Additionally, take advantage of the variables that the MAIL program
Using them will help shorten your run line.
Editor's note: Strobe abandoned its emulator project before Stromasys released its Charon emulator for PA-RISC in 2012. Strobe was the first to announce officially, though.
Strobe commits engineering time to design HP 3000 replacement
3000 support now stands by for the next seven years and beyond. Applications continue to work on HP 3000s. The base of MPE experience is adequate, with IT pros ready to pass on 3000 skills and employ what they know. The only thing missing for the HP 3000 afterlife is new hardware — and if a Pacific Northwest company succeeds on its mission, new 3000 systems won’t be missing for long.
Strobe Data, a company with almost 20 years of experience building hardware emulators, has revealed that it has started design on an HP 3000 emulator. Mike Penk, the engineer who just completed Strobe’s software-only product that emulates Digital’s venerable PDP-11 systems, is leading Strobe’s efforts. The end result will let PC hardware act as if it’s a system with HP’s PA-RISC CPU at its heart, the processor that drives both HP 3000s as well as HP’s older Unix systems.
The newest Strobe project will take several years to deliver its first version. Strobe’s president and founder Willard West said his company’s business experience in emulator lifecycles tells him there’s no rush to complete a product before HP leaves the 3000 support arena. In fact, the lack of vendor support for discontinued systems has been a part of the Strobe business model.
Used HP 3000s will still be in the market by 2007, but West says his company has never considered used systems as competition for Strobe emulators. Price won’t help used systems compete, he believes, even if they sell for a fraction of an emulator.
“If a customer’s going to buy used product, he can probably buy it for 10 percent of what our product will sell for,” West said. “But it’s used, and who’s going to support it? I just don’t see that the used market will be viable two years from now.”
After gathering data on the 3000 market last year, Strobe seemed poised to start design of a product they’ve built for other platforms. The company waited until the summer of 2004 had passed before tossing its hat into the homesteading ring.
“The need [for an emulator] has developed, and nobody has stepped in to address that need,” West said. “We have a solution that we have been working on, in various flavors, since 1985.”
No HP dependency
Design and testing of an HP 3000 emulator stood at the heart of early plans by advocacy group OpenMPE. Prior board members reasoned that without replacement hardware available to the market, the 3000 platform couldn’t maintain a mission-critical profile. Emulation — where a software suite or a hardware-software combination transforms a PC processor into accepting HP 3000 instructions — dominated OpenMPE and homesteading discussions until late 2003.
OpenMPE even worked to get HP to declare its intent to offer an emulator-level license for MPE/iX, available beyond 2006. HP managers from the HP 3000 division offered a letter of intent to demonstrate their commitment to support an emulator with such a license.
But OpenMPE activity during the past year has focused on getting a limited license from HP to use the MPE source code in development outside HP. In the group’s latest strategy, 3000 hardware would be plentiful, while MPE/iX will need continued care after HP shut down its MPE/iX labs. HP has said it won’t decide on such third-party licensing of MPE source until the second half of 2005.
Stobe’s project doesn’t depend on anything that HP might decide. West said keeping MPE/iX static, with no further development beyond HP’s efforts, works for a marketplace accustomed to reliability.
“I kind of see OpenMPE going in the wrong direction,” West said. “People are homesteading because they have a reliable piece of software and reliable hardware. When people start talking about changing either one of those, they get nervous. What assurance do they have that the OpenMPE group has the resources to do this?”
Although Strobe’s aim is to create a product that processes MPE/iX commands exactly like an HP 3000, Strobe’s efforts could require more intimate knowledge of MPE’s internals than the company has on its staff today. The emulator itself is likely to be a software product at first, running on an Intel Pentium chip and using Linux to manage system operations. This design follows the model Strobe used in its most recent emulator, a software suite called Osprey/MP that mimics the Digital PDP-11 hardware.
Performance challenges might push Strobe to incorporate custom-designed hardware in its emulator, West said. “We may build a PA-RISC hardware platform eventually,” he said. “If the customers need more speed than say, a 4Ghz dual Pentium-4 can give them, we’ll have to turn to the hardware implementation.”
Strobe sells hardware products which emulate the HP 1000 servers, used for real-time applications, as well the Data General Eclipse servers and those PDP-11s. Strobe recommends its customers use server-class PCs with top-grade memory and storage when emulating these business-class servers.
