Homesteading

Giving gratitude for 3000s and survival

Thanksgiving-1680142_1920
This holiday weekend, many of us can give thanks for surviving a year unlike any other. A pandemic is one way to learn how deep your fortitude can go. It was easier to love a business computer that was still being manufactured and sold. Even if the sales were disappointing and irregular, newer systems were still going into the world.

In love, we find out who we want to be. In war, we find out who we are. This has been a year of war for health, and it brings us close to two decades of battle to keep resources at hand for 3000s.

By this weekend, the only systems headed into the world running MPE are the new releases of the Stromasys Charon emulator and some experimental installs of a Classic 3000 emulator. The latter SIMH software runs MPE V and it has devoted hobbyists around it. That emulator is not a production asset. The one from Stromasys is proven.

On a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for — and something to envy, too.

Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill has asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s?"

We can write some of that. The HP 1000, a product line that HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered just in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.

A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted Alpha users to the Integrity line, a migration path of now-dubious future. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys. The presence of Charon also prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of 17-year-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.

But while the Alpha and the 3000 live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, both communities can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received from HP. OpenVMS lives on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. The company got a 2013 arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.

OpenVMS futures have some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS as well as for the 3000 users who wanted more MPE/iX future from HP back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced 13 years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.

If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support like it was for OpenVMS, there could be more to be thankful for by now. Extensions of some third-party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement OS vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.

Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, delivered from the OS that had brought HP to the computing game. Third parties who love and care for a legacy computer were at the ready for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. It seems HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a 3000 with Windows was not business that anybody feels thankful for.


Damages and desires got stamped from HP's decision

EFORMz flyer

Paper, printed with barcodes or mailed, still plays a role.

Nineteen years ago, Hewlett-Packard rocked the 3000 world with a fateful announcement. "No more new 3000s," the creator of the system said. "December of 2006 marks the end of HP's MPE road. Your ecosystem has been shrinking for some time." And so on.

How bad was that decision, really, in the long view from 2020? It killed companies, cratered careers, made vendors vanish. The world's landfills and scrapyards gathered tons of aging 3000 iron, over the next decade and beyond. What good came of it might be measured in how companies and experts rebuilt their prospects and skill levels.

Not many injured parties fell immediately from a mortal wound. Like COVID, though, the news attacked those whose careers or business models were already vulnerable. I was tempted, in the years that followed, to compare the HP choice as another kind of 9/11. I didn't go there, and I won't try to equate that business decision with a pandemic that's killed close to 1.5 million people worldwide.

The pain of a loss, though, isn't so easily defined. For some people and companies, November 14 was the wildfire that cleared out the old forest floor to make way for new trees. Minisoft was roaring along with its terminal emulator and middleware business. Its founder Doug Greenup summed up the firestorm and the aftermath eloquently.

"At first our business was not really affected," he says. "In fact, our sales actually trended up slightly with upgrades. We were faced with a critical decision to either let our company fade slowly away with the declining MPE business, or reinvent ourselves. I remember that 90 percent of our total business at the time was MPE."

"We decided to take Minisoft in a radical new direction going back to our old word processing days. We originally produced a product called Miniword which competed with HPWord and TDP on the HP 3000. Based on our long lost past, we created a document management suite written in Java that was operating system agnostic. We then marketed this software suite into several new non-HP worlds: QAD, RedPrairie, Manhattan, STW, and Microsoft Dynamics."

"It was very difficult to reinvent, and it took several difficult years," Greenup wrote to us on the 10-year anniversary of the announcement. "HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result."

A few weeks ago, Minisoft dropped a marketing flyer, full color and tri-folded, into my mailbox at the curb. The flyer updated me on eFORMz, its solution for printed forms. It emerged in the years after 2001. Minisoft says, "The world's great brands run on eFORMZ" with a list: Petco, Tiffany, Office Depot, Adidas, Victoria's Secret, Mrs. Fields. The lineup reminded me of the Who's Who list that Ecometry boasted during the year of that 2001 HP announcement. Known brands, the Ecometry sites, all using the HP 3000.

eFORMz doesn't require a 3000. If a company has one, the software integrates effortlessly. The non-HP worlds began to open up as opportunities for Minisoft after Nov. 14. The fact that a printed flyer could promote software in 2020 is a tip of the cap to the continuing power of paper. When the HP news of 2001 arrived at the NewsWire, we were as deeply invested in paper as a little business could be.

Like Minisoft, paper lined my path away from the loss. Books, to be specific, paper that's more durable than periodicals.

I think of books as the HP 3000 of communication. Steady, knowing, rich with data that becomes knowledge and then wisdom. I had to write my way out of the trouble. The Web, as we called it in 2001, became the bridge.

It's been 19 years since HP canceled its future for the 3000 and changed ours. Our lives stopped building on the success of periodical editing and publishing. We still did our 3000 storytelling, of course, and I keep doing it. But every Friday now, for six of them in a row, I write a little newsletter about writing and editing, instead of coding or managing an enterprise system. In the work of becoming a book editor, and the author of a novel and a memoir, I’m not a reporter any longer, not about the book work. I’m an author, as well as an editor and evaluator of other authors.

And Abby? Whoa — a yoga teacher who's produced three DVDs and is now in her 15th year of leading classes. Now people can attend her classes over Zoom. Students come from around the country, where they once had to show up at our address, or live in Austin for private sessions. People who don't think they might do yoga can practice Heavyweight Yoga. Thirteen retreats, too. A Fitness Magazine Fit 50 member, alongside notables like TV anchor Robin Roberts. Obesity Action Coalition's Bias Buster of the Year.

Could I see the way to this day if HP hadn’t ever stopped its 3000 business? Would our tribe instead be like the OpenVMS people who still have vendors and customers, but the latter isn’t spending much anymore, and so the former doesn't have money for ads? That all began in 2013 for VMS, when HP announced the end of its unlimited service to the Digital community. My new cattle drive toward books would’ve started 12 years later than it did. I’d have been 56, just beginning my journey. In that future, we might've had more in our retirement account. Or, we might have looted it for experiences, as we did through the years. What trip, Abby always asks, would you have not gone on?

I can think of a few, but they all promised to be delightful in the cozy run-up to each experience. Were there some lemon meringue pie slices we could have left in the San Antonio Tip Top diner’s cold case? To be sure, there were. How could we know which ones we didn’t need as comfort food for the soul, though?

There are, of course, other ways to measure how things worked out because HP lost its faith. We bet on a business that we didn’t think would last so long. You would've had to ask us on a really honest day in 1996, say, to hear me say this venture had about five good years in it. The unfettered, blue-sky time amounted to six years or so. The next 19 after 2001 have had some seasons better than others. You won't mistake technical publishing for the creative compensations of books and yoga. The satisfactions, though, are a different element to measure.

Many an MPE expert made this kind of transformation. John Burke became a mathematics professor. Some just branched out further, like Birket Foster and his Storm rural internet service company. He's still serving 3000 sites with data migration, too. Fresche Solutions waded into the IBM i Series market and held on to its 3000 work that'd begun while the company was called Speedware.

It’s an alternative history game, this one. However, it’s also a commemoration report. What did we do for Christmas in 2001, versus Christmas of 2000? I always mark what we are spending with the high water mark of the holidays. That was a time that always included the Dec. 31 birthday of my boy, the rock star who was proof I could create something warm and attractive and funny and smart. Amid my obvious failures, Nick is my durable success. And my marriage to a partner both special and true.

We got the Nov. 14 news a few days ahead of the vast majority of our customers. Some of the bigger vendors knew about it days or weeks ahead of us. I've written about hearing about the 3000's end of HP days while holding a payphone receiver with a cord on it. Fitting, considering how classic the 3000 was then and remains today. Wherever Nick and I were headed in Switzerland that night, we kept our appointment. A train station with a payphone on the platform led me to this New Tomorrow. We're all headed there by now because of COVID. Survival is going to be the outcome for so many of us, just as it was after 2001. 


SAP destination achieved at last for 3000 owners

Geese migrating
Close to 30 years ago, a fresh software vendor included the HP 3000 in its targeted platforms. The hopeful mission was to help level the HP playing field for Unix and MPE/XL business computing. In the years when mainframe stability was the IT standard — and MPE still hadn't locked in its iX suffix — SAP chose the 3000 alongside the HP 9000 servers.

The announcement about the software suite already changing ERP standards came from SAP's world headquarters in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg. SAP was trying to expand its beachhead in the US. The Internet played a minor role in corporate computing. "The company is going to SAP" wasn't a strategic cliche, because unless that company operated IBM mainframes, there was no widespread target platform for the manufacturing and ERP keystone app.

Twenty-eight years later, SAP has carried its clout to a fresh destination. The target may even dislodge some of the most staunch customers using ERP alternatives like MANMAN. SAP is already the replacement system at TE Connectivity, once the largest HP MANMAN user by system count. The final MANMAN database goes offline this month. SAP will complete its occupation in the TE campaign.

The new platform isn't TE, of course. A company doesn't represent a platform for an application. Even State Farm Insurance, with several hundred HP 3000s during the Nineties, wasn't an MPE platform. The new SAP platform is Suse Linux 15. The Suse Linux world considers SAP adoption a milestone for its customers.

Suse says the majority of SAP customers in the late Nineties "didn’t take much note of SAP’s 1999 announcement that SAP R/3 had just been made available to run on Linux." The 2020 media release from Suse last week reported a historical footnote. "Despite the establishment of an SAP Linux Lab, Linux was a wallflower in the SAP community."

The German vendor was as resolute as any military general about winning a space in the US market, though. Hewlett-Packard was going to be an ally in the assault. The app was so new to datacenters that 1992 coverage included an explanation of what SAP stood for. Systems, Applications, Product was in R/3, "mainframe-class software" headed to HP 9000 and HP 3000 users. The R/3 version had gained client-server abilities to reach beyond mainframes.

In 1992, "the foray into the US market has yielded big fruit in the shape of an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to offer SAP’s R/3 mainframe-class software to its HP 9000 and HP 3000 users." As part of the agreement, SAP and HP opened a joint development center at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, staffed by full-time engineers from both companies.

German soil already had a HP 3000 development lab. Down the road in Böblingen, the European HQ for MPE/XL systems was battling the push of Unix. The 25th anniversary of the 3000 was celebrated best up the road in Stuttgart, where a disco party roared with a sax player on a trapeze cable. SAP’s first new products for the North American market were expected in first quarter of 1993.

The software was building its legend of an infinite and sometimes maddening range of customization. That made the concept a good match for the 3000 strategy of robust customization. Business rules for accounting, personnel, manufacturing, materials management, sales and distribution, and plant maintenance — they all were executed in custom modules for most ERP.

Suse said in its 2020 announcement that in the Nineties, "customers already installed other operating systems like IBM AIX, HP-UX, OS/400, and Windows that worked just fine. Back then, SAP even still supported a combination of HP 3000 machines and operating system MPE for R/3."

The lab in Walldorf turned out an HP-UX version of SAP. The MPE/XL edition failed to embed itself in the combat unit of HP's 3000. Böblingen HP engineers were fighting the good fight against migration to Unix.

Linux had such blue skies ahead that it's eventually replaced Unix at many datacenters. Carrying around the proprietary versions of Unix like AIX and HP-UX was extra baggage for a platform: Suse is the second most often used Linux in the world among the branded distros, behind RedHat.

"Suse deployments/transitions for business-critical workloads and applications have been made available for public cloud environments," last week's release says. "Furthermore, major release 15 is the first version to take multi-modal principles into consideration." The names of the distros alone spell the coming change. Vendor specific operating systems were once named as acronymns. VMS, MPE, HP-UX, AIX: these ruled the corporate datacenters.

SAP modified its application to stand on the Linux platform. That represented the strategy beginning in the 1980s. On-premises computing was complemented by time sharing data processing. Everything needed a footprint in corporate offices, even if that footprint was no more than HP 2622 terminals or PCs that emulated them.

Linux won over the acronyms. The Suse report says, "Thanks to valiant efforts by SAP and partners like Suse, customers were able to see the benefits that highly efficient and optimized Linux systems have for mission-critical SAP systems."

There are new acronyms by now, like software-defined infrastructures (SDI), and application-focused architectures. IT is still run on acronyms. The emulation and virtualization of hardware and machines is a modern solution. The Stromasys Charon emulator replaces VMS and MPE servers. What's old, like the Nineties era servers, can become new again.


Final N-Class units at TE return to the markets

Screen-bird-wing-sky-airplane-aircraft-1043002-pxhere.com
TE Connectivity is closing down its HP 3000 operations by the end of this year. The company uses MANMAN to manage its manufacturing operations, including IT leadership from Terry Simpkins. This veteran of the community threw his light into my life when he called with a tip on disk drive failures that became an epidemic in 1985. It was a widespread problem HP was keeping quiet. Management at HP had to announce a recall and repair blank check, so companies could get their storage hardware bulletproof again.

About 35 years later, Simpkins and those N-Class servers at TE are retiring. One of the databases in the 3000 cluster at TE had been running since 1978. Now that set of servers is available for sale.

"As we wind down the last remaining MANMAN database here at TE, it’s time to think about the ‘new home’ for our HP 3000s. Therefore, we have 4 N-Class machines, all of them 8-way 750Mhz, that are for sale. Two are available immediately; the other two will be available in early December. Anyone interested, please contact me via email or by phone at 757-532-5685."

Simpkins says he started managing the MANMAN operations at TE in 1993, when the company was Lucas Control Systems. It's been 27 years with the same phone number and mailing address," he says. "My HP 3000 time started at HP in 1981. That's over 39 years on the same platform, not a bad run. I started on MANMAN in 1985 at Spectra-Physics."

The last MANMAN database at TE is scheduled to convert to SAP over the Thanksgiving weekend. "Our legacy begins in the mid 1970's, but I can't quote an exact year — way before my time. That said, the 3000 was turned on before 1978.

Before the corporation became TE, the company names where the 3000s operated were

Shaevitz Engineering
Lucas Control Systems
Lucas-Varity
TRW
Measurement Specialties
TE Connectivity

The 3000 closeout puts two other veterans into the markets, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson. Releasing good talent and assets into the wild is one of the upsides to shutdowns. Experience in the 3000, so rare these days, becomes available once more.

Photo by PxHere


Indie 3000 expert keeps national spirits flowing


Upstart startup leads off with 3000 news

Good every day
Do you remember the day your first 3000 logon banner rolled across a terminal or a PC? That heady feel of stepping into something new with a promise of permanent promotions? You knew about MPE, a little, or just slid into an office chair and began to plug away at COBOL apps that tapped IMAGE data for the first time.

Starting the NewsWire, 25 years ago today, was not like that. My partner Abby and I arrived at the first issue with 22 years of publishing experience. Between us, we'd managed and launched operations for 18 news publications in the tech industry. Abby was already a publisher at four different magazines.

What was different about the NewsWire startup was its ownership. Just us, along with 10,000 or so owners of HP 3000s. Our audience owned our future. A few told us we were making something that would turn out to make us nothing. A subscription was "Not even worth $10 a year," said one 3000 veteran who'd written features at the HP Chronicle, my previous 3000 outpost. He came on to write for the NewsWire in our October 1995 issue, Volume 1 Number 1, as we say in publications.

That first technical feature, written by someone who doubted we'd sell subscriptions, was "PatchManager/iX: Maintenance Simplified." It toured the new software from HP for patching MPE/iX 5.5. That release was only forthcoming, as they call books that are promised but not yet released. In particular, one staging tool in PatchManager would improve patching. "Welcome to the 21st Century," the feature read. "MPE will go one better than most Unix systems with the StageMan/iX."

