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October 2013

Looking Forward from a Peaceful Wake


Ten years ago today, scores of HP 3000 users, managers, vendors and devotees gathered in pubs, cafes, back yards and offices to celebrate the end of something: HP's finale to creating new HP 3000 servers.

On our separate photo gallery page, we've collected some images of that day. But the people in those pictures were holding a wake for Hewlett-Packard's 3000s (and a few for MPE/iX). Even today, it's hard to make a case that the server actually died on Halloween of 2003. What ended was the belief that HP would build any more 3000s. 

I cheated deathThe gatherings ranged from "The Ship" in Wokingham in the UK, to Vernazza, Italy, to Texada Island off British Columbia, to Melbourne, to the Carribbean's Anguilla, and to a backyard BBQ in Austin -- where a decommissioned 3000 system printer and put-aside tape drives sat beside the grill. At a typically warm end of October, the offices of The Support Group gave us a way to gather and mourn a death -- the official passing of any hope of ever seeing a new HP 3000 for sale from Hewlett-Packard.

Company employees chatted with several MANMAN customers under those Austin oaks, along with a few visitors from the local 3000 community. Winston Krieger, whose experience with the 3000 goes back to the system’s roots and even further, into its HP 2100 predecessor, brought several thick notebook binders with vintage brochures, documentation, technical papers and news clippings.

HP, as well as the full complement of those October customers continued to use the server during November. And while the creator of the Wake concept Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said, "the date does sort of mark a point of no return, and it will be sad," Birket Foster had his own view of what just happened.

“The patient’s not dead yet," he said at the time, "but we did pass a milestone.”

Continue reading "Looking Forward from a Peaceful Wake" »

Marking Moments on Wake Anniversary Eve

AfterlifeT-shirtIn about six hours or so, the HP 3000 community might pause to commemorate one of its last collective acts. Ten years ago the World Wide Wake, organized by event ringleader Alan Yeo, invited members in dozens of locations throughout the world to lift a glass and salute the end of HP's manufacturing of the HP 3000 computer. MPE/iX would be recrafted and revised for another five years, but Oct. 31, 2003 was the last day customers could order a new HP-badged 3000.

At the time we invited a director of the Interex User Group, Denys Beauchemin, to offer a confirmation about the success of the system and record the aftermath of HP's departure. He did so in our Open Mike column in the November printed issue of the NewsWire. (It would be almost two years before we'd start up this blog.) It's fun to track the predictions in that column. Beauchemin, heading up a group that itself would remain open just another 20 months, collected sentiments from community notables including the late, great Wirt Atmar, who would pass away a little more than five years later.

Wirt outlived HP's 3000 business, right down to the closing of its MPE labs at the end of 2008. Unless you're reading this from the blazing-fast Google Fiber of the afterlife, you've also outlived the end of HP's 3000 saga. For HP computer users whose systems are facing an end of manufacture, the following is educational. It's memorable for migrators to revisit that time of reflection, too, and see if anything resonates in today's platform ownership.

Please leave a comment below to share your own story of the 10 years that have followed this anniversary. Or email one to me to tell your tale of what has followed the Wake.

By Denys Beauchemin

On All Hallows Eve of the year 2003, an historic event took place without fanfare and virtually ignored by the vast population at large. Only the cognoscenti will mourn the passing into computer history of the HP e3000, née HP 3000. This magnificent machine, which would be marking its thirty-first year of existence next month, is instead disappearing from the list of HP computer products. End of Sales for the HP 3000 is now upon us.

I was first introduced to the HP 3000 in 1977 somewhere in New Hampshire. At that time I was working in Montreal on an HP 21MX designing and programming applications in a timesharing bureau. I immediately took a liking to the HP 3000, transitioned jobs to be able to work on one and joined the users group for the first time. Over the years wherever I worked, there was always an HP 3000 in my environment. The HP 3000 has been part of my career almost from the beginning. Its passing fills me with melancholy, and whilst I had not been doing as much with it these last several years, I could always count on it being there, adding new capabilities along the way. This is true no more.

I asked a few luminaries of this long-lived computing environment to reflect on the machine, its passing and perhaps to shed some light on this event and what its effect might be.

