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April 22, 2019

A Handful of Users, and Steady Supply

Plumbing
A company in the Midwest is using an HP 3000 this month. They don't have plans to replace it. Chuck Nickerson of Hillary Software described a customer who will remind you of the grand days of MPE, the era when PCs might have been on desktops but the 3000 served businesses.

It's a small company. Four people in total work at the plumbing and electrical supply firm. Their 3000 arrived with its application, and the staff uses it every working day. This is the kind of place where the part comes off a shelf in back and the contractor gets exactly what they need. In that manner, they are a lot like the 3000 users, getting what they need. The 3000 is the conduit between municipal utility and trade pros.

A 3000 without a utility like Hillary's byRequest is a lot less useful. The Hillary software takes the 3000's data and does things like replace impact printers. Forms become something that a modern front end utility like Excel or Word, or even a basic PDF can deliver. "It the intimate connection with the host that we sell," Nickerson said.

Excel is a closed format, he reminded me, so the magic of connecting an OS with its roots in the Reagan Era with laptops that cost less than one small antique 3000 memory board—well, that's priceless.

Some 3000 users do move off their machines while they're Hillary customers. The intimate connection with other servers moves along with the data from places like plumbing supply firms. Cable and connections, pipe and fittings, make up the everyday infrastructure of our worlds. Good data from days past is important to seeing trends. Keeping up the intimacy is worth a lot.

07:53 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 17, 2019

Wayback: HP sues insurer for MPE defeats

Logo
Fifteen years ago this month, HP was working to prove MPE was a rich asset. The vendor had already shucked off its futures for selling the 3000, saying in 2001 the server would be kaput by 2006. The 2004 lawsuit was a last resort to get money for servers that HP did not sell.

Confused? The marketplace was in the know about HP's attempt to recover $31 million from an insurance policy it took out against losing sales to system counterfeiters. In 1999 HP began its campaign to arrest, or sue out of business, a stable of companies selling 3000s outside of HP's control. The '99 lawsuits were aimed at Hardware House and several other 3000 resellers. Those companies were charged with selling 3000s whose MPE licenses had been faked.

After more than two years of those legal attacks — HP concocted a High Tech Task Force out of a few California law enforcement agencies, raiding suspect companies — the 3000 division walked away from its 3000 sales beyond 2003. As far as HP was concerned, it was still entitled to money it lost from faked sales in the years leading up to 1999. It didn't matter to the vendor that it was ending its 3000 business and putting 3000 software vendors on the ropes. It wanted to be paid for those unlicensed servers sold by third parties. MPE was the prize HP was claiming, since the hardware itself was officially useless without an MPE license. 

Los Angeles legal firm Anderson, McPharlin & Conners went to the 3000 newsgroups in 2004 to beat the community’s bushes, working to discover prices for used HP 3000s sold between 1994 and 1998. Paralegal Laurie Moss said HP wanted to levy a claim for the full software price on every server sold to Hardware House.

During the legal firm’s discovery search, Moss said many 3000 community members who were contacted wanted to help. The Brunswick, Ohio-based reseller Norco, which eventually closed its doors three years later, was eager to tell the truth about the 900 Series systems genuine value.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people said, ‘I sure do wish I could help you in this,’ “ Moss said. The law firm’s attorney Lisa Coplin deposed John Adamson, former owner of Hardware House, in the case, as well as Deborah Balon, an HP resales employee who aided Hardware House. HP settled within a week of the legal firm's discovery depositions. The vendor settled for five percent of its original $10 million claim.

“We were afraid that some of the hardware brokers wouldn’t want to come up against HP,” Coplin said. “One of them, Norco, said, ‘We’ll give you everything we have.’ "

Things also went badly for HP throughout its march on the reseller businesses. One broker was sentenced to house arrest for awhile, but one of the biggest players in the incident had his wire fraud conviction reversed on appeal in the US Ninth Circuit court.

John Adamson's brother Richard was convicted of wire fraud and money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 and 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i). "He appealed, contending, inter alia, that the district court erred by (1) restricting his cross-examination of a key government witness and (2) broadening the scope of the indictment," said the court documents hosted on the website Leagle.

