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January 2014

The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard

LifeboatsIt's the final day of HP's Q1 for 2014, so in about three weeks we'll know how the company has fared in its turnaround. Analyst sites are rating the stock as a hold, or giving the company a C+ rating. It's instructive to see how much has changed from the final quarter when 3000 customers sent measurable revenues to Hewlett-Packard.

That would be the Q1 of 2009, including the final two months of HP's regular systems support sales of November-December of 2008. At the end of '08 HP closed its MPE/iX and 3000 lab. And without a lab, there was no way business critical support would offer much of an incentive to keep HP's support in a 3000 shop's IT budget.

The customers' shake-off of HP's support revenue didn't happen immediately, of course. People had signed multi-year contracts for support with the vendor. But during the start of this financial period of five years ago, there was no clear reason to expect HP to be improve for MPE/iX, even in dire circumstances. Vintage support was the only product left to buy for a 3000 through the end of 2010.

In Q1 of 2009, HP reported $28.2 billion in total sales. In its latest quarter, that number was $29.1 billion. Nearly five years have delivered only $900 million in extra sales per quarter, despite swallowing up EDS and its 140,000 consultants and billions in sales, or purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of outside companies like Autonomy.

In January of 2009, HP 3000 revenues were even more invisible than the Business Critical Systems revenues of today. But BCS totals back then were still skidding by 15-20 percent per quarter, 20 quarters ago. And even in 2009, selling these alternatives to an HP 3000 was generating only 4 percent of the Enterprise Server group's sales. Yes, all of enterprise servers made up 2.5 percent of the 2009 HP Q1. But that hardware and networking is the short tail of the beast that was HP's server business, including the 3000. Support is the long tail, one that stretched to the end of 2008 for MPE, more than seven years HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans.

It's easy to say that the HP 3000 meant a lot to HP's fortunes. In a way it certainly did, because there was no significant business computing product line until MPE started to get stable in 1974. But the profits really didn't flow off the hardware using that 20th Century model. Support was the big earner, as the mob says of anybody who returns profits to the head of the organization. HP 3000 support was always a good earner, right up to the time HP closed down those labs and sent its wizards packing, or into other company divisions.

It had been a small business all along, this HP 3000. A billion dollars was a great quarter's worth, and the 3000 division never came close. But all of HP's business critical servers together only managed $700 million in sales -- five years ago. The profits from such customers were only significant because of support relationships. This is why those contracts were the last thing HP terminated.

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Ensuring You Edit with the Right Quad

QuadsHP 3000 editors may be passe in many homesteading sites. Better tools for manipulating and tracking code are available on Linux, Unix, PC and Mac systems. But not many of them have the advantage of grabbing onto an MPE module during development. Robelle's Qedit has moved to PCs, but a 3000-native tool remains the free Quad.

You just have to be sure you're using the right version of this tool.

Walter Murray, who served in HP's Langauge Labs for many years, still likes using the MPE-centric Quad. He explained why, and noted an annoyance, too. One that another MPE veteran helped work around. Said Murray, "For editing, Quad has become my editor of choice.  Among its bothersome limitations are that the search is case-sensitive (which leads us to avoid lower case in COBOL source code, except for comments)."

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet has pointed out that the version of Quad being used makes a significant difference. "All Quads are not equal," he said. (Quad can be downloaded from a link off the 3k Associates archival website, a terrific resource for MPE software.)

Continue reading "Ensuring You Edit with the Right Quad" »

University learns to live off of the MPE grid

Shutdown windowOne of the most forward-looking pioneers of the HP 3000 community shut off its servers last month, ending a 37-year run of service. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga IT staff, including its networking maven Jeff Kell, has switched over fully to Linux-based computing and an off the shelf application.

UTC, as Kell and his crew calls the school, has beefed up its server count by a factor of more than 10:1 as a byproduct of its transition. This kind of sea change is not unusual for a migration to Unix and Oracle solutions. HP 3000s tend to be single-server installations, or multiples in very large configurations. But to get to a count of 43 servers, IT architecture has to rethink the idea of a server (sometimes just a blade in an enclosure) and often limits the server to exclusive tasks.

After decades of custom-crafted applications, UTC is running fully "on Banner, which has been SunGuard in the past," Kell said. "I believe it's now called now Ellucian. They keep getting bought out." But despite the changes, the new applications are getting the same jobs done that the HP 3000s performed since the 1970s.

