December 20, 2013

Climbing a Tech Ladder to Newer Interests

When Allegro's Stan Sieler announced he'd completed 30 years of employment at the firm, it seemed to spark our curiousity about how things have changed over that period for the creator of so much MPE software -- and parts of IMAGE/SQL, for that matter.

StanMugHe joined HP in 1977, after working on Burroughs systems. Over the years both with HP, and then later, he’s left many fingerprints on the 3000 identity. He proposed multithreading that HP finally implemented for DBPUTs and DELETEs. Wrote STORE on the Classic 3000s, plus can see various aspects of MPE/iX because of his work on the HPE operating system [the MPE/XL predecessor using an instruction set called Vision] before he left HP. A lot of the process management stuff that was his code is still running today. Sieler assisted on Large Files. IMAGE/3000 on the classic systems has intrinsic-level recovery he designed. A week after he left HP, they canceled the Vision project and ported 95 percent of his work to MPE/XL.  

Then came the Allegro work during the era when the 3000 division called the company Cupertino East: Jumbo datasets in IMAGE/SQL. Master dataset expansion. B-trees. By that time he was already in the Interex User Group Hall of Fame. We interviewed him for the Q&A in our November printed issue, and spoke via Skype. Stan used his iPad for the chat.

Second of three parts

How are you coming to terms with being really well-versed with a work that fewer people not only know about, but even use?

Yes, that’s a hard question. I know the two places I’d go if I wasn’t doing Allegro anymore. In both places I think I’d be applying knowledge I’ve learned. It may not specifically be MPE, but it’s things like being careful about maintaining data structures of filesystem and the users’ data. These are lessons we’ve learned for 34 years on the HP machine. I think as we get older, we ought to be able to go up the technical ladder. The problem is that there isn’t enough of a ladder, in most places.

What makes the higher rungs of the corporate ladder hard to reach for someone who’s as experienced as you?

I have a friend who’s a fellow magician, and a senior scientist at Apple. I eat in their cafeteria and we talk magic, and I look around and they’re all young enough to be my kids, except for a smattering of people. He agrees that Apple needs more older people, because we’ll point to things and say, “See this? That shouldn’t have happened. We saw that kind of problem 20 years ago. We’d know better than to do that.”  Apple is one place I think I’d want to work, except I don’t think I could stomach their policies. I could see going to Google, too.

My dream job? Being CTO of Tivo. They have the best DVR, and it’s crap. But everyone else’s is worse. It’s so easy to look at theirs and say they could do this and this better, and they haven’t. I’d like to improve it, so I could use it. It’s a lot like the 3000. A lot of the things I’ve helped push over the years are things that I wanted: The ability to properly handle bigger disk drives, and things like that. But sometimes you don’t get your way

What is the current mix of MPE work in your week, versus all other work?

It varies from day to day, and sometimes it’s hard to tell, because there are a few things that I do that run on MPE as well as HP-UX, three or four products plus a couple of internal tools that run on both platforms. There there are things like Rosetta — where all of the work is done off the 3000, but it’s supporting reading from STORE tapes, so it’s 3000-related. But definitely more than half of the work I do is off the 3000. We’ve got a proposal or two out to enhance our 3000 X-Over tape-copying product for them, and then we could use the enhancements ourselves. We’ve identified a relatively major new feature we could add.

People can see Apple seems to be losing its steam. Does it seem like an echo of what happened to HP and the 3000 in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s?

I remember when HP was first abandoning the 3000 in favor of Unix. To some extent, Apple’s doing the same thing with touch computing and changes for the interface on the Mac to be more tablet-like. Also, Apple is putting in more restrictions on what your apps can do if you buy through the App Store. In terms of hardware, Apple’s very quick to roll things over. At least with the 3000, things tended to be backward-compatible for a lot longer time. You didn’t really have a problem with a new version of an OS using more resources and rendering the older machines useless.

On the flip side, a lot like the 3000 came out with the A-Class machines and you’d ignore their crippling, that was pretty cool hardware. Apple’s doing the same kind of leap. I used to bring people into the office to see my Mac Pro, and I’d say, “this is technology aliens dropped down to Earth, it’s so advanced.” The Mac Pro black tower? That’s a more advanced race of aliens.

HP’s been through more than a decade now of no futures for the 3000. How much worse has that been for you than the decade leading up to the 2001 announcement? What have we really lost?

It’s a lot worse in terms of number of customers, income, the ability to fund doing interesting projects. That’s why we’ve branched out to do other things. 

Do you handle Unix support calls, for example?

Allegro does. I tend to get pulled in when they’re hard problems. Same thing goes for the 3000, where I tend to not handle the frontline call. 

For next time: redefining 3000 migration, Allegro's emulation considerations, and how practicing magic can impact a tech career.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:19 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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December 19, 2013

Making More than 30 Years of MPE Magic

Stan Magic

Stan Sieler is as close as our community might come to being source code for MPE and the HP 3000. He recently noted on his LinkedIn page he’s celebrating 30 years with Allegro, the company he co-founded with Steve Cooper. Three decades at a single company is a rare milestone, but Sieler goes back even farther with MPE and the 3000.

Few programmers have more people using their code. He’s the co-author of SPLash!, a compiler that brought the original SPL systems language from the Classic HP 3000s to PA-RISC systems. Then there’s his wide array of free software contributed to the community: things like RAMUSAGE, a tool that reports how HP 3000 RAM is being used. Sieler was honored as an outstanding contributor to the HP user group’s annual Contributed Software Library three times.

Sieler took up the practice of magic 15 years ago, which was evident as he gave a tour of the Computer History Museum at a 3000 software symposium held there in 2008.The patter of the tour was a seamless as our 90-minute talk for this interview. We spoke via his iPad, using the everday magic of Skype, just a few days before our November printed issue went to press. 

Over the years you’ve been at Allegro, what’s changed for the industry?

Everything, and nothing. We’re still bitching about changes that manufacturers do to their software. I’m still trying to do new things. A lot of the things that have changed are simply bigger, faster, more memory and more disk. In terms of software development, the biggest change is the prevalence of more GUIs, of course. But even then, we were foreshadowing that with things like block mode apps, such as VPlus. We didn’t have a mouse, but we were still interacting with screens.

Some of the good guys are gone. I don’t know if we’ve identified the new good guys yet. Some of the new good guys have come and gone; Apple, for me, is in that category, with the restrictions on iOS and the restrictions they’re trying to put on the Mac. They’re removing the fun and the power.

What’s changed in your Allegro work?

It depends on what hour of the day you look at me. Yesterday I was doing work in SPLash! (the company’s SPL compiler for PA-RISC systems) on a product we introduced years ago. The day before that, I was putting an enhancement into X-Over, a product we released in the early ‘90s.

On the other hand, there’s work on things like iAdmin, our app for the iPad. I’m working on finalizing Windows support and MPE support for it. I’m testing the MPE support, but the Windows support is a little harder. Mostly because Windows, despite its power, is missing surprisingly simple concepts: give me a list of hooked up disk drives, so I can directory searches of them without hanging. On MPE, at least, if you do the equivalent of DSTAT ALL, you know what volume sets there are, and you don’t even have to know that to do a LISTF of everything.

You created SPLash!, but what other environments and languages do you develop in after all of these years?

SPLash! is a minor amount. A lot of my work is in C, and some is in HP’s Pascal — which I regret they didn’t port to Itanium, because it’s such a good Pascal. 

Anything you wish you’d studied sooner, looking back?

I was at HP in 1979 learning about DS/3000. I said to myself I didn’t need to learn networking, that there were enough other things to learn. I skipped that area for development, although I’ve been a networking user since 1971 on the ARPANet. I’ve finally changed my mind and have to develop for it now. 

We were about the 21st machine on the net at UC San Diego. As students, a friend and I were doing a project for DARPA, and we got early access to the net.

Wow. ARPANet more than 40 years ago. That’s some way-back-there experience. About the only story I’ve ever heard from a 3000 expert farther back was Fred White, who co-created IMAGE.

Well, I realized that Fred White was like my assistant scoutmaster. He[the assistant scoutmaster] worked for Burroughs, talked about the machine and I knew he was a major figure there. He had daily arguments with [mathematician and physicist] Edgar Dykstra, who was a scholar at the time working for Burroughs. My scoutmaster and Fred White were like peas in a pod. They were different and willing to go their own way and got very interesting things done — and outside small communities, people don’t really know who they are. Getting older, I occasionally think of that myself now: who knows who I am, and do I care?

For next time: The challenge of climbing the tech ladder, new interests, and how to consider being well-versed in work that's not well-known.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:01 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 11, 2013

In a slowing market, things can shift quickly

Whoa-stopOur November printed edition of The 3000 Newswire carried a headline about the success that the Stromasys CHARON emulator is experiencing in your community. However, one of the green lights we noted in that article turned red during the time between writing and delivery into postal mailboxes.

Ray Legault has checked in to report that the project to virtualize HP 3000s closing down in a soon-to-be-closed disaster recovery site has been called off. The close-out doesn't appear to reflect any shortfall in the value of the CHARON element. But carrying forward applications has proved to be complicated.

Page 1 Nov 13In particular, the costs for license upgrades of third-party software came in for special mention. This isn't standalone application software, like an Ecometry or MANMAN or even an Amisys. That sort of app isn't in wide use in 3000 customer sites, and to be honest, off the shelf solutions never were. The software license that needed a transfer wasn't from HP, either. MPE/iX has a ready, $432 transfer fee to move it to an industry-standard Intel system. No, this well-known development and reporting tool was going to cost more than $100,000 to move to a virtualized HP 3000.

"Our project was cancelled due to other reasons not related to the emulator," Legault said. "Maybe next year things will change. The apps not having a clear migration path seemed to be the issue."

So file this blog report under a correction, or perhaps an update. But I wouldn't want to be the bearer of incorrect news, and there's something virtuous about filing a correction, anyway.

Where we made our mistake was in observing activity in license transfer inquiries, then getting information about a pending CHARON purchase, but not seeing a confirmed PO. That's a document we rarely see here at the Newswire. These days, it's a rare thing for anyone to share a number as specific as, say, $110,000 for a license fee.

For a company which has eight remaining applications to push into the year 2018, and needs to keep those apps hotsite-recoverable, an emulated 3000 with low hardware costs makes good sense. But there are license budgets to resolve in order to proceed with this sort of transition activity. 

Most important, we haven't heard any reports yet of any vendor who flat-out refuses to license their MPE/iX software for CHARON. Perhaps when a vendor has to watch a $110,000 sale disappear, it could spark a different approach to the business proposition of serving a slowing marketplace. Maybe next year, things will change.

In the news business when there's a mistake, we were always taught to close the correction with "We regret the error." In this case, everybody regrets the shift in strategy.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:21 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What you take away from what we're doing in R&D is that innovation is still at the core of Hewlett-Packard," Whitman said. "Our number of engineers who are at the core of what's going to drive our innovation is actually up year over year. We expect that R&D will be up across most of our segments -- major segments next year, and in total at the HP level. So we're still very much committed to driving the right R&D at the right time and the right place." 

Q4 2013 summaryShe explained that R&D is down "due to streamlined operations across the Enterprise Group and lower R&D expenses, specifically within BCS." Long term, we remain focused on investing in innovation across the organization, and in fact, we've added headcount in engineering in FY13." In 2011 HP announced an initiative to add Unix features to its Linux environments in the biggest R&D project driven by Martin Fink, then-GM of BCS. 

"We saw improved sales in our mainstream server business, but we need to improve our pricing discipline and profitability," Lesjak said. "Although revenue continued to decline in Business Critical Systems, we expect to hold or gain share in calendar Q3. And we have announced plans to bring a 100 percent fault-tolerant HP NonStop platform to the x86 architecture."

HP-UX and OpenVMS have no such plans. BCS revenues, including NonStop operations, dropped 26 percent from 2012 to 2013. This even includes an accounting for last year's deadly Q4, when HP had to report a $6 billion loss overall.

HP finished 2013 with $112 billion in sales, down five percent, and $6.5 billion in profits before taxes. The company restructured its way to about 13,000 fewer jobs during the fiscal year. Almost 25,000 people have exited HP since the program began in 2011. 

Two organizational repositions were mentioned during the briefing. Robert Mao, chairman of a new China Region for HP's business, reports directly to Whitman. She also noted that Fink, who was named head of HP Labs last year -- a post that once was a full-time job -- has now added duties of leading the HP Cloud business as its General Manager. HP Cloud competes with Amazon Web Services among others. Whitman said Fink "will significantly accelerate our cloud business."

"Martin is a true technology visionary who brings tremendous understanding of the enterprise hardware and software space, extensive experience in platform development," Whitman said, "and he literally wrote the book on Open Source."

Whitman was referring to a 2002 book of Fink's, The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. The book which is out of print got a glowing back-cover blurb from Tim O'Reilly. But the publisher of textbooks Prentice Hall now touts bestsellers such as How to Succeed with Women and the How to Say It series.

The strategy in Fink's book came from an era when one positive review said, "Linux and Open Source is not 'just' for geeks any more." Linux -- and not the HP-UX and VMS markets where Fink managed before his Labs post -- is what's driving the modest growth in HP server business.

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

November 21, 2013

UK reunion of 3000 mates achieves quorum

Dave Wiseman reports that he's achieved a quorum for a December 5 meeting of HP 3000 users and vendors. The gathering at a "Young's pub for the cognoscenti" starts after 11 AM on that Thursday in London, at a venue called Dirty Dicks.

DirtyDicksWe're not kidding. But the name of a pub with good food for thought fits Wiseman's aim for this first European reunion. He wanted a meeting where vendors could network, without worry about which users might attend. It's not the traditional aim of a user meeting, but these are untraditional times for the 3000 and MPE.

"Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars. Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretence of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bring a stand!)

"I've left in our US friends on this message," Wiseman announced with the notice of the quorum, "although of course it is unlikely that they will come. But they may be interested in what is happening -- maybe we could have an international vendors meeting one day!"

I trailed round London looking at a few venues and found a couple of pubs that would let us have space without charging for it. All of the hotels wanted to charge money!

Only one has sent me the email that they promised and they also offered the best venue – we would have exclusive use of the front upstairs of Dirty Dicks. They have a range of real ales (it's a Young's pub for the cognoscenti) and a menu below (not grand, but the food isn't the only thing we're there for.)

For the non-British 3000 user, Young's has been "one of London's oldest and most recognisable cask ale brands and the pubs that bear the same name," according to The Guardian. And of course for the 3000 users who are among the best-versed in the world about classic information analysis and management, they'll know that cognoscenti are "people who are considered to be especially well informed about a particular subject."

"Dirty Dicks is just across the road from Liverpool Street station," Wiseman said, "so for those of you flying into Stansted it is very convenient; less so if you come to Heathrow."

The address is 202 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4NR. The meeting will have the benefit of offering Christmas fare as well as its regular menu. If you're in the area and want to attend, drop a note to Wiseman at his email address, [email protected]

Vendors and 3000 friends who are confirmed to be on hand, as of late last weekend:

Pete Brearley
Kim Harris
Dave Wiseman
Roger Lawson
Dave Love
Peter Ackerman
Ian Kilpatrick
Bill Pugsley
Jason Kent

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 15, 2013

Newer-comers looked forward for us all

Yesterday I wrote about the group of companies who supported this publication at the time of Hewlett-Packard's November 2001 pullout from the 3000 -- and how many of them have survived that numbskull HP strategy. I don't want to overlook another set of stout community members -- those who showed up to help out and spread the word on keeping up with 3000s, well after HP said the party was supposed to be over.

Pivital SolutionsPivital Solutions comes to mind first. They were HP 3000 official resellers, the last ones to claim a spot for that, more than a year after HP pulled out of the futures business. Started print advertising, became sponsors of the Newswire's blog. All to freshen up our world with another resource to keep 3000s online, running long after HP figured the ecosystem would become toxic.

ScreenJet Logo MarxmeierLogo
I'd also like to tip my hat to ScreenJet, another supporter who arrived in our media after November 2001. First in print, then as one of three founding sponsors of the Newswire blog. With a blog not being a thriving commercial concept in 2005, ScreenJet, Marxmeier Software and Robelle were first to the table to ensure we could afford to report and tell stories online as our primary communication. Robelle was with us from our very first year in print, but ScreenJet and Marxmeier joined in after HP said there was no future in 3000s.

Applied Tech logoAnother new face has been Applied Technologies, a modest consultancy which has been a source of articles as well as financial support. You can get surprised by such good things that happen in the wake of something challenging -- like humanitarian acts in the face of natural disasters. If you clicked on a link to help typhoon victims over the last week, you're that kind of person.

Add to this list of newer-comers here the MPE Support Group, Transoft, DB-Net, Unicon, Allegro Consultants, Can-Am Software, Bradmark, Viking Software, Acucorp, PIR Group, Comp Three, Ordina Denkart, ROC Software, Blueline Services, Core Software, Printer Systems International, Tally Printer, Managed Business Solutions. All arrived after November 14, 2001. Honestly, the list of companies who've been part of our community by supporting the Newswire, whether for one month or for 216, is long. At our last count there have been 146 companies who've had enough of a yearning for the 3000 that they'd be a part of our blog or print issues.

I'm grateful for every one of those commitments, gestures of looking forward for us all -- to a future of deep changes, or to a tomorrow that preserves the heritage of our yesterdays. This will be the last year I'll recall that sudden dagger of November 2001 with a story and an essay. If you want more stories of that day, leave yours to the comments fields below, or send them along via email.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:35 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 31, 2013

Looking Forward from a Peaceful Wake

RadFFFB2

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

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

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

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

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

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

One software vendor announced new products at the gathering. Steve Quinn of eXegySys said that "We will not be mourning the death of the HP3000 as much as celebrating the birth of two new products." Both ran on Windows but had deep roots in MPE. Almost 40 people signed in at the company's HQ in Salt Lake City.

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

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

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

Quinn of eXegySys said his company's new products, while running on non-3000 servers, "both extend far beyond the capabilities of their forefathers." The same can be said of everyone who attended a wake for an HP Way business and an ideal. Moving onward is natural in a lifecycle. The Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu said "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:06 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2013

Age vs. Youth, and Rebooting Your Value

HP 3000 pros usually count several decades of experience or more in IT, but that almost always makes them on the leeward side of age 50. That's a deterrent to getting hired in the next phase of a work life, if you're forced to move away from what you've done well for most of your career.

It doesn't have to read that way, if you believe some of the sharper knives in the modern computing drawer. There is an age bias out there. Younger turks believe the elders are holding them back. Pros who took their first jobs before Reagan was President see a lot of shrugs over an interview desk when a Gen-X or Millennial is looking at their history.

Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia when he was 35, but here he is about 12 years later saying that youth doesn't trump experience every time. There's a balance. Out on the readwrite.com website, a story says, Jimmy Wales To Silicon Valley: Grow Up And Get Over Your Age Bias. "Silicon Valley frowns on age, yet several of its most successful entrepreneurs argue experience tends to trump youthful exuberance."

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show an overall median age of 42.3 for American workers, tech workers skew much, much younger. Only six of the tech companies reviewed by Payscale had a median age (equal number of people above and below a number) above 35.

And only one—HP—came in above 40.

In the article, Wales says it's a mistake to believe tech entrepreneurs are past their prime if they aren't worth a billion dollars by the age of 35, or even 25. "Wales and other successful tech entrepreneurs say this thinking is as wrong as it is dangerous."

The article cites the same study we reported on this summer about older programmers being more productive. Wales is quoted in the article, "A better question might be: How can we in the tech community make sure that unusual success at a very early age is not mistakenly thought to be the norm?"

And for the HP 3000 pro moving into the next phase, being an entrepreneur is sometimes the only likely way to keep working. Join the movement and you'll find lots of people your age.

