HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt
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.

How fast is it? The CHARON product manager Paul Taffel was very open about where the current sweet spot for performance of the CHARON emulator lies, which currently is anything up to the size of a low end N-Class. However they expect this to improve -- and unlike with the real N-Class hardware that officially topped at a 4-CPU system, using the Intel-based servers will enable Stromasys to create 6-way, 8-way and potentially even bigger CPU systems. 

One interesting thing was pointed out that hadn't struck me before: we have been used to CPUs getting faster and faster, but these days that isn't quite so true. Most of the new boxes deliver high-quoted MIPS by adding more and more cores, rather than the individual cores getting any quicker. For an emulator that uses two cores to emulate an HP 3000 CPU core, this means there is actually a ceiling on performance. That's the performance from each core. So it might well be a while before commodity Intel hardware can match a high-end HP 3000.

In reality I don't think raw performance is going to an issue for anyone who's homesteading on older hardware. Looking at the great table of relative performance created by Wirt Atmar at his AICS Research site, you would have to be running a heavily loaded 9x9 or 997 for this emulator to struggle. That's not to say that there wasn't one company at the Stromasys event that said it was beta testing the emulator for such a requirement.

Next time: Accommodating tape technology and NAS, and summing up CHARON and where it takes the HP 3000.