News Outta HP

Does cleaning out HP desks lift its futures?

Migration sites in the 3000 community have a stake in the fortunes of Hewlett-Packard. We're not just talking about the companies that already have made their transition away from MPE and the 3000. The customers who know they're not going to end this decade with a 3000 are watching the vendor's transformation this year, and over the next, too.

Clean-Out-Your-DeskIt's a period when a company that got bloated to more that 340,000 companies will see its workforce cut to below 300,000 when all of the desks are cleaned out. The HP CEO noted that the vendor has been through massive change in the period while HP was cleaning out its HP 3000 desks. During the last decade, Meg Whitman pointed out last week, Compaq, EDS, Automomy, Mercury Interactive, Palm -- all became Hewlett-Packard properties. Whitman isn't divesting these companies, but the company will be shucking off 50 percent more jobs than first planned.

Some rewards arrived in the confidence of the shareholders since the announcement of 16,000 extra layoffs. HP stock is now trading at a 52-week high. It's actually priced at about the same value as the days after Mark Hurd was served walking papers in 2010. Whitman's had to do yeoman work in cost-cutting to keep the balance sheet from bleeding, because there's been no measureable sales growth since all 3000 operations ceased. It's a coincidence, yes, but that's also a marker the 3000 customer can recall easily.

When you're cutting out 50,000 jobs -- the grand total HP will lay off by the end of fiscal 2015 in October of next year -- there's no assured way of retaining key talent. Whitman said during the analyst conference call that everybody in HP has the same experience during these cuts. "Everyone understands the turnaround we're in," she said, "and everyone understands the market realities. I don't think anyone likes this."

These are professionals working for one of the largest computer companies in the world. They know how to keep their heads down in the trenches. But if you're in a position to make a change in your career, a shift away from a company like HP that's producing black ink on its ledger through cuts, you want to engage in work you like -- by moving toward security. In the near term, HP shareholders are betting that security will be attained by the prospect of a $128 billion company becoming nimble, as Whitman vowed last week.

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HP's migration servers stand ground in Q2

ESG HP Q2

The decline of HP's 3000 replacement products has halted
(click on graphic for details)

CEO Meg Whitman's 10th quarterly report today promised "HP's turnaround remains on track." So long as that turnaround simply must maintain sales levels, she's talking truth to investors. During a one-hour conference call, the vendor reported that its company-wide earnings before taxes had actually climbed by $240 million versus last year's second quarter. The Q2 2014 numbers also show that the quarter-to-quarter bleeding of the Business Critical Systems products has stopped.

But despite that numerical proof, Whitman and HP have already categorized BCS, home of the Linux and HP-UX replacement systems for 3000, as a shrinking business. The $230 million in Q2 sales from BCS represent "an expected decline." And with that, the CEO added that Hewlett-Packard believes its strategy for enterprise servers "has put this business on the right path."

The increased overall earnings for the quarter can be traced to a robust period for HP printers and PCs. Enterprise businesses -- the support and systems groups that engage with current or former 3000 users -- saw profits drop by more than 10 percent. HP BCS sales also fell, by 14 percent versus last year's Q2. But for the first time in years, the numbers hadn't dropped below the previous quarter's report.

The decline of enterprise server profits and sales isn't a new aspect of the HP picture. But the vendor also announced an new round of an extra 10,000-15,000 job eliminations. "We have to make HP a more nimble company," Whitman said. CFO Cathie Lesjack added that competing requires "lean organizations with a focus on strong performance management." The company started cutting jobs in 2012, and what it calls restructuring will eliminate up to 50,000 jobs before it's over in 2015.

Enterprise business remains at the heart of Hewlett-Packard's plans. It's true enough that the vendor noted the Enterprise Systems Group "revenue was lower than expected" even before the announcement of $27.3 billion overall Q2 revenues. The ESG disappointments appeared to be used to explain stalled HP sales growth.

But those stalled results are remarkable when considered against what Whitman inherited more than two years ago. Within a year, HP bottomed out its stock price at under $12 a share. It was fighting with an acquired Autonomy about how much the purchased company was worth, and was shucking off a purchase of Palm that would have put the vendor into the mobile systems derby.

If nothing else, Whitman's tenure as CEO -- now already half as long as Mark Hurd's -- contains none of the hubris and allegations of the Hurd mentality. After 32 months on the job, Whitman has faced what analysts are starting to call the glass cliff -- a desperate job leading a company working its way back from the brink, offered to a woman.

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Who's SUSAN, and what's her CPUNAME?

The MPE operating system, first booted for genuine use some 40 years ago, is a most unique creature of the computer ecosystem. This is software that does not have its own license, specifically. According to HP, the ownership of any MPE/iX version is determined by owning an Hewlett-Packard 3000 server, one built to boot up MPE/iX.

SusanWe reached out for clarity about this when a very large aircraft maker tipped us off -- once again, it will examine replacing HP's 3000 iron with CHARON licenses on Intel systems. After the MPE/iX software is turned off on any replaced 3000 hardware, does its hardware-based license then expire? The operating system license, according to HP's MPE Technical Consultant Cathlene Mc Rae, is related to the HPSUSAN of the original HP hardware.

So wait a minute. Are these HPSUSAN numbers of 3000s considered de-licensed, even if they're going to be used on the CHARON emulator? Mc Rae explained.

The HPSUSAN number is different from the MPE/iX license, although there is a relation between the two. The ability to use MPE/iX on the emulator is a result of completing a Software License Transfer. The original MPE/iX license on the HP e3000 would then no longer exist. 

In the hardware world of HP 3000s, HPSUSAN takes the original serial and model numbers on the system. It remains the same, as long as the customer owns the system. This combination was used to ID the hardware and enable diagnostics for the correct system.

However, that transferred license for the MPE/iX installation on the CHARON emulator -- available via a $432 Software License Transfer Fee -- won't be getting a new HPSUSAN number during the process. HPSUSAN gets re-used, and so it leads us to see what HPSUSAN stands for, and how the HPCPUNAME is a key in emulator installations.

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HP bets "Hey! You'll, get onto your cloud!"

TalltorideHewlett-Packard announced that it will spend $1 billion over the next two years to help its customers build private cloud computing. Private clouds will need security, and they'll begin to behave more like the HP 3000 world everybody knows: management of internal resources. The difference will reside in a standard open source stack, OpenStack. It's not aimed at midsize or smaller firms. But aiding OpenStack might help open some minds about why clouds can be simple to build, as well as feature-rich.

This is an idea that still needs to lift off. Among the 3000 managers we talk with — who've been in computing since the 1980s — they are inclined to think of clouds much differently than time-sharing, or apps over the Internet. Clouds are still things in Rolling Stones or Judy Collins choruses.

The 3000 community that's moving still isn't embracing any ideal of running clouds in a serious way. Once vendor who's teeing up cloud computing as the next big hit is Kenandy. That's the company built around the IT experience and expertise of the creators of MANMAN. They've called their software social ERP, in part because it embraces the information exchange that happens on that social network level.

But from the viewpoint of Terry Floyd, founder of the manufacturing services firm The Support Group, Kenandy's still waiting for somebody from the 3000 world to hit that teed-up ball. Kenandy was on hand at the Computer History Museum for the last HP3000 Reunion. That gathering of companies now looks like the wrong size of ball to hit the Kenandy cloud ERP ball.

"Since we saw them at the Computer History Museum meeting, Kenandy seems to have has re-focused on large Fortune 1000 companies," Floyd said. There are scores of HP 3000 sites running MANMAN. But very few are measuring up as F1000 enterprises. Kenandy looks like it believes the typical 3000 site is not big enough to benefit from riding a cloud. There are many migrated companies who'd fit into that Fortune 1000 field. But then, they've already chosen their replacements.

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Here it is: another beginning in an ending

Today's the day that Microsoft gives up its Windows XP business, but just like the HP 3000 exit at Hewlett-Packard, the vendor is conflicted. No more patches for security holes, say the Redmond wizards. But you can still get support, now for a fee, if you're a certain kind of Windows XP user.

New BeginningsIt all recalls the situation of January 2009, when the support caliber for MPE/iX was supposed to become marginal. That might have been true for the typical kind of customer who, like the average business XP user, won't be paying anything to Microsoft for Service Packs that used to be free. But in 2009 the other, bigger sort of user was still paying HP to take 3000 support calls, fix problems, and even engineer patches if needed. 

A lot of those bigger companies would've done better buying support from smaller sources. Yesterday we took note of a problem with MPE/iX and its PAUSE function in jobstreams, uncovered by Tracy Johnson at Measurement Specialties. In less than a day, a patch that seemed to be as missing as that free XP support of April 8 became available -- from an independent support vendor. What's likely to happen for XP users is the same kind of after-market service the 3000 homesteader has enjoyed.

Johnson even pointed us to a view of the XP situation and how closely it seems to mirror the MPE "end of life," as Hewlett-Packard liked to call the end of 2010. "Just substitute HP for Microsoft," Johnson said about a comparison with makers of copiers and makers of operating systems.

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MPE patches still available, just customized

Last week a 3000 manager was probing for the cause of a Command Interface CI error on a jobstream. In the course of the quest, an MPE expert made an important point: Patches to repair such MPE/iX bugs are still available. Especially from the seven companies which licensed HP's source code for the HP 3000s.

PatchworkThis mention of MPE bug repair was a reminder, actually, that Hewlett-Packard set the internals knowledge of MPE free back in 2010. Read-only rights to the operating system source code went out to seven companies worldwide, including some support providers such as Pivital Solutions and Allegro Consultants.

The latter's Stan Sieler was watching a 3000 newsgroup thread about the error winding up. Tracy Johnson, the curator of the 3000 that hosts the EMPIRE game and a former secretary to OpenMPE, had pointed out that his 3000 sometimes waits longer than expected after a PAUSE in a jobstream.

I nearly always put a CONTINUE statement before a PAUSE in any job.  Over the years I have discovered that sometimes the CPU waits "longer" than the specified pause and fails with an error.

A lively newsgroup discussion of 28 messages ensued. It was by far the biggest exchange of tech advice on the newsgroup in 2014, so far. Sieler took note of what's likely to be broken in MPE/iX 7.5, after an HP engineer had made his analysis of might need a workaround. Patches and workarounds are a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get 'em if you want 'em.