“A great IT platform: reliable, affordable, flexible, easy to operate, and easy to program. And every release compatible with the previous for over 30 years. Perhaps some future OS team will adopt these same goals.” — Bob Green, Robelle

Continue reading "Marking Moments on Wake Anniversary Eve" »

CAMUS schedules manufacturing meeting on epic date for 3000 managers

Just about everyone left tending to an HP 3000 knows the day their plans for career and computing changed. Next month, the CAMUS manufacturing user group will have a call-in conference held on a significant 12th anniversary.

The regional meeting for managers who control ERP, MRP and manufacturing systems of any kind takes place on November 14. Ever since HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans in 2001, there have been many CAMUS meetings where representatives of companies such as Kenandy or Infor (software suppliers, cloud ERP and traditional) have presented to CAMUS users. This year's free meet will give the users the floor to talk about their best practices.

It's a free meeting, but you must register to get call-in information. The date and time, as well as the agenda, are out in the open as of this week. The conference calls starts at 10:30 Central Time (11:30 EST, 8:30 PST). It lasts 90 minutes on that Thursday.

A user group, in its classic and more useful format, gives members the means to better the practices of each other. After 12 years of life after HP's death of its 3000 business desire, the community will be teaching itself how to better manage manufacturing servers. All through those years, we've taken the bitter with some better.

Registration closes two weeks from today, on November 12. Sign up at the Sign Me Up Genius webpage

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Vladimir resolves a 3000 jobs question

More than one kind of jobs question is on the landscape this year.  The most obvious question is how to keep your job as the head coach of a vital 3000 server in your organization. The other question, which has been on the table since 2002, is how to manage jobs on the server where your applications will run, after your organization makes its transition.

There are too many answers to the first question to list them all here. I invite you to send us helpful answers. Based on your responses, we can pay them forward. On Friday Oct. 25, I wrote about one answer: Be an entrepreneur for the first time in your life, even while you're older than 55. It's the biggest age group of entrepreneurs. Another answer might be to master a more nouveau environment for apps. Your value on MPE/iX is kept vital, but mostly because you've acquired new skills for an environment that runs alongside MPE/iX. Be ready, in that case, to embrace more change, plus adopt respect for much younger colleagues.

The second jobs question has not had good answers for Windows -- the migrator's favorite platform -- until 2011. Then MB Foster released a scheduler that replicates the power of MPE/iX scheduling and jobstream management. MBF-Scheduler was built by developers who were masters of MPE/iX jobs.

But the third aspect of a jobs question emerged in the past week from a longtime, advanced MPE manager, Tracy Johnson. Working at Measurement Specialties -- one of the strongest and most devoted users of MPE/iX servers, running 10 factories around the world -- Johnson posed a question about job numbers.

'What's the highest job number allowed before it rolls back to #J1?"

VEsoft's founder Vladmir Volokh gave Johnson an answer, according to the manager. It resolves an everyday need, even though other answers came from experts with decades of MPE/iX experience. Vladimir's name isn't invoked a lot on the 3000 newsgroup where the question emerged. Johnson tagged the answer as one of the best. But that's because he talked with the creator of MPEX.

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Age vs. Youth, and Rebooting Your Value

HP 3000 pros usually count several decades of experience or more in IT, but that almost always makes them on the leeward side of age 50. That's a deterrent to getting hired in the next phase of a work life, if you're forced to move away from what you've done well for most of your career.

It doesn't have to read that way, if you believe some of the sharper knives in the modern computing drawer. There is an age bias out there. Younger turks believe the elders are holding them back. Pros who took their first jobs before Reagan was President see a lot of shrugs over an interview desk when a Gen-X or Millennial is looking at their history.

Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia when he was 35, but here he is about 12 years later saying that youth doesn't trump experience every time. There's a balance. Out on the website, a story says, Jimmy Wales To Silicon Valley: Grow Up And Get Over Your Age Bias. "Silicon Valley frowns on age, yet several of its most successful entrepreneurs argue experience tends to trump youthful exuberance."

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show an overall median age of 42.3 for American workers, tech workers skew much, much younger. Only six of the tech companies reviewed by Payscale had a median age (equal number of people above and below a number) above 35.

And only one—HP—came in above 40.

In the article, Wales says it's a mistake to believe tech entrepreneurs are past their prime if they aren't worth a billion dollars by the age of 35, or even 25. "Wales and other successful tech entrepreneurs say this thinking is as wrong as it is dangerous."

