News Outta HP

A 3000 plucked barren of IMAGE never flew

"Options offering a lower-priced version of the Series 920 server, without database software, are available on the July HP price list."

With those words, HP went to war on the wings of a bundled database. IMAGE was not only the heart of the 3000's value. IMAGE had become the rocket fuel of the 3000, a constant in a formula that produced better transaction values than anything offered by Hewlett-Packard. Or elsewhere in the industry.

PluckedBut HP didn't know how to sell it. You can read as much at, where a July Channels newsletter about the "confusion" over 3000 pricing was being cleared up. Sort of. "Our objective is to price the HP 3000 systems at a price/performance advantage for transaction processing over our HP 9000 family." Fair enough. But then "We anticipate that much of the confusion regarding price/performance may have been caused by the higher prices of the HP 3000 version of a PA-RISC processor."

Except there was no such version. The same chip was used in both 3000 and 9000 server. HP had just locked the 3000's software to the higher prices. There was a version of prices that was higher, to be sure. So HP looked around for what it could clip from the 3000 value. It tried IMAGE for a month or so, until its partners and customers revolted in public, in the lap of the industry press.

Unbundling databases became the norm for the classic business computing vendors, even through the HP 250 Business minicomputer included a version of IMAGE when HP brought it out in 1979. A good thing, too, for current business computer users who are planning or deploying a move away from the 3000. The HP 250 gave wings to Michael Marxmeier and his Eloquence database, starting in 1987. It's the only drop-in replacement for the 3000's IMAGE, using its TurboIMAGE compatibility mode. Eloquence is also getting a turbocharged full-text search ability this summer. The open beta test program for 8.20 just started; full release is in July.

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HP runs ahead and behind, then and now

The iconic entity called Interex emerged this month 28 years ago. HP had announced it would catch up to 32-bit computing with Spectrum. And the vendor whose sales still didn't exceed $7 billion said in 1984 that touchscreens were the most intuitive interface. Being ahead and behind all at once is a sign that you're still developing, making leadership while you catch up your customers

RandomAccessInteract84Hewlett-Packard used the 1980s in your community to push out new ideas. Touch-based personal computing hit the market in the HP 150, one of the Series 100 PCs that transformed the International Association of Hewlett-Packard Computer Users. Before HP cast its seeds of PC innovation, Interex didn't exist. In a May column from executive director Bill Crow in InterACT magazine, the user group renamed itself "to define the association's independence" from HP.

Although that user group has been in the grave more than six years, its members' insights haven't evaporated. An era of ink on paper (click above for detail) has preserved milestones like HP running more than 25 years ahead of the industry with touchscreens. It's easy to forget your community was reaching for a breakthrough office experience even while it was dragging along chips devised a decade earlier.

Ed McCracken, a GM of HP's Business Development Group, announced in early '84 the seven basic principles guiding HP's "office automation strategy:

1. The workstation is the most important component, followed by the distributed data processing system (DDS)
2. All workstations will be personal computers
3. The touchscreen is the most intuitive interface
4. Workstations will not tie directly to mainframes but to an intermediate DDS
5. A pragmatic approach to open architecture is required
6. High quality is essential
7. There must be an intuitive integration linking managers' workstations, secretarial workstations, and the other components of the system.

Number 3 is the most striking of the guides offered by McCracken, the man who drove the genius of bundling the rising DDS of the 3000 with a crack database. But in '84 HP was already considering IMAGE a database that needed a successor. The vendor was following in IBM's wake, right down to a new partnership with a small company built by an IBM ex-pat. Interex also recognized that Alfredo Rego -- "the man behind Adager" -- was on par HP's CEO, John Young. Both gave 1984 user conference speeches, but Rego recognized that IMAGE was to remain the force behind the 3000's success.

It wasn't going to come through a new processor family -- although the Spectrum project's 32 bits were critically overdue. Like today, software mattered more than hardware like Itanium. Oracle's database, built upon the same IBM roots, will determine the fate of the last remaining OS that HP ever built with its own R&D. Databases are lynchpins.

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Rising Sun, setting Unix: HP's next migration unfolds in secret slides, emails

TopSecretEver wonder what the demise of the 3000 inside HP looked like? The event that reshaped all of our careers surfaced suddenly for some. For other community members, the vendor's departure was inevitable, given the indicators they followed. The week the US courts lifted the inevitable veil off HP-UX. Hewlett-Packard used its business acumen to decide the lifespan of its 3000 business. Now we can see what that kind of review looked like, thanks to Oracle and a fired HP CEO.

ItaniumPropupPOThere is little explanation for how Oracle knew which secret emails and slides to uncover but one -- Mark Hurd and his leave-behinds at HP had these maps in hand. They knew exactly what to request in the discovery phase. It's unprecendented, to my eye. I saw an HP purchase order for $22 million per quarter paid to one vendor. If you wonder what something like an $88 million annual PO looks like, click on the graphic above. HP was spending like this for years, all to ensure that Intel would keep developing and creating Itanium processors. It wasn't spending anything to migrate HP-UX to a non-Itanium, commodity chip. Before long, these Unix customers -- plus ones using VMS, NonStop and more -- will do that migration instead. Linux on Intel. I can't even guess what NonStop or VMS will do.

These are the heart of HP's remaining proprietary computing environments. NonStop, OpenVMS and HP-UX use Itanium as crucially as a liver in a human body. Pull out Itanium from HP's futures and you have no more reason for any customer to leave their apps on these operating systems. Because the OSs don't run anywhere else. HP knew this and talked about it, both in its internal meetings as well as high tension negotiations with Intel. It's just that HP was saying something very different to the public. So was Intel. Anybody who believes Intel has other ideas about Itanium futures needs to read a few of the released emails.

If you don't have time for that, just scan the PowerPoint slides. There's a stunning one below from 2007, mapping steep declines to zero for the Itanium computers. (Click it for details.) You can look at the "Blackbird" proposal from an exhibit, too -- the one where HP sized up the pros and cons of buying Sun. (View the Blackbird)


A reporter from All Things D, the tech website run by the conservative Wall Street Journal, posted these emails and slides that were once secret, but now released by the court hearing lawsuits. Arik Hesseldal's article is must-reading for anyone who needs to plan an IT architecture or report on futures to CEOs or VPs of Finance. Hesseldal sums up HP's own view of the future of the company's only single-vendor 3000 migration target.

Key phrase: HP-UX, its version of Unix developed specifically for Itanium servers, “is on a death march” because of Itanium’s inevitable demise.

Why care, if you're already migrated off the 3000? It's as simple as an ostrich. If you've put your company's money on the HP-UX platform -- and think it's got a good run left in it -- you're hiding in the sand. It pains me to have to acknowledge anything that Larry Ellison's Oracle asserts. But there's no other reason to believe this won't work out the same as the 3000's evaporation off HP PowerPoints, strategy statements or price lists. The end is more than near. It's nearly here.

Update: HP's also dropped its own stink-bomb of documents, later in the same day, several emails plus pages of text message transcriptions between Oracle salesmen and execs. Most notable: an email from Lorraine Bartlett last March, just days before Oracle's pullout from Itanium. Bartlett, VP of Marketing for the HP-UX host Business Critical Systems, is effusive in praising her company's message about HP-UX futures. HP's "Kinetic" strategy, shared with analysts in March that was "a big hit, and really resonated," included messages about "HP-UX unbound" and a common socket design that Intel was announcing to give Itanium chips the same underwear as Xeon chips. The texts between Oracle sales people and managers have a college frat-boy tone to them -- but seem to be in HP's bomb only to show that Oracle knew the HP-UX competitor Solaris was "a pig with lipstick." (Warning, salty language there.)

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Emails show HP studied Itanium's end in '07

DeadEndOracle released a thick sheaf of HP emails this week to prove HP-UX has a dim future. Oracle sells an alternative to HP's Unix, Solaris, a campaign led by former HP CEO Mark Hurd. There's juicy goo in these pages that shows how a loyal customer base using an HP product gets treated during that product's downturn.

In Oracle's campaign to convince customers that HP's been managing an Itanium demise for years, lawsuit emails are the ammo. The two companies are at legal war by now, dueling lawsuits that will go to trial later this year. HP wants a database for its Itanium server customers. Oracle wants to quit maintaining development for the Integrity machines. Being ever-eager to do battle, Oracle released documents for the public to "use in deciding who's right about Itanium's future." You can look over the originals online. The emails are from HP executives and are part of the lawsuit evidence.

Over and over, in emails between the GM of Business Critical Systems Martin Fink and others at the top of HP's computing food chain, the messages show that Itanium -- and the future of HP's Unix -- has long had an inevitable end. One that HP has seen clearly and communicated less so. HP has been pressing Intel to continue with Itanium development for almost five years by now. While Hewlett-Packard hasn't been planning the end of HP-UX, the end of Itanium amounts to nearly the same thing -- because HP's Unix won't ever be ported to the Xeon/x86 Intel processors.

The flood of HP's email from Oracle offers a look into HP's corporate plan to hang onto enterprise customers who use a proprietary HP enterprise platform. It's a situation similar to the one HP 3000 users faced in 2001, when Hewlett-Packard made an internal decision to stop developments on MPE/iX and to shift onto the Itanium hardware. HP held all the cards in that decision: OS, PA-RISC chip design and manufacture, even the database. This Email-Gate, however, shows how relying on Intel and Oracle for the Unix chip and database left HP with a "binodal" choice, according to a 2007 company email to HP's Executive Council. At that time HP was a strong supporter of converting your HP 3000 to a Unix system.

Binodal, for anyone not familiar with thermodynamics, is "the boundary between the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for the system to be fully mixed, and the set of conditions in which it is thermodynamically favorable for it to phase separate." HP had a point in '07 where Intel told the vendor that carrying Itanium further required core redesign. Costly, in the set of conditions to rebuild. Or Intel could crash-land the processor family, and move away from the wreckage.

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Smiles, but less joking at 2012's HP Discover

WhitmanDiscover SherylCrowHP's announced its executive keynote lineup for the June HP Discover 2012 show, the biggest HP-centric conference for the year. At the last HP Discover the company was still debating with Oracle over the future of the database on HP servers, but it stood on the verge of a splash into the tablet marketplace. That was just two months before the TouchPad belly-flop and one quarter in front of the ouster of a second CEO in as many years.

Current CEO Meg Whitman will speak on Making Technology Work for You, "focusing on the challenges that enterprises face today, and the breadth and depth of HP solutions that help them to address those challenges." The conference runs June 4-7 in its usual location on the Las Vegas strip, this time at the Venetian Hotel and Sands Convention Center. A SWSMYT code at registration earns a $300 discount.

