« August 2020 | Main

September 27, 2020

In-person meeting's fate traces 3000's track

Empty office

It remains uncertain when everyone can return to an in-person office. For the HP 3000 manager, this kind of return may not even be necessary. With few exceptions, nearly every hour of maintenance, configuration, and development on MPE/iX can be virtual. And virus-free, unless you consider the kind of viruses transmitted over the Internet.

The HP 3000 often had its vaccinations to resist such viruses up to date. Security breaches continue to be rare, too. Securing passwords is usually enough to prevent uninvited traffic in the 3000's processors. Even configurations on Intel servers — through the Charon HPA emulators — can be secured in a way that gives 3000 managers few intrusions to talk about.

The conversations about security took place over the 3000's mailing list. In our articles we often called it a newsgroup, one that serves a need the face-to-face meetings served. Online does it more efficiently, and at less cost. It’s the kind of thing I wished we would have sponsored earlier. We had to start with print, because ink on paper made it real. Even today in the book world, reviewers demand a printed book at times. Anybody can publish an ebook. Paper makes the author more select.

But by the year 2001, there was room for the newsgroup. 3kworld.com, and a website plus paper for the NewsWire. This year the news exchange on 3000-L has slowed to a trickle. We made our transition to survive by broadening beyond paper for the 3000. There were opportunities. The 3000-L newsgroup begat the NewsWire. For a time, we even licensed our articles, the reporting and content, to a website operated by the biggest North American 3000 distributor. 3kworld didn't last long, but it continued the tradition of getting what you need to know remotely. For decades, August was a big month for in-person training, and September hosted a lot of conferences, too. Web access has filled those opportunities

Long ago, the 3000 experts could work safely from a laptop to administer and repair 3000s. Some of these support pros even had a customer carry around a phone to show the hardware racks and insides of cabinets. Parts that had been shipped to the datacenter, where that phone was running a FaceTime session, were customer-installed. We figure out what we can do that can be helpful to a community whose people are still serving.

10:21 AM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 24, 2020

25 Years: 3000 gets firebombed, then ideals

Cathedral firebomb
The deepest and dimmest part of the 3000's road might have been the earliest days of 2002. All customers knew for certain was that HP had lost its desire to create more MPE/iX customers. Sixty days earlier, the vendor had revealed its plans to end manufacturing the HP 3000 hardware. About another four years was all HP could promise to thousands of customers.

We talked to Winston Prather, head of the 3000 division, during that darkest month of January. OpenMPE was only an ideal from a few loyal customers, including Jon Backus who spurred the organization's creation.

We asked Prather questions about where 3000 people might head next. This was a time before customers leveled serious broadsides at Hewlett-Packard. His replies went beyond the standard "migrate to another HP server platform."

People are talking about a hobbyist’s license for MPE source code. Is this a good first step for an OpenMPE?

I have no problem showing our source code to people from a hobbyist perspective. I’ve always been an advocate for sharing source code.

Would sharing source code hurt HP in any way?

It’s not obvious to me. I tend to think not. I tend to think that HP would not consider that harmful to us. Those customers who would stay beyond 2006 don’t buy anything from us anyway.

Is HP willing to allow MPE to move beyond the HP umbrella?

HP is willing to allow MPE to live on. I don’t know anyone who’s said differently.

People use Microsoft operating systems with HP hardware today. Do you think an OpenMPE, from a third-party entity, could keep people buying HP hardware?

Would people stay on and eventually buy some HP systems? Probably. Is it material, financially? I don’t think so. Would we invest to make that happen? Probably not. I don’t want to stop MPE from living beyond HP, but the return on investment wouldn’t be worth it for us.

How soon do you think have to make a decision about licensing MPE to parties outside HP?

I don’t feel the need to hurry, other than I know in the chat rooms there’s a lot of discussion about it. It comes back to my feeling that, yes, I want to enable an afterlife. But it doesn’t change my recommendation. If I think the majority of my major accounts — and maybe some medium and small accounts — need to do something different than [use HP 3000s], then what’s our hurry? What’s the difference between announcing this type of enablement here in January, versus waiting six months?

