August 25, 2020

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:32 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

Get e-mail notice when the NewsWire blog gets a new entry. Just say "Blog Me" in a message to [email protected].

August 20, 2020

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:30 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2020

On This Day: Sailing toward new reunions

DougMechamBoat-05Aug
Interex founding director Doug Meacham

Fifteen years ago today, the 3000 community was on a quest. Where a conference was supposed to take place, San Francisco, there was nothing but unpaid bills for exhibit halls and meeting rooms. No HP World 2005 would start up, gathering the MPE/iX community for the annual North American meeting as it had for 30 years. 

A luncheon was arranged, though, to serve community members who had nonrefundable tickets to the canceled conference. The Interex user group didn't host it, of course. The group was belly-up dead. The effort emerged from the minds of Alan Yeo and Mike Marxmeier, software vendors who faced the prospect of time in the Bay Area and a hunger to meet 3000 folk.

I wrote about how reunions are a part of family life. The 3000 still has a family, even while many of its members are retired. The gatherings are all virtual now in our lives. Such a thing was nearly impossible 15 years ago. My mom is just as departed as Interex by today, gone but well remembered. We love things that leave us, which is a good reason to grasp onto one another until the departures.

NewsWire Editorial

Even though we work with machines to compute, we crave the spark of personal contact. I felt that contact this month in the heat of Las Vegas with my brothers and sister. We met in Mom’s hometown to move her. She went down Jones Boulevard just one mile, a significant journey when your next birthday, like Mom’s, will be Number 80.

Our days were filled with strapping tape, corrugated cardboard, and sweat in the desert heat. But the nights and the early mornings carried our laughter and the looks that passed between three adult children remembering the bumpy roads of our youth together. It was a summer reunion, a rich consolation for me in this first season without an HP World after 20 years of meeting old HP friends at Interex shows across North America.

I sat in the airport with my brother Bob and told him the story of the Interex demise, then rattled off the array of cities that have been my summertime stops. Most often, we met in San Francisco. And yes, even Las Vegas once. The Interex show never visited Texas during my summertimes in the market, just like my brother John never has visited me here. That’s why we Seybolds needed a reunion, to fill our cups with the memory of the looks on family faces.

Face time, we call it in business, something to savor and prepare for. The longer we all have stayed in the 3000 community, the better each summer’s reunion became. We could tell stories, gaze into eyes under brows growing gray, recall and dismiss. I would come back from the summer trip full of flint to strike for stories, leads I could track and then transform into news you could use.

So in a summer where I now feel adrift without an HP World reunion, I also give thanks — for the fortune that turned Mom’s apartment complex into condos, forcing a move that rounded up the Seybold kids for the first time in five years. We kids are well connected, here in the early bit of the new century. I don’t mean that we’re movers and shakers, but that we use e-mail, websites, cell phones, and blogs to keep up with our family news. All those links pale compared to that contact, the feel of the firm grip of a handshake or grasp of a heartfelt hug.

We Seybolds have another reunion on our horizon, and there will be one more on the HP 3000 community’s calendar, too. I’m not talking about the meeting next month when HP will host its first Technical Forum, the New Orleans show that contributed to the Interex demise. That won’t have the feel of mom’s 80th birthday this December. We’ll plan and anticipate that event with as much ardor as 3000 veterans, the folks who helped Interex grow for more than a decade.

Instead of New Orleans-bound meetings, the news broke early this month that the 3000 family will have a luncheon as its 2005 reunion. Mike Marxmeier and Alan Yeo made the best of non-refundable tickets to San Francisco and hosted a lunch gathering. A few days later the OpenMPE user group — just about the only one left, now — held a meeting at an HP facility. We’re all wondering how large that OpenMPE family might grow up to be, now that Interex has passed away.

The meeting at the HP campus reminded me of the gentle tug between vendor mother-ship and user tender-craft. Before Interex began to called itself by that name, the group was the HP 3000 Users Group, operated with an eye toward collaboration with the vendor rather than combat. Maybe it’s time to remember, during this month of the Interex flame-out, how that relationship operates when it serves both vendor and user.

My friend Duane Percox at QSS explained it well. The HP 3000 members of Interex — those who founded the group — got more radical and active through the 1990s as their HP options grew slim. The scuffles were fun for a while, but also something a vendor won’t brook endlessly. When HP got the nerve to squash Interex with a competing show, the market's more nimble marketers didn’t hesitate.

Percox said that give-and-take between vendor and users lets both sides save face. Marketing wants a great spin on customer experiences, while the customers want the truth. You must claim to be independent from your very first day — if you want the truth to be your main mission.

“You can’t begrudge marketing for wanting the best spin on things,” he said, “just like you can’t begrudge the users for wanting the truth.” The long-term formula to mix these elements has always been collaboration, something Interex’s founder Doug Mecham recalls in his Q&A interview.

At that 3000 luncheon we got a few hours of face-time with one another — so the 3000 customers and partners might feel like I did right after my family reunion in Las Vegas. All of us went home in the afterglow from a handful of days of hard work, marinated in laughter and yes, some sadness over days past. Toss in that OpenMPE meet, and mid-August felt a bit like the typical Interex week. In Vegas and in the Bay Area, I was getting to know a town better and a hotel or two — like the way we Seybold kids learned the short cuts around the sprawl of Las Vegas Boulevard, or finding the back steps up to the room at the Tropicana.

Because I’ve had my stand-in reunion as well as my family gathering, I’ll miss the Interex show a little less this month. I could count on the family of brilliant, funny, and fulsome people like the 3000’s founders and fans to engineer a replacement reunion.

Face time can give you a chance to hear significant answers. In our last hour together in Vegas, Mom read us questions off a newsletter from her new apartment — good ones like “What event in history would you like to have experienced?” or “If you wrote your autobiography, what would its title be?”

We kids shared many lessons learned in spite of ourselves, something I wish for any group of people who consider themselves family. I hope for other reunions in my future among 3000 folk. You’re a group that can teach lessons about collaborating.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:36 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2020

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 17, 2020

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.

When you've entered all the necessary passwords, the HP 3000 will display a message that identifies the system you've logged on to (called the "Welcome Message" in MPE-speak) and log you on to the system.

What happens next depends on how your system has been set up. Frequently, system managers configure their HP 3000s so that menu programs or applications are executed automatically upon logon, and exiting those applications causes you to be automatically logged off the system. You never interact with the operating system directly. So if you log on to a 3000 and are suddenly confronted with an application program, a system manager has set up your particular user and account to work that way. 

User and Account Name

Ordinarily, the system displays a prompt on your screen that ends with a colon (:). This is the HP 3000's way of prompting you for an MPE command. I'm going to explain a few of the most basic and frequently used MPE commands, and at the same time explore some of the basic concepts and ideas behind MPE.

I'll begin by raising a few questions about your user and account name (the two parameters you entered in order to log on). Why are there two? After all, you need only one name to log on to a Unix machine. Why does the 3000 require two logon names?

To answer that question, we need to explore how HP 3000s (and most other minicomputers) were used in 1972, when MPE/iX was originally designed. In those days, computers (even HP 3000s) were very expensive--too costly for most small-to-midsize companies to own. Personal computing was more than a decade away, so (capitalism being what it is), an industry called "time-sharing" had sprung up. You might be thinking, "I thought that time-sharing had something to do with vacation homes." But in the early 1970s, time-sharing companies purchased computers (such as HP 3000s) and allowed other companies to share them (in exchange for a fee).

Here's how it worked. Imagine you're the owner of a time-sharing business. You buy an HP 3000, and provide your clients (the owners of small businesses who don't have computers of their own) with terminals and dialup lines so they can share your computer. They installed their applications on your machine, and at the end of each month you'd bill your clients based on how heavily they used your computer. As you can see, it becomes very important to be able to track who was doing what with the machine.

What does all this have to do with the account and user ID you entered when you logged on? Suppose your time-sharing company had signed contracts with three clients: Tom's Dry Cleaners, Harold's Used Cars, and Dick's Bar and Grill. You might set up three accounts on your system and call them something like TOM, HAROLD, and DICK.

On the HP 3000, accounts are tools for keeping track of who is using the system's resources--CPU time, memory, disk space, and so on. For example, each account has a timer associated with it. When somebody logs on to an account, that account's timer begins ticking like a taxi meter.

When the TOM account's meter begins ticking, Tom's Dry Cleaners is charged for the time you spend on the machine. (To see how you can use MPE commands to display these "taxi-meter" timers, see the sidebar called "Listing Accounts and Users.")

But what if one of the time-sharing company's accounts requests a detailed breakdown of its bill? Suppose, for example, that Harold's Used Cars employs three salesmen named Moe, Larry, and Curly. (Hey, I didn't say it was a good used car company.) When Harold gets his bill at the end of the month, he's probably going to want to know what portion of it is can be traced back to the activities of each of his salesmen.

MPE requires that when Moe (or any other user) logs on to the system, he doesn't just log on as "MOE" or as "HAROLD" but as "MOE.HAROLD", specifying both his user name and his account name. In this way, Moe actually kicks two timers into action. One is associated with the HAROLD account and accumulates all the time logged by any and all HAROLD users. The second is associated with MOE.

Each HP 3000 account has a password to protect it from unauthorized usage. Each account also has a number of users associated with it, and each also has (or at least should have) a password of its own.

Each user name is associated with one and only one account. In other words, you cannot log on to an account unless you have a userid that belongs to that account. For example, Moe works for Harold's Used Cars. Therefore, his username has been tied to the HAROLD account, and he must log on as "MOE.HAROLD". He can't log on as "MOE.TOM" or "MOE.DICK".

In this sense, each account can be thought of as being a collection of related users. MPE accounts are similar, in this respect, to Unix Group IDs, or GIDs. MPE systems have a number of concepts in common with Unix systems, although the terminology and details often differ.

Photo by Kenan Kitchen on Unsplash

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:49 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2020

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:28 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2020

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:51 AM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 25, 2020

Wayback: 3000s showed a Spectrum of hope

BeyondRisc
Thirty-six years ago this month, HP put a reboot of its business future into orbit. The project called Spectrum was the entry of PA-RISC (originally called "HP High Precision Architecture") when publicly announced in the HP Journal in 1985. HP brought the future into the light by killing its Vision project at the 1984 Interex user conference.

Stan Sieler, one of the founders of Allegro, was working at HP in the years before the HP announcement of what the company called High Performance Precision Architecture RISC. "A year or so later, when it was simply called PA-RISC (or HP PA-RISC), I asked Joel Birnbaum what happened to the "High" and I was ignored. Along with Bill Worley, these were the fathers of RISC inside HP. Birnbaum had been recruited from IBM's RISC project."

Digital was famous for raining on HP's Reduced Instruction Set Computing, as well as Unix, during the time PA-RISC rose up. Ken Olsen, DEC's founder, pulled the plug in 1989 on Prism, Digital's RISC computer design. HP struggled to get its business servers onto PA-RISC, managing to put its Unix onto the new architecture first. Digital tried to make inroads by touting its 32-bit VAX processors versus the 16-bit HP 3000 classic servers. "Digital has it now," the ads in the trade weeklies proclaimed.

Sieler says that several other companies were incensed at HP having a product called Spectrum, including Chevrolet. "I remember hearing reports of some legal actions against HP, which were reportedly dropped after HP promised to never use that term externally. That is apparently why we titled our book about PA-RISC Beyond RISC instead of Beyond Spectrum. We were told HP wouldn't buy any copies if we had "Spectrum" on the cover. But we did sneak it in: the spectrum is the photo."

RISC was designed to consolidate the development of peripheral interfaces for all all three of its computer lines: HP 3000, HP 9000s, and its real-time systems the HP 1000s. About late 1986, the real time version of HP-UX on PA-RISC —  demonstrated at the 1986 Madrid Interex conference on an HP 9000/840 — was quietly dropped. "We used to have an HP publication about real time support for HP-UX, but I think it went to the Living Computer Museum in Seattle when we gave them our manuals about two years ago," Sieler said.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:27 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2020

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:29 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2020

When the HP Way Led the 3000 Astray

Winding road forest

Editor's Note: Being a legacy system expert has its frustrating days. If experts of today ever wonder why they got into the lifespan of Hewlett Packard and MPE, they can look back to the start and the promise of the 3000. Bill Foster was a part of the HP team that created the system, before he went on to found Status Computing. the story below shows the an HP which had to remake MPE.

All the Foster you want, in an HP history worthy of being a book, is at his website.

By Bill Foster

If there ever was a company that always seemed to do the right thing, it was HP back in the 70’s. We had a term called The HP Way. There was no written definition — it was something you felt. When something good happened it was part of The HP Way. When you had the inclination to do something bad — cut corners on a project, treat a customer badly, turn in an inflated expense account, fire a really bad employee — these things didn’t happen. They were not The HP Way. It’s like we walked around with little halos over our heads.

Of course, if this was the only place you worked, you assumed all companies were like HP. You had to leave Hewlett Packard to become a part of the real world. So, we shipped HP 3000 serial #1 to the Lawrence Hall of Science in nearby Berkeley. A couple of weeks later they shipped it back. That 3000 could support at most two or three users on a good day -- nowhere near 16 or 32 or whatever they promised.  And MPE was crashing three or four times a day.

A few months and a couple of machines later HP punted and withdrew the 3000 from the marketplace. They gave free 2116 computers to the customers in hopes of appeasement — The HP Way. Bill and Dave were fuming -- this had been by far the most expensive project in the company’s history, and Hewlett Packard was being inundated with bad press — something that had never happened in the entire history of the company.

In fairly quick succession Paul Ely came down to save things and a few months later my boss Steve Vallender left. I don’t think Steve was fired — HP never fired anyone back then, they just promoted them into oblivion. But Steve was somewhat un-promotable — he lacked a college degree and HP was pretty snobbish about that.

Dick Hackborn asked me if I wanted Steve's old job. Are you kidding? Sure! Hurt me! I was looking to move up the ladder — this was a fantastic break. My guess was they chose me over my hardware counterpart because management finally figured it was better to put a software guy in charge of computer projects. No matter -- here I was, not even 30 years old, running all the hardware and software development for HP's computer business.

My first and most important job was to come up with a plan for the hockey pucks.  A year earlier, Dick Hackborn had hired a couple of smooth-talking marketing bozos out of IBM. Hackborn created a group called Product Marketing within his Engineering group to compete with the real Marketing group at the other end of the building.

This was very out of character for HP — to hire senior people from the outside. One of their first actions was to give mementos of a project to the engineers who had developed it — something tangible to remember their efforts. Apparently this was done all the time at IBM. The IBM marketing bozos came up with the idea of a brass paperweight about the size of a hockey puck, but about half the thickness. Stamped on each one were three overlapping circles signifying batch, realtime, and timesharing — things that the 3000 was supposed to do.  And each individual’s name was engraved on the back.

These were supposed to be handed out months earlier, but with all the problems, Vallender had hidden them away in a file cabinet. My first command move was to sneak in one weekend, lug them out to my car, and take them home to my garage.  The last thing I wanted was for anyone to get wind of them. The next step was to try to get some kind of usefulness out of the 3000 machine, and that meant fixing MPE.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:36 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2019

Seeking forgiveness as a support plan

So sorry chalkboard
ERP software becomes wired in deeply at corporations. Now that MANMAN has seen the end date coming for its manufacturer support, customers who rely on the ERP suite are looking for a 2020 plan to keep using it.

One aspect is a ruling about whether a product or a vendor is dead, but the intentions for its product lives on. It's an aspect of law called droit moral in France. Droit moral is not recognized in the US. Intentions are preserved in droit moral.