The software resolved a crying need. "Backing out a patch in today's MPE/iX environment can rival the agony of abdominal surgery—without the benefit of amnesia," Guy Smith wrote.

HP had been working on PatchManager/iX for more than a year by October of 1995. In publishing the NewsWire 25 years ago, we were picking up the trail of a business server getting a restart from its vendor. PatchManager was "created strictly to address customer issues with the patching process, not as a cost-saving measure," HP said.

Early technology

Like our readers, we were more cautious about new technology from the commodity sector. One report said "HP 3000 managers press Win95 into service—slowly" while the 3000-ready app Netmail/3000 was releasing DeskLink. The module of Netmail connected HP Deskmanager mail nodes to the outside world. "Until DeskLink came along, HP had been recommending the HP Deskmanager sites set up a Unix system to give their Desk users Internet access." The fall of 1995 was so different that email systems were thriving that didn't use the Internet—we always capitalized the word Internet that year.

We counted on those subscribers for our first revenues, but it was the advertisers and vendors who showed up first. At one point over the last 25 years, we had more than a thousand paid readers. That point arrived years after ads from sponsors—we borrowed the term from TV advertising—carried the NewsWire's fortunes. A publisher, my partner Abby stared down the daunting first months with just a few advertisers. WRQ, the biggest software company serving the 3000 other than HP itself, shook our hands on the Toronto Interex 95 floor for a full-page spread. Those pages 12 and 13, plus HP's ad on the inside front cover and Adager's ad on the back cover, were among our bedrock supporters. Full pages from MB Foster and the Support Group were also part of the starting lineup of our startup. All are serving the 3000 today. Well, not HP.

Creating the graphics files for printing was also Abby's job, tied so closely to the artwork for the ads. I came in during her first issue work to find our Macintosh LC struggling through refreshing pages. We ordered a Power Macintosh 8500 that day, but the chugger of the LC was going to have to get us through our first printing. 1995 was not a great year for Apple. In a few more months, Bill Gates would advise Apple to sell itself to Microsoft.

HP assured our readers they wanted open systems computing. The 3000 was putting on the clothing of an open system, an ill-defined term that usually meant Unix. Open was certainly not the truth about any system vendor's Unix, operating systems usually handcrafted from the standard Berkley Unix to exploit vendor hardware. Unix was open in the sense that software vendors always supported it in general. On the ground, vendor to vendor, the OS had as much support in apps as MPE/iX. If your app was having a problem, you called a vendor support line and logged your problem.

Taking our shot

If MPE/iX enjoyed the popularity of Unix in 1995, we might not have taken our shot with the NewsWire. The 3000 world was a forgotten backwater of IT. Our modest venture of two publishing pros in two back bedrooms, tapping experience and a deep list of contacts and experts, never would have had much chance against the likes of publishing giants like IDC, CMP, Ziff Davis, or even Datamation. I'd written freelance for Datamation two years before our NewsWire upstart startup. In the year before we launched the NewsWire we'd both worked on contract for Interex, writing and managing subscription campaigns. One of the hardest talks we faced in that fall was telling Interex executive director Chuck Piercey we were going to sail our own ship into the rest of 1995.

Always the former sports editor at heart, I wrote an editorial for that issue that compared the 3000 to baseball legend Cal Ripken. That year, Ripken broke the record for consecutive games played without a day off. Choosing to use the 3000 represented that same pursuit of reliability. 

"All around MPE environments, other systems go down, fail, and struggle to stay online. The HP 3000 takes the field every day. If computers were baseball players, the HP 3000 would be the Cal Ripken of the league. Cal recently broke Lou Gehrigs' Major League record for most consecutive games played." The numbers matched up. Ripken had played in 99 percent of the innings across the 2,131 games in a row. "Cal is steady, productive, and not flashy—but respected by those who watch baseball closely. Those are the traits of the HP 3000."

We started up in October, a time that leads up to the World Series. In the summer of 1994, I'd toured ballparks with my 11-year-old Little Leaguer for a road trip. The journey and its fatherhood roots would become Stealing Home, after 25 years of conception, revision and writing, then publishing. Baseball felt like a natural fit for the NewsWire and our 3000 focus. Willie Mays was a baseball legend and a star. He knew it was an every day, all the time job. "It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What's tough is being good every day," he said. That was the 3000 and its community and its major league of vendors: good every day.

Not without fears

We had our panic and fears during those earliest days. 3000 owners might have experienced some on the day they learned HP wasn't going to continue selling the servers. They could do little to change that. We had to ride out the fallow times in the first year, those months when some vendors wanted to wait to see who'd support the upstart news outlet.

When we traveled to our first Interex show with a full issue, in Anaheim's HP World of 1996, HP was waiting with a warning. Frankly, the state of the 3000 market was not going to earn an HP recommendation of the 3000 to the large corporations. Glenn Osaka had been in charge of the 3000 group and then moved up to managing the business server group. Hearing that HP's heart wasn't in its 3000 work sent a bolt of panic into us. Two people with ad contracts to serve and plenty of ink, paper, and postage to buy—we didn't want to hear how little the upper HP brass thought of the 3000. It was a legacy business, after all. Show some respect.

Little of that first hard summer of 1996 matched the wonder of dreaming up the NewsWire in the spring of the previous year. In March of 1995, we talked about a newsletter that would do the work of a magazine, produced on a tight budget. We'd worked for a publisher together whose purse strings were always drawn tight. We didn't need four-color printing. We'd learned to do good with two colors: black, and a fire engine red. We had to educate many a vendor on how to create artwork that required only two colors.

Then we printed the first issue and got the newsletters delivered two weeks late, produced on too-heavy paper that busted our postage budget. A new printer took us to press the very next month. Abby had to hunt down a graphics company to replace the in-house work the old printer performed.

Y2K and the rising tide of tomorrows

Like many people in our community, the approach of the Year 2000 lifted our ship. Advertising swelled as software companies added products and customers. The legacy applications and systems were going to need more attention to get them through the narrow part of the calendar, that Dec. 31 when the first two digits of the year were going to turn over for the first time in computing history.

The 3000 business seemed to be soaring by the end of 1999, a period when we posted some of our highest page counts. Interex conferences carried extra ad dollars and gave us chances to sign on new subscribers. The web site was popular enough to carry a paywall tied to subscriptions. For the first three full years, an HP 3000 hosted our web pages. Our webmaster Chris Bartram created a random passcode generator on a 3000 which assigned login passwords for subscribers. After more than three full years, another website, 3kworld.com, paid to license our content. We walked away from further subscription growth to get our stories into a wider world. 

More than two years later, HP's managers looked at the prospects for selling these servers in a post-2000 world. Maybe legacy computing became more vulnerable after the classic apps cleared the Y2K hurdle. We'd only been publishing for about six years when the fateful November 2001 news arrived. I developed the Homesteading label for the thousands of customers who'd be going nowhere soon. I was in Europe vacationing with my son when the call from Abby arrived. In a burst of hubris and desperate hope, I rewrote a front page of the Flash Paper that handed the shutdown news from HP to a readership stunned at the prospects of fewer tomorrows.

For some of our readers, HP's intentions of almost 19 years ago mattered little. Their companies were always going to follow their own counsel and were devoted to a full return on their 3000 investment. Many more had careers derailed or sidetracked, saw fortunes dwindle, made plans for different tomorrows.

The NewsWire was never built to become a massive operation with offices, staff, and benefits. Things were lean enough in the Nineties that no one here carried health insurance. Organizing for a small footprint—though not so small that healthcare didn't ever arrive here—gave us a plan for survival long term. Here at the end of 25 years of publishing, 20 of those years have unfurled in the shadow of HP's certain departure from 3000 life.

Those earliest months when we could believe in HP's 3000 faith were still tinged with wry, sometimes dark comedy. Citizen Kane is a favorite film here, and we'd often quote one of its lines at each other when times got tough. Kane is replying to his trust manager when he's asked why he'd want to buy the New York Examiner. "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper," Kane said.

It's been fun. We look forward to more, bolstered by support from companies with a long-term view of 3000 usefulness, like Pivital Solutions. We have enjoyed support from readers and owners and veterans of the 3000 world, too. Here's to a fresh quarter-century, however it looks. The Tampa Bay Rays are looking like a good prospect to get into the World Series, winning on a pittance of a payroll. Little things that are built smart can surprise you with their ability to be good every day.

 


MPE/iX networking flaw has workarounds and a fix

Network switch
Gilles Schipper, our Homesteading editor who's shared so much advice and instruction, wanted network help. Along the way to answers, an MPE/iX flaw was uncovered. There's a fix. But first, the problem.

Schipper writes, "All of sudden, two HP 3000s (running MPE/iX 6.5) are unable to accept VT sessions from terminals on same network. Network administrators unable to point to any network configuration or equipment issues that could explain the problem.

"Further investigation shows that one or two IP's associated with PRINTERS (usually 1, but sometimes 2) have appeared in the "GATELIST" command within NETTOOLS.NET.SYS (along with the IP address of the router). It seems that the inability of network terminals to log on to either system is always due to this bizarre situation that I've never seen before."

Currently, the solution is to run a job every five minutes or so that issues a NETCONTROL NET=LAN; UPDATE=ALL, which results in ONLY the correct router IP address in the GATELIST, and after which everything is okay.

How can I fix the problem permanently without requiring the running of the UPDATE job?

Craig Lalley says he's seen this before.

"I suppose you will probably want to know how I resolved it. I don't remember... but, network redirects come to mind. Are they getting network redirects at the console? Do they have the correct gateway in NMMGR? Have you looked at the buffers?

NETTOOL.NET -> RESOURCE -> DISPLAY?

Of course, what does LINKCONTROL @,A show? Finally, look at the Name Resolution."

Mark Landin puts the blame on a routing table.

"Sounds like your routing table is getting polluted with bad RIP updates. Doubt it’s coming from the printers themselves. Not sure how you’d track that down. Maybe if you put a PC running Wireshark on the same LAN you could find the source of the bogus updates."

Billy Brewer thinks the router redirects cause the problem.

"What you are seeing most likely is ICMP Redirects (normally coming from a router). I don't think I've ever seen where you would get a printer IP address showing in your gatelist in Nettool as that doesn't make any sense. Basically the culprit is sending out an "alternate" gateway and the HP 3000 unfortunately listens and updates the gateway (Gatelist).

The network guys (at least in my experience) are never wrong or guilty until you prove it to them. Anyway, if this is the case, you can watch your console and if you get the result below, it will tell you the IP address of the equipment sending the ICMP Redirect.

SYS-A:** NETXPORT IP : NETWORK PROBLEM; Gateway redirects severe

Loc: 215; Class: 2; Parm= $A1C37920; PortID: $FFFFF972

If you convert the PARM= value from hex to decimal you get the IP 161.195.121.32, which should be the router that your system is having trouble with.
A1 = 161
C3 = 195
79 = 121
20 = 32

Update: Schipper says the problems came through PCs on the network.

"It turns out that the ICMP redirect requests were being issued by two virus-infected PCs. This was determined by utilizing a packet sniffer. Once those PCs were disconnected from the network, all was good."

Finally, Doug Werth pointed out this is a flaw in MPE/iX which introduced a security hole. That's significant, because 3000s don't often exhibit those. The continued use of these servers on modern networks, pretty remarkable for a server first built in 1972, will expose such stuff.

Werth says, "What you are seeing is in fact caused by ICMP redirects. It has nothing to do with printers or DNS or network resources of any nature. Simply put, a router on the network is inspecting packets and believes it knows a better gateway for the HP3000 to route to use and tells it so via a gateway redirect. The HP 3000 dutifully updates its routing table accordingly.

"If the redirect packets occur at a high enough rate the 'ICMP redirects severe' message is written to the system console. This makes identifying the culprit fairly easily whereby one can ask the network administrator to disable that feature. Yet it only takes one redirect to mess things up which won't reach the threshold of 'severe.' and thus making identification much more difficult. The offending packets can be located by formatting a link trace directly on the HP 3000, or with a packet sniffer like Wireshark externally.

"And how to fix the problem permanently without running the UPDATE job? Beechglen has a patch for all versions of MPE/iX to permanently ignore ICMP redirects. Contact us on how to track down the offending gateway and patches."

"I have long considered this a significant security hole in MPE, as well as all operating systems that accept and act upon ICMP redirects. Turning them off permanently is a must. No server should allow for the possibility of a rogue piece of equipment getting on the network and rerouting its packets. That is a job that should be left solely to the configured default gateway."


25 Years: Java promise yields Go e! app

Let's Go e Enhydra app
It's November of 2000, close to a year past the harrowing Y2K milestone. The HP 3000 is now renamed the HPe3000, adding a letter to remind customers and prospects that the 36-year-old server is ready for the Web.

HP Europe is running a "Let's Go e!" conference. The event is so multilingual that a set of translator booths sits at the back of an Amsterdam hotel conference room. The presentations will convince customers from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK that tge 3000s in their datacenters can connect data with remote customers.

Amsterdam translation booths
I'm in the audience and look back to see a UN translator setup worthy of a scene in Judgment at Nuremburg. In real time, the genuine capabilities of a Java-driven app are being demonstrated. It's a proud moment for people like me who invested in the future of the 3000 world.

In a way, the conference is multi-lingual for technology, too. Java made its debut in commercial markets just a few years earlier. In that room we're being told that MPE/iX can speak Java right alongside Unix and Windows NT. It's an important point, that similarity with an open Unix environment, or the omnipresent Windows. The 3000 deserves a seat at the table, HP believes. It's especially important in Europe, where they've had a tough year selling against Unix. HP-UX and Sun Solaris are well dug-in across the continent.

An IT manager from Dornier, which makes custom looms for the fabrics sector, explains how their Enhydra web app server built upon Java/iX runs as fast anything. An outside team built them the app for Windows NT, then moved it to the 3000. At the time, that would've been a 3000 before the ultimate generation. 

Not especially fast compared to what would be announced four months later: PCI-based 3000s of the A-Class and N-Class. Still, for Dornier's business clients, fast enough.

Java earned a reputation over the next year or so as being significantly slower on MPE/iX than open system implementations. In almost one year's time, HP decided the ecosystem of the 3000 didn't have a strong future. Despite the translation magic in that Amsterdam meeting room, the place the e3000 was going to go was away from HP's futures.


25 Years: Build an emulator, so they'll stay

Field of dreams
Emulator day was a Saturday. February 2, 2002 arrived less than 90 days after HP cut short the lifespan of the HP 3000 hardware. On that Saturday, Robert Boers of Software Resources International announced a prototyping project.

We are currently building a prototype HP 3000e emulator, capable of running unmodified MPE and its applications on a Windows platform. Note that this is an A/D project only, we have made no decision yet about making it a product.

Boers was leading the company that would later become Stromasys after a name change. On that Saturday in 2002 he noted, "It is correct that we did not get much response about my note about hardware emulation. Our experience with the VAX and PDP-11 emulators is that the concept is often confused with operating system emulation, and the assumption is that recompiling would be necessary, or that not all applications will run.

"The hardware emulators we build are operating system-independent. The demo we use to show the concept is to unplug a SCSI system disk from a VAX, plug it into a SCSI port of a PC, and boot VMS (or another VAX operating system) from it. We do not need to convert the binary VAX code in any way or form. Performance is not an issue, we have reached VAX 7000 Dhrystone performance on a PC.

"The emulator engine we use is likely flexible enough for the HP3000 hardware (we use the same for PDP-11 and VAX). The core VAX emulator prototype (CPU, memory, disks) took less than 4 months to develop.