According to data from the Kauffman Foundation, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34. Indeed, Kauffman highlights that the 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:57 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 11, 2013

The Comment-y Stylings of Tim O'Neill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When my story this week noted that a few N-Class servers, to be mothballed at HP's datacenter next week, would be available for purchase, O'Neill took another tack.
Customers should not be buying cast-off 3000s if they can help it. Instead, they should be ramping up for the future and buying Stromasys-ready hardware.

O'Neill has left fat pitches for other readers to comment upon. "I wonder if anybody still has an HP 150?" Or "Does anybody remember the name of the company that was marketing a wireless 3000 terminal in the late 1980s?" Then there are these comments below, in response to articles about the HP Computer Museum needing older computers, or a new iPad app that gives the 3000 user a wireless terminal for apps or console work.

Well I think the Terminal-on-a-Tablet is a great idea, and gosh we could have really used that and a wireless link 10 years ago when we needed to constantly interact with MPE. I can see great usefulness for people who are using MPE actively, e.g for inventory. It gives one more reason to stay with MPE and one more reason to buy Stromasys boxes on which to run MPE.

Gosh, I wonder if anyone still has a HP 150? It was coolest thing! But people here only used it for a terminal!

O'Neill can also find a silver lining in a report about two 3000 experts replacing themselves (due to age) and moving off an app built long ago.

This article amply demonstrates that: 1) MPE is extremely good at OLTP and business management processes, and is not easily replaced 2) MPE is very cost-effective (e.g. this company had to increase staff after MPE, and 3) "Migration" is incorrect terminology, and vendors made a lot of money, once, by doing it. Now, "if only" a consortium such as a modern-day OpenMPE or OSF could be created, to take command!

Not too many readers remember, or can put into context, the aims of the OSF (the Open Software Foundation) as they related to the HP 3000. OSF was about putting common software platforms in place across Unix servers from many vendors. HP did hope that Posix on MPE would help port some software to the 3000. Both projects fell short of such hopes. O'Neill is hopeful in a way I've rarely seen about the prospects for a rebound of MPE.

I say that with the advent of Stromasys and the interest from application developers who wrote for the HP 3000, there is now the opportunity for the community to form a company to begin marketing MPE/iX. The world is ready for a stable, secure, alternative to the out-of-control Linuxes and the costly well-known operating systems.

He has observations on the differences in vendors serving his company, sparked by news that HP's taken a dive out of the Dow 30.

"Dive" is being kind. They were thrown out. As an example of their inablity to market themselves, the following is illustrative. Next week Dell Computer will host a technical day at our facility. This will be the second such day in the past six months. Customers go and hear the latest. HP has equal opportunity to rent the space, purvey the lunch, and pitch their wares to willing listeners. HP does not do it. Too few sales people spread too thin?

It's been nice to be noticed, but as you can see from the comment string off our front page, not all of it has been complimentary. Recent reporting on OpenMPE got rapped by a pair of principals who were onstage at the end of the organization's activity. But the rarest of things, outright praise for memories, appeared after I wrote about what we all miss from the August HP conferences of our past years.

It is poignant and evocative, meaning if I were an emotional person, it would have brought me to tears. I actually attended the [August] 1996 show in Anaheim! There I had the privilege of speaking with Fred White, who predicted the demise of MPE while on the sidewalk outside the convention center, as well as the subsequent demise of HP-UX. (When was the last new release of HP-UX? Years ago, right?) You wrote that Interex (later HP World) always left people "invigorated, rededicated or just stirred up." True. "Rededicated" rhymes with "medicated" which, nowadays, we HP 3000 people feel as though we need to be! It will be interesting to see how Stromasys emulation will work with VMWare, of which we are heavy users.

I invite you to write a comment for your own pleasure and our information. Whether you shoot this messenger or toss kudos, it will make its way into our shared story.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:09 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 02, 2013

Tablet terminal sale: Telnet now, NS/VT soon

BlockModeTTerm ProHP 3000 managers who'd like to try out a tablet user interface for MPE software can get a half-off price on Turbosoft's TTerm Pro at the iTunes store "for a couple of weeks," according to vendor representative Art Haddad. The app's being run through its paces by numerous 3000 veterans and stamped as suitable for production. For one California IT manager, however, TTerm Pro is going to get better in the future. That's because the app runs via telnet today, but won't have NS/VT services until a later version "In the not-too-distant future."

In the world of iPad apps, these kinds of upgrades are often downloaded at no charge. Dave Evans, systems Security and Research Manager of the San Bernadino Schools, said that telnet would work for him now, but it would require the customary batch job needed to launch telnet on his 3000s. The 3000's config file for inetd must be edited to enable telnet services for users. According to HP's documentation, the services file must include the line telnet 23/tcp. A batch job starts inetd to launch the Telnet server.

But TTerm Pro's half-off price is getting more managers interested in trying the tablet interface in production use.

"The interface looks really nice on the iPad," Evans said, "and at $25 I don't mind spending that much." Evans, who added that he has a lot more to manage at the schools' IT department than just the 3000, acknowledged that no terminal emulator was ever sold for 3000 users for even as low as $49.95, the non-sale price for TTerm Pro.  

Of course, those Windows-based emulators -- you could sometimes find them on sale under $200 a seat -- employed extensive scripting features, something that TTerm Pro won't embrace wholesale from any that are already written for the Reflection emulator, for example.

However, tablets are already in use by the IT support staff at the school district, Evans said. That access runs through Citrix, "because the Citrix receiver client on the iPad works really well. I do it all the time from home when I get an email which tells me there's a 3000 problem. Instead of running over to my computer and firing up Reflection, I just fire it up on the iPad and work on it from there."

Evans and the staff don't need a telnet interface, or even the more ubiquitous NS/VT, to resolve those kinds of issues. A simple colon prompt access will do the job there, so the group doesn't even need an emulator, as it relies on Citrix.

"The screen and the keyboard obviously take a little adjustment on the iPad," Evans said, "but when you need to do something in a bind, it's really nice to have a tablet available." Support access doesn't require the NS/VT block mode data entry. For production use of the TTerm Pro emulator, Evans sees a target "for occasional access out on the road type of use."

Support vendors have looked over the app. "I purchased a copy, and it works quite nicely," said Gilles Schipper of GSA. "There's a minor problem with a persistent incorrect complaint of invalid host, one that is only satisfied by aborting the app and restarting. The so-called 'invalid host' is then connected to just fine. In general, this is a nice app for a reasonable price."

The set of early adopters of the app have been posting positive comments about the response from the Turbosoft R&D team, too. "I also purchased a copy," said Allegro's Stan Sieler. "The R&D team responded to some enhancement suggestions I had, including increasing the amount of terminal memory, pretty quickly."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:45 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2013

Stromasys updates its rollout sales efforts

It's been close to five months since emulator vendor Stromasys announced its North American sales kickoff at a May Training Day event. In a Q&A interview with the company's senior VP of sales and services, Rich Pugh says the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine. CEO Ling Chang sat in on the interview, to introduce Pugh to us.

Second of two parts

Is there anything that seems to be in common among your prospects’ installations, regarding horsepower needs? I know that CHARON was going to get a 1.3 refresh for greater performance.

Rich PughAt one site, there’s 11 separate applications that run and one overnight batch job. The way we brainstormed doing their solution is not a like-for-like replacement, but considering breaking apart the application, and possibly stacking multiple processors. There’s Datapipe, a cloud company and hosting provider similar to Rackspace, and do our proof of concept from the cloud. The plan is to reduce the space to the point of eliminating the server from the DR site, and let the physical assets reside in the production environment.

This is the kind of dialogue of flexibility that we’re trying to position, instead of the traditional methodology of just buying a license in capital dollars.

So would that change the investment level for the customer?

Not really. The analogy that I would use is Microsoft Office 365: just another way of using what you might need permanently or temporarily, over the cloud. At Stromasys we’ve had a value prop that’s just been traditional. Buy a license. What Ling and I are suggesting is that this is clearly an area that makes sense, to use the cloud for proof of concept.

Have any of the major third party application suppliers — Ecometry, MANMAN, Amisys, or others — had their customers use CHARON as of today?

Direct access to that application-using community hasn’t been as robust as we’d like. I don’t have a specific response to that question yet; we may have an update soon.

Is that access important in any way? Is the first-year business going to come from customers who have their own application code?

We expect that the direct sales effort will give us more insight into that over the next 90 days.

How might you overcome the late start HP created for this product with MPE customers? This is a new situation for a Stromasys product.  

CEO Ling Chang: That’s a good point. This is a market that remains undefined. It is our challenge to find those who are remaining, and still run their business-critical applications on the HP 3000. Right now, based on preliminary information we received from the service providers at our training day event, the numbers vary. But it’s in terms of the thousands. Not the hundreds of thousands, as in the old Digital product line.

Our challenge is to give those remaining 3000 customers a bridge to their next step — whether it’s to migrate, or stay on.

With the OS already off HP’s support list before the product became available, is there enough customer base remaining to succeed?

Chang: It’s something we have to balance, because Stromasys is still a very small company — and yet we’re going into the enterprise market, which requires resources. While we do that balance, we’re still early in the process. Our goal is to team with HP 3000 partners where we have mutual interests to help get the word out.

Pugh: When Gartner describes what’s going on in the emulation space — where we were named a Cool Vendor — they say that the operating system is just the personality. In the past operating systems were like a religion that you’d never breach. Put MPE against VMS? Give me a break, don’t go there. Now it really doesn’t mean a thing. These are just personalities of what we do, which is a hardware emulation. 

A lot of the problem a customer has to solve is a business problem: risk management, not necessarily when the decision was made to choose a platform to run that application. I’m not minimizing any of the strengths of MPE. But it’s just not as technically important as it was back in the day when IT architectures — because of the proprietary nature of every element — mattered so much. 

I can appreciate that Gartner’s personality conversation would resonate with today’s Millennials. A CFO at the company I’m selling to is in his 30s. They don’t know what MPE means to the business.

What’s the difference in length of project between going to CHARON vs. an application replacement onto a non-MPE platform, or a rewrite?

Chang: As you know, any time you’re looking at a rewrite you’re talking about multiple years. Those projects do not usually come in on time, or under budget for that matter. But even while a customer is doing that, we can be a solution to keep the application up and running. We can implement our solution in a matter of days.

Is there a structure or process in place to develop a network of resellers and consultants for CHARON in the 3000 market?

Chang: We would love to explore the opportunity for a company to become a reseller. We can do a sell-with model, to make it a win-win for a consultant. 

Pugh: We’re refining our channel model. There are certainly companies that could offer presales, or sales and presales support. And then they could be a value added reseller. We’re going to be in the process of introducing a program that allows a company or an individual to get started and get their feet wet, and then become a full VAR. Just months ago we didn’t have that opportunity to give such partners a stair-step approach to building a business around this product.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:59 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 30, 2013

Making Real Customers from Virtualization

Rich PughFirst of two parts

Rich Pugh describes himself using a term that’s far from a virtualized IT pro. Pugh, who’s the new senior VP of worldwide sales and services at virtualization vendor Stromasys, says he’s “carried a bag” since the middle 1980s. The term refers to a salesman who’s working on a commission basis, someone who visits customers to close sales. That was not unusual at any size of IT customer in 1985, when Pugh started at Digital Equipment. Today these kinds of visits from such computer hardware vendors are reserved for large accounts. That’s what makes Pugh’s current job selling the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 emulator such a profound echo. His company is replacing the 3000 hardware which once required a sales call to spark an install.

Stromasys has been ramping up its executive and strategic team over the last 18 months, all while the company has rolled out and refined its server virtualization software for the MPE marketplace. Bill Driest was introduced to the community at this May’s Training Day as Stromasys GM in the Americas Region. Driest now works for Pugh, since the latter arrived this June. All was explained to us by CEO Ling Chang, who joined the company herself in 2012. 

Print-ExclusiveIn the fall of that year, Chang was introduced to us by Stromasys founder Robert Boers in a joint Q&A — in much the same way she introduced Pugh to us this month. We wanted to check on the outlook for selling a virtualization engine which emulates a server that was cut loose by HP more than two years ago. Emulators often surface while system support is still in place but manufacturing has ended. In the case of HPA/3000, everything was dropped by HP before Stromasys could sell a single unit.

Of such challenges are heroic stories made. Vendors have given up on creations or developments that had much life remaining, and Pugh and Chang believe they’ve got a good shot at replacing some mission-critical HP 3000 systems. Driest said that the North American rollout of HPA/3000 began with that May Training Day. Three months later the prospects still have interest and questions, but fewer of the queries are about technical capabilities. Pugh said he’s been pitching large companies this summer on 3000 replacements using the CHARON virtualization engine.

We interviewed Pugh and Chang in August, a month when HP 3000 users often gathered at a North American conference. In the week we talked, Google’s founder was announcing a burger built in a lab using 20,000 cow stem cells. A product that puts MPE software on Intel chips might seem as much of a surprise. Pugh is working to give the 3000 community a taste for the CHARON novelty, one that wants to eliminate HP’s iron like Google wants to remove the cow, but with genuine flavor.

What industry experience since Y2K led you to Stromasys, Rich?

Wireless data sales team leadership for ATT. Then for the last eight years, I worked at Insight, a large global reseller. HP was Insight’s largest partner, and they ran the New York market.

North American GM Bill Driest said he considered your May event the rollout for the product. How does your sales organization work?

Our sales model is quite different in each of the worldwide regions. In America we have our direct sales organizations, led by Bill. I come from an enterprise background, where I sold as a global account manager. I’m very proud of the fact that I carried a bag, with the recognition is that you have to drive revenue to the company. It’s something that I take very personally and seriously. 

But with that said, I’m very familiar with the channel model. For example, Insight was a $5 billion dollar company that didn’t engineer a thing, but the intellectual power of our people there was really the value we provided to the market. However, with the experience that I left Digital with, I wanted to get my arms around direct client interface with the larger companies that we want to sell CHARON to.

What can you say about the large prospects you’ve been visiting?

I think they’d rather not have their names used, but one provides tax returns for the financial services industry. They’ve got two of the largest 3000s that were ever built.  They have a production site and a DR site in separate states. They’re very interested in using us as an alternative to their platform given a catastrophic failure in their production environment.

The conversation we had with them was on the basis of risk management. Not competing on refurb system pricing or technical problems. When I asked him what compelled him to assemble his staff for our meeting, he said, “It took us a week to get our production system back up. We can’t afford that given the obligation we have to our clients.” Their application has to be supported until 2035.

The choices were a COBOL converter, a full migration, or our virtualization platform. He said he could not afford to use anything from the old [3000] hardware architecture. Even if he got the most stable box in the world, it was all the peripherals that would be unstable.

That’s one prospect. How about a different industry?

There’s a large insurance claims processing firm. They’ve already put it through the proof of concept and now it’s just a matter of addressing the short term and long term implementation of the CHARON solution. Then there’s a cooperative of farmers who run their billing system through an HP 3000. The business reason they’re looking at us is to get off their older hardware platform, out of the maintenance costs. Our contact there is convinced we’re the right solution, and it’s a matter of getting the budget in place so they can move on it.

There’s also a company that runs Software as a Service for the financial services industry. On their own, they’ve used the freeware version of our product, and they’re convinced that it’s the right move for them to make. Again, it’s sold on a business-level conversation. It’s refreshing to take our sales strategy to this level, which I believe will shorten our sales cycle and drive an earlier adoption.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:50 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 25, 2013

3000 data experts explore Big Data today

Big-dataIn the latest of its Wednesday Webinars, MB Foster looks at the elements of Big Data as they relate to IT planning. Members of your community who are heading to other platforms have better reason to learn more about the concept, since their new systems are likely to need application interfaces to vast tracts of land from the world of data.

The webinar is free and starts at 2PM Eastern Time today. Registration for the interactive audio and PowerPoint presentation is at MB Foster's website.

As data specialists for operational, analytical and migration purposes and thought leaders on the topic of data, we want to accelerate users' understanding of new data-related topics and practices such as Big Data.

As an example of Big Data usage: In the TV show Criminal Minds, Penelope uses her analytical skills to combat crime. She dives into large and complex structured and unstructured data sets (records, mobile devices, video’s and cameras) to help the FBI team capture criminals in the nick of time.

In the webinar, CEO Birket Foster and his team will discuss.

  1. What is Big Data?
  2. How might you use it?
  3. What do you need to do to organize it?

The subject has potential for employment opportunity. One IBM analysis reveals that every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and almost 90 percent of the total data in the world has been created just in the last two years. Within five years, the US could be at a 140,000-worker shortage for Big Data IT workers. The expertise is driven into four buckets of skillsets: Data scientist, data architect, data visualizer and data change agent.

According to a Computerworld roundup of the skills among those buckets, it seems that data architect -- the kind of expertise that Foster's software has enabled ever since the earliest days of its DataExpress -- falls closest to 3000-built experience.

Data architects: Programmers who are good at working with messy data, disparate types of data, undefined data and lots of ambiguity. They may be people with traditional programming or business intelligence backgrounds, and are often familiar with statistics programs. They need the creativity and persistence to be able to harness the data in new ways to create new insights.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:19 AM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 20, 2013

UK 3000 vet gears up for European reunion

SIG BARDave Wiseman, the founder of HP 3000 vendor Millware and an MPE veteran since the system's most nascent days, is floating the idea of a "3000 Revival" to be held in Europe later this year. Wiseman was the chairman of SIG BAR, he told us in explaining what the Revival might amount to. Today he's calling the event this year's HP3000 SIG BAR meeting.

Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars….

Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretence of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bringing a booth!)

If you know anyone who worked in the HP3000 vendor community or user groups please could you ask them to contact me ([email protected] or +44 777 555 7017) and I'll find a suitable venue and date (maybe beginning of December in London?)

"It's around 36 years since I went to my first HP 3000 meeting at the London School of Economics in Regents park," Wiseman said in his opening salvo for this year's event. "That trade show was two piles of duplicated (yes folks, pre-photocopier) sheets of paper on the LARC editor and SCRIBE formatter."

So how about a European trade show again folks? As far as I recall, the fact that there aren't many users won't make a lot of difference. The truth was we never saw that many at our shows anyway. I recall spending most of my time talking amongst ourselves anyway, and I just thought that it was about time we had a reunion. My list of our old compatriots is woefully thin, but I'm happy to co-ordinate a venue.

PS. No need top bring your stands or literature!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:53 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2013

OpenMPE.org domain remains redacted

A milestone recently passed for the web domain name openmpe.org. For more than eight years this was the address for the volunteer group that made HP think through migration details, as well as extend homesteading prospects. The .org seemed to fit a rotating collective of 3000 community members, all giving their time and effort to try to make the 3000's future clearer and brighter.

But in 2010, amid the rancor and countersuits filed between two then-boardmembers, openmpe.org went dark, was taken hostage. Matt Perdue, the consultant and board member who was by then in charge of checkbook, source code license, web servers as well as domain, found himself fingered as the man who'd take a website offline to prove ownership. To resolve the problem, Allegro Consultants gave openmpe.com to the group. It wasn't much longer afterward that Perdue and his combating director Keith Wadsworth both left the organization.

It's been more than two years, and the openmpe.org domain was up for renewal. Brian Edminster, who's got his own .org website (www.mpe-opensource.org) that serves the community with open source software, was watching to see if OpenMPE's domain would be released. Edminster checked in to report Perdue's ownership of the domain remains in force, for another several years.

It's not as if the domain is worth anything, like some addresses are. There's a market to bid on such things that are already owned, even estimates of what a domain might be worth. The renewal of the openmpe.org ownership represents a point that's still being made, apparently. Edminster reports

I had a reminder on my calendar to check today:

Do WHOIS lookup on OPENMPE.ORG to see if Matt's renewed the domain registration

        if not - get it to turn back over to OpenMPE.