Richard Adamson's conviction was overturned about six months after HP had announced the end of its 3000 operations. The vendor-authorized top used system reseller also employed a scare tactic about used systems by the Year 2000, warning customers their systems might be seized by the FBI if they were sold fraudulently.

While HP was obviously missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars when a system got sold without legal HP licenses, its effort to crack down kept thousands of such used servers out of a market that was waiting on an HP hardware refresh. HP had to engineer MPE for Year 2000 compatibility at the same time it was trying to put a new PCI-based server line — the N- and A-Class systems — into a market that needed more horsepower.

Customers who could not justify the cost for licenses on bigger systems had to limp through Y2K. The delay of the faster systems clipped the wings of some 3000 growth during the year 2000. The new PCI systems didn't ship until 2001.

The HP business model that applied serious price hikes to multiuser systems only because they served a greater number of users — 64-user 3000s cost more than the same hardware and software serving 8 users — had help spark the reseller revolt. There was greed and deceit at work, too. At the end of the HP campaign, it only had $1,500,000 in a settlement to show for its crackdown that took more than two years to conclude.

05:44 AM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2019

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

10 000th
In 1982, 10,000 servers shipped was a milestone at HP

This month our friends at Stromasys are building a roadmap of the best prospects for their emulator. HP customers have been showing up for years. The software there will soon include a Unix PA-RISC edition of the Charon emulator, too. It's designed to bring the same kind of longer future to companies running Unix on the classic RISC systems that HP released alongside HP's 3000 iron.

Just as a note: The HP 3000 customer who's not on the final generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware can use Charon to replace Series 900 servers. We're always suprised and a little pleased when we see a Series 928 holding its own in a world where more and more servers aren't even on-premise. Cloud-based emulation is an option for replacing old 3000s, too.

Analysts might be surprised at the use of hardware a decade and more in age. The 3000 was never the biggest share of HP's computing, in terms of numbers of systems. Where the 3000 has always had the edge has been in hardware durability. That longevity has been underscored by sound design of the OS. The HP iron is expiring, leaving the operating environment as the durable asset for businesses still using it.

Again: Do not think only small companies are using MPE/iX in 2019. Stromays knows about the size of prospective emulator customers. The nature of the product's pricing suggests that significant companies have emulated the HP 3000 iron. Now an HP-UX market could mean hundreds of thousands of more systems they might emulate. Unlike a 3000, a single 9000 installation could run to dozens of servers.

Why care, as a 3000 customer? Well, the fact is that any extra connection to HP business servers, no matter what the OS, will be good for the future of Charon — and by extension, the lifespan of MPE/iX. That's PA-RISC being emulated there, regardless of the 3000 or 9000 designation.

How many PA-RISC boxes are out there to emulate? It's all educated guesses. Once upon a time, HP cared about the number enough to assemble employees outside the Roseville manufacturing facility to celebrate the first 10,000 in the photo above.

Nobody knows those numbers for certain, in truth. The size of the 3000 world has been an exercise in estimation as long as there's been MPE servers for sale. There are Gartner estimates to estimate the total HP systems sold — and of course there’s no Gartner numbers for the 3000 in those reports.

It’s been encouraging to see the effort to quantify a market like ours. The MPE market has been losing customers for two-thirds of the time we’ve been writing about it. We’re all guessing about legacy lifespans. But they can surprise us.

04:17 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12, 2019

Fine-Tune: Creating Store to Disc from tape

NewsWire Classic

I still have some 3000 information on a tape. I’d like to create a Store to Disc file with it — how do I do that?

Jack Connor replies:

There are several solutions. The first and easiest is to simply restore the info to a system (RESTORE *T;/;SHOW;CREATE;ACCOUNT=WORKSTOR) where WORKSTOR is an account you create to pull the data in.

Then a simple FILE D=REGSFILE;DEV=DISC and STORE /WORKSTOR/;*D; with whatever else should create the disc store.

The second method is to use FCOPY. You'll have to research the STORE format, but I believe it's FILE TAPEIN;DEV=TAPE;REC=8192,,U,BINARY.

The third (also easy, but you need the software) is to use Allegro's tool TAPECOPY, which moves from tape store to disc store and back.

