University completes its course with regrets
December 19, 2016
After decades of use in a wide array of business and educational functions, the Idaho State University of has shut down its HP 3000s. The institution worked with Powerhouse tools from the earliest days of the 3000, a period that included some years using MPE V. Idaho State University turned off our HP 3000s. "We have the one N-Class server, plus two A-400s, for sale or for parts if there is interest."
John MacLerran reported to the 3000 mailing list, "with fond memories", the accomplishments and lifespan of MPE/iX at the university based in Pocatello.
The HP 3000 had been in use at ISU since the early 1980s, running everything from Procurement and Payroll to Student Registration and Grading. When I started work at ISU as a programmer in 1984, we had two Series 68s (later upgraded to Series 70s). Over the years, we upgraded as budget allowed. We installed the current boxes in Summer of 2001. Our production box was an N4000 4-way 440 mHZ box, and our development box was an A400 110 mHZ box. In 2004 we added a VA7100 array to our N4000 box, and it was this configuration that we turned off in October.
We went live with Banner, an ERP for universities, in 2009— but some applications on the HP 3000s hung on much longer because there was no suitable replacement in the ERP system.
Since we are a State of Idaho agency, there is a somewhat convoluted process for us to sell the boxes, but if there is any interest, you can contact our Customer Services manager Tony Lovgren at [email protected] for more information.
Idaho State worked, tested, and managed its migration over more than 11 years. Since the choice to migrate was replacing in-house Powerhouse with the Banner application, its exit from the 4GL was simplified. Batch processing was harder to replace.
A bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now, renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," MacLerran said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law.
These revisions following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."
It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."
Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.
A more complete spec listing of the available 3000s:
- N4000 - 4-way 440mHZ with 16 GB RAM, 3SCSI ports, PCI Fibre-Channel interface card.
- A400 - 110mHZ -- Perhaps RAM of 512MB
- A400 - 400mHZ -- not sure how much RAM (we got this from another state agency, but never turned it on)
Due to State of Idaho regulations, the university cannot include disk drives -- by law they must wipe, and then shred them.