Looks like on Sept. 8 Matt renewed it for another year. I know it's cheap to do — but is he that petty, or do you think he has more grandiose plans? I've been around long enough to know better, but I guess there's just no understanding some people.

I've written before about the stasis that has set in surrounding OpenMPE, a group that was very important during the years HP was willing to discuss its own end-game for exiting that marketplace. Grandiose plans don't seem to be in line with a volunteer organization no longer having meetings, or elections, or regular contact with HP. Everything has its time and place, and great service was done on behalf of the customers.

Near the end, a conflict arose over the scope of change MPE source code licenses could trigger. Nothing could be done to impede the plans of the seven corporations that bought a license. But a dust-up arose over the OpenMPE ownership, as well as legal conflicts between Perdue and Wadsworth. The standoff helped bring the group to a standstill. And renewing a domain looks like it's not time for an end to the hard feelings about the future of software: MPE.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:38 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (9)

September 10, 2013

Emulator's open sourcers prod at booting

Yesterday I mentioned news about a fresh emulator effort, one that's based in open source resources. Piotr Głowacz and some volunteer developers have been trying to create software that lets Intel servers boot up MPE/iX. The early going via open source has had its roadblocks, springing up in unexpected places. After the three articles we've written about the attempts, Głowacz emailed us that the exposure has helped.

We've got many responses from people willing to help us in our effort. The most important advance we've achieved is to get the MPE/iX 6.0 up and running. Of course, it's not at a solid state -- we're experiencing unexpected system crashes, for example, but at least the OS is recognizing all of our emulated devices.

There's a pretty good reason why an open source emulator is going to take a while to get stable. Dr. Robert Boers, whose company Stromasys invented and polished the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator, has an understanding of the shortfalls that are still ahead for the open source effort -- as well as an admiration for trying to open-source create an emulator.

Their booting problem they will no doubt find, if they ever get that far, will be due to not having a working Processor Dependent Code (PDC) implementation, which makes all the difference between booting a general PA-RISC system and an HP 3000. As we found out, even understanding the HP 3000 PDC requires a PhD (and access to source code), let alone implementing it.

Apart from the PDC, there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU -- one that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions.

Boers also noted that "even HP did not have all the [booting] information, and we had to step through MPE/iX instruction-by-instruction (including its internal 16-bit code emulator) to make sense of it." More than two years ago his company, using HP-supplied tech documentation, clawed through the barriers to make MPE/iX booting stable in CHARON. "It was a tough one to write," he said of the effort. Compared to the CHARON emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator.

"Apart from the PDC," Boers added, "there is of course the detail of implementing a virtual PA-RISC CPU that not just interprets code in a very slow manner, but dynamically translates the PA-RISC binary instructions." In other words, booting is a very early success. Simulating the processes of the HP 3000 via software -- even at an unstable state -- is a good start, but it's a great distance away from being able to replicate 3000-grade performance. Even Stromasys is working on getting versions of CHARON that can match N-Class top-end systems.

Głowacz said during the past week that "for now, we're working with the HPSUSAN number taken from the rp7400 we own (it's stored in our PDC/NVRAM)." That's a PA-RISC system built for HP-UX, not MPE -- and so missing the essential PDC requirement. "I'm just not sure if it'd be enough when we'll test third-party software," Głowacz said. "As for our costs [to build this], it's a 100 percent free-time project, so we're working in our spare time. That's why it took so long to bring our simulator to the current state."

Głowacz hasn't said how long his volunteers have been working on their simulator. But Boers said this kind of work just underscores the ideal that virtualization is the future for legacy environments like MPE.

I appreciate people who try to simulate legacy systems. I believe it is the only way in the future to capture the knowledge embedded in business critical legacy applications, instead of ripping everything up and repeating the mistakes of the past in a new build. Piotr might get more appreciation if he would build an HP 9000 out of it that can run HP-UX. That is somewhat simpler, as it does not have the obstacle of an embedded licensing mechanism. Before we implemented the HP 3000 PDC, we effectively had virtualized an HP 9000, running Linux.

The open source goal "for now is to have 6.5 MPE/iX up and running for at least a week," Głowacz wrote today. "After the base system beta testing, we'd like to go for a more complex verification -- IMAGE maybe?"

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:50 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2013

Community needs story, regardless of media

WorldofWebJust as I was closing out our latest printed issue, our 139th in paper, we got word about a new entry into the HP 3000 emulation derby. It's software that wishes it could enable Intel PCs to boot MPE/iX. It's a long way from ready for prime time. Most of the problem lies in the fact that the effort is open-sourced. There's no open source for the MPE boot routines inside PA-RISC.

Print-ExclusiveYou might not even call this one a market entry, largely because it’s open sourced. It would not ever really be for sale, not any more than Linux was ever sold in the first 15 years of its lifespan. Open source relies on the volunteer time of brilliant minds. Some day, marketing and sales might be handled over the Web as well as Git stores program code repositories. However, for putting software into production that will be running a company, there’s nothing like an old-school visit in person, in a meeting room, with customer technicians on hand. That's sales today. And probably sales tomorrow, too.

We might be headed toward a day when some old-school standards seem just old, rather than classic and proven. This momentum is gathering quickly in my world of words for publication. This summer we saw the departure of InformationWeek from the ranks of printed publications. The weekly that covered the HP departure from the 3000 world, as well as HP’s e3000 rebranding of the box, is now a weekly publication of about five articles per issue. That’s around 20 a month, or the same number we put onto the Web in our blog.

EsquireSpreadWeb-based publication can do some things that print struggles to do these days. Some publishers remain devoted to the printed look, but can provide on a laptop screen, or in the case of the picture at left, on a 27-inch desktop. (Go ahead, click on it to see how close that Esquire page can be reproduced on the screen.) Online publications can be searched in a way print won't provide. (Go ahead, click on the link off our front page banner where it says Download our latest print issue. You get a PDF file that can be searched.) What's more, such online information reaches readers nobody knows, people who care about the subject but have escaped the commonplace radar. Anybody hear of Innovest as a 3000 site? We just did this month.

In 18 years of collecting and curating customer names, this one from New York escaped us. But then so did Turbosoft, the Australian firm that started to market its $49.95 iPad app up on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn. A rollout, on a localized website.

The Web provides ways to change the formula for information industries. Some companies never climb on the back of this tiger, while others work to make their paper versions look and behave just like print. Three years ago a company called Zinio was ready to take advantage of the juggernaut of tablets launched by the iPad. Right out of the box at the tablet's debut. This summer they’ve got scores of magazines online, readable through an app, or displayed in glorious 27-inch color on a desktop screen.

I read Esquire and love the online version — which I pay for— better than the print. I still keep print copies around for reference, but they’re not easy to dig into. There’s that index and searching thing that’s tough to offer on paper.

The same sort of quantum leap beckons from the edge of the cloud revolution. We’ve heard of a project to offer proof of concept installations for the Stromasys emulator — that’s the tested emulator, proven at sites and fully licensed for MPE — via the cloud. A company called Datapipe is working with Stromasys to offer these proofs. Some 3000 customers don’t want the hardware in their shop anymore. Just MPE, IMAGE and a proven set of applications.

The Web takes away old-school habits whenever it can improve, and then prove. What will never go away is our need for stories. How we deliver them can always evolve.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:30 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 30, 2013

A 3000 emulator needs HP's IP to boot

Last week we reported a couple of stories' worth of information about a new emulator effort for the HP 3000. This one couldn't be more different than the Stromasys Charon product that's now winning customers. We've gotten a heads-up that another Charon site will be going online to replace large HP 3000s, this one in the northeast at a financial services company.

Meanwhile, Piotr Głowacz in Poland is fronting a band of developers who are taking an open source approach -- using publically-available documents.

We did our simulator based 100 percent on publicity-available docs (which is typical for FOSS projects). We've reached the point where the simulator is running, going through the install process for MPE/iX and crashes at the very unspecified moments. As we can't provide an HPSUSAN number for testing, we're just hoping our simulator will do (and we're closer to our goal each day).

We’re still checking to see if Głowacz’ team means that they're getting closer to a non-crash startup for MPE/iX every day. It’s not clear why if they had an HPSUSAN number, it would that help in the testing.

BootWhat your community learned in 2003 was HP's help would be required to emulate PA-RISC processors capable of booting MPE/iX. There's a Processor Dependent Code routine or module that halted the Stromasys work for years. HP's intellectual property lawyers wouldn't cooperate, and the Stromasys development had to get shelved. Until 2008, when HP changed its mind.

Open source has its unique advantages. One of them is finding things available in public domain and modifying that source code to solve a problem. However, PDC has been considered a trade secret by HP. Getting documentation about PDC from a public source is going to be a tough assignment. Stromasys got the information by arranging for a top-down, official relationship with HP. That's led to an HP Worldwide Reseller agreement.

Not even the licensees of the source code for MPE/iX have those internal HP docs about PDC in PA-RISC.

In a commercial arrangement, HP's lawyers might be convinced that it's a good idea to make that data available. It's a leap of faith to imagine that arrangement taking place for an open source project. This project would be the first open source re-engineering of a processor for the HP enterprise user base.

People have ported open source tools. But to open-source an simulator of a proprietary chip, booting a proprietary enterprise OS, has never been done. That distinction of emulator and simulator is important.

If the open source team has a chance getting what it needs from Hewlett-Packard, it might start with Jennie Hou at HP. She ran the 3000 business group at the end, until there was no more group.

We don't know several other things yet. Are any of these developers experienced with MPE? Charon got release-ready when some MPE veterans joined the effort. And I also asked Głowacz "why do this, for a slice of the computer community that's so small?" It's clearly not a simple effort, as an volunteer open source project for a community the size of the 3000’s. The answer sounded like a line from a political speech or a play. “As for your question why, I'd like to answer as simplest as I can — if we're not for money, why not?” Glowacz said.

The line attributed to US Senator Robert F. Kennedy goes, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” In truth, the line comes from playwright George Bernard Shaw’s play Back to Methuselah. It was spoken by the Serpent in that play. 

“Why not” is noble and laudable. But there are expenses in most of the simulator/emulator projects -- if nothing else, there's the time of the developers and testers. Those are some reasons why not. Perhaps the nature of an open source project simply absorbs these real costs of labor and systems. 

There are worse places for the 3000 community to find itself, than to be the subject of an open source simulator. Whether it’s suitable for commercial use must still be proven — once the effort gets a version which can boot. The hobbyist part of the 3000 community -- most likely to sieze on a free tool -- is already served by a free limited user and horsepower version of the Stromasys Charon software.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:19 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2013

Other emulator: no sales, some commerce

The developer team that's working on a second HP 3000 emulator opened its horizons today with a message sent to the 3000-L mailing list. Piotr Glowacz was on the hunt for a copy of MPE/iX, as we noted yesterday. He'd really like copies of 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5.

One reader on the mailing list suggested this software was available from Client Systems. That company sells HP 3000s, as it has for more than five years by itself, and another 10 before that as the only North American distributor for HP's 3000 business.

The scope of this project led by Glowacz -- the group has yet to boot up a 3000 under any conditions, emulated or not -- clearly falls outside the range of sales. Today Glowacz said that there will no sales of the software once they finish. It's open source, after all. Noting that the project is not like the 3000 emulator now selling from Stromasys, Glowacz calls it a simulator.

Our simulator isn't going to be a commercial software. We want free, BSD-licensed, fully functional simulator for 3k architecture, for both private and commercial use.

There's another non-commercial aspect to this Simulator project. The group doesn't have a company behind it or enough resources to buy a bottom-end HP 3000 -- and get a copy of MPE/iX in the process.

"I know there are plenty of cheap 3k systems available," Glowacz told me in an email. "But at this moment we don't have resources needed to buy it and move it in (we're just a group of programmers, dispersed worldwide, with no commercial support and no company behind). Also, we'd need a few of these machines, as we're trying to simulate not only N-Class and A-class, but also older systems, like 9xx."

Another option emerged as a suggestion, and we're following up on that, too. Jack Connor, a hardworking volunteer for the OpenMPE board in the past and a current tech wizard for Abtech, said he believes Client Systems could provide what Piotr needs, for a fee.

I know that you can get, I believe, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, and 7.5 from Client Systems.  There's a fee, but for bare bones MPE/iX without any of the major add-ons, I'd think price would be minimal.

These are legitimate licensed copies of MPE/iX, so all's above board as concerns HP.

I've reached out to Dan Cossey at Client Systems to check on the above, and see if this is the way it works there this year. The front page of their website they say they distinguish themselves by being

the only company authorized by Hewlett Packard in North America; that is allowed and capable of creating and loading a custom FPT (factory Pre load Tape) the exact same way it has been done at the HP factory for 30 years.

If they can do that tape for Piotr and his band of developers, then why not do it for everybody? And if that's true, it would change the prospects for any emulator, or simulator. It's been a given, up to now, that the only emulator customers will be companies which already own a valid 3000 license.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:33 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2013

Open source emulator creator seeks MPE

Our ally and friend Alan Yeo flagged down a message to the 3000 community from a developer who says he's in a group that's written an HP 3000 emulator. "A second emulator," read Alan's message. He suggested that we track down details from Piotr Glowacz, the creator of the message below -- which was posted on the comp.sys.hp.mpe newsgroup.

As I can't get any response from HP, I've decided to give this group a try. With a group of system programmers, we're working on a free, open source 3k emulator, based on QEMU (and its binary translator), with the goal to get a fully functioning rp7400/N4K environment. As for now, we have it working with HP-UX 11i, but our main goal is to get MPE/iX up and running on it.

So, my question is -- is someone on this group able to provide us with MPE/iX installation media images? I know it's a gray land, but as I can't get any response from HP (even after they announced their HP3k simulator programme), I'm willing to risk, and try to run our simulator with an 'unauthorized' copy of the OS, just to check if it's working.

Glowacz might know that there's already a free version of a tested emulator out on the marketplace. The A202 version of the CHARON HPA/3000 emulator can be downloaded from Stromasys. It's a two-user instance and includes a version of MPE/iX, already hosted in a VMWare player instance and bootable from a Linux distro. Stromasys was passing out this freeware -- which is not open source software -- on USB sticks at this spring's Training Day event in Mountain View. The stick even includes an MPE/iX image. The A202 is not licensed for commercial use, only personal and pilot testing.

However, if you'd like to help Glowacz and his group, he's listing his email as [email protected]

It seems the best way to get a disk image is to purchase a used HP 3000. It's very inexpensive these days, for a small one, with a valid license. The 3000-L mailing list -- which is not where Glowacz started his hunt for an MPE image -- has seen several individuals who have 3000s which they'd like to get out of their shops or garages. Some have been offered for the cost of shipping, but we don't know how many have MPE/iX 7.5.

For that matter, we're not sure if this open source emulator requires the latest version of MPE/iX to succeed. As the developers don't yet have MPE/iX in their lab, they probably don't know that either. But many of the nearly-free 3000s have an MPE license, something Glowacz's team could create a disk image from.

It's interesting that HP hasn't responded to his request for an MPE image, but it's not clear where you'd ask for an image of MPE/iX simply for testing. There's no way for HP to just hand out an image. The OS has been tied to real HP hardware instances -- and defended in lawsuits by HP -- for close to 15 years. You cannot have a legal copy of MPE without a piece of hardware. HP created an emulator license in 2004, but you must transfer a legal copy of a license to emulator use. HP's not creating MPE licenses anymore.

To be sure, Glowacz can get an MPE installation image from somewhere in the community. For testing purposes, this could be a start. We'd advise that he go straight to NMMGR for testing once he's got it loaded. (Be sure and see if block mode works.) He should also start up ODE from the ISL prompt that he'll get off of this open source emulator.

It's easy to be skeptical about open source projects. But some amazing tools have started there. The obvious poster child for open source is Linux. We don't know if this open source emulator is hosted on a Linux system as its cradle. Stromasys began with the idea of using Windows, but that didn't even last long enough to see the light of the round of beta testing.

We'll check back in when we hear more about the open source emulator. QEMU is, according to Wikipedia's article 

a hosted virtual machine monitor: It emulates central processing units through dynamic binary translation and provides a set of device models, enabling it to run a variety of unmodified guest operating systems. It also provides an accelerated mode for supporting a mixture of binary translation (for kernel code) and native execution (for user code), in the same fashion VMware Workstation and VirtualBox do. QEMU can also be used purely for CPU emulation for user-level processes, allowing applications compiled for one architecture to be run on another.

QEMU "can boot many guest operating systems, including Linux, Solaris, Microsoft Windows, DOS, and BSD Unix. It supports emulating several instruction sets, including x86, MIPS, ARM, PowerPC, SPARC, ETRAX CRIS and MicroBlaze." The main website for the code lists HP PA-RISC as a "target" for QEMU. There is a Git repository for HPPA target support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:13 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 16, 2013

Something for MPE at Apple's App Store

About 10 days ago, the Australian software company Turbosoft announced that it had unveiled an iPad app that will emulate HP 3000 terminals. While the functionality of TTerm Pro is being reviewed for our August printed issue, we can review the costs of delivering a 3000 terminal interface to the world's most-purchased tablet.

Art Haddad made the first mention of TTerm on the HP 3000 Community group of LinkedIn. Turbosoft wasn't on my radar for MPE-ready software, but I can't even pretend to know every product. This one has been on offer for 3000s for about 20 years.

TTerm definitely supports Telnet connections, and the [HP 3000] emulations are complete. Turbosoft has been developing terminal emulation software since 1986 and the HP series of terminals has been in its Windows-based products from the early 1990s. The main feature that our Windows products have over the iPad range is NS-VT support, as well as scripting. However, there is a plan to add NS-VT support to TTerm Pro in the not too distant future.

TTermProConnectionsHaddad, who works from Australia but actually takes calls in North American West Coast time (that's an early workday there) also gave us a peek at what it's like to sell on the Apple App Store. TTerm was already evolving when we talked last week, but that improved version was going to take a few more weeks of review time before Apple would sell it. Apple's system would then notify a user who'd bought the app a newer version could be downloaded.

Somehow, Apple has turned around the usual software formula: now sales and delivery has been made to lag behind development. This situation might serve to explain a little about the $49.95 price for the app. It only seems pricey until a 3000 manager goes to look for another terminal emulator app -- on any tablet. Not just Apple's.

There is no other HP 3000 terminal app for an iPad, although there are a number of telnet 'terminal' programs that can log on to a 3000. Haddad's company took the challenge of bringing a multiple-terminal emulator through the Apple iOS development rigors, as well as getting it sold in the only place you can buy an iOS app. That's a vendor-controlled store. On August 16, a US court threw out a lawsuit against Apple, one that claimed the vendor should not limit iOS customers to buying apps through the App Store.

Haddad has nothing to do with the lawsuit, but he did comment on how the Windows version of TTerm Pro gave his company no advantage in creating an iOS release.

"We've been developing the app for what feels like forever," he said. "We've spent a lot on it. Apple is not the easiest company to develop software for. With Apple we pretty much had to start from scratch. They're very firm about that. You can't take the code that you're got and put it onto an iPad. It's just not possible."

In the summer of 2010 we reported on another terminal emulator that was going to appear on the iPad, but that project didn't come to fruition. Haddad's insight -- like confirming that it's between two and three weeks from release to Apple to the update availability -- shows how tough some apps can be to craft. 

About the only other software developer in the MPE community who's shown the stamina to release an iOS app is Allegro Consultants. Its iAdmin app is coupled with a backend service to track crucial system data like CPU use and disk capacity, among other markers.