HP’s letter of intent for licensing MPE/iX on an emulator requires customers to use HP computers, although engineers at HP say there’s no way for MPE/iX to check what kind of PC is executing the 3000 applications’ instructions.
In the meantime, HP has said that it will transform HP 9000s into HP 3000s on a limited basis, which would keep even more sites on HP-built hardware. West is unconcerned about HP’s latest offer, one that might be available only to the largest of HP 3000 users.
“Can I kiss them for doing that?” he asked. “They’re keeping those customers in stasis for me when they do that.” Staff at HP’s own IT operations have been asking about how to compare HP 9000 models to 3000 counterparts, so HP’s IT shops could continue to use transformed 9000s for business-critical MPE/iX applications.
Those software applications extend the lifespan for an emulator product, West said. “There’s lots of things that can happen to software,” he said, “like it’s not documented, or the people who wrote it aren’t around anymore. There’s lots of reasons to homestead.”
Strobe says it has several customers who have offered it seed money to start work on an HP 3000 emulator. Rather than raising capital to start development, Strobe can use profits from its emulator business to begin work. “I have a company, a foundation of an income stream,” West said. “I can make the commitment and then have the money flow in.”
Some of the most extensive work on the project will involve managing IO streams between storage and the emulated processors. West said enlarging the volume size an operating system can handle is the problem his company has most frequently encountered.
Strobe will build an execution engine for the PA-RISC instruction set, an effort that “will take no more than 30 percent of the effort” on the project, West said. Most of the challenge of making software stand in for a computer lies in virtualization: the redirection of peripheral data into and out of the core processor. IO instructions are trapped and passed to the host, so disc drive models are emulated in software under Windows or Linux.
Strobe’s emulator will only be aimed at supporting the 32-bit mode of the HP 3000 and HP 9000. A version that runs Linux will come first, to prove the PA-RISC emulation concept, West said. Unix is likely to follow, and then the Strobe emulator will have to mimic the “BIOS switch,” as West called it in shorthand, which tells MPE/iX that it can continue booting on the hardware.
The MPE nuances that make HP’s PA-RISC computers become HP 3000s lie closer to the end of Strobe’s emulator project. West believes his company will have access to 3000 experience by then.
“When we get to the point where we want to run MPE as a test, I have great confidence that HP, with that [MPE/iX] license, will tell us how to implement that switch,” West said. “We’ll certainly have experience in the operating system by the time the product is up and running.”
By Ken Robertson
[Ed. Note: Bob Green of Robelle reminds us that both MPE and Unix have scripts, but there are a number of differences. To explain, he offers this article written when Ken Robertson was at Robelle.]
Before MPE/iX, there was a run-time environment for the MPE/V class of HP computers called the Command Interpreter (CI). This MPE/V CI had limited programming capability, with If/Else constructs and numeric variables limited to values between 0 and 65535. The basic interface of the MPE/V CI (Command Interpreter) was ported to MPE/iX machines, and beefed up so it would be usable as a run-time shell.
The MPE/iX command interpreter has a generous command set, pushing the shell into the realm of a true programming tool. Its ability to evaluate expressions and to perform I/O on files allows the end-user to perform simple data-processing functions. The CI can be used to solve complex problems. Its code, however, is interpreted, which may cause a CI solution to execute too slowly for practical purposes.
Command files are a collection of commands in flat files, of either variable or fixed length record structure, that reside in the MPE or POSIX file space. Basically, command files are what you could call MPE Macros. Anything that you can do in the CI interactively, you can do with command files, and then some. You can use command files in situations that call for repetitive functions, such as re-compiling source code, special spooler commands, etc. Command files are also great when you want to hide details from the end-user.
A command file is executed when its name is typed in the CI, or invoked from a command file or programming shell. Just as in program execution, the user’s HPPATH variable is searched to determine the location of the command file.
MPE Scripts Versus Unix Scripts
For the average task, the MPE scripting language is easier to read and understand than most Unix scripts. For example, command line parameters in MPE have names, just like in regular programming languages.
Of course, there are several script languages on Unix and only one on MPE! On Unix you can write shell scripts for any of the many shells provided (C shell, Bourne shell, ksh, bash, etc). Although there is also now a Posix shell on MPE, most scripts are written for the CI. Several third-party tools, such as Qedit and MPEX, emulate HP scripting and integrate it with their own commands.
