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September 2013

Making Real Customers from Virtualization

Rich PughFirst of two parts

Rich Pugh describes himself using a term that’s far from a virtualized IT pro. Pugh, who’s the new senior VP of worldwide sales and services at virtualization vendor Stromasys, says he’s “carried a bag” since the middle 1980s. The term refers to a salesman who’s working on a commission basis, someone who visits customers to close sales. That was not unusual at any size of IT customer in 1985, when Pugh started at Digital Equipment. Today these kinds of visits from such computer hardware vendors are reserved for large accounts. That’s what makes Pugh’s current job selling the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 emulator such a profound echo. His company is replacing the 3000 hardware which once required a sales call to spark an install.

Stromasys has been ramping up its executive and strategic team over the last 18 months, all while the company has rolled out and refined its server virtualization software for the MPE marketplace. Bill Driest was introduced to the community at this May’s Training Day as Stromasys GM in the Americas Region. Driest now works for Pugh, since the latter arrived this June. All was explained to us by CEO Ling Chang, who joined the company herself in 2012. 

Print-ExclusiveIn the fall of that year, Chang was introduced to us by Stromasys founder Robert Boers in a joint Q&A — in much the same way she introduced Pugh to us this month. We wanted to check on the outlook for selling a virtualization engine which emulates a server that was cut loose by HP more than two years ago. Emulators often surface while system support is still in place but manufacturing has ended. In the case of HPA/3000, everything was dropped by HP before Stromasys could sell a single unit.

Of such challenges are heroic stories made. Vendors have given up on creations or developments that had much life remaining, and Pugh and Chang believe they’ve got a good shot at replacing some mission-critical HP 3000 systems. Driest said that the North American rollout of HPA/3000 began with that May Training Day. Three months later the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine.

We interviewed Pugh and Chang in August, a month when HP 3000 users often gathered at a North American conference. In the week we talked, Google’s founder was announcing a burger built in a lab using 20,000 cow stem cells. A product that puts MPE software on Intel chips might seem as much of a surprise. Pugh is working to give the 3000 community a taste for the CHARON novelty, one that wants to eliminate HP’s iron like Google wants to remove the cow, but with genuine flavor.

Continue reading "Making Real Customers from Virtualization" »

An HP Museum That Could Use Your Help

People accuse the HP 3000 community of being rooted too deep in history, reaching back to a Hewlett-Packard experience that no longer exists. But there is an organization devoted to that HP, and it could use the help of the 3000 manager who might be cleaning house.

HpcomutermuseumThere's housecleaning going on all the time in the community. Nordstrom's decommissioned its 3000 servers, for example. Newer systems, but there's bound to be something genuinely antique tucked away behind a closet door. The HP Computer Museum doesn't take up much space, but its doors are always open, from all the way down in Australia. A message from volunteer Jon Johnston.

Just a quick heads up on the HP Computer Museum, in case you don't already know us ( Our objective is to preserve the first 25 years of HP computing history (1966 to 1991). 

We are always looking to acquire things we don't have and often looking for help on things we're not very smart about. So, please keep us in mind if you come across some old HP stuff (hardware, software, documentation, promo items, videos), and be sure to forward our URL to any old HP contacts you may have.

We are especially interested in hearing from anyone who may have an HP-IB hard disc with the MPE system loaded.

We talk about history as an instruction to the future. One item out on the Computer Museum site shows how imagination and innovation didn't get rewarded at HP. This was a Hewlett-Packard of almost 30 years ago, in an era when the dominance of PCs wasn't yet complete. HP's answer was the HP 150, later known as the Touchscreen 150. The 150 was frequently found paired up with HP 3000s. Some say it was just about the only place the system appeared. In the first year, HP sold 40,000 of the Touchscreens.