In addition to its 2392, 700/94 and 700/92 emulation, TTerm Pro emulates terminals from 20 other vendors. Some of these vendors have not shipped systems in two decades: Stratus, Siemens Nixdorf and Televideo come up on the supported terminals list.

LouisC.KThis is an iPad version of a $125 Windows 7 product, so perhaps this app is not as pricey as it might seem compared to a 99-cent Angry Birds, or even the top-notch PDF reader, annotator, and filer GoodReader selling at $4.99. It's a similar situation that Stromasys is tackling with its HP 3000 hardware virtualizer, Charon HPA/3000. Just like Louis C.K. jokes in his comedy routine about in-flight WiFi, the miracle for these products is getting overlooked by our altered reality about software value. (Warning for those new to Louis C.K.: link NSFW.)

This value issue is also the dilemma the HP 3000 faced at Hewlett-Packard, once commodity systems entered the price list. Lowering a price can be a way to lower the perception of value. HP took holding up its pricing to an extreme that flattened customer base growth. But like getting an iOS program written and updated in the App Store, keeping a 3000's value in line with 2013 expectations is tricky. Until you hear Louis C.K. shout about magic we overlook -- having a 40-year-old OS built well enough to continue running companies today, firms that might want to use the system via an iPad.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:54 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2013

Where Three 3000 Pros Have Gone

Jon Diercks. Jim Sartain. Jim Hawkins. Each of these pros have had a large profile for the HP 3000 community. If one of these J-Men escaped your attention, we can recap. But first, understand that all technology prowess moves on -- not just MPE's -- hungry for the next challenge.

JondiercksDiercks is the author of the only professional handbook for MPE/iX. Written during the year 2000 and published less than six months before HP's 3000 exit announcement, The MPE/iX System Administrator's Handbook is virtually out of print by now, but Diercks still has his hand in 3000 administration, on the side. He raffled off author copies of his book at the 2011 HP3000 Reunion. The book remains alive on the O'Reilly Safari website, where it can be referenced through your browser via your Safari subscription.

IPadCharonToday he's the IT director for a tax accounting and financial services firm in Northern California. In his spare time he's managed to put the console screen for the HP 3000 emulator onto an iPad for control. First time we've ever seen that done; the 3000's native MPE/iX colon prompt has been there before, but not a BYOD interface for the Stromasys product. See for yourself, above.

SartainJim Sartain became the essence of IMAGE at HP while it was adding its SQL to its name. In his final work at the vendor, he ran the Open Skies division of the HP 3000 unit at Hewlett-Packard. What's that, you may ask. In the late 1990s, general manager Harry Sterling bought a software company outright to capture 3000 business and prove the server was capable of modern IT. Open Skies offered online reservations software for JetBlue, RyanAir, Virgin Express and AirTran, among others. 

Today Sartain has become a VP again, this time at another software icon. After managing quality assurance for Intuit, Adobe and McAfee, he's leading the Engineering 4.0 Initiative for Symantec. As usual, Sartain is reaching for the big goal. The initiative will "transform Symantec Product Development world-wide," according to his page at LinkedIn. He's running an Engineering Services organization for the company's security, tools and shared software components.

When TurboIMAGE was facing a campaign of disrepute at Hewlett-Packard in the early 1990s -- one of the database's darkest times -- Sartain was in charge of sparking new engineering requests for the 3000 keystone. Sartain may be best-known in the 3000 community, however, for work he led in response to a customer revolt in 1990.

Once customers expressed their displeasure at a waning emphasis on IMAGE, the 3000 division of 1991 had to respond with improvements. Sartain was directly responsible for HP's offering of an SQL interface for IMAGE, the first advance that signaled CSY’s commitment to what the unit called the Customer First strategy. Sartain worked with a revived IMAGE special-interest group to revitalize the database. Dynamic detail dataset expansion and third-party interface work also began on his watch.

HawkinsAnother HP Jim, Hawkins, was among the last deep-technical pros to work on MPE/iX at the vendor. His name became synonymous on the 3000 newsgroup with IO expertise, and for more than six years he worked post HP-announcement to lead "various Roadmap teams to deliver on HP e3000 end-of-life roadmaps to meet basic customer and partner needs."

Hawkins can still be seen posting occassionally on the 3000 newsgroup, delivering engineering history that can be helpful for the IT pro still meeting IO issues. Today Hawkins has become HP's Integrity System Quality Program Manager, which includes programs to detect product issues earlier in the lifecycles of Proliant and rx2800 Integrity servers. He's still at the vendor after entering his 3000 era on the MPE customer and R&D support team in 1986.

These J-Men helped to build intelligence, software engineering and hardware prowess for the 3000. They're out in newer fields looking for challenges in technology. They all have worked in the era where HP wanted to be known as a 3000 customer's Trusted Advisor. You might say they're still proving that Trust Never Sleeps.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:56 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2013

IT's print populace loses a weekly citizen

InfoWeek Digital WinsWord came today that the last issue of InformationWeek has left the presses. The weekly magazine that covered Hewlett-Packard's rise into an era of open systems -- and noted HP's shift to the Internet for its 3000 business -- shut down its printed edition with today's issue. InformationWeek started printing 28 years ago when there was no Web. Today it took its steps out of postal boxes by proclaiming, Digital Wins.

There was a time when that headline might've proclaimed a market victory for a computer vendor of the same name. But the realities of producing what had become a 36-page weekly, printed in four colors and mailed around the world, caught up with the advertising preferences of today. My partner Abby Lentz heard the news and said, "They contributed to that win themselves, didn't they?"

This was not the first news of an IT weekly shutdown. PC Week left the postboxes years ago. Earlier this month, PC World stopped its printed editions. Earlier in 2013, Newsweek and US News & World Report took their exits from the world of ink and paper. All were general interest magazines. Specialization is a more modern business model for information.

It's not that these information outlets have outlived their utility. But the means for news delivery has changed as much as the publishing of books. I learned the news of the InformationWeek shutdown from David Thatcher, a former HP 3000 vendor who's seen his MPE software product ADBC thrive and then decline.

ADBC is database middleware which linked the IMAGE/SQL database closely with Java. It was released in the era when Java was touted as the language most likely to succeed at crossing platform barriers. Java might be replacing something else, a technology standing on a predecessor's back as surely as the InformationWeek print issues helped lift the Web into dominance.

ADBC continues to have utility for some 3000 managers. One 3000 manager, whose clients provide a very crucial military service, runs a 3000. The system design at the shop included a tool advanced at its first release, the middleware that uses Adager's Java-based tool designs.

Twenty-eight years is a long time in an industry that paves itself over like IT does. Last summer I marked 28 years on the job writing about Hewlett-Packard, and the last 18 of those have included a print edition we've published. It's been an interesting time for print purveyors. At one time, publishing a print edition or hailing from a print staff was needed to confer competence. Today, simply writing on a regular basis with attention to the facts and exclusive reports will do the job. Look in the front of most best-selling paperbacks and see that more than half of the glowing reviews come off websites.

We're heading toward a day when printing a periodical will seem like a luxury, or even a vanity, instead of a stamp of validation. Major publications take their pages out of circulation when the economics of print take a back seat to the habits of readers. We still hear from readers who say they focus on their 3000 news once our print editions arrive in those postal boxes.

One advantage of having a weekly deadline was the ability to research a story without a need for hurling it into plain sight even faster than overnight. But research happens so much quicker than it did in 1984. Archives are online. Our own references to software created in 1997 like ADBC are just a handful of keystrokes away.

Meanwhile, that paving proceeds apace. The technology that once looked invinceable, like Unix or even C, takes its place in the back rows of the parade. InfoWorld, still printing a weekly edition, reported that Java's owner Oracle wants the language to take the place of C -- at least in spots where C's been embedded for years.

With an upgrade to the embedded version of Java announced Tuesday, Oracle wants to extend the platform to a new generation of connected devices, aka the Internet of things. Oracle also hopes that Java can supplant the C language in some embedded development projects.

The Internet of things includes devices ranging from street lights to home automation and security systems, said Peter Utzschneider, Oracle vice president of product management. "It's basically the third generation of the Internet."

Just as there's a Web 3.0 on the horizon, publication has already gained a new generation. We subscribe to the local newspaper here in Austin, because without it there would be only cursory coverage of the city's issues. (You can't rely on 150 seconds of a TV story to understand something.) But our daily is giving us fewer reasons to pick up that recyclable newsprint off our driveway, even as we still purchase it. I read the Statesman's digital edition without getting out of bed, before sunup. When the carrier missed delivery, we could still print out the puzzles to enjoy.

If print reaches out better than digital formats, it can continue to win readers. But in a world of $29-a-month 6-megabit broadband service, the unique format of paper, ink and staples wasn't enough for large publishers like the Washington Post Company (Newsweek) or UBM (InformationWeek) to keep presses running. Companies track when their tools retain their value -- like the 3000 -- and when to take steps away from established solutions. So long as someone reads, regardless of the medium, a proposition of value remains.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:49 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 22, 2013

When needed, 3000 can stick to the fax

It's easy to assume that the fax machine has gone the way of the electric typewriter. But just as CIOs misread the need for 3000-grade data efficiency, the facsimile still works in business around the world. Just as you might expect, there are still a couple of applications that can take HP 3000 data and push it into a fax.

FaxLifeIn a delightful article from the website Mobiledia, author Kat Ascharya tells the story of how this technology refuses to disappear. In our own experience here at the 3000 Newswire offices, we learned that the US government's Social Security Administration requires some payroll documents to be verified by fax. Ascharya tallies up the places where this late '80s tech has held on.

Fax machines are relics of the Stone Age, yet they still persist around the world. It turns out heavily-regulated industries -- like banking, finance, law and healthcare -- are one reason sales hold steady. And despite strong competition from cloud-sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive, over 35 million all-in-one fax machines were shipped worldwide in 2011 and 2012, according to Gartner. And that doesn't include single-function machines, which the firm stopped tracking years ago.

"There are still plenty of fax machines out there," Ken Weilerstein, a Gartner analyst, told Fortune. "Declining in this space doesn't mean disappearing by a long shot."

In the 3000 community one of the best known and most versatile software tools, Hillary's byRequest software, includes fax distribution among its report methods.

As Ascharya's feature asked, "Why do businesses insist on fax when you can just scan, convert and e-mail? You can do it to anything and send it anywhere at any time." The byRequest description does include a broad range of sending -- including the fax.

In a single step, report files, data files, and business forms can be securely selected, formatted and distributed to one or more users in any variety of popular PC desktop files.  Create formatted files in PDF, Word, Excel, HTML and more. Use unlimited delivery options to distribute files to PCs, LANs, WANs, network folders, server archives and the Internet. Files can also be emailed, faxed or printed.

By the year 1987, I had to persuade the owner of The HP Chronicle -- my entry to the HP market -- to get our publishing company its first fax machine. European markets for HP and Sun were opening up to us. An LA Times article of the following year touted the fax as "revolutionizing office environments."

And in 1987 HP released its first PA-RISC HP 3000s, using chip technology so durable that it's now being emulated in the Stromasys CHARON HPA/3000 virtualization engine.

There's even an HP 3000 application, AventX MPE (nee Fax/3000) that started out as a fax-only solution.  STR Software's owner Ben Bruno told us in 2010 he'll be supporting the MPE version of the software until every 3000 owner using it gives it up. "We sold 600+ customers a license of AventX MPE from 1988 to 2002," he said. "We have retained about 100 of them on non-MPE platforms, and 50 of the remaining MPE ones will never replace it."

We're not saying that the HP 3000 is computing's equivalent of the fax machine, except in one aspect -- it's lived on for a long time. Ascharya wrote about a tool's durability as a means to cement itself as a standard.

It lives because, for a long time, it was the best and often only way to share documents quickly. Sure, there are faster and more convenient options, but no one standard has emerged to dethrone the king from its place atop the office machine kingdom. And to understand why, we have to look at its history.

The facsimile transmission has had over 160 years to cement itself as a business-world standard. In 1843, Scottish inventor Alexander Bain received a patent for a method to "produce and regulate electric currents in electric printing and signal telegraphs" -- in other words, the first fax transmission.

A short film, The Secret Life of the Fax Machine, provides an entertaining tour of why this classic technology has survived.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:43 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2013

Glossary to the Future: SDN

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

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

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

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

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

Like a lot of HP's newest technology, OpenFlow is pitched as a tool to ramp up agility. The vendor says "aging networking environments" hold down innovation.

Enterprise network design and architectures have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. While applications and systems have evolved to meet the demands of a world where real-time communications, rich-media, and mobility are the norm, the underlying network infrastructure has not kept pace.

HP 3000 IT managers will recognize the tone of "what you've got is holding you back," but in the case of deploying more virtualization resources, SDN could have a role to play for any company heading to the cloud.

Enterprise network design and architectures have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. While applications and systems have evolved to meet the demands of a world where real-time communications, rich-media, and mobility are the norm, the underlying network infrastructure has not kept pace.

A new paradigm in networking is emerging. SDN represents an evolution of networking that holds the promise of eliminating legacy human middleware and paves the way for business innovation. With SDN, IT can orchestrate network services and automate control of the network according to high-level policies, rather than low-level network device configurations. By eliminating manual device-by-device configuration, IT resources can be optimized to lower costs and increase competitiveness.

The desire for automated and dynamic control over network resources is not new. However, with the emergence of technologies such as OpenFlow, the ability to implement SDN to increase agility has never been simpler.

OpenFlow platformsIt's early days for SDN, according to several articles from Infoworld. Switch and router vendors such as Cisco are grappling with how to offer their purpose-specific, hardware-based networking devices at the same time as SDN software starts to take the lead in network management. But Infoworld's Matt Prigge says that "SDN is most certainly the way of the future, especially as more and more on-premises networks move into the cloud, where the technology is nearly ubiquitous." 

SDN VisionHP touts its lineup of SDN-ready network hardware (above) such as the HP 3500 Intelligent Switch, while it shows the end-to-end SDN solutions vision (at right; click on either graphic for more detail). HP says that since virtualization has redefined how apps, servers, and storage are deployed, it's now heading toward the network. "Once a brittle bottleneck standing in the way of dynamic IT, the network’s future is one of greater agility, scalability, and security. Now is the time to make that future a reality." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:38 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 11, 2013

A New Opening for Old 3000 Skills

Sometimes we've noted the opening of a contract or consulting opportunity that requires HP 3000 experience. We're usually following the initial posting. In December we broke the ice on an East Coast position for 3000 work, offered at a contractor level. This time we're helping a reader who's ready to hire someone, looking for "the elusive COBOL programmer" to employ.

The 3000 Newswire is happy to make this kind of news a part of our daily feed. If you have an opening, be sure to contact us. For candidates, other avenues exist while looking for a place to deploy your senior skills. The HP 3000 Community on LinkedIn has a Jobs section of its discussions, for example.

Today, the opportunity rests in an Ecometry-centric shop. It's either full-time, or long-term contract, and telecommuting is an option, too.

A leading ecommerce/direct-to-consumer service company is seeking a COBOL programmer with Ecometry and HP 3000 programming experience. They will be involved in every phase of the development lifecycle. He/she must be able to attend requirements meetings, translate the requirements into design documents, code from a design document, create test scenarios/cases/scripts, perform and support various testing cycles, create implementation plans and implement the change. Telecommuting is an option, so all qualified candidates are encouraged to apply regardless of location.

For any community member who'd like to apply, they can send an email to [email protected], using the subject, "Cobol/Ecometry/HP3000 Programmer." You'll want to include a cover letter, resume and salary history and expectations.

The skill set is well within the range of many candidates. Last December when we passed along that consultant and contractor opportunity, 24 leads blew into our in-box in 48 hours. Here's the lineup of needs at that Ecometry shop.

ο Extensive knowledge of COBOL and Ecometry, either on the MPEix platform or on Open Systems

ο Bachelor (4-year) degree in Computer Science, MIS or related field and at least five years of programming experience

ο Experience with either HP COBOL and IMAGE DB or Fujitsu Netcobol for Windows and SQL. 

ο Knowledge of  Ecometry accounting, warehouse, shipping, order management and merchandising functionality.

ο Ability to work within a team, interfacing with Ecometry support staff and  third party vendors  for problem resolution

ο Ability to make sound judgment and develop applications that make a positive effect on business.

ο Ability to work with minimal supervision on complex projects.

ο Must be resilient and possess solid ability to multi-task.

ο Perform efficiently under pressure

ο Advanced computer skills.

 

Experience with the following is a plus:

ο SQL Server database experience

ο Suprtool and Qedit knowledge

ο MPE to Open Systems conversion

ο Windows programming languages 

ο Ecomedate data warehouse using SQL Server

This position will include the opportunity to learn other technologies (C#, VB.net, ASP.net, SQL Server) for those candidates who are interested.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:00 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 08, 2013

UPS Redux: Finding Gurus and a False Dawn

Editor’s note: Previously, when a pair of HP 3000s were felled in the aftermath of a windstorm that clipped out the power, a sound strategy of using an Uninterrupted Power Supply in the IT mix failed, too. After a couple of glasses of merlot, our intrepid IT manager Alan Yeo at ScreenJet continues to reach out for answers to his HP 3000 datacenter dilemma — why that UPS that was supposed to be protecting his 3000s and Windows servers went down with the winds' shift. 

By Alan Yeo
Second in a series

Feeling mellower, with nothing I really want to watch on the TV, I decide to take a prod at the servers and see what the problems are. 

Decide that I'll need input to diagnose the Windows problem, so that can wait until the morning. Power-cycle the 917 to watch the self-test cycle and get the error, do it again. (Well sometimes these things fix themselves, don't they?) Nope, it’s dead! 

“Take out my long spoon and sup with the devil,” as they say, with a Web search. Nope, Google turns up nothing on the error, apart from a couple of old HP-UX workstation threads, where the advice seems to be “time to call your HP support engineer.”  Nothing on the 3000-L newsgroup archives, either. (I'd tell you the 3000 error code, but I've thrown away the piece of paper I had with all the scribbles from that weekend).

Where's a guru
when you want one?

I really wanted to get the 917 back up and running over the weekend, as it had all our Transact test software on it. Dave Dummer (the original author of Transact) was doing some enhancements to TransAction (our any-platform replacement for Transact) and we had planned to get some testing done for early the following week, to help a major customer.  

So it's 11:30 PM UK time, but it's only 3:30 PM PDT! I wonder who's around at Allegro? A quick Skype gets hold of Steve Cooper, who with the other Allegroids (interesting, my spell checker thinks Allegroid is a valid word) diagnose within five minutes that the 3000 has got a memory error. The last digit of the error indicates which memory bank slot has the problem.

Okay, I'm not going to start climbing around the back of the rack at this time of night. I leave it until the morning, but at least I know what the problem is.

False Dawn

Feeling refreshed, let's get these hardware problems sorted. Get the Windows server booted with “Hirens Boot CD” magic set of tools for fixing loads of stuff. Diagnoses that there are a couple of missing .DLL's. Okay, patch them in, still problems! seems to be a hall of mirrors every time we patch something in, the next missing file is found. This could go on for ages. 

Try various Windows recovery reinstalls, but they all fail, Windows 2003 doesn't think it's installed, but would happily install if I let it reformat the hard drive. Not the recovery I was looking for. Run some disc-checking utilities and basically whilst the disc checks out okay, the file directory (or whatever it's called) is smashed. Do we spend a lot of time rebuilding a Windows system that's only running one piece of software that should have been moved off anyway? Simple choice, no. Leave it to my co-worker Mark to figure out what to do to get mail flowing again, whilst I take a look at the 917 memory problem.