A command file can be as simple as a single command, such as a Showjob command with the option to only show interactive sessions (and ignore batch jobs):
:qedit /add 1 showjob [email protected] 2 // /keep ss /e :
You have created a command file called SS — when you type SS you will execute showjob [email protected]
On MPE, the user needs read (r) or execute access (x) to SS. On Unix you normally must have x access, not just r access, so you do a chmod +x on the script. This is not necessary in MPE, although, if don’t want users to be see the script, you may remove read access and enable execute access.
Structure of a Command File (aka CI script)
A script is an ASCII file with maximum 511 byte records. Unlike Unix, the records may contain an ASCII sequence number in the last 8 columns of each line. The command file consists of 3 optional parts:
1. Parameter line with a maximum of 255 arguments:
parm filename, length=”80”
2. Option lines:
3. The body (i.e., the actual commands)”
In MPE scripts, there is no inline data, unlike Unix ‘hereis’ files.
Notice in the example above that parameters are used with an exclamation (!), as opposed to the $ in Unix. The same is true for variables. Parameters are separated by a space, comma or semicolon. All parameter values are un-typed, regardless of quoting.
In a typical Unix script, the parameters are referenced by position only ($1, $2, $3, …). In an MPE script, the parameters have names, as in the function of a regular programming language, and can also have default values. In Unix you use [email protected] for all of the parameters as a single string; in MPE you use an ANYPARM parameter to reference the remainder of the command line (it must be the last parameter).
Here is a script to translate “subsys” and “err” numbers from MPE intrinsics into error messages. The subsys and error numbers are passed in as parameters:
setvar subsys hex(!p_subsys)
setvar error hex(!p_error)
comment the hex conversion allows for negative numbers
comment the #32765 is magic according to Stan!
setvar cmd “wl errmsg(#32765,!subsys);wl errmsg(!error,!subsys);exit”
As you can see above, the Setvar command assigns a value to parameter or to a new variable. But there are also system pre-defined variables. To see them all do Showvar @;hp. To get information on variables, do help variable and to get help on a specific variable, say hpcmdtrace, do help hpcmdtrace (set TRUE for some debugging help).
In most MPE commands, you must use an explicit exclam ! to identify a variable: build !filename
However, some MPE commands expect variables, and thus do not require the explicit !. For example, Setvar, If, ElseIf, Calc, While, and for all function arguments, and inside ![expressions].
Warning: variables are “session global” in MPE. This means that if a child process, or scripts, changes a variable, it remains changed when that child process terminates. In Unix you are used to the idea that the child can do whatever it likes with its copy of the variables and not worry about any external consequences.
Of course having global variables also means that it is much easier to pass back results from a script! And this is quite common in MPE scripts.
Options allow you to list the commands as they are execute (option list), disable the Break key (option nobreak), enable recursion (option recursion), and disable help about the script (option nohelp).
The script body below shows active process information. This example shows many of the commands commonly used in scripts: If, While, Pause, Setvar, Input and Run. Other commands you will see are Echo, Deletevar, Showvar, Errclear.
WHILE HPCONNSECS > 0 IF FINFO("SQMSG",0) PURGE SQMSG,TEMP ENDIF BUILD SQMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG FILE SQMSG=SQMSG,OLDTEMP SHOWQ;ACTIVE >*SQMSG SETVAR PINLIST "" WHILE FINFO("SQMSG",19) <> 0 INPUT SQLINE < SQMSG IF POS("#",SQLINE) <> 0 THEN SETVAR PIN RTRIM(STR(SQLINE,47,5)) SETVAR PINLIST "!PINLIST" + "," + "!PIN" ENDIF ENDWHILE IF FINFO("SPMSG",0) PURGE SPMSG,TEMP ENDIF BUILD SPMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG FILE SPMSG=SPMSG,OLDTEMP SETVAR PROC "SHOWPROC PIN="+"!PINLIST"+";SYSTEM >*SPMSG" !PROC WHILE FINFO("SPMSG",19) <> 0 INPUT SPLINE < SPMSG IF POS(":",SPLINE) <> 0 THEN ECHO !SPLINE ENDIF ENDWHILE PAUSE 30 ENDWHILE
In most Unix scripts, if a step fails, you check for an error with an If-conditional and then take some action, one of which is ending the script. Without an If, the script continues on, ignoring the error.
