After All These Years

PatchesHP solved the problems of the 3000 and MPE with patches, revised software which Hewlett-Packard still distributes today. Probably not as seamlessly as it did while the company supported the system. But just as inexpensively: MPE/iX is one of the only HP operating systems with free patches. The still-engineered and fully-supported OS lineup requires an HP support contract to retrieve patches, even the critical ones.

Patches resurfaced in my reporting this afternoon while I interviewed a consultant to a large site, one where 22 HP 3000s once ran altogether. Today it's a couple of N-Class servers. He was feeling good about the chances for a Stromasys emulator there, partly because the customer is already running on MPE/iX 7.5. The final generation of the OS is required to run the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.

"We got away from using Large Files, too," he added. "I think HP never did fix that corruption bug in those." That would be the >4GB corruptor, discovered in 2006 by Adager and finally fixed in '07 by HP's IMAGE/SQL labs. The repaired software required a millicode patch, the first one HP'd written for the 3000 in 16 years. You can get that patch via HP's Response Center website. But that's not how most 3000 managers are getting these patches today.

Continue reading "Still Patching After All These Years" »

Freeware emulator user reaches for support

In one of the greater gifts to the 3000 community, Stromasys has unleashed software that permits a 2-user HP 3000 to appear on the hard drive of a PC anywhere in the world. The Charon software could replace consultants' aging 3000 systems immediately after a download and install. These consultants could then demonstrate this emulated 3000 to homesteading companies. A sale to the company might take place.

However, the HP 3000 rose to its highest peaks with the benefit of other emulation, decades ago. The server's oldest software employed proprietary terminals. When PCs displaced terminals because of those desktop computers' industry standard and flexibility, one software product made it possible: terminal emulators. WRQ shipped Reflection. Minisoft distributed MS 92. More than a dozen years ago, a freeware terminal emulator, QCTerm, rolled out of the labs at AICS Research.

When these emulators emerged, prospective customers had questions during proof of concept testing. During the years while that era's emulation was proving itself, tech support was a call-in experience. I don't recall how a company might handle a technical support call from a non-customer. At Adager, the tech team was often contacted about how to repair IMAGE/SQL databases. That kind of call would earn a non-customer some advice, because that's a full-service model being preserved by some vendors.

And freeware? It didn't exist in anything but the most rudimentary bulletin board system-driven downloads for PCs, or the Interex swap tapes for MPE software.

Terminal emulation is still with us, in the form of entrenched applications that rely on linking to a Reflection, MS 92 or something else like QCTerm. Now there's a second level of emulation in the Charon solution. It's not clear yet how the markets, the customers and the vendors of freeware will handle this kind of inquiry.

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Advice on reductions helps manage risk

Most managers of 3000s cope with the same challenges seen on other platforms: fewer resources, layoffs and retirements, aging hardware. Yes, even in the marketplace of HP's Itanium or Windows servers, hardware gets older. Not like the 3000s, those boxes which will, by this fall, be at least one decade old.

If the server is built well, if the budgets hold up, if the headcount doesn't shrink, enterprise server owners won't have to manage any risk. What're the odds of that? Since you'd probably admit that you can't dodge all of those, MB Foster held a Wednesday Webinar yesterday to outline the stategies for how to cope with less.

Any special demands for the 3000 didn't come up during the 1-hour webinar. It didn't need to be highlighted, because the elements of risk management are universal. It's just a matter of degree. Do you have an aging workforce, or is the company thinking of using younger IT pros? There's a career retirement trend out there for the professional who can afford it. Foster said 5,000 people born between 1945 and 1960 retire every day. That's ages 53-68, probably the largest slice of 3000 managers.

Standish StatsThe odds are stacked against implementing change without a complete plan. Even an optimist would shudder at figures that MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster shared from the Standish Group. By that group's research, 90 percent of the replacements of ERP systems will finish over budget, behind schedule -- or be scrapped altogether. That slender slice of orange in the pie chart represents the lucky companies who got what they wanted, on time and in budget.

Of the ones that finish, companies are averaging about half of the functionality they pursued with their change. Swapping in an off the shelf app for 3000 application could well overlook customizations for spreadsheet interfaces, for example. "And the spreadsheets weren't part of that IT system, they were part of what the user base used," Foster said.

A company is likely to be just one merger or acquisition away from doing more IT with less resources. The 3000 has built-in restrictions that can leave it serving more computing than intended: storage, memory, capability to connect with the latest peripherals. But even the migrated customer can benefit from a plan to mitigate risks.