It's Linux / Oracle replacing it.  The configuration was originally Dell servers (a lot of them), but most of it is virtualized on ESXi/vCenter, fed by a large EMC SAN. They got some server hardware refreshed recently, and got Cisco UCS blade servers.  I'm sure they're well into seven figures on the replacement hardware and software alone. I've lost count of how many people they have on staff for the care and feeding of it all. It's way more than our old 3000 crew, which was basically six people.

Continue reading "University learns to live off of the MPE grid" »

Cross-pond experts to meet in UK

TransatlanticLast month, Dave Wiseman organized the first SIG-BAR meeting in more than a decade in London. The turnout at what was an HP 3000 social and networking event was encouraging enough to put another meeting on the calendar. This one is going to have some HP 3000 experts on hand from across the pond, as we like to say about Transatlantic travels.

The next SIGBAR event is June 12, to be held at the same Dirty Dick's tavern and meeting room as the December 5 gathering. This time around, Brian Duncombe of Triolet Systems and Steve Cooper of Allegro are making the journey to be on hand. It's a long way from Canada, in Duncombe's case, or California for Cooper to re-connect with 3000 contacts. But yours is a world that was always founded in community.

And frankly, being in London in June is a brighter prospect than a December day. Literally. While traveling to London more than a decade ago in winter, the sun sets about 4 PM. To contrast, it comes up before 5 in the same month when Wimbeldon kicks off.

Duncombe, for the 3000 user who doesn't know him, created some high-caliber database shadowing and performance measurement software for MPE during the 1980s and into the '90s. He's planning a journey round-trip from Toronto that will literally span about 48 hours on the Canadian clock. That's how much he's engaged with the community and old friends. "I sleep well on planes," Duncombe said.

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Polymorphic computing still tweaks billing

Editor's note: more than five years ago, Hewlett-Packard was promoting an old concept with a new speech. HP's current Labs director Martin Fink spoke about polymorphic computing, and MB Foster's CEO Birket Foster was on hand to note what was nascent about the concept, as well as what still needed to be developed. Cloud computing has gone beyond nascent to become commonplace, but billing for individual apps -- not just CPU and bandwidth -- is still a work in progress. The apps on MPE systems are specialized parts of computing, but not easily available through most common clouds (like Amazon Web Services, or Google). 

Until billing for MPE apps via the cloud is worked out, companies will be migrating apps to capture the potential of polymorphic computing. Foster's article still offers a lot to think about while considering the true benefits of a transition for MPE apps.

Polymorphics Film 1959There's a marvelous stop-action film online that explains polymorphic computing. The film was made in 1959. The earliest design of MPE was still a decade away. Most people believe polymorphic computing didn't emerge until almost 50 years after the film was made. Enjoy it, as well as Foster's report below. The pieces are still in motion, and like transitions, they're not stopping.

By Birket Foster 

The CommunityConnect 2008 conference in Europe featured Martin Fink, the Senior VP and GM for the HP Business Critical Server group. Fink gave a talk on Polymorphic Computing. What is that, you say? Well, Fink used an analogy from the car industry, one where you have different cars with steering wheels, engine, chassis and tires that can be changed on demand. Think of the object-oriented programming concept of late binding, he suggested.

Here's how it sounded to me, a software vendor sitting in an audience full of software vendors. Your polymorphic car would assemble itself in your garage for the purpose you need -- so you could have a sports car one evening for what Fink called “a hot date with the wife,” then the next day you could order up a minivan to go shopping, and in the afternoon the polymorphic assembly garage would deliver a pickup truck so you could pick up some lumber for a do it yourself project.

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The Volokhs Find the Amazon Finds Them

AmazonmapIn 1980, a 12-year-old boy and his father began to create a beautiful expansion of MPE for 3000 customers. These men are named Volokh, and that surname has become the brand of a blog that's now a part of The Washington Post. The journey that began as a fledgling software company serving a nascent computer community is a fun and inspiring tale. That 12-year-old, now 45, is Eugene Volokh, and along with this brother Sasha the two created the Volokh Conspiracy. became a blog in 2002 -- something of a breakthough in itself, according to the Internet's timeline. Now the new owner of the Post, Jeff Bezos, has replaced a long-standing blog from Ezra Klein with the Volokhs' blend of legal reporting, cultural commentary, and English exactitude.