Like last year, another Discover keynoter has a strong entertainment platform. DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will be onstage with Whitman and later hosts an exclusive preview of DreamWorks' Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Less obvious comedy won't be on the stage this year, after Jake Johannsen opened for CEO Leo Apotheker in 2011. One ironic Johannsen joke that's not likely to be recycled: "As a comic, it seems to me there'd be a joke I could make about HP's last CEO... but there's not."

Whitman might not see the humor in such a barb, but the commentary on HP's show -- produced with the aid of the Connect user group -- may run just as unfettered. Last year the vendor hosted a raft of bloggers in a new program to earn more notice for the conference. Geekzone made the conference a feature on its tech blog, and the longest keynote of that show was an HP Cloud marathon full of boardroom-level buzzwords for IT planners. HP's putting the buzz on after-hours with a closing show a bit less legendary than last year's Sir Paul McCartney concert. The closing celebration sponsored by Intel starts with Sheryl Crow and finishes with the founder of the Eagles, Don Henley.

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HP's 3000 managers, generally, find futures beyond the designs of Hewlett-Packard

Prather cease to beI had an afternoon this week that felt like a ride in a time machine. I was turning the pages of a glossy user group magazine, devoted to HP server products. The HP 3000 was even mentioned in its opening pages. And there on an introductory page, right after an HP print ad, was an HP general manager who was bidding his customers farewell, moving out of a division.

But I only had to blink to notice the differences. The magazine was The Connection, 36 pages plus its covers devoted to the world of NonStop servers, the ones you might know as Tandems. The print ad was not devoted to HP iron, but to time software for the NonStop's OS. And that general manager, you may have guessed, was Winston Prather, saying farewell to another of his server customer bases.

Six men have been general managers of HP's 3000 business since the middle 1980s, but Prather is the only one who's remained at HP. Some of the rest have retired to private practices (Rich Sevcik, now an ardent evangelist in the classic sense of that word; Harry Sterling, enjoying a life in real estate) or have simply left HP for the next chapter of their business lives. Dave Wilde, the last fellow to hold the job, even was welcomed at last fall's HP 3000 Reunion. That was a conference which another of the ex-GMs expressed an interest in and best wishes toward: Glenn Osaka left HP before Prather even took his job, and is now working at Juniper Networks.

Networks hold the next opportunity for Prather, an executive best known for the "it was my decision" to end the 3000's futures at HP. This time he's left the NonStop group in the hands of an engineer who's tackling his first GM job at HP. That's the exact position Prather assumed in 1999 -- before he and others at the vendor gave your storied server the paddling it never deserved.

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HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

Even though HP this week announced its Insight Online enhancement for enterprise support, the changes won't be of help to 3000 owners. The remote management technology, designed to improve response times, is another example of new support products HP won't deliver to the MPE sites it's retained over the eight years since the server's sales ended.

After a full year of absence from the HP 3000 community, the support arm of Hewlett-Packard has been disappearing from customer choices for 3000 maintenance. Hardware is the only public offer that the company pushes on its old clients, according to reports from the field. But HP hasn’t retracted its reach entirely for the insurance-only support dollars backed by a declining set of resources.

“Most people have aligned themselves with an independent provider at this point,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. His shop that’s completely devoted to supporting MPE/iX and HP 3000 systems runs across straggler accounts when customers say they’re in the last 18 months of a migration and therefore stick with HP. But it’s a rare encounter by now, at least in public.

“It’s not as much as it had been,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. “In this new year I had two customers come to me that they never received a message from HP on support renewal — for the first time ever. In other cases I’ve continued to see HP.”

The departure of HP support options still comes as news to a few customers. Last month a manager running 3000s at fuel-pump manufacturer Gilbarco queried the 3000 newsgroup for an update. "Our HP 3000 maintenance contract is up for renewal on June 30th, but HP have told us that they will not be renewing the contract," he said. "Is this commonplace across the globe?"

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3000 community awaits business simulation

Owners and suppliers of HP 3000 systems were counting down today to the rollout of the Hewlett-Packard Business Simulator, the first application designed to turn server clocks back to pre-Y2K settings to normalize enterprise operations. The software-hardware combination, scheduled to roll out in 2007, makes its debut this year, triggered when the vendor's Legacy Calendars Division corrected a five-year timing error in embedded HP 3000 history chips.

CEO Meg Whitman, corrected last month on the age of the company by shareholders old enough to know better, said her executive staff deployed the Day Runner app technology in WebOS to learn that the long-awaited simulator was just as overdue as the 70th anniversary of the company.

"We never meant to fall this far behind on the HP-BS app," Whitman said in a brief statement at the end of March. "We were timing it to coincide with our 70th birthday, which turns out to have been a few years ago." Whitman said the New-News architecture of the chips was thrown off by the four-year delay in retiring HP's 3000 operations, which were scheduled to expire just before HP's actual 70th anniversary. Division R&D manager Oltston Rather said that when the 3000 ops continued to operate, the BS app remained in streaming mode.

The simulator is designed to recreate business opportunities that existed when Hewlett-Packard was selling four vendor-designed enterprise environments, including MPE/iX. The Y2K date was chosen to match the last period when HP stock was trading high enough to split, while new 3000 sales still boosted the company's top as well as bottom lines.

Rather said that instead of installing the BS app in datacenters, customers will recreate the Y2K conditions in the HP Cloud. A new HP Cloud Discovery Workshop demystifies and simplifies this complex world by using human-sized displays which lay out strategies to utilize this new computing environment.

"It's a pie in the sky condition we're generating," Rather said. "Customers would prefer to work in a time when our business and financial success was more in line with our innovative R&D. As profit-sharing employees, so would we."

Ordering a Hamburger, HP-Style

BurgerThis Friday might be a day of heavy lifting for your IT department, with it being the final week of March as well as the end of the first quarter. Even though that HP 3000 will be running reports, it's good to have some oversight ready. You might be eating lunch at your desk -- or supper, if anything needs attention. Maybe something as simple as a hamburger.

But a classic style to HP hamburger ordering -- one that might be as old as the eldest 3000 in your shop -- could leave you dizzy. Not long ago, your community shared this gem. One manager said "I remember telling my HP Sales rep that you needed a PhD to read the configuration manual. The sales rep took the manual from my hand to explain to me how wrong I was. After a 30-minute tutorial, the rep decided it was best if he could call me from his office with the answer."

On a day when you might need a smile from satire, the Hamburger Guide follows after the jump. As the late, great Warren Zevon advised, "Enjoy every sandwich."

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Unix futures take Odyssey to good enough

Customers who are being wooed toward Unix from the HP 3000 have some good right-now reasons to choose HP-UX. The power of virtualization and ability to exploit an OS+hardware solution make the HP Unix an enterprise-grade choice -- one of the reasons that HP and its partners work to sell AS/400 and IBM mainframe sites on this switch. If just as with the HP 3000, you have an integrated value in the IT center, software built for specialized hardware like Itanium makes sense today.

The future might not be great, but good enough. HP's Odyssey project wants to bring "hardened" features to Linux, an OS more 3000 sites are now choosing when they move. Europ Assistance is the latest 3000 site we've learned about that's adopting Linux. HP doesn't want to be left out of the Linux currents. While there's a clear five-year future of HP-UX, the years beyond that are less defined. Since companies like Europ Assistance are going to take multiple years to make a migration, few of them want a future shorter than a decade.

Even the friends of HP's enterprise strategies see HP's Unix as an early casualty of the Odyssey. Dr. Bill Highleyman edits the High Availability Journal and judged the prospects of Odyssey success.

If Project Odyssey is wildly successful, it may drive a huge competitive advantage for HP. However, if HP customers embrace the move to highly reliable standard operating systems, HP-UX may be the first to go, since migrating Unix applications to Linux is a reasonable task.

It's commonplace to find HP-UX administrators on the LinkedIn forums who see Linux as their natural evolution path. But those companies are already enjoying the value of Unix, instead of paying for the move. It takes unusual features in an OS to protect it from this kind of wild success -- and as HP 3000 customers know, even a tech solution that is great can be overrun by good enough.

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How old is HP, anyway? Now its CEO knows

Whitman-2012Computerworld is reporting this morning on another element in HP's annual shareholder meeting. Yesterday the company announced its Global Sales group is now part of an uber-unit including enterprise servers. Oh, and PCs and printers now come from the same group. But the gathering of officers and investors, some less institutional and older than its CEO, included a history lesson. The newest CEO apparently didn't know the age of HP.

Meg Whitman, who's been on the HP board even longer than her seven-month tenure as CEO, has been telling the world HP celebrates its 70th birthday in 2014. HP's one of the few Silicon Valley companies that old, she brags. Except that birthday already arrived almost three years ago. In 2014, HP will be 75, "according to the company's website," Computerworld said in its story. Of the "70 in 2014," it said

It's a line Whitman's been using for the past few months as she tries to drum up enthusiasm for the new, reinvigorated HP she hopes to build. The only trouble is, it appears to be wrong, as an elderly shareholder gently pointed out to her.

"I believe HP was founded in 1939," he said during the question-and-answer session after her talk. Wouldn't that make HP 75 in 2014?

"For three or four months I've been telling people we're going to set HP up for the next 70 years because we're 70 years old, and you're the first person to correct me on that, so thanks very much," Whitman said.

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HP shuffles to protect print-ink, server biz

Remember when the HP printer business drove the company's profits and revenues? As recently as 2003, the Imaging and Printing Group generated 55 percent of HP's income, an amount that led one IBM speaker at a 3000 conference to call HP "Inky." Today HP poured its printer and ink business -- which spews its profits from those $20 cartridges -- into the company's PC bucket.

JoshiAt the same time that the declining fortunes of printing triggered this sea change, Hewlett-Packard sent its Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) group into a much broader new segment, called the HP Enterprise Group. ESSN joins HP Technology Services (think consulting and cloud) and Global Accounts Sales -- which will be getting a new sales chief. Jan Zadak, a Czech EE with a Ph.D. from the Czech Technical University, is stepping down as Sales EVP after 10 years at HP. He arrived in the Compaq merger. David Donatelli, who joined HP in 2009 from EMC in a contested hiring, will lead Sales, Tech Services, and ESSN .

Few sales efforts in HP have battled headwinds as hard as the ones buffeting ESSN. It sells Linux and Windows servers based on the popular Intel Xeon family with some success, but also the HP-UX, NonStop and VMS environments that are subsisting on an existing base. Hewlett-Packard is working the IBM markets for new Unix installs. But that ex-mainframe business tends to go to Windows when HP succeeds, as it did at Yale-New Haven Hospital not long ago. The hospital wasn't replacing its HP 3000s, by the way.

The slackening sails of printer and ink sales pulled EVP Vyomesh Joshi into retirement. Known as VJ during his 32 years at HP, the executive also arrived with an EE degree, going to work in R&D. He's on the Yahoo board of directors.