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Shadows of IT Leaders, at HP and Apple

JacksonEarlier this week, the Reverend Jesse Jackson made an appearance at Hewlett-Packard's annual shareholder meeting. He used the occasion of a $128 billion company's face-up to stockholders to complain about racial bias. In specific, Jackson complained that the HP board, by now, should have at least one African American serving on it.

HP's CEO Meg Whitman took respectful note of Jackson's observation, which is true. After 75 years of corporate history that have seen the US eliminate Jim Crow, and the world shun apartheid, HP's board is still a collection of white faces (10 of 12). Hewlett-Packard always had a board of directors, but it didn't become a company with a board in public until it first offered shares in 1958. We might give the company a pass on its first 20 years, striving to become stable and powerful. But from the '60s onward, the chances and good people might have been out there. Just not on HP's board, as Jackson pointed out.

But that story about the vendor who created your HP 3000s, MPE, IMAGE and then the systems to replace all, is incomplete. It's just one view of what Hewlett-Packard has become. In spite of Jackson's accurate census, it overlooks another reality about the company's leadership. HP has become woman-led, in some of its most powerful positions. Whitman had the restraint to not to point to that. But she's the second woman over those 75 years to be HP CEO.

Companies with potent histories like HP will always be in the line of fire of misunderstanding. The same sort of thing happed to Apple this week. This rival to HP's laptop and desktop and mobile space was inked over as a company still run by the ghost of its founder Steve Jobs. Like the Jackson measurement of HP's racial diversity at the top, the Ghostly Jobs Apple story needs some revisions. HP's got diversity through all of its ranks right up until you get to the director level. Given what a miserable job the board's done during the last 10 years, it might be a good resume item to say "Not a Member of Hewlett-Packard's Board."

HauntedempireipadRegarding Apple, the misunderstanding is being promoted in the book Haunted Empire. The book that's been roundly panned in reviews might sell as well as the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson, but for the opposite reasons. Jobs' biography was considered a hagiography by anybody who disliked the ideal of Apple and "Computing for the Rest of Us." He indeed acted like a saint in the eyes of many of his customers, and now that very sainthood is being devolved into a boat anchor by the writer of  Haunted Empire. It doesn't turn out to be true, if you measure anything except whether there's been a game-changer like a tablet in the past four years.

BillanddavecoverSimilar things happened to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard after Hewlett died in 2001, leaving HP with just the "HP Way" and no living founders. Whatever didn't happen, or did, was something the founders would've fought for, or wouldn't have tolerated. The Way was so ingrained into the timber of HP that the CEO who preceded Whitman, Leo Apotheker, imagined there might be a Way 2.0. Tying today to yesterday can be a complicated story. There was an HP Way 0.5, according to Michael Malone's history of HP, Bill and Dave.

And the term "Bill and Dave" is invoked to this day by people as disappointed in 2014's Hewlett-Packard as Jackson is impatient with its diversity. Like the Ghostly Apple story, WWBDD -- What Would Bill and Dave Do -- can be told with missing information. Accepting such missing data is a good way to show you know the genuine HP Way. Or if you care, the correct state of the Apple Empire.

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What does a performance index represent?

SpeedometerI want to upgrade our production 959KS/100 system to a 979KS/200, and I see the Hewlett-Packard HP 3000 Relative Performance chart says we'll go from a 4.6 to 14.6. What does that increase represent? For instance, does each whole number (like 4.0 to 5.0) represent a general percentage increase in performance?

Peter Eggers offered this reply.

Those performance numbers are multiples of a popular system way back when, based on an average application mix as determined by HP after monitoring some systems and probably some system logs of loads on customer systems. No information here as to where you are on the many performance bell curves. The idea is to balance your system resources to match your application load, with enough of a margin to get you through to the next hardware upgrade.

N-Class to Series 900 Relative PerformancePeople mention system and application tuning. You have to weigh time spent tuning and expected resource savings against the cost of an upgrade with the system and applications as is.  Sometimes you can gain amazing savings with minor changes and little time spent.  Don't forget to add in time to test, QA, and admin time for change management.

There are a many things to consider: CPU speed and any on chip caching; memory cache(s) size and speed; main memory size and speed; number of I/O channels and bandwidth; online communication topography, bandwidth, and strategy; online vs. batch priorities, and respective time slices; database and file design, access, locking, and cache hit strategies; application efficiency, tightening loops to fit memory caches, and compiler optimizations; and system load leveling.

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Unix-Integrity business keeps falling at HP

Sliding-cliffNumbers reported by Hewlett-Packard for its just-ended quarter show the company's making something of a rebound in some areas. One analyst said to CEO Meg Whitman that she'd been at the helm of the company for three-and-a-half years, and she had to correct him during the financial briefing last week.

"Actually, I've been here two-and-a-half years," Whitman said. "Sometimes it feels like three-and-a-half, but I've been here two-and-a-half years."

It's been a long 30 months with many changes for the vendor which still offers migration solutions to 3000 customers making a transition. But one thing that hasn't changed a bit is the trajectory of the company's Unix server business. Just as it has over each of the previous six quarters, sales and profits from the Business Critical Systems fell. Once again, the BCS combination of Integrity and HP-UX reported a decline in sales upwards of 15 percent from the prior fiscal year's quarter. This time it was 25 percent lower than Q1 of 2013. That makes 2014 the fourth straight year where BCS numbers have been toted up as lower.

Enterprise Group Q1 2014"We continued to see revenue declines in business-critical systems," Whitman said. Only the Enterprise Group servers based on industry standards -- HP calls them ISS, running Windows or Linux -- have been able to stay out of the Unix vortex.

"We do think revenue growth is possible through the remainder of the year on the enterprise [systems] group," Whitman said. "We saw good traction in ISS. We still have a BCS drag on the portfolio, and that's going to continue for the foreseeable future."

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The Final 3000 Quarter at Hewlett-Packard

LifeboatsIt's the final day of HP's Q1 for 2014, so in about three weeks we'll know how the company has fared in its turnaround. Analyst sites are rating the stock as a hold, or giving the company a C+ rating. It's instructive to see how much has changed from the final quarter when 3000 customers sent measurable revenues to Hewlett-Packard.

That would be the Q1 of 2009, including the final two months of HP's regular systems support sales of November-December of 2008. At the end of '08 HP closed its MPE/iX and 3000 lab. And without a lab, there was no way business critical support would offer much of an incentive to keep HP's support in a 3000 shop's IT budget.

The customers' shake-off of HP's support revenue didn't happen immediately, of course. People had signed multi-year contracts for support with the vendor. But during the start of this financial period of five years ago, there was no clear reason to expect HP to be improve for MPE/iX, even in dire circumstances. Vintage support was the only product left to buy for a 3000 through the end of 2010.

In Q1 of 2009, HP reported $28.2 billion in total sales. In its latest quarter, that number was $29.1 billion. Nearly five years have delivered only $900 million in extra sales per quarter, despite swallowing up EDS and its 140,000 consultants and billions in sales, or purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of outside companies like Autonomy.

In January of 2009, HP 3000 revenues were even more invisible than the Business Critical Systems revenues of today. But BCS totals back then were still skidding by 15-20 percent per quarter, 20 quarters ago. And even in 2009, selling these alternatives to an HP 3000 was generating only 4 percent of the Enterprise Server group's sales. Yes, all of enterprise servers made up 2.5 percent of the 2009 HP Q1. But that hardware and networking is the short tail of the beast that was HP's server business, including the 3000. Support is the long tail, one that stretched to the end of 2008 for MPE, more than seven years HP announced the end of its 3000 business plans.

It's easy to say that the HP 3000 meant a lot to HP's fortunes. In a way it certainly did, because there was no significant business computing product line until MPE started to get stable in 1974. But the profits really didn't flow off the hardware using that 20th Century model. Support was the big earner, as the mob says of anybody who returns profits to the head of the organization. HP 3000 support was always a good earner, right up to the time HP closed down those labs and sent its wizards packing, or into other company divisions.

It had been a small business all along, this HP 3000. A billion dollars was a great quarter's worth, and the 3000 division never came close. But all of HP's business critical servers together only managed $700 million in sales -- five years ago. The profits from such customers were only significant because of support relationships. This is why those contracts were the last thing HP terminated.

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HP to surf legacy OS onto new platform

HP's Unix customers aren't so lucky, but the companies that rely on the NonStop OS have been told they're getting an x86-ready version of their fault-tolerant environment. 

SurfingHP“No matter what HP NonStop hardware architecture you choose, you will continue to get 100 percent NonStop value that makes what you do truly matter,” CEO Meg Whitman explained to the installed base. It's a message that might make an HP-UX customer wonder if what they're doing, strictly on Itanium hardware, will truly matter.

What matters to HP is the stickiness of the NonStop customer. They demonstrate the same kind of product and company loyalty that the 3000 customer did, at least until HP announced the end of its MPE business. Technically, there are possibilities for c7000 blades to run the environment first released when Jim Treybig left HP to form Tandem.

There are no promises here, and no roadmap for release of this transitional product. It's much further out than the reality of running MPE/iX on Intel servers -- and that Stromasys solution won't require special Intel hardware from HP. But it's more of a future than the OpenVMS and HP-UX enterprise customers are facing.

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2013 emboldened 3000 changes for both migration and homesteading practices

As a service to readers who crave summary and broad strokes, we hearby sketch what the year 2013 meant to the 3000 community. It's too much of a cliche to say that the previous 12 months were driven by change. That's been an essential element for the community since 2001. But a dozen years has now spread changes onto the migrating community member, as well as those who have made their mission one to homestead.

The HP 3000 CHARON emulator from Stromasys showed more promise this year, but some of its impact lay in the way it held migrations in check without even being deployed. Another factor came from the economy. By year's end the markets were flying at an all-time high, but the recovery has its blind spots, according to some 3000 users. Couple the proposed savings in keeping MPE apps virtual with with an uncertain future for HP's replacement solutions, and the movement away from the 3000 slowed.

Even with that evidence, some shutdowns of systems stood out. A major installation of 3000s that had been serving the airline industry saw their work moved to .NET replacements, as Open Skies became New Skies. We also saw Hewlett-Packard closing down its own internal HP 3000 operations at long last, powering off the final four systems, just 12 years after advising its customers to do the same.

