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September 30, 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.

What industry experience since Y2K led you to Stromasys, Rich?

Wireless data sales team leadership for ATT. Then for the last eight years, I worked at Insight, a large global reseller. HP was Insight’s largest partner, and they ran the New York market.

North American GM Bill Driest said he considered your May event the rollout for the product. How does your sales organization work?

Our sales model is quite different in each of the worldwide regions. In America we have our direct sales organizations, led by Bill. I come from an enterprise background, where I sold as a global account manager. I’m very proud of the fact that I carried a bag, with the recognition is that you have to drive revenue to the company. It’s something that I take very personally and seriously. 

But with that said, I’m very familiar with the channel model. For example, Insight was a $5 billion dollar company that didn’t engineer a thing, but the intellectual power of our people there was really the value we provided to the market. However, with the experience that I left Digital with, I wanted to get my arms around direct client interface with the larger companies that we want to sell CHARON to.

What can you say about the large prospects you’ve been visiting?

I think they’d rather not have their names used, but one provides tax returns for the financial services industry. They’ve got two of the largest 3000s that were ever built.  They have a production site and a DR site in separate states. They’re very interested in using us as an alternative to their platform given a catastrophic failure in their production environment.

The conversation we had with them was on the basis of risk management. Not competing on refurb system pricing or technical problems. When I asked him what compelled him to assemble his staff for our meeting, he said, “It took us a week to get our production system back up. We can’t afford that given the obligation we have to our clients.” Their application has to be supported until 2035.

The choices were a COBOL converter, a full migration, or our virtualization platform. He said he could not afford to use anything from the old [3000] hardware architecture. Even if he got the most stable box in the world, it was all the peripherals that would be unstable.

That’s one prospect. How about a different industry?

There’s a large insurance claims processing firm. They’ve already put it through the proof of concept and now it’s just a matter of addressing the short term and long term implementation of the CHARON solution. Then there’s a cooperative of farmers who run their billing system through an HP 3000. The business reason they’re looking at us is to get off their older hardware platform, out of the maintenance costs. Our contact there is convinced we’re the right solution, and it’s a matter of getting the budget in place so they can move on it.

There’s also a company that runs Software as a Service for the financial services industry. On their own, they’ve used the freeware version of our product, and they’re convinced that it’s the right move for them to make. Again, it’s sold on a business-level conversation. It’s refreshing to take our sales strategy to this level, which I believe will shorten our sales cycle and drive an earlier adoption.

09:50 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 27, 2013

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 (www.hpmuseum.net). 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.

HP's entrance into the 1980s PC marketplace was based not on MS-DOS, but CPM. The rival OS had been popular until Microsoft rolled out MS-DOS, but CPM and the computers that relied upon it just could not compete for the attention of software developers. HP did its best to include some name-brand software with the Touchscreen. The $3,995 computer was introduced in 1983 and advertised in the same era as Apple's new Macintosh and the Compaq luggables. The latter was a 35-pound system touted as a portable, while the former was designed with a handle molded into its back.

Touchscreen editingLike the Mac, the Touchscreen had a nine-inch screen. Its interface was often driven by softkeys across the bottom of that screen, an echo of the HP 3000 terminal interface. A Touchscreen could be hooked up as a terminal only, never seeking external storage. The Computer Museum's entry says that HP dreamed of nabbing more than 20 percent of the PC market, selling a computer that was $1,000 more than IBM's PC, or the Compaq systems which sold for even less.

Touching a computer's screen as an interface was way ahead of the computing times of 1984. A video from the Computer Chronicles TV show of that year shows how HP was using touchscreens to mimic the behavior of a Rolodex.

The 20 percent of the PC market became so elusive so quickly that HP seemed to drop its marketing after just a few months. There were TV ads, some of the only advertising HP ever purchased for broadcast until more than 15 years later, again for its PC products. "Even though Hewlett-Packard technology has produced a number of firsts, some of you still don't know who we are," said one ad. "Maybe now, you will." A caterpillar becomes a butterfly in the ad. HP's innovation with interfaces was not as important as its connections with the software ecosystem. Lotus 1-2-3, dBase II for databases, VisiCalc for spreadsheets and WordStar for word processing were there at introduction. It wasn't enough.

Handshake cartoonWhy is the HP Touchscreen an important part of the HP 3000's history? HP advertised the computer as "fully compatible with the big HP 3000 computers." It might be the only time the 3000 ever made its way into the consciousness of a consumer audience. But this was a Hewlett-Packard that was certain it could trade on its reputation from the business marketplace -- where the 3000 was its only success -- while introducing what everybody was calling a "personal computer."

"The Touchscreen Personal Computer is a Hewlett-Packard product. This, after all, could be the most important thing you need to know about it," one ad in Forbes read. "Is your office operating at a crawl, when it could be flying?"

11:18 AM in History | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 26, 2013

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

Those familiar with “real” HP terminals will feel right at home. Since I use an external Bluetooth keyboard, I closed the on-screen keyboard to let the terminal screen have more space (as shown below)

TTerm Pro review Fig 3



Block mode works as expected, as shown in the iPad screen shot just below.