Continue reading "An HP Museum That Could Use Your Help" »

Terminals on tablets open new screen doors

Review by Jon Diercks

TTerm Pro is a $49.95 terminal emulator for iPad from Turbosoft, one with support for multiple IBM and HP terminal emulations. I recently had the opportunity to test TTerm with the CHARON Freeware HP 3000 emulator. I selected TTerm’s HP 700/92 emulation mode, pointed it at the CHARON emulator’s IP address, and got right in — the opening screen for the iPad app is shown below.

TTerm Pro review Fig 1As you can see, TTerm provides an expanded on-screen keyboard. In portrait orientation, the keys presented are pretty standard, with the addition of block-mode enter. But when rotated to landscape view, additional HP-specific keys appear (as shown below).

TTerm Pro review Fig 2

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3000 data experts explore Big Data today

Big-dataIn the latest of its Wednesday Webinars, MB Foster looks at the elements of Big Data as they relate to IT planning. Members of your community who are heading to other platforms have better reason to learn more about the concept, since their new systems are likely to need application interfaces to vast tracts of land from the world of data.

The webinar is free and starts at 2PM Eastern Time today. Registration for the interactive audio and PowerPoint presentation is at MB Foster's website.

As data specialists for operational, analytical and migration purposes and thought leaders on the topic of data, we want to accelerate users' understanding of new data-related topics and practices such as Big Data.

As an example of Big Data usage: In the TV show Criminal Minds, Penelope uses her analytical skills to combat crime. She dives into large and complex structured and unstructured data sets (records, mobile devices, video’s and cameras) to help the FBI team capture criminals in the nick of time.

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Expert Healing after a Bump on the Head

Cartoon-concussionIt all started simply enough for me. My bride Abby and I hosted our granddaughters for a weekend. At ages three and one, there was a lot of grandpa picking up one little girl or another. After two days, grandpa's back was hurting. Then came the Monday morning bike ride in the Texas heat. Not enough hydration, not enough stretching, and soon I've got a muscle pull to manage. Way inside, steady pain.

This is new to me. Maybe new like an HP 3000 problem you never saw in your 20 years of working with MPE. Way inside, something like a console Network Interface Card dying. "Do these things have a habit of dying," you might ask, even after dozens of 3000s you've seen or serviced.

So you reach out for service help, like I did. A sports massage, deep like the muscle problem. Seems like the right solution, but as I leave the studio I put weight on the left leg. Wow, no muscle control there at all, and down goes your Newswire editor. Hmm, maybe something to do with a nerve. Then there's the visit to a chiropractic doctor with nerve experience and then trigger point treatment, and therapy exercises. Let the healing begin. Until the middle of the night, when the leg goes out in the kitchen, while I'm getting water to hydrate.

You might know the rest: The fall in the kitchen, against a cabinet and a big cut on the head. It's all new territory for me, even at 56. It ends up in the office of my trusted GP doctor, where he does an exam. Elliott Trester is older than most of the 3000 managers I know. He beams with calm and believes in doing the least invasive things first. If you're lucky, you have a doctor like that for your 3000. It's called first-line support. No matter if you've been as lucky as I've been about injuries. When your 3000 breaks, you want somebody to tell you it's going to be okay, and how that'll happen. Without costing money you need to spend on something else.

You've got someone like that, right? The expert who knows the 3000 better than you -- because if not, there's always a much more expensive way to heal up your IT problem. Maybe as costly as getting something else to run your company.

Continue reading "Expert Healing after a Bump on the Head" »

Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise

When something fresh or different enters your IT landscape, it's a good business practice to make time to understand it. A new software application, a different way of defining your networks, the scorecard on your vendor's turnaround. Those first two items are easier to analyze than the third, but a vendor's business news is not noise.

CoveryourearsFew communities understand this listening better than the customers who own HP 3000s and run MPE. Their status might be homesteading, or migrating, or homesteading until a migration is possible. But when Hewlett-Packard ended its futures in the 3000 market, it did so because of what it called trouble in the "ecosystem." That's not a jungle of plants and animals outside HP's corporate HQ. The ecosystem is the collection of companies doing business for a platform's users. HP didn't like the look of its 3000 ecosystem. It couldn't do anything more about it, so the vendor pulled up stakes and closed its lab.