Some HP 3000 owners considered HP a dead entity after 2008, when no more patches were being built. HP's intellectual rights to MPE and the HP 3000 remain in effect. But there are those moral rights, too. This computer would not have become the keystone at places like aircraft makers and airline ticket agencies without customers' contributions, work that started many years ago. In fact, HP once recognized this kind of help in the market with the e3000 Contributor of the Year Award.

Contributors earn rights when measured in terms of ethics. Droit moral preserves ethics.

Source code rights might belong to customers once a product goes into permanent hibernation at the manufacturer. In 2008, I wrote that I believed that in order to honor droit moral for the 3000 community, HP's increasingly restrictive statements of licensing needed to stop. The vendor's support group needed to move on to other profitable HP markets. The vendor needed to leave owners and customers to continue using their computer, without any extra licensing payments to HP.

Droit moral lived in the hearts of some of the 3000 advocates within HP. While I visited HP's 3000 group one afternoon, the former business manager Dave Wilde and I walked across the wooded HP campus to lunch. That entire campus site is now the location of Apple Park, Apple's worldwide HQ, so things have changed a lot. At the time, through, Wilde said the 3000 group wanted to give the system "the ending that it deserves." It sounded warm and genuine.

Infor, the owners of MANMAN, are not as warm and genuine, even though they have enough sense about branding to sponsor the NBA Brooklyn Nets with an Infor logo on Nets uniforms. At the moment there's no coordinated effort from the remaining MANMAN customers to establish whether MANMAN truly belongs to customers after the exit of its creator. The customers are unsure who might even respond to such ownership questions.

Terry Floyd, who worked for the creators of MANMAN before starting his independent support company early in the 1990s, believes the intention of the customers should be the guiding signpost into a post-vendor future.

One customer on a user group conference call said they need source code they didn't have, because something is broken in MANMAN. "We found we don't have the source for some of the system commands," the manager said,  "because we wanted to fix some commands, and don't have the code."

Floyd said the restrictions on source should come off for MANMAN users next summer. If a site is missing some source, it might be at another customer site. An exchange could be made.

"I think a lot of people have lost some source code over the years," Floyd said, "and I think it will be legal for people to move it around between them individually after May or June." Like another caller, he added, "I'm not a lawyer either."

The ending the 3000 deserved didn't become a reality. The software that powers PA-RISC servers remains legally bound to a company no longer supporting or selling that operating system. This is the same circumstance facing the MANMAN users of 2019. A vendor's exit is just one important milepost on an application's highway. The goes on beyond vendor plans.

Some large customers are going on beyond Infor's end of support business. Modifying software, fixing bugs: these are things that matter more to customers than to manufacturers. Swapping source code is a strategy that will be governed by seeking forgiveness if there's any lawsuit to prevent it — rather than asking for permission. That's a strategy that will meet the droit moral.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:50 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2019

Does orphaned source code belong to you?

Orphan with bike
Not many application vendors still have shingles hung out for business in the MPE market. It's also been awhile since any vendors made an exit from the MPE marketplace. Now that Infor, makers of MANMAN, will depart this coming June, its ERP customers are talking about what source code is rightfully theirs.

During a conference call, about a dozen customers and another dozen independent support vendors kicked around the idea. Every customer on the call had signed a MANMAN license agreement, way back in the 1980s or 1990s. It was generally accepted that you never own a piece of software unless your organization wrote it.

To put it more plainly, the use of a vendor's product is always governed by an agreement. Everybody agrees on the rules for ownership and use.

Then conditions change.

The vendor folds up a product line, or goes out of business altogether. It happened with MPE/iX, to note one instance of the former fate. 3000 users can scarcely take a few steps before they stumble on a software vendor who's closed down all business. That's what happens over time after a vendor has built the bulk of its business around a server that's no longer sold or supported by the manufacturer.

The new condition gets managers asking about why any license should apply to an orphaned product. Permission to own the code that's only been licensed — that's a matter for the courts, or at least lawyers represening both sides.

The hard place the managers encounter is the language that keeps software in a vendor's IP locker. In cases like these, IP not only means Intellectual Property. It means, "in perpetuity." If anyone has a digital copy of their contract, searching for that phrase will certainly bring up a hit.

Eleven years ago, the 3000 community talked this through while Hewlett-Packard considered the new licensing of MPE/iX source code. Customers wanted their intention of owning a 3000 — to run a business in perpetuity — to match the intentions of HP's product licensing. We invoked French law to give voice to our wishes for that outcome.

There is an aspect of French law which does not exist in US law. It's called "droit moral," meant to protect the moral rights of ownership of a work of art. Even more than HP's support group, the 3000 community considered MPE/iX to be a work of art.

One story about using droit moral in the movie business:

Droit moral is an intellectual right of an artist to protect his work. When an artist dies, the droit moral goes to his heirs, unless he appoints someone else. For example, a John Huston movie was colorized in the US, and the movie was shown this way in the States, despite the opposition of the Huston heirs who were trying to honor their father's artistic wishes. But in France, where the Huston heirs argued their father didn't want his film to be in color, the colorized film can't be shown because of droit moral.

The argument, one which might be tested in court, is that the intention of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a product is to use it in perpetuity. Ownership of source hasn't been much tested in US law. The places where cases have appeared before a judge are courtrooms where things went better for the customers than the manufacturers.

Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:26 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2019

Wayback: HP FAQ captured its OS visions

Canary close up
It's only available through the Internet Wayback Machine, but a record of HP's intent for its enterprise operating systems still exists. For reference we traveled to LegacyOS, a website devoted to the legacies of Sun and HP's enterprise products. The promised land, as HP imagined it 17 years ago, was getting its operating systems to the Itanium Processor Family.

HP's decision to keep MPE/iX away from IPF servers was the canary in the coal mine for the company's business intentions for HP 3000s. Such a canary roosted in mines while work proceeded. If the quality of the air turned poisonous, the canary died and the miners evacuated.

At the time there were only two models of Itanium processors in working servers from HP, so calling it a family was marketing optimism. Nevertheless, moving to the nascent IPF, as well as a new OS in HP-UX, was HP's vision of end-of-life. The life ending turned out to be at HP's MPE/iX labs eight years later, rather than any useful lifespan for MPE/iX.

There is a current-day lesson in any review of the HP 3000 plans of 2002. HP noted at the time the vendor created a Business Critical Systems group. That group, HP's cheerful-but-inaccurate 3000 plans, and HP itself in its classic makeup don't exist anymore. Users can count on their community, rather than the vendor, to see the conditions for any end of life canary.

Q: What is HP’s strategy moving forward with HP e3000 servers?

A: Our commitment to HP e3000 and MPE/iX operating system is to continue delivering on the roadmap we have already communicated, delivering the planned performance and functionality, with future MPE/iX releases in the 2002-2003 timeframe. Moving forward, we are focused on moving HP e3000 customers to IPF-based HP servers that deliver more benefits to the customer, using aggressive and innovative migration programs.

Q: Does HP plan to port MPE/iX to IPF-based platforms?

A: No. MPE/iX will not be ported to Itanium-based servers. The communicated HP e3000 roadmap includes PA-RISC based servers that deliver the performance and functionality customers need in the 2002-2003 timeframe. After that, HP e3000 customers benefit more by moving to HP Unix Servers using Itanium technologies and best-in-class migration programs, and taking advantage of the industry leading performance, functionality, and lasting value that Itanium and HP-UX will deliver.

Q: Should HP e3000 customers who need to stay longer on the platform than 2004 be concerned?

A: Absolutely not. HP will support the servers at least until the end of 2006. During this time, HP is committed not only to provide full support for the servers, but also to make available the aggressive and innovative migration programs, to help customers successfully move into Itanium-based HP-UX servers on their own pace.

To recap, the end of 2006 became the end of 2010, in part because HP's aggressive and innovative migration programs were undermatched to the needs of the customer. The Itanium technologies became an also-ran, lapped by Intel's modernization of x86 processors. Intel announced its departure from Itanium futures in 2015. Now commodity hardware rules the roost in today's mines.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2019

HP still keeps MPE data behind a paywall

Payphone
Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash

It can be surprising to see how much value remains in an operating system that's not been altered in almost a decade. Hewlett Packard Enterprise has 3000 documentation on its website that is still behind a paywall of sorts. Users access this info by validating their HP Passport credentials — the ones that indentify the user as being current on a support contract.

The HPE website has plenty of advice and instruction available without a validation. If you ask, for example, "Can the HP 3000 and GSP LAN configuration be on different subnets?" HPE reports

There are two server platforms (A-CLASS [A400/A500] and N-CLASS [N4000]) that can run MPE, which uses the GSP (Guardian Service Processor) console for offline hardware operations like startup and shutdown of the system, access hardware console or system logs, etc.

It is possible for management purposes to place the GSP operation on a different subnet from the MPE server LAN, thus isolating or protecting either environment from one another. One reason for that can be to prevent normal users from telneting or in other ways accessing the GSP console or the other way around.

Or, another morsel that's useful in the era of declining hardware know-how: A-Class IO path memory configuration guidelines. Useful for the manager who's trying to set up memory cards in one of those $5,000 replacement 3000s.

However, if you'd like to read the most current documents, a support contract stands in the way. An updated NMMAINT listing is behind the paywall. HPE created the document in August of 2019. There's no available support to be purchased from HP for MPE/iX.

The documents that survive can be extensively redacted. A HP3000 License Transfer Process document references a web address no longer in service. The address licensing.hp.com no longer answers to requests.

Some information on MPE/iX at HPE's website is among the 4,386 documents at the site. Having the confidence that it will remain in that place is the next step in learning to rely on HPE resources. Independent MPE/iX resources have been more reliable, although the web pages for MM Support went dark this year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:05 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 26, 2019

Xerox HP fight copies 3000's exit saga

Copier user
Xerox has been trying to buy the part of HP left over after the vendor's split up in 2015. The latest $33.5 billion offer, rebuffed by the HP Inc. board, is going to get pushed out to the HP Inc. shareholders. "It's a better deal that you're getting now" is the message to the thousands of HPQ stock managers. Voting shares for or against a merger has a spot in the 3000's legacy.

This is also the outcome that helped cement HP's exit from the 3000 world. In 2002, HP's acquisition of Compaq got pushed out to a proxy battle. Xerox says HP is defying logic by refusing to be acquired. That's the kind of resistance HP loyalists — the HP blue, they were called — tried to muster around Bill Hewlett's son, who was an HP board member.

Without that successful buyout, HP would've had no Digital VMS customer base to court and invest in to feed a business-focused Itanium operating system. HP-UX was a lock for Integrity, to be sure. The 3000 and MPE/iX were there, ready, but just too small for HP's designs on being Number 1 in all of computing. The Compaq PCs were going to make that a reality.

However, about three years after HP rammed through the Compaq merger through a proxy battle, the spark of that deal Carly Fiorina was forced to resign as HP CEO and chairman. PC growth had not contributed to significant HP market dominance. At the same time, the health of its enterprise business began to slip ever so slightly.

Another CEO pumped up HP's sales, even while its ability to sell OpenVMS and HP-UX faltered. Enterprise computing with HP-built operating systems was in decline. HP became an all-Windows enterprise supplier when full business server sales were measured.

The juicy fruit that HP's board dangled in front of uncommitted shareholders was Compaq's roaring PC business. A combined company would be No. 1 in market share almost immediately. That was promised, anyway. The fortunes of OpenVMS seemed secure, heading into the portfolio of a technology giant that had enterprise legacy to match Digital's.

By 2016, OpenVMS was in the chute toward ex-product status at HP. The coup de gras took place this year when VMS support customers were told the future was in the hands of VMS Software, Inc. OpenVMS users, as well as the MPE customers who were the casualty in that 2002 merger, can look at Xerox and watch the conflict knowing it won't change their fates.

Those were set in motion by the last proxy battle. The juicy fruit that HP's board dangled in front of uncommitted shareholders was Compaq's roaring PC business. The fortunes of OpenVMS seemed secure, heading into the portfolio of a technology giant that had enterprise legacy to match Digital's.

MPE customers were sent down the path where Tru64, another Digital creation, sits today. Formal support ended for them. However, MPE/iX was more than a new edition of Unix. It built a community around vendors. There was no other choice once that proxy war was lost.

Mergers are a good way to see where the soul of a company resides — if there's an open fight. Of course, there wouldn't be a shadow of the old HP to fight over — printer-PC HP Inc. — if the Compaq acquisition had failed. HP might be in the position of seeing itself absorbed and erased. A new afterlife seems unlikely for a company founded on something as common as Windows and printers.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:50 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2019

Welcome to Year 19 of the Afterlife

Cheated Death on printer
You remember where you were, perhaps, on the day you learned Hewlett-Packard was done with MPE/iX. You might have been in a meeting, or checked your email before heading home. You might have been installing something a 3000 needed to keep serving your company, or even ready to order a new server to replace the old 9x8 box. Some unlucky vendors were holding orders for new systems.

People did all of that and more on the day HP revealed its 3000 era was on its way to a finish. By 2003 the community was calling the new era The Afterlife. The lifespan of building new HP 3000 hardware was ended when a box rolled off the line at the Roseville plant in early November that year.

Afterlife shirt

And so, on November 14 of 2001, the afterlife of Hewlett-Packard's lifetime started with dismay, anger, and then resignation. The five stages of death proceeded through discussions in a lively 3000 newsgroup. Taking a cue from the horrors of 9/11 in that season, programmers and vendors howled about the relatively unimportant death in their lives.

Doug Greenup was leading Minisoft in that November week. The CEO of a software company whose products were on thousands of systems, he became aware of the HP pullout with just one day's notice.

Alvina Nishimoto from HP called me. She was in charge of third parties with HP at the time. She asked me to sign a non-disclosure which she'd just faxed me. She said she had important news. I signed it and faxed it right back. She called to tell me HP was announcing they were discontinuing the HP e3000, and that HP-UX was their future direction.

HP might have been worried the story was going to get into the world without its influence. The news had been roiling through the 3000 community for more than a week before I learned about it. Wirt Atmar, the founder of AICS and a 3000 stalwart, threw off the lid about the pullout by posting on a developers' mailing list.

I spoke to two of our oldest, most trusted customers yesterday, one a ten-year customer and the other 15 years, about this upcoming announcement. Their first reactions were that it simply sucked their breath away. When I told them about HP's proposed plans of migrating their applications to HP-UX — which as an option has all of the practicality to them of trying to establish a penguin colony in Death Valley — their second reaction was "the hell with HP. If we move, it will be to anything but HP." I think that that's going to be the general reaction.

HP learned a great deal about ending a product line with the lessons that began 18 years ago. Earlier this year the company made a graceful transfer of responsibility for OpenVMS, sending the software as well as support opportunities to an independent firm, VMS Software Inc. HP won't sell any more OpenVMS licenses, although it continues to build Itanium servers that will run the apps created for that OS.

This was a vision that the HP 3000 community took to heart during the first of the 18 years that followed. A similar group of OS experts, organized and led by Adager, wanted HP to transfer the future of MPE/iX to new, independent stewards. HP didn't know how to do this in 2001 or in 2002. The offer took another form in the OpenMPE advocate organization, but eight more years had to slip past before HP's source code made its way into independent software labs.

A new history began 18 years ago, a record of a group of computer customers who kept their own counsel about walking away from a corporate computing asset. The next two years or so will show HP Enterprise customers what might have been possible had MPE/iX found a third party home. VSI is predicting that it will have production-grade OpenVMS ready for a late 2021 release on Intel hardware.