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Crime keeps non-3000 platforms most busy

Kinds of Cyber AttacksHP has sponsored a new edition of the Ponemon study of crime commited via computers. The results are trending in the direction everyone expects: upward, with cyber-crime now topping $11 million per typical breach in the US. The chart above tracks the frequency of the type of crime committed. Malware, viruses, worms and trojans are on just about every company's report. Where the cyber-attack takes place -- the location of the webserver -- makes a difference in the cost of the breach.

We found that US companies are much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious code, denial of service and web-based incidents. Similarly, Australia is most likely to experience denial of service attacks. In contrast, German companies are least likely to experience malicious code and botnets. Japanese companies are least likely to experience stolen devices and malicious code attacks.

HP worked hard in the late 1990s to establish Web server capability for the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. At first there was a product for sale from HP. A few years later, with little success of selling it, HP gave it away as part of the MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System. But even in FOS, serving web pages never caught on. Web page services, of course, are the top way to distribute malware, bots and other costly disruptors.

In a way, the lack of a Web capability has made the HP 3000 one of the least-attacked environments. But even a 3000 connected to the Internet in any way is susceptible to a hack. It's just tougher to steal something worth fencing, plucked out of an OS built with a ring of privilege at its heart. Not impossible, never. Because like the Ponemon report says, the most costly cyber-crime happens from within datacenter operations.

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A Place to Make Plans for Transition

Websites offer a world of advice on how to move toward the future with ease. There's nothing easier than tapping a webinar to find out more about making an HP 3000 transition. And no company has even come within several leagues of teaching with webinars like MB Foster does.

Wednesdays are the regular date, with the presentations starting at 2PM Eastern US time. Today's talk, with an interactive segment as well (Birket Foster asks for questions throughout) is on Application Decommissioning. Even at a place where the 3000 is likely to run another four years, like MacLean-Fogg manufacturers, a custom MPE app will go out of production mode, someday. 

Today's talk (register at the MB Foster website, and get your audio via IP or phone) focuses on the legacy data process and compliance issues in your plans for such a decommission. That data will be moving forward, just as surely as those disk packs at MacLean-Fogg moved on to the next 3000 after a flood. Data always moves onward, but it's no easy task without planning.

"In a time when cost cutting is a necessity, decommissioning legacy application data offers companies cost savings, and resource efficiencies," Foster's website proposes, "all while meeting compliance for your business and legal requirements to retain and access data."

The company's been illuminating the key issues that can serve both homesteading and migration missions. Sometimes this kind of modernization serves homesteading, and then modernization. The list of what's been covered over the last five years of webinars is impressive. There's two more on the way, November 6 and November 20.

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3000 stays above water at manufacturer

Ed. Note: The HP 3000's ability to remain running over more than 25 years has kept it in service at MacLean-Fogg. IT Director Mark Mojonnier updated us on the current status and future plans for their MPE/iX server. At times, the computer simply needed to keep its (disk) head above water.

We've been running HP 3000 systems since 1983. The company was originally part of Reliance Electric out of Cleveland years ago. In 1986, Reliance sold a piece of that business to MacLean-Fogg company in Mundelein, IL. The new company, Reliable Power Products, bought its first HP 3000 Series 48 in 1987. We had a flood in the building later that year and had to buy another one. The disk drives were high enough out of the water to survive, so when the new one arrived, we warm-booted it (with the old disk packs) and it picked up right where it left off.

At the time we bought our first HP 3000, there was a single manufacturing location to support. Now, there are 11 manufacturing facilities in North America we support. The business has grown from $25 million to about 10-15 times that now. Same base software -- just a lot more functional these days. It evolves constantly.

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Cars and cigars continue to rely on 3000

Thompson CigarMacLean-Fogg is a corporation of almost a billion dollars with operations on five continents. But on one of those, North America, an HP 3000 continues to serve the company. We recently heard from Mark Mojonnier there, whose job title reads, IT Director, Legacy Systems.

The headquarters operation in Mundelein, IL is Mojonnier's charge. This is a manufacturer, one whose corporate message is that if you've been inside a car, the company's parts have been important to the drive. "We form things and we make things," and the processes and expertise at its plants includes hot and cold forming of aluminum and steel, molding of silicon and carbon fiber, secondary injection and insert molding, CNC machining, plus product assembly. The organization even uses what it calls “exotic fastener materials” in something called warm forming.