The year also offered a chance to see what remained on the field a decade after the community marked the World Wide Wake of 2003. The server got its first iPad app when a terminal emulator emerged for iOS, even as other experts found other ways to get an MPE console onto a tablet. And the exit of expertise continued throughout our 3000 world, even as some stalwart resources remained online.

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While you were away, what HP put into play

Healthcare.govWe're back after a 4-day holiday. The Thanksgiving holiday period can be interesting times for watchers of Hewlett-Packard. We count ourselves among that group, even though the company has little to do with the lives of homesteading 3000 users. (But not nothing at all -- we heard last week that HP Support contracts for 3000-connected HP peripherals have been altered. End-of-support-life dates have been adjusted, according to our source. Check your contract; indie providers are available as an alternative.) HP announced the Odyssey program to give a Linux future path for Unix customers during the week. Of course, the 3000 exit notice took place just a week before Thanksgiving in 2001.

However, much broader items than tactical details of contracts surfaced over this holiday weekend. The most splashy was the news that Hewlett-Packard is now the company providing infrastructure for the US Healthcare.gov website. That's the site that turned away about 80 percent of users during October because of technical and bandwidth problems.

HP signed a $38 million contract with the US Health and Human Services agency this summer, but Terraform (a subsidiary of Verizon) had built out the website hosting that blocked many an attempt to use it. Over the weekend, healthcare.gov doubled its bandwidth and can now reportedly serve 50,000 users simultaneously. That sounds like a lot, but about 800,000 citizens tried to open an account. (Just as a note, as of 2 PM today, we registered an account and shopped for the first time online.)

The largest simultaneous user count we've ever heard reported for a single HP 3000 server was 2,200. Consider that was a single server, built with PA-RISC (two generation-old chips) using SCSI IO. Redundancy has been an essential high-volume aspect of 3000s since Quest Software built its NetBase/Shareplex replication solution in the 1980s. Quest, now a division of Dell, still supports HP 3000 sites using the product, according to John Saylor there.

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HP quarter beats analyst estimates, but Integrity solutions' profit, sales slide again

FY 2013 summaryHP has managed to eke out a penny more than business analysts estimated for its 2013 fourth quarter earnings. These days such a "beat," as the analysts call it, is essential to avoiding a selloff after a report like yesterday's. But the positive news did not extend to the business group which builds and engineers the Unix Integrity servers -- a significant share of the migrated HP 3000 installed base.

More than once during the one-hour report to financial analysts, HP CEO Meg Whitman and her CFO Cathie Lesjak talked about Unix like it's a market whose growth days have been eclipsed by steady erosion of sales and profits. "We have more opportunity to improve our profitability," Whitman said about a quarter where the overall GAAP earnings were 83 cents a share. That's $1.82 billion of profit on sales of $29.1 billion in sales. Revenues declined 1 percent against last year's Q4.

But R&D, so essential to improving the value of using HP-created environments like HP-UX, has seen its days of growth come to halt, and then decline at the Business Critical Systems unit. Lesjak said the company's year-over-year decline in R&D was a result of "rationalization in Business Critical Systems." In particular, the company's Unix products and business can't justify R&D of prior quarters and fiscal years.

As you look at the year-over-year declines in R&D, that was really driven by two primary things. One is the rationalization of R&D, specifically in the Enterprise Group's Business Critical Systems -- so we really align the R&D investment in that space with the long-term business realities of the Unix market. We did get some of what we call R&D value-added tax subsidy credits that came through. Those basically offset some of the R&D expense.

Enterprise Group Summary Q4 2013Business Critical Systems revenue declined 17 percent in the quarter to $334 million, due to "a declining Unix market." On the current run rate, BCS represents 1 percent of HP sales. And BCS sales have been dropping between 15 and 30 percent for every quarter for more than six quarters. HP posted an increase in its enterprise systems business overall, mostly on increased sales of the Linux and Windows systems in its Industry Standard Servers unit.

HP said it expects "continued traction in converged storage, networking, and converged infrastructure," for its enterprise business. But somehow, as the entire Unix market shrinks, HP said it's maintaining market share in that space. R&D at BCS will not be part of HP's planned growth for research and development in 2014, though.

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4,383 days for an ecosystem to slip, survive

FlyingpagesIt's November 14 once again, a date plenty of people don't consider special. I was part of a telephone-only CAMUS user group meeting today. While we chatted before our meet began, I asked if anyone knew the significance of the date. It took a few minutes of hinting before someone -- Cortlandt Wilson of Cortsoft -- said this was the day HP ended its future vision for a 3000 business.

At the time the announcement emerged in 2001, HP said it was worried about the fate of the MPE and 3000 ecosystem. It had good reason to worry. It was about to send a shock wave that would knock out many denizens in that ecosystem. The losses to customers can be counted many ways, and we have done that every year since that fateful day. This is the 12th story I've written about the anniversary of the HP exit. The day remains important to me when I count up what's been pushed to extinction, and what has survived. 

2001 VendorsCompanies come to mind this year. The photo at right shows the vendor lineup for our printed November 3000 Newswire in 2001. (Click it for details.) It was a healthy month, but not extraordinary. Almost 30 vendors, including three in our FlashPaper, had enough 3000 business to make budget to advertise. We'll get to the ones who remain in business after a dozen years. But let's call the roll to see what HP's ecosystem exit pruned or hacked away.

3KWorld.com was a worldwide 3000 website operated by Client Systems. It was large enough to draw its own advertising and used all of the content of the Newswire under a license agreement. It's gone. Client Systems has hung on, though.

Advanced Network Systems (web software circa 2001) and Design 3000 (job scheduling) and Epic Systems (hardware resales) are all gone, too. Interex went out of business in 2005 in a sudden bankruptcy; OmniSolutions (MPE interface software) and TechGroup (consulting) and WhisperTech (a programmer's suite) and COBOL JobShop (programmer services) are all gone, too.

Believe it or not, out of a list of 29, those are the only complete extinctions. Some of the rest have changed their colors like a chameleon, blending into the IT business of 2013. And many have gotten too pared down to consider the broad business outreach they felt confident about in 2001.

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3000 transfers receive special HP treatment

SpecialOrdersCustomers who are making a transfer of their HP 3000-MPE licenses get special treatment from HP when moving to the virtualized server product from Stromasys. Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative said he had to rely on Stromasys to help him find the right person -- and explain things -- during a recent license transfer.

"Unfortunately, the transfer experience was not as smooth as I would have hoped," Elmer said. "Ultimately, it's not a big deal to do the transfer, but you do need to find the right person to talk to. I filled out forms and exchanged e-mail with Erick. The best advice I would give anyone would be to ask Stromasys for help."

By the time a customer is ready to transfer a license to an emulator, of course, Stromasys will be a familiar contact. The company recently added HP 3000 consultant Doug Smith to its staff, bringing even more MPE familiarity to the operation. Paul Taffel, who's been blazing the 3000 trails since 2011 for Stromasys, sent us a note about the same exception to transfer rules we'd found in our October, 2012 story about software licensing.

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HP 3000 software license transfer: still $400

OnDeckEarlier this month, a famous manufacturer of aircraft had its HP 3000 director checking up on software license transfer processes. This SLT is not the one that a system manager cuts for rebuilding your MPE/iX directories, but the fee HP charges to move your MPE to another system. Well, the fee and the required documentation. In this case, licenses for an A-Class server and a Series 979 4-way are in the on-deck circle, wating to go to bat on the Stromasys virtual HP 3000, CHARON HPA/3000.

Just as the 3000's Transition Era was getting underway in earnest, this was being called an Emulator License. HP's Mike Paivinen and others at the vendor arranged for such a license, with a suggested cost of $500. In 2004, nobody knew what an emulator would look like once it emerged. Strobe Data sells an HP 1000 emulator that includes a hardware board plugged into a desktop server. Strobe couldn't move forward with a 3000 version of that product, and by 2012 CHARON was finally into the marketplace.

HP's process for putting MPE legally onto CHARON follows the same steps as if a customer purchased a newer or more powerful Hewlett-Packard brand of iron. There are five parts to a software right-to-use license transfer: the Request, the Proof, the Transfer Fee, the Software License Terms and the Authorization. Each of these five parts must be in place before HP will grant a right-to-use license, taking MPE/iX off HP's 3000 servers in a way that will satisfy any auditor.

HP's Jennie Hou told us last fall that emulator-based license transfers within a customer's site present no problem for the current process. We looked into the license transfer process when the personal 1-user freeware version of the Stromasys emulator was rolling out -- and the download included an instance of MPE/iX.

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Crime keeps non-3000 platforms most busy

Kinds of Cyber AttacksHP has sponsored a new edition of the Ponemon study of crime commited via computers. The results are trending in the direction everyone expects: upward, with cyber-crime now topping $11 million per typical breach in the US. The chart above tracks the frequency of the type of crime committed. Malware, viruses, worms and trojans are on just about every company's report. Where the cyber-attack takes place -- the location of the webserver -- makes a difference in the cost of the breach.

We found that US companies are much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious code, denial of service and web-based incidents. Similarly, Australia is most likely to experience denial of service attacks. In contrast, German companies are least likely to experience malicious code and botnets. Japanese companies are least likely to experience stolen devices and malicious code attacks.

HP worked hard in the late 1990s to establish Web server capability for the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. At first there was a product for sale from HP. A few years later, with little success of selling it, HP gave it away as part of the MPE/iX Fundamental Operating System. But even in FOS, serving web pages never caught on. Web page services, of course, are the top way to distribute malware, bots and other costly disruptors.

In a way, the lack of a Web capability has made the HP 3000 one of the least-attacked environments. But even a 3000 connected to the Internet in any way is susceptible to a hack. It's just tougher to steal something worth fencing, plucked out of an OS built with a ring of privilege at its heart. Not impossible, never. Because like the Ponemon report says, the most costly cyber-crime happens from within datacenter operations.

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Support paywall can seem to hide manuals

We're investigating another point of confusion between HP's MPE/iX and 3000 manuals and the 3000 community. Donna Hofmeister, one of the former OpenMPE directors who heard HP's promise to keep these manuals available to the general public, emailed us this report.