Bezos, for the few who don't know him, founded and owns the majority of Amazon, the world's largest online retailer. And so, in one of the first Conspiracy posts out on the Post, the article's headline reads

In Brazil, you can always find the Amazon — in America, the Amazon finds you

This is a reference to the Russian roots of the Volokhs, according to founding father Vladimir. He recalled the history of living in a Communist country, one that was driven by a Party relentless in its dogma and control. With the usual dark humor of people under oppression, he reported that "In Russia the saying is, 'Here, you don't find the party -- the party finds you.' "

AmazonAmazon has found the Volokhs and their brand of intense analysis -- peppered with wry humor, at times -- because it was shedding Ezra Klein's Wonkblog. Left-leaning with a single-course setting, this content which the Volokhs have replaced might have seen its day passing, once Klein was asking the Post for $10 million to start his own web publishing venture. There may have been other signs a rift was growing; one recent Wonkblog headline read, "Retail in the age of Amazon: Scenes from an industry running scared."

This is not the kind of report that will get you closer to a $10 million investment from the owner of Amazon. That running scared story emerged from this month's meeting of the National Retail Federation, a place where 3000 capabilities have been discussed over the years.

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Unicom sets new roadmap for Powerhouse

Nobody is certain what will happen to the Powerhouse ADT tools in 2014, but it's certain they're not going to remain the same as they've been since before 2009. For the first time in five years, the Powerhouse, Powerhouse Web and Axiant advanced development software will be getting new versions.

RoadmapThe new versions were announced on the LinkedIn Cognos Powerhouse section, a 320-member group that for the moment is closed and requires approval of a moderator to join. (The HP3000 Community section of LinkedIn, now at 618 members, is the same sort of group; but admission there only requires some experience with MPE/iX and the 3000 to become a member. I was approved in the Cognos Powerhouse group in less than 24 hours.)

Up on LinkedIn, Larry Lawler told the members of the group that "Unicom is an Enterprise Software company, and fully committed to the further development of the Cognos ADT suite." Lawler is Chief Technology Officer at Unicom Global. He mapped out the future for the software's 2014, calling the following list "New Version Release Considerations."

• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 Early Release (EA) scheduled for 2Q/2014
• PowerHouse 4GL Server - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• Axiant 4GL - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014
• PowerHouse Web - V420 General Release (GA) scheduled for 3Q/2014

There's a 90-day period of crossover as Unicom acquires these assets and arranges the integration into its development and support team.

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UDALink for MPE adds capability and speed

CubesMB Foster is rolling out news of a refreshed UDALink for MPE, software that handles data access and delivery, reporting writing, client-server and analytic capabilites for HP 3000 customers. Those capabilities got a lift in the latest release, as well as speed improvements. UDALink is part of what the company calls its Universal Data Access (UDA) Series of products.

HP has been working to upgrade its PC-using customers to Windows 7 this year, using repeated attempts to wrench Windows XP servers out of enterprises. A recent webpage pointed to HP's equanimity about moving to 7 or 8. An article on a ZDNet website said that HP's never stopped selling Windows 7, really, even though the version has become hard to get in the consumer market. HP seems to understand that its customers might not be prepared for the "Tile World" of Windows 8. Windows 8.1 regained the venerable Start button that Microsoft lost in its 8.0 release. But choosing between either of these updates to PCs can lead a customer to upgrade its free, ODBCLink/SE bundle-ware in MPE/iX to UDALink, Foster said in a release.

UDALink is the logical upgrade path if the organization is considering:

• Upgrading desktops to Windows 7/8
• Deploying a DataWarehouse or Operational Data Stores
• Deploying generic or strategic DataMarts as part of your enterprise reporting strategy
• Required to extract, off-load or preserve legacy data on Microsoft SQL Server
• Upload data into a cloud application like Salesforce  

New capabilities of the latest release of connectivty software include a 64-bit driver; QuickConnect and support for JDBC3 and JDBC4; support for the ultimate version of Powerhouse, 8.49F; along with the ability to run in the emulated Stromasys HPA Charon environment -- which expands the potential uses of UDALink.

