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June 2013

Backing up proves an emulator just works

TapebackupProving the concept of emulation for MPE operations is becoming popular this year. To offer evidence, longtime managers of 3000 servers check out the mundane as well as the specific tasks that drive their companies. Backup is a backbone of real IT -- and one evaluator shared his pleasure in watching the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 product improve on such an essential mission.

The process is somewhat different than on a physical HP 3000. First off, you can do backups while people are still on the 3000, if you have backup software to support that. When you configure the emulator, you specify a virtual tape drive, similar to the way you specify the virtual disc drives, with each virtual device pointing to a file in the Linux environment. Then, when you run MPE's STORE command, CHARON puts the data in the file associated with that virtual tape drive. When the backup is done, you can copy that file (using standard Linux commands) to some other backup media for archival. 

One very nice thing I found is that CHARON doesn't ever run out of 'tape' on a backup. It just keeps growing the file as needed. When I configured our emulator environment, I configured the tape drive at 8GB, thinking that would be enough. However, when I finished the software install and had copied our test data, I had about 10GB worth. When I did the full system store, Charon successfully backed up everything and expanded the virtual tape drive size to be 10GB.

Later, when I did just a SYSGEN to the virtual tape drive, the file was only 5GB. No more having to worry about what tape density you're using -- and no more getting the 'please insert next tape' message on a backup. 

Continue reading "Backing up proves an emulator just works" »

Steps for Doing a Final HP 3000 Shutdown

There might be another HP 3000 in your company's future, but at some point every system, homesteaded or migrated, will have to be shut down. Here's the steps to do the job professionally. 

KanePapersA customer asked how to turn off an HP 3000 once and for all. While this is a sad time for the IT expert who's built a career on MPE knowledge, doing a shutdown by the numbers is in keeping with the rest of the professional skill-set you can expect from a 3000 manager. I am reminded of the line from Citizen Kane. "Then, as it must for every man, death came to Charles Foster Kane." Nothing escapes death, but a proper burial seems in order for such a legendary system.

Chris Bartram, who stocks a Technical Wikipedia (TWiki) for the 3000, offered all the details of turning off an HP 3000. "I have performed last rites for a 9x8 server at a customer site," he says, "and have been through the exercise a couple times before."

His steps did not include SOX requirements, but "that might be useful," he said in his usual modest introduction. There are 10 steps Bartram details before switching off the 3000's power button.

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Hiring developers who are old is new again

Migration is the same as legacy modernization when it comes to its end result. That's change, even if the applications in the 3000 world still look and act just as they did on an HP 3000. Migration sounds more drastic because it describes the transition of apps from one platform to another. Modernization -- especially in the hands of services companies -- takes smaller steps but still wants to shift operations toward something more popular, current, and easier to hire for.

However, that ease can become a disappointment if the only goal is to hire newer and younger programmers who work cheaper. A recent study showed that the old programmer is not only a better value, but now in shorter supply.

Bruce Hobbs, a veteran 3000 developer, pointed out the article in IT World which said, "Like a fine wine, programmers get better with age."

Researchers from the computer science department at North Carolina State University have released a study in which they examined whether programming knowledge gets better with age. Specifically, they used data on over 84,000 members of the Stack Overflow website community: the questions they ask and answer in that forum, and the site reputations for each user as proxies for the general population of programmers and their level of programming knowledge. 

Does age have a positive effect on programming knowledge?
Do older programmers possess a wider variety of technologies and skills?
To what degree do older programmers learn new technologies?

3000 managers who are planning for the future know it's not easy to find a senior programmer. "I'll be looking for a couple of experienced HP 3000 MPE resources very soon," said one IT director recently, "and I know they won't be easy to find. Been there and done that." 

At the Stack Overflow site, younger programmers demonstrated a shorter range of knowledge, asked and answered questions about a narrower set of topics, and even scored lower than programmers in their 30s about nouveau topics such as iOS and Windows Phone 7.