In MPE, the default action when a step fails is to abort the script and pass back an error. To override this default, you insert a Continue command before the step that may fail. You then add If logic after the step to print an error message and perhaps Return (back 1 level) or Escape (all the way back to the CI).
continue build newdata if cierror<>100 then print "unable to build newdata file" print !hpcierrmsg return else comment - duplicate file, okay endif
You can set HPAUTOCONT to TRUE to continue automatically in case of errors, but this can be dangerous. The default behavior at least lets you know if an unexpected problem occurs.
User Defined Commands (UDC)
UDCs are like Command File scripts, except that several are combined in a single “catalog” file. They are an older feature of MPE, so you may see them in older applications even when scripts seem like a better solution. The primary reason that they are still useful is that they support Option Logon, which invokes the command when a user logs onto the system.
From our archives of 2003, a report on devices to house and attach storage to a 3000. These arrays are still in the wild, available from resellers. And they're quite a bit less expensive than nearly $55,000.
HP brings new RAID array, JBOD enclosure online
HP 3000 to get access to systems using Ultra320 disks
HP 3000 customers looking for RAID disk storage and newer enclosures for Just a Bunch of Disk (JBOD) configurations have two new products to consider. HP is introducing an upgraded VA7110 virtual array for the HP 3000, a 45-disk configuration, up from the 15-disk 7100 arrays. Like its 7100 predecessor, the 7110 supports RAID 1+0 and RAID 5DP (double parity).
HP’s 3000 hardware manager Kriss Rant said the device leverages performance improvements from HP’s VA7410 virtual array into a lower-cost unit, at a price point “which is the sweet spot of the older 7100 arrays, the low-end of the midrange,” according to Rant.
Pricing before discounts shows the VA7110 coming in at slightly higher prices than the 7100, $54,984 for a 7110 with four 36Gb disks and a 512Mb cache, versus $48,354 for the same configuration in a 7100. Prices drop slightly per Mb of storage when comparing the 7100 fully loaded versus a 15-disk 7110.
The 7110 operates with both MPE/iX 7.0 and 7.5, using an SCSI to Fiber Channel router on 7.0 and native Fiber Channel in 7.5 implementations. The new array supports the 146Gb 10,000 RPM drives from HP, and the vendor says in some cases this array can double the performance of the 7100. The total capacity of the 7110 can run as high as 6 terabytes, and the unit accepts 15,000 RPM drives of 36Gb and 73Gb, and 10,000 RPM drives of 36Gb and 73Gb, in addition to those 146Gb drives.
HP 3000 JBOD choices will be expanding to the DS2110. It’s a fully compatible replacement for the DS2100, the current JBOD enclosure supported under MPE/iX. The older 2100 is coming off the HP price list on July 15. While the 2110 supports the newer Ultra320 SCSI disk mechanisms, those drives are also limited to the 80Mb/second support constraints of MPE/iX. But the device will let HP 3000 customers use a wide range of disk devices from HP, including HP’s Ultra160 SCSI disks.
The 2110 supports mixed disk capacities, and HP 3000 sites can load it up with as much as 584 Gb of capacity in a 1U enclosure. It can be used with a PCI disk array controller as a low-cost RAID solution.
HP’s introducing the DS2110 to ensure a steady stream of disk mechanisms for the enclosures, since it’s discontinuing its Ultra160 disks. The newer Ultra320 disks can negotiate down to Ultra160 IO cards.
While HP 3000 customers can’t use more than 80Mb/second of this bandwidth today, Rant said the project to upgrade MPE/iX drivers to accept all of the Ultra320’s 320Mb/second of bandwidth “hasn’t dropped off the engineering prioritization list yet.”
The HP 3000 has been misunderstood and unconsidered for much of its lifetime. The confusion has been deliberate sometimes, and just awkward at others. The latest miscue is a replay of bad information from a reputable news source, USA Today. It might come as a surprise that a vaunted national newspaper would care about a computer first sold in the 1970s. As it turns out, that start of sales was at the heart of the 3000's mention.
This computer was never a PC, as stated in the article Common Myths About Industrial Automation, Debunked. In 1972, hardly anything was for sale as a personal computer. The 3000, of course, is a minicomputer and didn't emerge for sale until 1974.
It might not be as dramatic to call a $571,000 system a minicomputer or a business server. Just about any useful business computer of the 1970s was a five-figure investment in those early days. Not so for PCs.