HP 3000s once broke the ground for Computer Integrated Manufacturing in plants like Mundelein, a village in Lake County with about 30,000 residents. Manufacturing computers usually work in small villages and cities, in part to capitalize on lowered costs of resources. The company just opened a hot forming plant in Savanna, IL this year.

MacLean-Fogg"May our HP 3000 live forever," Mojonnier said as he tended to keeping his subscription with us on target. There's not much reason the system running his application won't, considering that it now has a virtualization future when the company is ready to part ways with HP-built iron, if needed. As for 3000's MPE heart, that is still lighting a fire at the Thompson Cigar Company, too.

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Dairy co-op skims cream of MPE off 3000s

More than three decades of HP 3000 servers have booted and remained online at Dairylea Cooperative. Now the collective of New York dairy farmers will put its next generation of MPE apps onto Intel iron, running the Stromasys Charon emulator.

Jeff Elmer, the IT director for the co-op, said the HP 3000 has a long history, even longer than his tenure there -- and that's work for him that stretches back to 1985 for the organization. It's a modest operation, and the collective is on its way to using SAP for the long term. In the meantime, though, a virtualized MPE/iX server is going to handle the information flow for these milk producers.

"The company has a long term commitment to switch to SAP," he said, "but MPE will be powering our producer payroll and milk laboratory systems for at least a couple more years in the comfort and safety of the emulator on new hardware, to say nothing of enjoying the various advantages of virtualization. After SAP, the emulator still has a future as an historical repository."

So while HP's 3000 hardware is headed for a shutdown at Dairylea, it's MPE that becomes the cream to be skimmed off Hewlett-Packard computers that stretch back to the early 1980s.

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How to Rebuild a System Better, Faster

I'm looking at how to save as much time as possible in rebuilding an HP 3000's software and directories. My options seem to be using STORE, versus the sysgen tape command "tape store=@.@.@". What's the best way to go here?

Donna Hofmeister of Allegro replies

Unless your system is small (like a 918 with 8-12GB of disc), you don't want to try to do a full backup via sysgen. If you really do a full backup then I prefer this syntax “store /;...” as it is self-documenting and you know that the Posix files will be backed up as well. (On older releases of MPE, @.@.@ did not back up Posix files <eek>)

You want to make sure that you run 'buldacct' periodically (and routinely). You also want to make sure that you are somehow backing up your directory (store /;*t;directory, for example). Between the two, you have belts and suspenders (for recovering your accounting structure).

On older releases of MPE, you want to make sure that the network is shut down prior to making your SLT tape. And it's still a good idea to have the system quiesced when making an SLT, since everything in the sys account (and .pub.sys in particular) will be locked while the tape is being made. Nothing quite like grumpy users to make your day...

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For almost all, not the first time to migrate

A recent talk with ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shed some light on the migration process for 3000 owners. Our era is not the first time anybody has made a migration in the 3000 world. This one is different, however, from the transition the entire community performed about 25 years ago. That was an era when HP rolled out radically new hardware, but had engineered a way to carry program code forward. There was work, however, that everyone had to do.

Migration Made EasyIn the fall of 1988, moving from MPE V to MPE XL was being called a migration. In the same way that today's migrations are being shaped as transitions or modernizations, the migration of MPE V systems to a new OS was attempting to avoid being labeled a conversion. Big work, that conversion stuff. Migration, by everybody's measure this year, is bigger stuff than replacing an app while moving off a 3000.

Yeo said this month that a customer of his had already made their migration once -- a "proper migration" if you can imagine the British accent -- and was returning to do another migration. "They're happy they migrated, because they now know that they can," he said. Yeo estimated that about one in every five companies that have left have done this proper migration -- which means keeping business logic and lot of MPE code in hand during the move.

Today's strategy for migrating has much in common with what 3000 owners were doing in 1988, the time when MPE XL was first coming online at customer sites. Victoria Shoemaker of Taurus Software wrote an article in the HP Chronicle that month called From MPE V to MPE XL: Migration Made Easy. Her seven steps make up that year's proper migration: Education; analysis; developing a migration plan; MPE/V conversion; installation of HP-PA RISC machines; Compatibility Mode operation; Migration to Native Mode operation. 