Based on all this, one can conclude that as programmers get older, they get better; they know more about more programming topics, and they learn new technologies just as well if not better, than their younger counterparts. Take that, whippersnappers!

This is a development, so to speak, that runs counter to one of the driving mantras of migration and modernization: older technical choices, and the human resources that understand them, are more costly, because these programmers are harder to find. As it turns out, the value in a programmer is correlated with knowledge rather than age. But the gurus at places like Gartner are delivering a different message.

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Open source resource: Secure FTP on 3000

Even though FTP won't help much in transferring databases on an HP 3000, a lot of other data can be moved using File Transfer Protocol. The question of how to do this securely using SFTP just came up last week. We've covered the topic before, but a new contributor, Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies, chipped in with some advice and a new resource, built from open source.

The initial question:

I'm trying to use to FTP a file to a SFTP server and it just hangs. Is there a way to do a secure FTP from the HP 3000?

Brian Edminster replies:

The reason that using MPE's FTP client ( fails is because as similar as they sound, FTP and SFTP are VERY different animals. Fortunately, there is a SFTP client available for the 3000 -- the byproduct of work by Ken Hirsh and others.

It used to be hosted on Ken's account on Invent3K, but when that server was taken out of service, so was Ken's account. As you've no doubt already noticed, it's available from a number of sources (such as Allegro). I'd like to highlight another source:

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How to Transfer Data Files on a 3000

DatabasetransferIt's a Friday and perhaps time to do some deeper maintenance of your HP 3000. A weekend offers an opportunity to move data from an older system to a newer replacement for homesteaders. Here's some advice on using FTP to make a data migration.

You can use FTP to ensure a safe backup of 3000 data. In one case a manager said he needed to backup KSAM XL files, but the manager didn't know that his FAK files were HP's special Keyed Sequential Access Method database files. "What appears to be program files are moved over," he said, "but database files get left behind. How do I get these files over to our Windows server?"

Please note, IMAGE has priviledge protections which don't exist for KSAM. Purging is controlled, for example. KSAM XL files are really just files combining indexes and data, and can be purged without regard to priviledges. Nonetheless, this 3000 uses KSAM XL is running MPE/iX 6.0 -- so there's more than just some management experience missing from this server. 6.0 is more than 13 years old.

MPEX, Vladimir Volokh reminded us, performs more powerful operations to go beyond HP's security. For example, an SM user can do a COPY @.DATA.PROD, @.DATA.BACKUP. Copying only KSAM files: COPY @.DATA.PROD (CODE=""KSAM""). MPE cannot give you such ability to copy only KSAM files.

One rule of 3000 operations is that these data-containing files act differently than all others while being transfered. So FTPing them to a Windows 2003 server won't be a successful way to ensure a safe data recovery. (There are third-party tools to do this, updated and supported in a way that STORE or HP's TurboStore subsystems will never be supported again.) But if a 3000 is stuck on 6.0, it's probably going to have only enough budget to tap included HP software for file backups and transfers.

Donna Hofmeister, whose resume helping 3000 users occupies a vast chunk of the 3000 newsgroup archives, suggests starting with mystd to store the files to disk -- then transfer the STD file.

Continue reading "How to Transfer Data Files on a 3000" »

How to Back Up On An Emulated 3000

CharonHPAartStromasys product manager Paul Taffel is reading our reports closely (always a good idea, to keep up with the latest in your community.) Upon reviewing yesterday's story -- which included an account of the operations a prospective user said he still needs to investigate -- Taffel quickly offered answers to a key question about backups using the CHARON HPA/3000 product.

The 3000 manager, who's investigating emulation en route to a migration, asked

How do we do backups and restores with the emulator? Its architecture is that each HP 3000 LDEV is a separate Linux file, so identifying where MPE files are for backup and restore looks more difficult. If I need to restore a file to one of our production accounts, how do I identify which Linux backup it is on, and how do I then mount that virtual disk to do an MPE restore?