BlockModeTTerm ProTTerm supports both Telnet and SSH, but since there is no SSH server for HP3000, TTerm cannot speak SSH to MPE directly. However, TTerm can tunnel a Telnet session through SSH — so I set up a tunnel through my home router, and then ran TTerm’s telnet connection through the SSH tunnel. With this setup, I can access my CHARON MPE system securely from my iPad, anywhere with internet access.

Overall, I didn’t encounter any problems in TTerm configuration. It’s pretty straightforward; there are a fair number of tweakable options in there if I needed them, but the default settings seemed to work fine. I missed the tunneling configuration in the version that I reviewed, at first. The only suggestion I have for the developer would be that there should be a more-obvious option to tunnel telnet through SSH.  

Jordan Foneska of Turbosoft replied in a note from me, “It may be that we need to look at our user interface and find a more logical, obvious home for the SSH tunneling settings. At present the user is required to select Telnet and edit the security settings section to enable communications with either SSL or SSH.”

In my test drive, TTerm appears to do exactly what it’s designed to do. It has a clean user interface, and performs well. In my limited testing, there were no crashes or unexpected errors. I would recommend TTerm for anyone who needs to use an iPad to talk to an MPE system.

Jon Diercks consults on HP 3000 projects and is the author of the only book about MPE/iX management, The MPE/iX Administration Handbook (available in online versions at the Safari bookstore.) Diercks can be contacted at [email protected].

07:45 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 25, 2013

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.

In the webinar, CEO Birket Foster and his team will discuss.

  1. What is Big Data?
  2. How might you use it?
  3. What do you need to do to organize it?

The subject has potential for employment opportunity. One IBM analysis reveals that every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and almost 90 percent of the total data in the world has been created just in the last two years. Within five years, the US could be at a 140,000-worker shortage for Big Data IT workers. The expertise is driven into four buckets of skillsets: Data scientist, data architect, data visualizer and data change agent.

According to a Computerworld roundup of the skills among those buckets, it seems that data architect -- the kind of expertise that Foster's software has enabled ever since the earliest days of its DataExpress -- falls closest to 3000-built experience.

Data architects: Programmers who are good at working with messy data, disparate types of data, undefined data and lots of ambiguity. They may be people with traditional programming or business intelligence backgrounds, and are often familiar with statistics programs. They need the creativity and persistence to be able to harness the data in new ways to create new insights.

05:19 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 24, 2013

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.

Doc Elliott is examing me after the cut on the head had already closed up, checking for the effects of a concussion. Has me close my eyes, hold out my arms. Hold up one leg with eyes closed. Taps each knee for a reflex check. Then he turns out the lights and flips on his GP's light, the otoscope.

"Here's where you get the $75 MRI," he says with a chuckle. He tests my tracking of the light amid the dark of the room. "People order all these tests like an MRI because they don't know how to do an exam."

And he says it in a way that triggers relief. There won't be a $500 MRI in my future. There won't be an appointment with "one of the few doctors in Austin that treats concussions," as the chiropractic trigger point fellow suggested. Abby and I giggle on the way back. A doctor who specializes in concussions. The Concussion Doctor? Maybe a chain, or a trade-name?

The cut's taken care of itself, healed over without stitches up on the crown of my head. The exam costs that $75 and I feel better. Not that I'm healed just yet, but I'm under the influence of someone with experience enough that I trust in the healing.

We know of people like this in your community, pros who work for support companies who charge the equivalent of the $75 MRI. Look at your blog pages here and spot the ads where there's support in the name, or a full service shop like Pivital. HP 3000 owners are, for the most part, the equivalent of a middle-50s, kinda-jocks like me. Lucky, up to now, not to need service for a system injury. It happens to everybody, though, if you push that old system hard enough for long enough. That makes a relationship with a simple healer an essential, if you want to sustain your HP 3000 service.

05:44 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 23, 2013

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?

Ah, but it's so much simpler, more sweeping to say that since HP's turnaround message is consistent, it's a conversation, instead of noise. Buik shared that view on the user group's website

Of course news about HP, its customers and partners are of special interest to me, because it may or may not be something that impacts our members... noise or conversation?

Recently, I read that the Dow dropped HP and replaced it with financial giant, Visa. While it was newsworthy, I put it in the noise bucket. HP’s Meg Whitman is very focused on her plan to turn the company around and back into the world’s leader of enterprise technology and innovation. Now THAT is a conversation! Adding to that conversation is the notion of ONE HP. I’ve heard this a lot over the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing the monolith come together and sell to customers in a unified, efficient and strategic manner. Otherwise ONE HP  becomes noise. After all, there is only ONE HP!

There are many HPs. Some of them require a lot of overhead and generate a thick forest of partners, but scant profits. Another HP is focused on changes in IT shops -- HP works to earn profits as a provider of change services. Then there's the HP that created enterprise servers in focused markets. It's become a very small HP. Some of those markets have fallen from HP's turnaround plan. Others will follow. You don't turn things around by doing the same things, unless those things are profitable and offer growth.

What’s more important is the fact that the first 18 months at the helm, her focused message about who HP is its financial strength, its core focus areas, mutual trust, and the value of the enterprise ecosystem, consistent and crystal clear. Now that’s a conversation.