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What Posix Delivered, and Didn't, for 3000s

Open3000 pageThe arrival of the POSIX.1 software standards in MPE was a compatibility milestone. I remember the call I got from HP's Glenn Osaka, then a product manager at the 3000 division, asking what I'd think about a renaming of MPE. In the fall of 1991 the 3000's OS was called MPE/XL. In just a few weeks, HP wanted to start calling it MPE/iX. Those last two letters were the same as Unix, but the OS didn't ever produce commercial apps from that OS. HP was hawking its Unix hard by that time. Starting in 1992, the 3000 was being portrayed as open.

But a decade of HP effort to win applications from the Unix environment came to an end in the fall of 2001. What was left over from the grafting of POSIX onto the 3000's OS? To this very day, you can use open source software that's been ported to MPE. Or port some yourself, if this will solve a compatibility problem.

HP wasn't shy about telling 1991's customers how much difference that iX was going to make. Unix benefits that the 3000 were supposed to gain included app portability, a Unix development environment, and multivendor connectivity. HP called it the Open 3000.

"Customers now have access to a wide breadth of industry-leading applications," said 3000 GM Rich Sevcik. "It should be viewed as a very exciting incremental set of functionality for the MPE owner, and it's just another example of the smooth evolution of the HP 3000."

While the arrival of Micro Focus, Oracle's apps, Lawson Software ERP or SAP never materialized, some key non-commercial software made its way to the 3000. Lots of it has become essential at connecting the servers to non-3000s, especially through networking. One of the first and most prominent results of Posix was the file-sharing tool Samba.

Continue reading "What Posix Delivered, and Didn't, for 3000s" »

Support paywall can seem to hide manuals

We're investigating another point of confusion between HP's MPE/iX and 3000 manuals and the 3000 community. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors who heard HP's promise to keep these manuals available to the general public, emailed us this report.

It appears that HP has cut off public access to the MPE manuals. If you use HP's link through its Business Support Center, and go thru a couple of clicks... you'll eventually be asked for support credentials.

In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case for MPE manuals (since, after all, who has HP's MPE support anyhow?). HP agreed to continue to allow access to the MPE things (including patches) when they vendor was negotiating with OpenMPE.

Hofmeister noted that the patches are still available for free. The good news is that the 3000 community has been compiling the manuals outside HP's servers, just to ensure the vendor kept its promise of open access to 3000 documentation. And there is a more concealed path into the manuals today. Just not through the front door Hofmeister was using.

Straight to the point, things are changing in the HP support operations and its access for users. A support contract might be required, in HP's confusion over the 3000's place on the website, if you head in through the wrong address. Or read a recent HP email.

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The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill

ComedymicComment sections of blogs are usually tar pits of abusive and misdirected retorts. I feel lucky that comments on the Newswire's blog have been otherwise, for the most part. On many tech blogs the comments that follow a story devolve at lightning pace into rants about the NSA, partisan politics, the insulting disappointments of Windows/Apple/Google, or the zen koan of climate change.

Tim O'Neill has lifted up the reputation of commenting to an enabling art. The manager of a 3000 system in Maryland, he's become prolific in his messages that echo or take a counterpoint to the stories we run here. His comment count is running at 15 over just the past five months. For our unique but modest-sized outpost of 3000 lore and learning, that's a lot. He's got a comment for almost one in every five stories.

CommentsHP's actions of 12 years ago are still a sore point with some 3000 managers. Count O'Neill among them. We ran a story yesterday about HP's best case scenario for 2014: it will lose sales more slowly than this year. Some new products will get R&D focus. Pockets of sales growth will pop up. Overall, less revenue, for yet another year.

O'Neill shot off a comment within an hour of our story.

This does not sound too hopeful, if the best they can promise is slowing the rate of revenue decline while at the same time spending $3B on R&D. At the same time, they have essentially no cutting-edge mobile products (and no WebOS,) a stagnant flagship OS (HP-UX, no new releases in about a decade) a second flagship OS sentenced to death (OpenVMS -- HP finally kills the last of the DEC that they hated for decades) and shuttered sales and support offices (relying on VARs and the Web for sales, instead of interpersonal interaction.)