It appears that HP has cut off public access to the MPE manuals. If you use HP's link through its Business Support Center, and go thru a couple of clicks... you'll eventually be asked for support credentials.

In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case for MPE manuals (since, after all, who has HP's MPE support anyhow?). HP agreed to continue to allow access to the MPE things (including patches) when they vendor was negotiating with OpenMPE.

Hofmeister noted that the patches are still available for free. The good news is that the 3000 community has been compiling the manuals outside HP's servers, just to ensure the vendor kept its promise of open access to 3000 documentation. And there is a more concealed path into the manuals today. Just not through the front door Hofmeister was using.

Straight to the point, things are changing in the HP support operations and its access for users. A support contract might be required, in HP's confusion over the 3000's place on the website, if you head in through the wrong address. Or read a recent HP email.

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The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill

ComedymicComment sections of blogs are usually tar pits of abusive and misdirected retorts. I feel lucky that comments on the Newswire's blog have been otherwise, for the most part. On many tech blogs the comments that follow a story devolve at lightning pace into rants about the NSA, partisan politics, the insulting disappointments of Windows/Apple/Google, or the zen koan of climate change.

Tim O'Neill has lifted up the reputation of commenting to an enabling art. The manager of a 3000 system in Maryland, he's become prolific in his messages that echo or take a counterpoint to the stories we run here. His comment count is running at 15 over just the past five months. For our unique but modest-sized outpost of 3000 lore and learning, that's a lot. He's got a comment for almost one in every five stories.

CommentsHP's actions of 12 years ago are still a sore point with some 3000 managers. Count O'Neill among them. We ran a story yesterday about HP's best case scenario for 2014: it will lose sales more slowly than this year. Some new products will get R&D focus. Pockets of sales growth will pop up. Overall, less revenue, for yet another year.

O'Neill shot off a comment within an hour of our story.

This does not sound too hopeful, if the best they can promise is slowing the rate of revenue decline while at the same time spending $3B on R&D. At the same time, they have essentially no cutting-edge mobile products (and no WebOS,) a stagnant flagship OS (HP-UX, no new releases in about a decade) a second flagship OS sentenced to death (OpenVMS -- HP finally kills the last of the DEC that they hated for decades) and shuttered sales and support offices (relying on VARs and the Web for sales, instead of interpersonal interaction.)

O'Neill never fails to note that a retained 3000 business would be helping HP, even today. "Meanwhile, the long-ago-jilted MPE lives on, ancient LaserJets continue to crank out print jobs and make money for toner refillers (I still have LJ 2000 and 4000 series printer in service,) and digital signal generators (HP, not Agilent) still generate signals. They do still make nice new printers. Maybe they should buy Blackberry to get into the smartphone business."

It's great to have a chorus behind you when reporting on one 3000 news item after another. It's even better when there's a consistently different-sounding voice on webpages. If there was an Andy Rooney position on the 3000 Newswire's stable of contributors, O'Neill could fill that post.

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HP hopes for slower sales declines in 2014

In a typical response to the above news, investors bought in on Hewlett-Packard's vision of the future yesterday. Market analysts who advise the pension plans -- and the rest of the 75 percent of institutional-owners of HP shares -- found this lump of non-dire news under HP's carpet. CEO Meg Whitman said they predicted there would be 1 percent more profit than the analysts' predictions. One estimate bested another by a trace amount, and so hope rose up among shareholders.

The future for HPNone of this has happened yet; even HP's fiscal 2013 still has three weeks left to play out, let alone the realities of 2014. "Pockets" of growth in HP's sales have been promised, although the company cannot say where those pockets will appear. They might be in tablets, where HP could manage revenue growth with sales that become measurable. Or the growth might occur in enterprise servers and software, a prospect with much longer odds.

"Stabilizing revenue declines" are the brightest outlook HP can promise for the year to come. That HP had to promise continuing declines shows how tough its IT sales market has become. People who were buying laptops for business are now investing in tablets or working via smartphones, both of which are more mobile. HP's offerings in both segments are years behind market leaders, echoes of cheaper solutions, or invisible (in the case of the phones).

Mobile computing is one of the many sectors of computing products where HP's got big issues to resolve. One analyst said after yesterday's meet that it wouldn't be a great investment to buy HP stock, given the "growth challenges the company is facing in nearly every product category." Investment in buying HP's products is another matter, but it's the one which determines that growth challenge.

HP's fiscal numbers for its latest quarter won't surface for more than a month. But Whitman's cheerleading came during a two-day meeting with those analysts. HP earned a $2 share bump on a forecast that put its 2014 profits 3 cents a share higher than a $3.62 forecast. Whitman said HP will focus on new products and services next year -- a category that may not include HP's Unix, its Integrity-based servers, or other solutions from the combined enterprise unit that has been producing steady HP 3000 platform replacements. 

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HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later

One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business. 

N-Class 220There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.

But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.

Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006.

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Patches remain a revenue producer at HP

HP issued a reminder for the HP 3000 users today that the computer remains special in a significant, cost-saving way. Several years ago, the customers using HP's enterprise computers found that free patches had ceased to be a goodwill item. You had to pay to patch, HP said. But since the MPE/iX patches were written for a discontinued line, HP had no support mechanism to charge for them.

HP-UX, OpenVMS and Tru64 (Digital's Unix) customers are not so fortunate. In an email from today:

HP has made significant investments in its intellectual capital to provide the best value and experience for our customers.  We continue to offer a differentiated customer experience with our comprehensive support portfolio. HP, as an industry leader, is well positioned to provide reliable support services across the globe with proprietary tools, HP trained engineers, and genuine certified HP parts.  Only HP customers and authorized channel partners may download and use support materials.

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HP's missing notes as Jazz plays on for 3000

Information that HP licensed for its Jazz support server lives on at two North American HP 3000 vendor sites. While items like white papers and instructions remain intact at Freshe Legacy (formerly Speedware) and Client Systems, the links at Hewlett-Packard references for the 3000 are playing like they're off-key notes.

Jazz is the accepted name for a collection of papers, downloads and software instructions first created by Jerri Ann Smith in the HP 3000 labs. Nicknamed after her initials JAS, Jazz grew full of free help during the 1990s as the vendor worked to sustain its MPE business and service its customers.

HP's Manual pageWhen HP closed down the labs that maintained Jazz, it licensed the use of these materials to Fresche and to Client Systems. Much of the material remains useful for the 3000 manager who's sustaining a server in homesteading or pre-migration missions. But a click on many links to HP drives users to a Hewlett-Packard technical documentation website where the 3000 knowledge is buried deeper than all but the most patient or seasoned owners can uncover.

Even a request to establish an HP Passport account, which might yield more information, generates an Internal Server Error from Hewlett-Packard today. Everybody's website can have this kind of problem from time to time, but standards for the maker and caretaker of an operating system should be higher than nearly everybody.

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Tuning Out HP News by Labeling it Noise

When something fresh or different enters your IT landscape, it's a good business practice to make time to understand it. A new software application, a different way of defining your networks, the scorecard on your vendor's turnaround. Those first two items are easier to analyze than the third, but a vendor's business news is not noise.

CoveryourearsFew communities understand this listening better than the customers who own HP 3000s and run MPE. Their status might be homesteading, or migrating, or homesteading until a migration is possible. But when Hewlett-Packard ended its futures in the 3000 market, it did so because of what it called trouble in the "ecosystem." That's not a jungle of plants and animals outside HP's corporate HQ. The ecosystem is the collection of companies doing business for a platform's users. HP didn't like the look of its 3000 ecosystem. It couldn't do anything more about it, so the vendor pulled up stakes and closed its lab.

The world-rocking difference in that case was HP's business decision, not a technical shortfall. That vendor didn't tick off the missing elements of software (it had skipped out on doing a 64-bit MPE) or the hardware (slim and cheaper servers for Unix customers, but not MPE users). HP talked about the rest of the world's businesses and what it planned to do about connecting with them. It was consistent about choice: Unix, Windows, and other things not crafted by HP.

That's news, but in some quarters HP's business conditions are being labeled noise. The Chief Marketing Officer for the Connect user group Nina Buik not only believes that "the media earns its keep by making noise," she advising members to tune out news like HP's departure from the Dow Jones Industrials. Not important, she wrote this month. The drop from the Dow is symbolic, but it won't change things overnight. Few customers pick a vendor on the basis of its Dow membership. Investors do, and that impacts working capital and profits and growth funding. Dow is interesting, but Buik calls it noise compared to the HP message about becoming monolithic.

That's not really news, except in the latest five-year plan to execute it. Hewlett-Packard has been trying to act as a single company since the moment it started selling PCs in the 1980s. Its quest to monolithic futures is as constant as the direction of rain. Rain falls downward, as it always has.

News and noise can be confused, or just overlooked on purpose. If you don't want to include your vendor's business condition, you might be surprised -- like some of HP's OpenVMS users were -- when the futures run out. You'd want to hear the warnings about that, wouldn't you?

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HP dives out of the Dow Jones average

It was a pretty good run for awhile -- 16 years of Hewlett-Packard stock being part of the greatest run-up in Wall Street securities history. But this week the Dow Jones organization announced the biggest shake-up in the average in a decade, removing Hewlett-Packard's shares. The stock lost half of its value, then regained nearly all of it, in a turbulent 18 months that ushered it out of the best-known average.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 7.54.08 PMThe change takes effect with the close of trading on Sept. 20, and was "prompted by the low stock price of the companies slated for removal, and the Index Committee's desire to diversify the sector and industry group representation of the index," according to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, the company that oversees the Dow. Alcoa Aluminum and Bank of America are also being removed.

HP's shares are not trading much lower than in 1997 when it joined the average. In that year, HP  traded at $25.75 a share, just $3 higher than today's price. It became only the second computing company to join the 1997 Dow; Johnson & Johnson, Travelers Group and WalMart were added to the index that year as well. All but HP remain part of the index of international business. The Dow average was about 6700 when HP was added. Today it's above 15,000. 