05:31 AM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2020

HP emulator OS licenses: easier for VMS than MPE

VW bug license plate
For hobbyists who operate emulators, Licenses for OpenVMS have a new supplier. VMS Software Inc. is supplying OS licenses for the VAX users who employ the Stromasys Charon emulators. Up until this year, such licenses were only available from HP.

The HP-only license remains the only type that 3000 hobbyists can use. It might seem like a small point, since a hobbyist won't often be concerned with OS licenses. But the 3000 was once on its way to such a license, attached to the need for an emulator.

OpenVMS free-to-tinker agreements from VSI have an attractive price, one that MPE/iX never achieved: free.

Hobbyist licensing for VAX and other DEC systems was already a tradition by the time HP merged with Compaq in 2002. Compaq had acquired DEC and its business servers in 1998. The plan for a large footprint for OpenVMS might have played a role in getting the first Stromasys emulator into the world.

That was back in the day when Charon was offered by Software Resources International. The company renamed itself Stromasys in 2012, remaining in close connection with HP. Hewlett-Packard said Charon "prolongs the usability of HP OpenVMS VAX and MicroVAX applications by enabling their transfer to new hardware platforms without any conversion effort."

It was just the sort of thing the 3000 community desired: vendor blessing of an independent emulation tool. More important, such a blessing was going to arrive before HP stopped selling new OS licenses.

"CHARON-VAX emulates a complete MicroVAX system on an OpenVMS Alpha, Linux, Windows NT or Windows 2000 platform," HP told customers in a 2005 web page, "allowing OpenVMS applications to run unmodified."

A $500 license for a production-level system was HP's best offer at the time. Users had to be running an Alpha system to get that deal. Windows and Linux systems would cost a user $1,000. HP called these extension licenses. The hobbyist-grade OS was free.

HP is providing the following extension licenses for the CHARON-VAX environment, allowing the OpenVMS VAX operating system and OpenVMS VAX layered products and licenses to be transferred to the CHARON-VAX environment.

HP bought in fully on integrating Charon with HP's support. The existing HP software service contracts were valid on supported OpenVMS VAX applications running on the emulator. HP fixed software problems if they were also seen in a comparable VAX environment. The offer extended to a layered version of the OS, which included compilers, clustering, and more.

Emulator licenses for MPE/iX

HP 3000 users were teased with a deal that hinged on the release of Charon or any other emulator. In a crucial move, a customer would be able to purchase a license that was not connected in any way to an existing 3000 system.

Late in 2003, HP said it "intends to establish a new distribution plan for MPE/iX which will likely be effective by early 2004. The MPE/iX OS would be licensed independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform. The license terms would grant the licensee the right to use a single copy of MPE/iX on a single HP hardware platform subject to certain terms and conditions."

HP wanted its emulator-based users to host the systems on HP-branded PCs. There was little technology available to verify such a condition, though. MPE would be provided "AS-IS" with no warranty.

HP didn't endorse the use of a 3000 emulator in 2004. The HP stuck fast to the strategy that the best move was a transition from MPE/iX to another HP platform. "At the same time, HP realizes that some customers are interested in running MPE/iX applications in an emulated environment."

The expected price for an MPE/iX license was $500, with a right to use that was non-transferable. HP was going to include subsystems software such as compilers, but it didn't get specific about products.

The DEC VAX license was generous in its scope:

ACMS, ALL-IN-1, HP Ada, HP BASIC, HP C, CMS, COBOL, DCE, DCPS, DECmigrate, DECram, DECwrite, DFS, DQS, DTM, DTR, DECnet-Plus, DECnet Phase IV, DECwindows Motif, FMS, Forms, Fortran, GKS, LSE, MACRO-64, MAILbus, MMS, Notes, Pascal, PCA, PHIGS, RMS Journaling, RTR, SLS, SQL, TCP/IP Services for OpenVMS, VAXcluster, OpenVMS Clusters, Volume Shadowing for OpenVMS, X.25, X.500.

And for MPE/iX, the emulator license to create new 3000s, based only on PC-Intel hardware, never showed up in time. HP inserted a clause that said such a license could only be purchased when an emulator was being sold. Then the vendor closed out the offer by saying it would sell no MPE/iX licenses of any kind after 2010.

The deal stands in sharp contrast with the OpenVMS lifespan engineered by HP Enterprise. An independent company, VSI, holds the rights to the OS. Now it's going to be able to distribute an OpenVMS for hobbyists.

