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July 29, 2019

Making the numbers work for emulation

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 1.05.57 PM
Over at Stromays, the creators of the only PA-RISC virtualizing software for MPE/iX machines don't call what they do emulation. It's referred to as conversion. Using Charon converts hardware requirements from HP's 10-year-old PA-RISC boxes. The needs for MPE/iX become powerful Intel servers.

It might seem simple to see that and figure it will cost less to maintain MPE applications using Charon. A new calculator on the Stromasys site makes those numbers add up.

Even a simple calculation that has you paying no more than $650 a year for support can be a candidate for significant savings. A four-processor N-4000 probably won't have support that costs that little. But even if it did, the calculator says that a 3000 owner can save more than $52,000 by getting away from that old hardware. 

We're looking closer into the methodology that drives the calculator. At the moment it seems that the more you pay for maintenance, the lower the savings will be, so we'd like to know more about that.

An N-Class server can be bought for far less than the $52,000. So a 3000 manager might be tempted to reach for replacement N-Class HP hardware instead of virtualization. That's a solution which will work exactly once, though. When that hot-swap replacement HP gear fails, you're back to square one. You won't save on power or footprint, either, in that swapped in HP gear scenario. And there's the matter of finding another N-Class box.

 

01:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2019

Using VSTORE to verify backups

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The VSTORE command of MPE/iX has a role in system backup verification. It's good standard practice to include VSTORE in every backup job's command process. Using VSTORE is documented in the manuals for the original OS in which it was introduced: 5.0.

If possible, do your VSTOREs on a different (but compatible model) of tape drive than the one the tape was created on. Why? DDS tape drives slowly go out of alignment as they wear.

In other words, it's possible to write a backup tape, and have it successfully VSTORE on the same drive. But if you have to take that same tape to a different server with a new and in-alignment drive, you could have it not be readable!

If you'll only ever need to read tapes on the same drive as you wrote them, you're still not safe. What happens if you write a tape on a worn drive, have the drive fail at some later date -- and that replacement drive cannot read old backup tapes?

Using the 'two-drive' method to validate backup (and even SLT) tapes is a very prudent choice, if you have access to that array of hardware. It can also often help identify a drive that's going out of alignment -- before it's too late! 

Unfortunately, SLTs have to be written to tape (at least, for non-emulated HP 3000s). However, your drive will last years longer if you only write to it a few times a year.

You can find HP's VSTORE documentation page from that HP STORE command manual on the Web, (thanks to 3K Ranger for keeping all those those pages online).

07:01 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2019

Two very tough days for 3000 customers

Punch-to-jaw
July 18-19 isn't a date that lives in infamy like November 14. The latter is the date HP announced it was leaving the 3000 customers to find their own futures. The former is a pair of days in 2005 when a 31-year-old user group died, followed by HP's announcement of a layoff of 10 percent of its workforce.

That's a one-two that rocked 3000 shops still trying to concoct a transition plan toward their next computer platform. First, the storied resource of 3000 know-how switches off the lights without warning, freezing up things like a Contributed Software Library. Then 15,000 HP staff including some one-of-a-kind experts in MPE, got their termination orders.

By this July week of 2005 HP had done good work for the 3000 customer, in the form of promises, intentions, and plans, much of it by people in what was called Virtual CSY.  The layoffs didn't help any of those intentions, or reinforce the business decisions that could still make a difference to a 3000 customer.

HP's layoffs happened so long ago the vendor made the announcement before the stock market opened. That would be a post-trading news item today.

Interex, on the other hand, made an announcement that sounded like it was written standing over a terminal before someone cut out the power to the office.

Dear members:

It is with great sadness, that after 31 years, we have found it financially necessary to close the doors at Interex. Unfortunately our publications, newsletters, services, and conference (HPWorld 2005) will be terminated immediately. We are grateful to the 100,000 members and volunteers of Interex for their contributions, advocacy, and support. We dearly wish that we could have continued supporting your needs but it was unavoidable.

Interex

Your community reacted with resignation and invention. There was no panic or an accelerated drumbeat of exiting the 3000. In fact, just a few months later HP announced it was extending its exit date— and adjustment in plans triggered by the fact that customers had no intention of being done with MPE/iX by 2006.