1997 Annual Report coverThe HP of 1997 had no significant Internet presence, playing catch-up to Sun. Hewlett-Packard also was scurrying to adopt Windows as an enterprise solution, having gambled heavy on Unix through the 1990s instead. That year's Hewlett-Packard also sold HP 3000 Series 9x9 servers, a solution that was just gaining its first open source software programs as well as dropping the Classic CISC-based servers that ran MPE V. HP was a $43 billion company that year with a workforce of 121,000.

But many things have changed along with HP's overall futures and fortunes. In the summer of 1997, 3000 division manager Harry Sterling, in just his first full year on the job, announced that the HP 3000 would be gaining a 64-bit MPE, with designs aimed at using the newest HP chips.

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History tells us to mind the futures gap

MindthegapHewlett-Packard's Millenial Version (2001.0) kicked out the 3000 a dozen summers ago. But your community still talks about that breakup, something like the girlfriend a fellow lost after she was so close that she knew your team's football players. (There's an allusion that might play on both sides of the Atlantic, now that our sports called football are both apace this weekend.) It's a worthy subject. A gap between futures talks and vendor reality must always be considered. This is the season of 2014's planning, after all.

The latest discussion about 2001 came out of a corner of the community's online outposts. Over in an exclusive sector, people talked about whether HP 2001.0 had ever violated regulations when it went to that summer's HP World show, talking up 3000 futures to anybody within the sound of the HP voices of Dave Snow and Winston Prather.

Timeline: Chicago hosts that summer's show in late August. All seems well on the slides and futures talks. Two and a half months later, the big Acme safe (Warner Brothers cartoon-style) gets dropped on the heads of users, managers and vendors everywhere. Was Carly Fionia's HP-Invent fibbing about the 3000's futures?

This week the chatter amounts to just speculations, unless an HP manager (that might be former GM Prather, or someone higher up) wants to reveal the internals. Yup, Winston's still at HP.

But I may as well concoct a scenario that might permit HP to make its presentations that summer and not break the rules. In this tale, HP hopes there's a lot of revenue growth coming soon for the 3000. Either that, or it's gonna go away. Fiorina was well-known for cracking the whip on revenue growth.

So after July meetings with big customers, here comes that August HP World conference. At the time, there's no lack of verbal assurances about 3000 futures from HP. Things in writing, or on a slide, are a lot more fuzzy. There's no date-certain about Itanium for MPE at that meeting in Chicago, either. One VAR I interviewed about the meeting said, "That's when we knew the writing was on the wall" about MPE. It wasn't going forward, he said.

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Rocky HP Q3 triggers replacement reorg

Hewlett-Packard has announced another skid in its fortunes for the servers designed to replace HP 3000s. This time around, the results were so disappointing that the Enterprise business unit had its Executive VP removed from the job.

Enterprise Group Q3 2013 slide

 


It's not that the numbers for this period were out of line with the last eight quarters. (Details above) But the malaise of the sales at Business Critical Systems -- where the Integrity servers have been losing revenue and profit -- has spread to the sales of the ProLiant systems as well. BCS, which still gets its own baggage to carry in the HP quarterly reports, dropped another 26 percent of sales versus 2012's Q3.

How small has BCS become? It's a question which can be answered at last. HP reported that sales of the Integrity systems' unit represented 4 percent of the total $6.8 billion of the Enterprise group. That's $272 million in sales of HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS servers and related peripherals for a 3-month period. Less than 1 percent of HP's sales, or a run rate of just over $1 billion a year. Except that it's been running downhill since 2011, and Dave Donatelli was all but fired for the results.

HP's CEO Meg Whitman reported that Donatelli -- who came to HP in a contested job change from EMC -- will be "on special assignment," instead of running the futures and fortunes of HP's Enterprise servers. The group includes Industry Standard Xeon-based ProLiants. The whole unit dropped another $600 million in sales during Q3. Like so many of the dropping units on the HP report, the group was listed as working in a "tough compare" to the 2012 business. 

Which would make for a good explanation, until you remember HP reported a record loss for last year's Q3. Analysts said after the call that the HP results show, as Mad Money's Jim Cramer brayed, "HP needs three things: new product, worldwide growth and a lot of luck."

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HP wins suit on strength of weak standard

This week a Federal judge ruled that HP won't have to pay lawsuit damages after a CEO violated a code of conduct for the company's workers. The alleged harrassment by Mark Hurd was not studied as closely as that code of conduct for Hewlett-Packard.

Pink-DumbbellThough HP's standards brochure contained provisions like, "We are open, honest, and direct in all our dealings," District Judge Jon Tigar found that such comments aren't material statements. The wording in the code was vague enough that some major shareholders, led by the Cement & Concrete Workers District Council Pension Fund, don't get to collect damages in a lawsuit because the judge called the HP code "puffery."

It's not shocking that a sexual harassment case, one that been broadcast in a lurid story, wouldn't end in jail time for Hurd, or a fine against HP. Those are big players with great legal representation. Hurd's amorous advances earned him a spot at Oracle selling Sun servers, so well that the Business Critical Systems division hasn't had a good quarter since he left HP.

It's probably not even surprising that a current HP code has a vague wording. Somehow, it took more than 18 months to decide that in a District Court matter. What is genuinely surprising is that any corporation code would be considered a cut above a prayer or an advertisement. The old Hewlett-Packard -- the company that current CEO Meg Whitman says remains in the new HP's DNA -- would see a code as a promise. It worded the copy of the HP Way clearly enough that it could defend its practices. Corporate-level creeds such as standards brochures are low bars to clear. Nothing as concrete, so to speak, as "profit is the best single measure of our contribution to society and the ultimate source of our corporate strength. We should attempt to achieve the maximum possible profit consistent with our other objectives."

That's the old HP, considered benevolent and collegial, talking there in the HP Way. Profit was the biggest goal. Today HP takes its commitment to green manufacturing and the environment more seriously than corporate officer accountability. This is important to remember when choosing a systems vendor for a migration project.

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HP Ready to Renew VMS, Like It Did for You

Even after HP stopped making HP 3000s in 2003, it did not stop selling the servers. No, not those holdover orders placed at the end of '03, computers which were not delivered until the spring of 2004. Cast your memory back to 2005 and 2006, when servers and their MPE licenses were advertised from the company's used computer unit, HP Renew.

SoyonaraNow there's another chapter to this song of sayonara. Customers using OpenVMS systems built on Integrity can buy older machines from HP Renew. "HP Renew helps you to develop, migrate or augment your IT infrastructure at your own pace, without impacting efficiency," says its website. The Integrity 9300 series i2 blades and rackmount servers are on sale, only slightly used.

HP 3000s are not offered in HP Renew any longer. They once were, at the same time as independent resellers and brokers sold this iron. HP iron is "the monkey on your back," according to virtualization vendor Stromasys. You get the monkey off by going to Intel servers that run Linux, and then MPE in that cradle. The monkey is PA-RISC servers.

But the vendor still sells HP 9000 PA-RISC systems through HP Renew, servers built with identical hardware as the HP 3000 iron. There's an HP-UX license sold with these HP 9000s, computers that are 10 years behind HP's latest HP-UX Integrity servers. Today the HP 3000 iron, with its discs of varying age, comes from the resale markets. You get them from vendors like Pivital Solutions (one of the last authorized 3000 resellers), or the MPE Support Group, or even on eBay. HP's turned away from the 3000 customer, as it will for nearly all of them except those who use industry standard environments. Right now that looks like it will be Linux and Windows -- but we're not that certain about the latter, for the longest run.

Whatever the length of its promises which have passed away, the current HP CEO has passed on an ideal that HP never did lose its customer focus. At a recent conference, Meg Whitman gave a speech that concocted a company that would never leave a customer out of its heart. OpenVMS users have already been told their OS will be left off of the next generation of Itanium. There's no other chip that runs OpenVMS, just like no other iron will run HP-UX. Oh, except those 10-year-old PA-RISC systems. Is that resold iron better than nothing when a customer needs a replacement system?

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Migration servers live together at new HP

RandyMeyerQuietly this year, HP reorganized its server operations. Under the cover of an announcement of a Converged Systems group, Hewlett-Packard combined its Intel Xeon-based server business with the specialized Intel Itanium-based server products. The new unit hasn't reported its results yet; the reorg took place just at the end of the second HP quarter of fiscal 2013. Randy Meyer has been named as the GM of many products.

Numbers for this business won't appear for a few more weeks -- HP closed its third quarter on Wednesday, July 31. However, Hewlett-Packard says the combination of these groups will quicken the pace of something the vendor calls "the speed of transformation of the server industry."

While the un-migrated 3000 customer evaluates platform options, they've been watching a transformation that probably didn't seem to require more speed. Business Critical Servers (BCS), the home of Integrity/Itanium operations, has been on a speedy path to a slimmer profile at HP for nearly two years. Integrity servers have become a tough sell to new customers, but a preferred path for existing companies that have a lot invested already in HP's Unix, for example.

Obviously, the 3000 site that hasn't made a move yet won't have much invested in HP-UX or Integrity. Unless that company already has operations elsewhere that use Unix and Integrity boxes. It might be the place where Integrity can still claim some fresh datacenter real estate, but those won't be new customers.

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Glossary to the Future: SDN

Editor's Note: Some HP 3000 IT managers and owners are preparing for a world where the old terms and acronymns lose their meaning -- while newer strategies and technologies strive to become more meaningful. This series will examine the newer candidates to earn a place in your datacenter glossary.

SDN ArchitectureServer virtualization is going to change the way computing resources are delivered. In many shops in the HP 3000 world, virtualization is already at work. What's more, with the rise of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator, a virtualized HP 3000 server will become another resource, one that extends the life of MPE applications.

But for the company that's designing its move into commodity computing, there's another level of virtualization which is in its early days: Software Defined Networking. Its architecture is detailed above. HP explains the SDN technology this way in a white paper.

With SDN, you're using commodity server hardware (typically on top of or within a virtualization hypervisor) to manage, control, and move your network's data. This is different from the pre-SDN approach of running management and control software on top of purpose-specific specialty chips that move the bits to and fro. SDN means you can deploy entire new network components, configure them, and bring them into production without touching a screwdriver or a piece of sheetmetal, thanks to SDN.