02:38 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 15, 2020

Making today's switches handle 9x7s?

Series 9x7 Family
For any manager outside the HP 3000 ecosystem, it's hard to fathom: a business server last sold during the 1990s hosts a scheduling app today. Yes, it's a 9x7 Series HP 3000, the servers that launched the second generation of PA-RISC computing at HP. First, there was the Series 930 in 1987, followed quickly by the Series 950 and the 925. In a blink of an eye, HP built the 9x7s, known as Nova servers at the time.

MPE/iX 6.0 is as current as it gets for a Series 957, the system that Jim Maher is trying to keep in play at his company. That's an HP 3000 first shipped 29 years ago. These are usually the RX models that sold for about $63,000 new. That configuration gets you 64 concurrent users. Back in those days, a 3000 was sold with a fixed number of users.

"Has anyone experienced issues, or had to make configuration changes, to their HP 3000 when upgrading Cisco switch IOS to version 16.09.05?" Maher asked on the lightly-used HP3000-L list.

He explained that "it's a 957 running 6.0 that runs an old scheduling app developed years ago. We have been trying to get off it for years. We connect through a transceiver on the multi-function board. Pretty simple, I'm told. The last time they updated the Cisco switch they had some problems. Any help would be much appreciated."

For the most part, development on the 9x7 Series ended in 1997. That's when HP rolled out the Series 997 along with the recently updated Java/iX. The version 4 of Java turned out the be the last one included with MPE/iX. 

Maher didn't get a reply on the 3000-L to his query, so if a reader here has Cisco-plus-MPE/iX 6.0 experience, please pass it along to him. Meanwhile, marvel at a 29-year-old design managing to keep up with 21st Century switches — with a little help from the 3000's friends.

05:44 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

September 08, 2020

Old hardware dogs use newer tricks for mail

Mailbox in field
HP 3000s can surprise us with their tenacity. A consultant to a financial services company is managing mail exchange from an HP 3000. The work relies on the Telemon MAIL software, created in the 1990s by the well-regarded data transfer company.

Telemon gave the world the Typeahead Engine during the 1990s. The hardware device improved HP 3000 connectivity speeds. When the Internet rose up in the next decade, MAIL made its way into some 3000 shops.

In the years that followed, MAIL found a place in many other IT shops because it had been released into the wild. Stein said MAIL, installed on a 3000 today, shows as being from 1998. "They would like to send email out via a service, such as SendGrid, instead of a local exchange server."

The HP 3000 in the equation is timeless enough that it doesn't have a formal database. It uses Keyed Sequential Access Method files. "They are big on KSAM," Stein says. "KSAM is definitely a different animal."

Emailing data from a 3000 is a different animal, too. The Telemon software is at the heart of MAIL.MAIL.ESP from Beechglen. "Addressees can be configured with SETVARs," says Tracy Johnson from TE Connectivity. "It sends via our company exchange server and is routed from there."

"Beechglen's software uses Telamon's email program. MAIL was shareware. If SendGrid uses SMTP relay, I believe you can configure it to use SendGrid." Johnson offers to cut a DDS tape of MAIL and snail mail it to Stein.

Mark Ranft of Pro3K says, "I’ve used the Telamon mail.exe program for years. The mail hosting server must be configured to allow mail forwarding from the IP address of the HP 3000. Keep in mind, your mail/security teams may not permit this.

"I am not familiar with SendGrid, but it may allow mail forwarding. I see it has an option for Address Whitelist setting, which allows a specified email address or domain for which mail should never be suppressed."

MAIL and the Beechglen software were created by utility software firms. Meanwhile, Netmail/3000 was built by an Internet pro who focused on well, email: Chris Bartram at 3kassociates.com. Netmail was as full-featured and standards-based as an email package ever got on the 3000.

“They are big on KSAM” is a phrase I never thought I’d hear again. Of course, people think there’s no more MPE enterprise computing, either.

People have been deploying email for decades on MPE/iX. From 2009, this question sits on the Web: Is there a job stream for using Telamon's MAIL program that produces an email with multiple lines in the email body? 

Donna Hofmeister replies, "Put the body into a file, then use the '-m' switch. Alternatively, load the body text into a CI variable and cite/de-reference the variable when you run the program.