Those are only conversations when a vendor is responsive to your business needs, flexible about cost of ownership and capital expense, and ready to sustain value in a customer's investment. You'll read about stakeholders sitting with IT and talking about what to buy or build to grow a business. That's important, but those are also talks in private. A user group can do good work when it encourages members to share the best practices from such talks.

Failing that opportunity, you hope to get smarter by finding new information about such practices elsewhere. You'd like the practices to be sized for your organization, too. HP is still in the business of telling the world about its biggest deals, as if it that makes them a better vendor for any size of customer. Sometimes there's news about technology coming from the vendor's marketing group. Just listen to HP's news.

"HP today unveiled a suite of stylish consumer PCs, tablets and services including the world’s first notebook PC with integrated Leap Motion technology." Now, LeapMotion is a gesture-driven technology that's a candidate for replacing some trackpad functions. Noise or news? As always, it depends on whatever's important to the business units which you serve as an IT pro.

You can decide if part of your IT planning includes your vendor's business reports. If you'd like to hear what HP says in specific about its business plans, anyone can access a webpage to listen every 90 days to CEO Meg Whitman. She answers questions, live. It's recorded for later listening, too. It's the only regular conversation you'll hear from HP's leader. It happens because business analysts demand answers, because they want to process and parse new developments. And Whitman's recent answers have included notes about how its Unix servers have stopped being a growth business. The whole BCS unit has stopped growing.

The last time HP took notice of a server business and its growth forecasts, it was the 3000's. This summer the OpenVMS departure clock began to tick. If HP's among your preferred vendors, don't kid yourself. Business matters take a front seat in your vendor's plans. People don't make decisions about IT based entirely on a turnaround CEO's message, no matter how consistent. People using HP servers were once called programmer analysts. They might not program much any more, but they still need to analyze. You need information that's current to do that. A consistent message is important to a turnaround mantra, but probably doesn't keep pace with change.


09:45 AM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2013

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?)

"It's around 36 years since I went to my first HP 3000 meeting at the London School of Economics in Regents park," Wiseman said in his opening salvo for this year's event. "That trade show was two piles of duplicated (yes folks, pre-photocopier) sheets of paper on the LARC editor and SCRIBE formatter."

So how about a European trade show again folks? As far as I recall, the fact that there aren't many users won't make a lot of difference. The truth was we never saw that many at our shows anyway. I recall spending most of my time talking amongst ourselves anyway, and I just thought that it was about time we had a reunion. My list of our old compatriots is woefully thin, but I'm happy to co-ordinate a venue.

PS. No need top bring your stands or literature!

02:53 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2013

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.

Off the shelf apps arrive with their own architecture, usually one that a database manager didn't establish. That's often a non-issue for a classic 3000 shop; most of those companies rolled their own apps. But it becomes an issue when an app on a new platform, cloud or onsite, must replace customized 3000 code. Migrating companies usually end up with something off the shelf.

Foster mentioned that the databases his company is studying for its customers "are just getting retrofitted for geo-location, because it turns out if you put pin-pricks on a map, aligned to data, you can get a whole diferent picture of what's going on." Where a model of car was purchased, or mapping addresses of your patients who have had hip replacements, for example. Marketing benefits from such new data alignments.

Such retrofitting must wade into existing data structures. A data manager might benefit from having professional services to understand and control how these retrofits can be integrated.

The biggest thing in the process is "to figure out where data is held, edited, and where it's searched from," Foster said. He added that his company does an X-ray to show where data is used in apps, or what reports get fed by that data. The main message is to start with a team of people across the effort who can work together "to drive the quality of the data, to make sure it's represented across your enterprise in the same way," said Foster's Account Manager Chris Whitehead.

In addition to being parts of Master Data Management, data cleansing, completion and updating are subjects of a Gartner Group study of Customer Data Integration. List consolidation, purging of duplicates, merging records: this is the work of CDI. Adding new information to existing data -- like the legacy and founding databases at 3000 sites who're on the way to a new platform -- makes it more useful to a company.

Gartner's study denotes six levels of awareness of Master Data Management

  • 1. Initial awareness of the problem, but no specifics
  • 2. Developing -- firefighting mode, isolated
  • 3. Defined -- Silo-level initiatives
  • 4. Managed -- higher-level organizational sponsor, unified version of data
  • 5. Optimizing -- a defined process, managing your data as an asset
  • 6. A continuous learning process

"The thing that's changed about this over the years is that it's not only about the data that might show up in something like a retailer's cash register tape," Foster said. "Now it can be data that also shows up on your website, or a description in a brochure. Or there might be instructions to a customer on how to assemble a purchased product, like something from IKEA."

It's all master data that an IT director needs to be able to be aware of, in order to use it well. Once you've figured out where all the data is, and the workflows in your organization which use that data, then you can to creating One Version of the Truth for the data. This is Master Data Management. "You make sure that if data gets changed in one spot, it gets changed in all the others," Foster said. "How are the fields defined, and who sets those rules? Are they enforced by the programs?"

This really about helping your business, he added. "You have to put stewards in place, with good governance and good policies behind the effort in order to make yourself successful." Creating a plan for Master Data Management means consistent practices, uses a boardroom walk through for buy-in, and can drill in to look at data. The plan must be kept current over time, remembering all stakeholders. "Transparency in the plan can help with a data-driven company," Foster said. "There might be five different places where customer data is kept, and you need to track all of them. Without MDM, it makes it trickier. You have to put in some kind of mechanism in your organization to get there."