This is more than a shift away from the HP Enterprise resources. VSI is carrying OpenVMS to a new chipset, a commodity home. In 2001, Atmar told HP's business manager for 3000 operations, Winston Prather, such a move was what the 3000 customers deserved.

Opening MPE up and migrating it to an Intel platform offers at least some real hope for a continued and bright future for MPE. More than that, it keeps a promise that most customers believe HP has made to them, and that is very much the nub of the moral and ethical question
that faces you now, Winston.

Migrating MPE to Intel hardware would have permitted MPE to run on inexpensive but high-quality servers. Earlier this month, VSI announced a timeline for such a thing to happen with OpenVMS. A different HP paved the way, perhaps chastened by the past, than the corporation that launched the afterlife. In the beginning, the launch of the server took place in this month. The slogan in 1972 was "November is a Happening." Nothing can change what happened nearly 30 years later, but the decisions over what to do with a loyal enterprise customer base have changed in the years since 2001's happenings.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:03 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 06, 2019

HP's tech lures Xerox offer to buy

HP printer tech
Photo by Dario Seretin on Unsplash

Plenty of writers and customers get confused about the HP of 2019. Back in 2014, the corporation split into two units, operations that align on devices and datacenters. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise now sells datacenter products and services. It's the arm that created HP 3000s in the 1970s. HP Inc., the part of the company that makes printing, imaging, and PC products, received an offer this week to be purchased by Xerox.

HP Inc. acquired 55 patents from Samsung for business printing not long ago. Now the corporation is being courted by a suitor whose printing legacy is wired deep into the DNA of Hewlett-Packard's spinoff. Patents for LaserJet tech, the engineering that in 1984 took HP into the realm of resellers farther removed from HP than any 3000 VAR, are part of what Xerox is bidding for.

The offer, which HP Inc. confirmed it has received, would sign up Xerox for more than $20 billion in debt, financed by Citigroup. The appetites of the HP which created the 3000 and then cut down the vendor's future in the MPE/iX market helped to spark that 2014 split. HP was striving for an overall Number One status as a technology supplier in the years just before it announced its takedown of its 3000 business.

Management at the vendor aligned on growing sectors of business. While the 3000 had enjoyed a nice revenue increase for several years leading up to Y2K, HP saw the unit as one whose growth had a limited future. "If it's not growing, it's going," one 3000 vendor said he'd heard in reports about HP's future.

This was in the era when PCs were soaring on the HP balance sheets and printer products were being sold in groceries. The corporation had just acquired Compaq and Compaq's Digital group, so while there was a future for OpenVMS and its growth, cutting back on enterprise products became essential in HP's strategy.

Xerox developed the first viable graphical interface technology in its Star systems. The Palo Alto Research Center's tour for a young Steve Jobs at Apple led to the mouse interface becoming an essential part of the Macintosh release. 

In a move that proves there's always value in technology that outlasts its creators, there's now a deal in the market to return some of HP business technology to a corporation that's been a part of business computing history since the 1980s. It can be hard to tell what's going to survive in computing and where it will land. HP Inc. recently announced it will be cutting 9,000 more jobs. Betting on good management is at least as important as betting on good technology. As 3000 owners know, technology like MPE/iX is able to outlive the interests of its creators.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:46 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 31, 2019

Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit

Chris Gauthier  Jackie at Wake
Simpkins  Nizzardini  Johnson Wake redux
Above, a 2019 commemorative lunch today at Tide Mill Café in Hampton, VA with Terry Simpkins, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson, all 3000 experts and veterans of MPE. 3000s are in use at their company, TE Connectivity. At top, a 2003 World Wide Wake picture with Chris Gauthier and his co-worker Jackie Mitchell, both supporting 3000 customers as contractors to Terix.

Today we're marking the 16th anniversary of the World Wide Wake. The event was a marker of the end of HP’s 3000 manufacturing on Oct. 31, 2003. Alan Yeo, who passed away recently, organized the Wake and posted photos contributed from attendees onto what we were still calling the World Wide Web. A Web gallery for 3000 people was groundbreaking at the time.

Yeo said back in 2004, a few months after the event that drew more than 400 devotees to meetings in 15 countries, “We have created a simple single Web page that by country just lists the venues and who attended, and also has a link to any pictures for that venue," Yeo said. “The information will be condensed into a single Web page, linked to a directory of about 75 images. We have had several offers to host the information, so rather than try and pick a single host, we thought that allowing any interested attendee to host it would be best.”

Thanks to good Web hunting from Keven Miller, the Wayback Machine link to the original Web page tells the tale of who attended, and where, along with some of the photos.

Our own archive of the photos, sans captions, is here on the blog.

The photos from that day look like party pictures, even though nobody in them was celebrating anything except Halloween. The memories were on the minds of everyone in the frame, though. The future without any more new 3000s didn't seem to scare anyone on that day, at least not for the cameras. It was a coincidence that the building of new computers, as well as the licenses for the MPE/iX that made the boxes genuine 3000s, stopped on the spooky holiday. HP's fiscal year ends every year on October 31.

The Wake gatherings were all across the globe. New Zealand was the furthest away from the Epicenter of Grief, as the 3000 faithful had dubbed Lori's Little Shack in Roseville, the town where HP's 3000 factory was ending its birth of the servers. 

Loree's Epicenter Grief

Hundreds of HP 3000 users, managers, vendors and devotees gathered in pubs, cafes, back yards and offices to celebrate the end of something: HP's finale to creating new HP 3000 servers.

On our separate photo gallery page, we've collected some images of that day. The people in those pictures were holding a wake for Hewlett-Packard's 3000s (and a few who believed it was the beginning of the end for MPE/iX). Even today, it's hard to make a case that the server actually died on Halloween of 2003. What ended was the belief that HP would build any more 3000s.

TSG wake
The gatherings ranged from "The Ship" in Wokingham in the UK, to Vernazza, Italy, to Texada Island off British Columbia, to Melbourne, to the Carribbean's Anguilla, and to a backyard BBQ in Austin -- where a decommissioned 3000 system printer and put-aside tape drives sat beside our grill. At a typically warm end of October, the offices of The Support Group gave us a way to gather and mourn a death -- the official passing of any hope of ever seeing a new HP 3000 for sale from Hewlett-Packard.

Company employees chatted with several MANMAN customers under those Austin oaks, along with a few visitors from the local 3000 community. Winston Krieger, who passed away this year and whose experience with the 3000 goes back to the system’s roots and even further, into its HP 2100 predecessor, brought several thick notebook binders with vintage brochures, documentation, technical papers and news clippings.

RadE4A95HP, as well as the full complement of those October customers, continued to use the server during November. And while the creator of the Wake concept Yeo said, "the date does sort of mark a point of no return, and it will be sad," Birket Foster had his own view of what just happened.

“The patient’s not dead yet," he said at the time, "but we did pass a milestone.”

One software vendor even announced new products at the gathering. Steve Quinn of eXegySys said that "We will not be mourning the death of the HP 3000 as much as celebrating the birth of two new products." Both ran on Windows but had deep roots in MPE. Almost 40 people signed in at the company's HQ in Salt Lake City.

The Wake drew the interest of mainstream media in the US and the UK, including some of the first notice from the business press in several years. But no outlets devoted mainline coverage to the impressive array of parties and commemorations; instead, Web-based reports of the Wake appeared from print publishers and ABC News. The Wall Street Journal, Computerworld and the website The Register also reported on HP’s end of sales. 

On the website where Yeo first hosted the photos, Gary Stead of the UK reported in a note he was "looking for a job 1st Nov!" 

But Duane Percox, Doug Perry, Steve Cooper, Rick Ehrhart, Ric Goldman, Mark Slater, John Korondy, Tom McNeal, and Stan Sieler joined HP’s Cathlene Mcrae, Mike Paivinen, Peggy Ruse, Jeff Vance and Dave Wilde to raise glasses in salute at the pub The Duke of Edinburgh, just down the street from HP’s MPE labs. Everybody went back to work on 3000s the next day.

Quinn of eXegySys said his company's new products, while running on non-3000 servers, "both extend far beyond the capabilities of their forefathers." The same can be said of everyone who attended a wake for an HP Way business and an ideal.

Moving onward is natural in a lifecycle. The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." There was pain in the end of the manufacture of 3000s, the beginning of HP's MPE end. Beginnings happened nine years later, when Stromasys introduced the PA-RISC HP 3000 emulator Charon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:56 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2019

Who's to blame when the lights go out?

Power-lines-towers
Photo by Peddi Sai hrithik on Unsplash

Yesterday the lights didn't come on in Northern California. Everywhere, it seems, because the Pacific Gas & Electric corporation didn't want to be sued for windstorm damages to its power lines. They cut the juice to prevent lawsuits. Tesla owners got a dashboard warning.

The surprise about the outage was as complete as the shock over Interex dowsing its lights overnight in 2005. Except the cynics could see the PG&E blackout coming.

Solar panel-owning residents of California and electric car owners were most surprised. I went to a 3000 tech mailing list to look for people worried about topping up their Teslas, because some people who picked 3000s are pioneers, so Teslas are well represented among MPE veterans. Like the usual chaff on a mailing list, there were turds of political opinion floating there about who's to blame for California's darkness.

So I wasn't surprised to see more attacks on the state of California. "A third world country" is the shorthand smear, although you can say lots of the US isn't a first world country any longer. In the exchange on the mailing list, it was apparently too much trouble to keep a state’s government separate from talk about Pacific Gas & Electric’s corporate moves. Once PG&E goes bankrupt, then the private corporation’s demise will be blamed on California voters, using that logic. It’s easier than keeping commerce and government separate, I suppose. 

Blaming the tough regulations about state rate hikes for the disaster that is PG&E business is having it both ways: Government is crucial, and government is ridiculous. On and on it goes, until we are supposed to trust a government that lets PG&E do whatever it wants, so long as profits stay high. 
 
Because every corporation with ample profits has always taken care of its customers in every need. 
 
Some people on that mailing list sure have a short memory about such nonsense. We are all survivors of a meltdown of a business model where corporate profits were ensured — because revenue growth was the only thing that mattered — while legacy technology got scrapped. Millions of dollars of investments, the fate of hundreds of vendors, and thousands of careers were lost.
 
The mailing list name still has the numerals 3000 in it. You’d think people would remember what brought us into each others' lives, along with the lesson we learned the hard way together. Oversight is important. The problem which hit the Hewlett-Packard 3000 customers was a lack of oversight from top-level management and the board of directors. It's sometimes hard to know what to do while things are changing (the computer business) and ambitions are high (make HP bigger than anybody, so it will win every deal).
 
A good rule to follow, though, is like a physician. First, do no harm. The 3000 community got treated by HP like a limb that had gone gangrenous. Old history that'll never be changed, yes. Also, a lesson for managers on how to treat older bodies like an operating system and software that's not new but is still performing well.  
 
Complaining about oversight, when you'd rather have none at all, is what got HP into the state it's in today. Two corporations, neither growing, both unable to honor the promises of forever-computing that drove companies to buy its products. HP's cut itself loose from the future of OpenVMS, and the thousands of companies that rely on that legacy OS need to trust VMS Software Inc., new owners of the OS's future.
 
It's a better deal than the one HP gave its 3000 customers. Private money would've taken over MPE futures in 2002. HP wouldn't sell or license it, but again, that's just history. Now that the lights aren't going on for the 3000 at HP anymore — so many of HP's 3000 web pages are dead or buried alive — it evokes the powerless situation in California.
The political noisemakers just would rather let PG&E do what it wants with rates, and then blame it on California when the light switches on the solar-paneled houses do nothing.
 
It turns out we need the grid even when we’re off the grid. 3000 folks needed a vendor who knew how to give a forever-computing solution an endless tomorrow by licensing an OS future.
 
The noisemakers like to ridicule the powerless Californians by saying that the state's not a first world entity anymore. It's not crazy to call California a country; its economy is bigger than all but nine of the countries in the world.
 
In one rude wisecrack, a child asks their father about how to see now that the California lights have gone out. Maybe the answer goes like this, not lit by the candles from the noisemaker's punch line.
 
"Daddy, what did the founding fathers use to write the Consitution?"
 
"Oil lamps, sweetie. Bring that one there closer to the table, while I finish writing this letter on the laptop.”
 
“Daddy, why are you writing the California attorney general?”
 
“Because we still have a state government. The founders always wanted the states to be different.”
 
“You mean we can’t be Texas?”
 
“There’s enough Texas already, sweetie."
 
I'm writing with my windows open this morning, because it’s the first day in Texas with both rain and weather below 70 since April. It's getting hotter in Texas, so we all have to make plans to get our houses cool enough to live in for half the year. I'm not about to blame Texas government for that. It won't help me with with the solution, though. They're leaving that to the corporations. 3000 people learned a hard lesson about that life without oversight.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:23 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2019

Relative performance online as 3000 history

Snapshot of partial HP relative performance
As the HP hardware to run MPE/iX ages, it's on the recycling and scrapping block for companies that still have an HP 3000 box on-premise. Now hardware is so cheap you can throw 3000 gear away.

The slow, old, and heavy boxes go first, of course. I remember taking a trip with Stan Sieler in the Bay Area where he took me to a scrap facility. There, shrink wrapped on the outside of a pallette, were HP 2645 terminals, right alongside Compaq boxes.

Relative performance charts can be our friend as we triage our older HP gear. There's an adequate one available online at bitsavers.org as part of a breezy page covering the history of the 3000. 

We've got The One Chart to Rule Them All you can download to use while you have HP's gear on the chopping block. There's a section for A-Class comparisons, and another compares HP's boxes in the N-Class line to older system performance.

Such numbers are relative in more ways than just the comparison between servers. HP actually massaged the numbers themselves back in the late 1990s. Our story in 1998 reported that 

HP is “restating” the performance rankings for much of its hardware, starting with this month’s rollout of the Series 989 systems. The new rating is an HP 3000 Performance Unit, not based on Series 918 performance. And the new numbers are between 29 and 52 percent higher for all systems except HP’s largest ones, the Series 996 and 997 units.

As I observed, while looking askance at the new figures, "HP wants you to think of HP 3000s as faster than ever, but its new rating measurements don’t really make existing systems any faster. They just sport higher numbers than they did last month."

There was some technical logic to the HP adjustment. The 3000 hardware from HP had just acquired some newer and faster cousins.

Dave Snow, product manager for the 3000, said "the measuring techniques for our midrange and high-end platforms were producing results that were not consistent with each other. You had a 918 performance for the midrange and a different relative performance for the high end, but the two relative performance numbers weren’t the same.”

The discrepancy was a big deal, he added, “but it was a big deal we could sort of live with, so long as the 9x9 and 99x performances were dramatically different from each other,” Snow said. “As we added performance to the 9x9 platform, it is approaching the 99x. That’s caused us to have this quandary. In some sense we’ve had two different sets of 918 numbers. We had to bite the bullet and reconcile the numbers."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:47 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2019

Two very tough days for 3000 customers

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

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

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

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

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

Dear members:

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

Interex

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:54 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2019

Wayback: Security boosts as enhancements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patch IDs are:

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:26 PM in Hidden Value, History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2019

Compromises throw doubts about clouds

Thunder-cloud-3554670_1920

Cloud services show some promise for companies which are dropping their on-premise IT hardware to get costs down and put maintenance in the hands of service companies.

As the HP hardware ages, its reliability becomes a weak point. There’s a risk to using clouds, though, one that the 3000 community knows well and holds dear.

Outside services can be vulnerable to security attack. When the attack takes place outside a datacenter, the responsibility falls to the manager who selects the service.