Todd_bradleyTodd Bradley, who joined HP from Palm Computing and took over PCs in 2005, now takes the helm on an HP vessel that analysts are calling "trailing business." It's market-speak for products in decline, and for the moment the decline is around printing -- selling at 2005 levels by now -- rather than PCs. But HP hasn't shown any more PC growth in the last three years than anyone else in the business not named Apple. PCs have been flat to declining. Bradley now is the king of the consumer end of HP, the one that former director Dick Hackborn puffed up through the '90s with retailed ink and printers, and in the early Oughts with PCs. The days of HP-branded music players, TVs and cameras as leading businesses are over. A single camera pops up on the HP website today, and the HP flatscreens are history, too.

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Some 3000 peripherals still connected at HP

Hewlett-Packard continues to operate a webpage to help 3000 customers learn about compatibile HP peripherals. The information at this webpage doesn't change any compatibility which a 3000 already enjoys with the XP line of disks (48, 512 and more). Since there's been no change in the 3000's OS or hardware since 2007, whatever's working will continue to perform.

But the devices listed on the HP page are much more recent in their vintage. HP still sells them. The XP10000 and XP12000 arrays are on display at HP e3000 Storage Products. For a company that's claimed to be out of the 3000 market, HP's after-market products have become persistent. Support contracts might be available for these devices from HP, too. But a support contract from an independent company is even more likely to include HP's XP and VA devices. A link called Fibre Channel Switches on HP's webpage leads to a gateway page crowded with Storage Networking products. Networking, by the way, was the only part of HP's Enterprise group which posted sales gains for Q1.

5814A FabricDiagramAlso listed on the Storage Products page, along with a raft of StorageWorks devices, is the essential SCSI-Fibre Channel Router A5814A, available in two models. This device in its -003 flavor is used to attach the 3000 -- using a Brocade 2400 or 2800 switch for Fibre -- with the XP storage units and HP's Virtual Arrays, like the VA7410 used at Hostess Brands. (Click on the graphic above for more detail.) Those HP StorageWorks and XP devices sport links that arrive at active HP product pages. The A5814A does not, a signal that the used marketplace is now the only spot to find a replacement unit. There's also the parts depot of your support provider, sp long as that indie firm actually operates its own depot.

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3000 support demands spare inventory

Independent service providers have signed up most of the 3000 homesteaders by now, according to Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci. The CEO still runs across the occassional shop served by HP out of habit. A big share of the available service contracts have already been passed to independent companies, however, according to an article in our in-the-mail February NewsWire print issue.

HP5418ABut using an independent firm for support is a smart deal only if the provider has ample spare parts allocated to your site, Suraci said. A system administrator who manages the Series 969 at Hostess Brands (how's that for a large homesteading company -- Twinkies anyone?) needed an HP A5418A fiber router (at left) to replace a blown device. The indie support company serving Hostess didn't have one, so Joe Barnett went looking on the 3000-L mailing list himself. He needed to maintain connectivity to his VA7410 array, or face rebuilding the array from backup tapes.

Solutions and suggestions trickled in -- including the purchase of one 5814A for sale on eBay "that might not rewritable," because it wasn't the MPE -003 model. What's more, that vanilla unit ships on 4-14 days delivery time, according to the eBay listing. Suraci, whose company specializes in 3000s, pointed at a weak Service Level Agreement (SLA) as a bigger problem than just not being able to get a replacement HP router.

How many HP 3000 shops are relying on support providers that are incompetent and/or inept? The provider was willing to take this company's money, without even being able to provide reasonable assurance that they had replacement parts in a depot somewhere in the event of failure. There are still reputable support providers out there. Your provider should not be afraid to answer tough questions about their ability to deliver on an SLA.

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Alternative Takes on HP Q1: Hope's on Tap

Whitman-2012Yes, HP has reported Q1 results with sales down and profits eroded. It's true, the CEO has said the company has a long way to go to fix what's broken in the business. And oh yeah, the stock market stripped off about 5-10 percent of the HPQ share price after Meg Whitman spoke up.

But not all of that is spooking everybody about HP's futures for the next several years. It seems that the next few years will cover the period when migrations wind down, although I'm always surprised when a large corporation shows up on the homesteader roster. (Pfizer has been the latest homesteader, at least through 2010.)

Over in Good Morning Silicon Valley (, a Q1 reaction story notes that some analysts think HP's got a comeback saga that's being overlooked. If nothing else, Whitman said yesterday that she'll be at HP long enough to see that comeback through. If the board doesn't tire of her, we suppose. The GSVM story on the stock and comeback says

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a note to clients Thursday morning, said that the key element in HP's earnings report was the victory in EPS, "showing the company is making progress. The company is an underappreciated turnaround story (which could improve) as investors get more comfortable with the company's improved focus and execution."

There's no ignoring the numbers that show Itanium BCS sales are tanking (watch out, Unix migrators). But the HP overall forecast may be a five-year renovation, one that finds enough cost savings to stock up the R&D armory once more. R&D used to be one of HP's most potent weapons. And since the company wants to build a hardened Linux for HP-UX migrators, better R&D spending can only help provide that future.

HP starts 2012 with a sinking quarter

ESSN Q1-12 resultsHewlett-Packard reported falling results in most of its computer areas yesterday, even though the company beat the estimates of analysts. Not even those modest suprises could prevent the markets from beating HP stock back into the $27 range after the Q1 2012 quarterly report. It's possible that the markets were looking at the darkest news out of HP's sales: the business that it's stopped winning in enterprise computing.

If HP's escaped your IT orbit, then the trevails of the Business Critical Systems (BCS) unit -- where the news is darkest -- won't matter at all. Except maybe to confirm that HP's an IT partner which belongs in your rear-view mirror. But if your migration plans include HP's more favored platforms like Unix, Linux or even Windows, the Q1 notes are worth considering. (Click on the above chart for more detail.) This doesn't seem to be a "everybody in the market is down" kind of report. Q1 is the second straight period where HP had to talk about sales sinking in nearly all of its businesses.

Just to recap, BCS is the unit where HP's Itanium servers and software products are sold. Just not so much anymore. BCS is a part of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit (ESSN). The bigger brother of BCS is Industry Standard Servers. Whether Proprietary like Itanium, or Standard like Xeon/x86, none of this stuff at HP is selling like it did just one year ago. Below is the summary straight from HP.

ESSN revenue declined 10 percent year over year, with an 11.2 percent operating margin. Networking revenue was flat, Industry Standard Servers revenue was down 11 percent, Business Critical Systems revenue was down 27 percent, and Storage revenue was down 6 percent year over year.

What is selling as well as it did in ESSN? Networking. Outside this enterprise group, software revenues were up, since HP added the sales of Autonomy, its $10.2 billion acquisition. Services stayed even. Oh, and HP Finance posted gains, too. At least the debt business is on the upswing. It all flows down to a bottom line that took a 44 percent hit in profits in Q1. New CEO Meg Whitman isn't happy, kind of an odd response to results at an HP where she's been a director for more than a year. And for the first time, HP described its regular dividend in terms of what it costs the vendor in cash: $244 million to pay out for Q1. Apple's never paid a dividend. Now it looks like HP's legendary dividend might be rising beyond its new economic realities.

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Website reveals HP Discover 2012 sessions

HP and the user group Connect announced the opening of registrations for the world's largest annual Hewlett-Packard conference and expo. HP Discover 2012 is scheduled for the first week of June in Las Vegas. The meeting revolves around all things enterprise and HP, so it can be a mecca for migration training and information, and some instruction.

DiscoverSearchResultsConnect and HP have improved a customer's ability to scout the schedule for the three days of talks and training. A search engine helps to discover sessions that are organized by tracks, subtracks, customer challenges addressed -- even type of presenter. That last search element yields a surprise today.

"At HP Discover we will have sessions presented by people with a variety of different backgrounds: Analysts, Customers/Clients, HP Employees, Partners and Sponsors," the website explains.

A total of five sessions are listed as being presented by customers or clients. Three talks on using and supporting cloud computing, plus one each on "an effective IT support contract" to minimize downtime, as well as IT energy management. Even back in the days six conferences ago in 2005, the content of the conference as well as attendance wore a heavy HP coat. The vendor is giving its partners even fewer chances for partners to engage customers in talks, too. A total of four pop up in today's Discover search engine. No talks are scheduled from analysts or sponsors.

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Taking a Glance at 3000s: where to get it

On a visit to the offices of The Support Group today, president David Floyd asked a great question. If a 3000 manager wanted to buy a copy of HP Glance, where would they go?

HPLogoClassicReaders probably know Glance as the HP-created performance measurement tool built for MPE-based servers. The product went through 20 years of upgrades and revisions before HP stopped enhancements in the late 1990s. At that point, performance measurement techniques of 3000s weren't about to change much. Reading and understanding the data from Glance always was the counterbalance to the copious detailed reports.

The answer to Floyd's question is Client Systems. This is the former HP 3000 North American distributor, once in lock-step with Hewlett-Packard while Client Systems configured and shipped many a 3000 sold through application-based resellers like Ecometry or Amisys. A few years back HP made its subsystem software available for sale in the market, even though nothing else remained on the price list.

You won't find a way to buy those subsystem product licenses in many places. OpenMPE ran a promotion with the aid of Client Systems starting in 2011 to help the advocacy group raise operating funds. (Website registries, servers, accounting -- it adds up). You can get in touch with an OpenMPE board member (Jack Connor was the last director to mention this offer) and ask for a copy of Glance/iX. HP discounted the prices to a more reasonable post-sales tier, via the deal that gets customers the tools and OpenMPE some assistance. "Client Systems has given OpenMPE pricing at cost," Connor said, "which will allow us to charge 50 percent of HP list for a product, with 10 percent going to OpenMPE."

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HP-UX users consider virtualized future

BillingtonWhen HP opened its can of Odyssey for the HP-UX operating system, the vendor induced the labor of migration forcasts among its user base. The HP plan to move the best enterprise features of UX to a "hardened Linux" drew this comment from consultant Eric Billington (shown at left) on LinkedIn. Billington wonders if virtualization of hardware -- what many users call emulation -- is all but certain in the future of running HP's Unix.

Virtualization is very likely for many options, I suspect. I have a lot of respect for HP-UX and Itanium, but it is mostly about the third party software support for the platform, and the ongoing related legal battle between HP and Oracle. This may well be a Plan B, just in case.

Billington, who was a consultant for MB Foster as well as a 3000 migration planner for fellow-Platinum Migration services vendor Speedware, goes on to say that "HP is in a pickle, because Oracle has been promoting the Sparc/Oracle platform aggressively (sales is their thing after all), and at the same time pulling the rug out from under UX/Itanium by holding back on future Oracle product releases for the platform."