The fantasy from USA Today was compounded in IOT for All, a tech advisory website about the Internet of Things. "When technologies first hit the market, people pay a premium. Think of the personal computer. The first small(ish) business PC from Hewlett-Packard, the HP 3000, cost an inflation-adjusted price of $571,791 in 1972."
IOT went on to say, "Luckily, automation has moved on from the super-new, ultra-expensive technology bracket and into the mainstream. It’s much more affordable to install automation equipment in a factory today. Companies will see ROI much faster than in years past through a combination of better, more refined technology and very reasonable price tags. The benefits are cyclical—automation lowers the price of goods while it increases labor productivity.
And from USA Today, here's the source of the mistaken identity of the 3000.
• Notable computer: HP 3000
• Price tag: $95,000
• Inflation adjusted price: $571,791
USA Today went on to say, "Hewlett-Packard's 3000 was the company's first foray into smaller business computers. The original 3000 was generally considered a failure, but the company would go on to make 20 different versions of the 3000 through 1993."
And there's where the truth settles in: The 3000 was a failure in its first release, so much so that the vendor offered 2116 servers (the ancestor of the 3000) as a replacement for the few that were shipped into the wild. Of course, HP offered business computers smaller than IBM, but the 3000 was the biggest business computer the company had ever created.
Inside VESOFT covers tips and techniques you can use with VESOFT’s products, especially MPEX.
Some pretty sophisticated job scheduling abilities are inside MPEX/Streamx. They don’t get talked about often, but they are really very cool to use if you don’t already have a scheduler. Since this does rely on Streamx, it will be necessary for you to own Security/3000 for it to work. The SHOWJOB was enhanced to support this, a new command (SHOWSCHED) was added to give direct support, and a new parameter was added to STREAMX, ::SETSCHEDULE, that does some basic interfacing.
First let’s take a look at the SHOWJOB command below.:
Syntax: %SHOWJOB [mpe showjob parameters] [;[email protected]] [;NOSEC] Examples: %SHOWJOB [email protected] %SHOWJOB SCHED;NOSEC %SHOWJOB [email protected];*LP %SHOWJOB JOBNUM STATE IPRI JIN JLIST INTRODUCED JOB NAME #S2 EXEC 20 20 WED 7:41A SHAWN,MANAGER.SYS #J3 EXEC 10R LP WED 7:43A BACKG,MANAGER.VESOFT #S3 EXEC 2 2 WED 8:05A SHAWN,MGR.SMGA 3 JOBS: 0 INTRO 0 WAIT; INCL 0 DEFERRED 3 EXEC; INCL 2 SESSIONS 0 SUSP JOBFENCE= 6; JLIMIT= 2; SLIMIT= 40 JOBNUM STATE R SCHED-CONDITION SCHEDULED-INTRO JOB NAME #A1 SCHED + SMTWRFA 0:10 FYIMAIL8,MGR.SMGA #A2 SCHED + -MTWRF- 0:15 DAILY,MANAGER.SYS #A3 SCHED + S-----A 0:35 DISCLEAN,MANAGER.SYS #A4 SCHED + -MTWRF- 1:30 BACKUP,MANAGER.SYS #A5 SCHED + WHENEVER BETWEEN(HPDAY,2,6) AND... DBTREND2,MANAGER.SYS #A6 SCHED + WHENEVER (HPDATE=1) REPORT,MANAGER.SYS #A7 SCHED FRI 9/16/94 10:00 TESTSCHD,MANAGER.SYS 7 STREAMX SCHEDULED JOBS.
The MPE :SHOWJOB command has been enhanced to display STREAMX scheduling information as well as MPE :SHOWJOB information. When appropriate, STREAMX scheduling information is automatically displayed after the status section of the MPE :SHOWJOB command. In addition, VESOFT has created a new %SHOWJOB userset of @A to represent all STREAMX scheduled jobs.
The SCHED-CONDITION/SCHEDULED-INTRO columns display different information depending upon whether or not the job repeats on specific days, is scheduled to submit on a particular day and time or if the job should be launched when a particular condition occurs. Repeating jobs are indicated by a “+” character after the word “SCHED”. For jobs that are scheduled for a particular day and time, that information is displayed much the same as MPE scheduled jobs. For conditional jobs, as much of the condition that can be displayed on one line will be printed, followed by “...” if the conditional expression is longer.