"It took us about a year to convince Compaq to support their software on our VAX emulator as they would any other VAX," Boers added. "We did that by passing their VAX hardware diagnostics and architecture tests. They now offer very reasonably-priced VMS transfer licenses."

At the time Compaq was the owner of the DEC lineup. Later that became HP, but the vendor grappled with the concept of transfer licenses without a released emulator in the 3000 marketplace.

In those early days of 2002, we asked HP's Winston Prather about the prospects for speed in setting up a licensing program for an emulator. What's the rush, he wondered. As we pointed out during his interview in that same season, many more people would be available as 3000 emulator customers in 2002 than, say, 2006.

Boers answered a raft of questions in the same timeframe from 3000 customers about the PA-RISC hardware emulator that would become Charon.

1) Would hardware emulation take more processing power than an OS emulator?

Depends on the OS. With a rich feature OS like VMS, the amount of code required to map all functionality accurately would be huge, expensive to write and to debug, and techniques to speed up execution by dynamically translating instruction sequences would not work. With 1-2 Billion instructions per second available the trick is more to keep the code size small. The total size, including the emulation of the major peripherals, of the run-time part of CHARON-VAX is < 500 KB and it fits in PC cache memory.

The big advantage of hardware emulation is the ability of fast and comprehensive testing by running the hardware diagnostics.

2) Does your VAX emulator provide bridges or gateways to the native OS or hardware? Is such even desirable?

Those bridges are available and used e.g to store emulated disks as files (although you can connect physical disks). Serial lines are effectively telnet sessions, and instead of mapping to the host serial ports, you can link them to host applications. But the goal is to leave the OS of the emulated system in control; our design goal is always to be able to run any available OS of the emulated system.

3) For MPE to run directly (ie. loaded directly from HP tapes) wouldn't you have to emulate the entire HP 3000 architecture?

Yes, certainly, that is exactly what we do for the VAX and PDP-11 emulators. For the PDP-11 we emulate over 100 devices (for the VAX less). We generate each device emulator component directly from its hardware description. A CHARON-VAX emulator is booted directly from the standard VAX/VMS installation kit on CD or standalone backup on tape.

4) Could you emulate multiprocessor 3000 hardware config (or, would you need to?)

Yes, but you need a host SMP system to benefit from the multiple emulated CPUs. We run actually clusters of VAX/VMS systems on a single SMP host that way. It only makes sense if performance is an issue, but if the original hardware is capable of it, the emulator should be capable as it is a direct copy.

5) Seems that if you implement a truly portable HP3K hardware implementation, as more modern host hardware becomes available, you could end up with a more powerful MPE box than you could ever have with real 3000 hardware - cheaper too!

Our standard VAX 3600 emulator runs at about five times the speed of a hardware VAX 3600 on an AMD 2000+ system (and probably gets 3 percent faster every year). But the 3600 is a slow system (compared to current technology) to start with. I have not looked into the HP 3000 designs in detail to be able to give an opinion here.

6) How much would we be restricted to peripherals and storage that are compatible with a real HP 3000, and how much could we use non-3000 components: tape drives, DASD, NICs)?

It is a matter of documentation and implementation time, there is no fundamental restriction except for real-time requirements (e.g. connecting with a parallel interface to an instrument), where the host system PCI latency might play a role. But NICs, disks, and tapes map very well. Emulated disks are generally faster than physical ones, because you can use the latest technology.


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?


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.

The 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 bundle of software:

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.

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.


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.


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


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.


Worthy, worthless, or antique: 3K iron on tap

Ad1986_Oct_7978B_Interact-40
Hewlett-Packard manufactured countless hardware devices over the 31 years that it built HP 3000 gear. The earliest systems could heat rooms while running and buckle pickup truck beds when moved. In time, the 3000s could be carted in a luggage carrier (remember those at airports?) and even held under an arm.

People hang on to these creations for several reasons, not the least of which is the boxes get forgotten. This treatment was common even where the servers were at work, since the systems themselves rarely needed tending and disappeared into closets and under staircases.

The gear continues to surface, long after the last manufacturing line shut down at HP in early 2004. Peripheral devices like tape drives and disks were built for several HP lines including the 3000. A few of these bits of 3000 iron floated across the horizon recently.

Free to a good home: This A-Class A400 server recently used by Michael R. Kan, retired MPE/iX support engineer now enjoying a post-HP life. The A400 had a dual boot capability and include a C1099 console terminals and cables. This was especially worthy of genuine care and affection. "I was on the MPE/iX support team before transitioning to XP/P9500 support," Kan said.

HP didn't want the A400 back when Kan left on a retirement buyout. "Since I was a ‘remote’ who was working, no one ever followed up on the equipment and I couldn’t find anyone to take it. MPE/iX had wound down and no one or group with HP wanted the extra 3000 stuff."

Kan's A400 made its way into a Bay Area workshop. As a penultimate model of the newer PCI-based 3000s, the server's worth is still something that can be tracked by hardware resellers. Only the A500 is newer.

On the other end of the value scale sits the HP 7978B tape drive. A working model surfaced on the 3000-L newsgroup last month. This was a $22,000 device in its heyday that backed up onto a 33.75 MB 9-track reel. One of these behemoths appeared in the 3000 community not long ago. The owner was reporting about taking it to its natural finish line: the scrapper. We'd call them recyclers in a more current term.

Tracy Johnson has owned this backup device since 1998. Just sitting in his garage, he said, when the day of community junking came around. He managed to fit the device in the back of his minivan for the 7978's last ride.

A $22,000 tape drive, sitting in a minivan (for now). Think about the resale life of those two devices. How much could you get for a 36-year-old minivan? No, it’s just parts on wheels there. Maybe some useful ones.

The van only has to navigate through gravity and traffic markers, while it avoids taking up the same space as other vehicles and pedestrians and structures.

The tape drive has a lot more to do. It’s almost like a clown car compared to the minivans of today. It has file formats, tape locations, and network-serial connections to navigate. There’s calibration to consider, plus the age of the media. All more complex than staying on the correct side of yellow lines on asphalt, or following the routing from one address to another.

The drive needs an operating system. The minivan’s operating system includes a driver, plus a set of maps or memories about how to get where the driver intends to appear. To be fair, it will be the rare minivan of 1984 that could still run. I don’t think the first minivan arrived in the world until a few more years after that.

Between those two points lies the XP line of storage devices. An XP12 started this run, and XP9500 wrapped it up. One of those surfaced in the community, too. Worthless? Not as much as the 7978. More of an antique, honestly. Without monetary value, unlike the A400, but able to store a thing or two. Headed for its last ride in a minivan, maybe.


Where HP sells legacy OS's, and why it did

Spacex-rocket
Apple soared through a $500 per share mark yesterday. The market confidence comes from assessing the outlook for Apple's business model. The computers and devices Apple sells are powered by proprietary chips, either today, for phones and tablets, or next year for the rest of the company's line.

The operating systems for these devices are also Apple's specialized OS's. Software created for iOS or for MacOS will not operate on other devices. Soon, the Apple-branded chips will demand rewrites of applications.

Does this sound familiar? It should for customers who recall the state of HP's Year 2000 business plans. Proprietary operating systems all around for MPE, VMS, HP's Unix, and NonStop. HP-only chips powering all of those servers. Software rewrites needed as newer HP-proprietary chips entered to replace PA-RISC.

In a tale of two companies, HP's valuation at $70 a share in 2000 could be compared to Apple's $3.68 per share. Then there was a 3:1 split for Apple, and now there's a 4:1 split coming next week.

Making its own hardware and OS has been a good business play for Apple. HP turned away from this model to embrace commodity computing. Today only NonStop and HP-UX operating systems are sold by HP.

OpenVMS has been licensed by VMS Software Inc. MPE/iX licensing ended in 2010. Hewlett-Packard has a split over those two decades, indeed; the company is now halved into Enterprise and Inc. The size of its wide-ranging mission was too inefficient to maintain as a single entity. Commodity couldn't carry HP into a higher orbit.

Legacy strategy has often been powered by vendor-specific technology. Many factors apply to this year's soaring valuations. Apple became the first company ever valued at $2 trillion this month.

There's still value in legacy enterprise. The HP-UX and NonStop environments can be purchased from HP Enterprise today. Tru64, the Unix built by Compaq before HP bought the firm, is sold through indie outlets like Island Computing.

The last two decades seem to have proven there's no harm in engineering proprietary hardware and software environments. The crucial element is innovation and market reach. The invention within OpenVMS and MPE/iX keeps working for corporations that invested in legacy designs. Apple is releasing its 16th version of MacOS this year. Version number 14 of iOS rolled out this summer.

HP was able to create about 14 major releases of MPE/iX over the 20 years it sold the OS. It just hasn't been able to sustain growth using its own designs. That's a mission its legacy customers have accomplished.

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash


25 Years: Ready to paint the 3000's future

Paintbrushes
In this week of 2006, HP was readying its first updates on how to manage the forced 2006 migration date for MPE/iX. The president of the only remaining international user group, Chris Koppe at Encompass, had picked the key sessions from the upcoming HP Technology Forum.

The 2006 Forum would be HP's first trade technical show for its enterprise customers to make its appearance as scheduled. The previous year's Tech Forum was bounced out of New Orleans when Katrina blasted in. August is a dicey time to schedule anything in the Gulf. This week we hear that the Gulf will host two hurricanes at once next week.

In '06, customers could come to an HP conference in Houston to hear

HP e3000 Transition and Migration Customer Panel
Successful Migrations: Making Them Happen
HP e3000 Business Update
OpenMPE: A Current Status
HP e3000 Peripheral and High Availability Environment

HP would cover a lot of ground in the 75 minutes that Dave Wilde would speak along with Jennie Hou, who became the 3000's final Business Manager. They'd cover

A high-level summary of developments in the HP e3000 business during the past year, recent news, and a review of what customers and partners can expect from HP during the next couple of years.

How HP was helping customers and partners transition to other HP platforms

How HP is supporting companies’ business-critical environments as they transition

There would be some frank discussion for the 3000 customer who was not well-along on a migration path, or even considering that road:

Address the concerns of companies that may continue to depend on the HP e3000 to meet some business needs beyond HP’s end-of-support date.

2006's show marked the last time the HP 3000 got so much airtime at a conference.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay


Where the pieces of OpenMPE have landed

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 3.55.03 PM
Heading to OpenMPE.com was once an accomplishment. The open source advocacy group needed a .org at the end of its web address for the first seven years of its lifespan. The OpenMPE.com domain was parked, a resource to be used at a later time. The site tracked a list of companies using a 3000, papers devoted to MPE/iX technology. There were minutes of the monthly meetings OpenMPE was holding with HP's 3000 division.
 
The group also hosted Invent3k. That public HP 3000 development server was being shared outside of HP's labs, in that era when Hewlett-Packard was dialing back its 3000 operations. Even today, I could make a purpose for such a thing: a training platform for the few companies which need to pass along their 3000 administration to a new generation.
 
Until last year, Invent3k still churned away in a datacenter blockhouse near Lake Travis in Austin. The Support Group's Terry Floyd had generously hosted the hardware that had been donated. Being old 3000s, the Invent3k servers were power-hungry and virtually unused. Invent3k went offline in 2019 and nobody even noticed.
 
If ever there was something that OpenMPE was supposed to do, Invent3k was it. Infighting between the group's directors and a dismissed Matt Perdue, including lawsuits, blew up the group during 2010. During that first year after HP had closed up its last bit of MPE labs there were many more 3000 sites than today. It was still a time of opportunity.
 
OpenMPE might have been profitable, with some marketing. It’s a lot like a book, in that way. My memoir hasn't earned a profit yet, either. But neither have the VMS wizards at VMS Software Inc. Doing something you love is not enough to make it compensate you. It has other rewards, though, like preserving a legacy.
 
Today when you go to OpenMPE.com you get Web-style crickets, the 404 listing. The community Invent3k server files are now in Keven’s Miller's hands, and he hasn’t re-hosted Invent yet. He's rehosted the OpenMPE.com data, though.
 
OpenMPE.org, which then became OpenMPE.com after Perdue held the original domain out of the group's hands, is on Miller's 3kRanger website. It's worth a visit to see the full range of what advocacy proposed for MPE/iX in the years after HP gave up its futures for the OS.

HP's server hardware mirrors OS choices

Mirrored lake mountains
Michael Kan, retired from HP support, recently reported his A-Class HP hardware goes both ways. He can boot his server with either HP-UX or MPE/iX.

"I simply configure HP-UX as my MAIN boot path," he says, "and specify the PATH on BOOT for my other disc, which is MPE/iX 7.5.5." His use of the HP designs is in line with HP's intentions for its enterprise hardware. One set of engineering was supposed to serve all: MPE, Unix, and RTE real-time environments.
 
For most 3000 customers, their A-Class can only boot into MPE/iX with the correct processor dependent chip in the unit. This was the issue at the center of SS_EDIT access — some hardware brokers were using it for unauthorized access in the late 1990s.
 
Kan moves from OS to OS with the fluidity HP probably engineered for at first. For years I wrote articles reporting that some processor-dependent code on ROM was forcing the HP 3000-styled K-Class systems into MPE/iX boot only. Software created by well-regarded MPE vendors made its way into unscrupulous hands, defeating passworded HP utility software, resulting in a way to designate an HP 9000 system as an MPE-bootable server. We might have called it re-flashing the PDC ROM at the time. It’s been a few years.
 
That software was SS_EDIT. The password-protected utility was being used by HP’s support engineers. The passwording was defeated, HP’s iron could be configured any way a customer wanted. Selling much-cheaper K-Class 9000 boxes as if they were 3000s became a way to buy a resold K-Class from a broker and save tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases even more. It led to the HP lawsuit against the rogue brokers like Hardware House (the worst offender). There were jail sentences handed down to two other brokers (house arrest) while one of the Hardware House owners turned in state’s evidence in exchange for dropped charges.
 
Quite the cause celeb, the move seemed to show the MPE customer base that HP still recognized the inherent value in its MPE-related intellectual property. The lawsuits and HP’s High Tech Crimes Taskforce rose up in 1999 and 2000. It was a time when Y2K remediations and rewrites gave the 3000 some cover in the war over the datacenter and business computing. An HP business decision not two years later made the battle over the MPE IP moot, though.
 
Once the A-Class and N-Class servers arrived, a different program, SSCONFIG, began to be used. It couldn’t be defeated by outside software. HP had also shifted to a processor-linked pricing model for the 3000 and MPE. That meant the outrageous markups for the K-Class 3000s, the regrettable tiered pricing, disappeared for the newest 3000s. To escape the tiered-pricing jail, customers could buy new servers.
 
It hardly matters the way it once did. The upgrade HP created to PA-RISC, Itanium, is being discontinued by Intel any day now. The rewrite of MPE for Itanium was shut down after an estimate of the cost didn’t pass executive approval. HP 3000s might now number less than 5,000. But knowing you could pull an HP server from a packing crate, and boot either OS on it, feels like the magic the 3000 market needed. An HP 9000 sold for a fraction of its identical counterpart, right up to the end of HP sales of the 3000.
 
HP’s argument, a good one in concept, was that MPE and Image made the 3000 worth so much more than a 9000. A big problem was that the servers were being sold against one another by the HP sales force. The commercial application lead that MPE once had over HP-UX was gone. The pricing disadvantage HP put these 3000s at did its part to drag down the growth of the line.
 
One report I heard was that the 3000s paltry customer growth, compared to the success of HP-UX and the VAX line at Digital, is what led to HP’s cutoff of MPE’s futures. “If it isn’t growing, it’s going” away, was the statement someone heard echoed out of an executive meeting.
 