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Hewlett-Packard decays, not a 3000 killer

HalflifedecayThe Unicom acquisition of Powerhouse assets finally showed up in the news section of the Series i and AS/400 world. The website Four Hundred Stuff ran its report of the transaction which proposes to bring new ideas and leadership to one of the oldest tools in the 3000 community. It will be another 10 weeks or so before Unicom makes any announcements about the transaction's impacts. We're looking forward to talking to Russ Guzzo of the company once more, to get some reaction to the idea of transferring licenses for the Powerhouse ADT suite. Millions of dollars worth of tools are out there on 3000s that will go into the marketplace.

We're not eager to hear one of the more unfocused definitions of what happened to the HP 3000 more than 12 years ago. According to Four Hundred Stuff, Hewlett-Packard killed the HP 3000 more than a decade ago. Not even close to being accurate. HP did kill off the future for itself to particpate in the 3000 community. Eventually it killed off its own labs for MPE and PA-RISC hardware. Eventually it will kill off the support business it still offers for a handful of customers, relying on a handful of MPE experts still at HP. 

The 3000's operating system lives on, in spots like the one the IBM newsletter pointed out. We find it interesting that within a month, the company that created the first virtualized HP 3000, Stromasys, and the company that created the most widely installed 4GL, both had assets purchased by deep-pocketed new owners. Powerhouse itself is entrenched in some places where IT managers would like to get rid of it. At UDA, a Canadian firm, a Powerhouse application is scheduled for removal. But it's complex, a living thing at this company. Fresche Legacy, formerly Speedware, is reported to be maintaining that Powerhouse app for UDA while a transition comes together.

The IT manger realized, however, that it wouldn't be easy or inexpensive to replace the system, and that a thorough assessment and long-term plan was the best approach. The first step, however, was to ensure the viability of the aging system for the foreseeable future. A search for IBM PowerHouse experts quickly lead Mr. Masson to Fresche Legacy.

In these sorts of cases and more, the HP 3000 lives on. Not killed by by its creator vendor. If any definition of what happened can be applied, HP sent the 3000 into the afterlife. Its customer base is decaying with a half-life, but only at a different rate than the IT managers reading Four Hundred Stuff.

How to convert 3000 packed decimal data?

Independent consultant Dan Miller wrote us to hunt down the details on converting between data types on the HP 3000. He's written a utility to integrate VPlus, IMAGE/SQL and Query for updating and modifying records. We'll let Miller explain. He wants to expand his utility that he's written in SPL -- the root language of MPE -- to include packed decimal data.

Can you tell me how to transfer a packed decimal to ASCII for display, then convert ASCII characters to the corresponding packed decimal data item?

I wrote a utility that integrates VPlus, IMAGE/SQL and Query, one that I used in a Federal services contract for data entry and word processing. Basically, VIQ lets me design a VPlus screen with field names the same as IMAGE data items. From the formatted screen a function key drops you into Query. You select the records to be maintained, specify "LP" as output, and execute the "NUMBERS" command (a file equation for QSLIST is necessary before this). From there, you can scroll thru the records, modify any field, and update. I never marketed it commercially, but I have used it at consulting customer sites.

I recently had occasion to use it at a new customer's site and realized that I never programmed it to handle packed decimal format numbers; the customer has a few defined in their database. Typically, database designers use INTEGER or DOUBLE INTEGER formats for numeric data, which occupy even less space -- the goal of using packed decimal) employing ASCII/DASCII, or BINARY/DBINARY intrinsics.

I need to discover the proper intrinsics to transfer the packed decimal numbers to ASCII characters and back. I'm sure there's a way, as QUERY does it. In COBOL, I think the "MOVE" converts it automatically, but my utility is written in SPL.

HP's documentation on data types conversion includes some help on this challenge. But Miller hopes that the readers of the Newswire can offer some other suggestions, too. Email me with your suggestions and we'll share them with the readers.

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Licensing software means no resales, right?

No-saleAlmost for a long as software's been sold, it has not really been purchased. There were the days when a company would pay for the actual source code to programs, software which was then theirs to modify and use as they pleased. Well, not as they pleased entirely. Even a sale of the vintage MRP software source for MANMAN had conditions. You couldn't resell it on the market as your own product, for example.

Ownership of software has been defined by licenses-to-use in your enterprise market. When a municipality in Southern California switched off its HP 3000 Series 969 -- 12 years after it began to migrate in-house programs to Windows .NET -- the software on the old system immediately lost all of its value. Not the programs written to serve departments like Building and Permits. Those apps belong to the city forever. But the tools used to build them -- specifically a high-dollar copy of Powerhouse -- become worthless once the city stops using them.

