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January 09, 2019

Wayback: 2009's emulator hopes, proven


In 2009 in this month we made a case for why the time was ripe for a product to emulate HP's aging hardware for MPE/iX. Time has only reinforced those talking points. It's worthwhile to review them while figuring what your plan is going forward. If you're among the managers in the double-digit futures club -- those planning for 10 years and more of MPE -- consider what was true then, and just as true now.

Early in the transition era the homesteading advocates in the community pumped up the ideal of an emulator, hardware that would make up for the 3000s which HP would be stripping out of its product lineup. The market learned that the final generation of 3000s was better connected and faster, but few in number. HP's late delivery of N-Class and A-Class systems hampered production. If you needed a faster 3000 than the top-end 900 Series, you hunted for N-Class servers that the customers were returning once they migrated.

• Staying with MPE/iX solutions means a customer needs to keep planning for more connectivity and speed. An emulator can leverage the latest Intel chip designs, rather than stay native on the familiar PA-RISC architectures of HP.

• There's nothing built upon PA-RISC that can network and integrate like an Intel-based server. The irony of that reality is not lost on the 3000 customer, who saw the Intel+MPE generation first promised, then denied to the community.

• Emulator vendors need MPE/iX expertise to make a product of any use to the 3000 market. There's exactly one that's got it, and they've had it now for at least eight years. We've seen more hopes become realities since then.

The idea at the time in 2009 was that MPE/iX would somehow need to be modified. "The paradigm must be the PA-RISC machine’s HP 3000 Compatibility Mode," said one veteran, "which lets users of Classic systems port applications at the binary level and with the absolute minimum of change, often none, to PA-RISC." No revision of MPE/iX has been needed to create fresh hosts for the OS.

Here's a better reason, one that's been fulfilled. "For an emulator to attract existing HP 3000 business users, it must aspire to that level of compatibility. Even if the underlying processes handle things quite differently, the goal must be that every invocation of an openly documented MPE process is accepted, and produces effectively the same results as it would have on a real HP 3000." Exactly done, and the reason the market never lost all hope for an emulator.

We predicted part of the future back in that January of 2009. "First, the product must boot up a Linux distro to demonstrate its capabilities. Then a seasoned MPE/iX development team must test the hardware design with MPE/iX tasks to give it HP 3000 capabilities."

We knew that HP would take no further steps to link advanced storage devices and networking protocols to HP 3000s. Few customers ever reported using the SCSI Pass Through driver, one of the last lab projects finished for the 3000, in order to connect bigger and faster drives to the HP iron. We saw a future where the vendor holding the hardware would be "The Intel Marketplace."

A honking-big Intel-based server which already has those connections ready can deliver more than horsepower to a 3000 homesteader. That kind of emulator delivers the future.

2009's economy was in a stall and migration plans stretched out in some places. Selling an emulator to extend a 3000's life looked like a better offer than it did seven years ago. The passage of a decade has made that choice easier.

08:41 PM in History | Permalink

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