This would be a big problem for HP promoting UX/Itanium in the future for customers, unless this situation changes. Oracle's own "hardened Linux" is also Red Hat-based, so HP would likely have some assurance of support from Oracle for the Odyssey platform.

A few HP-UX users are learning that virtualization has a less common face: replicating hardware architecture on top of more popular chips such as Intel's Xeon line. While Stromasys is working on finding a market for its Charon HPA/3000, there's always been talk that the technology of Charon would be a foundation for emulating the chips that support HP's Unix servers. Nothing official from HP, of course. But the vendor won't even admit that the Odyssey is a path away from using HP-UX, either.

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Living with Licenses All Around (Tech) Life

GoogleLogoIf yesterday's article about the state of HP 3000 License Time gave you any pause about buying a 3000, consider what we all face in the rest of our tech-related lives. For the last two weeks, Google has been reminding us that it will change the terms of its privacy policy, a license where users permit the advertising and search giant to track their behavior.

It doesn't sound too sinister until you take a few moments to consider how much Google is likely to know about you. Some people are surprised to see a picture of their house when they punch in their address in the search engine. Others simply write it off to life in the New Century. The cynics celebrate the fact that Google even bothered to tell us the policies were changing.

HP spread the word about its RTU license changes, sort of, in 2007. The 3000 group worked hard to make sure we had the story details. HP posted the notices on its 3000 webpages. US Mail didn't carry the news to those who don't read their NewsWire or travel to HP's web property. Just like the Google change, however, HP meant for its new license policies to be retroactive to anything you'd signed in order to own your first HP 3000. All you had to do was use the 3000, HP said, once it changed the terms in 2007.

Google has a similar trigger. Once you sign in to anyplace on Google on March 1 or later, you will be tracked across all of Google's properties -- apps, Calendar, Mail, YouTube and more -- as if you signed into them all. These are End User License Agreements, the EULAs that New York Times columnist David Pogue noted in his list of "Things That Were Once Amazing, but Are Really Kind of Old News at This Point."

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HP's 3000 License Time, Then and Now

PA-RISC-clockFive years ago this week HP rolled out the first new 3000 product in more than four years. As it turned out the Right to Use (RTU) Software License Update was the last MPE/iX product ever placed on HP's corporate price list. And the lifespan of HP's interest in this product? Certainly less than two years. Even HP said it didn't expect measurable revenue from its bid to get additional money from owners more than five years into HP's 3000 afterlife.

Measured by the interest and behaviors of this February's market, the RTU seemed to be written to serve lawyers instead of IT managers. Many HP 3000s are sold today without regard for license validity. This is one reason you see a Series 9x8 on eBay for well under $1,000, until you don't see it, because it's been purchased. Sometimes a server like that -- which once had a valid license -- is being bought for parts. Some of the time this kind of 9x8 is being bought to replace an existing 9x8, or a 9x7 server. In that latter case, HP expected some RTU money to lift the license level.

It didn't make a difference to many companies, but some still want to stay inside the rules. HP said at the time it knew the RTU licenses would only make it into the budgets of some customers. Perhaps those who had internal auditing which would want to include system licenses. There are also resellers -- though not that many in this February -- who only sell licensed 3000s. It costs them some sales, but as Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions says, "I sleep better at night, knowing HP won't be calling to ask about the lost revenues."

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HP's not dumping Itanium apps, says editor

It's official: I've become an "industry pundit." The January/February edition of The Connection arrived in the mailbox while I was out covering Macworld, and I got myself put into an article about HP's Odyssey Project, in a footnote. It's a tale that like Sister Mary Ignatius, Explains It All For You. (Apologies to Christopher Durang's play, but I'm a lapsed Catholic boy and can feel a lecture in the air.)

At least I didn't get my knuckles rapped with a ruler. Dr. Bill Highleyman, managing editor of The Availability Digest and a past chair of the Tandem User Group, addressed the serious question about the future of Itanium in his rousing conclusion to The Connection article.

One industry pundit suggested that [HP VP] Markin Fink's reference to a "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future, probably meaning the end of the Itanium developments from Intel after its next two processor rollouts become a reality.

I remember writing that suggestion on November 25, indeed. There were a few other articles that followed it, but I'm not going to cry out "misquoted out of context." No journalist should ever bark that out, although I  invite you to read my other article that immediately followed my punditry. If you consider how long it's going to take Intel to do its next two Itanium rollouts, customers will be in the territory of 2016, or even later. (The last two rollouts took  a lot more than two years each.) Nobody at HP has shown a roadmap on the future of HP-UX beyond that date.

If Xeon hasn't "won out" already -- and those are Dr. Bill's words, since I'm no fan of racing metaphors -- it will surely represent a walloping majority of Intel's energy in four years. The end of proprietary tech at a vendor can come silently and quickly for no good technical reason. The HP 3000 did not officially lose HP's favor until a blind-side announcement. Right up to the late summer before MPE/iX got its HP dismissal, HP was still encouraging customers to ride that racehorse.

Dr. Bill quotes Pauline Nist of Intel in her company blog as saying

Intel remains equally committed to the Itanium and Xeon platforms, both of which represent our portfolio approach to bringing open standards-based computing to the mission-critical environment.

The next thing you know we'll be hearing how Itanium is "strategic to HP." Lessons from the 3000 division -- whose final GM, Winston "Coup de Grace" Prather, has become the Tandem/NonStop GM -- should make you want to race for the doors if strategic ever gets used to describe a product's future.

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Eloquence smoothing UX-Linux migrations

IntelXeonThe HP 3000 isn't the only Business Critical System that's weathering the winds of migration. Some companies are seeing the light at the end of their Unix tunnel and making the move onto an open source environment. Linux has been the choice for CASE, a maker of banking software which had a 3000-using customer base not so very long ago.

A recent chat on the mailing list devoted to the database Eloquence pointed to another HP-UX refugee. Rick Gilligan commented during a discussion about HP-UX future platforms that the company had dumped HP's Unix at the close of 2011. The applications made the move to Linux, where there was "Some minor amount of work in going to Linux on x86_64, to handle the [Big vs. Little] endian issues. Eloquence was the trivial part of the port to Linux on x86_64."

That's 64-bit Linux on Intel's Xeon lineup, usually presented to HP sites as a ProLiant server installation. Eloquence is a equal-opportunity database for 3000 migrators, operating on Linux, HP's Unix as well as Windows. HP's Unix, on the other hand, is locked into the bit-map Endian issues of Integrity/Itanium systems. HP-UX is Big-endian and the current Xeon hardware line is little-endian. That's where the Eloquence list chat began, when someone asked about a new Xeon-based BCS server for HP's Unix. Turns out there is no such thing, despite the hopes from HP's Unix market.

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HP's 3000 software practice once wide open

HPWebOSOver the past month, HP has released the source code for WebOS into the open source community (or at least announced its plan to do so). It's been called a watershed event for open source -- the first commercial mobile OS ever nudged onto the homebrew free software shelves. But software was once a passion at HP that invited much more design from users than software gets today. Instead of rising on the energy of volunteers after its lifespan, software once grew up on the power of the user experience. The HP 3000 used a different model than the built-inside, respond to the outside modification requests. One of its best examples was the creation of Transact, a reporting and language solution still working at some sites today.

TransactCOBOLDavid Dummer created Transact, software that became a part of HP's Rapid family of products. In that era of advanced productivity for programming, Rapid was Hewlett-Packard's entry. But HP bought Transact and Rapid from Dummer, a deal which gave him the rights to re-create it based on direct input from users. When this project rippled through HP 30 years ago, those users in a classroom were programmers who worked with many languages. "It was like having 35 design engineers in the room," said one ex-HP developer who shaped the product.

Over 16 days of meetings, these programmers discussed each feature in Transact. Dummer wouldn't take lunch, but go off and code up "some of the more simple changes" and bring them back to the users in the class. After-lunch and then overnight coding and tests produced a period "when the product was completely re-invented, and now feature rich enough to support most best practices that we all used to code by hand."

We're not talking about an era of worldwide networks or change management repositories. (HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. That was 27 years after Transact grew its robust features in a 16-day open development cycle.) Thanks to the open input on design, the dynamic data handling in Transact was built well enough that it served on 3000s for decades. Dummer went on to create DataExpress, the founding product for MB Foster's UDA Central. He wrapped up his 3000 career consulting on the 34-server Washington state community college migration to HP-UX. Besides using open input to create Transact, Dummer developed technology to move Transact apps to Unix or Linux.

And you can make a case for the length of the lifespan of Transact  -- software that's going onward into Unix and Linux -- resulting from the open design that happened in that classroom.

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2011's Leading 3000 Stories: Even More

Yesterday we followed news tradition by pointing to the top stories for the 3000 community over the last year. Today we're adding to that list with a enough more topics to give you a baker's dozen, stories you will want to track and add to your research if you're concerned with anything related to the greatest business server: homesteading, migration away, or just the archival and inventory of enterprise computing assets.

Community needs upgrades to open source essentials: Open source software broke open the door of opportunity for the HP 3000 in the 1990s. The server gained file sharing (Samba) Web services (Apache) Internet abilities (DNS) and more, all though ports of open source solutions to MPE/iX. Some of that flurry of work hasn't been altered or updated much since then. A new public resource for free open source software packages went online this fall at It's a signal that the 3000 community's tech resources are still available, through the right portals. The needs for security software can be met with these kinds of solutions, too.

DSC_0804Reunion gives 3000 vets a loving linkup: Hosted in the apt setting of the Computer History Museum, the first HP3000 Reunion collected customers and veterans and friends of the 3000 from three continents during a weekend that included training, new product introduction and a community of old friends toasting their past and future. The three-day event was well-supported by a vendor and user group community that seems intent on repeating the Reunion.

Database alternatives advance beyond Oracle: With the world's largest database vendor declaring the HP enterprise hardware dead on its feet, Hewlett-Packard started telling its customers about Oracle alternatives like Mimer and EnterpriseDB. Meanwhile, the Eloquence database kept expanding its feature set while it continued to support both Itanium and x86 servers, ramping up to Linux popularity.

Robelle moves Suprtool into Window, Linux environments: When a bedrock IT management solution like Suprtool makes the jump from HP's Itanium and PA-RISC chips to the x86 support of Linux and Windows, it's a clear sign that enterprise solutions have started to embrace The Penguin for business needs.

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What You Might've Missed: 2011's Biggest

News tradition calls for a yearly roundup this week, and we're the kind of resource that loves community tradition. Here's a few stories that made 2011 an important year for 3000 managers, migrators and more.