In San Francisco, where many an airline ticket was already booked with no chance of a refund, the 3000 team decided to hold a last supper for user group conferences.

Bay Area residents in the 3000 community mounted a 3000 briefing in SF anyway, an OpenMPE meeting that included a few of HP's vCSY managers, The 3000 managers in HP often used HP World to talk to the community in person. 

Donna Garverick, an OpenMPE board director, put out the word about a prospective meeting. All that was needed was a place to meet and some interest from the community. HP opened a conference room for an MPE update meeting on August 18.

Since many people will already be in the SF Bay area (gotta do something with those plane tickets), we’d like to have a meeting for both HP and OpenMPE to provide updates to the community. We also want to provide a way for people to attend over the Internet. The board proposed using HP’s virtual classroom technology to host the on-line connectivity.

At this point, we simply cannot afford to lose any opportunity to find out what’s happening and have a forum for asking questions. Both HP and the OpenMPE board of directors want to know what you think of this idea.  We need your feedback to help us plan the meeting.

08:54 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2019

Wayback: Security boosts as enhancements

Booster-seat
They weren't called enhancements at the time, but 13 years ago this month some security patches to MPE represented internal improvements that no company except HP could deliver to 3000s. Not at that time, anyway. This was the era when the 3000 community knew it needed lab-level work, but its independent support providers had no access to source code.

Just bringing FTP capability up to speed was a little evidence the vendor would continue to work on MPE/iX. For the next few years, at least; HP had halted OpenMPE's dreams to staff up a source code lab by delaying end of support until 2008. The vendor announced a couple more years of its support to 3000 customers.

In doing that, though, HP made an assignment for itself with the support extension, the first of two given to the 3000 before the MPE lab went dark in 2010. That assignment was just like the one facing today's remaining HP 3000 customers: figure out how to extend the lifespan of MPE expertise in a company.

FTP subsequently worked better in 2006 than it had in the years leading up to it. It's not an arbitrary subject. FTP was the focus of a wide-ranging online chat in May. Did you know, for example, that FTP has a timeout command on MPE/iX?

The connection time-out value indicates how long to wait for a message from the remote FTP server before giving up. The allowable range is 0 to 3000. A value from 1 to 3000 indicates a time-out value in seconds. A value of 0 means no time-out (i.e., wait forever). If num-secs is not specified, the current time-out value will be displayed. Otherwise, this command sets the connection time-out to num-secs seconds.

When an FTP job gets stuck, using timeout can help.

MPE/iX engineers and systems managers were working more often in 2006 than they do today. When anybody who uses MPE/iX finds a 3000 expert still available, they need to get in line for available work time. It remains one good reason to have a support resource on contract. A company relying on a 3000 shouldn't be thinking a mailing list or a Slack channel represents a genuine support asset. Even if that FTP tip did arrive via the 3000-L.

The resource of good answers for crucial questions gets ever more rare. The 3000-L mailing list has rarely been so quiet. There are information points out there, but gathering them and starting a discussion is more challenging than ever. File Transfer Protocol is pretty antique technology for data exchange. It turns out to be one of the most current standards the 3000 supports.

Before the boosts, FTP services had lagged behind the rest of the world's FTP for some time. The final patches for MPE/iX 7.5, 7.0 and 6.5 improved FTP in several areas. HP said in 2006 it made SOX compliance easier. It was an era when people cared about SOX and HP still wanted 3000 customers to be able to meet the Sarbanes-Oxley protocols.

The final security enhancements to FTP/iX are in patches FTPHDG9 7.5, FTPHDH0 7.0 and FTPHDH1 6.5. The patches include:

  • deny del, overwrite, rename
  • chroot limiting cd, dir, put, get, mput, mget
  • new enhanced semantics for 'noretrieve'

Patch IDs are:

FTPHDH1(A) for 6.5
FTPHDF5(A) for 7.0 ** note, this patch is for some general FTP fixes
FTPHDH0(A) for 7.0
FTPHDG9(A) for 7.5

08:26 PM in Hidden Value, History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)