Pulling the memory card is no problem. Working out which of the five banks is bad takes a bit more work, but a bit of plug engineering and a couple of reboots shows that we have 64MB (2x32) of bad memory. No problem, plenty left, so remove it and reboot. Great, get to the ISL prompt, do a START NORECOVERY and go get a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and I’ll soon have this system back up.

SYSTEM ABORT from SUBSYS 143

SYSHALT 7,$0267

FLT DEAD

Oh, hell.  

Long Story Short (or another one bites the dust)

Okay, it's about time we cut this story short — although I am certain you want to read about someone else's trials and tribulations, even as I suspect you’re only reading to find out why your UPS is useless. Suffice it to say that the 3000's LDEV 2 had also been fried, which we replaced, then the DAT drive was dead, which was replaced, but was still dead.

So in the end, we decided our fastest recovery solution was to scrap the 917 and merge its data with a 918 that has a clone in the shop. It’s a choice which makes DR recovery a lot simpler, also one less piece of kit burning electricity, that should help save the ice caps!

So what got Fried? HP 3000, Dell Intel Server, one modem, one DTC 16 -- and of course the two APC UPS's that were supposed to be protecting everything.

Why? Okay, okay, I've finally got around to the Meat and Potatoes bit. Given that the APC “Smart” UPS's had done such a wonderful job of protecting everything, it didn't seem much point sending them off anywhere for repair and putting them back into service. Also, I needed to get some replacements in ASAP. But the conundrum was why they hadn't protected everything as had been my expectation, so it’s about time to do some research on UPS's.  

It turns out there is a little bit of a clue in the three letter acronymn. The “U” stands for “Uninterruptible” not “Clean.”  I discover that there are two main types of UPS: the normal Line-Interactive. Everyone makes them, everyone's got one UPS like the APC Smart UPS. Then there’s the “On-line” ones. The major difference is that standard “Smart” UPS's (most of the time) feed a mains supply out to everything plugged into it. In contrast, the  on-line versions feed everything from an inverter 100 percent of the time.

But I hear you say (and as I thought) “My APC UPC filters the power, chopping down over voltage, boosting under voltage, and supplying power if the mains fails.”  Well the answer in classic 3000-L mode is, “Yes, but it depends.”  Now I'm no electrical expert, but I’ve worked up a layman's interpretation.

There’s something in the mix called Dirty Transfers.

Line Interactive UPS's do AVR, Automatic Voltage Regulation. Instead of going to battery during low or high input voltages, this sort of unit will use an Autotransformer to increase or reduce the voltage to a safe operating range without running on the battery. Within their stated tolerances, they can run almost indefinitely doing a number of things.

  • AVR Boost, where the UPS is compensating for a low utility voltage;
  • AVR Trim, when it is compensating for a high utility voltage.
  • If the voltage fluctuates outside a set range, or on some of them if the rate of change of the voltage exceeds a given threshold, then they will Transfer, using the battery power via an inverter. The UPS then monitors the AC supply and when it deems it is back within tolerance it transfers back to the mains supply.  

It is this Transfer Time (TT) that can cause some problems. Such as those at our shop.

In the finale: Keeping it clean, and learning you're an HP customer once again.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:10 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 05, 2013

Would You Like Fries With That 3000?

Editor's note: Intrepid veteran developer Alan Yeo of ScreenJet in the UK had a pair of HP 3000s felled recently, despite his sound strategy of using an Uninterrupted Power Supply in his IT mix (or "kit," as it's called in England). In honor of our fireworks-laden weekend here in the US, we offer Yeo's first installment of the rescue of the systems which logic said were UPS-protected. As Yeo said in offering the article, "We're pretty experienced here, and even we learned things through this about UPS." We hope you will as well.

New UPS Sir!
or
"Would you like fries with that?"

By Alan Yeo
First of a series

"Smart UPS" now has a new meaning to me. "You're going to smart, if you're dumb enough to buy one" I guess this is one of those stories where if you don't laugh you'd cry, so on with the laughs.

By the end of this tale, you should know why your UPS may be a pile of junk that should be thrown in the trash. And what you should replace it with.

Lightning_bolt_power_stripA Friday in early June and it was incredibly windy. Apparently we were getting the fag end of a large storm that had traversed the Atlantic after hitting the US the week before. Sort of reverse of the saying "America sneezes, and Europe catches a cold." This time we were getting the last snorts of the storm.

Anyway, with our offices being rurally located, strong winds normally mean that we are going to get a few power problems. The odd power blip and the very occasional outage as trees gently tap the overhead power lines. Always worst in the summer, as the trees are heavily laden with leaf and drooping closer to the lines than they are in the winter, when they come round and check them.

So this situation is not normally something we worry about. We are fairly well-protected (or so we thought) with a number of APC UPS units to keep our servers and comms kit safe from the blips and surges. The UPS units are big enough so that if the power does go out, we can keep running long enough for either the power to come back -- or if we find out from the power company that its likely to be a while, for us to shut down the servers.

We keep all the comms kit, routers, switches, firewalls and so forth on a separate UPS. This UPS will keep them running nearly all day, so that way we still have Internet access, Web, email and more, so can keep functioning, as long as the laptop batteries hold out.

The wind picked up during the morning and we had the expected a flick of the lights, and the odd bong, ping, and beep from the computer room as the UPS's responded to the odd voltage fluctuations and the momentary outages. Around 12:30 we had a quick sequence of power blips, followed by a couple of minutes of power gone, at which point the UPS's started bleeping loudly as they took the load. This is normally the trigger for me to wander in there and just do a visual glance at battery levels. I was stood in there as the power came back and was watching as the server's UPS came back normally. Then the comm's UPS flashed all its lights, beeped and went dead!

It's not dead, its just
sleeping after a long squawk!

Humm… First I thought it must be the overload switch, so disconnected all the load, grovelled around behind it and pressed the reset switch. Nothing. So I disconnect from the mains, reset, power it back on, nothing. Check the fuse in the plug, all okay, its still dead. Dig out the APC manual, whose symptoms say "don't use, return to your supplier for service." 

At this point the power goes completely for 10 minutes, and as I can see that the server UPS batteries are already half empty (or half-full if you're an optimist). "They must have been taking more of a load during the morning than I thought," I say to myself. I decided it was time for a controlled shutdown of the servers, which I did. Now I was going to have to rejig the power cables, so that we could feed power to the comm's kit (which was now on a dead UPS) from the server's UPS. A couple of minutes of work commenced, to move their supplies to spare outlets on the APC Switched Rack PDU that is fed by the UPS. The PDU is a network-addressable Power Distribution Unit, one that can power up/down individual power outlets, and thus we can remotely shutdown or reset the servers if needs be. 

So at this point the power comes back, and I power up the comm's kit, leaving the servers off. Decide I'll go for lunch, let the batteries recharge a bit, and make sure that the power is staying on before I restart the Servers.

Lunch passes, with a glass of Merlot. 

Now the power seems to be stable, so it's back to the computer room to bring up just the essential servers. Our main HP 3000 test server. A Windows mailserver, and a Windows file server that also handles our VPN connections (because everyone works remotely now). 

I'm in the middle of this when the power goes out again. I look at the PDU which tells me that we are drawing 3 amps (240v * 3 = 720 watts) = about 10 minutes worth on a half-charged 2200VA UPS.  Not worth it, so I shut the servers down (but I don't throw their power switches).

Fireworks!

At this point the power comes back and stays on for about five minutes. There's me standing there trying to decide what to do, when the power goes off again, and then comes back. At which point the sole remaining UPS goes BANG! It flashes its lights a bit whilst beeping manically, and then goes dead. The room fills with the smell of over-heated insulation, so I pull the UPS power plug.

Okay, "Sod this for a bunch of Soldiers," thinks I. Was going to finish early that day to help some friends set up for a weekend Charity Clay Shoot. "I'll go now and come back later -- when hopefully the wind has died down and the power is back to normal -- and then pick up the pieces."

Back in the datacentre at 8 p.m. and the wind is gone, with power back to normal. Okay, should just have time to get everything working before dinner. Play with the UPS for 10 minutes, but it's dead. So we are going to have to "walk the tight rope without safety harness or net" and run everything direct from the mains. 

Not exactly completely unprotected computing, because when we had had the new office wired 18 months ago, we installed surge protection on the mains supply. Its like a couple of cartridges that sit next to the distribution panel that absorb a surge, decaying in the process, until the point they need replacing. They have a status indicator on them telling you if they need changing, but they were showing green, so I thought I'd risk it for a few days, until we could source a new UPS. 

Why do these things always hit at a weekend?

Comms come back okay, although I noticed that an old dial up modem was dead that was still hooked up for dire emergency remote access if Internet access failed. Okay, now for the servers: power up the Series 917 and let it start its self test check (which takes ages, and lots of memory); power up the Series 918 (it does its memory tests much quicker); power up the Windows 2008 file server and a Windows mail database server. Plus, an older Windows 2003 server that still ran the SMTP software, which should have been moved to the 2008 server, but hadn't because we had never got around to it.

The HP 3000 918 comes up clean, the Windows 2008 server comes up, the Windows mail database server comes up. But HP 3000 917 is downed with an FLT error, the Windows 2003 Server is looping around boot start-up into Windows launch, then straight back to boot start-up. Wonderful! Sod it, go and have dinner and decide if I'm coming back later.

Next time: Where's a guru when you want one? 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:12 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2013

How infrastructure survives heated times

Over the past 24 hours I feel like I've been living the work life of a 3000 IT manager. We've had telecomm outages here, the kind that can mean lost business if it were not for backup strategies. Unlike the best of you, we don't have a formal plan to pass along in a disaster. Today's not really a disaster, unless you count the after-hours pleasure we hope to savor from Spurs basketball.

The FinalsIn a lock-down IT design, writing captures what to do when a telecomm service winks out dark. Our broadband provider is ATT, with an 800-number repair line to call. We poked at that twice today for one of our landlines, now without a dial tone since yesterday afternoon. There's a different repair number for the Uverse Internet service -- and also the world of IP everything else, since our downed data line means not only no fast Web, but no San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals basketball in about 2 hours or so.

Consolidation to a single provider promises savings, but also a single point of failure. Coordinating service between two arms of the same company? Well, that's not an automatic thing anymore. Meanwhile, the cloud-based IT promised by HP and others just pulls all of this recovery farther away from your affected IT shop.

Genesys-Meeting-Center-8About 10 days ago, MB Foster gave a thorough primer on the issues any company faces in keeping its disaster recovery process up to date. There's old tech (phone trees to spread the word on outages) as well as new elements like measuring the Mean Time To Recovery of Operations. MRRTO can help you decide where to put the effort first in a downtime event. Foster can help you ready for the calamity with a thorough inventory of what's running, something that CEO Birket Foster says too many companies just don't have up to date.

"You look at the different processes in your company and figure what's critical to keeping the business alive," Foster said in a June 5 Wednesday Webinar. "It comes down to understanding if there's a cluster of applications which work together, so you have to bring them all up together at the same time," he said. A DR plan must identify key users -- old tech, like keeping up to date with user cell phone numbers, so they can be notified.

"Hardware is usually not the problem here," Foster said. "That said, there was a vendor in the HP 3000 community who had a board go bad on their 3000. It took them 13 days to get the other board in and back up, and then into recovery. It was mostly about sourcing the right part. They didn't have good connections in that area." Then there was also the matter of getting competent resources to install the board.

Tomorrow MB Foster offers another Webinar, since it's a Wednesday. Gods of Data Quality examines Master Data Management (register for free), the MDM that "ensures your company does not use multiple – or potentially inconsistent - versions of data in different parts of its operations; understanding the concept of 'one version of the truth.' "

Each one of these Webinars gives me plenty to think about and try to plan for.

We're feeling some pain today in our little micro-sized shop, but it hasn't cost us business up to now. We're done what Foster advises: knowing what is running in your system lineup through an inventory. but that knowledge is in my head today, and if I swerved to avoid a texting driver and got myself the ER, my partner or a backupn helper wouldn't know how to deliver this news story to you, even if I'd written it in advance. What do you do when your broadband pipe goes down and stays down for awhile?

"This is a business problem, not an IT problem," Foster explained. The trenches-level repairs are on the IT lines, but the stakes are up at the boardroom level and in the finance officer's purview. That increases the pressure on IT, especially if the economies of curtailing support have been demanded from the CIO or CEO. In a personal example, just last week I toted up savings of dropping a hot-spot wireless feature on my mobile phone account. It's there when Wi-Fi can't do the job. It seemed costly at $25 monthly on a micro-business budget. Hot-spot I'd only used outside our offices on travel could be cut out, right? To pay more more crucial IT services, like website renovations. There's always something.

Except that for the last 24 hours, that hotspot off an iPhone 4GS has kept the Newswire's email and Web blog services online, right here in our offices. (It's not effective to have to go to a coffee shop to do secure Web work, but it's better than nothing.) Have you been forced to economize, debating over dropping a service contract or support agreement you rarely use? Or been told to drop? The finesse is in keeping these DR lifelines intact, ready for the day of disaster. The more you know in a formal plan, the more professional your respose looks to the executives in charge.

ATT brings everything into our offices now. 25 percent of our email, and all through their lines. 100 percent of the bandwidth for everything on a wire, including the TV. Our landline numbers, the ones which rarely ring anymore in the era of email but always can open our door to new business. 512-331-0075 has been in the public eye so long that a transition to a cell-only number seems unthinkable. We pay for extra support and maintenance on these relics -- our headquarters is smack in the middle of some of the oldest and messiest copper in Northwest Austin.

As I write, the second ATT truck of the afternoon cruises our street. Matt (they all have names you should use) is unsnarling and fixing a network pedestal at the property next door. This hub controls our telecomm and that of a half-dozen other addresses in the area.

I'd call these residential issues -- our office is in the midst of a a stately 40-year-old neighborhood in one of Austin's oldest high tech corridors. But when I register our trouble ticket for the phone llne, ATT says in its recording we are a Major Business Account. I don't question that designation, because it gets us to the head of the line with a human being. Broadband service, sadly, doesn't enjoy this distinction. ATT considers us consumer-grade customers, even as we work with an 18GBit download speed.

Take this checklist and answer honestly to see how much you must do to survive calamity.

  • Did you recently cancel support for software still crucial to the business, but now on a "declining" platform of the 3000?
  • Is your support provider working within a Service Level Agreement -- so you know how much the "increasing impact of a system costs" after an outage of one hour, or four, or 8 or 12 or a day or a week? What's the pain and cost of each of these downtime periods?
  • When you place a support call, how soon to talk with an agent, human being or expert on your system?
  • Do you have redundant hardware in place for when a computer does offline -- and is it hot-standby, or not?

Perhaps most importantly, how long has it been since your DR plan has been tested? By a test, I don't mean the last time you needed it to work. Those reports are costly. This is a controlled event that yields a lot of documentation on the success of your DR-MTTRO plans. Foster pointed this out

Here at the Newswire we're light on our docuementation. I could write out for my partner how we recover from calamity internally -- the locations of our backups, the process to restore, the way to transfer a full backup onto reserve hardware. Who we call when we cannot resolve it ourselves. How the telecomm is supposed to work. We have religion to do that today, but you can't just drop that kind of information into the hands of your best sales person, chief muse and dreamer, or even a veteran office manager who's unfamiliar with the fundamentals of problem resolution.

This can happen inside a 3000 shop, one with other environments like Linux and Windows at work. Our partner and friend Alan Yeo had a UPS calamity with his power last month, and it was five days before the affected 3000 went back into service. This is an organization with more than 30 years of 3000 and IT background that presumed a UPS could keep a system online -- instead of permit the server to be fried, while other computers all around escaped that fate.

And so, Alan is preparing an article entitled, "Do you want fries with that?" in his set of cautions. Electricity is about the only essential service that hasn't rolled over on us over the last week. Without it there's the coffee shop, alternative business allies nearby (like our friend Candace's personal coaching service). We called her as a backup to the Spurs game tonight, too -- just before ATT's broadband repair succeeded after six hours of heroic effort.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:22 PM in Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 17, 2013

Emulator: how far it goes, and what's next

Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. I had a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, and he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.

Instead of fooling with the 3000's software, the Charon product provides a pre-configured MPE/iX disk image. This is a system disk (your LDEV1), but it’s not a physical device. It’s an virtualized disk file, running on a Linux server, which the emulator then reads when it boots up MPE/iX. Once you have this LDEV1, you populate it with the software on your 3000 system -- specialized databases, configurations for IO, the works. The wizardry comes in making an Intel server which runs Linux -- the host OS of the emulator package -- behave the same as an HP 3000 server. MPE/iX is changed in no way. This is why there've been no lingering reports of the emulator failing to run an MPE application or a utility.

Emulator technology has a reputation from more than a decade ago of being a horsepower hog. But the first two generations of emulation have blown past us all, and now Stromasys is beyond instruction-by-instruction interpretation. It’s well past dynamic instruction translation, which pre-fetched a platform’s CPU instructions, then translated them into target platform code. That translation might have been called dynamic, but it was only suitable for entry-level to midrange systems.

Stromasys has left all of MPE and IMAGE’s software stack alone, and patched nothing. The product’s task is to use the latest, multi-level translation technology. Stromasys perfected this technology — the third generation of emulation — while it served users of the VAX hardware who wanted to continue to run OpenVMS after HP-Digital stopped selling VAXes.

The mission for Stromasys and its Charon products is behaving like the hardware abandoned by vendors, but not abandoned by customers with mission-critical requirements. In short, if your software is running on an HP 3000 today, it will run on Charon-HPA/3000 unchanged. Databases operate intact and as expected.

Stromasys GM Bill Driest explained that this third generation emulation takes the 3000 source hardware instruction code, then moves it to a specially developed intermediate language code that’s optimized for cross-platform virtualization. Finally, it’s translated to target platform code to let Intel’s broad, standard family of Xeon processors do the HP PA-RISC work that happened inside 3000s.

What this means is that the software doesn’t have to evolve to increase its performance. It’s a good thing, because MPE/iX is not going to evolve beyond its current rock-solid release. HP won’t permit the source code holders to create new versions of MPE. IMAGE isn’t getting new functions. Believe or not, that’s a good thing. Nothing was broken with MPE or IMAGE except for HP’s model to sell the software at the heart of a 3000.

Instead, Driest says that Charon will rely on hardware improvements to get to the next level of performance.

I’ve been in the industry 30-plus years, and the industry has learned there’s one thing to do when there’s new technology that comes out. You chase it. You migrate, you port, you replace.  We’ve turned that paradigm completely upside down. Why should we always modify the software to take advantage of hardware innovations? Why can’t we adapt the hardware to fit our applications? What you’ve done up to now is create the exact same system you had before, but on a new box. We think there are other options here.

Namely, that’s to use the increasing horsepower of Intel’s designs — the ones driven by commodity markets — to employ additional cores in processors and lift up MPE/iX performance. Soon enough there will be Charon models to match performance of the biggest 3000 HP ever sold. Eventually the rise of hardware power will take this OS faster than HP ever could.

But Driest recognizes that Charon itself has evolution in front of it. “Some of this emulator technology should become self-aware, so the emulator decides, ‘I know what I need from this hardware I’m hosted upon. Why don’t I carve out the amount of memory I need from the new host platform, and give it to MPE. No need for having the level of expertise to do that level of maintenance. And where are monitoring and reporting tools? They’re all around the place, but they’re not inside our product.

Stromasys has plans, Driest said, to enhance its virtualization-emulation products with all of that. In the meantime, however, the company could use some introductions to customers. Stromasys and the community can benefit from having the same people entrusted with MPE/iX system support to guide a 3000 site into the world of virtualization.