You can pass along the value of MPE/iX and its included software subsystems -- TurboStore for backups, IMAGE/SQL, even COBOL -- when you sell and transfer ownership of an HP 3000. But third-party software is controlled by a different sort of license. At least it has been up to now. Here in the HP 3000's afterlife, there's a potential for another sort of license transfer. In the case of Powerhouse, its new owners Unicom Systems get to define license terms. It's never been a matter of ownership, because that always remains with its vendor. A retired product manager of Powerhouse checked in to remind us of that.

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Replacing parts a part of the 3000 lifestyle

We'd like to hear from the community about 3000 parts: the ones that will push them away from MPE, as well as the parts that will keep decade-old servers running. Check in with me at [email protected].

Junkyard salvageCustomers who continue to rely on HP 3000s place great store on parts. Spare parts, the kind that tend to wear out sooner than others like disk drives, or the ones which can force a company into disaster recovery like a CPU board. The veterans in the community know that there's no support without a source of parts. And the demise of 3000 installations, like a well-run junkyard, can be a source.

However, a dearth of spare parts forced one 3000 customer into entering the world of HP 3000 emulation. Warren Dawson had systems that were aging and no clear way to replace what might fail inside them. Dawson's in Australia, a more remote sector of the 3000 empire. But his need became the spark that moved HP's iron out and replaced it with Intel-based hardware. Commodity became the follow-on costume that Dawson's information now plays in.

While there are portions of the HP 3000's high-failure parts list that can be replaced with third party components -- drives come to mind -- a lot of the 3000's body is unique to Hewlett-Packard's manufacture. Another company in Mexico, a manufacturing site, moved its applications off MPE because it figured that replacing 15-year-old servers was a dicey proposition at best.

This leads us to our latest report of HP 3000 parts, coming from a switched-off site in California. Roger Perkins has a Series 969 that he's working to give away. Like everybody who paid more than $50,000 for a 3000, he'd like to believe that it has value remaining. But on the reseller market, he might be fortunate to get a broker to haul it off.

Those who do are likely to take the system for its parts. What's more, the HP 3000s that are going offline are not the only resource for replacement parts. Other HP servers can supply this market, too. Finding these parts is the skill that homesteading managers must master.

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Foundation for the Emulator, 5 Years Later

Greek columnsThis month five years ago, we reported that HP had revised its licensing to accomodate for a hardware emulator that could run MPE/iX. No such product existed, but the evidence started to surface that Hewlett-Packard wouldn't stand in the way of any software or hardware that'd step in for PA-RISC servers.

It would take another three years, but a working product was released into the customer base despite serious doubts voiced back in 2009. One customer, IT director James Byrne at Canadian shipping brokerage Harte Lyne, said HP was unlikely to allow anything like an emulator to run into the market.

It is more than seven years since the EOL announcement for the HP 3000. If an emulator was going to appear, then one reasonably expects that one would be produced by now. Also, HP has demonstrated an intractable institutional resistance to admitting that the HP 3000 was a viable platform, despite their own 2001 assessment to the contrary. This has had, and cannot but continue to have, a baleful influence on efforts at cooperation with HP by those producing and intending to use said (non-extant) emulators.

During that 2009, Stromasys got the HP cooperation required to eventually release a 1.0 version, and then a 1.3. After more engineering in 2013, a 1.5 version has just been rolled out. So has a new company ownership structure, according to its website. Changes remain the order of the day for the 3000 community, even among those who are homesteading or building DR systems with such virtualized 3000s.

Continue reading "Foundation for the Emulator, 5 Years Later" »

PowerHouse licenses loom as used value

PowerhouseAt the City of Long Beach, a Series 969 has been decommissioned and powered down. It's waiting for a buyer, a broker, or a recycler to take it to another location. But the most costly single piece of this HP 3000 might be rolling out the door unclaimed. It all depends on how the new owners of PowerHouse, and the other 4GL products from Cognos, treat license transfers.

Hewlett-Packard is glad to transfer its MPE/iX licenses from one customer to another. The software doesn't exist separately from the 3000 hardware, says HP. A simple $432 fee can carry MPE from one site to another, and even onto the Intel hardware where the CHARON emulator awaits. You've got to buy a 3000 to make this happen, but the 969 at Long Beach could be had at a very low price.