Taffel replies

Copying entire CHARON disk image files is only useful as a way to back up an entire disk (or collection of disks) for Disaster Recovery purposes. To create a backup that is useful for restoring individual files, use the MPE STORE command (or a third-party tool) to write the backup, either to a physical tape (internal SCSI, or external USB drive), or to a virtual tape image. Virtual tape images are stored as files on the Linux server; they can hold the contents of any Store (or SLT) tape, but take far less time to write.

Continue reading "How to Back Up On An Emulated 3000" »

Operations and applications get watched and tracked in emulation efforts

While explaining what a virtualized 3000 does with its MPE bootup volume disk image, questions come to mind. A systems manager will be asking about the following, since they're probably unfamiliar with tapping an MPE system instance which is part of a Linux environment. Here's a set of queries from a prospect who was working though proof of concept this spring. He is preparing to use the Charon emulator as a migration stopgap.

How do we do backups and restores with the emulator? Its architecture is that each HP 3000 LDEV is a separate Linux file, so identifying where MPE files are for backup and restore looks more difficult. For example, I have configured an 18-GB virtual disk drive as LDEV 32, so in the Linux directory where the emulator resides is an 18-gig file named 'LDEV32.DSK'. All of the MPE files stored on LDEV 32 are in that file. If I need to restore a file to pub.admin (one of our production accounts), how do I identify which Linux backup it is on, and how do I then mount that virtual disk to do an MPE restore?

This is an HP 3000 administrator with some applications which have already been moved to other host environments. Not a pro who's unfamiliar with Unix or Linux. He allows that there are "lots of questions that I'll have to work through, operationally." It's such operational questions that define the legend of building a datacenter around a general-purpose computer like the HP 3000 -- one designed to operate as if it had to be reliable enough to be installed in a satellite.

Continue reading "Operations and applications get watched and tracked in emulation efforts" »

How infrastructure survives heated times

Over the past 24 hours I feel like I've been living the work life of a 3000 IT manager. We've had telecomm outages here, the kind that can mean lost business if it were not for backup strategies. Unlike the best of you, we don't have a formal plan to pass along in a disaster. Today's not really a disaster, unless you count the after-hours pleasure we hope to savor from Spurs basketball.

The FinalsIn a lock-down IT design, writing captures what to do when a telecomm service winks out dark. Our broadband provider is ATT, with an 800-number repair line to call. We poked at that twice today for one of our landlines, now without a dial tone since yesterday afternoon. There's a different repair number for the Uverse Internet service -- and also the world of IP everything else, since our downed data line means not only no fast Web, but no San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals basketball in about 2 hours or so.

Consolidation to a single provider promises savings, but also a single point of failure. Coordinating service between two arms of the same company? Well, that's not an automatic thing anymore. Meanwhile, the cloud-based IT promised by HP and others just pulls all of this recovery farther away from your affected IT shop.

Genesys-Meeting-Center-8About 10 days ago, MB Foster gave a thorough primer on the issues any company faces in keeping its disaster recovery process up to date. There's old tech (phone trees to spread the word on outages) as well as new elements like measuring the Mean Time To Recovery of Operations. MRRTO can help you decide where to put the effort first in a downtime event. Foster can help you ready for the calamity with a thorough inventory of what's running, something that CEO Birket Foster says too many companies just don't have up to date.

"You look at the different processes in your company and figure what's critical to keeping the business alive," Foster said in a June 5 Wednesday Webinar. "It comes down to understanding if there's a cluster of applications which work together, so you have to bring them all up together at the same time," he said. A DR plan must identify key users -- old tech, like keeping up to date with user cell phone numbers, so they can be notified.

"Hardware is usually not the problem here," Foster said. "That said, there was a vendor in the HP 3000 community who had a board go bad on their 3000. It took them 13 days to get the other board in and back up, and then into recovery. It was mostly about sourcing the right part. They didn't have good connections in that area." Then there was also the matter of getting competent resources to install the board.