A support engineer, or any HP technical worker, has nothing to do with HP’s regrettable decision to kill off its MPE business. That’s a business decision based on a forecast of an ecosystem that HP controlled with its alliances, marketing, and engineering designs. At one point in the 3000’s history, though, the inability to buy raw K-Class hardware and designate it MPE or HP-UX mattered. It’s a delight to hear from Kan how the legacy engineering was supposed to work.
 

25 Years: 3000 Poster Project Kicks Butt

Largest Poster Project
August 5, 1996

It was a simple Monday assignment. Fill more most of a football field with 2,809 sheets of paper, each printed from an HP 3000 in four colors, to make a pattern of football players. "MPE Users Kick Butt" was tacked down with gutter-sized roofing nails to show HP's top executives the system could still do great things. The point was to make sure HP knew its 3000 could be connected to Postcript printers to print an enormous job, and that its customers were devoted to the product.

This was the World's Largest Poster Project, a brainchild of Wirt Atmar. The owner of AICS International made his bones in the word processor application field before shifting to reporting tools. QueryCalc was a ultra-spreadsheet for 3000 applications, giving its users a way to view and organize reports as easily as any Excel sheet set could. The volunteers wrapped the poster design around the name of the 3000's OS, which probably baffled some HP execs of the day.

This was also an important day for the still-new 3000 NewsWire. The poster was assembled at the Loara High School Football field in Anaheim, the town where we put up our first exhibit stand at the HP World conference. Interex had licensed the rights to the new conference name from HP. The NewsWire would be showing off its July, 1996 issue the next morning at the conference. We were also catering the volunteer effort with an array of Subway sandwiches and Domino's pizzas.

The poster was much splashier than anything we could order from fast food places. We engaged the high school's booster club to man the feeding tables, cementing the new relationship between school and 3000 community. Winds pick up by midday in Southern California in summer, so the dozens of poster builders getting a suntan from the bright sunlight glaring off the paper were racing the clock. Just after the stunt was completed, a helicopter was chartered to take a photo that Adager paid for, and then pitched to the Orange County Register.

Nothing is perfect, of course, so the panels of paper peeling up in the wind led to some hard feelings that a few volunteers took out on the catering menu. A typical 3000 tech expert — the Register called them nerds — can be picayune and exacting. "What do you mean you don't have a vegetarian kosher option for pizzas?" Domino's was unaware of how to make a pizza that fit both of those bills. Of such gripes were our debut day made in that sun. All were fed, and the newspaper smacked the photo and a story onto the front of its Local section.

We chronicled the record with an article in the August issue, the first-ever NewsWire edition to make its way in full to the World Wide Web.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- More than 100 HP 3000 customers and channel partners succeeded in assembling the world's largest printed poster here, building a document of about 36,000 square feet on a high school football field. The poster was generated by an HP 3000 driving an HP DesignJet plotter, producing 2,650 3x4-foot sheets joined with tape and roofing nails.

In conjunction with this year's HP World '96 Conference and Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, intensely loyal users of HP 3000 high-performance minicomputers bettered an existing world record by more than 35 percent. The HP 3000 mega-poster covered a 159 by 238 foot layout on the Loara High School football field just a few miles from the site of the HP conference. The completed poster weighed more than 670 pounds, and completely covered the area of the field between the 10-yard lines.

It was an accomplishment crafted from extraordinary cooperation. Born of Internet discussion and pushed along by a broad supporting cast of customers, the World's Largest Poster Project succeeded in attracting attention to the loyalty and satisfaction of HP 3000 customers, with only the support of a few channel partners to fund its material needs. And in the last hours of the record breaking effort, the poster was held together by the combined energies of a few dozen avid volunteers and thousands of two-inch roofing nails.

Fewer than three dozen volunteers were at work within a few hours of the start, rolling out strips of three-foot wide printer paper along the grass of the Loara High School football field. Fastening the paper to the field took more nails than the team had brought to the site, and soon several volunteers were dispatched to supply more of the most critical element in the project.

Meanwhile, the winds continued to climb, testing the resolve of a growing number of volunteers. Panels would spring up in the breeze, which seemed to appear from every possible direction. Project organizer Wirt Atmar (above, pointing out details to a volunteer's son) had printed the thousands of panels over a six week period and the driven the rolls of paper in a U-Haul truck from New Mexico. He stood alongside the poster's edge and gave instruction on holding it in place.

By 11AM, no more nails were on hand, and the question was on everyone's lips -- where are they? The winds climbed with the sun in the sky, and volunteers were forced to use shoes and poster tubes to hold the panels in place. As a section would rise up, dedicated customers would call out "It's coming up!" and race to tack it in place, an organic version of a fault tolerant system.

In succeeding to break the existing poster record, the HP 3000 customers started with virtual relationships. Unlike the previous record, which was done as a product promotion for HP and Disney, this poster was put together by a collection of individual HP 3000 users. There was no single corporate entity behind the poster -- the idea to put it together was born on the Internet. The group which grew to 100-plus volunteers assembling the poster each thought the event was an ideal and enjoyable way to make a gentle, irreverent statement about their belief in their chosen operating system.

Continue reading "25 Years: 3000 Poster Project Kicks Butt" »


User groups stay afloat with collaboration

Doug.mecham.interex_intervi
Newswire Classic

The first Interex board chairman, Doug Mecham, served for the initial five years of the user group’s existence. In 1974 he first gathered the group at Ricky’s Hyatt House hotel in Palo Alto. When the 31-year-old group failed to host its annual lifeline conference and slammed its doors shut suddenly in July 2005, we wanted to talk to the founder of that feast, to hear his views on what makes a good user group serve both vendor and customer at once. Now retired to the Oregon coast, Mecham made himself available by phone within a few days of the Interex announcement.

How do you feel this week, now that Interex has closed its doors?

I knew there was contention for a while. I’m not necessarily surprised. I think it’s highly unfortunate that HP chose to be competitive; obviously Interex chose to terminate right before a major conference. Obviously they didn’t have the money. It’s very disappointing. I could handle it intellectually, but it’s like a child you’ve created. You see the child and then the death. It takes its toll, deep down in your psyche.

An era has really passed. People have changed, the situation’s changed, the world has moved on in many ways. Interex ran for so long that a lot of people marveled that it had done so well. It was a high tech company, and it had a long life with a lot of people passionately involved.

How essential was the HP 3000 to the existence of Interex?

It began with the 3000. That was the genesis. The 3000 had a couple of problems when it came out. It was a real new adventure for HP. They thought it was going into the engineering world. It had FORTRAN, no COBOL, and a 16-bit integer. You know how long that lasted in the engineering world? About two nanoseconds. The one small hitch was when it first came out it had some bugs and was crashing a lot. I sort of initiated communicating with a bunch of people around the world, saying, “Look, we’ve gotta talk, because we’ve got to find solutions to these problems.” So we developed a users group and called it the HP 3000 Users Group.

Was a computer user group a novel idea when Interex was first created?

There was SHARE, GUIDE and DECUS. They were all there already, but DECUS was company-owned, and SHARE and GUIDE were IBM captured. Our approach was going to be entirely different. We wanted to be very collaborative. We knew the relationship had to be A, independent, and B, very collaborative. We never beat up HP like DECUS, GUIDE and SHARE did with DEC and IBM and waste a lot of energy. In fact, our technical group headed by Ross Scroggs actually met with the HP lab quarterly over two or three years to sit down and work out the issues. Boy, did that make a difference to the HP 3000. HP pulled it off the market, redid some things and brought it back out as the Series I.

So do you mean the user group played a key role in the 3000 becoming a usable system?

I would like to think that’s true. But certainly there was a lot of technical expertise and software put into it. The users group grew users, and it grew vendors. There were a lot of contributions made in support of the users, who needed tools and software. I feel that over the 31 years that a great deal has been contributed. We got HP to perform the miracles that make the HP 3000 probably the most stable business machine on the face of the earth.

Do you believe the machine’s stability will allow it to outlast HP’s interest in it, or the lifespan of this user group?

Absolutely. The HP 3000 lasted a long time, because it kept getting upgraded, and it’s still a fine machine today.

Do you think the Interex shutdown is something that will reflect on HP and on the HP 3000?

Probably. It’s an older computer, so when the user group goes away, who’s going to get out there and support each other and swap stories? The 3000 users may form their own group. Remember, Interex expanded into Unix and all of the other HP computing platforms.

How will it affect HP? If you were a customer out there and they suddenly pulled the user group from you, and then the next day they said they were going to lay off more than 14,000 employees, what would you tend to think? It probably broaches the concept of trust in a vendor. It certainly doesn’t help it.

What’s at the heart of running a successful users group, well past 31 years?

Interex has never had the propensity to challenge the vendor, at least in terms of the old user groups. Collaborate with the vendor, yes. To confront them? Not in an adversarial way. They were advocates for HP, and probably facilitated billions of dollars of sales. In the early days, the salesmen used to bring customers by. Those customers saw the user group’s customers having great successes, and that was a great motivator for sales.

The essence of the user group was a collaborative process. One reason Interex was running so long was that the user group grew its members. People were programmers, then they became vendors. Many users helped other users. They pushed them up the ladder. That was essential to the success of Interex.

Do you think the HP 3000 needs a user group to replace Interex?

I think someone will step in and do something, and there will be some sort of meeting. There’s still a bunch of 3000 vendors out there. They may want to get together and discuss the 3000 because they want to make their investment last longer. That’s happened with other groups, like HP’s calculator group that kept on with a small cadre of interested users.

Should we have another users group like Interex? It would certainly take a different format, because it’s no longer super-technical, because the technical problems for the most part have been solved. You’re interested in applications now. The issues are how can you use the 3000 better and what software can I run on it.

Do you believe the Internet stepped in to do the work that the user group did for HP customers?

That’s pretty simplistic. There’s still a need for face-to-face meetings. Look at how big the conferences became. Some of them have topped 8,000, and they came from all around the world. They came for face-to-face integration with other users, as well as with the vendor.

I’m sure that over time the technical aspects began to diminish, because the systems became very stable. The application software became far more important. The 3000 had a lot of technical issues to begin with, but they were resolved, and it grew into a technically stable platform. There were some problems, but not like the early days, when it crashed every half hour.

So do in-person meetings still deliver special results?

They always have and they always will. With the advent of the Internet, it’s provided a wonderful means for communication. But it still does not take the place of the face-to-face, one-on-one, seeing the other person. There’s something about people meeting people. You don’t run a marriage 10,000 miles apart by the Internet. You can do a lot, but when it comes right down to it, then it’s much better to have your wife right next to you, right?

What kind of a substitute do you think HP’s Technical Forum will be for what Interex did with its conference?

It’s obviously going to be a vendor-driven affair, right? The downside is that the vendor is going to drive his own agenda. How open are they going to be? If they’re truly open and collaborative, then it may work out fine. But if you look at the core competencies, what’s HP’s? Engineering. Can they run a users group? Maybe if they get the right people. The core competencies of Interex were user groups and user advocacy and vendor advocacy.

We’ll be able to see, once HP’s conference is over, what things result from it. It will be interesting to see, that’s for sure.

Since collaboration remained popular at Interex right up to the end, do you think collaboration with user groups has become unpopular at HP?

HP’s changed a lot in the last five years, haven’t they? The HP Way is no more. I think Interex ran very much along the lines of the HP Way. When I met with David Packard, he assured me they supported our group. HP went for many years with lots of ups and downs, and they got through every one of them. You have to ask why.

So you think HP’s competing conference contributed to the Interex shutdown?

They tried to split the pot, and pot just wasn’t big enough to support both. What surprises me is that HP didn’t come to Interex and say, “We want to accomplish this — will you help us do it?” They always had before, but this time they wanted to do their own thing. That’s their call, and they have to accept the consequences.

The support of Interex depended on the Interex conference. Why didn’t HP throw in with Interex, when user conferences are not part of HP’s expertise?


How OpenVMS Escaped the MPE/iX Fate

Fire escape
VMS people got a better deal than 3000 folks. The operating system for DEC minicomputers mirrors the 3000's OS in many ways. The most important way was the goal for getting an OS into the market during the 1970s: servicing business computer users. VMS was also built to support science and technology computing, which was really more of a matter of who Digital chose to sell to than any technical advantage. HP tried to sell MPE to the sciences and tech firms, but DEC got more applications needed to embrace those markets.
 
It was a big advantage for VMS. Once the Unix drumbeat got loud it was being called OpenVMS, in the same way that HP tried to rebrand the HP 3000 with an "e" at the front of the number. Not "e" for excellent, but e for Web-ready. It doesn't make a lot of sense now, that naming, but at the time "e3000" was clever paint on a pony that already had plenty of victories around the business track.
 
Years earlier, HP changed the suffix behind the new MPE. Instead of MPE/XL, it became MPE/iX. The new letters were there to show the OS had Posix bones. That was an era when putting an ix at the end of anything was supposed to give it good coverage. They were times when proprietary operating systems were in full rout, except at IBM.
 
OpenVMS wasn't special enough to save DEC from being purchased by Compaq, though. DEC had no small business products to rival the Compaq servers, but it had plenty of customers running corporate and business organizations. Selling to business, especially overseas, was supposed to be easier for Compaq once it acquired the Digital salesforce. Neither Digital or Compaq were Microsoft, though. A few years later, Compaq had to wade into the arms of an HP that was eager to be the biggest computing company in the world. Size, that HP believed, really does matter.
 
While HP had opened its exit door for MPE, Digital OpenVMS customers were looking over their shoulders at the Windows-heavy HP now being run by Compaq executives. HP put money into VMS for more than a decade after HP stopped selling 3000s. Then they sold the rights to the OS to a private company that’s staffed by former DEC/HP people. The company, VSI, has served VMS support calls for HP since 2017.
 
That company has been rewriting VMS to run on Intel x86-64 processors. It will take another 18 months before VMS Software Inc. will release the first production-caliber release. They’ve been working since 2017. Yeah, a full five years. VSI is bankrolled by Teradata, which has been plowing millions into gathering control of the OpenVMS futures. VSI has been told to at least break even pretty soon.
 
OpenVMS customers are just as ardent as MPE brethren about the prowess of their OS. The ecosystem, as HP liked to call the collective of vendors and hardware providers around its 3000, was larger for the OpenVMS boxes of various flavors. First there was the PDP hardware, then VAX, and after HP's three years of engineering, an Integrity-Itanium release of OpenVMS. All of these were proprietary hosts, however, something that Intel and AMD have reduced to footnotes on the business computing legends.
 
VSI's port of OpenVMS has been a fascinating look at a future that might have been for 3000 owners. The company is thick with tech legends like Chief Technology Officer Clair Grant. The labs are in Bolton, Mass. just 15 minutes down MA-117 from the DEC mothership town of Maynard. Funded by the investment of a multinational business software corporation, VSI began with a close relationship to HP.
 
Relationships between vendors and OS manufacturers can be prickly. Lots of smart people in boardrooms together can make for contentious meetings. Or you might look at vendors at the Interex Management Roundtables, eager to tell HP how it should be taking better care of MPE/iX and 3000 customers they have in common.
 
Size did turn out to matter to the future of OpenVMS. It was the crown jewel of Digital's throne room, tended to with a care that MPE could only envy at HP. Enough of the sciences, technology firms, and businesses like manufacturing chose DEC to give it a massive lead in the installed base count over MPE/iX. HP had to choose something to preserve from Digital when it bought Compaq. That decade of development in the HP's labs -- well, those offices in Massachusetts — gave VMS experts the means to build a support talent needed for a stable legacy system.