NewsIconEmulator taxis at Reunion for January take-off: We talked about it ever since the spring: the first and probably only software package that lets MPE/iX boot off Intel's hardware. HP couldn't even do that work while it was developing 3000s. The vendor skipped the migration of the 3000 to the Itanium Intel chips, and the x86 line wasn't even considered. It changes the lifespan of the 3000 from 2012 onward.

HP's Unix systems to get x86 transition path: Hewlett-Packard doesn't like to call the future of HP-UX a migration. But November's announcement that the best enterprise features of the OS will be migrated forward to Linux assured 3000 migrators they'd have a path to better performance, no matter what the future of the their Itanium-Integrity systems in 2016 and beyond. Not that anything like an end of life has been announced for HP-UX by HP, mind you. We're just saying, watch that space for what you might need to replace.

Customers taking support needs to independents: 2011 started the clock on indie-only support for about 98 percent of the 3000 market. There were still HP efforts to sign up some sites to contracts, but what we used to call third-party support became second-party service, now that HP won't establish new business for 3000 sites. What's available is cheaper and in many ways better than the caliber of 3000 support from HP. One consultant and support supplier said there are fewer than 12 people in HP who can still address a support question. Even if he's off by 100 percent, it's a number that's sparking uptake in non-HP service.

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Renovating Links for the 3000 Community

Hp3000linksLong before HP decided the 3000's future would be limited at that vendor, the computer had plenty of Web attention. Interex, HP, Client Systems' website -- all were delivering 3000 web resources right alongside the 3000 NewsWire web efforts.  All of these have gone dark by today. now belongs to an insurance firm in Germany, bounces to a vague "Computer Training" page that looks like a placeholder. Former magazine now lands in Japan without a trace of English on the page. HP's links to Jazz specialties have survived in part on the Client Systems and Speedware web enterprises. There are still holes remaining to fill in those resources, however.

Then there's, the one-stop webpage created, cultured and nurtured by John Dunlop. Filled with pop-up boxes and dozens of links, the site was a destination for the 3000 user in the 1990s, and then became one for those who wanted to bypass the slanted results of Google searches. New links appeared and a raft of 3000 vendors and suppliers had their own pull-down addresses. They still do, because hp3000links is still operational. It's just in need of renovation. Dunlop's done a tremendous job of hosting this and keeping it up for many years.

Along with IT consultant Olav Kappert, we've chosen to help spruce up and weed out The concept is still pretty sound: One Internet domain where a bookmark could help you locate that HP 3000 Relative Performance chart created by AICS, or the Perl Programming on MPE/iX slide set [thanks to Client Systems] from developer Mark Bixby. The former link is right where hp3000links says it should be. But those Perl slides have now slid to a newer HP address -- a PDF file of a master directory which tracks such 3000 resources [which you can download right now from our files, if you need it].

A Google search might do the trick to circumvent these shifty links, but why let Google know even more about your desires than it already does? Doesn't the 3000 still deserve its own landing page?

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HP news mortal, legal, financial this month

Hewlett-Packard may be picking itself up off the mat this quarter, but the immediate news from this supplier of an HP 3000 alternative hasn't been good, just one week into this month.

Dunn06Most immediately, interim HP chairwoman Patty Dunn has died of ovarian cancer, which she first contracted in 2004. The 58-year-old Dunn served as chairman of HP board during 2005, while the company was searching for a successor to Carly Fiorina, who the board had ousted earlier that year. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 4-page memo of "concerns" written by Dunn was instrumental in getting Fiorina sacked by the board. Dunn's time in the chairman's post ended her career at HP. After Congressional hearings where she had to testify in 2006 (above) Dunn was told to resign from the board over her role in the company's "pretexting" actions of '05: News emerged in 2006 about HP's hired and internal investigators trying to locate boardroom leaks to the media, using shams and misidentifying themselves to obtain phone records of directors and reporters. The pretexting sank down to family members of reporters, at its lowest point. (In a smack of irony, Dunn graduated with a journalism degree from U Cal Berkeley.)

HP paid a $14.5 million fine and Dunn faced criminal charges in the case that established a record of HP identity theft. The charges were later dismissed after Dunn refused to accept a plea bargain. With Dunn's resignation, Dick Hackborn was the only director left on HP's board from the pre-Compaq days. An excellent book on the sordid affair is The Big Lie: Spying, Scandal, and Ethical Collapse at Hewlett Packard, by Anthony Bianco, in which the "Dunn and Dusted" chapter is most informative. HP stated that "Pattie Dunn worked tirelessly for the good of HP. We are saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts go out to her family on their loss."

Not much further back in this month's timeline, HP felt it had to respond on Dec. 2 to a new counter-suit in its legal battle with Oracle. The maker of the databases which are used in more HP Unix systems than any other is now charging HP with "seven counts, including charges of fraud, defamation, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, as well as violation of the Lanham Act and two violations of the California Business and Professional Code," according to an article on the website The Register. There's no peaceful settlement in sight between the two tech titans, which is probably why HP has started to recommend DBEnterprise as an Oracle replacement for its HP-UX customers, and Mimer for the OpenVMS sites.

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HP Connects users on power and cloud

By Terry Floyd
The Support Group

The HP Connect users group sponsored a luncheon seminar meeting in Austin a few weeks ago, with two diverse speakers and topics. Kristi Browder, Executive Director and COO of Connect, lead the meeting and introduced the speakers.

Print-ExclusiveClyde Poole, of TDi Technologies, talked about “What you Should Know Before Moving to the Cloud.” It was not a sales pitch for his Plano-based company; rather, the presentation was a generic and informative speech. Clyde spoke from years of data center experience as he covered the “gotcha’s” of cloud computing. He discussed three or four definitions of “the cloud” and gave examples of each (SalesForce, Amazon, etc.). It was a speech intended to urge caution when moving data to the cloud, covering legal and security issues and their inherent risk exposures.

Clyde’s best tip was to visit, a site where the CSA describes issues concerning cloud deployment. There you learn where Clyde got some of his ideas about the major Service Models: SaaS (Software), PaaS (Platform), and IaaS (Infrastructure). On that site is also a great piece on Public vs. Private clouds (and Hybrids) and about required characteristics of clouds, such as Resource Pooling, Broad Network Access, Rapid Elasticity, Self-Service provisioning, and what Measured Services means.

David Chetham-Strode, an HP’er of 15 years, spoke on “Power and Cooling”, introducing innovations the invent brand has introduced in the last year or two. He spoke about new power distribution products that have come out of HP’s own data center projects. David spent a lot of time discussing power loss and what Hewlett Packard has done to increase efficiencies from 90 percent to as much as 98 percent, big savings in electricity in big data centers. He revealed secrets of air flow and “cooling from within the row of servers” instead of from above or below.

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HP starts to suggest an Oracle alternative

It's come to this: Unix managers who are wondering, like Rosen Marudov inside HP's support operation, what's going to replace Oracle on HP-UX are getting an answer. And the reply is not, "hold onto your hat for a friendly outcome of that lawsuit against Oracle." Marudov noted on the LinkedIn HP-UX Users forum, "There should be a program for replacing the Oracle products running on HP-UX. I cannot see any efforts in that direction."

ShawpresentationSteve Shaw, HP Canada's Chief Technologist, suggests, "There are many alternatives, yet one that is relatively minimal risk is to use EnterpriseDB. It has the benefits of open-source (uses Postgres) with an Oracle compatibility layer, so it is a straight replacement. It's not for every situation, but where you have custom code and are only using the Oracle database, this is a great way to drive down costs while maintaining your Integrity/HP-UX/application environment. Check it out at" More than six years ago, there's Shaw (above) depicted at a user group presentation talking about "HP's corporate strategy for hardware and operating environments including roadmaps and capabilities."

There are other ways to go to replace Oracle in a strategy. Michael Marxmeier told us last month that customers once bought his Eloquence database as a stepping stone to Oracle. There's not much stepping going on anymore. But if an HP Unix customer is trying to move an Oracle-centric homegrown application, HP believes there are still databases to that can step in. The real work in such a plan shows up when HP-UX sites have home-grown code -- the very kind of programs the sites did a "lift-and-shift" operation upon to get away from their HP 3000s.

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HP will migrate best of HP-UX to Linux x86

No problem, HP says, if you're an HP-UX customer who's just purchased an Integrity server to replace anything else -- whether that's from an HP 3000 or just an older HP Unix system. The HP Odyssey project is not a signal of any new future for your Business Critical Systems server choice.

The popular belief among customers -- who still ask HP about it -- as well as the market and resellers is that "Oracle is turning the screws on HP-UX, which is dead anyway, because Itanium processors are now too far behind x86s to ever catch up." Okay, that last part's not completely fair to the Itanium systems. The big-scale customers love their hardware and OS. Well, they did until recently, but it now remains to be seen how good the solution looks in the face of HP's traipse into the Odyssey.

In the LinkedIn HP-UX users group, Steve Shaw, Chief Technologist at HP Canada, says

HP-UX and Integrity support and development are continuing, so Project Odyssey is not "designed to get your HP-UX apps and systems to HPx86." Rather, it is designed to provide an option for apps to either stay on HP-UX, or migrate to mission-critical x86 (Linux and Windows) -- whatever is best for the customer/app/situation, all providing the mission-critical experience that's been delivered by HP-UX over the years.

There's an echo in the mind of any HP 3000 customer who's made this odyssey before, however. After a formal announcement of Itanium tech work for HP 3000 users, HP pulled back. Dave Snow delivered the news that the 3000 wouldn't lead the way in such servers. In 2000 he said it wasn't needed.

The 3000 division isn’t going to lead in terms of moving to [Itanium's] IA-64. We don’t need to. We’ve got good-performing chips that provide us with the 30 percent per year performance increase — maybe even exceeding that — for several years to come.

That was a promise that a current HP technology will get continuing development and support. You could swap out "Shaw" for "Snow" and feel the same vibe. True, there's no risk of an overnight exit from Integrity and HP-UX, not like the deal done on 3000 sites one year after Snow's comments. We just heard a story from STR Software's Ben Bruno about one spectacular dump of 3000s within days of the exit announcement. It resulted in a migration to Sun -- and some customers are figuring Odyssey will trigger the same kind of exit to another vendor.

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3000 team awaits one last strike, next year

NewsWire Editorial

By Ron Seybold

Scary and sad things can happen deep in the night. I learned that in Switzerland and again in Texas, both sets of news that arrived deep in the fall of seasons 10 years apart. But for each bad report, there’s the prospect of better news for a season to come.

Print-ExclusiveThe first scary news arrived on a pay phone in a rail station. It was in a November night beyond 9 Central European Time, back in the days when Daylight Savings ended by October. I’d already thrilled to getting the news that the Yankees lost a World Series in a Game 7. That’s the kind of news that can cut both ways, but it would take me another decade to learn that lesson.