A hacking campaign known as Cloud Hopper has been the subject of a US indictment, one that accused Chinese nationals of identity theft and fraud. Prosecutors described an operation that victimized multiple Western companies. A Reuters report at the time identified two: IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Cloud Hopper ensnared at least six more major technology firms, touching five of the world’s 10 biggest tech service providers. Reuters also found compromises through Fujitsu, Tata Consultancy Services, NTT Data, Dimension Data, and Computer Sciences Corporation.

Another compromise pathway was DXC Technology. HPE spun-off its services arm in a merger with Computer Sciences Corporation in 2017 to create DXC. HP's Enterprise group represents one-fourth of all the known compromised Cloud Hopper attack points.

Assurances that a cloud is secure come with references, but the degree of safety remains largely in the eyes of the beholder. There’s not much in the way of audits and certifications from independent reviewers. MPE cloud computing is still on the horizon. Reports about unsafe clouds are helping to keep it that way.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:33 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 10, 2019

Being there now, right where we expect him

Birket-Chamber
Where Are They Now
?

Fifteen years ago, Birket Foster had an opening line for a history of the 3000 world. "It was a marketplace of names." Birket's is one of a group of well-known first-only names, along with Alfredo and Vladimir and Eugene. Earlier this spring he commemorated 42 years in the market. Every one has included a week of business serving HP's business server community.

In a few days he'll be doing what he's done, and in the same places, as he's done for years. There's a webinar that covers the promises and practices of application modernization and synchronization. Systems that look and behave like they're old are made new again. You can register for the June 12 event, to be held at 2 PM Eastern.

Right at the heart of the MB Foster business, though, pulses UDACentral. "We have completed its shakedown cruise at the Government of Canada in a BCIP program, and of course are moving another group of databases for customers that contract MBFoster to do the work using UDACentral."

Moving and managing data has always been at the center of MB Foster's competency. "We have been adding databases to the mix: Aurora (for AWS) and MongoDB are now part of what we are serving. We even did a paid Proof of Concept for UDASynch taking MongoDB back to Oracle."

The company's core team has been steady, but what's ahead is pushing UDACentral's wide array of improvements "to change them from a project to a product. That process will need additional sales talent and trainers, as well as more support and programming talent, so my hobby is expanding again." That's a hobby of assembling resources for new ideas.

In the meantime there is family life for Birket, the pleasures of two daughters and a son already old enough to be expanding and embracing lives in medicine and business, as well as building families of their own. Fishing the Ottawa River's massive muskies remains a passion, one he's pursuing this summer with HP 3000 tech guru Mark Ranft. Birket often has a hook in the water.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2019

Third parties take over HP's OS support

Aircraft-instrument panel
The above headline doesn't describe a new situation for MPE/iX. HP gave up on its 3000 support, including MPE/iX, at the end of 2010. Even allowing for a few shadow years of 3000 contract completion — the time when some support contracts were running out their course, and HP ran out the clock — it's been a long time since the 3000's creator supported a 3000 system.

That's a situation that's about to kick in for the hundreds of thousands of VMS systems out there. HP's official OpenVMS support ends in December of 2020. A third party company, VMS Systems Inc., has earned a license to support VMS using its internals knowledge and experts. The company, VSI, will also become, by July, the only outlet for an OpenVMS customer to buy OpenVMS.

The 3000 customers already know how well third party support can succeed. VMS customers in the US government are going to learn how well it works for them. The Federal business in VMS was big.

This third party stewardship and development was the spot the 3000 community could never reach. The OpenMPE movement began as a way to get a third party group the access required to advance MPE/iX with features and new patches. That ground along for more than three years until HP announced it was extending its 3000 "End of Life" in 2005. The air quotes are needed before the only life that was ending was HP's life serving 3000 owners.

So any takeover of MPE/iX internals for extension and future customers' needs was out. So it then fell to the community to ask for enough access to do deep repairs and issue patches. Ultimately that license was created, sort of. Not the kind of access that VSI got for VMS. Just enough, for the seven special companies with an MPE/iX source license, to repair things for existing support clients.

It amounted to a CD with the millions of lines of internal MPE/iX code. The documentation was limited to what was inside the source file, according to some who saw the CD. One report said it was a $10,000 license.

That MPE/iX source goes above workarounds. Lots of the potential from extra source access has not been tapped after all of these years. But good customer-specific fixes have been built.

This is so much less than what the VMS community — which was in the final analysis what helped end HP's 3000 life — is getting now and in the years to come. Lots of years, because like the 3000, the VMS systems have Stromasys virtualization.

Because the VMS community was so much larger than the MPE community during 2001, and VMS had extensive government installations including Department of Defense sites, VMS won out. VMS got the engineering to support Integrity-Itanium servers. In the long run, we can all see how that mattered. Intel announced the final Itanium build this year. Some wags call the architecture the Itanic.

Many, many VMS sites remain. Everyone estimates, but it's easily a group bigger than the 3000 community ever was. Third party support is all that the OS will have in about a year and a half. That support resource, from independents like Pivital Solutions, been good enough for the 3000 for more than eight years since HP's support reached its end of life.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:08 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2019

Itanium, we hardly knew ye, aside from HP

Titanic
Earlier this month, the computer community learned how late in life Itanium was living. The chip architecture was going to rule the world when HP and Intel first announced it in 1994 as a project called Tahoe. Intel ruled the world with x86 architecture then in the lion's share of PCs. Literally, as in the true definition of lion's share: all of it. 

It's taken 25 years, but Intel has called Time's Up for its design it co-created with HP. Intel told its customers that the final order date for Itanium 9700 series processors is January 20 of next year. The final Itanium processor shipments end on July 21, 2021.

Itanium was essential to the HP decision to stop manufacturing HP 3000s. Itanium was going to be the future of all enterprise computing, the company figured right after Y2K. There was not enough money in the R&D budget at HP to fund the redesign of MPE/iX for a new processor. VMS, sure, HP would do that for a market that was four times the size of MPE/iX.

By now HP has split in two and Itanium is nowhere but in the HP Enterprise servers, the ones running VMS and NonStop. HPE says it will support its Itanium-based Integrity servers until 2025. A superior article in the the EE Journal includes this summary.

Itanium’s developers sought a path to much faster processing. Unfortunately, the theory behind Itanium’s development was just plain wrong. While VLIW architectures do appear to work well for specialty processors running well-behaved code, particularly DSPs, they’re just not appropriate for general-purpose applications thrown willy-nilly at server processors.

And so, we remember the fallen.

It's taken awhile to understand the inertia that occupies the energy of the computer industry. HP seems to have a side of itself that learned such lessons more slowly than most enterprises. HP was late to Windows (who needed GUIs?) and got well behind the pack on the Internet (Sun crowed over HP's sluggish pace by the late 1990s.) After creating its own RISC chip in PA-RISC, HP figured that another chip developed along with the creator of the x86 was a slam dunk. 

There was a time for dictating the way forward in computing with a new architecture for chips. That time passed well before Y2K. HP hung on for more than a decade in full denial, even as it revved up the ProLiant enterprise servers using x86.

It's not easy to see a clean future in the years beyond 2025 for the companies which are invested in Integrity systems. But no one could see how the PA-RISC servers of the 3000 were going to be anything but a write-off for their users, either. The strength of the operating environment, as well as a long history of efficient computing, gave the 3000 a longer lease on life. Now's the time to see if the HP-UX and NonStop environments are going to make the jump to x86. We're also watching how well they leap and what the HP of the 2020's will say. 

You can expect HPE won't say the Itanium ecosystem is in trouble and that the company is predicting 80 percent migration in two years' time. The 3000 community heard that from HP in 2002. Ten years later MPE/iX had a home on — wait for it — x86. Charon made that a reality, giving everyone who'd tramped away from PA-RISC and MPE/iX a moment of regret. You mean we didn't have to adopt Itanium and retool our environment into Windows, or HP-UX?

Not so long ago, in the months before HP had to do its split-up, the company announced a project to create a computer with a clean slate. It was simply called The Machine, an echo of the hubris from the era that built Itanium after a too-long construction period.

No customer who cleaned house of their MPE/iX investment will feel much vindication at the news of the Itanium demise. Industry wags started to call the architecture the Itanic when the chip fell well short of expectations right off the bat. The lifeboats are out in the water now for the latest survivors of the great HP business server purge. The torpedos were first launched in 2001. VMS futures are now in third party hands. World domination turned out to be a very long shot for the Very Long Instruction Words of Itanium. Investing such faith in a single vendor's vision feels foolish now. During the 1990s, sailing on the Itanic looked like a smart berth indeed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:46 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2019

Driving a Discontinued Model with Joy

Volt
When a chariot has stopped rolling off the line, it might well be the time to buy one. That's what happened to me, unexpectedly, this weekend. I felt a kinship with HP 3000 owners of the previous decade as I weighed my purchase of a new car.

Like the HP 3000, my 2019 Chevy Volt was the ultimate model of a superior design and build. The Volt was Chevy's foundational electric vehicle when the vehicle made its debut in 2011. Back in that year it was costly (true of the 3000, even through most of the 1990s) unproven (MPE/XL 1.0 was called a career move, and not a safe one) and unfamiliar — plugging in a car inside your garage might have been as unique as shopping for applications knowing every one would work with your built-in IMAGE database.

The Volt grew up, improved (like the final generation of 3000 hardware, A-Class and N) and gained a following I've only seen in the best of designs. People love this car. There's a Facebook group for Volt owners, many of whom crow and swagger as they point out things like the intelligence of the car's computer systems or the way that an owner can train a Volt to extend its electric-only range. The latter is a matter of how often the car is charged plus a combination of a paddle on the steering wheel, a gear range, and the right driving mode. H is better sometimes.

Yes, it's as complex as any intrinsic set tuned for a bundled database. The Volt's efficiency rivals the best aspects of a 3000 at the start of the millennium. GM, much like HP, decided the future of the car would not include manufacturing it. Just as I was poised to purchase, after healthy research, I learned its sales had been ended. 

The Facebook group mourned, and one owner said the car would be a collector's item someday. That's when I thought of my 3000 bretheren and signed up for six years of Volt car payments. I had the full faith of two governments behind me, however. Both the US and Texas wanted to reward me for buying something so efficient. That's how this story diverges from the HP decision about the 3000. It was the resellers, as a private group, that made those last 3000s such a great deal.

I remember when the HP cancelation was announced, Pivital Solutions was still in its first 24 months of reselling the 3000. The company remained in the business of shipping new hardware as long as HP would build new systems. Ever since that day in 2003, Pivital has supported the hardware and backstopped the software. Pivital is one of the Source Code Seven, those companies which have licenses to carry MPE/iX into the future.

Pivital and a few others in the community sealed the deal on 3000 ownership in the post-manufacturing era of the computer. No matter how long you decided to own a 3000, you could get a support contract on hardware and software. GM is promising the same to me, for the next 10 years. After that, I'm in the wilds of great fandom and aftermarket service. Your community showed great confidence in that kind of era from 2004 onward.

Companies did not dump their 3000s. HP miscalculated how long that migration would take to begin, let alone finish. Once HP stopped selling the servers, the ultimate models were prized and resold for more than a decade. The value of the investment of the sound hardware build — that remained constant. You got your money's worth buying HP's iron, for a good long while.

Then the moving parts began to wear out in a few places and people worried. That was the situation that sparked my first new car purchase in 11 years. The Dodge minivan wouldn't start one day. Later that afternoon, while getting recall service done, I learned that the components in the IC unit were no longer being manufactured. One dealer wouldn't even diagnose the trouble. AAA got me rolling and I took the car, post-recall work, to the Chevy dealer for a trade-in.

Knowing everything, the dealer still could find several thousand dollars of value in that minivan. The deal there mirrored 3000 purchases, too. A few thousand will get you an A-Class, with an N-Class selling for a few thousand more. Why would people buy something no longer being built? Some are not quite ready yet to go virtual with their MPE/iX hardware. Charon and Stromasys are waiting for that day. There will continue to be 3000 sales until then, even though the hardware will be more than 15 years old at best.

When a thing is confirmed as a superior choice, it gains a status a lot like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit. That children’s book is old and has lessons for the very young. And not so young, because one essential part of the story comes from the Skin Horse. As one of the oldest toys in the nursery he’s a pillar of wisdom for new toys like the Rabbit. Becoming real is the dream of the Rabbit. In the early part of the story, the Rabbit asks the Skin Horse, “Then I suppose you are real?” Immediately he thinks it’s a awkward question. The Skin Horse is unperturbed and explains how it happened to him. “Real doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Once you are real you can’t be become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The HP 3000 might well last for always, given the virtualization it will enjoy from Charon. Until the day the last model of computer built in the HP Way era is sold, the hardware will make us feel clever and thrifty and efficient. The way it drives is what matters to its fans.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 04, 2019

Long-time MPE licensees leave dates in dust

Date book
I went to a birthday celebration for Terry Floyd yesterday as part of a Super Bowl party. You may begrudge them the kudos, but congrats to the Pats, who once again executed like the MPE applications still running this week in businesses around the world. Not flashy, like MPE, but every day brings no surprises. That's a very good thing for enterprise computing, and always has been.

Floyd's turned 70 -- he’s the guy who started The Support Group here in Austin to serve MANMAN 3000 customers. One of those customers was in town to celebrate. Ed Stein spent years managing MANMAN at MagicAire, a Carrier subsidiary.

That corporation is still using MPE, even after Ed has gone. He’s moved into the interesting fields of independent support and consulting on MPE. He mentioned he's available to the community's 3000 owners looking for MPE talent. Along the way he's developed his experience on the prospects for keeping dates nine years from now in MPE.

It was Stein's intentions for prepare for the 2027 date keeping changes that led several companies to spin up services and strategies for date-keeping in 2028 and beyond. What was mumbled about in private became more public offerings and strategies. During a conference call among MANMAN managers late in 2017, Floyd and others talked about how much work it will be to keep dates straight in an era HP never planned for.

Stein says that in his travels though the community he’s still running into many a 3000 user who’s got no idea their OS will stop making accurate dates in less than nine years. He also made reference to Beechglen and its 2028 patch service. Like everyone else who's using HP's MPE source code licenses, Beechglen cannot sell a product to patch MPE/iX. HP was never going to sell permission to create patched versions of MPE/iX.

Seven companies paid HP $10,000 each to become the source code licensees about nine years ago. At the time, the 3000's operating environment felt like a long shot to feel its age and forget its date-keeping skills. The server was 18 years away from a date that no working MPE server would ever see, right?

Don't look now, but 2027 is gaining on the community. Floyd was one of several developers who identified the scope of the work to make an app like MANMAN ready for the year 2028.

Some customers will get readiness for 2028 by becoming 3000 support customers. Any support company using the MPE source must package the repairs and improvements they develop as support offerings. There are a half-dozen more companies with source capabilities for MPE/iX. Getting a relationship in place with them will be on some to-do lists for 2019. Even the companies without a clue about date keeping will eventually catch on to where the correct tomorrows are going to come from: solutions off the support bench.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:45 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2018

Source code for MPE/iX: Security, by now

Blanket-Ad
Ten years ago this week the 3000 community was in a state of anticipation about MPE/iX. HP had an offer it was preparing that would give select vendors the right to use the operating system code. The vendors would have a reference-use-only license agreement for MPE/iX. No one knew whether the source would have any value, said Adager CEO Rene Woc.

Adager, the company whose 3000 products are so omnipresent they held a spot on the Hewlett-Packard corporate price list, believed there was potential for independent support and development vendors. What was far less certain was how far HP would let source go to solve problems for the 3000 community.