HP's technology to deliver SDN to a commodity server network near you is called OpenFlow. Its relationship to the HP 3000 of legend is slight. But a company that will use virtualization to full potential will want to make plans for SDN, and if your vendor of choice is HP, then OpenFlow.

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What Kind of UPS Best Protects Your 3000

Editor's Note: ScreenJet's founder Alan Yeo wraps up his investigation of UPS units, having had a pair fail and then take two HP 3000s offline recently. Here he explains what sort of UPS to buy to avoid a failure that knocked solid 3000s offline, by way of dirty transfers during the all-important Transfer Time (TT) window.

By Alan Yeo
Last in a series

First off, the answer to the problem: Double Conversion UPS units are what you want. They are more expensive than Line Interactive ones, but it is claimed they are cheaper in the long run, due to increased battery life.  I’ll let you know in a few years. The HP 3000

DualConversionWhilst a Line Interactive UPS claims that attached equipment shouldn't be at risk during the TT window, as far as I can read it can be before it is disconnected from the mains.  APC for example have a compensation scheme which wouldn't be required if this wasn't possible. Note: It's interesting that APC only offer this protection policy on 120V products, for those of us using 220/240V supplies the risk is obviously deemed to be too great to cover. The fine print:

If your electronic equipment is damaged by power line transients on an AC power line (120 volt) while directly and properly connected to a standard APC 120 volt product covered by the Equipment Protection Policy (EPP), you can file a claim with APC for compensation of your damages. Coverage of damages is determined by the limits of the EPP.

TT seems to be related to the Sensitivity Level: High, Medium or Low.  And the Sensitivity Levels can be altered by how you configure the UPS, for example on many UPS's you can adjust at what upper and lower input voltages it should transfer to/from battery. On 120V UPS's this range is typically 127-136 at the upper end, and 97-106 at the lower end.  In High Sensitivity mode the TT is something like 2 milliseconds and if set Low around 10 milliseconds.  Switching to/from battery frequently is bad for battery life, as is protracted running from the battery on a Line Interactive UPS.  So the compromise is between High Sensitivity with possibly frequent but low TT, and Low Sensitivity with less frequent but longer TT.

Theoretically during the TT there is no power going to the connected equipment, so long TT's may be a problem for some equipment, also if transfers are frequent equipment may see a pulsed power supply.

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Latest HP exiting outrage may be delayed

HP won’t leave their customers hanging, and although going through a migration may not be on the horizon, it appears that support will be around for many years to come. In many ways you can look at it as job security, because that operating system talent you have supports a vital niche market.

ConnectlogoThat message was delivered from the CEO of the Connect User Group, Kristi Elizondo. She wasn't talking about MPE or the HP 3000, but you could be forgiven if you'd seen that sentiment from early in 2002, from another user group. Elizondo -- many more in the HP community know her as Kristi Browder -- has advocated for DEC systems and VMS users for much of her career. She was making her case that although HP won't extend the lifespan of VMS to what's probably the last generation of Itanium, things don't look that bad.

In fact, some users came together at last month's HP Discover conference in a Special Interest Group devoted to OpenVMS. There was no rancor or outrage at the meeting, by her blog report. The customers were in the room to learn something. Elizondo said that for the last 30 years she'd selected and promoted VMS "because I can sleep at night" knowing it's at work. Those OpenVMS customers were searching for hope that their nights wouldn't become sleepless on the way to 2020.

"Anything past 2012 is a bonus," read her post on the user group website. Some customers who may feel differently were not in that HP Discover room. So hers is a conciliatory approach to getting HP's assistance after its latest platform exit. Anyone back home who expected a leader with deep OpenVMS roots to challenge an HP business decision was observing the new user group mantra: getting along means going along, and everything goes away anyway.

Which sort of makes you wonder about the concept of a vendor-focused user group. Chuck Piercey, the executive director of Interex, asked the same question in 1998. If the IT world accepts that everything gets replaced, what's the point of coming together? If it's all paved over in favor of industry standard choices, what's the career benefit of being in a group?

Vendors used to listen to customers as a group. Now they'll listen as long as the customers aren't outraged and want to find a new way to get a good night's rest. While they don't disturb the vendor's business plans.

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How 8 Years of Web Reports Changed Lives

8birthdaycakeThis week the Newswire celebrates the 8-year-mark on our blog reporting. Starting with a eulogy for fallen 3000 savant Bruce Toback -- taken too early, by a heart attack -- we wrote about the nascent and uncertain era of transition in June of 2005. The Interex HP conference was still a possibility, HP was still creating some patches for MPE/iX -- many things that had gone on for years continued to roll along.

IMAGE jumbo datasets were supposed to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP was fixing a critical bug in LFDS and needed beta testers, something that was harder to come by for HP. LargeFiles remain less robust than jumbos for most customers. LFDS repairs consumed precious resoures in the database lab, all while HP tried to fix a data corruption problem.

HP sold off more than 400 acres in South Texas as layoffs started to mount up. CEO Mark Hurd set aside $236 million in severance pay. Sun offered up a open source program for Solaris, begging the question about when open source practices could be applied to MPE/iX. This week OpenVMS managers examined what stood in the way of VMS becoming open source. 

Even though parts of MPE/iX are well outside of HP's labs, the whole wooly bunch of source, millions of lines, isn't a candidate for open source like the Sun project. But it might be, someday. 

We looked at whether a transition era demanded the same rigorous HP testing of beta enhancements and patches. "We heard HP say they'd be satisfied with one site's beta test report, a comment offered when HP engineers discussed the lack of beta-test sites last summer at HP World." we reported. "When the labs closed in 2008, software that languished in Patch Jail was bailed out. HP was seeking beta testers "who want to try out the new networked printing enhancements for the HP 3000."

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The Last 5 Percent, and Toughest Surprises

HomeguidesFor more than 10 weeks now, the offices and headquarters of the 3000 Newswire have been under siege. We're doing battle with a project, the largest one that Abby and I have ever faced together -- since launching the Newswire, at least. We're re-engineering our home with a whole-house remodel. This afternoon, our general contractor said "Well, you're basically rebuilding your home, except for two rooms."

It started more simply, of course. A little patch of the house, which serves as a yoga studio and writing classroom, had its older wood floor ruined in a flooding rain nearly two years ago. The rot crept in and so it became time to replace it. This might be the kind of "it's broken" event that triggered a migration or two -- back in the days when living in the comfy house of MPE built by HP was still an option. When Hewlett-Packard tossed its pail of water onto the floor of your community, the vendor started off its campaign with success stories about transitions.

Sadly, these were as disingenuous as the ones HP offered to VMS customers this week. At the same time it was tolling the bell for its VMS business, HP's added that OpenVMS is great enough to power Accuweather and the Singapore Stock Exchange. Except the vendor doesn't want Accuweather to run on OpenVMS more than seven years longer -- because the OS support is not scheduled to survive beyond 2020, according to HP's decree. Perhaps just long enough to collect support money for another seven years. After one VMS user noted that Accuweather was an old story placed in odd context, said Neil Rieck,

Yes, that Accuweather blurb in the middle of the announcement was very much like a corporate version of the Jedi-hand-wave ("These are not the droids you are looking for.") In HP's case "we have no intentions of spending another cent on OpenVMS, but continue feeling good while running a has-been OS." What I'd be more interested in finding out is how the Singaporean stock exchange --- which only a few months ago moved to VMS --- is feeling right now.

We heard similar stories in 2002 about the likes of Ceridian and even Summit Technologies' Spectrum credit union software. Neither company was on the timeline of the 3000 community, but yes, they had done migrations. One company started six years before HP's announcement, and the other began more than two years earlier and then didn't finish for another three years. Meanwhile, 3000 server sales continued apace. People bought new HP 3000s even after HP's announcement, because their floors of IT with antique servers were rotted. They wanted to stop at that level of their project, however.

So here at Newswire Headquarters we're weathering the last five percent of a project that will require more than three months of displacement, losses and unexpected expense. Unlike the efforts that migrators are making, all we're doing is working to keep open three businesses' offices -- the Newswire and our Something Elses, Heartfelt Yoga and the Writer's Workshop. The project was something that we asked for, which makes it easier to bear than any migration that might have been needed, but was never desired. As anyone who's done a migration or a Y2K project will concur, that last 5 percent of something large takes four times as much energy. You're worn down after weeks, or months, or even years. 

Our salvation -- and perhaps yours and one for the VMS faithful -- is to act in phases.

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Newest HP song of server exits same as old

Now that there's another homesteading-migration movement afoot in the HP enterprise community, it's worth studying. What's different about the shutdown of the OpenVMS operations at Hewlett-Packard, versus the tale of the last decade from the 3000? Many moments and passions are similar. Slides not even six months old like the one below foretold of nothing but clear sailing. But with HP's 11 years of extra embrace for VMS, beyond the 3000 sayonara, things may be kinder for the VMS acolytes, those whose faith HP praised in an exit letter.

OnlyABladeAwayforVMSWithin a day of posting the letter, the VMS community was trying to organize an effort to get the operating system source code from HP, re-licensed as open source. Perhaps they didn't take much heed of the 7-year quest by OpenMPE to win the rights to MPE/iX. First there was a set of legal proposals, followed by the logical proposals that the OS couldn't be worth anything to an HP which was casting it aside. I'm talking here about both the 3000 community, as well as those wounded in the world of OpenVMS.

"Is there no one who can free VMS from HP?" asked one member on the comp.os.vms newsgroup. Another member replied with an update from the group devoted to Rdb, the Digital database as vital to VMS as IMAGE is to MPE. He wanted to deal with Digital people in place before a controversial CEO served up the first sale, to Compaq, before HP.

Up on the Rdb list, Keith Parris raised the possibility of HP open-sourcing VMS.  While I would prefer VMS to come from DEC before [former CEO Robert] Palmer, that is no longer an option.  If done correctly, an open-source VMS might be better than no VMS.  Perhaps HP should pay a peanuts-scale salary of, say, $150,000 so that someone can coordinate this full time. 

Unless a revolt has pulled down the walls of HP's IP legal group, such license freedom sought by customers won't be forthcoming. HP got badgered into releasing MPE/iX source to a select group of licensees, who cannot improve upon the 7.5 release but use their code to create workarounds and patches. However, the VMS people do have the advantage of a thriving emulator company for any Digital VMS implementations which run on older, non-Itanium servers. The tech issues have been long-solved for Charon for VMS, but there are licensing issues that the Digital user will need to manage for themselves.