06:38 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 18, 2013

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: openmpe.org. 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.

More than 11 and a half years has elapsed since a single volunteer, Jon Backus, met with HP's Dave Wilde over breakfast about OpenMPE. Just like the OpenVMS customers of today, 3000 users wanted to gain access to the OS source code. Open source was white-hot in 2002, with Linux swelling in popularity. Taking technology built inside a vendor and making it open seemed possible -- and just like in the VMS world, maybe a way to ensure MPE could be sustained.

Roll forward to 2008, and those six-plus years have seen HP close its MPE labs and end the CDA talks with the OpenMPE volunteers. Then-chairman Birket Foster believes there's still a chance to advocate at HP, in talks with what MPE interests remain at the Support organization. HP Support has no desire to talk with anybody but support customers, and certainly not on the record.

But one stray probe of the OpenMPE satellite remained on course: a way to license MPE for support use. The licenses don't get issued until 2010, and OpenMPE is the last company to receive its source license. Source is an asset to a support company solving problems, but it also looks meddlesome to other companies. Modifying MPE might create extra development work for anyone who sells MPE software. Customers might use workarounds that would force a vendor to support multiple versions of a utility or application.

It's a long shot, but it was possible. Nobody knew if source could have that impact. OpenMPE was the only license recipient without clients or customers. A source code license was near the top of the group's desires for its final three years of talk with HP. By that time Interex was out of business and Encompass and Connect had no link to such 3000 advocacy.

There was an election of OpenMPE board members once a year, without little opposition by the end. Volunteer work for customers using a computer cut off by the vendor -- well, that's a hard assignment. Move on, people said. Be a real company and get customers, others urged. Some said people wouldn't really be using MPE and the 3000 that much longer anyway.

In 2007 Wadsworth was asking, while running for the OpenMPE board, if any more 3000 use was even reasonable.

At this stage in the game, what is homesteading? Do you really think anyone will stay in production on the 3000 for many years to come? Stay status quo? Do you really think there are users that have given no consideration to a migration plan? Does it not make sense that everyone on the 3000 today is in some form of a migration status?

I defined homesteading because I invented the term, sitting in a London Internet cafe on the night after HP made its announcement. I wanted those who could stay on the server to understand they were more than luddites, avoiding new technology. Without the vendor's future support, they'd be on their own many times. Dugout houses on the winter prairies came to mind. Anybody who didn't already run 3000 apps on Unix or Windows or Linux could be a homesteader.

As for "many years to come," I didn't know that I'd still be writing about MPE in 2013, or reporting on a company that is saving the OS from the fate of running only on aging HP gear. The CHARON virtualized server may be stop-gap at these companies. Others have no plans to shift anything, in spite of what experienced vendors are advising.

It all looked suspicious to Wadsworth in 2007, in the months before he took his first run at joining the volunteer board. "There are real questions about what and who is OpenMPE -- and what are their real intentions. And why have HP representatives attended closed executive sessions?" he wrote to me.

By 2010, Wadsworth had made it onto the board and started to ask other questions. OpenMPE had to prove itself as a business, he told me, or it should disband. The group had been granted a license for MPE source, but it had little else as an asset. It also didn't have staff to use that asset -- or more accurately, developers who'd polish it toward productive use among 3000 customers. That source was like a drill press without any metal stock on hand to shape, or even an operator. Staff time was always an issue.

As I wrote in my reply to Wadsworth's comments, all those assets had landed in the offices of Perdue, and that was unfortunate. That's a single point of control. A dispute over using servers escalated in the face of questions from Wadsworth like, "Where are our assets and revenues, and what are they? How come we don't have accurate corporate records? What's our business plan? Shouldn't we have insurance for us board members?" Interesting questions for a group of volunteers who'd had plenty of impact on expanding HP's end-game for the 3000. The changes of HP's end-game could elude the vision of customers. Just like asking why HP was attending closed executive sessions. Because the vendor insisted the sessions be CDA-covered. OpenMPE had no leverage to say no. The discussions would be over.

OpenMPE's impact was back in the days when HP would hold conference calls. Those ended in 2008. About two elections later, the lawsuit and demands began. 28 people have served on the OpenMPE board. Of the final three to volunteer, Wadsworth was the only one to ask the board to consider if OpenMPE should even exist. His questions of 2007 about the group's motives finally had a place to be asked.

In our hindsight from 2013, we know that HP was going to cling to its MPE intellectual property even while it ended its business plans for the 3000. Just like the OpenVMS users are saying this month, there was a chance it would end otherwise. Sharing code with cut-off customers. Stoking good will, instead of believing 75 percent of 3000 sites would choose Unix servers. OpenMPE didn't get what it wanted in 2002. But it had a good reason to exist while HP would talk to it, whatever the conditions. Hewlett-Packard didn't want to continue that dialog, once its 3000 labs closed down.