John Pitman adds:

Do you mean copy it off tape to a disk store file? I’m not sure if that can be done, as in my experience of tapes, there is a file mark between files, and EOT is signified by multiple file marks in a row... but anything may be possible. If you do a file equate and FCOPY as shown below, you should be able to look at the raw data, and it should show separate files, after a file list at the front.

FILE TX;DEV=TAPE;REC=32767
FCOPY
FROM=*TX;TO=;CHAR;FILES=ALL

Here is our current store command, and the message it provokes. MAXTAPEBUF speeds it up somewhat

STORE  !INSTOREX.NEW.STOCK2K;*DDS777;
FILES=100000;DIRECTORY;MAXTAPEBUF

04:52 PM in Hidden Value, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 10, 2019

Wayback Wed: Sizable drives for 3000s

Supersize
Ten years ago this month, we celebrated the fact that Hewlett-Packard created a forward-looking feature for the HP 3000 before its lab retired. One of the biggest enhancements gave MPE/iX the ability to use drives sized up to 512GB. Getting this size of drive to work involves going outside of the 3000's foundation, both literally as well as strategically.

External disc drives supply any storage beyond the 73GB devices which were fitted inside the HP 3000 chassis. This Hewlett-Packard part, numbered A6727A, was an off-the-cuff answer from Client Systems to the "how big" question. Client Systems built HP 3000s with this part installed while the company was North America's only 3000 distributor. But nothing bigger ever came off a factory line before HP stopped building 3000s in 2003.

Outside of HP's official channel, however, a drive twice as large has been installed on a N-Class with a pair of 146GB drives inside. The Seagate ST3146855LC spins at 15,000 RPM, too, a faster rate than anything HP ever put in a 3000. These Seagates are still available; just $95 today at Amazon.

Older 3000s, however, need single-ended drives for internal use. Allegro's Donna Hofmeister says the 3000's drive size limit is controlled by two factors: internal versus external, and HP "blessed," or off-the-shelf specified.

Hofmeister came to her work at Allegro from Longs Drug, and said the Longs systems accessed disk clusters, called LUNs, of many hundreds of GB.

When I was at Longs, I was able to effortlessly mount a very large LUN on one of my systems. I wish I could remember how big it actually was, but I reckon it must have been several hundred GBs. The LUN would have been comprised of many physical mechanisms -- but the system never saw that level of detail.

The "blessed" question was debated from the late '90s onward between HP engineers and 3000 consultants and veterans. HP would only support disc devices that passed its extraordinary reliability tests. Nobody was surprised that only HP-branded discs ever got this blessing for the 3000. Once disk storage got inexpensive, drives from the same manufacturers who sourced to HP gained a following with the veterans.

"There’s the whole supported/blessed/holy aspect to the question," Hofmeister said. "[The Client Systems] answer is technically correct. On the other hand, my current favorite MPE system to torture has a 400-plus GB drive attached to it, and it works great. I certainly wouldn’t classify this disc as falling into the supported/blessed/holy category."

HP released patches to MPE/iX 7.5 to make this possible. The project the vendor called "Large Disk" gives 3000 users "the ability to initialize an MPE/iX disk volume of up to 512 GB on SCSI-2 compliant disks. SCSI-2 Disks that are larger than 512GB will be truncated at the 512GB limit and the space beyond 512GB will not be usable by the MPE/iX Operating System or any user applications running under MPE."

HP started the engineering to release the patches for the 6.5 and 7.0 versions of MPE/iX, but never finished testing for those versions of MPE/iX. The 7.5 patches are

MPEMXT1        FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP
MPEMXT2        [ALT|LIST|NEW][ACCT|GROUP]
MPEMXT3        SCSI Disk Driver Update
MPEMXT4        SSM Optimization (>87GB)
MPEMXT7        DISCFREE.PUB.SYS
MPEMXU3        REPORT
MPEMXU6        CATALOG.PUB.SYS
MPEMXU7        CIERR.PUB.SYS, CICATERR.PUB.SYS

HP sold a disk of 300GB that might qualify for "blessing" if the labs had ever put the device through the 3000 tests. But the vendor has always erred on the side of caution about larger drives, even in an era when disk had become cheaper than $2 a GB. HP's Jim Hawkins offered a white paper on Large Disk that advised caution for using 3000 disks larger than 36GB.