Tomorrow MB Foster offers another Webinar, since it's a Wednesday. Gods of Data Quality examines Master Data Management (register for free), the MDM that "ensures your company does not use multiple – or potentially inconsistent - versions of data in different parts of its operations; understanding the concept of 'one version of the truth.' "

Each one of these Webinars gives me plenty to think about and try to plan for.

Continue reading "How infrastructure survives heated times" »

Emulator: how far it goes, and what's next

Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. I had a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, and he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.

Instead of fooling with the 3000's software, the Charon product provides a pre-configured MPE/iX disk image. This is a system disk (your LDEV1), but it’s not a physical device. It’s an virtualized disk file, running on a Linux server, which the emulator then reads when it boots up MPE/iX. Once you have this LDEV1, you populate it with the software on your 3000 system -- specialized databases, configurations for IO, the works. The wizardry comes in making an Intel server which runs Linux -- the host OS of the emulator package -- behave the same as an HP 3000 server. MPE/iX is changed in no way. This is why there've been no lingering reports of the emulator failing to run an MPE application or a utility.

Emulator technology has a reputation from more than a decade ago of being a horsepower hog. But the first two generations of emulation have blown past us all, and now Stromasys is beyond instruction-by-instruction interpretation. It’s well past dynamic instruction translation, which pre-fetched a platform’s CPU instructions, then translated them into target platform code. That translation might have been called dynamic, but it was only suitable for entry-level to midrange systems.

Stromasys has left all of MPE and IMAGE’s software stack alone, and patched nothing. The product’s task is to use the latest, multi-level translation technology. Stromasys perfected this technology — the third generation of emulation — while it served users of the VAX hardware who wanted to continue to run OpenVMS after HP-Digital stopped selling VAXes.

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How 8 Years of Web Reports Changed Lives

8birthdaycakeThis week the Newswire celebrates the 8-year-mark on our blog reporting. Starting with a eulogy for fallen 3000 savant Bruce Toback -- taken too early, by a heart attack -- we wrote about the nascent and uncertain era of transition in June of 2005. The Interex HP conference was still a possibility, HP was still creating some patches for MPE/iX -- many things that had gone on for years continued to roll along.

IMAGE jumbo datasets were supposed to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP was fixing a critical bug in LFDS and needed beta testers, something that was harder to come by for HP. LargeFiles remain less robust than jumbos for most customers. LFDS repairs consumed precious resoures in the database lab, all while HP tried to fix a data corruption problem.

HP sold off more than 400 acres in South Texas as layoffs started to mount up. CEO Mark Hurd set aside $236 million in severance pay. Sun offered up a open source program for Solaris, begging the question about when open source practices could be applied to MPE/iX. This week OpenVMS managers examined what stood in the way of VMS becoming open source. 

Even though parts of MPE/iX are well outside of HP's labs, the whole wooly bunch of source, millions of lines, isn't a candidate for open source like the Sun project. But it might be, someday. 

We looked at whether a transition era demanded the same rigorous HP testing of beta enhancements and patches. "We heard HP say they'd be satisfied with one site's beta test report, a comment offered when HP engineers discussed the lack of beta-test sites last summer at HP World." we reported. "When the labs closed in 2008, software that languished in Patch Jail was bailed out. HP was seeking beta testers "who want to try out the new networked printing enhancements for the HP 3000."

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The Last 5 Percent, and Toughest Surprises

HomeguidesFor more than 10 weeks now, the offices and headquarters of the 3000 Newswire have been under siege. We're doing battle with a project, the largest one that Abby and I have ever faced together -- since launching the Newswire, at least. We're re-engineering our home with a whole-house remodel. This afternoon, our general contractor said "Well, you're basically rebuilding your home, except for two rooms."

It started more simply, of course. A little patch of the house, which serves as a yoga studio and writing classroom, had its older wood floor ruined in a flooding rain nearly two years ago. The rot crept in and so it became time to replace it. This might be the kind of "it's broken" event that triggered a migration or two -- back in the days when living in the comfy house of MPE built by HP was still an option. When Hewlett-Packard tossed its pail of water onto the floor of your community, the vendor started off its campaign with success stories about transitions.