Photo by thr3 eyes on Unsplash


Fewer voices fill the 3000's air

Mic in studio on air
There are still working 3000s out there. Some of the systems are paired with retiring staff. Boeing isn’t the only company paring down its IT workforce. In places like those, however, there may be some chances for a support company or consulting practice to be of service to a site that doesn’t have MPE/iX expertise anymore. We keep hearing about companies now servicing legacy app users with co-lo and the like.
 
Finding the opportunities can be a matter of listening for a call for help. Inside our world, the voices are growing fewer and fainter. It used to be that even 3000-L was good for an on-topic subject or two every month. Over the past 30 days, 3000-L has 18 messages. More than half of them are about how to use Linux on a home machine. The other two subjects evaluate the remaining worth of old disk arrays and an even older reel tape drive.
 
The metadata for the list — which by the way, started just a year before we launched the NewsWire — says that 368 people still get the messages. Last week, one message tried to figure out if a 7978B tape drive was worth saving. The week before, a brief exchange showed that XP drives are becoming recycle-only devices.
 
Summer traffic in our tech community is always slow. Stories from other July dates note how still the waters can be. This was the month that once preceded a North American Interex conference. In the run up to those shows, everyone took time away from community exchange.
 
The 3000-L chatter of late is about old and really old hardware -- the is a 1984 introduction date for the tape drives. Reel to reel storage feels like something out of Terminator 2, a film from 1992 where The Terminator shot up a computer room full DEC equipment that was old even in that year.
 
Some people are still using the classic gear. One company in Cleveland has "an HP 3000 957 that still chugs away. Just yesterday I had to pull some information off of it. It's surprising how the needed commands can still come to me just before I type them. I had to use Query, Quad, and Business Basic.”
 
That might be an archival system. During many weeks, keeping the archives alive here seems to be my primary mission. Your support and continued interest helps. Raise your voice if you're still listening. Share a story.
 
Photo by Fringer Cat on Unsplash

 


25 Years: Surviving beyond HP's wishes

Pontiac survivor plate
As the 3000 NewsWire closes in on its first 25 years, our 25 Years series tells stories from selected days in history for the 3000
.

In 2002, an emulator to enable an open MPE was fresh on the 3000's table. A group of the same name, OpenMPE, took its first mission as taking hold of the 3000's OS futures. HP's Dave Wilde met with Jon Diercks shortly after HP's "we're quitting" news surfaced. Diercks launched the idea of a group to promote an open-source MPE/iX. With Linux soaring, open source would lift all ships.

Even the ones that were drifting along at the end of three decades of success.

The emulator question rose when the community appraised its options to keep its legacy choices alive. Millions of lines of proprietary HP code couldn't stand a chance of becoming open-sourced. Quickly, OpenMPE's mission became saving the HP hardware that could run MPE. In 2002, HP drew a firm line that no emulator could ever mimic the PA-RISC chips unless the hosting hardware wore an HP badge.

During the summer that led to the first Interex conference where HP had to face angry customers, the HP-only mandate stuck in the community's craw. Patrick Santucci, working with systems at Cornerstone Brands, shared his frustration on Sept. 27. "HP still seems to be saying, 'Die, MPE, Die!' Why not let the company writing the emulator decide what hardware they will support it on? After all, they're the ones doing the work."

From that conference during that week in Los Angeles, I reported, "HP gave customers the first ledges of opportunity to continue their climb with their HP 3000s, announcing it will allow a 3000 hardware emulator project to continue as well as creating new MPE licenses."

Nothing changed about HP’s beliefs about the proper future for HP 3000 owners, however. HP’s leader of its 3000 operations, Dave Wilde, still believes that every customer must begin planning for a transition of some sort. But the company’s HP World announcements represented its first realization that staying on the computer platform is the best course for some companies.

HP won’t let a [licensed] version of MPE be used with a hardware emulator before the 2003 end of sales date, although that kind of timing of releasing an emulator would be a remote possibility anyway, according to Allegro’s Scott. Another company, SRI, has said it considers creating such an emulator to be a less lengthy project. SRI sells an emulator for the Digital VAX hardware.

Almost 18 years later, that SRI emulator is Stromasys' Charon, which boasts an HP 3000 PA-RISC version. Charon began serving 3000 owners about a decade after that HP move to permit emulators. From the very first months, HP's PCs did not power the 3000 emulator.

Image by rjlutz from Pixabay


Logon advice launches new 3000 admin crop

Row of Lettuce
By George Stachnik

There's a new crop of people taking over management of these machines. Many of the people who have managed and championed HP 3000s in the past have moved on. Today's HP 3000 system manager is now more likely to be young and have little HP 3000-specific experience, knowledge, or training. New HP 3000 system managers have been successful managing environments that include Unix, and Windows. Now they've been given responsibility for an HP 3000, a machine about which they know little or nothing.

If you fit in this category, take heart; I think I have some understanding of what you're going through. When I encountered my first HP 3000 in 1983, all of my experience had been with IBM machines. I was glad to hear that the HP 3000 is comparatively simple and elegant to use (at least compared to a mainframe), but I was still expecting a long learning curve.

For many customers, information about the HP 3000 — especially beginners' information — can be hard to come by.

Logging on

In Lewis Carroll'sThrough the Looking Glass, Alice is encouraged to "Begin at the beginning." This always seemed like good advice to me, and that's what I'll do now. Let's begin by exploring how one logs on to an HP 3000. We'll also see how to explore your system, and find the programs, files, and information that are available to you. We may even learn a few other things along the way.

You're likely to have a PC or workstation sitting on your desktop. In that case, you need two things: a physical connection between your desktop and the HP 3000, and a piece of software that lets your desktop computer act as if it were an HP terminal--a terminal emulator.

The desktop-to-3000 connection can use the same RS-232 protocol used by terminals. But a network connection using standard IEEE 802.3 or Ethernet is preferable. All you need to know is that the HP 3000 supports industry-standard telnet services, and you can use them to log on to an HP 3000 from your desktop computer.

If you're using a Windows PC on your desktop, a number of HP terminal emulators are available. Among the best are WRQ's Reflection series from Attachmate, and Secure92 from Minisoft. PC-based terminal emulators support industry-standard telnet services to connect to hosts like the HP 3000. Reflection and MS92 also support the NS/VT proprietary protocols.

Regardless of what kind of terminal or terminal emulator you've connected to the HP 3000, pressing the RETURN key (on a PC, it's usually labeled the ENTER key) will cause the HP 3000 to transmit the string "MPE/iX:" back to you. This is a prompt from the HP 3000 inviting you to log on. It's analogous to Unix's "login" prompt.

Incidentally, if something other than "MPE/iX" appears on your screen, don't panic. The system prompt is configurable and your system manager may have changed it. Regardless of the prompt that appears, the command you'll use to log on is always the same. It's called the "Hello" command. (Didn't I tell you that the 3000 is a friendly little machine?)

The HELLO command you enter will typically include two parameters separated by a period. These two words identify you to the system. The first one is your user name, and the second one is your account name. When you log on, at a minimum you must specify a user name and an account name. If there are passwords associated with your user and account (and there should be!), you will be prompted for them.

Continue reading "Logon advice launches new 3000 admin crop" »


Automated messages track 3000's orbit

Satellite ISS
A few weeks ago, an email arrived with an offer to connect me to HP 3000 matters. It's an automation option that the classic mailing lists use. About once a month, the email asks if this is still a good address. If it reaches your box, the email does its job. If the list server gets a bounce from your address, you're a no-show. You drop from the list.

This is the kind of automation that has powered the 3000 as long as it's run in businesses. The server is built to withstand ignorance. The prospect of becoming invisible at a company does not tip the server into failure. The email came from the OpenMPE mail server, once a resource for news about getting MPE/iX into open development.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the host for 3000 mailing lists. The best known is 3000-L, plus another private list for masters of 3000 development. Then there's OpenMPE-L, starting in the 2000s. It was never a lively spot like 3000-L. OpenMPE was a defiant flag waving in the breeze of the 3000's future. 

A decade ago this month, the days devolved into the time of disputes. The formal mission of the group, to liberate MPE/iX code and take it to a community of developers, was emerging at last as a reality. However, OpenMPE could not count itself among the license holders of HP's select source code distribution. HP code on a CD sat on a desk for a while, but the $10,000 fee went unpaid by OpenMPE. The organization spurred the existence of a community-level license. It could not hold itself together long enough to become the repository of 3000 code it wanted to be.

A decade later, though, those automated emails still arrive. We are still on a trajectory toward a future, they say. Like a satellite bound for Mars and beyond, the automation and adherence to routines of the 3000 itself remains ready. A few decades ago, Alfredo Rego of Adager said his company's product had to last beyond reasonable maintenance resources.

Adager still tends to its database power tool, but a spacecraft can get far away from repair depots. That's the situation for the 3000 and MPE/iX today: still orbiting customers' planets, needing little tending. That list and its automation is a similar sign, listening for anything related to OpenMPE.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay


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.

Continue reading "Un-parking HP 3000 ERP systems" »


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


This blog turns 15, logs a half-million views

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 2.16.21 PM
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.


Emulated 3000 box will outlast MPE expert

Nick-fisher-9QxOmRLDTvs-unsplash
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


Interex director Chuck Piercey dies at 85

Chuck Piercey
Chuck Piercey, executive director of the user group Interex during its greatest era of the 1990s, died last week peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Charlene, as well as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His memorial last weekend during our viral times was held over Zoom. That kind of essential innovation would have been in step with his vision for Interex.

He held his Interex post more than a decade, longer than any director in the 31-year group's history. Piercey helmed the organization that gathered thousands of Hewlett-Packard community experts under one roof after another, in city after city, for each year's biggest exchange of 3000 technology and commerce.

Piercey would be quick to point to his staff as the reason for those successes. He came to his post from executive work in Silicon Valley at Perkin-Elmer, a semiconductor firm with roots nearly as deep into HP's. Piercey grew a multimillion-dollar user organization that launched new conferences and established a digital footprint into the Web. New publications emerged during an era when paper was still the dominant means of information exchange. But thick volumes of tech papers made their way onto CDs, too. Panels of HP's top executives sat for tough questions from 3000 customers during a time of uncertain futures. 

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.23.24 AM
By the close of Piercey's era, Interex had moved firmly into the promise of development over the Web. HP created an MPE/iX Shared Source project, which Interex hosted for the 3000 division. HP started in a very timid way with Editor, Query, and the TurboIMAGE class libraries. Members of HP's labs collaborated with users to check source code modules out and check them back in after revisions. It was akin to the Github repository, mapped onto MPE's essentials.

The growth took place while HP was sacrificing its 3000 vision to the promises of Unix. That strategy was driving a stake into the hearts of Interex volunteer members. Those actions made Piercey's work complicated in a way that reflected the industry's era of change. Terminals were the predominant access to 3000s when he arrived at Interex. By the time he left the group in 2000, the dot-com boom was reshaping the way 3000 users shared expertise. Windows was the driving force as Interex's work opened windows to an HP future that relied less on vendor-specific environments like MPE.

Piercey managed Interex with a series of volunteer board members voted in on three-year terms. In a continual change of Interex leadership, Piercey was the constant for that decade. Boards often better steeped in technology than business presented challenges to the needed changes, evolution that Interex accomplished nevertheless.

He came to the position with no direct experience in managing an association, but Interex pursued him relentlessly in 1989. With a mechanical engineer’s degree and an MBA from Stanford, Piercey worked at Silicon Valley firm Ultek during the first 20 years of his career. As he described it, the middle section of his career was being the founding partner of three startups, doing turnaround management at the bidding of venture capitalists. He was doing his own business consulting when Interex won him to its mission in March of 1990.

Piercey took the wheel at an association facing as much of a transition as HP itself in the 1990s. The group’s roots and its volunteer strength lay in the 3000 community, but HP’s attention was being focused on the world of Unix. Platform-specific user groups were under siege in the middle of the decade. He pointed out that even the 32,000-strong Unix group Uniforum eventually withered away. But Interex persevered, forming a tighter coupling with the changing HP and broadening the group's focus. The Interex user show and news publication were both rebranded as HP World to tighten the HP relationship. The conference was ranked as one of the best in a Computerworld survey.

His retirement from Interex was supposed to bring him into full-time grandfatherhood, but a educational startup devoted to molecular biology carried into his final career post. When he announced his resignation, board member Linda Roatch said, "He is largely responsible for bringing Interex forward to what it is — the most successful vendor-centric independent user group in existence."

Before he left his work at the user group, Piercey reflected on the future of single-vendor organizations like Interex. He had enough vision to see that a multivendor IT world could render well-established user groups obsolete. In board meetings and in public, Piercey would ask, "What is the role of a vendor-specific group in a multivendor world?" Asking hard questions was one of Piercey's talents that kept Interex on its feet during a trying time for user groups.

In a NewsWire Q&A from 2000, Piercey's final year with Interex and the final year HP proposed 3000 growth, he summed up the changes that challenged the user group. "Customers don’t have the luxury of focusing on the HP 3000 like they did 10 years ago," he said. "We have less mindshare, and we have to be more effective with the mindshare we do have. It squeezes the value proposition: you have to deliver more value cheaper and faster. What they really want is wise filtering of information."

The transfer of that information grew as a result of his work. Last weekend's celebration of Piercey's life was transcribed, including photos. It's hosted on the Web as a Google Doc, an eventuality of sharing that he would have foreseen.


iPads still ensure 3000 terminals connect

TTerm Pro Screens

Terminal emulators began early. On the day I first met an HP 3000 in 1984, the box for the Walker, Richer & Quinn product Reflection sat on top of a PC in my HP Chronicle office. HP climbed into the field soon enough. HP AdvanceLink didn't do anything more than Reflection to emulate 3000 terminals, and often less. AdvanceLink had the system vendor's label, though. WRQ did very well selling against the HP product. HP relented and started to sell and recommend Reflection.

Terminal emulation launched itself into the iOS world about 25 years later. One vendor sells a product that emulates a vast range of legacy terminals. In 2013 TTerm Pro entered the market as a solution for fully mobile legacy terminal use.

Finding such a terminal in the wild can be rare today. The software that needs it, though, may still be on the job. Development started in 2013 for TTerm Pro. The iOS app from TTWin, all of $19.95, is getting maintenance and bug updates once more. TTWin has repaired the ALT key issues for several European-language software keyboards, including those for HP 3000s.

There's an interesting range of fixes. In this year's version 1.5.0, Bluetooth scanners no longer inject CR characters midway through barcode scanning. The fact that Bluetooth has anything to do with vendor-specific hardware such as terminals is worth a closer look.

It's mind-boggling to consider that an HP 2392, launched in 1984, is emulated 36 years later. That text-only terminal, if you can find one, cost $1,295 when it was new. The terminal's 12 inches of CRT screen produced characters on a 7x12 dot matrix. HP included a tilt and swivel base for each terminal.

It was a different world in 1984. "The most common cause of failure," says the HP Computer Museum's collector notes, "is a bad power supply. The first step in refurbishing these terminals is to remove the top case and remove the power supply PCB. (Printed Circuit Board) This PCB contains some metalized paper capacitors that are prone to failure and smoking with age. These capacitors are easily replaced."

That replacement is true if you've got a source for paper capacitors. Not so much? Today there's a resource for legacy hardware in many forms. For example, Stromasys sells Charon to use Intel servers for emulating PA-RISC hardware. And TTerm employs a $1,250 iPad Pro, about 13 inches in size, to carry terminal access anywhere we find a cell signal.

That's 13 inches of terminal you can carry around like a book.