"Source code is important whenever these kinds of [vendors] have support from HP, which most of them do," he said in that month of 2008. But HP engineers can look at source, just as third parties will do, "and the answers won't come instantaneously. In the meantime, you have to get your business back on track, and I think that's what the customer is eventually interested in. It will be nice to have that additional [source code] resource — especially in the sense that it will not be lost to the community."

There was a chance that HP's source licensing terms would be too restrictive, "to the point where you say that you are better off not knowing, because then we're free to use all the methods we've worked with while we didn't have source." After getting a license to source, Woc added, "you might have to prove that you got your knowledge through a difference source than HP's source code. We will see."

That sort of proof has never been required. Not in a public display, at least. Source code, held by vendors such as Pivital Solutions and others, has been a useful component in workarounds and fixes. HP never gave the community the right to modify MPE/iX. This turned out to be a good thing, as it kept the 3000s stable and made support a manageable business for application vendors.

There was also the wisdom that the resource of HP's code would have to prove itself. At least it held a chance for rescue and repair.

The source code "is probably a security blanket," Woc said in 2008. "In that respect, it's good that it will be available, that they're starting to offer some things. We'll have to see what kind of conditions HP will offer in their license agreements." 

Having source access though a license did not automatically make license holders better providers of products and services, he added. "You cannot assume, even with good source code readers, that the solutions will pop up," he said. "A lot of the problems we see these days are due to interactions between products. So the benefit for the customer would be based more on the troubleshooting skills that an organization can provide."

"The basic resources [of source] won't make things better by themselves," Woc said. "It's a matter of troubleshooting." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:18 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2018

HP 3000 dream tracks close to virtualization

Railroad switches
An HP 9000 HP-UX virtualization product is in development. In that kind of design, a single Intel server with enough computing power (concurrent threads) could host both HP 3000 and HP 9000 virtualizations. HP had the same objective almost 20 years ago for its largest enterprise platforms.

Early in 1999 HP's Harry Sterling spoke at an all-day user meeting in the UK hosted by Riva Systems. Sterling, who'd retire before the end of that year, said a multi-OS server was within HP's vision for the 3000 and 9000 customers.

Sterling’s mentioned the possibility of running MPE, NT and Unix concurrently on the HP 3000 "sometime in the future." There was even the possibility of a “hot-swap” version of MPE alongside the production system. John Dunlop reported for us at the time.

The passing mention indicated that separate processors in one box would be able to run different operating systems. Sterling did suggest that a hot-swap version of MPE might be a valid use, so that there would be some redundancy with the live operating system.

This seemed to lead to the subject of more uptime. From these comments, it’s possible that HP is looking at allowing online changes to a hot-swap system and then just switching it over to achieve the so-called “magic weekend.” This is a system upgrade that occurs seamlessly and transparently to both the users and management.

That would be a dream not realized. Hot-swap didn't make it any further into the customer base than architect discussions. Sterling noted that in 1997 customers expressed concern about the future of the 3000. To counter that feeling and give the customers more confidence, he outlined in 1999 a five-year roadmap for the 3000.

Marketing was on board as well in that year that led to Y2K. It would take another 13 years before a multiple OS host for MPE/iX would emerge.

Marketing Manager Christine Martino told that crowd about HP’s commitment to the 3000 by hiring more MPE engineers and setting up of new centers of expertise. There was also to be a higher investment in training and education. Finally, she stated that HP was running over 650 HP 3000s to power core Hewlett-Packard corporation business applications.

By now it's going to be 20 years on to the promised land of one host for Unix and MPE. A big enough Intel server — and it might well be one that will evoke enterprise iron costs — could do what Sterling proposed before he retired. All it took was the cooperation of HP's engineers to release internals to emulate PA-RISC systems for Unix and MPE/iX. Those are legacy systems by today, but at least there's an independent software vendor to make the twin-OS dream a possibility.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:28 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2018

HP show offers something to Discover

HP Discover Madrid
Early this morning the new-ish HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was connecting with its customers in an old-school way. The HPE Discover conference has been unreeling since Monday and today was the final day of three in Madrid. These kinds of events were once so remote it took a week or more to learn what was said. Now there's a live-streamed component the vendor mounts on browsers and over phones anywhere.

Whether there's anything worth a live stream depends on the C-level of the viewer. How to Tame Your Hybrid Cloud and The Future and Ethics of AI might be best absorbed by a CTO or some other CxO. On-the-ground solutions don't show up much in HP's livestreams. The most practical lessons usually came during sessions of the 1980s and '90s held in rooms where indie software vendors delivered chalk talks. Down on the expo floor the instruction was even more focused. A manager could get advisories on their specific situations.

That's part of what Stromasys is doing at Madrid this week. An application demo isn't a novel experience most of the time. Making commonplace hardware behave like proprietary systems can still be a revelation. Over in Hall 9 this morning, managers at Discover will see demos of a Charon solution that's got more than 7,000 installed sites, according to Stomasys.

More of those 7,000 sites are MPE/iX emulations than ever. The demos will operate on both on-premise servers as well as from the cloud. Stromasys likes to remind the world that its Charon emulates VAX, Alpha, and SPARC systems as well as the HP 3000. The vendor does this reminding in person at conferences in places like Madrid, like the Middle East, and it demonstrates its virtualization at VM World in the US, too.

Conferences like HPE Discover were once run by user organizations and funded by booth sales. It was a personal business in those days before the Web gave us everything everywhere. Today the personalization arrives at vendor booths with demonstrations for those who've traveled to ask questions. Having an expert on hand to answer them shows a committment to keeping new solutions on display.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:30 AM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2018

It's always a red letter day today

You can use shorthand and say "November 2001." Or you can say the day that HP's 3000 music died. November 14 still marks the start of the post-HP era for MPE/iX as well as the 3000 hardware HP sold. It took another two years to stop selling the PA-RISC servers the company had just revamped with new models months before the exit-the-market announcement. PCI-based N-Class and A-Class, the market hardly knew ye before you were branded as legacy technology.

For a few years I stopped telling this story on the anniversary, but 12 years ago I cut a podcast about the history of this enterprise misstep. (Listen by clicking the graphic above) HP lost its faith in 2001 but the customers hadn't lost theirs and the system did not lose its life. Not after November 14 and even not today. Not a single server has been manufactured since late 2003, and even that lack of new iron hasn't killed MPE/iX. The Stromasys emulator Charon will keep the OS running in production even beyond the January 2028 date MPE/iX is supposed to stop keeping accurate dates. 

Red Letter Days were so coined because they appeared on church calendars in red. They marked the dates set aside for saints. In 1549 the first Book of Common Prayer included a calendar with holy days marked in red ink; for example, Annunciation (Lady Day), 25th March. These were high holy days and holidays. The HP 3000 came into HP's product line on a November in 1972. November is a Happening read the banners in the HP Data Systems Division. No day of that month was specified, but you might imagine it was November 14, 1972. That was a Tuesday, while the 2001 date fell on a Wednesday. A total of 1,508 weeks of HP interest.

Something important happened in that other November of 29 years later. Hewlett-Packard sent its customers into independent mode. Those who remained faithful have had a day to mark each year, logging the number of years they've created their own future. It's 17 and counting as of today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:51 AM in History, News Outta HP, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2018

Wayback: A month to download 3000 Jazz

Jazz-announcement
Ten years ago this month HP was advising its customers to get free software while it was still online. HP said that its Jazz web server was going dark because its 3000 labs would end operations on Dec. 31. Maintained by HP's lab staff, Jazz was being unplugged after 12 years. The software played an essential role in getting the 3000 into the Internet age. Eventually HP learned to market the server as the e3000.

Bootstrapping development fundamentals such as the GNU Tools, the open source gcc compiler, and utilities ported by independent developer Mark Klein had a home on Jazz for a decade. More than 80 other programs were hosted on the server, some with HP support and others ported and created by HP but unsupported by the vendor.

The software is still online 10 years later. Fresche Solutions, which began as Speedware, continues to host Jazz programs and papers at hpmigrations.com/HPe3000_resources. HP was clear in 2008 that customers had better grab what they needed before Jazz went unplugged. HP wasn't going to move the downloadable programs onto the IT Resource Center servers to doc.hp.com.

"Anything that people will need they should download before Dec. 31, 2008," said business manager Jennie Hou. "That's our recommendation."

The list of programs online is long and worth a visit for a 3000 manager looking for help to keep MPE/iX well connected to their datacenter. HP created more than a dozen open source programs which it even supported as of 2008. The list is significant.

• Apache
• BIND
• Many command files
• dnscheck
• Porting Scanner
• Porting Wrappers
• Samba
• The System Inventory Utility
• Syslog
• WebWise

Open source software produced or ported as unsupported freeware by HP includes

• JServ
• NTP
• OpenSSL
• Perl
• Sendmail

Open source software produced/ported by individuals:

• Analog
• autoconf
• bash
• gdbm
• Glimpse
• ht://Dig
• mmencode/sendmime
• MPE::CIvar
• MPE::IMAGE
• NetPBM
• OpenLDAP
• Ploticus
• Python
• SAURCS
• SLS
• texinfo
• Tidy
• TIFF library
• wget

Binary-only software produced/ported and "supported" by HP:

• CRYPT
• DBUTIL
• Firmware
• Java
• LDAP
• LineJet Utilities
• Patch/iX
• VERSION
• VT3K

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:03 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 31, 2018

Another If-Only Salvation, this time Linux

John Young Lulu
This man launched Red Hat out of a sewing closet, a firm that just sold for $34 billion. HP had a shot at buying Red Hat, too.

IBM announced it's buying Red Hat, paying an all-cash price of $34 billion to help make Big Blue relevant in cloud computing. While investors hated on the deal in the markets, others like Robert Cringley said it makes sense for Big Blue to own Red Hat. It's a color wheel that's spinning around IBM's enterprises. The ones that are the oldest might be those that stand to gain the most. It's the word "most" that reminds us how HP might have salvaged the future of MPE, if only with a deal to bring open source to enterprise customers.

One of my favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, sent along a message about RedHat + IBM. He said that this acquisition could have been done long ago—so long, in fact, that Hewlett-Packard could have executed it before the company stopped believing in MPE/iX. That would have been in the late 1990s, happening to a company that was deeply invested in two technologies just about played out today: Itanium and HP-UX. HP had faith enough in Itanium to stake its enterprise future for its biggest customers on the chips.

As for HP-UX, the OS that HP set out to devour 3000 opportunities, it remains to this day an environment that runs only on HP's architecture. HP used to snicker at Linux and open source options in those late 1990s. One presentation that sticks in my memory has an HP manager presenting a slide of a cartoon drawing of an open source support expert. He's a guy in a goatee slouching in a bean bag chair, mouthing "Dude" in a cartoon balloon.

HP meant to tell the audience that getting Linux support from HP was much more professional. Another message the cartoon sent was that Linux really was something dominated by open source nerds. Just about 20 years later the Revenge of the Nerds moment has arrived with a $34 billion payday. For some reference on that number, recall that HP gave up about $25 billion to purchase Compaq, a company with factories as well as labs.

HP used to have a slogan in the 1980s for advertising its PCs: What If? The IBM acquisition triggers the what-if thinking about Linux as in, "What if HP might have purchased the leading distro for Linux and used it to improve its proprietary environments' futures?" Would it have helped in any way to have a true open source platform, rather than just environments that were called "open systems?" The difference between an open source and an open system matters the most to developers and vendors, not to system makers. If Red Hat Linux might have helped MPE/iX look more open, at a source level, who knows how the 3000's prospects might have changed.

The melding and overlay of operating environments as different as Linux and MPE/iX had been tried before at HP, more than eight years before the company made its way away from the enterprise computing HP Way. In 1993 the project was HP MOST, one where I did some writing for Hewlett-Packard about a world where everybody could live together. Cats and dogs, Unix and MPE XL, all working together.

1993 was also the year that Bob Young, working out of his wife's sewing closet, started Red Hat. By the time HP hired a CEO who made a beeline to buy Compaq, Red Hat went public and Young retired. (To the publishing industry to do something called "self-publishing." Wonder how that worked out?) A forward-looking HP might have decided to invest in software by 1999 rather than more hardware in that Compaq purchase. Then armed with the technology that matters the most to applications — the OS platform — the 3000 vendor could have used Linux as a means to bring together proprietary power like MPE/iX with open source access.

MOST wanted to do just that, with MPE being the command module and HP-UX being the excursion module that would bring in the applications. It was a project that acknowledged the strengths of both kinds of technology, something open and something efficient. It ran dog-slow in the few spots where HP beta tested it. HP MOST had no serious love in a salesforce selling Unix everywhere that MPE/iX was installed. "If you build it, they will sell it" was an HP concept at the time, but the amount of sales in that formula were usually disappointing.

Now IBM has donned its Red Hat and some of its least open-sourced projects have a chance to benefit. I know an engineer inside IBM who's a lifelong AIX support expert. AIX is the equivalent of HP-UX, and much like HP's Unix, that OS runs best on IBM's proprietary architecture. This Red Hat deal "will be really good for POWER," the engineer said to me. We were both wearing costumes at a Halloween party while he said it, but there was no trick in his thinking. When a vendor is entrenched in its own inventions it can lose sight of what's succeeding better. IBM might have bought Red Hat too late. It's the kind of daring move that has kept that company in one piece, though. 

HP invested deeper into being a commodity computing company when it bought Compaq, adding nothing but the VMS legacy to its software assets. That legacy lifted VMS into the lead in investing in Itanium. The smaller customer set of 3000s was put aside so VMS could get its technical makeover for the proprietary Itanium platform. Now that Itanium has cratered and VMS has been sold off to VMS Inc. and Linux is ruling the future of cloud platforms, it's time to wonder — if only Linux could have been married to MPE/iX and PA-RISC, what might have been?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:01 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24, 2018

Wed Wayback: India rises, California rests

HP-3000-lab-Bangalore-1995

As we rolled out the NewsWire 23 years ago this month we tracked a new element in the HP engineering lineup. Resources  Sterlingwere being added from India. By the time a couple of Octobers rolled past in 1997 we published our first Q&A interview with Harry Sterling. He'd just assumed the leadership of the 3000 division at HP, bringing an R&D lab leader into the general manager's post for the first time. Sterling was the best GM the 3000 ever had because his habits flowed from customer contact. The labs developed a routine with customer councils and visits as a major part.

SartainThat Indian element was integrating in earnest by 1997. MPE/iX development was a serious part of HP's work in Bangalore, India. It was becoming common to see India engineers giving technical talks at user group meetings. IMAGE lab manager Jim Sartain, who worked for Sterling, was essential in adding Indian engineering to keep the 3000's lab headcount abreast of customer needs.

Bangalore is more than twelve hours ahead of the time zone in California, the state where the 3000 labs were working in 1997. We asked Sterling about how he was integrating the Indian workers with his Cupertino CSY labs.

So the actual head count in CSY's California labs doesn't matter?

No. Our solution teams are made of engineers in Bangalore and in Cupertino. It's a virtual team. It's not like Bangalore does this set of solutions and we do that set of solutions. We don't carve it up that way because we have mirror images of the different projects.

Why is the Bangalore connection working as well as it is?

We've created an environment where our engineers have been able to establish personal relationships with the engineers at Bangalore. For example, they've often been there. One time or another over the last 18 months most of the engineers from Bangalore, at least certainly all of the leads, have been to Cupertino for some period of time. We have pictures of their whole organization in our hallways so we know who they are. We know what they look like. We know, in many cases, we know about their families and it's like another HP employee just happens to be on the other side of the world.