The world-rocking difference in that case was HP's business decision, not a technical shortfall. That vendor didn't tick off the missing elements of software (it had skipped out on doing a 64-bit MPE) or the hardware (slim and cheaper servers for Unix customers, but not MPE users). HP talked about the rest of the world's businesses and what it planned to do about connecting with them. It was consistent about choice: Unix, Windows, and other things not crafted by HP.

That's news, but in some quarters HP's business conditions are being labeled noise. The Chief Marketing Officer for the Connect user group Nina Buik not only believes that "the media earns its keep by making noise," she advising members to tune out news like HP's departure from the Dow Jones Industrials. Not important, she wrote this month. The drop from the Dow is symbolic, but it won't change things overnight. Few customers pick a vendor on the basis of its Dow membership. Investors do, and that impacts working capital and profits and growth funding. Dow is interesting, but Buik calls it noise compared to the HP message about becoming monolithic.

That's not really news, except in the latest five-year plan to execute it. Hewlett-Packard has been trying to act as a single company since the moment it started selling PCs in the 1980s. Its quest to monolithic futures is as constant as the direction of rain. Rain falls downward, as it always has.

News and noise can be confused, or just overlooked on purpose. If you don't want to include your vendor's business condition, you might be surprised -- like some of HP's OpenVMS users were -- when the futures run out. You'd want to hear the warnings about that, wouldn't you?

Continue reading "Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise" »

UK 3000 vet gears up for European reunion

SIG BARDave Wiseman, the founder of HP 3000 vendor Millware and an MPE veteran since the system's most nascent days, is floating the idea of a "3000 Revival" to be held in Europe later this year. Wiseman was the chairman of SIG BAR, he told us in explaining what the Revival might amount to. Today he's calling the event this year's HP3000 SIG BAR meeting.

Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars….

Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretence of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bringing a booth!)

If you know anyone who worked in the HP3000 vendor community or user groups please could you ask them to contact me ([email protected] or +44 777 555 7017) and I'll find a suitable venue and date (maybe beginning of December in London?)

Continue reading "UK 3000 vet gears up for European reunion" »

Finding Your Way Into Mastering Data

Mdm-thumbnailAt one point or another, all data in an IT manager's world in our community was related to MPE and the HP 3000. That day might be today, or it could have been last year, or in the previous century. The prospects for the future of data management are shaped by the existing design of data flow as well as business practices. Those practices define a Master Data Management plan on your migration platform as a business issue, according to MB Foster.

The company's CEO Birket Foster led a webinar on Masters of Data Management last week. "The first thing to do is look at your application portfolio," he said. That begins with a list of applications and their attributes, then fan-tails out to the sources of the data for those apps. Methods to add, change or delete, as well as where data is stored, are other elements to track.

"You want to find the code that relates to each of the screens or batch processes that deal with database items," Foster said. "You want to look at how you enforce those edits of the data."

You also want to understand the architecture of the data, he added, even when you can't control that architecture.

Continue reading "Finding Your Way Into Mastering Data" »

Three years later, OpenMPE triggers pains

Hewlett-Packard canceled its 3000 plans in 2001, which launched an open source effort for MPE less than six weeks later. Like a satellite boosted into orbit, the voyage of OpenMPE seems to have momentum even today, more than three years after a lawsuit marred a volunteer group.

Look up "OpenMPE suit" in our search engine and you'll find no fewer than 15 stories I wrote about a civil suit between board member Matt Perdue and the OpenMPE board. Some members were named individually as well as et al in the lawsuit in Bexar County, Texas. The suit was filed there because that's where Purdue lives and works.