This is essentially the same format as the %SHOWJOB command, and shows the same information as the %SEC SHOWSCHED command. %SEC SHOWSCHED, however, will display the entire condition under which a job will be submitted, as you can see here:
Last -Days- #A Job Name Submitted By Job # SMTWRFA-Time- 6 REPORT,MANAGER.SYS SMG,MANAGER.SYS J1032 WHENEVER (HPDATE=1) CHECKEVERY DAY
Since the default is to display both jobs and sessions, simply typing %SHOWJOB alone will display MPE jobs and sessions, MPE scheduled jobs, the MPE status block, and STREAMX scheduled jobs in that order. To display only STREAMX scheduling information, type %SHOWJOB [email protected] To suppress STREAMX scheduling information, include ;NOSEC as part of the command.
With the ::SETSCHEDULE command, the job stream can specify its own scheduling parameters, e.g.
!JOB DELSPOOL,MANAGER.SYS; OUTCLASS=,1
::SETSCHEDULE AT=?When would you like to schedule this job for?
What follows the ::SETSCHEDULE must be the :STREAM command scheduling parameters, exactly as they’d be specified after the “;” in the :STREAM command (e.g. “::SETSCHEDULE AT=02:00;DAY=MONDAY”).
Note that if the user explicitly specifies scheduling parameters when he runs STREAMX (e.g. in the STREAMX UDC), those parameters will be used and any ::SETSCHEDULE command in the file will be ignored. This lets a user override the ::SETSCHEDULE settings in the file.
Also note that if you specify several ::SETSCHEDULE commands in one job stream, the FIRST one will take precedence. It’s important to note that the new parameters can be specified at submission or with the ::SETSCHEDULE. So the STREAM command through STREAMX now supports the following syntax:
[;REPEAT= [DAILY|WEEKDAYS|day of week[, ...] ] [;WHENEVER=
[;CHECKEVERY= minutes| DAILY ]
[;MPE SCHED PARMS]
It’s the “condition” that is so flexible in this new format. Check out some of these examples:
• ...stream a job at a scheduled time each day:
:STREAM MAINJOB ;REPEAT=DAILY ;AT=01:00
• ...stream a job several times each day (once each hour):
(BETWEEN(HPHOUR,6,17) and (HPMINUTE=0))
• ...stream a job once a month:
• ...stream a job if another job fails (aborts):
The hard part really is just in making sure that your syntax and parameters are exactly what you want. Some trickier stuff you might try to do would be when you want to stream job A when job C finishes with no errors, but stream job B if it fails for some reason. All of this can be done, it just takes a little think time.
The word progressive is on the rise again in our vocabulary. The term rose at first in the turn of the 20th Century, when it signified something that envisioned a better future. In some cases, those progressive tactics were aimed at reforms. You might compare reforms to removing old, buggy versions of compilers to replace them with newer, more capable ones. If you go back far enough, people running HP 3000s were replacing FORTRAN 66 with FORTRAN 77, or replacing MPE written in SPL with MPE/iX in Modcal.
Then there's the progressive tactic of devising something new to meet a need where no solution is in place, old or otherwise. Progressives in the first decade of the 20th created the US Food and Drug Administration. Today, 114 years later, the FDA will be gatekeepers to our survival in the US. All COVID-19 vaccines pass through the FDA.
The HP 3000 equivalent of such a progressive tactic might be MPE/iX source code licenses. Nobody knew why the market would need access to the innermost code for the 3000's OS. Then the HP business changed, dropping 3000 future development. The hit on the market meant more internal designs had to become external tools. Independent support companies, as well as some well-schooled utility vendors, earned the right to read trade-secret code for MPE/iX.
While there's very little need today for that sweeping kind of progressive behavior for an HP 3000 customer, the other kind of forward-looking progressive plans have become too short in supply. Running an HP 3000 in a production environment with mission-critical duties isn't an automatic trigger for support anymore. This isn't true in every production case, but the decline of this progressive investment outlook is costing the community, even while it saves some dollars in operating expenses.
One notable loss is that our most stalwart sponsor, Pivital Solutions, is shifting its resources away from the HP 3000 starting in January. Other support companies have already sidetracked or ended their offerings. Pivital held on longer than nearly all of 3000 expert companies. It remains well-stocked with know-how, not to mention one of those rare MPE/iX source licenses. Source solves problems HP did not anticipate. But the growth of its 3000 customers stopped several years ago, president Steve Suraci reports.