They're real people to us, a part of the team. And that's what's made it work for us. We don't just treat them like we've subcontracted some of our work to a team in India. There are some HP organizations that treat them that way, but we've had a much greater success. They are so proud to be a part of CSY. They have a big sign that says CSY Bangalore.

They don't view themselves as being part of HP's Enterprise Systems Organization structure. They view themselves as being part of CSY. We've effectively carved out 70 people that we fund and are considered HP employees. Administratively, they report up through ESO because of local country culture things and that kind of issue. But, effectively from a working relationship, we view them as part of our organization.

You've been with HP a long time, long enough to remember when there used to be development of HP 3000 solutions in places other than the United States.

As a matter of fact, when I worked on the materials management product, in parallel they were working on the financial equivalent -- FA, if you remember, in Germany. We worked very closely together. I spent four months over there when we were mobilizing products.

How does that differ from what's happening today between Bangalore and Cupertino?

Back then we carved out a chunk of the charter. They did the financials. We did the manufacturing. We kind of shared the tools, and that part of it didn't work really well. I think the difference is, with this model it's a joint ownership. And I think there's a lot of sensitivity on our part to the cultural differences, and there are some. As a matter of fact, we're sending our managers through a special training class in the next couple of weeks focused specifically around India. And the differences and the cultures and the things that we need to be aware of. And we're going to do the same thing for them about the American culture. There's more sensitivity to the differences.

I understand the division will be able to call on some people in India who are reaching architect status, some a little faster than you've been able to grow an architect for the 3000. Why do you think that is? Is there a difference in the way that they approach problems?

I believe part of it is cultural. There's a real commitment to their work. I think that the other part of it is that there is some very, very strong talent in Bangalore. We have a former college professor working on our file system. It's pretty amazing.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:07 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 19, 2018

Wayback: HP's prop-up in a meltdown week

TradersTen years ago this week the HP shareholder community got a slender boost amid a storm of financial crisis around the world. While the US economy was in a meltdown, Hewlett-Packard -- still a single company -- made a fresh promise to buy back its stock for $8 billion. Companies of HP's size were being labelled Too Big to Fail. The snarl of the banking collapse would be a turning point for a Presidential election. A Wall Street Journal article on the buybacks called HP's move a display of strength. HP wanted to ensure its market capitalization wouldn't take a pounding.

HP was electing to pump a smaller buyback into its shares compared to a competitor's effort. Microsoft was announcing a $40 billion buyback in the same week. At the time, the two companies were trading at about the same share price. Hewlett-Packard was working through its final season with a 3000 lab, tying a bow on the final PowerPatch of the MPE era. One customer recently called that last 2008 release "MPE/iX 7.5.5."

The company was looking to get into a new operating system business in September of 2008, though. HP would be developing a server of its own built upon a core OS of Linux. HP closed down its Nashua, New Hampshire facility just a few months earlier. The offices where VMS was being revived were going dark. At least HP was still selling hardware and growing. We took note of the contrast between selling goods and shuffling financial paper.

Not all of the US economy is in tatters, despite what trouble is being trumpeted today. HP and Microsoft and Nike still run operations which supply product that the world still demands, product which can't be easily swapped in some shadowy back-door schemes like debt paper or mortgage hedges.

A decade later, much has changed and yet not enough to help HP's enterprise OS customers. VMS development has been sold off to a third party firm, OpenVMS Inc. That move into Linux has created a low-cost business server line for HP which doesn't even mention an OS. Meanwhile, Microsoft's stock is trading above $120 a share and HP's split-up parts sell for between $15 and $27 a share, covering the HP Enterprise and PC siblings.

Last week Microsoft announced an impressive AI acquisition, Lobe. For its part, HP Enterprise announced it was refinancing its debt "to fund the repayment of the $1.05 billion outstanding principal amount of its 2.85% notes due 2018, the repayment of the $250 million outstanding principal amount of its floating rate notes due 2018, and for general corporate purposes." A decade ago financial headwinds were in every corporate face. By this year the markets have sorted out the followers from the leaders. HP stepped away from OS software and has created a firm where sales of its Enterprise unit has gone flat. 

Stock buybacks offer a mixed bag of results. Sometimes the company doing the buyback simply doesn't have the strength and bright enough future to hope to reap some benefit—for the company. Shareholders love them, though. The customers are a secondary concern at times.

The $8 billion probably seemed like a good idea at the time, considering it was in the Leo Apotheker era and its misguided acquistions. (A deal for 3Par comes to mind, where a storage service vendor recently noted that it was Dell that drove up the 3Par acquistion price by pretending to bid for it.) The trouble with stock buybacks is just about nobody can stop them. Shareholders are always happy to have shares rise, either on the news of the buyback or the upswing over the next quarter.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:39 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 12, 2018

Wayback: DX cuts new 3000 price to $7,077

Field-of-dreams
The Series 918DX was going to deliver the 3000's Field of Dreams

If only the HP 3000 were less costly. The price of the system and software was a sticking point for most of its life in the open systems era, that period when Unix and Windows NT battled MPE/iX. HP's own Unix servers were less costly to buy than the 3000s using the same chipset. Twenty-one years ago this season, the cost of a 3000 became a problem HP wanted to solve.

Cheaper 3000s would be a field of dreams. If a developer could build an app, the customers would come.

Now, Hewlett-Packard was not going to cut the cost of buying every HP 3000 in 1997. When developers of applications and utilities made their case about costs, the HP 3000 division at last created a program where creators would get a hardware break. The Series 918DX was going to help sell more 3000s. It would be the only model of 3000 HP ever sold new for under $10,000. A less costly workbench would attract more application vendors.

The list price of the DX was $7,077. Still more than a Unix workstation or a Windows PC of 1997. The thinking of the time came from a new team at the 3000 division, where marketing manager Roy Breslawski worked for new GM Harry Sterling. Removing a cost barrier for small, startup developers was going to open the doors for new applications.

HP simply adjusted its pricing for hardware and software on a current 3000 model to create the DX. The product was a Series 918/LX with 64 MB of memory, a 4GB disk, a DDS tape drive, a UPS, and a system console.

HP included all of its software in the bundle, such as compilers for C, COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, Pascal and even RPG. It was all pre-loaded on that 4GB drive: a Posix Developers Kit, ARPA Services, Workload Manager, Glance Plus, TurboStore, Allbase/SQL. No 3000 would be complete without IMAGE/SQL. The harvest was rich for the small development ventures.

The size of the bundled HP software created one of the drags on the DX. HP automatically billed for the support on every program. When developers started to evaluate the offer, the $7,000 hardware came with $14,000 worth of support commitments.

HP leasing wasn't an HP option for such an inexpensive server, however. Rental costs would amount to buying it more than once. The vendors who were sensitive to hardware pricing didn't have strong sales and marketing resources. They could build it, but who would come?

So the DX reduced the cost to purchase a 3000, and buying support was always optional for any acquisition of a 3000. But self-maintainers were not as common 21 years ago. Developers learned the way to get the low-cost development tool was to order it stripped of support and then add HP support only for the software they needed.

The 3000 vendor community of 1997 was excited about the prospects, both for new customers who might buy a 3000 as a result of a new app — as well keen on prospects for their own products. Within a few months, 14 third-party companies offered 30 products either free or at rock-bottom discounts to developers buying the 918DX. The idea was noble and needed because the 3000 had fallen far behind in the contest to offer apps to companies. One developer quipped that HP would need to equip the system with a bigger disk drive to handle all the available software.

The number of available third party programs might well have been greater than the number of DX systems ever sold. All HP required of a company was to sign up for the SPP developer program, a free membership. The roadblock didn't turn out to be a cheaper 3000 for smaller vendors. Although the DX was thin on storage, RAM, and horsepower, the one thing that would've moved the computer to the front of development plans was customers. The 918DX was not going to make orders appear, just the software for them.

In 1997 the ideal of a startup was still new, surrounded by some mystery. The Internet still had a capital letter on the front of the word and keeping costs low was important to savvy developers. Low hardware costs were a benefit. Sterling said the package was designed to draw out development efforts from sources with high interest in the HP 3000 market. "You guys have been telling us this for two years," he said. "I say it's time we try it, and see what happens."

"It was like Christmas in August," said Frank Kelly, co-chair of the COBOL Special Interest Group in the earliest days of the DX offer. Birket Foster, SIGSOFTVEND chairman, said "HP has come forward and done the right thing. We expect this will be a very good developer platform and the right tools will show up for it."

Developers delivered the tools and some showed up to purchase the DX. The dead weight of not being Unix or Windows, with their vast customers pools, is what pulled down 3000 app availability. By today, those 21 years have delivered a market for a 3000 where an N-Class server, 60 times more powerful than the Series 918, sells for about as much as the DX.

The Field of Dreams doesn't get its future told in the classic 1989 film of the same name. The field does exist, however, a stretch of Iowa farmland near Dyersville where the baseball faithful pay $10 to relive that movie magic. It's a beautiful field, and people do come.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:17 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2018

Wayback: 3000s boot mainframes out of HP

Heart Story 1996
In the summer months of 1996, HP was plugging 3000s in where mainframes were serving. Jim Murphy, program manager for the mainframe replacement project, told the 3000 community that IBM mainframes from 30 years earlier were getting the boot because HP was building servers better than the Big Blue iron.

The company was finally using 3000s to do the work they were built to do. An order fulfillment system called Heart was driving every sales fulfillment. Payroll for HP in North America was also performed using MPE/iX.

1996 was a hard year for the 3000 in some places. The spots where HP's reps felt that only a Unix solution — mistakenly called an open system — would win a sale were no-3000 zones. As a separate division, GSY's 9000 group never wanted to give any ground to HP's commercial computer line. At times, 3000 sites would be encouraged to get a open computer from HP. Plenty of the mainframe replacement in HP involved HP-UX systems.

By the time the August 1996 conference gathered in Anaheim, California, Murphy had a paper in the Interex '96 proceedings. HP IT Program to Eliminate Mainframes explained to a conference full of 3000 owners and managers that it was all HP systems inside the corporate data center by May 17, 1996. The 3000 was a key element in HP's modernization.

The role of the HP 3000 in HP's mainframe elimination process is important from two perspectives. First, as the number of data centers within HP rose, the reliance on IBM-style mainframes did not: the HP 3000s carried a fair amount of the increasing processing loads. Second, as IT began rewriting IBM-based COBOL applications for the 3000 platform, many of the re-writes included moving to client/server architectures. This meant HP IT was becoming familiar with client/server as early as the late 1980s.

The paper is archived at the OpenMPE website.

The Anaheim conference was notable for another big announcement. The World's Largest Poster was unfurled in the winds of a nearby high school's football field. "MPE Kicks Butt" was the slogan on those acres of paper. Inside the HP IT datacenter, the 3000 had kicked sand into the face of some of the company's most critical mainframe systems.

PosterProject

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2018

Meet shows veterans never too old to learn

2018 3000 Reunion

The number of people in the pub was not noteworthy. The weekend's HP 3000 Reunion added up to something more than a body count, though, a remarkable and lively turnout for a computer whose vendor declared it dead more than seven years ago.

IMG_3840The veterans of MPE and the 3000 showed a spark of curiosity during the afternoon-to-evening gathering at the Duke of Edinburgh pub and Apple Park in Cupertino. In the late afternoon they held iPads to see a virtual reality view at Apple's Visitor Center, peering at the insides of the Apple HQ building. Earlier, a support talk about the care and feeding of the 3000 sites with aging hardware prompted questions and opinions about homesteading. That strategy was the only one that remained for the men and women crowding a cozy pub room flocked with red and gold paper.

The gold matched the sponsorship banner from CAMUS International. The group sent $200 to cover bar and lunch expenses, showing that manufacturing interest still surrounds companies using a 3000. Terri Lanza, who arranged the banner and the contribution, wished she could attend. Like dozens more, she has to rely on her colleagues who made the trip.

IMG_3841
They came from as far away as England and Toronto, and some from five minutes' drive away. Orly Larson tooled over from his house on a quiet Cupertino street. Dave Wiseman came from England and Gilles Schipper crossed the continent from Toronto.

Tom McNeal, one of the engineers who helped create the memory manager in MPE/XL, attended to represent the Hewlett-Packard 3000 lab. He left HP after Y2K to join a Linux startup. While that was fun, he said, the energy didn't outlast the funding. He came to reconnect and even to see a lineup of hardware for MPE XL that prompted him to observe where multiprocessing came into the product line.

IMG_3832

Vicky Shoemaker, Dave Wiseman, Gilles Schipper, Stan Sieler and Harry Sterling giggle at a video of George Stachnik's 12 Days of Christmas parody. The video from an HP party hailed from the late 1980s, when the struggles of building an MPE for PA-RISC were finally overcome.

People learned at the meeting, more about one another and their 3000 afterlife than something to use in 2018. McNeal was joined by ex-HP stalwarts Harry Sterling, the final GM of the division, and Larson. They made up almost 20 percent of attendees. There was hearty laughter coming from them and the rest of the crowd while everyone watched a video from another 3000 notable. George Stachnik was singing a 12 Days of Christmas parody on a recording from the middle 1980s, when Sterling was running the 3000 labs.

When Stachnik's parody came to the five golden rings line, he'd changed it to Rich Sevcik giving him "every engineer." Sterling chuckled. "It was just about that many," he said.

The room was rich with a sense of that kind of sweet survival across the day. Many of those in the room and later at the tour of the Apple Park headquarters -- the site of the former 3000 division's offices -- counted the server as just a memory. There was some everyday experience still in the room, though, more than 40 years after HP introduced the 3000. Vicky Shoemaker of Taurus Software still counts 3000 customers among her base at the company she founded with Dave Elward. Ralph Bagen still sees 3000s for support, as do Stan Sieler and Steve Cooper. 

The same goes for Gilles Schipper, counting on a California 3000 site to help him leverage the trip from Canada. With the exception of an editor from a blog who was on hand, all others were remembering past efforts and survivals, and celebrating their thriving on the current day. "How many grandkids now?" or "What college did you send them to?" and "How long have you been retired?" were common questions.

The Hewlett-Packard that was represented was the benevolent HP Way company. Sterling has built a thriving real estate practice in Palm Springs. McNeal hailed from the 3000 labs that built MPE to exploit the then-new PA-RISC. Larson taught IMAGE and spread the word at customer events and site visits, sending the message that the 3000's database was better than most. An intimate pre-party at his house in Cupertino included stories traded back in his tiki hut bar.

The dinner table at the pub had two of the three most famous beards from the 3000 community, too. Larson's and Bob Karlin's were wrapped around smiles over the likes of scotch eggs, Cornish pasty and Newcastle Ale. Bruce Hobbs, the other bearded veteran, wanted to come. Dozens more wanted to come, some so urgently their RSVP'ed name tags were already printed up but unclaimed. Deep into the night the talk turned to religion and politics, because everyone knew one another well enough to remain friends through those subjects.

Wiseman counted on that friendship as he brought together people who hadn't seen each other in decades but fell into conversations as if it were only yesterday when they last spoke. It takes a social computer system to open hearts to a reunion after more than 40 years. Nearly everyone at the Duke could count that much experience with the 3000.

"When you're back in town, drop by," Shoemaker and Cooper said to me as they left. They were not counting the numbers in the room. They were counting on our return in the years to come. After the afternoon ended, that hope for a return seemed to add up.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:50 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 13, 2018

New DL325 serves fresh emulation muscle

DL385-Whiteboard
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has reintroduced its ProLiant workhorse, talking up the server in connection with next week's HP Discover conference in Las Vegas. The DL325, when it ships in July, will be a newer and more powerful model of the DL380 server — one suitable for powering a virtualized HP 3000 driven by the Stromasys Charon HPA system. The DL325 is a single socket system, a design that's disrupting the server marketplace.