TriggerpointYesterday I updated the OpenMPE saga by tracking the location of that satellite today. It's split into more than one trajectory. There's a website to serve archival data on the 3000. There's the remains of the suit, made up of hard feelings and legal fees. Then there's the domain of this group of volunteers, the web address where it existed in its most tangible public incarnation: I noted yesterday that Perdue renewed the domain this month, even after he'd been removed from the board in 2010.

OpenMPE triggers some pain for nearly everyone, but that's the way an overstressed muscle can behave. HP wasn't happy about having seasoned community members asking a lot of questions that had gone unconsidered about migrations. Volunteers got disappointed and left, or sacrificed plenty of time and some money while they stayed. Community members kept asking what the group achieved, even while HP tilted the table with its confidentiality demands over conference calls. Finally, during the nine months of all-out battle in lawyers' letters and in court, the very essence of assets, monies and right to operate were challenged.

We're always glad to get comments on the stories in the Newswire's blog. The ones I'm compelled to reply to are those where fairness and accuracy get questioned. Keith Wadsworth, a former board member and defendant in that suit, took the time to note my shining prejudice about the legal actions in those nine months. At the end of matter, the board where he served as co-chairman decided it wouldn't comment further beyond what anybody who'd drive to Bexar County could discover.

Continue reading "Three years later, OpenMPE triggers pains" » domain remains redacted

A milestone recently passed for the web domain name For more than eight years this was the address for the volunteer group that made HP think through migration details, as well as extend homesteading prospects. The .org seemed to fit a rotating collective of 3000 community members, all giving their time and effort to try to make the 3000's future clearer and brighter.

But in 2010, amid the rancor and countersuits filed between two then-boardmembers, went dark, was taken hostage. Matt Perdue, the consultant and board member who was by then in charge of checkbook, source code license, web servers as well as domain, found himself fingered as the man who'd take a website offline to prove ownership. To resolve the problem, Allegro Consultants gave to the group. It wasn't much longer afterward that Perdue and his combating director Keith Wadsworth both left the organization.

It's been more than two years, and the domain was up for renewal. Brian Edminster, who's got his own .org website ( that serves the community with open source software, was watching to see if OpenMPE's domain would be released. Edminster checked in to report Perdue's ownership of the domain remains in force, for another several years.

Continue reading " domain remains redacted" »

Prospects for Hot-Plugging HP 3000 Disks

I've had many A-Class and N-Class systems. I've always used them with fiber-attached disk.  I am wondering about the internal disk drives. Are they hot-pluggable? 

300 GB Ultra SCSIMy objective here is to find a better alternative to DLT and DDS tapes for offsite storage. I've had suggestions of DS2100 and Jamaica drives.  But a few 300GB Ultra SCSI drives would hold a lot more data with less points of failure. I intend to set up a BACKUP_VOLUME_SET and use the internal disks to do store-to-disk backups of the system. 

Jim Hawkins, formerly the IO maven for HP 3000 systems at HP, replied with details.

There are multiple layers of changes for actual hot plugs or swaps to work.  

  • You need the disk HDD to handle this electrically.
  • You need HDD physical carrier and physical interface to comply.
  • You need the system physical interface and receptacle to comply. 
  • You need your Host System Bus Adapter (HBA) to electrically support this.
  • You need the OS to be aware enough of the HBA to not get flustered by absence of the device and deal with any notifications from the HBA of the activity.   

Given that the N-Class disk cage has a screw-based cover and the HDD carriers have no quick release levers (as compared with HASS/Jamaica or VA7400) I would state definitively that there is no hot-plug intention.  At the same time, the SCSI bus is pretty low power and low voltage, so it would be generally not too unsafe to experiment. But you're also close to AC inputs and they are not low power.

Continue reading "Prospects for Hot-Plugging HP 3000 Disks" »

Personality resides in hardware, not MPE

Print-ExclusiveIt’s easy to think of technology like MPE as something that can be changed, like a personality. The Gartner Group calls operating environments like MPE and Unix personalities these days. Not as important as it once was in IT planning, that personality — this is what we’re told.