Those are pros like the reseller who asked about IMAGE being a part of Charon HPA/3000. They know where the prospects are who use use 3000s. They’ve become trusted advisors in this independent era of transition. While Charon still requires expertise for its implementation, these resellers and support companies are the next place the solution needs to go. Technical leaps are important, but virtualization needs to cross a threshold of trust.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:47 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 05, 2013

Legacy hardware evolution looks limitless

At the recent Stromasys Training Day and HP 3000 Social, the company's GM Bill Driest asked a question about the future of the HP 3000. But he may as well have been asking the same thing about HP's Integrity servers, too. What's to become of these vendor-specific systems, once the vendor leaves the system behind?

Driest-ChangGM Bill Driest suggests the sky's the limit for futures in hardware that's been curtailed by the vendor. At right, Stromasys CEO Ling Chang talks over the possibilities at the recent HP 3000 Social with Eric Sand of Sandsoft.

“People like Gartner are talking to us, and there’s been a fundamental sea change,” Driest said. “They’re saying this: isn’t it conceivable that the end state of all legacy hardware is some kind of emulation or virtualization?” 

Driest admitted that five years that belief was “so much of an early adopter message. There’s a fundamental pause as we ask, ‘On what platform do you believe we’ll run the last MPE production environment?’ Do you really think that it’s going to be on some refurb HP hardware?”

The company was introducing a strategy of “Rebuild, or Revitalize?” as the driver towards virtualization of the MPE-ready hardware. It exhorted the customers and resellers, along with support providers and consultants in the Computer History Museum's meeting room, to “Join the Revitalization Movement.”

Asking about the future of legacy hardware was once a moot question. Of course it would be decommissioned and drop-kicked to the curb. A few gun enthusiasts even executed a 3000 and captured the gunplay on video. But systems continue to serve despite such schoolyard jeering, and in spite of the age of the hardware. It's the age of the software that matters -- something that can be updated more easily once the box is virtualized.

This might seem to disrupt HP's plans to step away from platforms like the MPE engine of the 3000, or the VMS hosting on Alpha or VAX -- or perhaps the PA-RISC HP-UX servers, and dare we say it, the Itanium-based boxes. HP's own expert has said he figures Itanium production to be good only for another seven years. After that, the Integrity box might become legacy itself. Why, we wonder, has HP added the Charon products to its Worldwide Reseller Agreement?

Stromasys has never claimed to be creating a virtualization engine for Itanium processors. But given the size of the 3000 market versus the efforts to create Charon HPA/3000, I'd speculate that some of that HPA engineering could be re-used for another HP project.

According to Driest, analyst Andrew Butler of Gartner published a report this year that identifies Stromays as a disruptive technology in the server market specifically. “Butler said that ‘Functions commonly thought to be part of the underlying part of the OS are being distributed to the server, to the hypervisor, to storage.’ People are virtualizing everything. We’re almost re-inventing what it means to deploy an application,” Driest said.

The meeting presented a new and more extensive group of Stromasys executives to the 3000 community. CEO Ling Chang said the company “is proud to become a part of the 3000 ecosystem.” More than a decade after HP announced the 3000 would drop off Hewlett-Packard’s price list because of a declining ecosystem, that group has gained a member worthy of citation from Gartner.

When Gartner first started tracking the Stromasys offerings three years ago, they called it processor emulation, Driest said. “We fit in on this little bubble called Processor Emulation. We are fitting in at the peak of their curve called Inflated Expectations. It says there’s a promise for this technology.”

Hard questions came from one reseller who reported that he serves 135 companies using 3000s and had clients in the room from several California school districts. “Think about how you can help us help them,” he said. The reseller has been in the reseller business to service customers who manage K-12 schools using MPE/iX solutions.

Stromasys Product lineThe product lineup from Stromasys (click for detail) showed the top-end emulator being an N4040 virtualized system, running four processors at 250MHz — not the 750MHz rated for the 4-CPU HP hardware. The N4060 and N4080 models are forthcoming. The latter runs at an estimated 61 HP EPUs — four times faster than the A520 Charon model.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 04, 2013

Stromasys opens HP's way to Charon gates

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

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

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

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

Work is underway in the Stromasys labs to utilize extra cores on the DL380's processor for such servers. With each 4-core set available in Intel chips, HPA/3000 could emulate another HP 3000 processor. The 32-core limits of today could yield an 8-CPU MPE/iX machine. This is a configuration HP could never ship or officially support while it built and sold its 3000 servers. The HP top-end was 4 processors for its 750-Mhz.

Driest made his debut in front of a HP 3000 crowd during a morning session that outlined where Stromays is heading from its current position as the only virtualization solution in the PA-RISC space. One new wrinkle was the announcement that Charon HPA/3000 has made the cut onto HP’s Worldwide Reseller Agreement. Stromasys already has its product that emulate VAX and Alpha systems on that list. 

A Worldwide Reseller Agreement gives HP the right to resell a product from a software supplier. Companies as large as security supplier McAfee have entered into such a deal. HP now has the mechanism to sell Charon HPA to customers who might want to remain as MPE/iX application users.

Hype CycleThe Gartner announcement was a sneak peek at what Driest was describing as a way to earn its solution onto the Hype Cycle of Virtualization. Processor emulation is in the Expectations part of the curve, but Stromasys hopes to be securing a spot in the Trigger, a rising wave of the lifecycle.

“People like Gartner are talking to us, and there’s been a fundamental sea change,” Driest said. “They’re saying this: isn’t it conceivable that the end state of all legacy hardware is some kind of emulation or virtualization?” 

Driest admitted that five years that was “so much of an early adopter message. There’s a fundamental pause as we ask, ‘On what platform do you believe we’ll run the last MPE production environment?’ Do you really think that it’s going to be on some refurb HP hardware?”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:31 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 31, 2013

What Else Everyone is Doing These Days

Multifaceted-150x150Multi-tasking has been debunked, but a multi-faceted career is common in your 3000 community. We used to think we could work on several things at once. Now it's obvious that what we really need to do is work at something else, even while we all take care of the partner who brought us to the computer dance.

Take Birket Foster, for example. One of the best-known 3000 community members, he has been chairman and director of Storm Internet Services since 2003. The wireless Internet company serves customers in rural and outlying areas of Eastern Ontario. Not a small venture, either, but one built upon HP 3000 success. A recent article in the Eastern Ontario AgriNews took note of Storm's latest "freestanding wireless tower and company support centre, [raised up] on the grounds of his longtime software business on Main Street in Chesterville."

No MB Foster Associates, no Storm. The wireless venture grew up during the transition era for the 3000. This is what I mean by the "else" much of the community does. Take Richard Corn, who created the ESPUL and NP92 printing utilities for MPE, all the way back to the Classic 3000 days. Rich, a charter supporter of the Newswire, is also selling Cloud Print for Windows software today. Again, no RACC, no Software Devices LLC, where that Windows software is developed and sold. He's still supporting ESPUL, by the way.

I could include myself in the What Else Workers. My partner Abby and I established the Newswire when most people knew her as Dottie Lentz, and for years we did nothing else but 3000 information services. From the days of her Bolt Bucks giveaways at HP World conferences, we've evolved into additional ventures. My own What Else is The Writer's Workshop, where writers who range from fledglings to published novelists gather Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and by appointment to learn and practice storytelling. They finish novels like Danuta or Lay Death at Her Door. I finished my novel Viral Times during the transition era. Without missing a day of the 3000 news from our current times, I could re-engage my fundamental skills and desire: storytelling and writing. I strut my stuff on The Write Stuff and Twitter about storytelling at @ronseybold.

Does the 3000 community suffer from the What Else work? It depends on your perspective and role. Did you sell HP 3000s and create them, or launch new customers with your applications? Adding a facet to those jobs might be at the 3000's expense. Ecometry cast away its 3000 aspirations -- although it supports several dozen MPE sites -- to create a Windows multichannel commerce version of what was once known as MACS/3000, built by Alan Gardner and partner Will Smith. Gardner and Smith never get to sell off the company for millions unless they've built up more than 300 customers using their software.

Alas, no new Ecometry sites today, but Robelle is among the companies still supporting the 3000 version of the software. Its website tells the Ecometry user "you are already a Robelle customer, even if you don't realize it, since the Ecometry application uses Robelle's Suprtool to speed up data access." For more than a decade Robelle has sold HP-UX versions of Suprtool, and even more lately, a Linux version. Not exactly a What Else, just another facet. But when we speak of Robelle, we must make a transition in this What Else tale to those who continue to dedicate themselves to the 3000. They've chosen no sort of What Else, often for reasons of strict technical focus.

Adager and VEsoft lead the way in omnipresent vendors with an MPE-only focus. What they're doing works at such a fundamental level of the 3000 that it demands full-time attention. Alan Yeo is also dedicated to the HP 3000 -- in its migrations as well as support of 3000 clients -- at ScreenJet. Pivital Solutions is an all-3000 venture, and using its dedicated focus leads to satisfied support clients. Customers are also happy at Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Both of those support providers serve as many or more non-3000 sites today. Allegro's What Else is creating iOS applications, some that interact with HP 3000s as well as Linux and Unix servers. And if your name is the MPE Support Group, your focus is pretty clear.

Meanwhile, the Support Group serves MANMAN sites with ERP needs at the same time that it created partner Entsgo, an HP, IBM, IFS, and Openbravo solutions partner. If you haven't heard of Openbravo, you might not be aware that it's "professional open source solutions for business, offering the industry's first real alternative to proprietary enterprise software." And the Support Group is keen on Kenandy Cloud ERP, another solution related to the 3000, but evolved beyond it. Kenandy is built on the ASK Software foundations of Sandy Kurtzing. Before she became Kenandy CEO, she and her partners were working in kitchens with 3000s hooked to acoustical couplers in the 1970s, growing up MANMAN, and therefore the 3000's manufacturing heartland.

And the individuals? Jeff Vance is one of the best-known names in the world with 3000 excellence in his CV. Vance left the HP 3000 lab to join K-12 app provider QSS, a move to drive that ISV into the Linux application marketplace. Not so long ago Vance left QSS to work at Red Hat, pretty much where Linux grew up into a commercial solution.

Again, no MPE lab, no chance to work at the company whose environment will replace HP's Unix. Vance has taken the kind of What Else that becomes All Else, since his days of MPE UDC and utility development are done. Michael Berkowitz was our first paying subscriber to the Newswire, but long after Guess Jeans turned off its 3000 and turned him to other technical work elsewhere, Michael still keeps an eye on 3000 people through the community's 3000-L mail list.

Today he reported on some of the other HP lab experts gone elsewhere. Visiting Vance's LinkedIn page, Berkowitz notes

So I go to the webpage, find that he's working for Red Hat, but also notice the "people also viewed" column on the far right.  Lots of names from the past.

Mike Paivinen
Scott McClellan
Becky McBride
Craig Fairchild
Steve Macsisak
Stephen Watt

Of that group, including Jeff, only two (Becky and Craig) are at HP, the company they might have thought they'd be employed for life.

Fair enough, but HP's been shedding tens of thousands of good people for the entire period of the 3000's transition. Walter Murray went from the HP Langauges Lab to the California Corrections organization. Now he's in an All Else post, managing IBM mainframes there. As a What Else fellow, former HP Support Escalation expert Bob Chase is now at SMS, where his clients include Unix and Linux enterprise managers.

There are others, many others -- maybe the majority of community keystones -- who do a What Else today. Look around to see Fresche Legacy transforming legacy environments in the AS/400 community. Even while it's got its Speedware roots dug in at application support engagements for 3000s, and employing a surprising number of MPE veterans. Applied Technologies, a company building its engagements around open source software to help companies using 3000s, as well as those that do not. 

Of course, there's the biggest debutante of the 3000 ball, Stromasys and its virtualization emulator. This company started up serving the Digital world with Charon and continues to do so. They've added the 3000 to their facets -- and so in a rare turn, Charon PA-RISC servers became a What Else for that vendor.

This is the way of our 2013 working world. We go on to something Else, because of what created our expertise, whether it's What Else or All Else. But the 3000 remains essential to success in multiple facets or in new gems of careers. Charles Finley, once one of the stoutest 3000 resellers from his Southern California Conam base where he grew SCRUG into a user group force, commented on Berkowitz's inventory of who's gone from HP.

I'd like to give Finley, now going after transitions at Transformix, the last word -- but first say this: everybody is doing what it takes to stay busy with what's needed. And the HP 3000 is so solid that it is, as the Skin Horse said in The Velveteen Rabbit, a computer that's Real. "Becoming Real takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept." Much of the 3000's ability to make room for What Else is because it does not break easily.

Finley has it right about what makes everyone who still knows the 3000 well someone who's very Real. It's all about the relationships, the wellsprings of the computer's stories.

Those, admittedly competent, HP people only represent an era in which there was a substantial connection between HP and its loyal installed base. That was not valued by some people in power at the time. Therefore, they dismantled it. What I also believe to be true is that it is unlikely that they at HP can ever get it or anything like it back, even if someone was empowered to try. 

I would venture to guess that those same people are doing a great job at their current employer because that's the kind of people they are. However, I would also guess that it is not likely that their current employer, unless it is some subset of IBM, has a similar relationship with their installed base that HP once had.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2013

10 Simple Steps to Security Compliance

Float-staircaseEditor's Note: Our security expert Steven Hardwick of Oxygen Finance wraps up his tutorial on the process of compliance by providing the list below -- written out as directly as if it were self-help advice in a magazine. Help yourself to a better grasp of meeting any security requirements, especially those which may present themselves for the first time after a migration.

By Steven Hardwick, CISSP
Oxygen Finance

Last in a series

Putting a security program in place can be very simple and extremely effective. Another advantage is that the mitigation effort can be done over a period of time, spreading out the cost and effort required. Plus, this will get more people involved and help create awareness and make compliance easier. Finally, an on-going program will give on-going protection against a breach.

Mapping it out

Here are 10 simple steps that can be followed to help make the process of compliance a lot easier:

1) Identify the various information types that are in your organization. This is called a data categorization exercise. This will give a good understanding of what needs to be protected.

2) Pick a security framework to build a model of what type of security controls you need in your organization.

3) Breakdown the controls into Physical, Technical and Administrative to highlight the owner of the control.

4) Take stock of what is in place already by completing an internal audit. This can be done using internal resources or external companies can be hired to conduct it.

5) Create a baseline. This will give a set of security controls that are in place and broken into definable categorizes. This jump start will make a compliance exercise a lot easier.

6) Pull the team together. Once the baseline has been established, the job of conducting a compliance exercise is a lot easier. Getting the help of the control owners at this point becomes more effective as a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done.

7) Conduct the compliance assessment. At this point the target data, security controls and owners have been identified. 

8) Present results and define a mitigation strategy. This will involve taking the results to the right level -- more often that not, the CEO level.

9) Once the mitigation is complete, conduct another assessment against the compliance requirements to make sure everything has been addressed. It is always a good idea to include the baseline set in this assessment as it will re-establish the baseline

10) Start/continue the ongoing security program making sure that it takes into consideration any new security controls added during the assessment stages. 

Security regulatory compliance can be a nasty business. With the right approach, the disruptions can be minimized. With the right understanding of the compliance goals and effort, a better view of what is being protected can be gained. Splitting the task to the right owners is essential to minimizing effort and getting the right people involved to make decisions. Establishing a baseline and maintaining a security program will make compliance easier and ensure on-going protection.

Steven Hardwick manages security for pre-payments provider Oxygen Financial, a Euro-founded company now extending its services to North American IT operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:58 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 29, 2013

Hardware Cherished, Hardware Valued

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

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

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

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

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

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

The operating system is the most durable part of a 3000, when you include its database in the valuation. If a customer has got their eyes on adding an emulated 3000 to their IT datacenter, these old servers are just the right piece for an audit-proof installation.

Some of the advice on the value of a 3000 was of a more gentle nature. "A rock solid machine," said Michael Anderson of J3K Solutions, "but sadly, not much of a market for it anymore."

Anderson knows of a company that paid about $8,000 for a 918 in 2003. It included a disc-array, DLT, DDS-3, 512 MB of RAM, and about 50Gb of disc. "They sent it to auction in 2007, and I got great deal on it, mostly because nobody at the auction knew what it was," Anderson explained. "It's been running for 5-plus years without any problems, during the same time period I've gone through three PCs. Apparently, now-a-days, it's not a good idea to manufacture products that keep working."

The HP 3000 was always sold at a premium compared to more popular systems. HP insisted that it protect the value (that means "pricing") of the servers sold earlier in the business life of HP's 3000. But the vendor didn't do much to protect the brand of MPE or the 3000 or IMAGE.

So the HP hardware's future and value is riding on the nature of being cherished, instead of its still-indelible durability that Anderson has chronicled. Not so long ago, a strategic analyst on the 3000 web-paths said that "people pay about twice as much for Apple systems as for others," and that Apple just put those extra dollars in its pockets. But being a brand which is cherished is one kind of asset, and being a brand that's cherished out loud by the industry's greatest marketing organization is quite another thing.

Never mind that you cannot find the jackalope of a Windows system priced at half of an Apple system, which will do the same work with equivalent components. Unless you can twist a Torx wrench, or know how to wear a static strap, whatever costs half as much will do less. I went to look for a new $575 SSD-based 11-inch laptop, built to Apple's Macbook Air standards and with the same horsepower. I gave up after about a half-hour. You can hunt for a jackalope a long time.

But the equation works in the other direction, if someone like Anderson is doing the shopping. A $500 Series 918 does so much more than any $1,000 PC, if your applications are already in MPEiX and use IMAGE. Stromasys can't sell MPE/iX licenses to make a copy of Charon HPA/3000 legal. Only HP can do that.

SkinhorseIt will be worth watching to see if Hewlett-Packard can see its way to selling what will make an emulator truly legal. Before too much longer, HP is going to have to do that for HP-UX customers who'll use an emulator -- one that replaces an Itanium server. The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that's something you cannot virtualize. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software that Becomes Real. Maybe it's that way for MPE -- like the Skin Horse said about being Real, "it takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:58 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2013

How to Comply with Security Audit Requests

Editor's Note: At the intersection of cutting-edge security needs and the new territory of migration environments lay security regulations. HP 3000 managers might not be familiar with any process that goes beyond HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley or PCI credit card demands. (Although that sounds like a pretty big list anyway.) As a result of his job advising the clients of Oxygen Finance, security expert Steven Hardwick has taken us through the steps of responding to security regulation requests -- and proving your system's compliance.

By Steven Hardwick

Third in a series

In many cases, a compliance audit is viewed like a bad case of the flu. While it is ongoing it is miserable and many wish it would end. Once over, everyone is happy it is behind them. Fortunately, like the flu, precautions can be taken to help make the event a lot less traumatic and uncomfortable.

A request to comply to a specific regulations can be daunting. The major challenge is that the regulations are written by security specialists and for security specialists. To make matters worse, the regulations themselves may not be overly specific in the exact response required. 

AuditOne of the first steps is to understand which data set is covered by the regulation. As outlined in our second article, a regulation is directed to a specific set of information: PCI = credit card data, for example. It is very important to identify the people, systems and environments that deal with the data in question. This will give an indication of the minimum scope of the regulations. 

Minimum? Well, one advantage of a regulation is that it is compiled from security specialists. Although the full measure of the regulation applies to specific data sets, there is no reason that elements of the requirements can't be used for other data sets. In fact, it may be easier to apply the certain requirement to all data in a certain system; encryption is a good example.

The next step is to try and categorize the requirements against the security controls they relate to. The goal of a regulation is to look at a wide variety of ways information can be compromised. This will break down into the physical, technical and administrative groups (which we covered in our first article). Doing this, you can make an alignment with the owner of the area that's affected. 