Hardware never dies when good emulation engineering keeps it alive. Download that TTerm Pro app and marvel at the time machine bounty. In 1984, that $1,250 delivered 7x12 matrix characters. Nothing else on that 12 inches, not like the iPad Pro of today. One important reason to preserve legacy terminals: Companies continue to use the software that relies on them.


Infor cuts off MANMAN support by mid-year

Cut rope
More than four decades after its launch in 1970s, MANMAN marks a milestone at the end of this month. On June 30, 2020, the app's vendor will terminate all remaining support contracts. Other will be available on a time and materials basis, either.

In a world where legacy datacenters continue to contribute thrive, losing support is not a crushing blow. MPE/iX and OpenVMS are the two environments where MANMAN dug in. Tim Peer at Envy Systems supplies good independent support for MANMAN on OpenVMS. Terry Floyd at The Support Group, along with his son David, bolsters HP 3000 MANMAN users. Terri Glendon Lanza of ASK Terri is another good resource for MANMAN on MPE. By all accounts, support from the MANMAN lab is minimal today.

When June 30 arrives, Infor will end its journey with MANMAN. The application has had at least five vendors own it. Created by ASK Computer Solutions in 1977, the suite moved item data from untold billions of products and materials across many midrange systems. 

Infor has thrown in its official towel. "Finally, upgrading MANMAN to newer hardware would require a complete rewrite of the MANMAN software," an Infor release stated in 2018. "Unfortunately, after analysis, that is not an economically viable option."

One interesting element of the support shutdown is how Infor wants customers to consider sticking with the vendor. Infor has a cloud ERP solution. CloudSuite Industrial would be a good alternative, according to the marketing department at Infor.

"If your organization has not considered cloud, now is the time to start," Infor's end of support notice suggests. "We plan to offer an attractive and affordable program for MANMAN customers that want to move to one of our cloud products. For example, we recommend that you explore Infor CloudSuite Industrial."

Infor goes on to tell its customers that legacy computing is the problem. "MANMAN is based on legacy technology using hardware platforms that are no longer supported by their vendors," Infor's notice states. "As such, Infor believes there is a real risk in using the MANMAN software to manage your enterprise."

Yes, it's always the risk that a vendor is watchful about, especially when it cancels an enterprise-grade product. Minimizing risk can maximize a vendor's opportunity to replace an app that continues to work

MANMAN is supported by knowledge and code from the CAMUS user group at camus.org. Infor's internal requirements are getting in the way of continued support. Make no mistake: the HP 3000s without vendor support from HP have been that way since 2011. All through those last nine years, Infor has collected support revenue from MPE/iX customers.

Everything grows old, sometimes too old to turn a profit. CAMUS has resources to help MANMAN feel younger.

Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash


Sorting Strategies for COBOL

By Shawn Gordon

Newswire Classic

How many times have you just had some simple data in a table in your program that you wanted to sort? It seems like a waste of time to go through and write it to a file and sort the file and read it back in. COBOL has a verb to allow you to sort tables.

I’ve actually gotten a few e-mails recently asking me about this verb and sorting strategies, so I thought I would go over it. What I have this month is both a simple bubble sort, as well as a more complex but efficient shell sort. The bubble sort in Figure 1 only requires that we have two counters, one save buffer, and one table max variable, on top of the table data.

Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 2.26.56 PM

Here's the code in text, if you want to copy and paste, and apply your own formatting.

WORKING-STORAGE SECTION.
01 SAVE-CODE PIC X(04) VALUE SPACES.
01 S1 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 S2 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 TABLE-MAX PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 CODE-TABLE.
03 CODE-DATA PIC X(04) OCCURS 100 TIMES.
PROCEDURE DIVISION.
A1000-INIT.
*
* Do whatever steps are necessary to fill CODE-TABLE with the values
* you are going to use in your program. Make sure to increment
* TABLE-MAX for each entry you put in the table.
*
* Now we are going to perform a bubble sort of the table.
*
PERFORM VARYING S1 FROM 1 BY 1 UNTIL S1 = TABLE-MAX
PERFORM VARYING S2 FROM S1 BY 1 UNTIL S2 > TABLE-MAX
IF CODE-DATA(S2) < CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE CODE-DATA(S1) TO SAVE-CODE
MOVE CODE-DATA(S2) TO CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE SAVE-CODE TO CODE-DATA(S2)
END-IF
END-PERFORM
END-PERFORM.

As you can see, this is a pretty trivial and easy to implement solution for simple tables.


What we have in Figure 2 is a macro that does a shell sort. I got this originally from John Zoltak, and the following text is his, with some slight edits from me.

He says, “When I want to sort the array I use

MOVE number-of-elements to N-SUB.
%SORTTABLE(TABLE-NAME#, HOLD-AREA#).

“Figure 2 below uses the shell sort, faster than a bubble. Also since it’s a macro, I can sort on any table. The only real constraint is that it compares the whole table element, so you just have to arrange your table element so it sorts the way you want.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 2.27.20 PM

Again, here's the text from the routine for you to copy and paste

* SHELL SORT ROUTINE
*
* This macro expects parameter 1 to be the element of the
* table to be sorted. This sort compares the entire element.
* Parameter 2 is the element hold area. Can be a higher
* element of the table if you wish.
*
* To use this sort macro, you must COPY it into your program
* in the 01 LEVEL area. Four (4) variables will be declared
* and the $DEFINE for %SORTTABLE will be defined.
*
* Before invoking this macro you must set N-SUB to the
* highest table element to be sorted.
01 I-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 J-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 M-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 N-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
$DEFINE %SORTTABLE=
IF N-SUB > 1
MOVE N-SUB TO M-SUB
PERFORM TEST AFTER UNTIL M-SUB = 1
DIVIDE 2 INTO M-SUB
ADD 1 TO M-SUB GIVING I-SUB
PERFORM UNTIL I-SUB > N-SUB
MOVE !1(I-SUB) TO !2
MOVE I-SUB TO J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
PERFORM UNTIL J-SUB <= M-SUB OR
!1(TALLY) <= !2
MOVE !1(TALLY) TO !1(J-SUB)
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
END-PERFORM
MOVE !2 TO !1(J-SUB)
ADD 1 TO I-SUB
END-PERFORM
END-PERFORM
END-IF#


Do Your Bit for the Pandemic Emergency

Keep calm and carry on
HP 3000 managers have ample experience with COBOL. The language built the business world, but newer-tech owners tend to hoot at the venerable tool. COBOL experts found themselves in high demand during another crisis point. Y2K may represent the high water mark for COBOL hiring.

In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, COBOL is proving once again it is an essential IT tool.

COBOL's roots hail from the 1960s. It has been a crucial part of legacy computing ever since MPE servers took their roles in enterprises. Now we learn that COBOL is at the heart of business systems at the IRS. You know, the organization that's trying to send up to $1,200 to every adult in the US right now.

In the middle of a pandemic, where the emergency funds are flowing to checking accounts, COBOL is the conduit. Some databases at the Internal Revenue Service hail from 1962. Nobody could anticipate that the COBOL that runs those databases would need modifications. Addresses of taxpayers are now different. Some bank accounts, like the temporary ones from H&R Block tax services, kicked back 300,000 of those IRS deposits.

COBOL is being called an ancient language. As it turns out, the expertise is still available. The state of New Jersey is running employment ads that ask for COBOL experts. Many are retired, but like doctors around the world, some are returning to duty.

In the MPE community, one significant customer is still using COBOL. At Boeing Corp., 17 COBOL programs serve on a virtual HP 3000. The air travel industry is under siege, but aircraft are still being sold and built.

COBOL college training is in short supply, to the point of being a mystery to find. Out on the Udemy training website, however, a $59 course promises students can "become an expert on COBOL programs by coding." The training says the course teaches how to "run COBOL programs with JCL."

Job Control Language is essential to lots of legacy computing. It also seems to be essential to getting up to speed using the Udemy course. "You should know at least the basics of TSO/ISPF and JCL," the description says. "I have provided a few basic TSO/ISPF commands and some amount of JCL as well. If you are not comfortable, you can take my courses on TSO/ISPF and JCL first before taking this course."

In the world's time of greatest need, so are servers like those using PA-RISC, and mainframes. When trouble arrives, the proven tools take a leading role. It's survival IT. Legacy owners should be proud of doing their bit, as the British say about wartime.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay


Tips on Using FTP on MPE/iX Systems

By Bob Green

Newswire Classic

Starting with MPE/iX 6.0, it has been very easy to enable the File Transfer Protocol server on your HP 3000. Once enabled, the FTP server makes it possible for you to deliver output to your own PCs, Linux servers, MPE boxes or Unix boxes, even to servers across the world. These can be your servers in other parts of your company, or of your suppliers, or of your customers.

MPE File Attributes

When transferring files from one HP 3000 to another there is no need to specify the attributes of the file, such as ;rec=-80,1,f,ascii

MPE keeps track of that for you. When transferring a file to an MPE system from a non-MPE system, or transferring through a non-MPE system, you will need to specify the file attributes on the target MPE system as in:

put mympefile myfile;rec=-80,1,f,ascii;disc=3000

The default file attributes can be specified for a file transferred to your MPE system by changing the corresponding line in the file BLDPARMS.ARPA.SYS which is shown below:

;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;DISC=204800
;REC=-256,,V,BINARY;DISC=204800
;REC=,,B;DISC=16384000

Only the first three lines are read; everything after is ignored.

You may modify the first three lines as long as you keep the same syntax, i.e., you may change the numbers, or F to V, but don’t add anything bizarre. Anything after a space is ignored, so don’t insert any spaces. If the file is missing (or any line in it), the old hard-coded defaults will be used as a backup. These are:

;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;DISC=204800 for ASCII mode,
;REC=-256,,V,BINARY;DISC=204800 for binary mode.
;REC=,,B;DISC=16384000 for byte stream mode.

Also, if either the REC= part or the DISC= part of either line has bad syntax, the default for that part will be reverted to.

Users may make local copies of this file and set their own defaults via a file equation:

:file bldparms.arpa.sys=myfile

Host Commands

You can execute commands on your local 3000 by putting a colon in front of your command such as:

ftp> :listf ,2

You can find out what commands you can do remotely with the remotehelp command:

Typically we just stream jobs on the remote system with FTP’s site command by doing the following in the FTP client:

ftp> site stream robelle.job.robelle

200 STREAM command ok.

Site is a standard FTP command, but what host commands the FTP server at the other end supports varies from server to server.

In fact the Qedit for Window Server installation has its own FTP client which FTPs the server and streams the “robelle” job to set the attributes of the Robelle account.

Filenames

On MPE the default namespace for a given file is typically the MPE namespace. For example if you put a file to your MPE system with the following FTP command:

put myfile mympefile

The file will go to the group you are currently logged into.

If you want to put files into the HFS namespace then you can just specify using the typical Posix notation:

put myfile /MYACCOUNT/MYGROUP/mydirectory/myhfsfile


SSD devices head for certain failures

Western Digital SanDisk
A solid-state storage device is not usually a component of HP 3000 configurations. However, with the onset of virtualizing MPE servers, those drives that do not move, but still store? They are heading for absolute failures. HP is warning customers.

The problem is surfacing in HP storage units. It's not limited to HP-brand gear, though. SanDisk devices cause these failures. One fix lies in HP Enterprise firmware updates.

HP Enterprise disk drives face a failure date of October 2020, unless administrators apply a crucial firmware patch. Notices from HP Enterprise warn the owners of some disks about failures not earlier than October. Other Solid State Drive (SSD) disks are already in danger of dying.

Some SanDisk SSD drives have already rolled past a failure date of last fall, for those that have operated constantly since late 2015. The failure of the drives is being called a data death bug.

For some, HPD7 firmware is a critical fix. HPE says that Western Digital told the vendor about failures in certain Serial Attached Storage (SAS) models inside HPE server and storage products. Some SAS SSD drives can use external connections to HPE's VMS Itanium servers.

The drives can be inside HPE's ProLiant, Synergy, and Apollo 4200 servers. Some of these units could serve as hardware hosts for virtualized 3000 systems. The SSD problem also exists in HP's Synergy Storage Modules, D3000 Storage Enclosure, and StoreEasy 1000 Storage. If the disks have a firmware version prior to HPD7, they will fail at 40,000 hours of operation (i.e., 4 years, 206 days, 16 hours). Another, even larger group of HP devices will fail at 3 years, 270 days 8 hours after power-on, a total of 32,768 hours.

The numbers mean that the failures might have started as early as September of last year. The first affected drives shipped in late 2015. HP estimates the earliest date of failure based on when it first shipped the drives. Another batch of HP drives shipped in 2017. They are also at risk. These are the drives looking at an October 2020 failure date without a firmware update.

Beyond HP gear

The devices are Western Digital's SanDisk units, according to a report on the website The Register. Dell has a similar support warning for its enterprise customers. Dell lists the SanDisk model numbers:

LT0200MO
LT0400MO
LT0800MO
LT1600MO
LT0200WM
LT0400WM
LT0800WM
LT0800RO
LT1600RO

RAID failures will occur if there is no fault tolerance, such as RAID 0. Drives will fail even in a fault tolerance RAID mode "if more SSDs fail than are supported by the fault tolerance of the RAID mode on the logical drive. Example: RAID 5 logical drive with two failed SSDs."

Adding to the complexity of the SSD failures, firmware to fix the issue has two different numbers. HPD7 repairs the 40,000-hour drives. HPD8 repairs a bigger list of devices. Leaving the HPD7 firmware inside drives among the larger list of disks — which have a death date that may arrive very soon this year — will ensure the failures.

Full details from HP's bulletins for the 40,000-hour and for the 32,768-hour drives are at the HPE website. There are also instructions on how to use HP's Smart Storage Administrator to discover uptime, plus a script for VMware, Unix, and Linux. These scripts "perform an SSD drive firmware check for the 32,768 power-on-hours failure issue on certain HPE SAS SSD drives."

A list of 20 HPE disk units falls under the 32,768-hour deadline. Four other HPE devices are in the separate 40,000-hour support bulletin.


Essential services: 3000-MPE/iX computing

Is You Trip Necessary
HP 3000 and MPE customers have long felt they were unique. It may have been a feeling that flowed from HP's special treatment of the 3000. The server that earned HP's place at the business computing table was under-served during its final years. That felt special in a troubling way. 

Now, with the COVID-19 crisis changing the world, the 3000 and MPE have a confirmed position. These servers, built for legacy datacenters, are essential services. You can look it up at a US government website.

The 15 pages of the Department of Homeland Security advisory memorandum on "Identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response" includes an extensive section on Information Technology.

The document comes from the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). It's got an Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce advisory list. Other federal agencies, state and local governments, as well as the private sector all advise the CISA about which jobs are essential.

One paragraph covers nearly everyone who works in IT.

"Suppliers, designers, transporters and other workers support the manufacture, distribution and provision and construction of essential global, national and local infrastructure for computing services. This includes cloud computing services and telework capabilities, business infrastructure, financial transactions/services, web-based services, and critical manufacturing."

In another spot are also "datacenter operators, including system administrators. IT managers and purchasers." There are "engineers for data transfer solutions, software, and hardware." Don't forget "database administrators for all industries (including financial services)."

If you're on the road to work toward these jobs, be certain your driving is essential. However, the HP 3000 and MPE/iX are even more essential. Servers running MPE/iX usually host historical data and track sales and inventories. Manufacturing is managed by legacy. That's infrastructure. 

And the HP 3000 and MPE/iX are more essential now because they require fewer resources. Legacy computing has already proven itself and had its bugs ironed out. It needs fewer IT staff hours. For any MPE/iX system that can be moved to a virtual instance, using Stromasys Charon, the footprint can be even lighter. Newer Intel servers and blades demand less power and take up less space.