HP has posted one of its whiteboard walk-throughs on YouTube to cover some of the DL325 advantages. There's also a performance comparison for the system, ranked against a Lenovo alternative as well as an energy efficiency measure against a server from Dell. 3000s never got such industry benchmarks for performance.

But HP 3000s once got this kind of spec treatment from Hewlett-Packard. The 3000 division's product manager Dave Snow gave such product talks, holding a microphone with a long cord that he would coil and uncoil as he spoke. With his pleasant Texas drawl, Snow sounded like he was corralling the future of the hardware. He spoke in that era when "feeds and speeds" sometimes could lure an audience "into the weeds." Breakdowns like the one below once lauded the new PCI-based 3000 hardware.

DL385-Chassis-Overview
The ProLiant line has long had the capability to put Linux into the datacenter. Linux is the cradle that holds the Charon software to put MPE/iX into hardware like the 325. The DL325 (click above for a larger view) is a single-processor model in the company's Gen10 line, adding horsepower for an application that's always hungry for more CPU: virtualization. The DL325 gets its zip from the EPYC chip, AMD's processor built to the x86 standards. EPYC designs mean the chip only needs to run at 2.3 GHz, because the system's got 32 cores per processor.

"This server should deliver great price performance for virtualized infrastructure while driving down costs," wrote analyst Matt Kimball in Forbes.

Even way back in 2014, the DL380 ProLiant server was driving virtualized 3000 systems, fired by a 3.44 GHz chip. That was plenty fast enough to handle the combo of Linux, VMWare and the Stromasys Charon 3000 emulator. The DL385 was 17 inches x 29 by 3.5, just 2U in size. HPE's shrunk the power down to a 1U chassis for the DL325.

During the era when the DL380 was first being matched to virtualization work, Stromasys tech experts said that CPUs of more than 3 GHz were the best fit for VMWare and Charon. Putting MPE/iX onto such a compact AMD EPYC-based machine is a long way from the earliest year of the OS. In 1974, MPE would only fit on a 12,000 BTU server, the HP3000 System CX

The newest Generation 10 box retails for one-tenth of the cost of that CX server. The plodding CX was all that ASK Computer Systems had to work with 44 years ago when it built MANMAN. HP needed to assist ASK just to bring MPE into reliable service on the CX. "It didn’t work worth shit, it’s true," said Marty Browne of ASK at a software symposium in 2008. "But we got free HP computer time."

In the current IT architecture, the feeds and speeds of individual systems are usually in the weeds. A vendor like Stromasys though, working as it does to implement Charon in every customer site, cares about the speeds.

Employing hardware that's newer, like the DL325, brings support to block cutting-edge attacks on the datacenter. HP said this server is not exposed to this year's Masterkey CPU vulnerability, because it uses the HPE Silicon Root of Trust functionality. Root of Trust, HPE says, is "a unique link between the HPE Integrated Light Out (iLO) silicon and the iLO firmware to ensure servers do not execute compromised firmware code. The Root of Trust is connected to the AMD Secure Processor in AMD's EPYC System on a Chip so that the AMD Secure Processor can validate the HPE firmware before the server is allowed to boot."

With exploits like Masterkey on the march this year, HPE has released a patch to update the system ROM with a patch for Linux anyway to mitigate the vulnerability. Current hardware gets that kind of attention from a vendor.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:13 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 06, 2018

Wayback: HP's 3000 Conference Sign-off

HP's June months have been populated by nationwide conferences for more than a decade. Ten years ago in June marked the last known appearance of Hewlett-Packard's 3000 experts at the HP Technology Forum show in Las Vegas. It was an era marked by the soaring expectations from CEO Mark Hurd and the soon-to-plummet economy crashing around the American lending and banking markets. HP was emptying its tech wallet at a show that would soon be called HP Discover instead of a Technology Forum.

HP had a meeting for 3000 customers at that 2008 show, the final expression of support for the owners who launched HP's enterprise business computing prowess. Jennie Hou was in the final year of managing the 3000 group at HP. The vendor had a history of awarding one community member — people like Alfredo Rego, or Stan Sieler — with a Contributor of the Year Award. The 2008 award was renamed a Certificate of Appreciation and given to the full 3000 community. Being thanked, as HP retired the customers, was a sign of HP's final sign-off.

Appreciation certificate
The 2008 edition was the last public event where HP presented news about the platform. It was the last year when the server owners could employ the services of HP's labs. HP's Alvina Nishimoto, who'd been leading the information parade for third party tools and migration success stories, gave an outstanding contributor award of sorts at an e3000 roadmap meeting. The award shown in the slide above had a commemorative tone about it, like a fond farewell to the days when something new was part of the HP message to 3000 attendees.

In that June, the new Right to Use licenses were proving more popular than HP first imagined. The licensing product placed on the price list for 2007 let customers upgrade their license level on used systems. Of course, it only applied to the 3000s designed before 2001. It says something when servers almost a decade old could be a popular upgrade item in datacenter.

Just two HP speakers addressed the 3000 at the conference — Nishimoto and Jim Hawkins, the latter of whom spoke for five minutes at the end of the OpenMPE update. The Tech Forum had become a great place to learn about technology that HP would never put into a 3000.

I asked Hou about HP's participation in the conference and what I should expect in the years to come. The vendor would only discuss migration by 2008, after completing the final PowerPatch and delivering some whitepapers to the community.

HP was saying so long, and thanks for the fish.

The e3000 community has always been and will continue to be an interesting place.  It truly is one of a kind. This year, at Alvina's talk, HP will thank every e3000 partner and customer. HP recognizes that the e3000 community wouldn't be what it is without so many people's ongoing involvement and contributions. This also includes all your dedication in bringing the e3000 news to the user community over the past decades.

Hou was gracious in acknowledging the role we'd played up to that point a decade ago. Neither one of us knew the Newswire would still be tracking the fate and future of MPE/iX, ten years later.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:49 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2018

HP is doing better without some customers

HP Q2 Revenues 2018
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise released an earnings report last week. The release covered the first full quarter since Antonio Neri took over as CEO, assuming command from retiring Meg Whitman. The numbers looked good to investors. The customers HPE's achieved are helping to lift the ship, even while some of you left the HP fold long ago.

It's easy to ignore HP now, if you're homesteading on 3000 iron either virtual or physical. The vendor wasn't able to deliver patches to support companies like Allegro at the start of this year, so the last remaining deliverable for MPE/iX has dropped off the product offerings. The patches were free, unlike enterprise patches for HP's Unix, NonStop, and VMS systems. Failing to deliver HP 3000 products long ago ceased to impact HP's quarterly revenues and earnings.

We care, however, about how Hewlett-Packard Enterprise fares — for the sake of the readers who still use HP's other enterprise gear. The IT managers who run multi-platform shops care about things like HP Next, or at least HPE hopes so. HP Next is "our company-wide initiative to re-architect HPE to deliver on our strategy and drive a new wave of shareholder value," Neri said when the numbers appeared in the evening of May 22. "It is all about simplification, execution and innovation."

Many things have changed about enterprise computing since HP last sold a 3000 in 2003. One big change is the dissapearance of hardware and operating system bedrock. In the 3000's heyday, things were defined by OS and iron. It's all too virtual to see those markers now. HP seems to be doing better without some of you because you didn't want to buy what's sold as enterprise computing. 

Better? Revenue of $7.5 billion in Q2, up 10 percent from the same quarter of 2017. Earnings were better, 34 cents a share in a market "beat," above the outlook range of 29-33 cents a share. The company calls its computing business Hybrid IT now, and the business was up 6 percent over the same quarter of 2017.

Not so many years ago, when HP wasn't doing this well, you could drill into its presentations for the quarters and find server sales. Not anymore. Now the news is about Cape Networks and buying Cape "to expand AI-powered networking capabilities with a sensor-based network assurance solution that improves network performance, reduces disruptions and significantly simplifies IT management for our customers." That out of a CEO's statement about new business, so it's supposed to be opaque.

Hearing things like "composable infrastructure offerings" might make a 300 homesteader roll their eyes, not to mention the experts who still support a 3000. My spell checker thinks composable isn't even a word, let alone a product attribute.

But like we said earlier, there's a reason to care about HPE's fate. The company's success props up the idea that a vendor that builds physical products and software continues to matter in 2018. Years ago, the concept of a datacenter that was fully virtual was like the paperless office. It seemed like science fiction, but companies still hungered for it.

HP's still in the futures business, trying to catch up with cloud offerings from Cloud Technology Partners. Neri said that HP did well with an acquisition of RedPixie. "RedPixie is a UK-based cloud consulting company, with deep Microsoft Azure expertise, which perfectly complements CTP’s strong AWS relationship." That's a relationship designed to move applications off classic servers like HP-UX or VMS and into Amazon Web Services cloud computing. Those particular moves are a lot like the effect a 3000 company gets from placing an MPE/iX virtual machine into a cloud provider.

Amazon's potential to host HP-UX apps provides some future for that platform that never did receive a port to Intel architectures. There are levels of abstraction there to probe for a homesteader who's still got an MPE/iX application to carry away from HP's machines. That might be far away from your position today. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is counting on your interest in the years to come, though. You might be able to help them do better once you leave the OS bedrock behind. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:13 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2018

Second generation of migration begins

Synergy for DummiesHP advertised the transition off of 3000s as a migration in 2002. The changes and replacements took place throughout the rest of that decade, culminating around the time HP was closing off its support operations for MPE/iX in 2011. That was generation number one for migration at 3000 shops. The second shift is underway.

Promedica is the largest employer in Toledo, Ohio, a non-profit corporation which used 3000s to manage provider operations running the Amisys software. Tom Gerken is still an analyst at the organization, after many years of managing the production HP 3000s. Now the healthcare firm is shifting off of its Unix version of Amisys, after taking its 3000 computing and migrating it to HP's Unix.

"We did continue using Amisys," he says. "We moved to HP-UX in the second half of 2006. The data transfer to the Oracle database went smoothly. It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away."

At Promedica the changes are leading into another generation of migration. "We most likely aren't staying with Amisys much longer," he said. "We have begun the search for a replacement system. I think Amisys is still in the running officially, but I hear it's a long shot to make it into the finals."

Out at the City of Sparks, Nevada, another longtime 3000 manager is shifting into a fresh generation of computing resource. What was once MPE/iX, and then became a virtualized Windows datacenter, is becoming even more virtual.

The 3000 migration was complete at Sparks almost six years ago, and then a virtualized Windows platform got its work assignment. Now the city is heading for a deployment of HPE Synergy. It's still using a Hewlett-Packard product, as it's always been at Sparks under the command of Steve Davidek.

In about a month he's delivering a talk at the HP Discover conference on the migration to HPE Synergy. The HP Enterprise product is a composable infrastructure, one so different that HP arranged for a Dummies guide to be written about Synergy.

Synergy uses software to discover and assemble the pools of compute and storage. A hardware frame houses appliances that run the management software, including Synergy Composer and Synergy Image Streamer. Detailed configurations for particular applications are saved as templates and deployed through Composer. 

Virtually every technology is a base to migrated away from. The changes have slowed over the last five years for 3000 owners, though. Steve Cooper of Allegro says he thinks there's been no more than a five percent decline in systems since last year.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:32 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2018

HP's Enterprise reports a rising Q1 tide

HPE Hybrid IT Q1 2017
Source: HPE reports. Click for details.

As her parting gift to incoming CEO Antonio Neri, HP Enterprise leader Meg Whitman left him with one of the best quarters HPE has posted in years. While the company that makes systems to replace the HP 3000 posted 34 cents a share in profits, its revenue from server sales rose by 11 percent, along with gains in storage revenues (up 24 percent) and datacenter networking gear (up 27 percent).

The increase in server sales has been a difficult number to deliver ever since HP stopped supporting the HP 3000. The gains came in the computer lines driven by Intel's chips, not HP's Itanium processors.

An analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy was quoted in the Bay Area's Mercury News as saying "If this is what HPE will look like under new CEO Antonio Neri, investors, customers, partners and employees will be pleased.”

The results came from the final quarter of Whitman's leadership, though. The company is raising its quarterly dividends to almost 12 cents a share, a 50 percent increase, to return money to shareholders. HPE will be buying back its stock throughout 2018 as well. The stock price rose to $18.35 on the report, which beat analysts' estimates of 22 cents a share in profits and $7.1 billion in revenue. HPE's Q1 2018 revenues were $7.7 billion.

Industry Standard Servers—the type of computer system that can drive the Stromasys Charon virtualized MPE/iX environment—came in for specific mention in HP's conference call with analysts. ISS contributed to the overall growth in servers, according to Neri. 

He also commented on the change in US tax laws benefiting HPE ("we have more flexibility in using our overseas cash") and then explained how his HPE Next is going to shift the culture of the corporation that was once ruled by the HP Way.

Neri, the first career-long HP employee to become CEO since Lew Platt in 1993, architected and initiated HPE Next. "It's all about simplification, innovation and execution," he said in a Q&A session with analysts. "I'm pleased with the first quarter performance where we executed well with no disruption. This is an opportunity for me as the new CEO to establish a new culture as we transform the company, and to really architect the company from the grounds up with a clean sheet approach. And this is going to change the culture of the company."

What I learned is the fact that you can push more, you can do more. And the organization is actually very excited about what we’re doing, because this is an opportunity to improve the way serve our customers. So it is very critical initiative for us and we are confident we’re going to deliver not only the improvements in our cost savings but also the way we work and employee productivity. And most importantly that should reflect in our business performance and our customer satisfaction.

Neri said HPE will also be re-investing at a higher level in employee 401k accounts, and assisting in more degreed education "so employees can fulfill their visions in our company as they progress in their careers."

Neri started at HP working in a call center for customer support during the 1990s. Whitman remains on HPE's board of directors after retiring from the corporation's CEO job.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:46 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2018

Locating patches is now a personal search

PatchworkTen years ago the threads between MPE/iX patches and Hewlett-Packard were intact. The vendor stopped developing the fixes and additions to a 3000's abilities. But owners were assured that the software would be ready for download. A call to HP's Response Center would continue to connect customers and patches.

None of those facts are true by now. Some support providers say there's not enough HP left in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support to even know what a 3000 does. The 3000 experts who still track such things concur. Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE director, said "No one can get MPE patches from HPE now. There's simply no organization left to handle such a request."

In 2008 one significant patch issue involved beta release software. HP was clinging to its established testing practice, one that limited beta tests to current HP support customers. OpenMPE wanted to close that gap and become a force for good to get 3000s patched.

CEO Rene Woc of Adager proposed that OpenMPE administer the beta testing of patches caught in HP's logjam. The HP support customers were not taking a bite of the new bytes. Meanwhile, OpenMPE had pan-community service in its essential charter. Hofmeister said OpenMPE could speak for the thousands of sites which couldn't access beta patches for tests.

If it weren’t for OpenMPE, all the companies coming individually to HP for support beyond end-of-life wouldn’t have a collective voice. It’s OpenMPE that’s uniting these voices.

Spin the world forward 10 years and HP has indeed stopped issuing all patches. The software is available from other sources, however. Devoted owners and consultants are breaking the rules by sharing their patches—but only because HP broke a promise. HP tried for awhile to clear out beta patches. This week we heard some went into general release "because they had at least one customer who installed them without ill effect."

Even after more than a decade, there's still a forum where a customer can ask about patches: the 3000 mailing list. The transactions happen in private. Responsible support companies cannot say they'll distribute HP software.