Finally, determine who should be the final decision maker when it comes to defining how well the regulation has been met. Compliance is an exercise in measuring the security environment against an approved set of requirements. One constant challenge is what to do if the environment does not meet the standard. This exposes a risk to the organization. You must decide to either address the risk (mitigate it), transfer the risk (buy insurance) or accept it (do not mitigate). Since senior management is responsible for assessing the risk to the corporation, they must be part of the decision-making when it comes to compliance. Especially mitigating any gaps found during the compliance assessment. 

By the way, “doing nothing” equals accepting the risk.

Another approach is to conduct an internal assessment that is not based on a set of regulations to establish a baseline. This assessment can be simple, but very effective in finding the more obvious gaps in a security infrastructure. It also has an advantage that any mitigation can be carried out at a pace set by the organization instead of reacting to a compliance deadline. Furthermore, the scope can be set to encompass all data within the corporation. 

For example, I have seen data covered by a regulation that was well protected, while other data, such as intellectual property, had little to no protection. Very often there is a misconception that being compliant equals being secure. A comprehensive and free resource on how to conduct an assessment is the NIST SP800-30 Guide to Conducting Risk Assessments.

Using a security framework is another useful approach. One major challenge is the need to comply with multiple regulations. A security framework will help establish a general set of security requirements. Each pertinent regulation can then be stacked up against the framework and the commonalities identified. This will minimize the amount of effort and cost associated with the compliance effort. 

A good example of this type of tool is the security matrix from the Cloud Security Alliance.  Although targeted to cloud services providers, it can provide a good starting point to making a tool to handle multiple compliance requirements. One added benefit of choosing a framework: it will break down the controls into the various control categories, making it easier to identify the owner. 

Next time: 10 Simple Steps to make the process of compliance easier

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:06 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 01, 2013

Who Will Come to the Emulator's Party

Stromasys-SocialNext week the Charon HPA/3000 emulator will have what one vendor calls its coming out party in North America. The software performs the miracle of making low-cost PCs act like HP's PA-RISC 3000 hardware. Just describing that technical ability widens the eyes of 3000 homesteaders, veterans and some vendors.

On the evening of May 9, we'll get to see some of the eyes of people who want to drop by and gaze on each other over a beverage at the Tied House. The next day will reveal who's doing the closer looking at this software solution. Training will commence at 10. Lunch is included. Cooperation and imagination will be optional entrees on the day's menu.

One HP support company called the other day and said they're promoting Charon as a viable path for a homesteader's future. "I feel like I've been hawking the Stromasys product myself awhile," said Chad Lester of the MPE Support Group. Another company in Austin, the Support Group Inc. that serves the MANMAN and ERP customer, has a strong belief in the future of Charon HPA/3000.

But so far, we've only heard of one company that's engaged a third party software vendor in an instance of emulator production use. Cognos is working at the Australian insurance firm where Warren Dawson has testified to us, as well as to the European HP users who attended an event similar to next week's. IBM's Charlie Maloney, a veteran of many Cognos days, has started looking for an IBM PR rep to talk with us about licensing Powerhouse for emulator use.

Technical ability will need to be married to software property rights for this software to make an impact. We're hearing ample talk from MPE/iX software vendors about license support. Robelle's going on record as a Charon supporter. VEsoft wants to work with customers who'd like to run MPEX, Security/3000 and Audit/3000 on the emulator. HP has an emulator license for the product, legally operable so long as a currently licensed 3000 is being turned off to transfer its license to Charon.

More than one vendor with plenty of 3000 software ISV connections believes it's early days for the emulator's commercial merits. It's up to the homesteading customer to arrange all license arrangements to move their software utilities and applications to a PC-Linux host for virtualized MPE/iX hosting. It will be a good sign if some customers arrive at next week's event who have third party apps, such as MANMAN, Ecometry or even Amisys, and they need to arrange the arrival of their software. Some software vendors are waiting to hear about their emulator needs on this unlimited platform.

Of course, nothing is really unlimited in the world of computing. Right now Stromasys says it's hard at work to ensure its highest tier of virtualization software can match and exceed the power of an HP-built N-Class. Even Itanium endured these kinds of early days, many months of them, while it weathered its debut. It was a couple of years before any Itanium powered computer could keep up with the sleekest of PA-RISC processors.

It won't take that long for Charon HPA/3000. A virtualization simply mimics the hardware's architecture, instead of the task of retaining emulation while offering a new instruction set.

Expect the crowd at the Tied House to revel in the return of a 3000 community that hasn't met in North America since 2011. There will be the top executives from Stromasys to make the taps flow at the brewpub, then pour on the technical details and new horsepower developments the day after in training. Hundreds of HP 3000 customers have been contacted about the event. It will only take a handful of commercial applications -- maybe as few as two -- to come to the emulator's party and make it a hit.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:10 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2013

Ginny Seybold, 1925-2013

MomAt80There will be no regular 3000 Newswire posting today, due to the unexpected death of my mom Ginny Seybold. She passed away this afternoon quietly, in the Franciscan Care Center of my hometown of Toledo. Virginia Seybold was 87, a Depression-era youngster who danced on roller skates as a girl, full of spark and a spirit, Irish to her core, a young woman who became the mother of four Baby Boomer children. I will miss her always. Along with the tomorrows that she no longer can give, generous as a mother's kisses, there will be no extra yesterdays for us as well. She raised us all Catholic, but I hear another prayer today. "She will live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:42 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2013

Where Everybody Knows Your CPUNAME

CheersThe iconic TV show Cheers splashed a theme song about the fictional Boston tavern every Thursday, way back in the 1980s. It was a drinking outpost "where everybody knows your name, and they're all so glad you came." If attendance works out well for Stromasys at its HP 3000 Social -- four weeks away -- they're likely to have the same sort of turnout. The Tied House will be a place where everybody knows your name because so many will be familiar to each other. That's what more than three decades of community gives you.

This week the blue and white postcards arrived in mailboxes announcing the combination of Social and Training May 9-10. We found one in our mailbox, but word of the event is spreading beyond the reach of the US post. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft called to report he'll be at the Tied House. Neil Armstrong, developer and curator of Suprtool, has also been tracking the event closely.

These VIPs of your community will be joined by people experienced in 3000 matters who seek a way around aging HP hardware for MPE. And there will be some stopping by to see the names that they know and meet new ones with something in common. Everybody there will be listening for news about licensing. Right now this is a rare brew that prospects are thirsting for if they want to emulate a production machine.

Stromasys-Social That postcard doesn't share much of the agenda for the meeting, some details of which are revealed at the Stromasys RSVP webpage. (The whole thing is free, by the way, right down to the heavy appetizers where everybody knows your name.) More to the point, it doesn't reveal the strategy that will drive your feet to that bar where everybody will know your name. Your interest in the emulator is assumed. Knowledge and experience and boasting and whining, laced with humor, were always the prime reasons for attending an HP 3000 user group event. In the absence of a user group, this kind of gathering will have to provide those usual incentives. Expect a lot of "we migrated awhile ago, and here's how it went" along with "we don't want to, and here's the license and support issues we need to solve."

The technology is not an issue. The training on May 10 will prove that to anyone who hasn't seen a demo yet, and the take-home freeware A202 version will give attendees an easy way to do a proof of concept. 

Will the system administrator who's moving away from Powerhouse -- slower than expected -- be at Tied House, or the Computer History Museum the next day? Stromsays is keeping track of the RSVPs. Such an attendee would be interested in how the licensing is going with IBM, the keepers of the Cognos products. Powerhouse users have recent memories about investigations about their licenses, with demands for upgrade fees.

We've begun the effort to get Charlie Maloney of IBM, formerly of Cognos, to tell us anything about licensing Powerhouse for the emulator. No comment yet, after about a week of attempts. But Charlie is busy being the Software Sales Representative at IBM Software Group, Information Management, so he might need repeated attempts. I'll keep trying.

I anticipate that if the Tied House and CHM are filled with more than tire-kickers who want to talk about an emulator in demonstration, they'll get down to license discussions. An IT analyst up at a higher education institution said if license fees to move to the emulator match the annual HP 3000 hardware maintenance contract, it's a deal-breaker.

The issue that would destroy the cost-neutrality concept would be software licensing fees. To save costs during our migration to the ERP software, we let software maintenance lapse on all of the utilities that were permanently licensed -- that is, all of those that would continue to run without a refreshed license key each year.

It almost sounds like utility vendors on that system haven't earned a dime during the migration. Taking those utilities onto the emulator, sans support, is only even remotely possible if the emulator is stopgap on the way to a migration. We'll leave it to the reader to judge if its fair.

Migrating customers will look at these license vs. support tradeoffs and see the challenge of staying with MPE. They've made the decision to stay with hardware that demands a support contract of significant investment, but at least their software licenses have no surprises. It doesn't mean the software is anything close to free, since the 15-20 percent application support fees are in place. All that IBM, nee Cognos, will charge for its 8.49F Powerhouse is Vintage Support.

The tough part for that analyst is that his Powerhouse license is 8.49E, not F. The F version had all of its platform-upgrade fees removed, we learned. The way from 8.49E to F is as uncharted to me as Maloney's reply.

There's always the possibility that customers who know each other's name could get together to arrange a group negotiation with such upgrade-fee vendors. Stromasys won't do this officially; it's up to the emulator customers. As for those utility support dollars, they ought to be going to the vendors if those utilities are key to keeping a production system online. That's the 3000/MPE tradition: guaranteed uptime.

We hope it's a rich brew of license and support insights at Tied House, blended with the eye-opener of the training that includes a Linux cradle for the emulator the day after.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 16, 2013

Why There are Always Parts Available

N-Class 220Last week on the 3000 newsgroup, HP hardware supplier Cypress Technology was offering an N-Class HP 3000 for $1,800. Cypress was even including an option to custom-configure the server at that price. The 3000 was selling without a license that could be transferred. But even this kind of investment would make an adequate disaster recovery system, given that it has a copy of MPE/iX already loaded on it. Even more useful would be the parts from the server -- a value at $1,800.

The Cypress box is a single 220MHz CPU with a 1.5Mb cache, 4GB total memory, a 9GB boot disk drive (how quaint; just a bit larger than a $7 thumb drive of today) and a 147GB main storage disk drive.

Hewlett-Packard once told the 3000 community that the vendor could provide custom legacy support through 2010, but the offering would depend on parts availability and the age of the HP 3000. But older systems might have parts which are no longer on the HP warehouse shelves.

But no matter how old the HP 3000 might be in your shop, you can be reasonably sure that spare parts will not prevent you from keeping it working. Five years ago this month, Wyell Grunwald offered a "practically free" HP 3000 on that same 3000 newsgroup. All that Grunwald wanted was the cost of shipping to send the 200-pound server onto its new home.

After one quip about this early '90s server making a good bookend, another community member said they could use the system for parts. Imagine, an HP 3000 PA-RISC server built in 1990 — yes, 23 years ago — still has parts available in your community.

The key word in that last sentence is community. Even when HP runs out of HP 3000 parts, the community can carry on the supply. This group got a lot of longevity when it invested in the HP 3000, as well as durability. The word "tank" is part of Grunwald's 922 description.

You can't overlook how underpowered the Series 922 is compared to any other HP 3000. After all, the entire PA-RISC line only started to ship in 1987, and only in significant numbers a couple of years later. Code-named SilverFox Low at its introduction, that Series 922 was a very early model 3000, just three systems off the start of the PA-RISC line.

The harsh numbers: This HP 3000 has just five percent of the horsepower of the smallest Series 979 or HP's smallest N-Class server. And now, there's an N-Class out on the used market, selling for less than a beefy laptop, albeit without license.

While you would not want to carry a lot of computing on a swaybacked steed of a 922, the fact that it remained a parts repository 18 years after it was built might give a homesteader some comfort. HP warned everyone starting out in 2001 that 3000 parts were going to become scarce in five years' time. So long as your community stays connected and communicating, the Hewlett-Packard support expertise in MPE is likely to get scarce long before many 3000 parts disappear altogether.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12, 2013

Stromasys Social meets at historic brewery

The free HP 3000 Social next month on May 9 -- prelude to the first free Stromasys Training Day on May 10 -- will take place in a private section of the Tied House Brewery and Cafe at 954 Villa Street in Mountain View. The official Stromasys webpage for this spring's Social+Training event promises heavy appetizers and free drinks at the Social, starting at 6 PM.

Tied HouseThe Tied House website reports that the bistro is the 4th oldest microbrewery in California, and Silicon Valley’s original microbrewery. The cafe and brewery share the same building, with the Clubhouse mug wall on one side and the brewing operation on the other. After pouring 10 million pints since 1988 -- and sending a coaster into space with NASA astronauts -- Tied House beer awards include Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from the Great American Beer Festival, plaques from the World Beer Cup, and First Place Gold from the California State Fair.

The microbrewery is a 5-minute drive from the Computer History Museum on Shoreline Drive, where the Friday May 10 training takes place. A free lunch will be served during the 10-4 training that day. You can make your reservations for the Social -- as well as the next day's training on the world's only HP 3000 emulator -- at the Stromasys event's webpage, www.stromasys.com/hp3000event

Stromasys will give away a signed copy of the MPE/iX Administration Guide by Jon Diercks at the Social, according to the company's webpage. Vladimir Volokh contacted the 3000 Newswire and has offered copies of the classic MPE book by Eugene Volokh, Thoughts and Discourses on HP3000 Software. The book includes a chapter MPE security myths. Those chapters, as well as an article on POSIX System Management with VESOFT's MPEX written by Stromasys product manager Paul Taffel, are online at the Adager website. Training attendees will leave with Personal Freeware copies of the Stromasys emulator. Other prizes and giveaways may appear between now and the next four weeks.

The greatest prize, of course, will be the chance for 3000 community members to see one another in person. These are rare events -- the last one was the HP3000 Reunion in the fall of 2011. I'll be on hand and hope to see you at the Social as well as the Training the next morning.

If you're coming in from outside the Bay Area, it appears that the Hotel Strata and the Hampton Inn and Suites seem to be the nicest hotels that are convenient both to the Tied House and the Museum. If you're planning to avoid using a car -- that's my scheme -- the Mountain View Caltrain Station is less than a mile from Tied House. And for any visitors via air, Caltrain runs trains that end up at San Francisco's Airport (via BART) as well as the San Jose airport (via a 12-minute bus ride.)

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:43 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 10, 2013

HP launches Moonshot, chairman Lane

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

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

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

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

These servers are evidence that HP R&D is still alive and striving to boost the company with proprietary advantages. This was the model that let the 3000 help the company get started in business computing.

The Moonshot 1500 -- yeah, half of the numeral used for MPE/iX hardware -- is driven by low-power, smartphone-caliber Atom chips, which usually go into mobile devices. A Moonshot is about the size of an envelope, and HP can pack hundreds of them together into a single system. It's a supercomputer that according to HP uses 89 percent less energy, takes up 80 percent less space, and costs 77 percent less than more traditional server designs. Whatever those are. It doesn't matter. HP is building servers again that don't mimic anything.

The HP Moonshot 1500 can work for the Web and cloud computing companies. Clouds need cheap, powerful hardware systems, and all along in HP's history that's been the golden chariot to carry software and spark services. Yes, applications drive enterprise choices. But app providers aim at platforms. The Moonshot represents HP's re-entry into an orbit that launched its enterprise computing business 40 years ago. Yup, with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX. If only there was software that HP had built itself that would make that hardware reach the stars. Maybe the company has that fuel somewhere in its legendary Labs.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 08, 2013

Stromasys to get social to train for Charon

Stromasys-SocialThe creators of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator are rolling out their community carpet in earnest next month. Stromasys is hosting a HP 3000 User Social on Thursday, May 9 -- one month from tomorrow --  and then training at the Computer History Museum the next day, on May 10.

There is a free lunch. In fact, there's a free social on the evening before the training, starting at 6, where refreshments will be on hand, along with 3000 community members. If you couldn't make it to the first HP3000 Reunion in September 2011, this looks like another chance to reconnect in person with your community.

At the HP3000 Reunion in 2011, the event included drawings for copies of Jon Diercks' MPE/iX Administration Handbook. Harris said she's reaching out to Diercks to include his book in the event. It's a rare item. In addition to being the only book devoted to HP 3000 management, the Handbook is listed on Amazon as a $228 item.

Postcard invitations promoting the event are going into the mail within a week, Harris said. You can RSVP at a special webpage www.stromasys.com/hp3000event

It seems likely that a copy of the Personal Freeware Edition of the HPA/3000 emulator will also be available for pickup at the event. A European gathering of emulator prospects included copies of that software, freeware which turns any Intel Core i7 PC/laptop into a 2-user HP 3000, with some help from VMWare and Linux.

We'll have more Social-Training details as they emerge. These odd-numbered years have been good for 3000 events. CAMUS, the ERP-MANMAN users group, is hosting its virtual RUG meeting on April 17 (via phone and webcast). CAMUS' Terri Glendon Lanza also said the group would be glad to consider supporting this Spring's User Social, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:22 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2013

Pontiff annoints future for old 3000 disciples

1929-mitre-smSpreading his message of hope for disadvantaged communities, newly-appointed Pope Francis gave an Easter address yesterday that offered promise for computer groups beating back injustices. "This is the age of miracles," the Pontiff said in a special high-band broadcast on the new social network Chirpify. Leaders of the HP 3000 homesteading community seized on the proclamation as proof that almighty forces were now at work to turn back the clock of change.

"We're on a mission from god," said 92-year-old Leonard Frapp, the engineer who coined the phrase minicomputer in 1967 after the miniskirt took the world of fashion by storm. "It's a lot sexier than those damn mainframe togs," he said of that creation that made white lab coats passe within a few seasons. "With this, we're using so little server fabric we don't even need a mini -- just a see-through virtualizer. Best of all, I can buy one of these virtual 3000s on Chirpify with my Galaxy phone." While grabbing a spoon, he added it was easiest to buy using the Jimmies with Whipped Cream Android release.

As the Pontiff launched a worldwide tour to spread the message of living on less, the new Pope booked his own reservations for a trip to Mountain View, California, where Stromasys conceived the immaculate idea of hosting the first HP 3000 Social and Stromasys training seminar in early May. Special Emissary for his Holiness Rev. Duce Scholdaduci said the trip will include air travel between New York and the Bay Area on Jet Blue. The pope will sit in the emergency exit row on the trans-American flight, since he's infallible about the safety of  a commercial trip managed by an application created using MPE/iX.

"Hoc genus maxime est via amet," the pope said yesterday from his Twitter account, reaching out to explain why he was breaking with tradition of flying in his own jet in a special visit to the 3000 social. The phrase translates to "This is the most affordable way to go," although it was unclear if the Pontiff was describing the emulator or the coach-class low fares to the Bay Area during May via Jet Blue. The flight will offer a special Vatican Channel on the jet's in-flight entertainment in seat-backs.

Community advocates and professionals nearing retirement hailed the emulator as "special dispensation" from the fate HP predicted in 2004, when it reported "Time's Running Out" in an article from the Interex user group. Time did run out within a year, as the user group expired and cut off the haven for such messages.

The Pontiff alluded to the advent of other miracles among the 3000 faithful in his Easter message, including releasing ownership of MPE to customers and so end license-to-use ploys for abandoned products; creation of an ecosystem including leprechaun-managed cloud providers, compete with pots of gold; and the falling of shackles from the eyes of CIOs who still pray for relief from designing and managing their own datacenters.

"He's made a convert out of me," said Homer Popenoff, CFO of Industrial Malgamated Squid, a fish-substance processor in Florida. "We go our own way here in the Sunshine State. This plan to escape the hardware hostage situation sounds like heaven to us."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:38 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2013

Plug in Linux Appliances for 3000 backups?

Out on the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, managers have been apprised this spring of an offering from Beechglen Development called Triple Store. The essence of the advice is sound. Make multiple backups, because it's risky to rely on just one tape -- and too time-consuming to simply make multiple tapes.