Sadly, these were as disingenuous as the ones HP offered to VMS customers this week. At the same time it was tolling the bell for its VMS business, HP's added that OpenVMS is great enough to power Accuweather and the Singapore Stock Exchange. Except the vendor doesn't want Accuweather to run on OpenVMS more than seven years longer -- because the OS support is not scheduled to survive beyond 2020, according to HP's decree. Perhaps just long enough to collect support money for another seven years. After one VMS user noted that Accuweather was an old story placed in odd context, said Neil Rieck,

Yes, that Accuweather blurb in the middle of the announcement was very much like a corporate version of the Jedi-hand-wave ("These are not the droids you are looking for.") In HP's case "we have no intentions of spending another cent on OpenVMS, but continue feeling good while running a has-been OS." What I'd be more interested in finding out is how the Singaporean stock exchange --- which only a few months ago moved to VMS --- is feeling right now.

We heard similar stories in 2002 about the likes of Ceridian and even Summit Technologies' Spectrum credit union software. Neither company was on the timeline of the 3000 community, but yes, they had done migrations. One company started six years before HP's announcement, and the other began more than two years earlier and then didn't finish for another three years. Meanwhile, 3000 server sales continued apace. People bought new HP 3000s even after HP's announcement, because their floors of IT with antique servers were rotted. They wanted to stop at that level of their project, however.

So here at Newswire Headquarters we're weathering the last five percent of a project that will require more than three months of displacement, losses and unexpected expense. Unlike the efforts that migrators are making, all we're doing is working to keep open three businesses' offices -- the Newswire and our Something Elses, Heartfelt Yoga and the Writer's Workshop. The project was something that we asked for, which makes it easier to bear than any migration that might have been needed, but was never desired. As anyone who's done a migration or a Y2K project will concur, that last 5 percent of something large takes four times as much energy. You're worn down after weeks, or months, or even years. 

Our salvation -- and perhaps yours and one for the VMS faithful -- is to act in phases.

Continue reading "The Last 5 Percent, and Toughest Surprises" »

Newest HP song of server exits same as old

Now that there's another homesteading-migration movement afoot in the HP enterprise community, it's worth studying. What's different about the shutdown of the OpenVMS operations at Hewlett-Packard, versus the tale of the last decade from the 3000? Many moments and passions are similar. Slides not even six months old like the one below foretold of nothing but clear sailing. But with HP's 11 years of extra embrace for VMS, beyond the 3000 sayonara, things may be kinder for the VMS acolytes, those whose faith HP praised in an exit letter.

OnlyABladeAwayforVMSWithin a day of posting the letter, the VMS community was trying to organize an effort to get the operating system source code from HP, re-licensed as open source. Perhaps they didn't take much heed of the 7-year quest by OpenMPE to win the rights to MPE/iX. First there was a set of legal proposals, followed by the logical proposals that the OS couldn't be worth anything to an HP which was casting it aside. I'm talking here about both the 3000 community, as well as those wounded in the world of OpenVMS.

"Is there no one who can free VMS from HP?" asked one member on the comp.os.vms newsgroup. Another member replied with an update from the group devoted to Rdb, the Digital database as vital to VMS as IMAGE is to MPE. He wanted to deal with Digital people in place before a controversial CEO served up the first sale, to Compaq, before HP.

Up on the Rdb list, Keith Parris raised the possibility of HP open-sourcing VMS.  While I would prefer VMS to come from DEC before [former CEO Robert] Palmer, that is no longer an option.  If done correctly, an open-source VMS might be better than no VMS.  Perhaps HP should pay a peanuts-scale salary of, say, $150,000 so that someone can coordinate this full time. 