Long ago, HP 3000 advocate Wirt Atmar called the server a peaceful device. "It creates invoices, tracks receivables, records contracts," he said. "When those things are in the air, being exchanged, we stay away from war." Wirt started his IT career developing government calculations for nuclear attack throw-weights, plus estimating projected casualties.

It's a war-like feeling in our world as we battle our way back to health. Most IT datacenter work doesn't have to be conducted on the site of the computers. But there are times when travel to a physical location is required. You can feel certain that trip is necessary.


MPE file equations and Unix equivalents

Blackboard equation
HP 3000s, as well as MPE, employ a unique tool to define the attributes of a file. That tool is file equations, a 3000 speciality. Robelle calls these "commands that redefine the attributes of a file, including perhaps the actual filename."

In any migration away from HP 3000s (an ill-advised move at the moment, considering the COVID-19 Crisis) managers must ensure they don't lose functionality. Unix doesn't have file equations. Customers need to learn how to make Unix's symbolic links report the information that 3000s deliver from a LISTEQ command.

3000 managers are used to checking file equations when something mysterious happens with an MPE file. Dave Oksner of 3000 application vendor Computer And Software Enterprises (CASE) offered the Unix find command as a substitute for file equations. You need to tell find to only process files of type "symbolic link."

Oksner's example of substituting find for LISTEQ:

find /tmp/ -type l -exec ls -l {} \;

which would start from the /tmp directory, look for symbolic links, and execute “ls -l” on the filenames it finds. You could, of course, eliminate the last part if you only wanted to know what the filenames were and get

find /tmp/ -type l

(I believe it’s the same as using ‘-print’ instead of ‘-exec [command]’)

Beware of output to stderr (if you don’t have permission to read a directory, you’ll get errors) getting interspersed.

Jeff Vance added that the command interpreter in MPE also can deliver file information through a listfile command:

Don't forget the CI where you can do:

:listfile @,2;seleq=[object=symlink]

:help listfile all shows other options.

Our former Inside COBOL columnist and product reviewer Shawn Gordon offers his own MPE vs. Unix paper, and Robelle's experts wrote a NewsWire column contrasting Unix shell scripts with MPE tools.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


TE turnoff date for 3000s could be 2021

Light switch
For a long time, TE Connectivity has been one of the biggest users of MANMAN software running on HP 3000s. That might be on the way to a permanent quieting — sometime next year.

Terry Simpkins at the firm was patching a Series 918 not long ago. It gave him a chance to check in with the remaining 371 subscribers to the 3000 mailing list, once he got the know-how he needed to patch.

"The force is once again calm," he said. Simpkins found a converter that allowed him to replace his old single-ended 2 Gb disk drives with the newer 36 Gb LVD drives. "I now have more disk space than my little 918 will ever need, plus a few spare drives to ensure I’ll never have a disk fail. Now to dust off the old CSL tapes and see what I want to restore."

TE measures its 3000 footprint by the number of databases online. "We’re down to four active MANMAN databases, from a high of 22. Three will convert to SAP at the end of June, so the last five-plus months will be a single MANMAN DB in Germany. I suspect we are going to be extremely bored at that point."

As to the shutdown date of 3000 operations, Simpkins said, "Right now that looks like somewhere between November 2020 and March 2021." 

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash


Preparing for a new kind of disaster

Paris coffin
A virus that kills in record numbers is circling the globe. Some who are felled by the disease might be 70 or older. That's the same age range as several HP 3000 experts who still support MPE computing. It might be a disaster if there's no one left at a company who knows details about a 3000 that's still running.

Avoiding that full stop is the business of disaster recovery. Add global fatalities to this list from 3000 consultant Paul Edwards's 2004 disaster recovery white paper. Sixteen years ago he ticked off a big list. "The top ten types of disasters, which have caused the most damage in recent years, are power outage, storm damage, flood, hardware error/failure, bombing, hurricane, fire, software error, power surge/spike, and earthquake."

The full paper remains on Edwards' website at Paul Edwards & Associates. Although, as Edwards notes, the paper doesn't go into the details of writing a disaster recovery plan, it discusses the main points to consider. Another Edwards paper, Homesteading: Plan for the Future, details what should be in a good Systems Manager Notebook. 

Every site should have one because it contains critical hardcopy information to back up the information contained in the system. It is part of the Disaster Recovery Plan that should be in place and is used to manually recreate your environment. You can’t have too much information inside it.

Twenty years ago this month, the 3000 community was already experienced at recovery from the disaster of losing a key staffer.

At that time, a 3000 manager read about a Florida site "where the system manager passed away without much notice. It sounds like documentation is pretty important in that kind of crisis. What do you recommend as a minimum?"

Paul Edwards replied:

The contents of a System Manager Notebook include hardware and software information that is vital to recovering your system in any type of disaster. The rest of the company’s business operating procedures must be combined with the IS plan to form a comprehensive corporate disaster recovery contingency plan.

The Notebook contains hardware model and serial numbers; license agreements for all software and hardware; a copy of all current maintenance agreements, equipment warranty information, complete applications documentation of program logic; data file layouts and system interaction, along with system operator run books and any other appropriate documentation. There is a wealth of information contained in each HP 3000 that can be printed and stored offsite that is critical to a recovery effort.

Image by Hans Rohmann from Pixabay


Making CI variables more Unix-like

By John Burke

Newswire Classic

How can you make CI variables behave more Unix-like?

For those of us who grew up on plain old MPE, CI variables were a godsend. We were so caught up in the excitement of what we could do with CI variables and command files, it took most of us a while to realize the inadequacy of the implementation. For those coming to MPE/iX from a Unix perspective, CI variables seem woefully inadequate. There were two separate questions from people with such a Unix perspective that highlighted different “problems” with the implementation of CI variables.

But first, how do CI variables work in MPE/iX? Tom Emerson gave a good, concise explanation.

“SETVAR is the MPE/iX command for setting a job/session (local) variable. I use ‘local’ somewhat loosely here because these variables are ‘global’ to your entire job or session and, by extension, are automatically available to any sub-processes within your process tree. There are some more-or-less ‘global’ variables, better known as SYSTEM variables, such as HPSUSAN, HPCPU, etc.”

The first questioner was looking for something like user-definable system variables that could be used to pass information among separate jobs/sessions. Unfortunately, no such animal exists. At least not yet, and probably not for some time if ever.

There is, however, a workaround in the form of UDCs created by John Krussel that implement system, account and user-level variables. The UDCs make use of the hierarchical file system (HFS) to create and maintain “variables.”

The second questioner was looking for something comparable to shell variables which are not automatically available at all levels. You have to export shell variables for them to be available at lower levels. Thus, there is a certain locality to shell variables.

It was at this point that Jeff Vance, HP’s principal CI Architect at CSY, noted that he had worked on a project to provide both true system-wide and local CI variables (in fact, the design was complete and some coding was done). Jeff offered a suggestion for achieving locality.

Variable names can be created using CI depth, PIN, etc. to try to create uniqueness. E.g.,

setvar foo!hppin value

setvar foo!hpcidepth value1

Mark Bixby noted that CI variables are always job/session in scope, while shell variables are local, but inherited by children if the variables have been exported. He suggested that if, working in the CI, some level of locality could be achieved by “making your CI script use unique variable names. If I’m writing a CI script called FOO, all of my variable references will start with FOO also, i.e.

SETVAR FOO_XX “temp value”

SETVAR FOO_YY “another value”

...

DELETEVAR [email protected]

“That way FOO’s variables won’t conflict with any variables in any parent scripts.”

HP has a formally documented recommendation for creating “local-ness.” 

MPE: How to create CI variables with local (command file) scope

Problem Description: I have separate command files that use the same variable names in them. If one of the command files calls the other, then they both affect the same global variable with undesirable results. Is there the concept of a CI variable with its scope local to the command file?

Solution: No. All user-defined CI variables have global (JOB/SESSION) scope. Some HP Defined CI variables (HPFILE, HPPIN, HPUSERCMDEPTH) return a different value depending on the context within the JOB/SESSION when they are called.

HPFILE returns the fully qualified filename of the command file.

HPPIN returns the PIN of the calling process.

HPUSERCMDEPTH returns the command file call nesting level.

To get the effect of local scope using global variables, you need a naming convention to prevent name collisions. There are several cases to consider.

Command file CMDA calls CMDB, both using varname VAR1.

• Use a hardcode prefix in each command file.

In CMDA use: SETVAR CMDA_VAR1 1

In CMDB use: SETVAR CMDB_VAR1 2

• Use HPFILE.

SETVAR ![FINFO(HPFILE,”FNAME”)]_VAR1 1

• Use HPUSERCMDEPTH.

SETVAR D!”HPUSERCMDEPTH”_VAR1 1 (Note: need a leading non digit)

Command file CMDA calls itself, uses varname VAR1.

• Same answer as case 1, the third solution: use HPUSERCMDEPTH.

There are two son processes. Each one calls CMDA which calls CMDB at the same nesting level.

• Same answer as case 1, the third solution: use HPUSERCMDEPTH. Not sure if this will work since not sure if HPUSERCMDEPTH is reset at JSMAIN, CI, or user process level.

• Use HPPIN and HPUSERCMDEPTH.

SETVAR P!”HPPIN”_!”HPUSERCMDEPTH”_VAR1 1

•Use HPPIN, HPUSERCMDEPTH and HPFILE (guaranteed unique, hard to read)

SETVAR P!”HPPIN”_!”HPUSERCMDEPTH”_![FINFO(HPFILE,”FN AME”)]_![FINFO(HPFILE,

“GROUP “)]_![FINFO(HPFILE,”ACCT”)]_VAR1 1

Again, there is no true local scope, only global scope for CI variables within any one session/job. The techniques presented above do provide at least a reasonable workaround for both system-wide and process-local variables.


Deep pockets? Maybe not for MPE positions

Pants pocket
Even in the earliest days of 2020, consultants and programmers are hunting down chances to earn money servicing the 3000. When Doug Hagy looked into joining the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community, he wanted to see if the group was a source of related work opportunities. "I developed on the HP 3000 continuously from 1981 to 1999," he said. "At its peak of popularity, it was a pretty solid platform. Companies who chose HP 3000 usually had deep pockets."

Hagy isn't wrong altogether. An HP 3000 investment can be traced to Fortune 100 corporations like Boeing, or a part of the L'Oreal beauty empire. It's far more likely to see an MPE/iX server running as a place like a Texas title insurance company, or a manufacturer of saw blades.

We had to reply that we didn't know of new work opportunities for 3000 experts. Certainly, his 18 years of development experience qualifies Hagy as one of those. From time to time, opportunities surface in places like the 3000-L mailing list. Fresche Legacy has a stable of 3000 people who help in migrations as well as perform some system maintenance for 3000s.

FM Global was looking to hire a Powerhouse developer on a contract basis in January. Pay was $50 an hour for the job in Rhode Island, on a six-month set of contracts "extended for years to come." The company even advised applicants of a $62 a night rate it had for contractors' lodging at Extended Stay America. It didn't look like the lodging was fully compensated, but there was a $23 a day per diem.

Just this week we heard from Birket Foster, whose MB Foster firm is still assisting in migrations of data from 3000s. Some of those are contract-driven, while others can be sometimes project-specific engagements.

LinkedIn has a 3000 Community with 674 members, which makes it twice the size of today's 3000-L membership list. LinkedIn's groups used to have an attached Jobs feature, but by now the Jobs are spread across all of the site's resources. With that said, a post for Programmer/Analyst for the City of Lawton, Oklahoma was listed in November. MPE/iX was among the requirements.

Hagy was enthusiastic. "If I found someone wishing to migrate an app from a 3000, that could be interesting. IMAGE, V3000, COBOL could be an interesting project. Lots was developed for this platform."

The deep pockets are mostly gone from 3000 enterprises. Migrating Image, VPlus, and COBOL II was a project for the previous decade. Companies are migrating data for use with cloud computing and alternatives involving Linux. Archival 3000 systems are running, and some others are managing production on a timeframe to allow companies to migrate.

Hagy, who operates Twin Lakes Consulting, "a nimble micro business" based in Greensburg PA, says he last touched MPE around 1999 or so. "I was doing Y2K prep and providing backfill support for businesses moving to new platforms," he said. I wasn't thinking there'd be any HP 3000 action out there now, until I saw the group you moderate. I'd make time to assist if someone wanted to port a novel app from MPE and needed someone to dissect its inner workings. Before MPE I did RTE work on HP 1000s."

Some companies will need a programmer or consultant whose experience goes back to the days of real-time systems with HP badges on the front of the server. They emerge from the shadows of an era where reliable service, on an unhackable server, that simply worked, could be enough.

Image by ds_30 from Pixabay


3000-L newsgroup heads for new future

Jeff Kell shutdown
IT staff at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2014, switching off their last HP 3000

The manager of the university datacenter that hosts the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup has told members the list will be moved in some way during the months to come. Without sharing a timeline for the changes, technical director Greg Jackson of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) Information Technology said, "UTC will stop support of the list in its present form, as we move to a different delivery method."

"In the fall [of 2019]," Jackson said, "I contacted the moderator of the hp3000 list and let them know that at some undetermined point in the future, UTC will stop supporting the listserv in its present form as we move to a different delivery method. Since this list is still active, when the time comes, we will work with the group to ensure a smooth transition."

News of the movement and rehosting of the biggest archive of 3000 community messaging surfaced after UK users couldn't access the archives. Robert Mills said that when he contacted Jackson about being locked out of the archives, he was told "Over the past few months, there have been several attacks on the listserv that originated from IP addresses outside the US. Therefore, we decided to restrict the ListServ to the US only."

The list's membership count stands at 371. Donna Hofmeister, a support engineer at Allegro and one of the list's moderators, said the community should decide now how the message service and 3000 knowledge archive can move forward.

"Due to the looming changes at UTC," she said in a message, "hp3000-l needs to do something." The archives of the list, which date back to 1994, will "somehow be made available for searching."

"As one of the said moderators," she added, "I think it's only appropriate to ask — do we want hp3000-l (in whatever form it might take) to continue? The amount of traffic (which is around five messages/month) makes it a question that should be asked."

Hofmeister said that "having access to the archives has real value. So my plans are to <somehow> make the archives available for searching. So what do you say? Keep HP3000-L active in some form (I'm leaning towards making it a Google Group) or let it go away when UTC takes down the listserv? In either case, the archive will be available."

Fourteen list members responded quickly to vote for keeping the list alive. Two alternatives emerged as options when the UTC hosting ends as it exists, using the LISTSERV software. Rehosting on groups.io was suggested by Tracy Johnson, while Keven Miller proposed a free version of another listserve program.

"The Lsoft Lite free version supports up to 10 lists, 500 members each," Miller said. "There are a few other lists [whose UTC] archives might be nice [to preserve]. HP9000-L, OpenMPE, and maybe a few hidden lists. I would think that Lsoft Lite would be the easiest to move archives to. But I'm sure there are other open source solutions."


Large Disk patch delivers 3000 jumbo limits

Marshmallows
As the HP 3000 was winding its way out of the HP product lineup, it gained a greater footprint. Storage capabilities grew with the rollout of Large Disk. The effort was undertaken because HP's disk module sizes were doubling in size approximately every two years: 4 GB to 9, 18, 36, 73, 146, and then 300 GB.

The disk project might have never seen its limited release without OpenMPE. The advocacy group that was formed after HP's exit announcement saw the same disk size trend. OpenMPE drove the initiative of "Support future large disks" in the Interex 2003 Systems Improvement Ballot.