O'Neill never fails to note that a retained 3000 business would be helping HP, even today. "Meanwhile, the long-ago-jilted MPE lives on, ancient LaserJets continue to crank out print jobs and make money for toner refillers (I still have LJ 2000 and 4000 series printer in service,) and digital signal generators (HP, not Agilent) still generate signals. They do still make nice new printers. Maybe they should buy Blackberry to get into the smartphone business."

It's great to have a chorus behind you when reporting on one 3000 news item after another. It's even better when there's a consistently different-sounding voice on webpages. If there was an Andy Rooney position on the 3000 Newswire's stable of contributors, O'Neill could fill that post.

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HP hopes for slower sales declines in 2014

In a typical response to the above news, investors bought in on Hewlett-Packard's vision of the future yesterday. Market analysts who advise the pension plans -- and the rest of the 75 percent of institutional-owners of HP shares -- found this lump of non-dire news under HP's carpet. CEO Meg Whitman said they predicted there would be 1 percent more profit than the analysts' predictions. One estimate bested another by a trace amount, and so hope rose up among shareholders.

The future for HPNone of this has happened yet; even HP's fiscal 2013 still has three weeks left to play out, let alone the realities of 2014. "Pockets" of growth in HP's sales have been promised, although the company cannot say where those pockets will appear. They might be in tablets, where HP could manage revenue growth with sales that become measurable. Or the growth might occur in enterprise servers and software, a prospect with much longer odds.

"Stabilizing revenue declines" are the brightest outlook HP can promise for the year to come. That HP had to promise continuing declines shows how tough its IT sales market has become. People who were buying laptops for business are now investing in tablets or working via smartphones, both of which are more mobile. HP's offerings in both segments are years behind market leaders, echoes of cheaper solutions, or invisible (in the case of the phones).

Mobile computing is one of the many sectors of computing products where HP's got big issues to resolve. One analyst said after yesterday's meet that it wouldn't be a great investment to buy HP stock, given the "growth challenges the company is facing in nearly every product category." Investment in buying HP's products is another matter, but it's the one which determines that growth challenge.

HP's fiscal numbers for its latest quarter won't surface for more than a month. But Whitman's cheerleading came during a two-day meeting with those analysts. HP earned a $2 share bump on a forecast that put its 2014 profits 3 cents a share higher than a $3.62 forecast. Whitman said HP will focus on new products and services next year -- a category that may not include HP's Unix, its Integrity-based servers, or other solutions from the combined enterprise unit that has been producing steady HP 3000 platform replacements. 

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HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later

One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business. 

N-Class 220There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.

But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.

Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006.

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Modernization's mission sparks acquisition

Migration companies usually need technology tools to achieve success for their clients. It's always been true in the 3000 world. Putting experienced staff to work is important, but keeping everybody on schedule and productive happens more reliably with software to break decades of programming ice.

This fall we learned that MB Foster was putting an in-house migration solution into its product roster. The software was developed to explore the contents of a database. Information that's retrieved is used to shape the data migration that's part of a transformation. 

But sometimes an efficient way to add this kind of transition muscle is to acquire it. As the Transition Era was ramping up in the aftermath of HP's 3000 announcement, Speedware purchased the Neartek software AMXW in 2003. Now that the company's become Fresche Legacy -- reaching out to a new customer base using IBM Series i (AS400) -- it recently acquired a 100 percent interest in Databorough, a UK-based vendor of knowledge mining and reuse software for Series i servers. 

Fresche Legacy says the acquisition broadens its product portfolio to include X-Analysis, X-Migrate and X2E. This software performs environment analysis and code transformation. In this case, the transition is to Java or C# from RPG, COBOL, or a development language called Synon.

Synon goes back more than 25 years in the Series i marketplace, something like the Powerhouse and Speedware 4GL pedigree but first crafted for IBM's System 38 -- a predecessor to the AS/400. IBM held an equity interest in Synon until the firm was sold to Sterling Software in the late '90s. While you're catering to enterprise environments that've been in service as long as the 3000 or IBM's servers, you need to efficiently modernize the oldest of languages.

"This agreement unites two of the most powerful and knowledgeable players in the System i legacy modernization space," said Andy Kulakowski, president and CEO of Fresche Legacy. “Databorough brings to Fresche Legacy more than 20 years of AS400/iSeries experience, a highly pedigreed list of more than 200 enterprise customers, and deep technical knowledge."

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Patches remain a revenue producer at HP

HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.

HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:

HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers.  We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts.  Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.

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HP's documents for 3000s are in the open

Yesterday we bemoaned the lack of working, sensible links for 3000 documents at Hewlett-Packard websites. Links go rotten all the time on the Web. But you'd hope that an enterprise computer vendor might put a better face out there about products it still controls. Well, at least the control of the intellectual property rights.

Give thanks for your independent community, because that's where the elusive information has washed up, like a survivor from a vendor's shipwreck. Brian Edminster updated us on where those 3000 and MPE documents can be found. It's not an HP website. Yesterday I wrote, "The whereabouts of MPE manuals at HP sites is a treasure hunt with no apparent prize at the moment." Edminster replied

I can help with this. has the current links to the HP MPE/iX manuals.

Navigation via the menus/pulldowns is: (from the site's homepage at

[Porting Helps]

      [Manuals & Other] Documentation Materials

             [MPE/iX Core Manual Sets] - which has individual links to the 6.x and 7.x manual sets, and which when clicked will open in a new window.

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HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000

Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.

Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.

HP's Manual pageWhen HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.

Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.

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Tablet terminal sale: Telnet now, NS/VT soon

BlockModeTTerm ProHP 3000 managers who'd like to try out a tablet user interface for MPE software can get a half-off price on Turbosoft's TTerm Pro at the iTunes store "for a couple of weeks," according to vendor representative Art Haddad. The app's being run through its paces by numerous 3000 veterans and stamped as suitable for production. For one California IT manager, however, TTerm Pro is going to get better in the future. That's because the app runs via telnet today, but won't have NS/VT services until a later version "In the not-too-distant future."

In the world of iPad apps, these kinds of upgrades are often downloaded at no charge. Dave Evans, systems Security and Research Manager of the San Bernadino Schools, said that telnet would work for him now, but it would require the customary batch job needed to launch telnet on his 3000s. The 3000's config file for inetd must be edited to enable telnet services for users. According to HP's documentation, the services file must include the line telnet 23/tcp. A batch job starts inetd to launch the Telnet server.

But TTerm Pro's half-off price is getting more managers interested in trying the tablet interface in production use.

"The interface looks really nice on the iPad," Evans said, "and at $25 I don't mind spending that much." Evans, who added that he has a lot more to manage at the schools' IT department than just the 3000, acknowledged that no terminal emulator was ever sold for 3000 users for even as low as $49.95, the non-sale price for TTerm Pro.  

Of course, those Windows-based emulators -- you could sometimes find them on sale under $200 a seat -- employed extensive scripting features, something that TTerm Pro won't embrace wholesale from any that are already written for the Reflection emulator, for example.

However, tablets are already in use by the IT support staff at the school district, Evans said. That access runs through Citrix, "because the Citrix receiver client on the iPad works really well. I do it all the time from home when I get an email which tells me there's a 3000 problem. Instead of running over to my computer and firing up Reflection, I just fire it up on the iPad and work on it from there."

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Stromasys updates its rollout sales efforts

It's been close to five months since emulator vendor Stromasys announced its North American sales kickoff at a May Training Day event. In a Q&A interview with the company's senior VP of sales and services, Rich Pugh says 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. CEO Ling Chang sat in on the interview, to introduce Pugh to us.

Second of two parts

Is there anything that seems to be in common among your prospects’ installations, regarding horsepower needs? I know that CHARON was going to get a 1.3 refresh for greater performance.

Rich PughAt one site, there’s 11 separate applications that run and one overnight batch job. The way we brainstormed doing their solution is not a like-for-like replacement, but considering breaking apart the application, and possibly stacking multiple processors. There’s Datapipe, a cloud company and hosting provider similar to Rackspace, and do our proof of concept from the cloud. The plan is to reduce the space to the point of eliminating the server from the DR site, and let the physical assets reside in the production environment.

This is the kind of dialogue of flexibility that we’re trying to position, instead of the traditional methodology of just buying a license in capital dollars.

So would that change the investment level for the customer?

Not really. The analogy that I would use is Microsoft Office 365: just another way of using what you might need permanently or temporarily, over the cloud. At Stromasys we’ve had a value prop that’s just been traditional. Buy a license. What Ling and I are suggesting is that this is clearly an area that makes sense, to use the cloud for proof of concept.

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