Unless a revolt has pulled down the walls of HP's IP legal group, such license freedom sought by customers won't be forthcoming. HP got badgered into releasing MPE/iX source to a select group of licensees, who cannot improve upon the 7.5 release but use their code to create workarounds and patches. However, the VMS people do have the advantage of a thriving emulator company for any Digital VMS implementations which run on older, non-Itanium servers. The tech issues have been long-solved for Charon for VMS, but there are licensing issues that the Digital user will need to manage for themselves.

Here's where the HP 3000 community is a decade ahead of the drop-kicked Digital group. Stromasys reports that licensing hasn't been an issue in getting Charon HPA/3000 up and running in the early days of sales. HP's provided the MPE/iX license, and that just leaves the third party software.

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HP tolls bell for penultimate enterprise OS

AxeandblockIt took more than 11 extra years, but HP is finally swinging the axe on OpenVMS, the next to last HP-crafted OS for business. Customers in the DEC world got a pass for their OS onto the Itanium architecture in 2001, a route that HP blocked as it started to end its MPE business. But the OpenVMS customer base will die the death at HP from dozens of cuts, beginning with an end of Integrity i2 server sales for the OS at the close of 2015.

Server upgrades for the OS will end one year later, if HP keeps to its plan. The strategy was announced in a letter that began

For over 35 years, the HP OpenVMS operating environment has served as a mission-critical platform upon which you have built your IT infrastructure. We deeply appreciate our long partnership and also the loyalty you have shown HP during this time.

OpenVMS roadmap June 2013In WW II these were called Dear John letters, received at the front from a back-home sweetheart who was stepping out of a relationship. HP couched its news in the cloak of a "Mission-critical Roadmap Update," (click for detail) and the vendor used phrases like "at least" in front of dates for ending server sales. But an 8.5 version of OpenVMS is not on HP's map, just like an MPE/iX 8.0 evaporated from Hewlett-Packard futures slides in 2001. The equivalent of OpenVMS 8.5 would be needed to support the Poulson class of Itanium chips, processors HP will use in its newest Integrity i4 boxes.

For the most loyal and patient OpenVMS customers -- who view migrating their proprietary systems as kindly as 3000 folk did -- HP will continue supporting Integrity i2 server hardware through the end of 2020. That year aligns with the one picked by HP's expert witness when calculating how long Itanium would be an HP revenue generator. HP learned something from the 3000 market while ending a business line. OpenVMS users will get more than six years of continued HP support -- longer than the five that HP first imagined when it curtailed its MPE business.

The move leaves just one HP-created general purpose OS running on Itanium boxes, HP-UX. (NonStop, from Tandem in an acquisition, is aimed at a much narrower purpose.) Like HP's Unix, OpenVMS servers come from the embattled Business Critical Systems group, where the HP 3000 lived out its remaining HP days. HP promised more remaining sales cycles for VMS servers than the 3000 servers got, but only by a few months. VMS on Integrity will serve out "at least" a remaining 30 months on HP price lists; the 3000 got 24 extra monthly reports.

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How shooting off Moonshot can hit your IT

Moonshot-125x94Some HP 3000 customers are making a migration from a small installation. But for others, their systems are as big as MPE will let them become -- and those sites need even greater computing power. Power is a crucial element in the HP Moonshot server, whose 1500 chassis is a hot topic at this week's HP Discover conference.

HP is making the technology behind smartphones -- one IT manager calls those toys -- shoulder the load of serving up massive websites, or perform financial analysis. Any application with a growing base of users and the need for horsepower that will scale, independent of power needs, might be a good fit for Moonshot. Or as HP calls the product on the server's website, the HP ProLiant Moonshot Server. Look a little harder at this server and you'll see an x86 architecture that's driven by Intel's Atom processors. Atom has a life inside mobile devices like Lenovo and Motorola Android phones.

ShootmoonNot exactly the top tier of phone makers. Apple makes its own A6x. Many other phone makers use ARM chips. In a way, the Atom processor in the Moonshot is a repurposing of the CPU. Atom was built to burn less than 10 watts of power at a peak. HP says the Moonshot chews up 89 percent less energy than the same compute power driven by Intel's Xeon family, or the Intel Itanium. You know, the traditional servers.