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CHARON sets 3000's future

Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.

By Alan Yeo

Third of three parts

Print-ExclusiveIf you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.

So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.

Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.

I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."

My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair. 

Continue reading "CHARON sets 3000's future " »

Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade

Print-ExclusiveEditor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.

By Alan Yeo

Second of three parts

I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0. 

That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.  

Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS. 

That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.

Continue reading "Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade" »

HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt

Print-ExclusiveBy Alan Yeo

It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.

Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella

This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.  

The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK.  In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier. 

For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.

A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.

Continue reading "HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt" »

Change your clocks, all the time

ClockgoingforwardThe US will roll its clocks forward by one hour this weekend. That means it's time to anticipate the questions about keeping 3000 clocks in sync, for anyone who hasn't figured this out over the last several years. US law has altered our clock-changing weekends during that time, but the process to do so is proven.

Donna Hofmeister, whose firm Allegro Consultants hosts the free nettime utility, explains how time checks on a regular basis keep your clocks, well, regular.

This Sunday when using SETCLOCK to set the time ahead one hour, should the timezone be advanced one hour as well?

The cure is to run a clock setting job every Sunday and not go running about twice a year. You'll gain the benefit of regular scheduling and a mostly time-sync'd system.

In step a-1 of the job supplied below you'll find the following line:

    !/NTP/CURRENT/bin/ntpdate "-B"

Clearly, this needs to be changed.

If for some dreadful reason you're not running NTP, you might want to check out 'nettime'. And while you're there, pick up a copy of 'bigdirs' and run it -- please!

Continue reading "Change your clocks, all the time" »

Enterprise Failure: Selling to the Consumer

FAILCOBOL expert and 3000 veteran Bruce Hobbs shared a story with me this week about selling straight to a product's users. That's the way HP 3000s moved into tens of thousands of companies during the 1980s. Back in those simpler sales days IT directors -- we called 'em DP managers in the day -- did the selecting and purchasing of corporate computer assets.

The sale happened in the office of the head computer honcho. This person was the consumer, if you will, of the product being offered. More than anything, they wanted something that would work and be a joy to use. (Joy being a relative term, considering it was the 1980s and ENQ/ACK was still a big part of what we called datacomm. Not networking, which was an even deeper black art.)

The story Mr. Hobbs shared was from the world of Apple, where a blogger took note of Why Nobody Can Copy Apple. In summary, Apple wants to sell directly to the user of its computing solutions. The mobile arm of this vendor now has a large footprint in corporations because of this. People are Bringing their Own Devices to the office. It's enough of a phenomenon to trigger a recent webinar on the topic from MB Foster.

However, current enterprise computing sales -- the kind that displaced the 3000 -- take place in an office outside of DP Departments (as we used to call them in the '80s). Corporate Purchasing began to buy systems, or the perhaps the selection happened in the Office of CFO. These officers were accountable to the cost of what they purchased, more so than how reliable or flexible or value-driven systems behaved. This is what put Intel PCs and Windows onto so many desks, long after the users curtailed all manner of love for these affordable choices.

This is the kind of technology selection that's gotten developers and IT administrators removed from decisions. Now IT must present its applications as a portfolio of assets, just to win a place at the boardroom table. No vendor cares less about enterprise-driven sales than Apple. And yet somehow the company has made itself a permanent resident in the plans of corporate IT. BYOD proves that consumer sales work.

Continue reading "Enterprise Failure: Selling to the Consumer" »

Emulator earns exam for test databases

Print-ExclusiveAn HP 3000 manager is exploring the option of using the Stromasys emulator to host archived test databases as well as an inventory of vehicles and parts. If Stromasys could supply its software, the system could emulate an A500 server installed recently to replace a vintage Series 996.

The 32-year veteran of 3000 programming and management said he'd consider it "a rise in my personal stock if I could go to management and say the emulator could replace TurboIMAGE, VPlus and Pascal programs onto Intel hardware and mass storage.

"If that were true, and we could make it happen for $25,000, we might become a Stromasys customer," he said.

Their app tracks reliability and maintainability of vehicles. Reports have been created using Query and a few dozen customized Pascal programs. One portion of the application is still live: several parts and equipment databases for a warehouse operation. "They still have parts coming in and going out," the manager said.