The news on that Swiss night was that HP wasn’t going to build any more HP 3000s in 24 months, that they believed everybody ought to get off the platform. That Unix was the best solution, or Windows, anything but what you knew, built your business around, slathered all over your future, your training and career. It was damp and cold on that railway platform hearing that news. My boy Nick and I were on our way uptown to Lausanne and dinner. The report from my partner Abby Lentz sapped my appetite. I did my best to explain to my son things were changing for my business, but it would be okay. Sometimes there are things you just have to say and wait for them to become true.

At no time that night did I ever believe there would be another decade of work on the HP 3000 for my family. Ten more years seemed impossible on that night, in that month, anytime over the next few years. It seemed as impossible as being unable to get one last called strike in a World Series, twice, 10 years later. That happened far into a dark and cold night, too. Past midnight in a cold, damp ballpark in St. Louis.

But for every leading home run that my Texas Rangers could hit in an epic Game 6, their opponents the home team Cardinals could avoid that last strike my guys needed to win their first Series, ever. Not even the extra innings “Roy Hobbs homer” from straight-edge hero Josh Hamilton, swung out over a sports hernia that required surgery, could power the Rangers into the champagne and champions’ ball caps. So in 11 innings, they — or sometimes we 40-year-fans of baseball, we say “we” — lost that chance to win.

But just like the HP 3000 community, those Rangers have not lost all chance ever to stay in the game.

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HP relents, aims Unix sites at x86 futures

It wasn't exactly an announcement while you were sleeping, but HP slipped in the news of its Unix migration during the very slow Thanksgiving business week. For some customers it might be a turkey, and for others who want to get onto Unix for the short term, or stay there and see an HP future, they may be thankful. 

Screen shot 2011-11-28 at 7.01.05 AMHP will start development of a next-gen platform for the future of HP-UX users, one that runs on Intel's Xeon x86 chips, the company announced Nov. 21. HP's Unix will continue to run on the almost-proprietary Itanium chips inside Integrity blades and servers -- and as recently as September HP said it wouldn't port HP-UX. It's Unix is still not making the x86 jump, but the things that make HP's Unix special will make a leap to Linux and Windows. There might be a lot of Unix application rewrites going on, although the GM of the HP Unix unit, Martin Fink, will insist otherwise. For awhile.

HP's new CEO, the need to halt the slide in the Business Critical Systems sales, and flat HP sales overall must have done the trick. "The BCS business is a declining business," said CEO Meg Whitman last Monday in Q4's briefing. "It is a slow decline, but I don't think you're going to see an accelerating growth rate in that business. And so we just have to manage that as best we can and invest in R&D so we get to a new platform as fast as we possibly can that allows us to service the clients that need this kind of power."

The project that HP is calling Odyssey will "redefine the future of mission-critical computing with a development roadmap that will unify Unix and x86 server architectures, to bring industry-leading availability, increased performance and uncompromising client choice to a single platform." What this amounts to is the migration path away from HP-UX to Linux, something many of HP's Unix customers have seen in their futures for some time. An intensive article with the tech details of how HP's going to leverage its latest Itanium sockets into x86 is online at The Register. "We are systematically evaluating the arsenal of intellectual property for HP-UX and mapping that to x86 platforms," the article quotes the BCS chief technologist.

"Some of the technologies that make HP-UX and its Integrity and Superdome platforms rock-solid will end up being donated to the Linux kernel," the article adds.

What's not stated in that HP press release is the future of Itanium in the HP server line. A "single platform" signals that the Intel Xeon chip family is going to win out in HP's near future. This probably means the end of the Itanium developments from Intel, after its next two processor rolls become a reality. Perhaps sooner, if the demand for Itanium servers keeps sliding.

Continue reading "HP relents, aims Unix sites at x86 futures" »

Apple ready to overtake HP in PCs

BestBuy DoorbustersIt's Black Friday here in the US, a day when retail outlets prod consumers out of bed with "doorbuster" prices that launch with a handful of rock-bottom-priced electronics. Silly things like $50 tablets jostle with $79 HDTVs and $329 HP 17-inch Pavillion laptops at Best Buy.

But Apple's going to be offering its gear at retail stores pretty much at list prices. The vendor insists its retailers don't do much of the come-ons for Black Friday, where 10 or so units at each store get sold starting at midnight. (Tickets for the BestBuy midnight entry were passed out last night). The retailers like it, but it can't do much for the vendor's sales at such small quantities.  A report just released by analyst Canalys shows that Apple is poised to take over HP's position in PC sales soon, if not in the current quarter. That's the No. 1 position. HP's got no tablet to sell, while the iPad 3 is expected next spring.

Canalys reports the overall PC market is growing by 18 percent this year. The growth has come at HP's expense, considering how fast Apple is overtaking the vendor. HP doesn't need to be No. 1 any more than Apple ever did. But it needs profitability out of its PC business, something Apple hasn't struggled to attain in the last decade.

HP vows to get its R&D back on track

ESSN Q4 2011HP made the price very clear for its pullout of tablets and WebOS: 91 percent of its Q4 earnings evaporated, according to the quarterly analyst briefing delivered last night. But new CEO Meg Whitman says the company will be getting back on track to better profitability and growth in the year to come. Mergers & Acquisitions are off the menu for the next year -- unless something extraordinary comes by, under $1 billion, in the software sector.

Yes, even a CEO who's determined to turn HP back to its invention roots can have moments of distraction. For the most part, Whitman was clear on what the company needs to revive: Research & Development.

"If we're going to get out of big M&A, we're going to have to get our investment up in R&D," she said. HP posted sales numbers to beat analyst estimates, but the profits slid from $1.9 billion to $239 million during the period. HP booked about $1 billion more in revenues versus last year's final quarter, $32.1 billion (and $127 billion for the fiscal year). HP's Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) results included $755 million in a "wind-down of the WebOS device business for supplier-related obligations and contra revenue associated with sales incentive programs." The consumer side troubles run deeper than a dumped product, though. Printer sales, the firewall of HP's business, have also started to decline.

Then there was also a charge against earnings listed as "Impairment of goodwill and purchased intangible assets," $855 million. That turns out to be costs "associated with the acquisition of Palm Inc. on July 1, 2010 recorded as a result of the decision... to wind down the webOS device business." Whitman said HP's own actions impaired it during a quarter where it also toyed with spinning out PCs and axed its CEO. "One third of our challenges in 2011 were HP-specific," she said. "I had customers tell me they thought we were getting out of the hardware business entirely."

Another third of the challenges were "the distraction factor," she said. "There was a lot of drama in 2011." There was also a lot of silence on the cash register for HP's Business Critical Systems. BCS sales were down 23 percent for the group selling Integrity servers and the HP-UX, VMS and NonStop environments. These were the systems weighing down the overall results of the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking Unit (click above for ESSN details.)

Continue reading "HP vows to get its R&D back on track" »

Coming soon: HP's year-end business report

HP wraps up its fiscal year in October, so its news of 2011 arrives today, three weeks after a tough year has closed. The fourth quarter results arrive in a webcast starting at 5PM EST. It's a period with a potential PC business pullout, the flameout of a tablet and a mobile OS, an ongoing war with its biggest database partner, and the ouster of another CEO.

Even with all those anchors dragging down the company, analysts expect HP to report flat sales -- equal to 2010's Q4 -- while profits are forecast at $1.13 a share. HP missed analyst estimates last time out, a quarter tougher than any other the CFO Cathie Lesjak ever reported. After shares fell into the low $20s, they're up 40 percent today trading around $28.

HP's business health means something to the 3000 site which has migrated to the vendor's other platforms, or plans to do so. But its Unix solutions are really becoming a choice for a very large customer. "HP has become a provider for the largest customers they have," said Michael Marxmeier, whose Eloquence database has exploited HP-UX at least as much as any supplier. He even engineered database components to outperform their OS complements. "The largest customers need scalability and the largest HP boxes," he added. "If you work in the low-end and midsize end of the market, you will hardly find an HP-UX box anymore."

The current state of HP's Unix business will be reflected in its details on Integrity servers and the Business Critical Systems numbers. This is about the only metric we follow closely; ProLiant sales for Windows and Linux (the ISS group) have been healthy. BCS includes OpenVMS and NonStop sales, but HP-UX is a very large share, too. The future for these environments relies on Itanium and any new customers HP can cobble up for its Unix.

Last Words from First Users on HP's Pullout

All this week we've been marking a tenth anniversary of HP's ill-fated decision to pull out of the 3000 community. There have been other things happening besides the remembrances. But there's little happening in the community today that has not been altered -- for better or worse -- by the Hewlett-Packard choice. We also have a package of pullout stories coming in our November print issue, along with photos from the community's first HP3000 Reunion. But we'll wrap up our Pullout Week with stories from two key community members. Jeff Kell started and maintains the HP3000-L mailing list at, where 3000 discussions and tech tips started in the early 90s -- and remain online today. Kell was also a SIG leader while volunteering for the Interex user group.

Then there's John Wolff, an initial board member of OpenMPE who first joined HP in 1968, and then became an HP customer in 1974, and started using the 3000 in the system's Classic days -- and so has felt some of the deepest disappointment. But he still watches the company for signs of hope.

Jeff Kell: As of the mid-1990s, essentially all of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's business applications were all legacy applications on the HP 3000, having evolved from the initial roots of the student/admissions/grades/records system developed in the mid-to-late 1970s. One was a third-party Library application added in the 1980s, but still HP 3000-based. At our peak, we hosted five production HP 3000s in our server room covering administrative, academic, and library services.

Academic usage migrated first to IBM, and later Sun-Solaris/Unix, but business applications remained intact. Traditional "internet" applications (e-mail, file transfers, Gopher and later WWW, etc) grew on Solaris and later Linux.

An initial investigation into a third-party student system led to an attempted "migration" in 1997, based on a large-ish HP-9000 quad-processor system with a sizeable disk array. Dissatisfaction with the software (relative to the 3000 legacy applications) led to a delay in implementation of all but the student financial aid and accounts receivable systems. At that time we began to "fortify the foundation" of the long-term viability of the 3000 platform. We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given these capabilities (the lack of "Internet readiness" was often used to criticize the platform).

The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning and objectives, from which we never fully recovered. The original Library application (3000-based) was moved to Linux/Oracle (where it remains to date). The partial third-party student implementation on the HP 9000 was moved to Linux/Oracle -- where it too remains to date.

Continue reading "Last Words from First Users on HP's Pullout" »

Some couldn't believe the pullout at first

Some of the members of the 3000 community had no reason to believe HP would pull out of the 3000 business. In this week that marks the 10th anniversary of that exit, community members are sharing their stories of where they were when they heard -- how much they felt they could believe -- and what's become of their careers since then.