HP's not aiming Moonshot at small to medium businesses. When its website says "Shop for Moonshot" you don't go to a Build To Order menu like you can for other ProLiant servers. "Find a reseller," it says underneath. 

HP started building the Moonshot line in its labs four years ago. That was an era when R&D got no love at HP, but Moonshot stayed on target anyway. This was HP's entry into ultra-dense computing. For many customers relying on MPE, that's just a buzzword. But ultra-dense computers address a common 3000 need: reduced use of energy, in a small footprint, and cheaper than tradition. You have to go back to the 3000's Mighty Mouse Series 37, or the Series 918 PA-RISC server, to find something comparable in impact.

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Find invention at Discover's web, or garages

RulesGarageThe 3000 community recently took note of the MPE departures from HP's ranks. The revelation about what else everybody's doing elsewhere has triggered chatter about HP's ability to invent. This subject can be important to the migrating sites that are sticking with HP's platforms, whether those systems run HP's Unix, Linux, or Windows. Customer Delight can result from inventions, so the matter of whether HP invents anymore can be a part of an evaluation.

To nobody's surprise, the chatter judged HP harshly on its invention score since dropping the 3000 as well as those MPE experts. But HP's Jim Hawkins, one of the select employees still holding MPE skills in his toolbelt, came to his employer's defense. If you'd like to see HP's most recent inventions, he said, going to next week's HP Discover conference would be a good start.

Few 3000 migrators are going to Discover, however. HP recognizes that the majority of its customers can't swing a trip to Vegas and an $1,800 entry fee. So Hewlett-Packard, a company which for a time had the word "invent" bolted onto its logo, will put selected Discover talks on the Web starting June 11. Whether you'll consider those presentations inventive depends on a customer's definition.

"My understanding is that CNBC will be broadcasting live from the [Discover] floor, Hawkins offered up on 3000-L. "If you want to learn what HP is really up to, there's a good place." The engineer whose expertise lies in MPE's IO added that he'd been to a "poster fair" at Hewlett-Packard recently, a gathering of IT inventors who presented their HP Labs concepts for things like network innovation.

If only the customers who've been in IT for decades were an easier crowd to convince. They remember an HP that prized inventing which flowed from the Spirit of the Garage. Plenty of things look like iterations of concepts, rather than inventions. Even Apple and Android-ians are facing that comparison next week. To seek out garage inventing you need to go farther online than vendor websites and conferences, whether Apple's or HP's.

Continue reading "Find invention at Discover's web, or garages" »

Today's Limits on Emulation Speed

The long-term future of 3000 virtualization looks sunny, in part because there's the remainder of our lifetimes for the Stromasys engine to get faster. Using this month's offerings from the company shows there's plenty of performance to make up, simply to get to HP's 3000 benchmarks from 2003. Migrators won't care like homesteaders will.

May 2013 Charon lineupWhen you look at the now-shipping Stromasys Charon product line, it's easy to see the product will run as fast as nearly all of the A-Class and N-Class servers. But HP sold three models of N-Class that are still out of the reach of today's virtualization engine speed. Those models represent the threshold Charon must still break to operate as fast as the fastest, hamstrung HP iron.

Hamstrung is a word from horses and people meaning to cripple. It's an acknowledged practice that the 3000's CPUs were down-clocked by MPE/iX. In some cases, like the lowest-end A-Class, the operating system dialed back the processor by 75 percent. A 440MHz CPU was forced to run at a genuine 110 in the entry-level A-Class. This is one reason why a fully-revamped, 1-processor A-Class HP 3000, with a faster bus, still only ran 70 percent faster than a Series 918.  Even at the dawn of a new generation of 3000s, HP was keeping the servers in check.

If a company is considering an emulation scenario on the way to a migration, these limits might not matter. At one Dallas-area e-commerce company, consultant Doug Smith reports the 3000 was moving to archive-system status. A migration was in the wings. But for other companies, hoping to match those three biggest-sized 3000s, June's Charon product line will leave them short of a match.