Continue reading "Emulator earns exam for test databases" »

What Triggers a Need for New Tools?

Editor's note: One of our 2013 projects is exploring the range of development tools that are waiting on the other side of a move off the 3000. I checked in with Alan Yeo, the founder of ScreenJet and a provider of VPlus transition and modernization tools. He's also offering a Transact for non-3000 platforms, TransAction. More than a decade ago, Yeo wired up an interface from the Acubench COBOL suite into his ScreenJet software. The Acubench technology was acquired by Micro Focus five years ago, as part of absorbing the products and customers of Acucorp into the Micro Focus COBOL tool lineup.

By Alan Yeo

If you're developing on the HP 3000, most of the tools that are available do just about everything that is needed. They don't need to be that much better. Remember, if you're cutting code on the 3000 it's either batch code or it's got a UI. If it's got a UI, it's either home-grown or VPlus, and none of the new tools are going to buy you a lot more than existing tools will for that stuff. 

Some old tools did integrate with source version control software — but not a lot of people were doing that on the 3000. There are a ton of tools available for the 3000 that people never used, because they could make do with the simple ones. They didn't get into trouble; they were a lot more professional because they could concentrate their knowledge in a smaller area.

I don't think a better development environment would trigger a migration. Who uses dev environments? Techies. The days when the techies in companies decided and led the choice of software solutions ended about 20 years ago. So there has to be a business need to migrate or implement something new. If a company is in a mindset of going somewhere, the protection of application assets by using new tools is an important point. What you've got available to protect that application investment has value.

Unfortunately, the terms migrate/migration have been mangled in their usage over the last decade. To me, a migration is when you take what you have and move it to a different platform (maybe with some changes on the way) or make a change in the base technology as a result of the migration. Buying a different package/applications isn't a migration.

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Modern COBOL awaits in migrations

Tipped-scaleMigrating 3000 sites, as well as prospects, can expect one element to remain the same: COBOL. Unless a company is buying an off-the-shelf application to replace their 3000 suite, COBOL will remain in control even on a platform as novel as Linux. We haven't heard many reports of 3000 sites rewriting from COBOL to anything else, simply to maintain their mission-critical in-house apps. (Ruby, an object oriented programming language, has been stepping in for COBOL at QSS, the K-12 application provider with 3000 customers.) What tips the scales in favor of sticking with COBOL is more than a developer's comfort with the language. Relaxed formatting and structure are hallmarks of any modern COBOL.

Is sticking with COBOL in 2013 a sound choice? To be sure, many 3000 users wouldn't choose COBOL for a brand-new app. Many are developing in other environments (Visual Studio) on what we call surround platforms. The key data remains on a 3000 for now, feeding those other-apps.

But COBOL has changed a great deal, and for the better, if you decide to move away from HP's COBOL II. The language once had a reputation of being verbose. Okay, that hasn't changed. But COBOL in updated flavors has dropped all the fixed A/B margin formatting, uppercase-only text and rigid division-section structure that was still in place when HP left the languages business.

COBOL supporters in your community still like to talk about how readable and maintainable COBOL still is, even in the face of the brace-and-bracket languages world. George Willis of investment house Fayez Sarofim migrated the MPE applications using AMXW, "so that we could 'lift and shift' our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes." The company chose HP's Unix as its platform last year, but AMXW works with Windows and Linux, too.

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Next weekend, it's all in the 3000's timing

Time-changeEditor's Note: Daylight Saving Time begins at 2AM local time around most of the world next weekend. A lot of HP 3000s run around the clock to serve companies, so a plan to keep the 3000 on time is essential. The founder of the HP 3000 open source repository, Brian Edminster, offers a plan, some experience, and a sample jobstream to help get you through our semi-annual time change.

By Brian Edminster

Here's an important implementation note for anyone that wants to put up a 'time synchronization' client on their HP 3000: Do not use it to adjust for spring and fall time-changes!  Use a job that runs on the appropriate dates/times to do a 'setclock timezone=' command.  I have an example below that is a derivative work from something originally posted by Sam Knight of Jacksonville University, way back in April, 2004 on the 3000-L mailing list.

I've updated the job to be more readable, to account for a 'looping' effect that I found in the fall from running on a fast CPU, and to run at 2AM -- the 'official' time that time-changes apply. I have this job set to be intiated by 'SYSSTART.PUB.SYS' on server bootup, and then automatically reschedule itself each Sunday at 2AM.

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