Brian Edminster: I was subcontracting at a company that specializes in supporting medical information systems (primarily Amisys, but others as well). This was a new contract at the time, and came after a multi-year gig doing a Y2K conversion on a large legacy Retail Management system.
I almost didn’t believe the news — there were too many other big changes happening in the world — and HP management had recently redoubled their support of the platform, so I just couldn’t believe it at first. I guess I was still expecting the New HP to act like the Old HP.

My consulting practice has been stable, with slow but steady growth. I’d say that my career has taken directions that I’d not have been able to anticipate, just a few years before. I’d not have gotten into open source software on the platform if the ecosystem of commercial software hadn’t started drying up. I wouldn’t have been able to justify going to the last Greater Houston RUG meeting to present a paper, and I wouldn’t have started building a website to act as a central repository for free and open source software for the 3000 (

Robert Holtz: I was working away on the COBOL and FORTRAN programs that were the heart of the Computer-Aided Dispatch and Mobile Data Terminal programming that ran on the three HP N-Class 3000's our Phoenix Police Department had upgraded to -- just earlier that year.

Continue reading "Some couldn't believe the pullout at first" »

Things change, some 3000s remain the same

When we polled more than 30 customers of the HP 3000, we were surprised how many still employed their systems a decade after HP left the field. Some are using the same servers which ran on the day HP predicted the demise of the ecosystem, 10 years ago this week. Others have relegated their systems to archival duty. We heard from a few that've turned off 3000s completely since 2001.

At the Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, NC, Jim Dellinger said the center's 3000 has been decommissioned quite awhile. "The HP 3000 was discontinued here in 2004," he said, "and hardware services moved from LAB (my niche) to IT.  I'm sure there are no HP 3000 servers there."

Dave Powell, whose report on his 2001-2011 3000 experience appears in our November print issue, told the world more than six weeks ago that his company in the fabrics industry is moving off the 3000. "MMfab has decided to migrate," he said. "Buy a (gasp) package. Toss the system I've been working on for 30 years." But still run a 3000 in archive more for the next 1-3 years, once the real implementation work starts at MMfab -- and gets completed.

CatsBut for every report of a departed  3000, we heard two that were remaining on duty. At least for the next several years. Connie Sellitto, who had about two weeks to solve the problem of "wireframing" her 3000's app architecture for a migration in March, checked back in to say it will be several more months until anything based on .NET is running the US Cat Fanciers Association.

"I was working as Programmer/Analyst at the US Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) on our third HP 3000, a Series 937 RX, when HP announced its end-of-life," she said. "This really scared a lot of people, but I kept telling them we had third party hardware and software support, and not to worry. The company directors at the time decided to leverage the 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000 -- and we in fact secured a used system, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer A400 3000.
"The new HP 3000 remained in use in the New Jersey office until July of this year, at which time it was transported intact to CFA's new location in Alliance, Ohio. Plans were to (really, this time) migrate off the MPE platform entirely, with a complete rewrite on a .NET SQL-based system.  This project, originally underestimated to take 3 months, is still in the development stages, and although I've moved to a new job, the 3000 is still going strong. It continues to run the business-critical operations for CFA."

Continue reading "Things change, some 3000s remain the same" »

Now in an 11th year of post-HP: user reports

We're continuing with the community's first-person testifying about HP's November 14 pullout from the 3000 market 10 years ago. Today is the first day of the 11th year of the rest of your life, because HP's never going to go back on its decision to cease making, enhancing or, in most cases, supporting the HP 3000.

But we've heard from users who hoped otherwise. Many did in the first few years after 2001, because it was hard to believe from the beginning. At least difficult for users and suppliers who knew so many satisfied 3000 owners, or were making a good living off an ecosystem HP proclaimed as mortally wounded.

Why look backward at an event nobody will ever change or recant? You can get hope from the new ground which some of the users have attained. And you'll see how to manage such a sudden change of strategic direction from a supplier, though some of these stories. Plus you can believe that it can happen to any product controlled by a single-vendor. We asked: 1. Where were you when you heard the news, and what became of the 3000 you were using, and 2. What's become of your career and company over the last 10 years.

Bill Towe: I remember attending the HP World shows for 1999 and 2000 when HP announced it was opening its arms to the HP 3000 and would continue the line, and the future seemed safe. Then barely a year later, I was attending an HP Channel Partner conference in Las Vegas when I heard a rumor that the HP 3000 was back on the chopping block. I couldn’t believe it, because only months before, CEO Carly Fiorina had informed the HP 3000 collective that we would see the MPE systems line for years to come.

During that Conference, I learned  the HP 3000 was finished and would start a phase-out of equipment process followed by the End-of-support death march. I was simply shocked. My company, BlueLine Services, was only two years old at the time and 95 percent of our business was MPE system sales and support. We spent the next few years holding out hope that HP would continue to postpone or completely reverse their decision to end the HP3000 line.

Continue reading "Now in an 11th year of post-HP: user reports" »

One Decade Later, You Survived HP's Pullout

MigrationcartoonSo here we are, 10 years to the day since HP announced it would not be participating in the future of the HP 3000 anymore. It's still Nov. 14 in most places where the NewsWire's blog is being read, so here's a history that nobody's been dying to tell. It's about customers of a company that thought it was killing off a computer line. Instead, it killed off a lot of its customers, in the sense that thousands of them though HP was dead on arrival in the IT futures department after Nov. 14. There were careers and companies killed, too. But we've never called it the End of Life for the HP 3000. It's always been the end of HP's life with the 3000. By this year I think of it as a pullout, an act that signals a loss of will and faith, forgetting why you got into a relationship in the first place. HP had given up on a group that I was glad to dub "homesteaders." Everybody was one, until they could manage a migration, after all.

The shock and outrage on that Black Wednesday was astounding at the time, because HP didn't whisper a word about the customers who could never leave a efficient, vital platform. The first HP message was filled with warm concern about getting everyone onto the right computer as soon as possible. As if the bolts and boards of the 25,000 systems working worldwide were about to go toxic or something. HP couldn't even pin down when the closing date would for the 3000 division, CSY, then headed by Winston Prather.

From a CSY perspective and a support perspective, it’s business as usual for the next two years. It’s time for customers start their planning to move to a platform that will serve their businesses better in the future. HP recommends that customers begin transitioning off the HP 3000 to alternate HP platforms.

Customers were not surprised at the news, Prather said, "and they really appreciated HP being able to tell them what we see as the future role of the platform." Prather said these top-tier customers of late 2001 "already have a multi-OS strategy, so they’ve been evolving their applications over time. It is a stake in the ground, but the CIOs I talked to were appreciative of hearing what the future holds."

As proven by the reactions of the next two years, Prather had only talked to companies who could afford to migrate -- and were grateful for an infusion of truth from HP after years of everything else.

For the last week I've been asking the community members to tell about where they were on that star-crossed day that they heard the news — plus what's become of their careers, companies and the computers running on Nov. 14. We've got a massive feature coming in our November print edition, which went to press at 5:30 this morning.

The outpouring of memories and updates and resolve for the future has been profound and prolific. But this has always been a group that knew how to say what they meant, and how they felt. "I'd say we've all been a pretty good human chain holding the 3000 Community together," said Jack Connor, who just departed the OpenMPE board. He was kind enough to note that the stories and articles here "do a lot to make us aware that there's indeed life after HP, and a pretty full one so far." Considering the promise of an emulator and the state of virtualization today, the last decade could have unspooled a better future than what HP delivered.

Continue reading "One Decade Later, You Survived HP's Pullout" »

HP puts down Oracle, which puts up Solaris

Hewlett-Packard summoned a market analyst to tell its HP-UX customers "Unix is not going away in the near future," said Dan Olds, founder of Gabriel Consulting. "Probably not even past the near future."

OS qualityThese kinds of assurances are needed in a marketplace where Linux has all the buzz and Windows all the populace among environment choices. Sure, the apps drive the OS choices, but a company's got to ensure it can retain and train the IT pros who keep apps alive and moving, instead of stalled. As one example, the replacement-for-IMAGE database Eloquence keeps growing "to keep your applications from stalling," said founder Michael Marxmeier.

Eloquence runs on Windows, Linux and Unix. It the last arena it becomes a player in the ongoing saga of What Will HP Do About Oracle? Oracle sells one of the biggest competitors to HP-UX, Solaris. Last week HP said that Oracle's Unix, Solaris, is a distant third in customer support and deployment to HP's Unix. This week Oracle announced a Version 11 of Solaris, which will be marketed as a cloud-friendly OS. It's also got tighter integration with Oracle's database, a strategy HP once used to great effect in the HP 3000, with MPE plus IMAGE. Here's a telling passage from a Computerworld story on how the link-up works for Solaris: "By controlling an entire stack of software, the company can make holistic decisions over which part of the stack would be best suited to tweak to gain performance improvements."

That's not in the field to be surveyed today, and perhaps not even this year. The message during the one-hour HP webcast relied upon a 2010-11 Gabriel survey of companies already using some kind of Unix. Prompted by HP's Katie Curtin-Mestre, Olds said that Oracle is well behind HP and IBM in categories like OS Quality, Patching Quality, availability as observed by a user base, plus a lot more. Olds -- whose 15 years in IT includes nine years of marketing consulting for hire -- said it's a two-vendor race for commercial Unix, where "Oracle is not as competitive as they would hope, or we expected. In some areas, since Oracle took over Sun and stabilized it, they've lost some ground."

HP would be happy to learn that continues to be true. The Gabriel survey was taken during the first six months of work by Mark Hurd, former CEO, who has led the Sun/Oracle rebound culminating in a fresh Solaris and refresh of the SPARC chips. How this webcast chest-thumping by HP will imact its wish to get Oracle to love Itanium/Integrity once again -- well, that's anybody's guess. But it's hard to portray the webcast as an olive branch.

Observed performanceOne thing feels certain: when you use red as the color to depict a vendor on a PowerPoint slide, it's never a friendly label. HP's customers are observing that Solaris is much slower than HP-UX, but HP's Unix is just 1.3 percent faster than IBM's Unix. This may be a two-horse race in observations and speed. But HP needs Oracle to keep its customers on HP-UX servers, and coloring the company red looks as combative as suing its rival to keep supporting HP's Unix.

Continue reading "HP puts down Oracle, which puts up Solaris" »

You've got the power, but you can use less

Last week we we tried to discover the power needs of an A-Class vs. a comparable Series 9x9 HP 3000. We were prompted by a roadshow talk that HP delivered today here in Austin. Part of the content touted HP's cooler hardware designs, and we don't mean "more hip" when we say cooler.