MPE/iX transaction throughput increases when MPE is allowed to spread IO across disks. Even though newer disks are faster than older disks, there are limits to disk speed and bus speed which must be taken into account. Moving from, say, nine 2GB disks to one 18GB disk will often create a Disk IO bottleneck. For best performance we recommend that the number of MPE LDEVs never be reduced -- if one has nine 2GB disks then they should be replaced with nine 18GB disks to ensure no loss of throughput.

HP never did support the full drive bus speed for the larger disks. 3000s get only Ultra-160 throughput, while HP-UX supported Ultra-320 on the very same devices.

The larger disks offer a significant value over the blessed drives. It's important to order a parallel SCSI version (LC) when purchasing a drive. SAS drives replaced the LC drives and cost much less.

05:04 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 08, 2019

Where to go for better 3000 census numbers

10 000Cover
Thirty-seven years, ago, HP celebrated 10,000 servers sold. PA-RISC was still five years away on the day everybody stood outside the 3000 HQ at HP.

Outsider estimates on the size of the 3000 market are going to be flawed. By outsider, I mean the ones that come from analyst companies, such as the ones that IDC prepared in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nobody can really be sure where that data came from. You can only hope they've talked to firms who were actively selling HP 3000s.

Those companies didn't have an HP address. Most of the 3000s were sold through resellers and distributors. This was a small business solution, in so many cases. Not that there aren't servers running in places the size of Boeing. But for every Bullard — makers of the iconic hardhats with three ridges — there were three or more companies like Peerless Pumps, or even a good-sized but not giant company like Disston Tools.

For the 3000, though, it was never about the numbers of servers. The tally of companies was more impressive. A Unix shop could have a few dozen HP systems, because the nature of the Unix world was to dedicate a server to each application. A single 3000 could host many apps.

In searching for better data on how big the 3000 market might be, I reached out to Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions. A 3000-focused company, Pivital sold 3000s and is among one of the freshest resellers of servers. Suraci said HP had a number which they used while describing the size of the market.

"I recall HP telling us there were 20,000 to 25,000 units in service at the end of [HP's] 3000 life," Suraci said. "That was the last time I recall hearing anything close to official."
 
Considering how hard HP sold its Unix servers against the 3000 base, it's remarkable that anything that big could show up on HP's hardware tally. HP's "end of life" could be calculated from the end of manufacturing, or even the end of support for MPE/iX. No matter where the line is drawn, that's a lot of worldwide systems to be shut down over the last nine years. Even an 80 percent shutdown rate would leave the census at 5,000 servers.

04:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 03, 2019

Wayback: Oracle embraces Sun and Solaris

Hurd-Ellison
Current Oracle CEO Mark Hurd (left) at a conference with Oracle founder Larry Ellison (far right) in 2010

Ten years ago this month, Oracle announced it was purchasing Sun Microsystems. The move led by CEO Larry Ellison ended the independence of the one company that nudged the world, including HP 3000 customers, into the realm of dot-com and fully networked servers.

HP lost the march on Internet growth to Sun, and those setbacks led to the departure of HP CEO Lew Platt, the final leader of the full Hewlett-Packard who'd grown his career from HP upward. In the late 1990s, the 3000 division moved heaven and earth to integrate the Internet services for MPE/iX that HP-UX had. But not even the HP-UX technical leg up could outrun the Sun rocket launched by its CEO Scott McNealy in 1982.

The 2009 deal dialed down the competition to HP's Unix solution. IBM was near a deal to buy Sun in March of that year, but talks fell through. Oracle said its $7.4 billion acquisition brought it the most important piece of software Oracle ever purchased: Java. But the world's biggest database supplier said the Solaris operating system, key to Sun's server solution, was an important prize, too.

There are substantial long-term strategic customer advantages to Oracle owning two key Sun software assets: Java and Solaris. Java is one of the computer industry’s best-known brands and most widely deployed technologies, and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired.