A personality is certainly more readily changed, like an address in a new neighborhood, or the paint on the curb at my son Nick’s new house. Fans of Louisiana State lived there, so there’s a purple rectangle on the curb with LSU next to the house number. It will probably become a rectangle of Cowboys blue before football season ends. 

Your MPE, your computing soul, is getting a new address this year and for the years to come. That soul will live in a new address, at the curb of the hardware house of Intel. Nothing will be the same in this virtualized computer’s world except its soul. People have come to call this server of yours an HP 3000, but it’s really an MPE system. Memory, CPUs, motherboards, storage, power supplies, networking — every part of it has changed over the 29 years I’ve observed. Except that soul.

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Addresses, personalities change, not souls

Print-ExclusiveI’m back in front of my keyboard tonight, sweaty and a little sore, but happy. I've been helping my son and his family move into a new house, hefting the boxes that must be toted through our Texas heat. We bolted together IKEA furniture in his dining room that's covered with hand-scraped hardwood floors, underneath high vaulted ceilings, cooled by booming AC.

But amid all of that change — a closer address to us, a vast backyard on a hill, the mysteries of 5.1 built-in stereo wiring and the charm of a private deck right off their master suite — I looked at him and saw something that didn’t change. His address, his personality, his body, they all changed. But there’s one part of any of us that remains the same. It’s our soul, the true self and the part of us that witnesses all the changes.

In order to have an awareness of a soul, there must be change for it to observe. My son’s new house for his family. The length of his hair, along with the banking he does for a career. The happy chatter of his little 4-year-old, the humming buzz of his wife’s family all come to visit and help with the moving. None of that was the same seven years ago, and especially not seven years earlier. Once you have a life that builds its legacy of changes, you lay claim to a soul.

Personality does change, but a soul keeps you grounded. Like the 3000 user, the IT pro who’s had a dozen chances to change in their career by now. They have a machine with an old soul — a quality that I’d aspire to in my youth, the old hinting at meaning, gravity and certainty.

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HP dives out of the Dow Jones average

It was a pretty good run for awhile -- 16 years of Hewlett-Packard stock being part of the greatest run-up in Wall Street securities history. But this week the Dow Jones organization announced the biggest shake-up in the average in a decade, removing Hewlett-Packard's shares. The stock lost half of its value, then regained nearly all of it, in a turbulent 18 months that ushered it out of the best-known average.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 7.54.08 PMThe change takes effect with the close of trading on Sept. 20, and was "prompted by the low stock price of the companies slated for removal, and the Index Committee's desire to diversify the sector and industry group representation of the index," according to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, the company that oversees the Dow. Alcoa Aluminum and Bank of America are also being removed.

HP's shares are not trading much lower than in 1997 when it joined the average. In that year, HP  traded at $25.75 a share, just $3 higher than today's price. It became only the second computing company to join the 1997 Dow; Johnson & Johnson, Travelers Group and WalMart were added to the index that year as well. All but HP remain part of the index of international business. The Dow average was about 6700 when HP was added. Today it's above 15,000. 

1997 Annual Report coverThe HP of 1997 had no significant Internet presence, playing catch-up to Sun. Hewlett-Packard also was scurrying to adopt Windows as an enterprise solution, having gambled heavy on Unix through the 1990s instead. That year's Hewlett-Packard also sold HP 3000 Series 9x9 servers, a solution that was just gaining its first open source software programs as well as dropping the Classic CISC-based servers that ran MPE V. HP was a $43 billion company that year with a workforce of 121,000.

But many things have changed along with HP's overall futures and fortunes. In the summer of 1997, 3000 division manager Harry Sterling, in just his first full year on the job, announced that the HP 3000 would be gaining a 64-bit MPE, with designs aimed at using the newest HP chips.

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Emulator's open sourcers prod at booting

Yesterday I mentioned news about a fresh emulator effort, one that's based in open source resources. Piotr Głowacz and some volunteer developers have been trying to create software that lets Intel servers boot up MPE/iX. The early going via open source has had its roadblocks, springing up in unexpected places. After the three articles we've written about the attempts, Głowacz emailed us that the exposure has helped.