For the Powerhouse license, this sort of transfer is more complicated. An existing PowerHouse customer could transfer their license to another 3000 they owned. Cognos charged a fee for this. At the City of Long Beach, there's $100,000 of PowerHouse on the disk drives and the array that goes with that 3000. It's hard to believe that six figures of product will slide into a disk shredder. Some emulator prospects have seen that kind of quote just to move their PowerHouse to the emulator.

But the new owners of PowerHouse have said that everything is going to be considered in these earliest days of their asset acquisition. Right now, Unicom Systems owns the rights to licenses like the one at Long Beach. If the company could turn that $100,000 purchase in the 1980s into a living support contract -- with the chance to earn more revenue if PowerHouse ever got new engineering -- what would the risk be for Unicom?

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HP to surf legacy OS onto new platform

HP's Unix customers aren't so lucky, but the companies that rely on the NonStop OS have been told they're getting an x86-ready version of their fault-tolerant environment. 

SurfingHP“No matter what HP NonStop hardware architecture you choose, you will continue to get 100 percent NonStop value that makes what you do truly matter,” CEO Meg Whitman explained to the installed base. It's a message that might make an HP-UX customer wonder if what they're doing, strictly on Itanium hardware, will truly matter.

What matters to HP is the stickiness of the NonStop customer. They demonstrate the same kind of product and company loyalty that the 3000 customer did, at least until HP announced the end of its MPE business. Technically, there are possibilities for c7000 blades to run the environment first released when Jim Treybig left HP to form Tandem.

There are no promises here, and no roadmap for release of this transitional product. It's much further out than the reality of running MPE/iX on Intel servers -- and that Stromasys solution won't require special Intel hardware from HP. But it's more of a future than the OpenVMS and HP-UX enterprise customers are facing.

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Another Window is flung open to malware

HP continues to flog its customers off of Windows XP, reminding everybody that April 15 is the end of security updates for Microsoft's equivalent of MPE/iX. That's similar as in "designed more than a decade ago, still doing useful work, and not broken in many places." We spoke with Dave Elward of Taurus Software this week -- he's got an interesting project he's been doing on the history of HP 2000, one we'll cover next week. Elward pointed out most of his development these days is in Windows. The latest is Windows Server 2012, "the complement to Windows 8."

"For the most part, I work in Windows XP," Elward said. He's beyond brilliant in his understanding of the relative operations and virtues of environments. His first major product for the market was Chameleon, software that made HP 3000s use the new RISC-based UI, even when the 3000s were running MPE V. Chameleon let customers emulate the then-new PA-RISC HP 3000 operating system on Classic MPE V.

When someone as thorough as Elward is using an OS that HP seems to be exiting, it might be proof that security doesn't rely exclusively on software updates. Plenty of damage can be done through Windows via phished emails. The latest scheme involves sending email that purports to confirm an airline flight, or track a package from an online retailer. Our resident security expert Steve Hardwick explains how it's done, and what might be done to keep a Windows system from the latest malware infection.

By Steve Hardwick

I was recently asked to help out a colleague who had inadvertently opened an email containing malware. The email was a false notification of an order that had not been placed. Inside the email, a link led the unsuspecting user to a site that downloaded the first part of the virus. Fortunately at that point, the user knew something was amiss and called me. We are able to get rid of the virus, mainly due to the fact he had already taken good security precautions. Ironically, two days later, I received a notification email myself regarding airline tickets I did not purchase. This one included a Windows executable attachment. Since I was using my Ubuntu Linux desktop, it was easy to detect and no threat. All the same, it shows that there has been a wave of attacks out there taking advantage of seasonal behavior.

This method of attack is not new. In fact UPS has a list of examples of false emails on their website. The reason that these emails are more of a threat is that they get blended in with an unusual number of real ones. When people at Christmas order more on-line shipments and plane tickets, it allows the hacker to use this tactic more effectively. The other danger is that new viruses can be used as part of the attack. In the case of my colleague, the virus had only been identified a couple of days before he got it. Most of the AntiVirus, or A/V, software packages had not developed a detection update for it yet, This type of attack is commonly called a “Zero Day” virus infection. If the A/V cannot detect a virus, what can you do to mitigate this threat?