Migrators might not make up much of the Charon customer base. If they've concluded that a midrange 3000 will do the interim job, however, even companies leaving the platform will have enough horsepower. One of the reasons for this involves adding extra CPUs for the unreleased Charon versions. Unlike HP, Stromasys will support a 6-way or 8-way N-Class.

Continue reading "Today's Limits on Emulation Speed" »

Legacy hardware evolution looks limitless

At the recent Stromasys Training Day and HP 3000 Social, the company's GM Bill Driest asked a question about the future of the HP 3000. But he may as well have been asking the same thing about HP's Integrity servers, too. What's to become of these vendor-specific systems, once the vendor leaves the system behind?

Driest-ChangGM Bill Driest suggests the sky's the limit for futures in hardware that's been curtailed by the vendor. At right, Stromasys CEO Ling Chang talks over the possibilities at the recent HP 3000 Social with Eric Sand of Sandsoft.

“People like Gartner are talking to us, and there’s been a fundamental sea change,” Driest said. “They’re saying this: isn’t it conceivable that the end state of all legacy hardware is some kind of emulation or virtualization?” 

Driest admitted that five years that belief was “so much of an early adopter message. There’s a fundamental pause as we ask, ‘On what platform do you believe we’ll run the last MPE production environment?’ Do you really think that it’s going to be on some refurb HP hardware?”

The company was introducing a strategy of “Rebuild, or Revitalize?” as the driver towards virtualization of the MPE-ready hardware. It exhorted the customers and resellers, along with support providers and consultants in the Computer History Museum's meeting room, to “Join the Revitalization Movement.”

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Stromasys opens HP's way to Charon gates

Print-ExclusiveThe maker of the emulator solution for the HP 3000 community demonstrated the natural resting state for MPE applications during its recent training and brewhouse social. Dedicated community veterans, as well as some customers looking for a way to extend those applications, took note of a new alliance. HP's got the 3000 version of Charon on board.

Worldwide ResellerStromasys also announced it’s just been named a Gartner Group Cool Server Vendor for 2013, the freshest part of the news, plans and futures the company unspooled in its first North American Training and Social event for 3000 customers and allies. The room of the Computer History Museum on May 10 was full for the day-long briefing on company strategy, as well as Paul Taffel's extensive demonstration of the HPA/3000 model of Charon in action.

Stromasys is one of only seven vendors who’ve made the server technology cool list, just published by Gartner. The company showed off a product lineup that includes a pair of implementations that are designed to out-perform some N-Class HP 3000 hardware. General Manager Bill Driest said he’s seen his company's software run on a cutting edge HP DL380 server with a 4.4Ghz processor installed, a pre-release from Intel.

But the power promises may extend beyond hopes of matching high-end N-Class performance. HP's taken on the software as a potential solution for its customers. Stromasys hopes the 3000's will share the view that hardware is only a waystation to a virtualized platform.

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Touting Meg, HP says Discover's not too late

MegLaughingAn email in today's in-box reminds me that "It's not too late to attend HP Discover." The 2013 edition of the HP conference, wrapped around all things Hewlett-Packard for enterprise, cloud and mobile computing, plays out next week, June 11-13 in Las Vegas.

HP's email promises a chance for direct interaction with its CEO Meg Whitman:

Engage directly with Meg Whitman and top HP executives to see how HP innovations shape the IT industry and help IT leaders like you succeed. Talk one-to-one with HP industry leaders via the HP Meeting Center and Partner Meeting Center. Book a tailored discussion of  your choice.

Converged Cloud, Information Optimization, Mobility Security and Risk Management, plus Business and Technical sessions are HP's main tent poles at the show. Signing an NDA gets you "the chance for a sneak-peek at what's next from HP during our extremely informative confidential disclosure sessions."

In one public session, HP will tell us how a full one-eighth of its website operation is being run from its latest servers.

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