Just two years later, Interex was dead. The directive from the 3000 community to HP labs lived onward, though. HP said its investigation found the need for more work to be done to support large disk configurations.

The MPE/iX 6.5 Large File enhancement allowed bigger Files. 6.5 also permitted more disk space in each MPE Group and Account. But several CI commands and utilities were limited in their ability to work with the resulting larger Groups and Accounts. All of these inputs were assessed during the Large Disk investigation and as many as possible were addressed by the Large Disk patches.

So what does Large Disk deliver? The patches provide the following enhancements for MPE/iX 7.5:

• Large Disk includes the ability to attach and use SYSGEN to configure any sized SCSI-2 compliant Disk. MPE/iX uses SCSI-2 protocol to connect to SE, HVD and LVD SCSI Disks as well as Fibre Channel over SCSI. The SCSI-2 standard allows for disks of up to 2 Terabytes. SCSI-3 disks may be larger but will only report up to 2 Terabytes of storage for SCSI-2 format inquiries.

• Large Disk includes the ability to initialize an MPE/iX Disk Volume of up to 512 Gigabytes on SCSI-2 compliant disks. SCSI-2 Disks that are larger than 512 GB are truncated at the 512 GB limit. No matter how big the disk, HP reported, the space beyond 512 GB will not be usable by the MPE/iX or any applications.

There are limits to how much Large Disk is available. And MPE/iX disk volume includes disk-resident OS data structures that use some disk space, so no more than 511 GB of user file space should be expected.

• Large Disk includes a number of opportunistic enhancements to MPE Command Interpreter commands and utility programs to 'smooth' user experience when dealing with large disks, large groups and large accounts. These commands and utilities are REPORT, :[ALT|LIST|NEW][GROUP|ACCT], FSCHECK, and DISCFREE.

HP strongly advises installing all of these patches at the same time using Patch/iX. The Large Disk Patches are:

• MPEMXX8(A) -- FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP
• MPEMXU3(B) -- [ALT|LIST|NEW][ACCT|GROUP]
• MPEMXT3 -- SCSI Disk Driver Update
• MPEMXT4 -- SSM Optimization (>87 GB)
• MPEMXT7 -- DISCFREE.PUB.SYS
• MPEMXU3 -- REPORT
• MPEMXV2(A) -- CATALOG.PUB.SYS
• MPEMXW9(A) CIERR.PUB.SYS, CICATERR.PUB.SYS

Image by pixel1 from Pixabay


Adding a naked Seagate drive to a 3000

Seagate Barracuda 31841

James Byrne reported on a way to get a Seagate disk drive to mount in a Series 918. 

We have a 918LX that we are trying to configure as a spare. The unit has three 18Gb disc drives installed, Seagate model ST31841N. We can see the drives in Mapper at 52.56.6/5/4. We can use DISCUTIL to mount 52.56.4 and 52.56.6 — but we cannot get the drive at 52.56.5 to mount.

This problem drive is a new unit just removed from its factory packaging.

Naked Seagate SCSI drives require a low level format to a sector size of 512 for the HP 3000 to mount them. We have a Windows-based tool called Seatools from Seagate that can perform this formatting from a Windows host — at least, from a host that has a suitable 50N SCSI interface card installed.

The same thing can be accomplished by doing a full install of MPE/iX from tape to such a disc. The install of MPE/iX directly to that disk which we could not mount solved the mounting problem.


3000 market maven Charles Finley dies at 70

CharlesFinley_8_2_2013
Charles Finley, whose career in the HP 3000 community spanned eras from powerful regional user group conferences to trusted HP reseller status, then led to new success as a migration maven, has died at age 70.

Finley built a reputation with the community from his first steps in the Southern California 3000 market. Buoyed by the remarkable manufacturing community in the area, by the middle 1980s he was operating the ConAm reseller and worked to establish the Southern California Regional User Group. SCRUG hosted conferences successful enough to rival those from Interex in scope.

Finley also played an essential part in founding an invitation-only MPE developer conference, using a novel format called the un-conference. It delivered information that otherwise would not be presented if only one person were in charge of the agenda. In the early times for groundbreaking tech, the 3000 community had a forum to explore new choices. "Things that could be overlooked like NT, Linux, VMware are noticed, because one person in the group happened to notice it and think it was important," he once said. "The rest of us benefitted by it."

Once HP curtailed its 3000 futures, Finley evolved the ConAm reseller business into Transformix, owned and operated with his wife Deborah. She assumes the post of president of the firm that has created and deploys a migration suite for carrying legacy applications from MPE/iX and other environments applications onto new platforms, especially Linux.

Finley was a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran. His widow said the CEO of Transformix delivered his skill and innovation with a duty to the work and the customer.

"Charles was unsurpassed in his passion for the business, his drive for perfection and professionalism, and his commitment to the integrity of customer relationships," Mrs. Finley said. “I saw that every day in the way he spoke about his work."

"This is both a personal and professional loss for many of the people who have known and loved him. Everyone who knew Charles regarded him as a man devoted to his family, his employees, his customers, and his friends."

Condolences may be sent to Deborah via email. The family requests that donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the charity Charles held close: Copley-Price Family YMCA 619.280.9622. Deborah asks to please designate that your donation is in memory of Charles H. Finley, Jr.

The company he leaves in her management is an integration, reseller, and consulting organization specializing in migration of legacy systems to current hardware and software. Transformix is headquartered in San Diego.

Mrs. Finley said the passing was unexpected. Charles Finley is listed as a speaker at next month's SCALE 18X technology conference. His seminar, Transforming Legacy Applications to an Open Source Modern Technology Stack, was the latest in a line of talks at the Southern California Linux Expo.

This year's seminar would "provide attendees with an understanding of the steps involved to transform legacy applications by retargeting them to an Open Source Java Framework. The seminar shows how the CUBA-Platform framework—which was designed for development of modern web application—is also well suited to enhance and extend legacy applications."

Finley was a significant voice in the migration community. While outlining differences between legacy migration, modernization, and transformation,
his experience smoothed the way for legacy applications to use modern technology stacks, including Java.

His SCALE seminar for this year was "a hands-on workshop transforming a legacy application for those who want to know more."

"If you have a PostgreSQL database already, you can generate a working Java web application in minutes using the CUBA-Platform. Moreover, you can do this without knowing any Java! Also of interest is the fact that professional developers and 'citizen developers' can use the platform for development."


Chicken, egg: First the 3000's OS, then chips

Rooster
Editor's Note: A technical paper from the DEC world asserted that VMS was the first operating system designed before the chipset that it ran upon. MPE's earliest designs were just as innovative. We asked Stan Sieler for some history.

By Stan Sieler

I'd assume that the 16-bit Classic instruction set architecture and the original MPE were designed at about the same time — probably with the architecture being mostly ready/running (real or simulated/emulated) before the software was ready. Once MPE was up and running, some years later there were arguably one to three architectures designed for it (exclusively or not).    

FOCUS

A group of about 12 of us (labs, chip people, me for the OS lab) designed a 32-bit architecture for the next generation HP 3000.        

The architecture was an evolution of an earlier FOCUS used by Ft. Collins for some HP 9000s (after the 68000 models, before the PA-RISC models), and it (the earlier) was either used by the Amigo (HP 300) and/or was inspired by the Classic 3000 architecture. The project got dropped in favor of the VISION architecture.

VISION        

This was the object-oriented architecture (with 64-bit virtual addressing) that was going to be the next-gen HP 3000, running what was going to be called HPE. We had HP 3000/4x computers with rewritten firmware emulating it, and there were a couple of hand-made real CPU boards beginning to run when I left HP in September 1983 to start Allegro. 

At that time, I had a crude command interpreter running on it under my process management code (I was in charge of process management). VISION was very very interesting.  If I had access rights to an object (say, a record from an IMAGE database with an employee name, a date-of-hire, and other information), I could send another process a "descriptor" (virtual address) that would give them access to precisely the subset I wished (e.g., read access to date-of-hire field of the record). But, that concept is gone now.  No one can do that :(        

VISION was dropped in favor of PA-RISC about a month or so after I left. I commented to Joel Birnbaum that it was dropped because I'd left HP. His reply was, "If I knew that, I'd have gotten rid of you sooner."    

About 1982-1983 I began to hear about an architecture that HP Labs was working on that would allow you to run MPE, RTE, and maybe even HP-UX simultaneously.  It was code-named "Rainbow." I think Rainbow turned out to be PA-RISC.

PA-RISC

In the 1980s, RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) was all the rage. People thought it meant quicker execution due to less complex instructions. I am still dubious. I think they underestimated the types of computations and instruction/memory interactions needed — and, indeed, you can see people throwing more and more and more cache towards RISC in an effort to address the speed imbalance between the CPU and memory.

HPE, essentially an extended version of MPE, was designed to run on PA-RISC. To the extent that the virtual memory (and IO) was quite different, that part of the OS was designed for the architecture.

Most of HPE, later MPE XL, then MPE/iX, doesn't care what the architecture is, any more than  Linux/Unix/Windows cares what the architecture is. I seem to recall that a few aspects of the memory protection mechanism (including the Protection ID registers) may have been influenced by HPE's needs.  

Of course, at the same time, HP-UX was being ported from 68000 / FOCUS to PA-RISC, so there may have been interactions there, as well. Note, however, that HP-UX never fully utilized the PA-RISC architecture — particularly the memory addressability, where HPE / MPE XL / MPE/iX had it beaten by far. I don't think HPE, HP-UX, or Netware (which was on PA-RISC briefly, circa 1993) used all the capabilities, including the ability to, in controlled circumstances, let user code directly access some IO instructions.

Itanium (IPF)  

I think I heard that a basic MPE/iX kernel of sorts had been successfully ported to Itanium before the HP 3000 was killed. Obviously, HP-UX was also ported to IPF.   The primary influence MPE/iX and HP-UX probably had was the Itanium ability to run in either little-endian mode (Intel X86 style for Windows) or big-endian (Class, and PA-RISC style, for MPE/iX and HP-UX).

Other operating systems running on Itanium — which have been released in some cases, not released in others — include Windows, Netware, Solaris, OpenVMS, and Tru64 Unix. This list of systems tends to imply that the architecture was not specifically oriented towards one particular operating system.

In short, I think most operating systems exist (perhaps in an earlier form) prior to the chip architecture, but that most architectures are mostly independent of the operating system design/features. The memory addressability mechanism almost always affects major aspects of the internals of the operating system (as it would with VISION).

Photo by Ashes Sitoula on Unsplash


Calendar date issues are already surfacing

Hurdles
The 2028 date hurdle for MPE/iX has been well documented and thoroughly discussed. Although the January 1, 2028 deadline — when MPE/iX CALENDAR processes will start to report dates as January 1, 1970, and so on — seems like it's years away, it's much closer. Calendar issues emerge as programs call for dates.

Programs that call for dates in the future are already facing the hurdle. Systems that use Unix, Linux, or other operating systems this month have triggered these involuntary date rollbacks already.

In one recent case, a top 100 pension fund had a nightly batch job that computed the required contributions, made from projections 20 years into the future. It crashed on January 19, 2018 — 20 years before Y2038.

HP 3000s have been key tools in many financial and resource planning operations. While dates are usually used to track transactions as a matter of history, some ERP users look forward to forecast their resource needs.

MPE/iX has a Y2028. Unix and Linux have a Y2038. This is important to know for a legacy system manager's planning and tactics. There's no good reason to tear down a legacy system if its only show-stopping flaw is date handling. A solution for the 3000 community is already at hand in several spots. 

Stromasys reports it has been working with an independent developer for a 2028 fix, something available to its Charon emulator sites. That update was shared with us in July of last year. It's not public yet, but that indie developer confirms the work is in progress. Beechglen has a 2028 solution it is selling as a service.

There are additional developers and consultants who say they're ready to repair 2028 issues with MPE/iX systems. It's important to know that the HP 3000, as one of the older legacy systems still working in businesses, is in no worse shape than systems driven by Linux or Unix. It's only a matter of when, not if, a date handling process will need to be addressed.

The legacy of an operating system is a condition defined very broadly. Legacy systems have been successful for a long time, and the vendor's focus has usually slipped away from these legacies. It can remind us of that term "proprietary" that was hurled at the 3000 for a decade before HP quit on its futures. Nearly all technology has a proprietary aspect, even if it only amounts to a support clause that makes one knowledge resource crucial to the OS health. 

Photo by Interactive Sports on Unsplash


What good are Nike arrays?

HP NIke Array
By John Burke

3000 users still can employ used HP Nike Model 20 disk arrays. There was once a glut of these devices on the market — meaning they were inexpensive — and they work with older models of HP 3000s. Here's a note from one company using these Nike arrays.

"We’re upgrading from a Model 10 to a Model 20 Nike array. I’m in the middle of deciding whether to keep it in hardware RAID configuration or to switch to MPE/iX mirroring, since I can now do it on the system volume set. It wasn’t in place when the system was first bought, so we stayed with the Nike hardware RAID. We’re considering the performance issue of keeping it Nike hardware RAID versus the safety of MPE Mirroring. You can use the 2nd Fast-Wide card on the array when using MPE mirroring, but you can’t when using Model 20 hardware RAID.

So, with hardware RAID, you have to consider the single point of failure of the controller card. If we ‘split the bus’ on the array mechanism into two separate groups of drives, and then connect a separate controller to the other half of the bus, you can’t have the hardware mirrored drive on the other controller. It must be on the same path as the ‘master’ drive because MPE sees them as a single device.

Using software mirroring you can do this because both drives are independently configured in MPE. Software mirroring adds overhead to the CPU, but it’s a tradeoff you have to decide to make. We are evaluating the options, looking for the best (in our situation) combination of efficiency, performance, fault tolerance and cost.

Note: Mirrored Disk/iX does not support mirroring of the System Volume Set – never did and never will. Secondly, you most certainly can use a second FWSCSI card with a Model 20 attached to an HP 3000

All of the drives are accessible from either controller but of course via different addresses. Your installer should set the DEFAULT ownership of drives to each controller. To improve throughput, each controller should share the load. Only one controller is necessary to address all of the drives, but where MPE falls short is not having a mechanism for auto-failover of a failing controller.

In other words, SYSGEN reconfiguration would be necessary to run on a single controller after SP failure in a dual SP configuration. You could have alternate configurations stored on your system to cover both cases of a single failing controller but the best solution is to get it fixed when it breaks. The best news is that SP failures are not very common.

There is a mechanism in MPE for ‘failover’ called HAFO - High Availability FailOver. It is only supported with XP and VA arrays, and not on Nike’s or AutoRAIDs (because it does not work with those).

Andrew Popay provided some personal experience.

"We have seven Nike SP20 arrays, totaling 140 discs spread across all the arrays, using a combination of RAID 1 (for performance) and RAID 5 (for capacity). We use both SP’s on all arrays, with six arrays used over three systems (two per system). One of our systems has two arrays daisy-chained. The only failures we have suffered on any of the arrays have been due to a disc mechanism failing.

"We never find any issues with the hardware raiding; in fact, as a lot of people have mentioned, hardware raiding is much more preferred to software raiding. Software raiding has several issues, system volume, performance, ease of use, etc. Hardware raiding is far more resilient.'

As for anyone concerned about single points of failure, I would not worry too much about the Nike arrays, I would say they are almost bulletproof. For those who require a 24x7 system and can’t afford any downtime whatsoever, maybe they should consider upgrading to an N-Class, with a VA or XP. Bottom line: SP20’s are sound arrays on the HP 3000s, easy to configure, set up and maintain.