We mean power and cooling energy efficiency, a measurement that ranges from the wattage a CPU draws to the needs of a blade server or blade storage, up to the electricity required to keep a full server enclosure running. Austin was a good place to have the talk, since we've posted 82 days of 100 degrees or more this summer, blasting our own record from 1925.

PowerMeterHP's solutions "span across IT and facilities to optimize and adapt energy use, reclaim capacity, and to reduce energy costs." Sullivan's Steakhouse lunchtime diners heard about the latest advances in power protection, distribution, and cooling. HP showed the numbers on calculating operational costs "to help extend the life of the datacenter."

Datacenters are migrating in the 3000 market. We're polling the community about their career and company changes over the 10 years since HP pulled out of the market. Some switched off 3000s because of high power needs. A new case history by MB Foster about decommissioning a Series 969 3000 at San Mateo Health Care cites cutting power as a spark to get off a 3000.

Comparing power needs requires great access to hardware manuals, which are genuinely useful in PDF format. Before it pulled away from your market, HP always crowed about slashing the power needs of a 3000 with the PCI-based systems introduced in 2001. The power-efficiency of Integrity blade systems running in, for example, a C3000 enclosure (the smallest) is even more pronounced over those 9x9 servers.

Continue reading "You've got the power, but you can use less" »

For big power savings, HP thinks smaller

Redstone_Platform_SMHP announced yesterday that it is testing chips from an Austin, Texas mobile processor company for use in Hewlett-Packard servers. Calexda is one of a host of chipmakers who produce ARM processors. HP said it believes these chips can provide the needed horsepower for server tasks -- while sipping power, instead of gulping it like anything from Itanium to Xeon chips.

HP is very serious about reducing power consumption at its enterprise customer sites. The vendor has a road show in play that addresses this benefit of moving off older HP 3000 hardware. The PCI-based N-Class and A-Class servers reduced power consumption (as measured by BTUs) by 30 percent over the 9x9 Series. And the Integrity 2660 class of servers, similar to an A-Class, use 567 watts at idle to support an entire server.

A mobile chip solution for enterprise establishes a fresh measuring tape for power usage. HP is calling the initiative to create a new server line Project Moonshot. It hopes to start selling these ARM-based servers by next year. The rollout at the Calexda HQ in Austin showed off the EnergyCore ARM system-on-chip (SoC) for cloud servers and on-demand processing.

Hewlett-Packard isn't planning to introduce hardware for its small to midsize customers anytime soon that utilizes EnergyCore ARM. The math on the pricing will not help HP's revenue numbers, if it was deployed all the way down the customer lineup. A load that normally requires a $3.3 million system of 400 servers, with 10 storage racks and 1,600 networking and power cables using 91 kilowatts of power, could be done in the new system for $1.2 million: using one-half a storage rack, 41 cables and 9.9 kilowatts. Those are enticing number for cloud compute suppliers like the emerging manufacturing alternative HP said these kinds of customers will be looking at system-on-chip solutions -- which could drive down the costs of cloud computing for the masses who might be migrating.

Continue reading "For big power savings, HP thinks smaller" »

Listen for the sounds of a post-HP season

In less than 10 minutes of our latest podcast, we're connecting the dots on Steve Jobs, his reverence for HP, the company's PC reverse-march, and how much Hewlett-Packard lost while it exited the 3000 market. It all points to a chilly off-season while HP  works to get back onto the field of enterprise computing, carrying its PCs, and take another run -- like the Texas Rangers -- at the Number 1 spot.

FurcalHitPost-HP? For awhile, anyway. On this first day of its 2012 Fiscal Year, HP is working away from a year when it couldn't seem to get a strike when it needed it, either off the bat of CEO Leo or from the arms of its TouchPad. Maybe it's time that we stop looking back at what HP didn't do a decade ago -- like stick to a profitable, small HP 3000 business. Or stay out of a slim-margin dogpile like the PC business. Or remain focused on enterprise computing. As they say in baseball -- especially here in Texas -- there's always next year.

Jobs respected HP. HP respects its PCs.

JobsMugBookcoverWalter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs remains atop the bestseller lists this week. It's a remarkable thing to have more than 600 pages of a bio, written by a man who chronicled the lives of Einstein, Ben Franklin and Henry Kissinger, on the streets within three weeks of a tech titan's death.

In an interview with Issacson, he reveals that although Jobs never wanted to work at HP, he admired the company's intentions right up to the end. By the time Jobs stepped down as CEO in August, Hewlett-Packard had already told the world it was thinking about getting rid of its $40 billion PC business. Isaacson said in an interview with CNET that Hewlett-Packard was no joke to Jobs.

When he resigned as CEO, he's in the board room talking to some of its members, and someone mentions that Hewlett-Packard is getting out of the PC market, and people sort of start laughing about it. And he got very serious, and later said it's a real shame, because "Bill Hewlett and David Packard left a really great company that should be destined to survive generations, and that's what I'm trying to do at Apple."

Today brings news that the newest leadership values the biggest part of its survival system. There have been rumors afloat that the spinoff of HP's PCs could turn out to be nothing more than an idea floated for effect. HP announced today that "it has completed its evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) and has decided the unit will remain part of the company."

HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial and operational impact of spinning off PSG. It’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."

Whitman said at a quickly-called briefing that she doesn't want HP to spread itself too thin. "HP tries to do a lot of things. And I’m a big believer in doing a small set of things really, really well." At the same time, Apple reported that it will double its capital investments to $8 billion in 2012, according to SEC documents filed today. Of that, almost 15 percent will be aimed at Apple's retail stores. Apple is creating its own retail PC space, since HP inhabits so many shelves elsewhere.

Continue reading "Jobs respected HP. HP respects its PCs." »

Jobs jumped over HP's Garage to 2.0 life

Jobsin70sLast night's 60 Minutes story about Steve Jobs included a report that working for HP was the fate which Jobs strived hard to escape. Walter Issacson, his biographer whose book is both Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's #1 today, said Jobs toiled on the night shift at Atari, and then summertime work at HP loomed. Issacson said Jobs wanted to run his own company and avoid the 1.0 tech career.

There was within him this sort of conflict between being hippy-ish and anti-materialistic, and wanting to sell things like Wozniak's [blue box] board and create a business. I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in [the '70s]. Let's do a start-up in our parents' garage and try to create a business. [Leans in to camera] And Steve Jobs wasn't all that eager to be an employee at Hewlett-Packard.

There's a package online at The Atlantic magazine's website that includes some snippets from the biography, as well as the 15-minute segment of the 60 Minutes show.

3000 gets HP security alert. What the heck?

3000 users who still employ HP's support services got a bit of a jolt this week. The vendor that's still selling MPE support sent an email bulletin about an MPE/iX Security Alert. Even while HP was supporting 3000 customers without caveats, these notices were as rare as rain in a July Texas.

But how can security become an issue with an OS that HP hasn't touched in more than three years? Plainly put, the alert is a mistake. It's got to be, because a drill down into the details doesn't mention the OS by name. Instead, it's a problem with something called HP Data Protector, built for HP's laptops and desktops.

The corrected version of the alert still reads "Content Type: MPE/iX, PRIORITY: Critical." HP's new Support Center website has spewed out problems all summer, but this is the first mess-up marked critical. If you're paying HP to oversee your 3000, even during a migration project, you might take this as a sign that the level of support has fallen fall below classic standards.

Continue reading "3000 gets HP security alert. What the heck?" »

Fresh CEO carries HP rebound hopes again

WhitmanMeg Whitman took the HP CEO job last month with one similar bit of baggage as HP's last three ousted CEOs. Users hope she can rescue some part of HP's enterprise business that's in jeopardy. Her alternative is to unleash HP to spend R&D money to build a brighter future for Unix and VMS operating systems.

Carly Fiorina wasn't any help to the HP 3000 enterprise business, leading a "it grows or it goes" death march that felled several enterprise product lines. But HP had hired her to rescue a PC business falling further behind Dell by every quarter. Fiorina arranged to have HP swallow Compaq whole, at a cost of $25 billion.

Mark Hurd arrived in 2005 bearing the faint hopes that he'd see fresh opportunity in the exit-announced 3000 business. During that spring some customers dreamed HP would roll back its decision about MPE. Nothing got rolled back except HP's R&D, while the commas of multi-billion-dollar acquisitions rolled ever further to the left.

Just-fired CEO Leo Apotheker arrived with hopes that HP might become relevant in software, adding a dimension to the world's No. 1 computer company to match Oracle or IBM. Apotheker seemed to inflame Oracle by taking the job after leading SAP, a chief rival. Buying Autonomy for $10 billion will be Apotheker's legacy to serve up HP's Software as a Service hopes.

That brings us to Whitman, whose ascent from boardroom seat to CEO's hot seat sparked some hot hopes at this fall's OpenVMS Boot Camp. Those enterprise acolytes who use HP's other Itanium operating system hope Whitman can get Oracle to recant its stance to kill Itanium development of Oracle's database and apps. Intel insists Itanium has a roadmap to the end of this decade, but Oracle hoots at this forecast. This would be the first time that a new CEO at HP -- the fourth in 12 years -- needed to change an outside vendor's view of HP's enterprise future. She could do that, or give HP-UX and VMS a breath of life on Intel's other architecture, the one which Oracle supports gladly.

Continue reading "Fresh CEO carries HP rebound hopes again" »

Did HP return to emulator to save servers?

Stromasys has always believed in a sizable HP 3000 marketplace, but its beliefs haven't aligned with the size of some people's reality. In the summer of 2010 the company said they thought 20,000 servers will still at work around the world. But what Stromasys CTO Robert Loers said at last month's Reunion was more about the size of the remaining customer than the numbers. HP reconnected with the emulator makers because large sites had headed away from HP's enterprises.

"I think HP just counted systems as if they were all systems, but we know that the large configurations are still there," Boers said. After the company's success at creating a VAX and Alpha emulator -- one that HP will support VMS upon -- "HP had the idea in 2009 that we would take six months to finalize the [3000 emulator], and that they could offer something similar."

Boers-Abramov But the engineering took longer than six months to complete. Part of the delay came from discovery of portions of MPE whose documentation "was really just folklore," said developer Igor Abramov in a Skyped-in from Moscow Q&A session (above) with Boers (at right). When January of this year arrived, no new licenses could be issued for 3000. HP probably waited too long to return to assisting Stromasys. Boers said HP's liaison to Stromasys would frequently report that one segment after another of MPE/iX code "had never been used."

The company still believes there are many thousands of servers running around the world, but the specific number falls into that same category of folklore. Just this week we were asked by a software migration supplier how many 3000s were still "in the fleet." There may have been more, if companies could have bought fresh licenses for an emulator.

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