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June 29, 2020

Un-parking HP 3000 ERP systems

Free Parking square

This week is the end of the line for MANMAN support from Infor. A migration company once offered a webinar on leaving behind servers that delivered manufacturing data. The focus at Merino Services was not on MPE, or HP's 3000. The company wanted to help with an exit off MANMAN. In specific, this was a march from "MANMAN/ERP LN to Infor 10X."

While many manufacturing companies will recognize MANMAN ERP, it's the LN tag that's a little confusing. Terry Floyd, whose Support Group business has been assisting MANMAN users for more than 25 years, tried to pin it down.

"The ERP LN is Baan, I think – it’s very difficult to tell anymore. It’s not MANMAN, anyway." The target is Infor's 10X, more of a framework for the migration destinies of Infor's parked software. Such parking keeps up support, but nothing else changes.

Merino, not a company on the 3000's radar, might not be blamed for conflating a couple of ERP names, or just running them together in a subject line. The lineup of ERP applications has been declining. An ERP Graveyard graphic lists the notables and the little-known, next to their current undertakers. Infor, which is the curator of both Baan and MANMAN, has made a business of this less than active retirement for more than 15 years. Younger, more adept alternatives have been offered for MANMAN for several decades.

Floyd added, "They have bought a lot of near-bankrupt companies," Floyd added bout Infor. "As you know, a lot of people have been trying to migrate companies off of MANMAN." It's a testament to the sticky integration of ERP and the customization capability of MANMAN that it leads the graveyard in the number of times it's been acquired.

Cloud-based ERP is rising, and a half-dozen newer ERP suites like NetSuite, Workday, Plex, and Kenandy are taking the place of classic MPE-based manufacturing IT. For awhile it looked like Microsoft Dynamics was the stable bet to take on some of this mission. Ned Lilly is the CEO of open source ERP software company xTuple, and he wrote about ERP gravesites at his ERP Graveyard website. Lilly pointed at a Diginomica column by Phil Wainewright.

This alternative strategy would allow Microsoft to focus on its core platform and product engineering strategy without the conflict of having a sales team intent on winning business away from its growing army of third-party partner vendors. Some or all of the ERP products would doubtless be part of that transaction, while Microsoft would likely prefer to retain the CRM product because of the tight integration that’s possible to its Office properties.

But the ultimate decision may depend on who the buyer will be.... I think it’s more likely that Microsoft would look to sell off some or all of its legacy ERP portfolio to a ‘friendly’ competitor — one that’s committed to the Microsoft stack.

Open source ERP may be a migration choice that wouldn't land in a graveyard. Commercial open source demands that some company product-izes the open software, in much the same way that Novell or RedHat turned Linux into an enterprise-worthy solution. Open Bravo is a good example.

As for any Infor strategy that a MANMAN site would want to study, the busy world of Infor acquisitions is covered in an Infor Discovery Guide. The guide runs more than 100 pages and mentions 25 solutions, ranging from CloudSuite to a legacy stalwart like Lawson. Nowhere in those pages is MANMAN itself, apparently because Infor considers there's not much for anyone to discover.

Software like MANMAN still runs on 3000s to steer the business of some manufacturers. Up until this week, the customers paid support bills as if the cost was a parking fee, since their software was going nowhere. Well, not nowhere: the customers still have the capability to customize their applications themselves, carrying the companies into a future where parking places are discovered, and places to steer a migration are regularly mapped out.

02:31 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2020

ERP surrounding advice still serves 3000s

Drill-bits
Earlier this week we marked a milestone on the NewsWire blog. A half-million pageviews ticked across the counter on our dashboard. I also noted that the pageview number didn't include the pageviews served off the original 3000newswire.com website. We didn't call it a blog when we started in 1996. The articles always started in print during the 1990s.

Google still tracks the performance of the original site. It's not paltry, either, even though nothing new has been posted there in more than 10 years. Google says 9,000 pages have been served during the month of May.

One of the most popular covered MANMAN advice. Cortlandt Wilson, whose pedigree on ERP goes into the 1980s, answered the question, "Is there still life left in the old MANMAN?" His conclusion was that a surround strategy would be keeping MANMAN vital, even though its owner of the time had curtailed development.

"Surround strategy," Wilson wrote, "extends the useful life of existing investments without sacrificing the business requirements for additional capabilities."

He added that "Bridging" is what I call a surround strategy that brings best-of-breed solutions to MANMAN today that are already being used by leading 'next generation' applications from the BOPS manufacturing providers (Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP)."

During the last 15 years, Baan has been absorbed by the current MANMAN vendor, Infor. PeopleSoft is now owned by Oracle. SAP remains the only one of Wilson's best-of-breed products whose ERP portrait is unchanged.

Sure enough, SAP is a regular choice for 3000 sites leaving MANMAN. TE Connectivity, one of the biggest MANMAN sites in the 3000 world, might be ready to cut off its last 3000 ERP databases in 2021. SAP will take over at TE when its 3000s finally go dark, 43 years after they first booted up MANMAN.

It's only a few clicks away from that article on the original 3000 NewsWire website to find reports on 3000 reporting tools, for example. If your 3000 is getting its first look by a new IT pro, because you're retiring soon, understanding what's on the server could make accessing the 1999 reports easier. Wilson wrote a roundup of reports, too. We've been fortunate to click on experts like him.