(Not a part of the LinkedIn Community for 3000s yet? Join us -- we're well on the way to being 600 members strong.)

Triple Store proposes a primary copy goes to local user volume storage on your 3000. The secondary local copy goes out to a Linux Appliance, as Beechglen calls it. There's a third copy that goes into SSD storage in a cloud which Beechglen hosts offsite.

Plug-InYou can look over the pricing in a single-page datasheet from Beechglen, but it's that Linux Appliance that might be the newest wrinkle in a multi-copy strategy. This particular application encrypts the backup and applies compression. Secure FTP (SFTP) can pass the backups from standard HP 3000 73GB user volumes to this Appliance. For those who unfamilar with the appliance concept, it is a separate server powered by Linux and loaded with an application dedicated to backups.

Brian Edminster, our backup advisor for 3000 operations, keyed in on the Triple Store's appliance, too.

The greatest novelty is having a Linux-driven appliance to act as a secure intermediary. It appears to be to sending backups ultimately to one's own Network Attached Storage (NAS), off to Beechglen's cloud, or onto SSDs (which are being used as the removeable media). I already do backups for the systems I administer in a similar way.

 

Edminster said that he does a Store-To-Disk, usually to a separate user volume dedicated to holding backups; then he does an FTP or SFTP of this disk-backup to a NAS device, "where it's backed up by an enterprise backup tool."

Not addressed -- but implied in the marketing piece for Triple Store -- is the mechanism for recovering a backup from the backup appliance archive (or from SSD or cloud to the appliance, and then to your 3000).

Sure, you can just FTP/SFTP it back to the 3000's file system, should you need a backup image that's no longer on your user volume. The problem seems to be that won't preserve the MPE-ness of the Store-To-Disk backup files. Unless you take special steps, you might lose the MPE/iX filesystem characteristics of the backup -- making it difficult to restore from without additional processing. Not good.

I've been looking into simple ways to do this (preferably an FOS-only solution), and have been experimenting with a number of methods.

In the weeks to come, we’ll look forward to a report from Edminster on how to do this sort of multiple store using a limited amount of non-MPE software.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:09 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2013

CHARON sets 3000's future

Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.

By Alan Yeo

Third of three parts

Print-ExclusiveIf you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.

So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.

Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.

I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."

My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair. 

 

They are certainly not giving HP 3000 users a get out of jail free card by giving it away. If you're using old HP 3000 hardware and versions of MPE/iX, then the upgrade to a modern CHARON-HPA/3000 server should be no more effort or cost than you would have incurred upgrading to the appropriate A- or N-Class HP 3000 (if they were still available). 

I think the free personal 2-user edition is going to be of great service to the HP 3000 community, as it will enable a large group of people to still keep their hands on an HP 3000 — so they will still be available to provide support into the future.

Times they are a-changing 

It's perhaps apt to compare this event in Frankfurt with the Ratingen event some nine years earlier, and realise how much has changed, and how much hasn't. Nine years ago if you read the Ratingen review, we got lost and drove around in circles. Today everybody has satellite nav, and probably on their iPhone, smartphone or tablet, none of which existed nine years ago. Nine years ago HP had a large support organisation at Ratingen and a huge production and software centre at Böblingen near Frankfurt. It's now all gone! Just shut down, or outsourced to Poland and Bulgaria.

Nine years ago HP was a big company in Germany; now it's just a few sales offices. Nine years ago there were a bunch of people in Ratingen wondering what the future of the HP 3000 was. On our February night in Frankfurt we finally got the answer: Hello CHARON!

As a final note, I did go back and read my old Ratingen piece from 2004. I'd concluded with "The meeting closed with the normal good-byes — but there was more than a sense that the paths of many of us, which had crossed if only infrequently over the last decades, might not intersect again as we set off in new directions." This has proved unhappily true. However, the upside of the Stromasys event was that as we departed, with freeware copies of an HP 3000 on a CD in our bags, I had the feeling that this time many of us expected to meet again in the future. 

By the way, for those of you wondering why the Stromasys emulators are called CHARON: the legendary Charon is the ferryman over the river Styx, carrying you from your old life to the next. I'll leave it to your investigation to work out how Stromasys is derived from that legend.

Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:04 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2013

Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade

Print-ExclusiveEditor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He now points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement.

By Alan Yeo

Second of three parts

I think the most important thing I realised at this event is the CHARON HPA emulator isn't a piece of technology that allows you to do a direct replacement of your current old HP 3000 with a piece of new hardware, by just doing a store and restore. The best way that I think I can describe it is: imagine that HP had just launched a new range of HP 3000 systems called the "B" and "O" Class to replace the "A" and "N" and that these new HP servers would only run MPE/iX 8.0. 

That 8.0 analogy doesn't quite apply, as the emulator ships with the final 7.5 version of MPE/iX. But you have to use the supplied 7.5 version, not your own, and if you are on anything earlier then you can think of this as an operating system upgrade as well as a hardware swap. So you probably are not going to get away with a STORE on your old system and a RESTORE with "KEEP" unless where you are coming from is an incredibly simple environment.  

Whilst your CHARON box can retain the same HPSUSAN, it can't retain the same HPCPUNAME — and it is almost certainly is going to be running a later version of MPE/iX for most homesteaders. So you are going to have to do a good inventory of what software and third party products you are running; if they will run under 7.5; and possibly how to re-install them — especially if they have any components that hook into anything in SYS. 

That means you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. But your reward could be improved performance.

How fast is it? The CHARON product manager Paul Taffel was very open about where the current sweet spot for performance of the CHARON emulator lies, which currently is anything up to the size of a low end N-Class. However they expect this to improve -- and unlike with the real N-Class hardware that officially topped at a 4-CPU system, using the Intel-based servers will enable Stromasys to create 6-way, 8-way and potentially even bigger CPU systems. 

One interesting thing was pointed out that hadn't struck me before: we have been used to CPUs getting faster and faster, but these days that isn't quite so true. Most of the new boxes deliver high-quoted MIPS by adding more and more cores, rather than the individual cores getting any quicker. For an emulator that uses two cores to emulate an HP 3000 CPU core, this means there is actually a ceiling on performance. That's the performance from each core. So it might well be a while before commodity Intel hardware can match a high-end HP 3000.

In reality I don't think raw performance is going to an issue for anyone who's homesteading on older hardware. Looking at the great table of relative performance created by Wirt Atmar at his AICS Research site, you would have to be running a heavily loaded 9x9 or 997 for this emulator to struggle. That's not to say that there wasn't one company at the Stromasys event that said it was beta testing the emulator for such a requirement.

Next time: Accommodating tape technology and NAS, and summing up CHARON and where it takes the HP 3000.  

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:19 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 11, 2013

HP rolls, but Charon rocks in Frankfurt

Print-ExclusiveBy Alan Yeo

It was nightime, it was snowing and we were on foot, walking to our restaurant. Not a format for an American HP 3000 gathering perhaps, but we Europeans are a hardy bunch with the prospect of a good meal, beer and wine in the offing. It was February 5, 2013, and once again I was in Germany for an HP 3000 event. The last time had been nine-plus years earlier for the final official European-Middle East-Africa, Hewlett-Packard-organised event. I reported on it at the time in the Newswire, "After Malta founders on rocks, Ratingen rolls." Hence the borrowed title of this article.

Sheltering under a Virtual Umbrella

This time it wasn't HP who had organised the event, but rather Stromasys, the company who nearly a decade after HP sold the last HP 3000 is gearing up to supply new HP 3000s, albeit they are emulated servers. To be truthful it wasn't a pure HP 3000 event. Stromasys have been supplying emulated DEC PDP-11, VAX and Alpha emulators for nearly a couple of decades, and the event was for vendors and customers of those platforms as well as for those interested in the new HP 3000 emulator. But it was interesting to contemplate this situation in the same manner HP via acquisition had gathered together all these platforms under one company umbrella (I could have done with one of those umbrellas on our snowy night.) As HP are abandoning these users, Stromasys are gathering together the users of those computers under a new emulated umbrella.  

The event was a combined introduction to Stromasys and their emulators, plus twin technical tracks, one for the DEC people and one for the HP folks. Those attending the HP 3000 track — approximately 20 had made it, from Finland in the north, Greece in the south, Slovenia in the east and Ireland in the West, in addition to those from more central European countries, and a couple of us from ScreenJet in the UK.  In the group there were a few familiar faces from Ratingen, nine years earlier. 

For the HP 3000 attendees, it was an opportunity to find out from Paul Taffel — the 3000 veteran is now Stromasys's resident HP 3000 expert who had flown in from California — how the development and testing of the HP 3000 emulator was going. How the first live and beta test sites had gone over, and for most to get our hands on a copy of our own personal freeware copy of the emulator.

A refreshing thing these days was the candor with which Stromasys talked about where they are, how they got there, and where they are going.

It wasn't a case of saying they have a magic wand that will solve everyone's problems. Instead it was a frank presentation of where they have gotten to in matching the performance of the real HP 3000 models, and where the real issues are going to be in moving from a real HP 3000 to an emulated one.

Going Live Down Under

On the practicalities of moving a live production HP 3000 to the CHARON emulator, we had an on-line presentation from Warren Dawson of Hannover Life Re in Australia. It was 2 AM Australia time and Dawson had stayed up to share his experiences of moving his company's applications from a 20-plus-year-old HP 3000 947 system to the emulator, and their reasons for doing so. 

I won't go into much detail, but some interesting bits for me were that the emulator route was taken quickly after an attempted migration to SQL was taking too long and was cancelled, and a couple of serious hardware failures that took too long to resolve. Both salient points that the wise heads in the HP 3000 community have been trying to get over for a number of years. If you're doing a migration, do a "Lift'n'Shift." Changing any more than the absolute minimum in a migration introduces risk and delays. Save the changes and enhancements until you are safely migrated. And just because there is lots of second-hand HP 3000 hardware around, it doesn't mean the bit you need is available where it's needed, or when it's needed, or that you are going to get up and running again before it starts to impact the business. Your homesteading, plan (and budget) should be for the worst case scenario — not to hope and pray for the best case. 

Dawson was also clear that he needed and received the support and assistance of his third-party HP 3000 software vendors to make the transfer. 

He was enthusiastic about the support he had received from Stromasys, whose beta test program he'd joined. I got the feeling that he might well have gone live ahead of the curve that Stromasys were anticipating. He was also very pleased with the performance of his new HP 3000, reporting that many procedures were running nine times quicker. Although to be fair, coming from a 947, even a genuine HP lowest-end, crippled A-Class would probably have done the same kind of performance lift.

Next time: The most important thing to realize about Charon HPA/3000.

Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion. 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:08 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2013

HP ends red ink overall, but BCS tumbles

HP is likely to remain intact for a long time, based on the comments from its CEO Meg Whitman at the latest quarterly report briefing. "The patient shows signs of improvement," she told an audience of analysts and the press. "We did better than we expected we would, and I think we should be encouraged by that."

HP EG results Q1-13Even though the company halted its quarters of red ink at two — Q1 delivered a profit of $1.2 billion, compared to the loss of $8 billion in the previous quarter — the top management delivered a dire report on business server enterprises at HP. Sales dropped company-wide by 6 percent to $28.4 billion. Its Enterprise Group sales fell $245 million, led by the continuing troubles at the Business Critical Systems unit.

"Our server business has a particularly strong market position in EMEA," said CFO Cathy Lesjak, "and the economic backdrop of that [region] is still dismal. The Itanium challenges within BCS are also still with us. There are key challenges still out there."

Lesjak said the news from the PC group — which HP said it has no plans to spin off — couldn't even meet HP's hopes. "Frankly, the business deterioration we are seeing in Personal Systems — particularly in EMEA and with notebooks — is worse than we expected."

One analyst on the call noted that the profit margins for the Enterprise Group have dropped for nine straight quarters. He wanted to know why, and Whitman laid the first pile of blame upon Business Critical Systems, the unit where HP sold 3000s until it dropped the server 10 years ago.

"The negative factor is the decline of BCS," Whitman said. "It was a big and profitable business, and you see that it's declined by 24 percent year over year. The good news is that we've got the best product lineup we've had in a long time in [the Enterprise Group.]" Whitman went on to note that HP is making investments behind the Enterprise lineup.

 

"R&D is the lifeblood of this business," she said of HP's enterprise products such as HP-UX servers and storage. Whitman believes that the enterprise customers will bring along Technical Services business to improve HP profits overall.

 

EMEA Sales Trends
Europe has become HP's most dismal sales spot
Those profits continue to decline company-wide, however. With the exception of its Printing Group and Financial Services, every HP business showed income drops, from 51 percent in PCs to 3 percent in HP Software. Overall its Enterprise Group — which includes Windows and Linux products — saw its profits fall by 18 percent.

 

So how did the company turn a profit for the period? It didn't have to write off the value of Autonomy this time around, or subtract the valuation (through a goodwill writedown) of its Enterprise Services Group. Those were multi-billion-dollar hits in the last two quarters, including $8.8 billion in the previous quarter alone.

Even though Whitman called 2013 "a fix and rebuild year," the company still expects to be delivering $3.40 a share in fiscal year profits. That amounts to $6.6 billion HP believes it will earn using non-Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. These non-GAAP numbers are usually twice as high as accepted numbers. It still adds up to billions in profits for a year where HP says it's going to remain a single company.

"We have no plans to break up the company," Whitman said. "I feel quite strongly that we are better and stronger together." She believes that the past 10 years of business has built "the most valuable franchise in IT, particularly as we look forward to the most significant change in how IT is bought, paid for and consumed. We have a terrific set of assets, and we're going to drive that to really great business performance."

Even though HP's PC business contributes only 10 percent of the company's total profit, Whitman managed to spin that number into a positive. HP thinks pricing for PCs is going to be a problem, so it's glad that PCs only contribute a minimal share of earnings. The CEO thinks there's a better road ahead for an HP that remains intact.

"Customers want this company to be together," she stressed. "We heard that loud and clear on August 18, 2011." That was the day when HP released a quarterly report that it was studying a PC-Enterprise breakup. Shareholders sold down the stock that week on the news, along with the damage of dumping CEO Mark Hurd.

The return to black ink on HP's reports is a good sign about the company's futures, Whitman said. "The turnaround is on track. We have three more quarters to go in this year. We feel very confident about delivering the full year results. But we have to deliver, and we have to execute as an organization."

HP executed 3,500 employee departures in the first quarter, and it reduced its headcount by 11,800 in the fiscal year that ended in October. "We've now asked 15,300 people to leave the company," Whitman said. "We can actually see savings from that, and see a more streamlined and focused organization. This is the financial capacity we will need to hit our numbers. And it's the financial capacity we will need to invest."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:35 PM in Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2013

When Bigger Isn't Better for Commerce

JDA product lineupThere are at least 60 companies in the world that are still using Ecometry direct commerce software on an HP 3000, according to members of that software's community. Perhaps four times that number have already made a migration off MPE/iX, many taking the road to Ecometry Open on Windows.

But that path might have become steeper than the migrated sites expected since Ecometry's owner RedPrairie decided to join JDA Software. JDA is to logistics software as Infor is to manufacturing: a company with a practice of purchasing other companies. Bigger is better to these kinds of entities.

A deal announced in November to combine the two companies says that RedPrairie is acquiring JDA by purchasing JDA stock, but it's a reverse takeover. RedPrairie is the smaller entity, buying up JDA stock to plow through the regulatory scrutiny if the deal was the other way around. The merger was announced as complete about six weeks later, during the Christmas week where news gets dumped because nobody is supposed to be looking.

A larger owner can sometimes not be looking at the best of interests of smaller, acquired customers. It matters enough that some users say say they're freezing Ecometry projects until they get convinced the software will still exist in a year. The 131 products that are now part of JDA, post-merger, suggest something's got to give -- at least in the software development resource derby. At Infor, plenty of software checks in with an ability to continue to pay for support. But development often slows for these acquired products, such as MANMAN.

There was a time -- and not so long ago -- when Ecometry was the sole focus of its ownership. Those owners included people who'd grown the customer base from its HP roots while the server was rebranded the e3000.

It's not easy to remember what the "e" was supposed to stand for in e3000, but HP added the vowel as a way of trying to brand the server as a web resource. (Okay, you'll read something about Enabling growth, Enhancing app partner and solutions focus, and Embracing new technology. Less than two years later, Hewlett-Packard was using the little "e" to mean "extinguish," as it shut off HP futures for the server.)

Ecometry, named to draw upon the new e-commerce strategy, was a flagship app partner in that e3000 era. Even as recently as 2005, Ecometry was just taking its first departure into the realm of equity capital ownership.

The founders of the company, Will Smith and Allan Gardner, retired and sold off their firm in 2004, but that transaction didn't change things for customers as much as another retirement. The equity firm Golden Gate Capital, guided by Ecometry executives led by CEO John Marrah, mothballed a strategy that all Ecometry HP 3000 customers had to leave the platform by HP’s Dec. 31, 2006 support deadline.

Even though that deadline was extended twice by HP, that timetable never mattered as much as establishing a continuing support business. That's the strategy at Infor and JDA, too. MANMAN and Ecometry sites, regardless of their platform, buy support for their applications from the current owners.

Question 17 of an FAQ about the merger explains how a customer would know if their product had been terminated.

JDA’s general policy is that products are not sunset, and that customers are not forced to upgrade to specific versions of our products. Our customers are our top priority and we are committed to continue to provide customers value for the maintenance fees that they pay.

Additionally JDA has a comprehensive solution investment policy available online that outlines JDA’s industry-leading policy for supporting legacy versions of products. This policy will carry forward to the merged company.

JDA established that investment policy in 2011, after it acquired Manugistics and i2. These company brands like Ecometry, Escalate and even RedPraire all become integrated, running behind the shield of JDA. Some of the largest retailers in the world are being served by the combined product roster now, according to the FAQ. The combination of the two companies creates a customer list of more than 3,200. At its height of direct commerce focus, Ecometry had less than 400 companies in its client base.

What JDA now calls an impressive customer roster includes 82 of the STORES Magazine global top 100; 87 of the Consumer Goods Technology global top 100; and 22 of the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25. If that sounds like a mismatch against smaller retail customers such as Seeds of Change, TLA Video, Stumps and Diamond Essence, its because these smaller companies believe they're entitled to some assurances. One problem is the preferred system integrators for JDA, CAPGemini, Tata, and Wipro, can't work on projects of under $5 million. There's too much overhead to start the integration engines for less than that figure. Integrations figure large in the customer experience of "omni-channel" retailers like the Ecometry sites.

Smith and Gardner retired after building up their company to the point where they renamed it Ecometry. As it moved into equity capital ownership, it represented one of the biggest single groups of HP 3000 packaged application customers. There were the best-known brands in the 3000 base there as well, such as M&M/Mars, Brookstone and Title Nine.

The buy-up plan began in 2005 with the Ecometry doing the acquiring. It grew its customer base off competitors through purchases. Marrah said that Ecometry, bolstered by Golden Gate’s $2.5 billion wallet, "would pursue an aggressive acquisition strategy, buying companies to both extend its customer bases and advance its technology."

But in the meantime Ecometry was spreading the word that 3000 sites could expect application support of its MPE-based software during 2007. The 3000 sites can still buy support, six years later.

Customers say they want to know more than support plans for the lifecycle of a retailer app. The JDA Focus conference is scheduled for May 5-7. If there's one thing in common with those classic Ecometry days for these customers, it's the location of Focus. The show is held in Florida, the state where Smith and Gardner founded their company. RedShift, the RedPrairie conference, was to be held in Las Vegas -- where HP is opening its Americas Partner conference tomorrow.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:18 PM in History, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)