A group that finds a director suing it is well, unprecedented in your community's history. Just like HP held on to an MPE it could no longer use, Perdue is retaining his use of openmpe.org. I studied tens of thousands of words of battle between a board and a member who would resign after he filed his suit. Legal stories are complex and filled with chances to misunderstand intentions. This was no different. The resolution of the lawsuit was just as much under wraps, with Wadsworth's participation, as any conference call HP held with the boards before he arrived.

In 2010 that lawsuit was filed naming Wadsworth and another board member as individuals, as well as the OpenMPE board as a whole. A Dec. 20 email from Wadsworth to the board outlining the situation: "It seems we all are being sued by Perdue. Myself and Jack as individuals, and the Board as a whole."

So at least I've got the portion correct where Perdue files suit against Wadsworth, He did so at the same time Perdue named the board as defendants. In another email from Wadsworth, he reasons, "Perdue singled out the two new guys [on the board] for ego purpose."

By the finale of the suit, I was told by Keith that "It is public record that Wadsworth/OpenMPE have a claim for moneys taken and the standard attorney costs." He's right about one thing. I can see now how that OpenMPE claim did not arise out of a countersuit. (My paper records are archived pretty deeply on this subject but I've researched what I've got stored online.)

About the lawsuit's hearing -- a two-hour trip each way by car to a courtroom that isn't near my office, unless you compare it to a trip to California -- it was postponed twice. On May 10 there finally was a meeting to decide if the matter was going forward to trial, or would be settled. I didn't take a full day to travel to the court and attend that hearing -- which it now seems tilted the matter toward a settlement. The resolution was not crafted out in the open.

The lesson in all of these words might be simple but useless: there's no understanding some people. Or it might be trite, like, "no good deed goes unpunished," or "of fledgling aspirations come mighty deeds." We've learned one thing about MPE, though: nearly 12 years after HP said it had no more future or utility, the environment still triggers business transactions, as well as painful memories of any volunteer's attempt to make it pay its way into the future.

08:09 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2013

OpenMPE.org domain remains redacted

A milestone recently passed for the web domain name openmpe.org. 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, openmpe.org 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 openmpe.com 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 openmpe.org domain was up for renewal. Brian Edminster, who's got his own .org website (www.mpe-opensource.org) 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.

It's not as if the domain is worth anything, like some addresses are. There's a market to bid on such things that are already owned, even estimates of what a domain might be worth. The renewal of the openmpe.org ownership represents a point that's still being made, apparently. Edminster reports

I had a reminder on my calendar to check today:

Do WHOIS lookup on OPENMPE.ORG to see if Matt's renewed the domain registration

        if not - get it to turn back over to OpenMPE.

Looks like on Sept. 8 Matt renewed it for another year. I know it's cheap to do — but is he that petty, or do you think he has more grandiose plans? I've been around long enough to know better, but I guess there's just no understanding some people.

I've written before about the stasis that has set in surrounding OpenMPE, a group that was very important during the years HP was willing to discuss its own end-game for exiting that marketplace. Grandiose plans don't seem to be in line with a volunteer organization no longer having meetings, or elections, or regular contact with HP. Everything has its time and place, and great service was done on behalf of the customers.

Near the end, a conflict arose over the scope of change MPE source code licenses could trigger. Nothing could be done to impede the plans of the seven corporations that bought a license. But a dust-up arose over the OpenMPE ownership, as well as legal conflicts between Perdue and Wadsworth. The standoff helped bring the group to a standstill. And renewing a domain looks like it's not time for an end to the hard feelings about the future of software: MPE.

10:38 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (9)

September 16, 2013

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.


Hawkins took the time to answer the question with some theoretical possibilities.

Might you be able to pull/push a drive where you've closed the volume?  Likely it would work, but there may be all kinds of noise and stress on the SCSI bus which may not be well handled. However, I think each disk is on its own HBA channel which isn't shared with anything else, and so unlikely to abort someone else's IO.  

This takes us to the last issue: mechanical wear.  

These connectors were likely intended for more or less permanent mating of two components. Very likely they have a limited number of cycles that they are specified to hold-up. I've seen connectors that are specified for fewer than 25 cycles before you lose gold contact material.   This is okay for normal HDD where one might replace one or two per slot in a system lifetime, but not sufficient if you're doing nightly back-ups and swaps.  Connectors, where there is an expectation of a high number of pull/replace cycles, have special designs.  

Now a little good news here is that the N-Class was still pretty much old-school HP design, so likely they didn't pick up something cheap that saved them .2 cents per unit on gold plating. No idea though if the HDD connector is a 10-, 100-, 1000-cycle part. Your system, your risk. 

Mark Ranft, who posed the pluggable question, pointed out that the HP design choices for 3000s seemed to make the servers and their components good candidates for exceptional wear.

It is especially helpful to understand the concept of mechanical wear on the connectors. HP always had excellent and innovative hardware engineering on their HP 3000 (and HP-UX) servers. Remember, you can drop them off a building and still self-test them

I've been doing some digging and I found the following link to the HP-UX forum.  The Unix N-Class appears to allow hot-pluggable drives.   

The actual power supply and the fans are in the front of the N-Class.  The power receptacles in the back have internal cords that lead to the front.

11:29 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 13, 2013

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.