We've got many responses from people willing to help us in our effort. The most important advance we've achieved is to get the MPE/iX 6.0 up and running. Of course, it's not at a solid state -- we're experiencing unexpected system crashes, for example, but at least the OS is recognizing all of our emulated devices.

There's a pretty good reason why an open source emulator is going to take a while to get stable. Dr. Robert Boers, whose company Stromasys invented and polished the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator, has an understanding of the shortfalls that are still ahead for the open source effort -- as well as an admiration for trying to open-source create an emulator.

Their booting problem they will no doubt find, if they ever get that far, will be due to not having a working Processor Dependent Code (PDC) implementation, which makes all the difference between booting a general PA-RISC system and an HP 3000. As we found out, even understanding the HP 3000 PDC requires a PhD (and access to source code), let alone implementing it.

Apart from the PDC, there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU -- one that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions.

Boers also noted that "even HP did not have all the [booting] information, and we had to step through MPE/iX instruction-by-instruction (including its internal 16-bit code emulator) to make sense of it." More than two years ago his company, using HP-supplied tech documentation, clawed through the barriers to make MPE/iX booting stable in CHARON. "It was a tough one to write," he said of the effort. Compared to the CHARON emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator.

Continue reading "Emulator's open sourcers prod at booting" »

Community needs story, regardless of media

WorldofWebJust as I was closing out our latest printed issue, our 139th in paper, we got word about a new entry into the HP 3000 emulation derby. It's software that wishes it could enable Intel PCs to boot MPE/iX. It's a long way from ready for prime time. Most of the problem lies in the fact that the effort is open-sourced. There's no open source for the MPE boot routines inside PA-RISC.

Print-ExclusiveYou might not even call this one a market entry, largely because it’s open sourced. It would not ever really be for sale, not any more than Linux was ever sold in the first 15 years of its lifespan. Open source relies on the volunteer time of brilliant minds. Some day, marketing and sales might be handled over the Web as well as Git stores program code repositories. However, for putting software into production that will be running a company, there’s nothing like an old-school visit in person, in a meeting room, with customer technicians on hand. That's sales today. And probably sales tomorrow, too.

We might be headed toward a day when some old-school standards seem just old, rather than classic and proven. This momentum is gathering quickly in my world of words for publication. This summer we saw the departure of InformationWeek from the ranks of printed publications. The weekly that covered the HP departure from the 3000 world, as well as HP’s e3000 rebranding of the box, is now a weekly publication of about five articles per issue. That’s around 20 a month, or the same number we put onto the Web in our blog.

EsquireSpreadWeb-based publication can do some things that print struggles to do these days. Some publishers remain devoted to the printed look, but can provide on a laptop screen, or in the case of the picture at left, on a 27-inch desktop. (Go ahead, click on it to see how close that Esquire page can be reproduced on the screen.) Online publications can be searched in a way print won't provide. (Go ahead, click on the link off our front page banner where it says Download our latest print issue. You get a PDF file that can be searched.) What's more, such online information reaches readers nobody knows, people who care about the subject but have escaped the commonplace radar. Anybody hear of Innovest as a 3000 site? We just did this month.

Continue reading "Community needs story, regardless of media" »

History tells us to mind the futures gap

MindthegapHewlett-Packard's Millenial Version (2001.0) kicked out the 3000 a dozen summers ago. But your community still talks about that breakup, something like the girlfriend a fellow lost after she was so close that she knew your team's football players. (There's an allusion that might play on both sides of the Atlantic, now that our sports called football are both apace this weekend.) It's a worthy subject. A gap between futures talks and vendor reality must always be considered. This is the season of 2014's planning, after all.

The latest discussion about 2001 came out of a corner of the community's online outposts. Over in an exclusive sector, people talked about whether HP 2001.0 had ever violated regulations when it went to that summer's HP World show, talking up 3000 futures to anybody within the sound of the HP voices of Dave Snow and Winston Prather.