Continue reading "Another Window is flung open to malware" »

Eloquence: Making a Bunny Run Elsewhere

An email poll over the last week asked 3000 owners and their suppliers what was in store for their systems this month. One reader in Long Beach, Roger Perkins, has a 3000 they've shut down at the City of Long Beach and wants to find "somebody who's interested in taking that out for us. I don't know if it's worth any money, but I was hoping we wouldn't have to pay anyone to take it out." Perkins left his number for a recommendation on recycling a 3000: 562-570-6054.

Energizer bunnyOur experience with this situation is that individuals -- fellow 3000 owners -- will be interested in the machine for parts, provided they don't have to bear too much freight costs. But there's something more unique than a collection of slower CPU boards and decade-plus-old discs on hand. The city has an MPE/iX license attached to its 3000. It's a system element that's not being sold any more, and essential to getting a virtualized 3000 online.

But little will change in that sort of transition transaction, except the location of a boot drive. In contrast, at Genisys Total Solutions, Bill Miller checked in to report that a change in databases has extended the reach of the application software for financials that has been sold by Genisys since the 1970s.

Though we have migrated all of our software to a Windows platform running Eloquence, we still have an HP 3000 that has been in operation for close to 13 years and has not failed at all during that time. We still support a handful of HP 3000 clients, who also seem to think the HP 3000 is the Energizer Bunny and see no reason to move from it.

Our main business is selling and supporting our applications on the PC platform. We have found Eloquence (as is IMAGE) to be a reliable and easy to maintain database.

Unicom sees PowerHouse as iconic estate

The new owners of the PowerHouse software products are talking about their Dec. 31 purchase in a way the 4GL's users haven't heard since the golden era of the 3000. While Unicom Systems is still fleshing out its plans and strategy, the company is enhancing the legacy technology using monetary momentum that was first launched from legendary real estate -- an iconic Hollywood film star home and a Frank Lloyd Wright mansion.

WingsweepReal estate in the wine district of Temeulca, the Wright-inspired Wingsweep -- "a remarkable handcrafted residence that is Piranesian in scale" -- along with the iconic PickFair Mansion first built by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks comprise several early vertebrae in the backbone of a 32-company global conglomerate. VP of Sales and Marketing Russ Guzzo, who told us he was Employee 4 in an organization that now numbers thousands, said Unicom's real estate group was once a seedbed for acquisition capital.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.17.14 PMIn the days when Unicom was smaller, "we used to [mortgage] those properties, then buy another company and go from there. We used these real estate assets to fund some of our acquisitions in the early days." Operating with cash to acquire assets such as Powerhouse is a mantra for Unicom's Korean-American founder Corry Hong, said Guzzo. "Our CEO likes to pay cash, so he's in control that way."

Guzzo said he's been put in charge of organizing the plan for the latest acquired assets. The former Cognos 4GL is the first Advanced Development Tools (ADT) acquisition for a company that has more than 300 products, counts a longstanding partner relationship with IBM, and now owns assets for Powerhouse, Axiant, and Powerhouse Web.

The piece that remains to be established is how much of the IBM-Cognos staff and executives will be coming along as part of the acquisition. Longtime product manager Bob Deskin retired during 2013, but Christina Haase and Charlie Maloney were on hand when the cash purchase was finalized.

PickfairThe company is spending the next 90 days talking to PowerHouse customers and partners to determine what the next step is for a software product which is, in some ways, as much of a legacy to the 3000 as PickFair is to Hollywood mansions. "We buy very solid technology, and then make it better," Guzzo said one week after the asset purchase was announced. It will be several months before an extensive FAQ on the new ownership is ready, he added. "Eventually, each and every customer will be visited," he said.

But he pointed out that Unicom "has never sunsetted a product. That's not our mindset. We find successful technology and say, 'We can make this better. This will be a nice fit for our customers.'  There's going to be a lot of new enhancements. We got feedback from people that they've never really gotten a lot of new [PowerHouse] enhancements or releases. That's all going to change."

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Consumer drives: as robust as enterprise?

Failed-diskOne of the components most likely to fail -- and the one which often fails first -- in an HP 3000 is its disk drive. Consider the average age of disks attached to HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard built the last HP 3000 and inserted onboard drives in that server one decade ago. Replacement and upgrade drives from HP, built after 2003, were for sale from HP for the 3000 through 2006. And there have always been drives purposed for one HP computer, but used for another. Those would be even newer devices.