"We will continue to honor our obligations to support our remaining base through 2027," he told me this week, "but we can no longer limit ourselves by our 3000 tethers."
The situation may be different at other companies, but my experience and reports show that eliminating 3000-related budgets is everywhere. "The sites that remain are no longer looking to be progressive," Suraci says. "The vast majority of the remaining customers still use the 3000 for mission-critical functions, but they no longer invest in the platform. They make no pretense when it comes to budgets."
Suraci and his company have been ardent supporters of the 3000's mission ever since the company entered the market almost 30 years ago. At first, there was its work in the GrowthPower ERP market. GrowthPower was an MRP II system with integrated financials that ran exclusively on the HP 3000. There was, at one time, over 1,000 customers for GrowthPower.
About a decade later, Pivital joined the ranks of vendors who sold new HP 3000s as an authorized reseller. This promised to open the doors to sales to even more 3000 use that went beyond MRP. Less than a year after Pivital joined HP's reseller lineup, though, Hewlett-Packard canceled its future development for the 3000.
Pivital was being progressive about its role in the 3000 market. HP didn't reward anyone who stepped out like that, especially so in the case of Pivital. The company was the last one joining the reseller ranks. It didn't rattle Suraci and his team much. They stood their ground on support and remained exclusive to the HP 3000. Many support companies try to maintain a wider range of expertise. Sometimes that means the knowledge base isn't as deep.
It's better for the customer that we specialize, he told me more once. He also reminded the market that its support vendors need to have parts in a depot, rather than shopping for a replacement at the last minute.
"Customers are all too willing to risk their support on a pipe dream that a capable closet technician will show up at a moment's notice, with no service level agreement or parts inventory to support them," Suraci says. There are plenty of parts in the market — but having specifically what a customer needs within a four-hour response time means that the right way to support a site is with a depot.
HP abandoned its 3000 base almost two decades ago, "but we embraced the remnants," he said. "Initially, it was a great match. There was still a progressive base, and we were a willing partner capable of helping them reach their initiatives. "
Over time, he says, things changed. Suraci is unique among support firm presidents. For many years now, he's advised his customers to move onto a computing solution that's supported by a vendor or a marketplace. Something other than an HP 3000 and MPE/iX, to be precise. "For all the right reasons," he says, "the base dwindled as users migrated to more current technologies."
It might have happened more gradually without that vanishing progressive strategy. A site committed to a support budget, with some designs on refreshing architecture where they can, will still be able to rely on the HP 3000 for a good long while. There are seven more full years of MPE/iX use before the 2028 date decision looms. There are even solutions announced or in development to clear that hurdle.
What's not been done, however, is the adoption and practice of supporting every mission-critical 3000. That would include the archival systems holding key data, the kind that regulators demand. Since the progressive tactics have faded, these plans are sending 3000 vendors into new directions. Good vendors like Pivital are curtailing their connections. Supporting your vendor is good for your future.
Earlier this month, a long-time 3000 migration firm pointed to an IEEE article about legacy IT investments. Inside the Hidden World of Legacy IT Systems quotes a study by Statista that reports that three-quarters of all IT spending since 2010 goes toward operating and maintaining existing systems. The numbers throughout the IEEE article tell a story that's familiar to legacy managers like those who maintain HP 3000s. $2.5 trillion, out of a total IT spend of $35 trillion, has gone to trying to replace legacy systems. Nearly a third of that has been spent on failed efforts.
Fresche Solutions' co-founder Jennifer Fisher pointed at the legacy link. The company was once called Speedware, selling development tools and experience with legacy systems. By today, the company's got 22,000 customers, many in what 3000 managers would call the AS/400 space, and it sells X-Analysis, onboarding software that delivers reports on what's inside a legacy installation's many software modules.
Christine McDowell, VP of marketing at Fresche, says that legacy systems got themselves into a jam because they've run so effectively up to now. "The systems ran so well that they didn't change a lot," she says. "Time has caught up with them." Older languages, such as RPG in the IBM Series i space that's the modern name for AS/400, are providing a lot of the pain for legacy refreshes.