Here's where the HP 3000 community is a decade ahead of the drop-kicked Digital group. Stromasys reports that licensing hasn't been an issue in getting Charon HPA/3000 up and running in the early days of sales. HP's provided the MPE/iX license, and that just leaves the third party software.

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HP tolls bell for penultimate enterprise OS

AxeandblockIt took more than 11 extra years, but HP is finally swinging the axe on OpenVMS, the next to last HP-crafted OS for business. Customers in the DEC world got a pass for their OS onto the Itanium architecture in 2001, a route that HP blocked as it started to end its MPE business. But the OpenVMS customer base will die the death at HP from dozens of cuts, beginning with an end of Integrity i2 server sales for the OS at the close of 2015.

Server upgrades for the OS will end one year later, if HP keeps to its plan. The strategy was announced in a letter that began

For over 35 years, the HP OpenVMS operating environment has served as a mission-critical platform upon which you have built your IT infrastructure. We deeply appreciate our long partnership and also the loyalty you have shown HP during this time.

OpenVMS roadmap June 2013In WW II these were called Dear John letters, received at the front from a back-home sweetheart who was stepping out of a relationship. HP couched its news in the cloak of a "Mission-critical Roadmap Update," (click for detail) and the vendor used phrases like "at least" in front of dates for ending server sales. But an 8.5 version of OpenVMS is not on HP's map, just like an MPE/iX 8.0 evaporated from Hewlett-Packard futures slides in 2001. The equivalent of OpenVMS 8.5 would be needed to support the Poulson class of Itanium chips, processors HP will use in its newest Integrity i4 boxes.

For the most loyal and patient OpenVMS customers -- who view migrating their proprietary systems as kindly as 3000 folk did -- HP will continue supporting Integrity i2 server hardware through the end of 2020. That year aligns with the one picked by HP's expert witness when calculating how long Itanium would be an HP revenue generator. HP learned something from the 3000 market while ending a business line. OpenVMS users will get more than six years of continued HP support -- longer than the five that HP first imagined when it curtailed its MPE business.

The move leaves just one HP-created general purpose OS running on Itanium boxes, HP-UX. (NonStop, from Tandem in an acquisition, is aimed at a much narrower purpose.) Like HP's Unix, OpenVMS servers come from the embattled Business Critical Systems group, where the HP 3000 lived out its remaining HP days. HP promised more remaining sales cycles for VMS servers than the 3000 servers got, but only by a few months. VMS on Integrity will serve out "at least" a remaining 30 months on HP price lists; the 3000 got 24 extra monthly reports.

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How shooting off Moonshot can hit your IT

Moonshot-125x94Some HP 3000 customers are making a migration from a small installation. But for others, their systems are as big as MPE will let them become -- and those sites need even greater computing power. Power is a crucial element in the HP Moonshot server, whose 1500 chassis is a hot topic at this week's HP Discover conference.

HP is making the technology behind smartphones -- one IT manager calls those toys -- shoulder the load of serving up massive websites, or perform financial analysis. Any application with a growing base of users and the need for horsepower that will scale, independent of power needs, might be a good fit for Moonshot. Or as HP calls the product on the server's website, the HP ProLiant Moonshot Server. Look a little harder at this server and you'll see an x86 architecture that's driven by Intel's Atom processors. Atom has a life inside mobile devices like Lenovo and Motorola Android phones.

ShootmoonNot exactly the top tier of phone makers. Apple makes its own A6x. Many other phone makers use ARM chips. In a way, the Atom processor in the Moonshot is a repurposing of the CPU. Atom was built to burn less than 10 watts of power at a peak. HP says the Moonshot chews up 89 percent less energy than the same compute power driven by Intel's Xeon family, or the Intel Itanium. You know, the traditional servers.

HP's not aiming Moonshot at small to medium businesses. When its website says "Shop for Moonshot" you don't go to a Build To Order menu like you can for other ProLiant servers. "Find a reseller," it says underneath. 

HP started building the Moonshot line in its labs four years ago. That was an era when R&D got no love at HP, but Moonshot stayed on target anyway. This was HP's entry into ultra-dense computing. For many customers relying on MPE, that's just a buzzword. But ultra-dense computers address a common 3000 need: reduced use of energy, in a small footprint, and cheaper than tradition. You have to go back to the 3000's Mighty Mouse Series 37, or the Series 918 PA-RISC server, to find something comparable in impact.

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Find invention at Discover's web, or garages

RulesGarageThe 3000 community recently took note of the MPE departures from HP's ranks. The revelation about what else everybody's doing elsewhere has triggered chatter about HP's ability to invent. This subject can be important to the migrating sites that are sticking with HP's platforms, whether those systems run HP's Unix, Linux, or Windows. Customer Delight can result from inventions, so the matter of whether HP invents anymore can be a part of an evaluation.

To nobody's surprise, the chatter judged HP harshly on its invention score since dropping the 3000 as well as those MPE experts. But HP's Jim Hawkins, one of the select employees still holding MPE skills in his toolbelt, came to his employer's defense. If you'd like to see HP's most recent inventions, he said, going to next week's HP Discover conference would be a good start.

Few 3000 migrators are going to Discover, however. HP recognizes that the majority of its customers can't swing a trip to Vegas and an $1,800 entry fee. So Hewlett-Packard, a company which for a time had the word "invent" bolted onto its logo, will put selected Discover talks on the Web starting June 11. Whether you'll consider those presentations inventive depends on a customer's definition.

"My understanding is that CNBC will be broadcasting live from the [Discover] floor, Hawkins offered up on 3000-L. "If you want to learn what HP is really up to, there's a good place." The engineer whose expertise lies in MPE's IO added that he'd been to a "poster fair" at Hewlett-Packard recently, a gathering of IT inventors who presented their HP Labs concepts for things like network innovation.

If only the customers who've been in IT for decades were an easier crowd to convince. They remember an HP that prized inventing which flowed from the Spirit of the Garage. Plenty of things look like iterations of concepts, rather than inventions. Even Apple and Android-ians are facing that comparison next week. To seek out garage inventing you need to go farther online than vendor websites and conferences, whether Apple's or HP's.

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Stromasys opens HP's way to Charon gates

Print-ExclusiveThe maker of the emulator solution for the HP 3000 community demonstrated the natural resting state for MPE applications during its recent training and brewhouse social. Dedicated community veterans, as well as some customers looking for a way to extend those applications, took note of a new alliance. HP's got the 3000 version of Charon on board.

Worldwide ResellerStromasys also announced it’s just been named a Gartner Group Cool Server Vendor for 2013, the freshest part of the news, plans and futures the company unspooled in its first North American Training and Social event for 3000 customers and allies. The room of the Computer History Museum on May 10 was full for the day-long briefing on company strategy, as well as Paul Taffel's extensive demonstration of the HPA/3000 model of Charon in action.

Stromasys is one of only seven vendors who’ve made the server technology cool list, just published by Gartner. The company showed off a product lineup that includes a pair of implementations that are designed to out-perform some N-Class HP 3000 hardware. General Manager Bill Driest said he’s seen his company's software run on a cutting edge HP DL380 server with a 4.4Ghz processor installed, a pre-release from Intel.

But the power promises may extend beyond hopes of matching high-end N-Class performance. HP's taken on the software as a potential solution for its customers. Stromasys hopes the 3000's will share the view that hardware is only a waystation to a virtualized platform.

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Touting Meg, HP says Discover's not too late

MegLaughingAn email in today's in-box reminds me that "It's not too late to attend HP Discover." The 2013 edition of the HP conference, wrapped around all things Hewlett-Packard for enterprise, cloud and mobile computing, plays out next week, June 11-13 in Las Vegas.

HP's email promises a chance for direct interaction with its CEO Meg Whitman:

Engage directly with Meg Whitman and top HP executives to see how HP innovations shape the IT industry and help IT leaders like you succeed. Talk one-to-one with HP industry leaders via the HP Meeting Center and Partner Meeting Center. Book a tailored discussion of  your choice.

Converged Cloud, Information Optimization, Mobility Security and Risk Management, plus Business and Technical sessions are HP's main tent poles at the show. Signing an NDA gets you "the chance for a sneak-peek at what's next from HP during our extremely informative confidential disclosure sessions."

In one public session, HP will tell us how a full one-eighth of its website operation is being run from its latest servers.

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Hardware Cherished, Hardware Valued

HP's 3000 hardware has been taking a free fall in market value for several years by now, a slide that's drawn even the biggest of servers into the low five-figures of price. This is the way of the world for every computer ever built. But it happens more slowly to the computers which are cherished, instead of just used.

CherishA few messages out on the 3000 newsgroup highlighted that fact of our life in 2013. Tom Lang was forced to sell his Series 918RX, because he doesn't have room to use it in his new working space. He announced it was on offer at the end of February. Over "many weeks," as he reported, many enquirers asked lots of questions about the server. In mid-May, he reduced the price of the system to $1,100.

There are a lot of extras in Lang's package. These bonus parts don't show up in a lot of Series 918s. And the system has probably the best feature of all: a valid MPE/iX license. HP doesn't make those any longer, and nobody can emulate that element, either.

However, Lang heard from other 3000 owners and managers that four figures were at least one figure too many to sell a server that HP used as the 1.0 rating benchmark -- back when HP used to rate 3000 performance. For the record, the fastest 3000 ever produced, and sold for well over six figures at the time, ran at 49 times the power of a 918.

In ancient times, HP used a Series 37 Mighty Mouse as its 1.0 rating. The Series 37 did not outlast HP's MPE licensing business, however. Lang was told on the group that two Series 918s went directly to the scrap heap at one UK business. At another site, one manager said the price that seemed reasonable for a server that included a license was $200.

Until HP relents and begins to sell MPE/iX licenses to go with its Reseller Agreement for the Stromasys Charon 3000 emulator, $200 seems pretty low.

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Business Critical System Q2 sales plummet

HPQ Q2Hewlett-Packard announced a $1.1 billion profit on its fiscal Q2 today, but the figures were not buoyed by the HP segment which makes replacement systems for HP 3000 migrators. Business Criticial Systems -- the group where Itanium systems are sold, along with the HP-UX that runs only on that server -- saw its sales drop 37 percent from the Q2 of last year.