MPE has been that constant observer of the family of applications, making a company buzz like grandparents in a summertime pool, both of us catching a boy who leaps into their arms. That boy was Nick, two decades ago. Now it’s his son we catch. The act of catching, cradling accomplishments over decades — that’s the soul of a family.

It’s tempting to believe that the richness in that accomplishment is something you’d retain while changing a computing personality. Like gifts of wiring database-handling into filesystem commands — an old soul trait in computing — might be enjoyed with less-integrated choices. I believe the 3000’s soul is important, just like I believe its hardware is the personality and body that changes all the time. People cherish MPE servers. Being cherished means going beyond reason to revere all that brought you together.

The sun poured through the many windows at Nick’s new house this afternoon as we built a dining room table and chairs, then hung an IKEA silver-framed mirror on the wall alongside that table. Outside, there was a screech owl house tacked up on the big oak, a tree nestled in a patch of jasmine. All so different than his box of an apartment where I helped him move a futon up three flights as a young man.

A family makes a home, while an address just makes a house. MPE made a 3000, while hardware makes a computer.

I was missing my own house before too long tonight, but I was really missing the soul makes it my home — my wife Abby, the G’ma to go with my own role as G’pa. A user who chooses an emulator seeks a virtual home to cherish their very real, very unbreakable MPE soul.

The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that’s something you cannot virtualize like you change hardware personality. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software like MPE that becomes Real. The Skin Horse said about the soul of that becoming Real, “it takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

12:45 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2013

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.

Over the past year we're learning that it’s not HP’s hardware that created that old soul. It’s MPE, the one constant over 40 years of models, revisions, changes to the hardware. HP called it MPE V when I began this chronicle of coverage, 29 years ago. Then it became MPE/XL, then MPE/iX. But it’s always had IMAGE and MPE at its heart. These are the elements that make up the awareness which is the 3000’s soul.

If it’s possible to connect with that soul, we do it by listening to the sound of our spirit. Was it really so different to back a van down Nick’s new driveway, my Caravan loaded up with his boxes, than when he was 19 and moving into his first apartment? Was it so different to help him help himself this time, with a wife and two small boys back at his old house, packing up to follow him a short drive away?

I felt the same spirit in me as I did 19 summers ago, leading him along on a nine-state baseball tour, doing all I could to kindle my hope that he was happy. It was the final summer before the NewsWire started to tell the stories of 3000 users, tracing the outlines of MPE's soul. This summer, helping Nick, it was easier to see his happiness. I heard a voice within me, observing the happiness on his face. It was the look of accomplishment I probably saw. His, and maybe mine, too.

The community of 3000 users already has accomplished so much. Nearly all of them have worked with MPE for more than 20 years. No matter what else they choose next in their career, it’s MPE that remains in their soul.

05:41 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 11, 2013

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.

Unix came in for specific mention in HP's annual report of 1997, as did Windows NT and a splash about running Barnes & Noble's website with HP gear. (Amazon, still not making a profit, was driven by Linux and Sun systems.) But while the HP of that year pointed to its commodity-grade environments during an era when an OS meant as much as application availability, the HP 3000's future was painted in bright shades at an HP World conference on a steamy Navy Pier in Chicago.

"The growth of the HP 3000 is secure well into the 21st century," Sterling said. "Our engineers are working on a new generation of HP 3000s based on the 64-bit PA-8200 chip." HP said that a new 200MHz, 8200-based system would arrive in the lineup first as a midrange system.

More importantly, HP said it re-evaluated its 1996 decision to wait on delivering a 64-bit implementation of MPE/iX. The new MPE version will "fully exploit the power of the PA-8000 processors. After better understanding your needs, our completed investigations have convinced me that we need to move forward on this front," Sterling said.

HP stalled on its 64-bit MPE/iX program in the years that followed, delivering its final roadmap with a 3000 future on it during an HP World conference in Chicago again, four years later.

Visa International is replacing HP in the Dow Average, the Index Committee reports. Also joining the 30 companies in the average: Nike and Goldman Sachs. The index is designed to represent a broad spectrum of businesses and has included former companies such as ATT and GM. The biggest shift in its membership since the HP removal came in 2004, when "Too Big to Fail" AIG, Pfizer and Verizon replaced ATT, Kodak and International Paper. AIG was dropped in 2008.

Computing firms in the Dow are now represented by IBM, Microsoft and Intel. The latter two vendors joined the average just two years after HP arrived.

08:44 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 10, 2013

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.

"Apart from the PDC," Boers added, "there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions." In other words, booting is a very early success. Simulating the processes of the HP 3000 via software -- even at an unstable state -- is a good start, but it's a great distance away from being able to replicate 3000-grade performance. Even Stromasys is working on getting versions of CHARON that can match N-Class top-end systems.

Głowacz said during the past week that "for now, we're working with the HPSUSAN number taken from the rp7400 we own (it's stored in our PDC/NVRAM)." That's a PA-RISC system built for HP-UX, not MPE -- and so missing the essential PDC requirement. "I'm just not sure if it'd be enough when we'll test third-party software," Głowacz said. "As for our costs [to build this], it's a 100 percent free-time project, so we're working in our spare time. That's why it took so long to bring our simulator to the current state."