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

10:56 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2020

This blog turns 15, logs a half-million views

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Earlier today, this blog served up pageview number 500,000. That's a half-million times that some business computer expert needed to learn about, repair, or plan for using MPE/iX or the HP 3000. Content at this web address still serves a community.

The straight-up math tells us that the total amounts to 33,333 page views a year on average. These days, the pageviews are closer to 16,000 per year. None of those pageviews are included among those off the website at the original 3000newswire.com. It's the repository for the 1996-2005 Newswire, the Online Extra newsletters, plus a record of 122 monthly FlashPaper supplements. That site goes back 24 years.

A half-million blog page views, all since the year before HP's original support shutdown, shows remarkable devotion. Not even necessarily to the NewsWire; that half-million illustrates how long a server can remain vital and useful. We've been telling the 3000's stories for more than 18 years since HP started to quit on it. We reported for six years while the product was still a part of HP's futures.

Although the news from that 2005 monthly roundup might seem like history, it reinforces the choices 3000 managers face today. Solutions not tied to a single vendor continue to face a steep decline. Going independent of a system vendor is the default move.

The 2005 news reports showed an HP trying to find relevance in a changing IT landscape. June was the summertime after CEO Carly Fiorina left HP. She departed after throwing the vendor's weight behind high growth, low-margin computing. PCs, laptops, and printers were ascendant in the HP of 2005. HP was finding new enterprise business elusive, unless the new systems ran Windows. Unix served some 3000 sites that migrated from MPE/iX. Many more of the departed had migrated to Windows. Some were taking a chance on Linux.

The 2005 customers were moving away quickly from the OS at the heart of their companies. By mid-year, only 43 months had ticked away since HP's exit announcement. There were not a lot of customers already exited by the month the blog opened for business. We surveyed customers to discover that a close to half were replacing a 3000 with Windows 2003 Server.

That was not HP's plan at all, figuring enterprise features of HP-UX were going to snare the ex-3000 sites.

This blog gave us the avenue to report survey updates immediately. One of the first five blog articles that kicked off the page view deluge updated our migration target survey with fresher results.

Customers expressed reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows. But Windows’ familiarity won it many converts. This made HP's exclusive tech advantages less popular. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment," said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department, "because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux.” 

Hewlett-Packard was casting about for a plan to keep growing. In 2005 HP announced it would separate its printer units from PC segments. HP's 1990s management assumed everything was supposed to thrive on the business model that drove its laser printer success. A smaller direct sales channel, with less room for different and superior engineering, was the result of chasing commodity computing sales. HP was reorganizing, back toward a business plan that acknowledged not all products can use the same strategy.

Printers and PCs got their own leadership. At the time I looked into the future and saw that the HP 3000 customers were forced to leave might see another spinoff. A separate enterprise computing business. "An HP with non-Windows servers running HP-UX and OpenVMS could be just around the corner."

Nine years later, HP decided to break up the brand. Enterprise servers split off from the low-margin products. It didn't make HP more relevant to business IT. By 2014 even OpenVMS was flagging — and it remains the product line with the biggest number of customers not using Windows or Linux.

Our first month of blog reports included more tactical advisories. Some remain useful today. Keven Miller, who still supports 3000s and gathers MPE resources for the community, updated his 3000 firmware without the aid of HP's support engineers. It's the unusual site which doesn't need outside support help. After all, Miller's 3K Ranger firm serves 3000 customers. But the how-to about changing Processor Dependent Code is still on this blog's site, ready to serve its goodness through another page view. You will need patches, where the independent support firms can make them available.

We said at the time that "Miller's experience represents the level of admin skill a 3000 owner is going to have to call upon once HP's support leaves the field. If you're uncomfortable with this kind of admin, but need to keep your 3000s in service, there's a good lineup of 3000 service providers who can help you, all in the third-party market." There is still a healthy group of service companies working 15 years later.

Onward to the next half-million page views. It ought to happen around 2051, if we can keep up the current pace. I'll only be 94, while the 3000 will be 77. I hope to age as well as MPE.

02:28 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 11, 2020

Emulated 3000 box will outlast MPE expert

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Boeing has employed an HP 3000 for decades. The software was so embedded that MPE specialist Ray Legault got the corporation to approve a Charon HPA emulator, eliminating the need for HP's PA-RISC hardware.

Now Boeing is eliminating Legault's position. The MPE/iX app which he's cared for will remain in service, for now. It raises the question of who will be on the Boeing IT staff to keep MPE/iX's service on target in the years to come.

Legault, who's taken an early lead in implementing Charon at a major corporation, calls the work being curtailed "activities in supporting the four applications."

"My internal replacements will not know the HP3000 MPE/iX OS and may not be much help to the IT Finance analysts that support the applications.

"They will not know how to correct job aborts, create and submit finance batch files, or a lot of other routine tasks."

Legault's last day at Boeing is July 31. He may be the last expert with his level of expertise in HP 3000 operations and maintenance. The operating system has now outlived the HP hardware as well as the expertise at Boeing.

Photo by Nick Fisher on Unsplash

08:57 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)