The overall news was not as grim from the rest of HP Enterprise Group, the organization where Linux-capable ProLiant servers are sold along with networking gear. Enterprise Group revenue declined 10 percent year over year. Networking revenue was flat, but those Industry Standard Servers' revenue that drives Linux hosts was down 12 percent. Storage sales fell 13 percent and Technology Services revenue was down 3 percent year over year.

HP CEO Meg Whitman decided to shine the spotlight on HP's overall ability to beat the market's estimates for profits. The company posted a total of $27.6 billion in overall sales, which was a drop of 10 percent from 2012. Whitman had to point at the Non-Generally Accepted Accounting Pracitces numbers -- always more favorable -- to claim a win.

"We beat the upper end of our non-GAAP diluted [Earings Per Share] EPS outlook for the quarter by 5 cents per share, driven by better than expected performance in Enterprise Services and Printing, coupled with the accelerated capture of restructuring savings and improvement in our operations," said Whitman.

HP estimated its 2013 earnings to be in the range of $2.50 to $2.60, in line with HP's previously communicated outlook. For 2013, HP is accounting for after-tax costs of approximately $1 per share, "related primarily to the amortization of purchased intangible assets, restructuring charges and acquisition-related charges.

"I am encouraged by our performance in the second quarter, and I feel good about the rest of the year," added Whitman. "As I have said many times before, this is a multi-year journey. We have a long way to go, but we are on track to deliver on our fiscal 2013 non-GAAP diluted earnings per share outlook."

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Six Years of Insight on the Afterlife

HellSix years ago this month I revisited the site where I first heard of the "death of the HP 3000." HP wanted to call its exit from the 3000 community by that phrase in November, 2001. Instead we're thinking about the afterlife this month, in the wake of the North American sales force opening for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. Who needs this? At the Stromasys event, I heard from third party support companies that Hewlett-Packard continues to use MPE/iX applications -- which must be pretty crucial and costly to migrate.

It's a safe to say that the Worldwide Reseller Agreement for the emulator could be a benefit to HP's own operations. Such systems are usually scheduled for migration. But as Stromasys GM Bill Driest said at this month's Training Day, "I'm a quota-carrying salesman, and the phrase we use is "Liars are buyers.' "

In other words, a customer who says they'll migrate has a chance of being on the server longer than they expect. Does that make them liars when they say they'll be off the 3000? Maybe, but more likely it's a matter of timing and degree -- the same things that tamped down my panic when I heard in a phone booth in Lausanne's train station my distraught partner Abby telling me, "HP says the 3000 is going away. They're not going to make it anymore. They need to talk to you, before they announce."

I ponder the afterlife that's emerged because that's where I think my mom is today. We sent her off in a memorial service on Sunday, when three of us eulogized her with imaginations of her dancing in heaven, catching up my dad in the afterlife, or asserting, like I did (at 12:00 in the YouTube video), "They say nothing dies if it lives on in the hearts and minds of those who love it."

The MPE/iX OS, apps and IMAGE are doing more than living in hearts and minds. They live in companies like HP. The ecosystem was supposed to be the death of the 3000, according to the HP speaking in 2001. Instead, it's becoming a place where the customers who need help are getting supported. Even if they need an interim emulator to buy, so applications can remain where they lie.

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Making Headway with a Static OS

Stromasys has been selling its emulator products for more than a decade, and with significant success since HP's Digital group stopped the sale of Alpha and PDP servers. But VMS -- even while it's made a transition to OpenVMS over the years -- is still updated and supported by Hewlett-Packard. MPE/iX does not enjoy this status. There's a bit of irony by now, as it relates to the Stromasys product. You cannot order an MPE/iX server (with hardware and a fresh OS license) from HP any longer. But the Stromasys Charon HPA software is now part of HP's Worldwide Reseller Agreement.

Yes, this new software product that runs on industry-standard Intel hardware qualifies for HP resale status, unlike the server which it emulates. Go figure; nobody wants to be bothered with building hardware anymore.

But the lack of a supported OS as a keystone to a Stromasys emulator -- well, that seems novel. However, at the recent Training Day for the product, GM Bill Driest said selling a product with a vendor-curtailed OS is not all that unique, in his view.

"We don't see this market as fundamentally different from what we've done for a number of years now, to get 5,000 customers in 50 countries," Driest said on May 10 at the Training. "From a sales and marketing perspective, this is our US launch. I have a handful of customers in the US, so we are just embarking on this new market for us, worldwide. There are existing references and customers in Australia, New Zealand."

But from a tactical perspective, he said, those Digital system successes have taken place with an OS that's not available: the apps use versions of VMS that are locked in and not qualified for any extra engineering HP adds to that OS. This is, he believes, essentially the same situation as an MPE/iX market that can go no further than the 7.5 release.

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HP's 3000 virtualization was MOST-ly done

MOSTBalanceNineteen springtimes ago, HP was offering an operating system to run alongside MPE on the same hardware. To say that HP's Multiple Operating System Technology was virtualization might be an overstatement. But the unreleased product gave Unix and MPE equal footing in a single hardware system. MPE was the cradle that Unix would rest in, much like Linux is the cradle where the PA-RISC virtualization rests in the Stromasys Charon product. The only reason it was not released might have been the horsepower demands on the hardware. MOST was not starved off the price list by a lack of HP desire from the 3000 division. But the daring of its engineering was on a battleground between HP's own products.

I worked on external communications for MOST for Hewlett-Packard in the spring of 1995. It was one of the biggest assignments I took on during the months that led up to creating the 3000 NewsWire. The audacity of putting a venerated OS in as a bootstrap system for HP-UX apps led me to believe HP was exploring every prospect to win any customer who was veering toward the market's magnetic pull of Unix.

HP showed off external specifications for MOST to key partners in '95. The product was scheduled to emerge in the fall of that year on Series 9x9 and 99X PA-RISC systems. These were the highest horsepower 3000s in the HP stable. MOST was to begin with two partitions, one for MPE/iX and the other for HP-UX. Or, a customer could run two separate instances of MPE on a single server. MPE was to be the primary partition, controlling the uptime of the hardware.

In one sense, this product wouldn't have been a 3000 -- because half of it would be dedicated to running Unix apps and processes. Independence, a white paper on the product stated, "is especially important, as the co-dependencies between the different OS should be as small as possible."

MOST might have been ahead of its time in hardware requirements, but it reminds me of the virtualization that nearly every operating system enjoys today. The Stromasys Charon lineup, the VMware partitions which run Windows, Linux, and Mac OS all at once -- all of these flow from the concept that drove MOST. Well, there's a major difference. HP didn't release MOST, even after a beta test period and surveys that showed most of the customers saw it as an evolutionary path to heterogenous computing.

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The magic code for licenses HP never sold

The meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum May 10, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than eight years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server.

But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.

Charon HPA product manager Paul Taffel uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC or Mac hardware. It's called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?

In short HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.

The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It made more sense than a jackalope. But the process to earn one of these licenses is not well known yet, which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.

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Who'll Be Social and Train, and Why

Stromasys-NewswireAdWe've been hearing from 3000 community members who are on the way to the Stromasys HP 3000 Social and Training. The official RSVP list is at Stromasys, but we've gotten some notice from people who want to ensure they meet up at the Tied House brewpub -- Thursday evening (tomorrow!) or at the Computer History Museum Friday 10-4.

On the same day I got notice from Doug Smith -- a 3000 consultant and developer and support provider -- that he'll be at the Stromasys event, HP tried again to wrap up the lifespan of Windows XP. The company that gave up on MPE and the HP 3000 might be just as misguided about XP's future as MPE's. It seems so simple to HP.

Let’s face it—reminiscing about old software programs 20 or so years from now won’t bring about nearly half as many warm memories as that 1967 Pontiac Firebird of your youth. 

You could say that updating business software is akin to changing your toothbrush after it’s seen better days. Can you imagine running Windows 98 on your home PC? Then why would you fight tooth and nail, stubbornly looking into a variety of contingency plans and options to hold onto Windows XP?

The why of holding on is obvious. Smaller companies -- and some surprising large ones -- cannot make a good business case for putting their Firebird of a business server up on blocks. The math on an emulator solution, supplied in good stead with support for MPE and indie software tools -- holds up against projects that start in six figures and take at least a year to deploy.

The Tied House and the Computer History Museum will be places to learn why that toothbrush (the HP hardware) might be old, but the fresh toothpaste (MPE) is still worthy of plenty of extra years. Doug Smith thinks so. So does Walter Murray, who developed HP's COBOL products for the 3000 before exiting Hewlett-Packard to manage 3000s for the state of California. Then there's the contract programmers, and more, simply off our heads-up emails.

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HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane

MoonshotRay Lane was brought in to Hewlett-Packard's board to refocus HP on the software marketplace. The company could see that the era of hardware margins was fast declining, and all of the highest hopes were aimed at the non-physical product. The actions to purchase Palm for its WebOS, as well as Autonomy for five times as much as that $2 billion, were the realization of a long-time HP dream.

Back in 1990 I rode a tour boat into San Francisco harbor. As a reporter for The Chronicle, I was being hosted for the HP CIMinar, where the CIM stood for Computer Integrated Manfacturing. Hewlett-Packard had a press liasion, Charlie Preston, who told me that the company pined for a day when it would manufacture little to nothing.

"It's all in software and services, Ron," he said. The boat was having a hardware failure at the time, a total loss of power within sight of the famous San Francisco Embarcadero Pier. While we bobbed and they kept filling our glasses, Charlie explained that the real power of computing was in services, aided by software. "In 10 years we don't want to be manufacturing much, including computers," he said.

One extra decade later, HP seems to be taking steps away from a virtual computer resource. Last week's exit of board director Ray Lane from the HP Chairman's seat seems proof enough that software has had its bumpy road of acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard didn't get its cart in the ditch without some risk-taking leadership. Lane arrived after years of Oracle work, savvy and a kingmaker. He remains on the HP board, but new leadership will be launching about the same time as the newest of HP hardware, the Moonshot servers.

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