Głowacz hasn't said how long his volunteers have been working on their simulator. But Boers said this kind of work just underscores the ideal that virtualization is the future for legacy environments like MPE.

I appreciate people who try to simulate legacy systems. I believe it is the only way in the future to capture the knowledge embedded in business critical legacy applications, instead of ripping everything up and repeating the mistakes of the past in a new build. Piotr might get more appreciation if he would build an HP 9000 out of it that can run HP-UX. That is somewhat simpler, as it does not have the obstacle of an embedded licensing mechanism. Before we implemented the HP 3000 PDC, we effectively had virtualized an HP 9000, running Linux.

The open source goal "for now is to have 6.5 MPE/iX up and running for at least a week," Głowacz wrote today. "After the base system beta testing, we'd like to go for a more complex verification -- IMAGE maybe?"

03:50 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2013

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.

In 18 years of collecting and curating customer names, this one from New York escaped us. But then so did Turbosoft, the Australian firm that started to market its $49.95 iPad app up on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. A rollout, on a localized website.

The Web provides ways to change the formula for information industries. Some companies never climb on the back of this tiger, while others work to make their paper versions look and behave just like print. Three years ago a company called Zinio was ready to take advantage of the juggernaut of tablets launched by the iPad. Right out of the box at the tablet's debut. This summer they’ve got scores of magazines online, readable through an app, or displayed in glorious 27-inch color on a desktop screen.

I read Esquire and love the online version — which I pay for— better than the print. I still keep print copies around for reference, but they’re not easy to dig into. There’s that index and searching thing that’s tough to offer on paper.

The same sort of quantum leap beckons from the edge of the cloud revolution. We’ve heard of a project to offer proof of concept installations for the Stromasys emulator — that’s the tested emulator, proven at sites and fully licensed for MPE — via the cloud. A company called Datapipe is working with Stromasys to offer these proofs. Some 3000 customers don’t want the hardware in their shop anymore. Just MPE, IMAGE and a proven set of applications.

The Web takes away old-school habits whenever it can improve, and then prove. What will never go away is our need for stories. How we deliver them can always evolve.

03:30 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 06, 2013

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.

So perhaps HP was hoping against hope they'd get a balloon-full of orders, or something to lift revenue growth. Mind you, the year's sales that led up to the 2001 meeting were plenty encouraging and on the rise -- this despite having nothing to sell but a behind-schedule refresh of the 3000 lineup. The refresh yielded A-Class and N-Class servers, but shipping only at mid-2001. Yeah, right around that crucial summer.

Y2K had held the customer base in place. Something shipping right away as an upgrade, a computer which used a more modern PCI bus and had a nice performance boost -- well, it might have netted sales to satisfy the "it's growing or it's going" execs inside HP. I leave it an exercise to the reader to remember which HP manager was driving 3000 R&D when N-Class systems were being developed. (Hint: I've mentioned the name more than once already.)

As I said, it's conjecture until someone who was inside those planning meetings, responding to CEO-level directives, opens up. I will probably live to see the tale told. But I'm only 56, and it's only been 12 years this summer since those meetings. 

Some vendors believe that a shift away from HP-crafted environments could be regarded as inevitable. Considering how the rest of the OS-centric HP enterprise business has fared since then, it's possible that for Hewlett-Packard, the company's misreading of 3000 durability was the only thing that made MPE the canary in HP's mineshaft of enterprise server business.

[Ref: Canary in the mineshaft: a caged bird carried down to warn miners of a leak of dangerous gas. If the bird keeled over, the miners left the tunnels immediately. Gas = new go-go growth demands from HP business. See: Merger with Compaq.]

Some of the veterans in our community believe that those 3000 futures decisions were being made on the basis of personal growth. Career growth, that is. Rather than keep the faith in futures of the 3000, some were giving their HP career more priority. Alas, at last count, HP has released-retired-fired more than 80,000 employees since that summer. So much for making HP careerism a priority.

The veterans acknowledge there's no graceful way to pre-announce that a product is going away. Many people got 30 days' warning, pre-November. I don't know about SEC regulations, but the 3000 business was never called out in any quarterlies. You could hardly find the Business Critical Systems numbers in statements circa 2001. There was a lot less public information, and certainly no webcast analyst presentations, as there are today.

Internally to HP, CSY was a line of business. I am imagining that the public trading rules regarding reports are executed this way: SEC regulations would not be disturbed if HP said something different in Chicago, 2001 besides, "the future looks great." It's been HP's habit, however, to say everything's great in public, until they make an announcement like the one in Las Vegas this June about OpenVMS.

The difference: HP had the stones to talk about OpenVMS going away during its annual conference this year. And now, during this month that's just begun, HP will face the music from the installed base at VMS Boot Camp. I recall the timing with the 3000 was quite different. First, announce the 3000 shutdown just before a big holiday period, when IT budgets for 2002 were already set. Then, not face a big customer conference for another 10 months. HP World LA was rowdy, but by then the customers had time to cool off. Nobody was migrating, however. Not in September of 2002.

03:12 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 05, 2013

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.

In 2004, Roberts was responding to a letter from HP that said the vendor might authorize its resellers or third parties to change HP 9000s’ personalities, or do the changes itself, to allow MPE/iX to boot on refurbished HP 9000s.