All of the above devices are considered enterprise-grade. As the 3000 moves into its second decade of post-manufacture, owners will be looking for disk replacement strategies for the HP-branded servers. A virtualized unit, like the ones from Stromasys, have no such problems -- so long as their drives are of a high caliber.

Drive Failure rateBut what is the caliber of a drive that is suitable for business enterprise use? A vendor of cloud-based computing argues that the failure rate of enterprise disks is actually a little worse than that measured for consumer-class drives. Through three years, one sort of drive might be replaced for another with little concern. It's possible, however, that years 4-10 are where the enterprise advantages emerge.

Jeff Kell, who's managed HP 3000s since the 1970s, as well as Linux and Unix servers more recently, said the promises of enterprise hardware for 3000s have never been guaranteed. That's especially true in an era where HP now won't warranty hardware of any sort attached to an HP 3000. But Kell added that pure math proves that drive failures will head upward as the size of the devices soar.

"I don't know overall if disks have gotten "better" or "worse" by themselves," he said. "But the sheer order of magnitude has certainly changed -- and simple math would show you the probability of error increases as the data density increases. Old disk drives only had to keep up with a few megabytes of data. Current ones may be a terabyte or more."

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IBM divests Powerhouse development tools

IBM has sold off the Application Development Tool operations from its Cognos acquisition, moving the Powerhouse, Axiant and Powerhouse Web customers and products to Unicom Systems, Inc. Financial details of the transaction were not reported as part of the news, which was broken to customers in the last few days of 2013.

Unicom structureThe new owner of Cognos software, support operations and contracts, as well as customer accounts, is a division of Unicom Global, a 32-year-old company that's led by CEO Corry Hong. According to an IBM VP of mergers and acquisitions, Hong's business enterprise holds and manages more than 30 corporate entities in operations throughout the US, Germany France, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Unicom says on its websites that it acquires publicly-traded companies as a regular part of its expansion.

The parent company, which is a privately held concern, has strong ties to IBM's mainframe and midrange customer base. The latter is represented in Unicom's SoftLanding division, makers of program change management, automation and performance management on the i Series. 

Hong said the scope of the PowerHouse tools' installed base impressed Unicom. "Application development tools play a key role in enterprise technology," he said in a release, "and PowerHouse is the most widely installed 4GL in the industry, with customers continuing to achieve substantial economies in reducing application development efforts.

“This is a strategic acquisition for [this division of] UNICOM Global. We appreciate IBM’s trust in selling us the Cognos Application Development Tools suite, and IBM’s confidence in our ability to effectuate such a complex global transaction. We will collaborate with IBM to ensure smooth transition for customers."

A letter to PowerHouse customers made a clear statement that as of Dec. 31, 2013, Unicom has full responsibility for customer support contracts as well as development plans, sales and license renewals.

That last element has been a classic point of negotiation and some contention for the PowerHouse customer. For example, one site discovered last fall that a license transfer from an A-Class to the CHARON emulator was going to cost the HP 3000 shop more than $100,000. IBM told its PowerHouse customers on the day of the sale that for any renewal quotes for Powerhouse software, "please take no action. A new quote will be issued to you by Unicom. Further instructions on how to process your renewal with [Unicom] will be provided to you shortly." 

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Replacing 3000 meant dozens more servers

UTC shutdown

Tony Shepherd (left) and Jeff Kell switch off an A-Class and N-Class server at the December decommission of the UTC's HP 3000s. MPE drove the operations of the university for more than 30 years.

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the HP 3000 was decommissioned last month. The university's operations had been managed under MPE and MPE/iX since 1976. After 37 years of service -- the last five as an archival system -- the servers went dark as the team of original 3000 experts executed a shutdown and a power-off.

By the time that legendary legacy system went offline for good, more than 43 servers had been powered up and maintained to replace its operations. Jeff Kell, who not only chaired the MPE Special Interest Group but also started the 3000 newsgroup on the Web, explained the replacement strategy that requires dozens of servers. Kell has gone into networking management for the university.

Every one of them are at the very least a virtual guest VM (and those are in the majority). Most of the database systems (Oracle) are standalone physical servers. There are a few dedicated blades left as well.

And yes, it makes me ill just looking at it, in contrast to the single 3000 we had running everything. Of course our new application Banner includes fancy report writers (Argos) and front-end web portals and Oracle management/monitoring -- but still, times change.

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