Oracle's statement went on to place the Solaris-Oracle combination of OS and database as the best possible for a company choosing Oracle. The future seemed to hold special features for Unix customers who chose Sun's hardware.

The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database, Oracle’s largest business, and has been for a long time. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimize the Oracle database for some of the unique, high-end features of Solaris.

Solaris is an asset that one 3000 ally counts upon today. Oracle has given Stromasys the ability to transfer Solaris licenses as a part of installations of Charon for SPARC. HP still requires a separate transaction if a customer will be preserving the official status of an MPE license while moving to Charon for the 3000.

HP 3000 customers who were migrating to one of the Unix or Linux solutions — HP's, IBM's, or Sun's — had seen IBM display egalitarian strategy toward the operating systems in its solutions. According to migration service supplier Charles Finley, Solaris was on an equal footing with Linux at IBM.
We have one very large customer that we migrated from the HP 3000. We had been working with the customer for at least one year before the customer decided to use SUSE Linux with Virtualization instead of one large [IBM] AIX box. They were offered both by the same IBM sales team who seemed to us to be totally indifferent to which OS was chosen. Perhaps that offers a clue about what they will do with Solaris if the acquisition actually happens.

Moreover, IBM is so committed to Java that you would swear that they already own it.

Today Oracle owns Java, technology that ran in a few HP 3000 sites but never was a big hit in the MPE community. The fact that the leading database provider to HP-UX sites then came to own a competing OS and hardware platform posed problems for HP — as well as extra study for its customers. Market share growth stalled on HP-UX. Seeing a competing OS land in the hands of a company that Hewlett-Packard then tried to retain as a software partner — well, it had never happened before in the market.

The year after Oracle's Sun purchase, HP's replacement CEO Mark Hurd — the one who followed Carly Fiorina after Lew Platt — went to work for Oracle. HP had forced his retirement in the wake of  accusations about a business relationship Hurd was alleged to have had with a reality show actress. Hurd started at his new job selling Sun hardware for Oracle, stinging HP with an insider knowledge of how Unix wins could be had at enterprise levels. He's the CEO of Oracle today, more than eight years after joining the company.

06:53 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2019

Bounty brings out bonus for 900 Series

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 9.42.40 PM
A new electric vehicle manufacturer is seeking early-model HP 3000 servers, hoping to locate systems that were built with a now-rare alloy crucial to the latest EV propulsion needs.

Voltene, which is building the first line of solar-powered food trucks, wants the HP 3000s manufactured prior to the year 2000. The systems were built with a set of gold-plated network interface cards and cages. When in service, this old hardware was a serious drain on power resources for customers who used servers like Series 900 systems.

But the very design of physics that needed all of that electricity makes those components a superior source of storage for the wattage the food trucks need to maintain cooking capabilities. Will Ubeserius, the CEO at Voltene, says the older the server, the more it's worth to the California-based competitor to Tesla.

"They don't make them like that anymore," Ubeserius said. "We'd like to get in front of our competition to get that classic iron's materials into our production lines. We're pretty sure that the value in those 900s is going to be a good match with our HotPlayte line."

A novel combination of solar arrays and grills converted from white gas kerosene, the HotPlayte trucks have been through hardware tests in Roseville, Calif. The testing field, a roundup corral with a dozen trucks, was built less than a mile from the last working HP 3000 manufacturing line in Roseville.

"We found a warehouse in the area with thousands of these servers, tucked away by what we're told was the HP FRD division when it took 3000s in for remarketing ploys," the CEO said. "It's a gold mine for what we need. But it's still a fraction of what we'd like to have."

The company is also researching the potential for the 7944 disk drives to contribute to the Voltene line. "Those drives moved on their own without wheels," said Stan Derddisc, chief engineer at the Roseville test site. "There's something in them that stores energy and releases it as kinetic propulsion. Those HP engineers were decades ahead of their time in making bytes move."

Companies with Series 900 servers are invited to send the systems FOB to the Voltene Energy Renewal Center at 8000 Foothills Blvd, Roseville, CA 95747. Freight On Board shipping ensures the systems will become property of Voltene once they leave the docks of the 3000 owners' companies. 

09:54 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)