Timeline: Chicago hosts that summer's show in late August. All seems well on the slides and futures talks. Two and a half months later, the big Acme safe (Warner Brothers cartoon-style) gets dropped on the heads of users, managers and vendors everywhere. Was Carly Fionia's HP-Invent fibbing about the 3000's futures?

This week the chatter amounts to just speculations, unless an HP manager (that might be former GM Prather, or someone higher up) wants to reveal the internals. Yup, Winston's still at HP.

But I may as well concoct a scenario that might permit HP to make its presentations that summer and not break the rules. In this tale, HP hopes there's a lot of revenue growth coming soon for the 3000. Either that, or it's gonna go away. Fiorina was well-known for cracking the whip on revenue growth.

So after July meetings with big customers, here comes that August HP World conference. At the time, there's no lack of verbal assurances about 3000 futures from HP. Things in writing, or on a slide, are a lot more fuzzy. There's no date-certain about Itanium for MPE at that meeting in Chicago, either. One VAR I interviewed about the meeting said, "That's when we knew the writing was on the wall" about MPE. It wasn't going forward, he said.

Continue reading "History tells us to mind the futures gap" »

The cloud lifts 3000 app vendor into revival

CloudITWhile HP 3000s were still for sale from Hewlett-Packard, American Data Industries sold $50 million in HP servers and related hardware. Ken Roberts is the president of the wholesale and retail software vendor, and he was once on HP's Advisory Board for 3000 vendors. His application was written using Basic 3000, and he reports he's now aiming at new business using the 3000 from the cloud.

"My company was a major player in the HP 3000 market," Roberts said. "We dropped out when an HP salesman told my audience how great Unix was, implemented on the HP 9000."

In spite of our closing our doors we continued to support our clients for another 20 years. We, of course, couldn't talk any of our prospects into purchasing an HP3000 but our existing clients refused to drop out.

Nine years ago HP was considering a new channel of 3000 hardware sales, even though manufacturing had ceased the year earlier. At that time Roberts told us that any extension of MPE would help his customers homestead. Instead, he's moving to an application rental model.

Continue reading "The cloud lifts 3000 app vendor into revival" »

MPE's Skies app flies from Open to New

A healthy clutch of HP 3000 N-Class servers is going onto the used market soon, the result of a migration off of MPE. These computers represent a couple of futures, one dreamed of in 1998, and another, the reality of some 2013 computing for MPE.

SwaclayThe servers have been running the Open Skies application almost since the N-Class was released. Open Skies in its first incarnation was a software company with an application by the same name. Southwest Airlines put Open Skies, with its reservation breakthroughs, into everyday use. The application only ran on MPE/iX. In time, in a move characteristic of another Hewlett-Packard, the vendor purchased the Open Skies software company. The deal was designed to show markets of 1998 what could be done with an HP 3000 and cloud-based apps. At the time, HP was calling the strategy Apps on Tap.

Here in the waning days of summer 2013, what remains of Open Skies has been migrated to Windows .NET by Accenture and its Navitaire division. Industry-standard environments are easy choices for companies like Accenture, a consulting company that grew out of the '90s-era Anderson Consulting. The migrated app is called New Skies and now takes over for Open Skies completely. Airlines around the world used Open Skies to perform revenue accounting on online ticket sales. But at one time, even the fundamental concept of online ticket sales was a novelty. It was led into the world by MPE servers.

Mark Ranft has been managing the transition from the Skies which were Open to the Skies that are New. The work has been performed for Navitaire, a company Accenture created when HP sold off Open Skies at the end of 2000. Of course, less than a year later, that generation of Hewlett-Packard, led by its revenue growth queen Carly Fiorina, ended 3000 futures at the vendor.