Ask around, Hofmeister said, to find out who has HP's patches. There's a more reliable way to get repairs, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:31 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 24, 2018

HPE's latest-to-exit CEO leaves for phone TV

Whitman-smartphoneMeg Whitman, who led HP from an acquisition-hungry behemoth to a company split in two, is heading to work making short television. Good Morning Silicon Valley reports that she's going to lead NewTV — a name is considered to be tentative— with Jeffrey Katzenberg of the movie and TV production world. Both served on the board of Disney. The story sounds like Whitman wants a job changing the cultural landscape, or at least screens on smartphones.

NewTV has some pretty ambitious thoughts on the video industry, the kinds of which you would expect to hear from a startup backed by some industry bigwigs who are used to getting things done their way.

According to a report from Variety, Whitman will lead a company that “aims to revolutionize entertainment with short-form premium content customized for mobile consumption.” The basic idea of NewTV is create video programming like 10-minute-long shows that are produced with techniques, and money, that usually go into traditional broadcast programs.

How NewTV will do this, and with what kinds of partners will it work, remain to be seen. Whitman is said to be planning on getting into more fundraising efforts for the company. According to Variety, Whitman said, "We’re going to be recruiting the very best talent, and in a few more months we’ll have to more to say on this.”

Whitman leaves her HPE job, and chairmanship of the board, at the end of next week. It's not her fault the company went from being able to send an MPE patch in 2011 to being an enterprise without contact to 3000s in any material way—is it?

In 2012 she said that HP would be locked out of a huge segment of the population in many countries if it didn't have a smartphone by 2017. She was correct about that. Investments in mobile entertainment are so much more fun than operating enterprise IT. Whitman says the new job is a return to her startup roots, referring to eBay. She was different than the three CEOs who came before her, according to CBS News. "It hired director Meg Whitman as a CEO replacement for fired Leo Apotheker, a main scapegoat originally hired to replace fired Mark Hurd, who was hired to replace fired Carly Fiorina."

And so Whitman is the first HP CEO to resign peacefully in this century. Lew Platt left the company on his own terms in 1999 after almost doubling the company's revenues during his seven-year tenure.

Apotheker left after just 10 months in the HP job with more than $13 million in compensation after the company lost more than $30 billion in market cap during his tenure. Mark Hurd continues to sell against HP from his job as co-CEO of Oracle. (HP had a pair of CEOs for a year in the 1990s, when Dean Morton and John Young shared the office.) Fiorina, the first HP CEO with no HP experience before getting the job, has since run the gamut in politics. She has losing an election in common with Whitman, who failed to win the California governor's race in 2010.

The incoming HPE CEO Antonio Neri, like Platt before him, is an executive whose career has been exclusively at HP. He's been in computers all his life.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:01 PM in News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2018

Emulation or iron meets Classic 3000 needs

A few weeks ago the 3000 community was polled for a legendary box. One of the most senior editions of Classic 3000s, a Series 42, came up on the Cypress Technology Wanted to Buy list. The 42 was the first 3000 to be adopted in widespread swaths of the business world. It's not easy to imagine what a serious computing manager would need from a Series 42, considering the server was introduced 35 years ago.

Series 42 setupThese Classic 3000s, the pre-RISC generation, sparked enough business to lead HP to create the Precision RISC architecture that was first realized with its Unix server. The HP 9000 hit the Hewlett-Packard customer base and 3000 owners more than a year before the 3000's RISC servers shipped. Without the success of the Classic 3000s, though, nobody could have bought such a replacement Unix server for MPE V. Applications drive platform decisions, and creating RISC had a sting embedded for the less-popular MPE. Unix apps and databases had more vendors.

That need for a Series 42 seems specific, as if there's a component inside that can fulfill a requirement. But if it's a need for an MPE V system, an emulator for the Classic 3000s continues to rise. Last week the volunteers who've created an MPE V simulator announced a new version. The seventh release of the HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project (SIMH) site.

The SIMH software will not replace a production HP 3000 that's still serving in the field, or even be able to step in for an archival 3000. That's a job for the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server. But the SIMH software includes a preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image. MPE V isn't a license-protected product like MPE/iX.

Some CIOs might wonder what any MPE system, running MPE V or MPE/iX, might provide to a datacenter in 2018. The answers are continuity and economy, elements that are especially evident in any emulated version of a 3000. Old iron is on the market at affordable prices. If a PA-RISC system can be sold for $1,200, though, it's interesting to consider what a 35-year-old server might fetch. Or who would even have one in working order to sell.

Software like Charon, and to a lesser extent SIMH, earns its consideration more easily than old iron. Virtualization is so embedded in IT plans that it's a bit of a ding to admit you don't virtualize somewhere.

The deep-in the-mists tech of the ATC terminals is a big part of the new SIMH. The new capability shows off the limitations that make it obvious why PA-RISC 3000s are still genuine data processing solutions. The SIMH terminal IO uploads via Telnet using a Reflection terminal emulator are now over 100 times faster than earlier releases of the MPE V software. As a reminder of the IT world's pace during the 1980s when MPE V was king, the new, faster upload time for a one-megabyte file has decreased from 69 minutes to 30 seconds.

That's still a 2-MB a minute pace. A Simulator's User Guide shows the way for ATC setup required for successful Reflection Transfers. That's from the era when locating a Reflection client program on a 3000 was essential for moving data in many applications. That was also the era when HP was manufacturing its own disc drives in Boise, Idaho. The burn-in testing for those drives up in that factory was powered by a massive row of Series 42s. My 1988 tour at Boise was the last time I saw a Series 42 in use.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 20, 2017

Replacement hardware archives key context

Wayback Wednesday

The replacement hardware arrived in a box that fit inside my mailbox. We bought a jumbo-sized mailbox in 1993, one big enough to let the industry trade journals lie flat on its floor. In those days our community relied on big tabloid publications to keep abreast of the future. Today the pages are digital and needing paper for news is fading fast.

MD RecorderThe Minidisc MZ-R50 showed up in great working order, a replacement for the recorder that logged my interviews in the rowdy and roiling days of the 3000's Transition Era. The Minidisc is late '90s tech that can arrive by way of US Mail. A Series 929 wouldn't fit in any cardboard box with padding. That server is 104 pounds of a 2-foot by 18-inch unit that's 22 inches high. UPS could pull it off a truck, though.

My 1997 MZ-R50 has the same age as a Series 997, and like the 3000 server, the hardware has unlocked access to archival information. You buy these things to replace failed hardware, or sometimes for parts. Only the battery had failed on the R50. That's a component likely to be dead on old 3000s, too.

I plucked a Minidisc at random to test my new unit and found an interview about how Interex decided to put distance between itself and Hewlett-Packard. I wrote about the change in the relationship in 2004, but just a fraction of the interview made it into the NewsWire.

The thing about archival data is it can grow more valuable over time. Context is something that evolves as history rolls on. In the late summer of 2004 it wasn't obvious that Interex was overplaying its hand, reaching for a risk to sell the value of a vendor-specific user group. HP told the group's board of directors that user group support was going to be very different in 2005. The reaction to the news sealed the fate of the group. It began with a survey, shifted to a staff recommendation, and ended up as a board decision.

The recorded 2004 interview now puts those views and choices in context. You'll care about this if you ever need a user group, wonder how your enterprise vendor will support customers' desires, or hope to understand how corporate resources influence partnerships.

The key interview quote that made its way into our "HP World stands at brink of changes" report was a line from then-board president Denys Beauchemin. “We’re not competing with HP,” Beauchemin said about HP World 2005. “HP’s going to be there next year. HP will scale back drastically.” The scaling back was a correct assessment. The competition turned out to change everything.

The demise of a 31-year-old user group might seem like an inevitability from a 2017 perspective. Connect is the user group serving anyone in the HP Enterprise market today. It's joined by the small CAMUS user society, the same one that discussed and uncovered the strategy to get beyond the year 2027 with MPE/iX. Membership in both groups is free. Back in 2004 those were $99 memberships, with thousands to count on.

The rescued recording from that chat with Beauchemin gave me context a-plenty to absorb.

What HP said is they have four user group events to go to next year. They're trying to cut back. They're trying to do an HP-produced show and invited user groups to attend.

HP aimed to replace its spending on user group-run HP shows with one event. Cutting back was always going to happen in the plan. Interex got notice a year before it collapsed that HP's spending was going to drop.

If we decide to do our own thing, then HP will be at HP World in San Francisco — but it would not be with the same presence they had in the past. No huge booth. They will scale back drastically. They would sponsor and endorse HP World. It's not like they're yanking the rug out from under us, not at all.

There was no rug-pulling. The deck of the Good Ship User Expo Floor was tilting hard, though. HP said it was going to do enough of a show to let user groups will share revenues from an HP Expo “to support and sustain those organizations," adding that "The user groups’ charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.”

The revenue and profit was the charter of any Interex show. An organization with teeth needs to be fed. Now Interex had a competitor: the vendor at its own heart. Customers and vendors had a choice to make about conferences.

They respect the independence of Interex. They really like the advocacy survey and all of the other stuff we do— which is very much in keeping with our screaming at HP, but in a nice way.

The screaming was customer communication that dated back to the 1980s. A management roundtable was a publicity and customer relations minefield starting in the 1990s. Interex considered itself an advocacy group first. The engine of its enterprises, though, was booth sales for its annual expo.

If we were to go with HP in their mega-event, the impact would be in terms of the independence of third party folks we could have at the show. 

The archival recording off my replacement hardware took note of the kinds of vendors who'd never make it onto an HP-run expo floor. Competitors in systems, in storage, in services. Interex needed those prospects to fill up a healthy show floor.

To his credit, Beauchemin and the board recognized HP was essential to the conference's survival. 

If HP were to say it wasn’t interested in going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue. They haven't said they'd do that. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events they go to — especially the ones that are not in their control.

The group used this decision process about control: First, survey members about moving closer to HP and giving up independence—and learning that 55 percent favored that move. Then the user group staff got a shot at developing a recommendation about staying independent or ceding control of the conference to HP. Finally, the board took a vote based on that recommendation. There was a short timeframe to decide.

HP World 2004 is fast approaching. We need a story to tell about HP World 2005.

It's easy to see, in the context of 2017, that a user group staff would recommend staying on a course to keep projects and jobs in group control. It's hard to see how a board would vote to oppose any recommendation of joining with HP. So there was an approval to stay at a distance from HP. Cutting across the desires of any organization's managers is tough. What turned out to be just as hard was finding enough revenue to keep the organization alive.

The exhibitors and community leaders who helped found the group already saw a show that focused elsewhere. The fate of HP World had more impact on the 3000 customers who are leaving the platform than those who staying to homestead.

“It’s all focused on migration,” said Terry Floyd of the ERP support company the Support Group. “I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. We’re sending someone to talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.”

Pursuing a bigger relationship with partners who competed with HP had a huge cost. It was a risk that the group couldn't afford by the next year. One of the most senior members of the 3000 community said the end was in sight for Interex.

“HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” Olav Kappert said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in between, maybe even Interex will disappear.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 29, 2017

Wayback Wed: MPE gets its last millicode fix

Drywall-patchTen years ago this month HP's labs delivered its final fix for MPE/iX millicode. The patch demonstrated the last critical repair of the OS by the HP development labs. It had been 16 years since HP had to do a fix for the 3000's millicode. The 2007 millicode patch was crucial whenever a customer's applications accessed mapped files and utilized Large Files, those which are 4GB or greater in size

HP introduced the Large Files feature in 2000, just after the community had cleared Y2K challenges. The corruption could occur if any one of five out of the last six bytes of a Large File failed to transfer correctly. Corruption introduced by MPE/iX is so uncommon that the patch became essential—and a way to gauge how much the community might lose when HP's labs would close up.

The labs were ready in a way the customers rarely saw. HP announced the bug with repairs and white papers already available.

OpenMPE sought an opportunity to take a role in the repairs. OpenMPE advocates showed concern that binary repairs like this one would present a challenge to application developers who need to integrate them into MPE/iX in the future. OpenMPE wanted to do this work. The advocacy group never got its opportunity to participate in the development work for 3000 sites.

HP's repair rolled out four years to the day after the company ended sales of the 3000. The development of this type of patch, a binary-level repair, remained available throughout 2009 and 2010. At the time of the repair, HP had not yet licensed its source code for MPE/iX. Delivery of that source code wouldn't take place until 2011. HP's binary patches for the corruption were not done in source code.

Large Files was a feature gone sour, by HP's own reckoning. The vendor was trying to remove the code from customers' 3000s. A 2006 patch was designed to turn off Large Files and get those files on the system converted to Jumbo files, which are much better engineered.

One aspect of the repair that stood out was the readiness of its release. At the time of the announcement HP labeled the repair General Release, moving at a rapid clip beyond beta test status. Dozens of other fixes and enhancements for the OS remained in beta status when MPE got its farewell at HP. Those patches would've been cut off from the customers under the standard release policy. HP made the beta patches available at the end of its MPE operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:18 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2017

How dead is tape in 2017? HP thinks it's not

RIP tape backupHP 3000s have been held together with tape. Mylar tape, the sort in 8-inch reels and modern cartridges, has been the last resort for recovery. The world of MPE/iX computing survived on its backups whenever things went awry. It's easy to assume tape's dead these days. People think the same thing about the HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise agrees with the latter death notice, not the former. Tape thrives today because of Big Data.

Why would an MPE/iX customer care about newer tape? Resources like on-premise backup are shared today, here in the era where HP is read to sell a seventh-generation of Linear Tape Open. LTO isn't costly, which makes it a good fit for the always-economical 3000 world. In fact, the media is cheaper than the more common DLT tapes.

"I would still recommend LTO," says Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I know a couple of my customers are using it. The performance will not be as high as other computers', but that's more or a CPU/backplane issue."

The MAXTAPBUF parameter is essential in using LTO, he adds. As to speed,

The N-Class 750—with a couple CPUs and a high speed fibre disc sub system that definitely helps—but it will never peak the LTO-1 throughput. It's still the fastest tape storage for the HP 3000. So the real advantage is amount of storage. And remember, it is always possible to store in parallel: two, three and four tape drives at once, in parallel as opposed to serial.

It seems that the new job for tape in 2017 is not everyday backups. These ought to be done to disk, a function supported by MPE/iX since 1998. Today's tape is there to backup the disk backups. Backups of backups are very much a part of the MPE Way.

The forthcoming HPE StoreEver MSL3040 Tape Library is designed for small to mid-sized organizations. It offers flexibility and storage capacity of up to 4.08PB with LTO-7. Hewlett-Packard is just one of many companies to keep pushing LTO forward. The standard isn't moving all that fast, though. Five years ago LTO-5 was the cutting edge for complete data protection and secure, long-term retention of business assets.

Using LTO devices for backups of backups on-premise is straightforward for anyone who's created a virtual HP 3000 using Stromasys Charon. So long as the host Linux server can communicate with the LTO device, it can backup a 3000 that's been virtualized. An emulator removes the risk of staying on the MPE/iX environment. A virtualized server won't be tied to interfaces from 15-year-old 3000 iron, or IO designs first crafted in the 1990s.

Five years ago some experts said that cloud storage was the final nail in backup tape's coffin. Our intrepid author Brian Edminster took a closer look at what a service like Amazon Glacier could do for the HP 3000 user. But it's almost as important to listen to what he's got to say about support of the latest LTO tape devices.

One of the primary advantages of creating the 3000's PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP would write and maintaining fewer device drivers once its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.

These LTO tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of MPE lab work. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)