Additionally, take advantage of the variables that the MAIL program
recognizes:

MAILSMTPHOST
MAILFROM
MAILTO
MAILCC
MAILBCC
MAILSUBJECT

Using them will help shorten your run line.

Photo by Mikaela Wiedenhoff on Unsplash

05:38 AM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 03, 2020

3000 emulator marks 10-year run

Zelus logo 2010
One decade ago this week, the Stromasys PA-RISC emulator made its debut in the market and on our webpages. The founders of the project were Dr. Robert Boers and the company's CEO in 2010, John Pritchart. Their interview with us remains useful. The talk, published a couple of years in advance of the release of what Stromasys called Zelus at first, shows the path for replacing HP 3000 hardware remains sound.

Newswire Classic

A long-awaited 3000 hardware emulator appears to be on its way to market, as Stromasys this summer announced a development, test and shipping timeline for Zelus. The product is described as a “cross-platform virtualization system” by the company that was founded as a spin-off from the Digital Computer European Migration Center in 1998. Stromasys, which called itself Software Research International until last year, has thrived on an emulator for DEC customers, those who need to keep using Vax, Alpha and PDP-11 hardware to support legacy applications. HP put the 3000 effort at Stromasys on ice for more than a year while it cleared the transfer of MPE boot technology for the emulator.

The software has more to offer than making companies able to use 3000s indefinitely. Stromasys says Zelus will buy time for the sites which are migrating and need more connectivity and power for their interim 3000s during a migration.

Robert Boers headed up the company during 2009, but this year brought on John Pritchard as CEO so Boers could focus on the tasks of being the firm’s CTO. In the wake of the company’s announcement about Zelus at the recent HP Technology Forum, we interviewed the pair via Skype, bridging the gap between Texas and their Swiss headquarters -- even as the company works out details to bridge what will be an 8-year gap in 3000 manufacture when Zelus goes on the market next year.

Your press statement on Zelus says the product “ensures continuity after the phase-out program of the HP 3000 hardware.” Do you believe that’s how your customers will view the situation: phasing out the 3000?

Pritchard: For people who have mission-critical legacy systems, they believe all of their hardware are on life support. What we’re offering is to shift their focus away from worrying about hardware maintenance to giving them a software platform life that is independent of a hardware platform.

When it ships next year, will this product bridge the gap between 3000 hardware last built in 2003 and the newer technologies such as iSCSI?

Boers: Things like iSCSI will work out of the box. We do that for our VAX and Alpha emulation routinely, because iSCSI is elegant and useful. You tell Windows to create a virtual disk which is an iSCSI disk. You can tell the emulator that this virtual device is your SCSI drive. You can map to new hardware, so if you have serial ports, for example, you can map them to an Ethernet-based remote serial multiplexer. Most of this stuff is mapped standards.

So does that mean that the controlling environment for the emulator will be Windows?

Boers: It can be anything. For the time being, we typically develop under Windows 64 bits. But we provide these products under Linux as well. The customer only sees MPE. Basically, these things behave as virtual clients. From a usage point of view, you don’t have to know where they run. In Linux, we remove what we want, so you have something that runs on the footprint of VMWare. But for all of these choices, we need to know more about what the customer is looking for.

Pritchard: One of the purposes of this announcement to start to invite a dialog with the community. We want to select a few sponsor companies who’ll say, “Here’s my application, I want to be one of the first to migrate. Here’s my configuration, and here’s what I need.” We want to focus our development team on just a few specific customer applications.

We’ve gotten far enough in our prototyping to know that it really works, and what we need is a lot more market feedback and a couple of sponsor customers to work with, to get a few successes under our belts.

What is being a sponsor customer going to look like?

Pritchard: We’ll select a couple of companies that will give us complete access to their environment for their 3000 application. The customers we’re looking for in early adopters should be lower-risk environments.

Boers: Let me give you a couple of examples. In dealing with Hewlett-Packard, the issue they had the most difficulty with was the whole physical licensing process, their hardware-enforced licensing mechanism. They have given us two device ID strings which we can use in out emulators, a low- and a high-end machine.

The other issue is something that HP is washing it’s hands of: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]

We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key.  Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.

We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, as part of their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX] who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.

06:02 AM in History, Homesteading, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)