“I have renewed hope that if MPE is extended into the future, it might include support of the Basic 3000 language,” Roberts said at the time. "I still have clients running on my system and I support them. I would have many more clients if I had suspected that the HP 3000 would last this long and longer. I am anxious to hear if the future will be extended, and for how long."

Nine years later, the system's stubborn durability has provided hope for a new future for the ADI software. His customers haven't let the application die off, Roberts said. 

"After several years of watching The 3000 NewsWire, it would appear that the HP 3000 also refuses to die. "So I have begun another approach to selling my Wholesale and Retail system, and that is renting it over the cloud."

"It still runs on the HP 3000, but no client would ever be aware of that, or care."

01:33 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 04, 2013

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.

"We were successful because of the rock-solid nature of HP 3000 and IMAGE," Evans said, "and we competed with the legacy mainframes. But we are set to retire our HP 3000 Airline/Rail reservation system Open Skies after 19 years of faithful service."

Over these years it has been responsible for the efficient handling of over 1.5 Billion passengers. I'm sure many of you have flown carriers that have used the Open Skies system over those years -- more than 60 airlines around the world have used Open Skies. Here is a brief history:

  1986 - Morris Air Charters (in Salt Lake City) converted a basic Tour Operator/Charter booking system from our Zicomp minicomputer to a HP 3000 Series 42

  1992/1993 - I wrote MARS (Morris Air Reservation System) on the HP 3000. MARS was the first true Ticketless airline reservation system. Remember when you had to have tickets to fly?

  1994 - Morris Air merged into Southwest Airlines. MARS became the base of Southwest Airlines Ticketless system for over 10 years.

  1994 - Open Skies company was founded -- Open Skies was the next generation of ticketless systems written on the HP 3000.

  1995/1997 - With the help of Adager we convinced Southwest Airlines (SWA) that the HP 3000 and IMAGE could support them better than a mainframe, and we commenced a project to write a reservation system for Southwest. That project actually went very well -- we also enlisted the help of Quest's Netbase to get the scale and reliability we needed. Unfortunately, Y2K panic popped up its ugly head, and the current SWA reservation system vendor pushed SWA to invest a lot of money to ensure that their system would work in Y2K.  Eventually, for many reasons, SWA decided to invest in the current system and shut down the project.

  1998 - Open Skies company WAS sold to Hewlett-Packard Company and became one of the launch "Software as a Service" products for HP.

  2000 - Apparently Hewlett-Packard didn't want to do Software as a Service anymore, at least with the airlines. They focused on the more profitable printers, PCs, Servers, and we all know where that got them. Thanks, Carly. She sold us to Navitaire/Accenture in November 2000.

  2002 - After HP announced the end of HP 3000, we began a project to rewrite Open Skies on newer technology -- we chose Microsoft .Net. and MS SQL for the database for "New Skies".

  2005 - New Skies was launched, first front to back new technology Airline (and bus and rail) Passenger Service System. Major competitors are Amadeus and Sabre, both still rely on Mainframes.

  2005 - 2013 ... New Skies has now booked around 1.6 Billion passengers for over 50 Airlines in 30 countries.

  Fall of 2013 - last Open Skies customer will move to New Skies.  Going to be a sad day...

  We owe the success of Open Skies really to many people, many of you in this [community]. We have had our struggles over the years, but this community has always been there to help us.

  Our systems are mission-critical, 24x7x365.25 in nature. We have seen many competitors come and go over the years -- their downfall was usually caused by a lack of operational stability and performance scalability. It was easy to pick off all the guys in the '90s that architected their systems on 'open systems,' Unix, and relational databases.

  Again, thanks to all who have pushed the HP 3000 forward over the years.  Open Skies will probably not make the history books, especially in relation to the HP 3000, but together they did change history for the traveling masses.

03:38 PM in History, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2013

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.

Color-coding fields is a classic HP 3000 nuance, one that permits data entry workers to keep pace with the efficiency and speed of the HP 3000. Elmer's story reminds me of a report from the IT manager for the Oakland A's baseball team. When asked in the 1990s if his staff was ready to switch to a Windows-based interface instead of traditional VPlus forms, he said, "If I did switch them, they'd have me hanging from the flagpole in centerfield." User practices -- okay, habits -- have a way of producing efficiency. If the iPads at the Cooperative were going to replace some terminals, they'd have to stop blinking, even if the colors won't map across.

"Clearly Turbosoft understands customer service," Elmer reports. "They told me how to capture the information they needed to investigate further, and in short order rolled out a new version to the App Store with an On/Off control for blinking. They followed up with me immediately to see if the change met our needs. The screens are now perfectly readable with no 'end-user annoying' blink."

The $49.95 app is working to capture other 3000 specifics, too.

A very nice feature of TTerm Pro is HotSpots. This enabled us to put a softkey on-screen for the enter key and allowed us to set up automatic logins for specific users. The “enter key” looks like a function key label in the bottom center of the screen (between the other function keys) and the automatic login is an on-screen button labeled “Login” which appears instead of the MPE i/X prompt. Touch it and you log in. For our application on an iPad, this is probably as close to perfect as we’re going to get. 

04:27 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 02, 2013

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.

03:54 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)