Ranft says that of the 35 N-Class servers which did revenue accounting for airline customers, about six are still installed and will be sold now that the migration is complete. The final customer relying on Open Skies, rather than the New Skies .NET replacement, switched off the 3000 this year. Open Skies founder Dave Evans wrote an eulogy and history for the software that put HP into the airline business.

Continue reading "MPE's Skies app flies from Open to New" »

iPad emulation shows off app's fine-tuning

TTerm Pro appAn IT director whose 3000 application runs on fine-tuned screens has sparked an upgrade in the iPad terminal emulator TTerm Pro. Jeff Elmer reports that his specially-coded VPlus fields have made the transition to the iPad application. All it took was an enhancement request, he says.

At Dairylea Cooperative, a group of milk producers based in New York State, the company has employed HP 3000s for more than three decades. The application uses the ability to map colors to fields -- a feature of WRQ's Reflection -- to guide users through inquiries, deletes, changes and adds.

Historically we used the enhancement characteristics of the fields in our VPlus screens in conjunction with Reflection’s color configuration to color code our program screens. That is, in “Inquiry” mode the fields were a light purple. In “Add” mode the fields were white. In “Change” mode the fields were yellow. In “Delete” mode the fields were red.

These visual cues were very effective in helping our users know exactly what they were doing to the record without having to think (and we all know that thinking is not popular). However, when it came time to test HP 3000 access via TTerm Pro on company iPads, we quickly discovered that several of those fields were constantly blinking and made an otherwise perfect solution unpopular. 

In fairness to TTerm, of course those fields should be blinking, since the blink attribute was on in the forms file and TTerm doesn’t map to colors in the same way as Reflection. I sent an e-mail to Turbosoft's support asking if anything could be done. They responded quickly.

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Laboring Toward Support of SQL

Here in the US we're celebrating Labor Day. It's a Monday of a three-day weekend for a lot of laborers, although the day has turned into quite the commercial bonanza. It seems everyone wants to sell us mattresses and bedding sets this weekend. Perhaps sleeping season starts anew, with the end of the official summer vacation season.

Orly at ReunionWhile we ponder how much we owe to the historic labor organizations of the 20th Century -- things like national holidays, group benefits for health, the concepts of overtime and regulated reviews -- it's also a day to dig into the records for some 3000 history, too. I was tracking down technical papers for a 3000 consultant, one who'd asked the community to help him find his writing from the 1980s. I happened upon a paper from 25 years ago, offered at an Interex conference by HP's Orly Larson (at left). The genial advocate for databases was promoting the ideal of SQL for data storage and retrieval.

That might sound like advocating the benefits of sunshine or drinking water, but SQL was a long way from being essential to HP's 3000 success. It would take another five years, until 1993, for SQL to make its way into TurboIMAGE database architecture. In the meantime HP offered up three SQL products for 3000 DP managers. It was an era when the HP CISC processors, driving MPE V, were still in production use in the customer base. PA-RISC was laboring through its infancy among customer sites in 1988.

SQL Choices 1988Larson sums up what was on the HP price list in 1988, and notes that Oracle was on the way for a late '88 release for MPE/XL, in a paper hosted on the OpenMPE website. The table (above) from that paper notes the first array of SQL solutions for HP's business computing customers. I've never encountered a 3000 customer who ever reported of using HP SQL. Allbase became a tick-box product for Hewlett-Packard while discussing 3000 options with new prospects. (Tick-box: yeah, we've got that. But nobody orders it.) Those customers who came in looking for SQL support on the 3000 were often convinced that the built-in IMAGE was a better choice, once you considered all the third-party software that was built to use that ubiquitous database.

There has been a lot of labor, across countless platforms, to elevate SQL selection to the equivalent of turning on a spigot for a drink of fresh water. Other technologies that seem new today, and have pending impact on MPE use like cloud computing and virtualization, will experience those years of laboring to become de-facto standards. The labor comes from the integration aspirations of IT managers, working overtime on long weekends like this one, to deploy something lauded but not fully proven. SQL was once a laborer in that state.