The company is still managing HP 3000 resources, along with Series i systems, as part of its solutions. There's no more growth in the Series i market than in the HP 3000 space: "We don't see net new IBM i," McDowell says. The growth has been negative in the HP 3000 world. Legacy is holding its own overall, but some platforms are more fixed in place than others.
Many legacy systems, though, share one common element that makes them continued ramparts. "The need for an integrated system is just as great as before," McDowell says. As one of the original group of HP 3000 Migration Partners in 2002, Speedware sold its customers on the advantage of having 100 percent referenceable projects. The Fresche customer base today is many times the size of Speedware's. "It's always been a part of our DNA to strive for 100 percent referenceability," McDowell says. "I never say 100 percent now, because I haven't talked to every customer."
Legacy is surviving in large measure because companies are facing what's called the succession problem. "It's the reality of the people who built and managed these systems," McDowell says. "There was often no succession plan."
To keep the legacy technology relevant, it's got to be modernized. Not everyone needs every aspect of modernization. For the a la carte shoppers, a subscription service can now take the place of capital expenses. IBM's Series i market is distinctive because it still enjoys the support of its creator. More than two thousand business partners and vendors still sell into that market. It's a multi-OS chip ecosystem, supporting a Unix variant, the AS400 environment, as well as mainframe-style systems.
There's proof that the HP 3000 remains in use as a legacy solution, McDowell says. Dun and Bradstreet Asset Reports still show a large number of companies reporting 3000s in service. "Companies still get value from these systems," she says. "They just need to figure out which pieces they will leverage."
This holiday weekend, many of us can give thanks for surviving a year unlike any other. A pandemic is one way to learn how deep your fortitude can go. It was easier to love a business computer that was still being manufactured and sold. Even if the sales were disappointing and irregular, newer systems were still going into the world.
In love, we find out who we want to be. In war, we find out who we are. This has been a year of war for health, and it brings us close to two decades of battle to keep resources at hand for 3000s.
By this weekend, the only systems headed into the world running MPE are the new releases of the Stromasys Charon emulator and some experimental installs of a Classic 3000 emulator. The latter SIMH software runs MPE V and it has devoted hobbyists around it. That emulator is not a production asset. The one from Stromasys is proven.
On a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for — and something to envy, too.
Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill has asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s?"
We can write some of that. The HP 1000, a product line that HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered just in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.
A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted Alpha users to the Integrity line, a migration path of now-dubious future. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys. The presence of Charon also prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of 17-year-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.
But while the Alpha and the 3000 live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, both communities can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received from HP. OpenVMS lives on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. The company got a 2013 arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.
OpenVMS futures have some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS as well as for the 3000 users who wanted more MPE/iX future from HP back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced 13 years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.
If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support like it was for OpenVMS, there could be more to be thankful for by now. Extensions of some third-party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement OS vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.
Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, delivered from the OS that had brought HP to the computing game. Third parties who love and care for a legacy computer were at the ready for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. It seems HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a 3000 with Windows was not business that anybody feels thankful for.
Using the analogy of moving out of a house, an MB Foster Webinar shows how application portfolios can tell a company when it's sensible to move apps. Sometimes it's off the 3000 altogether, and then it triggers retirement. Migrations can lead that way. At Boeing, as well as TE Connectivity, retiring a 3000 app led to retiring longtime staff. It's better to have a plan of succession than no plan at all. Everyone's got to prepare for change, even if the preparation is just where to set up the man cave in the house.
It's possible to see a portfolio as the same kind of tool for IT that it is for personal finance. With the stock market roaring at present, more than a few 3000 experts are looking at cashing in to wrap up long careers. Deciding which portfolio elements to convert and migrate to no-risk instruments aids in the changes. MB Foster has made its bones mitigating risk. It's one of the original HP Migration Partner firms.
A classic four-quadrant chart outlines the scoring of applications. One axis shows a business fit, the other a technical fit. Nobody wants an application in the bottom left, low in both aspects. A business decision should drive most of the changes in IT. Score the business fit of applications in a portfolio first, Foster says. If it scores well there, go on to the technical fit.
The portfolio is the tool of governance, he added. Governing often ensures the neediest get resources as required. Application Portfolio Management is only possible if a company knows its applications very well. Very well requires documentation that can be shared over time. The assets in a portfolio can be judged to be worthy of migration based on their risk-benefit-value. What helps a company most, and what could you least afford to let fall into that inevitable lower-left box?
It's usually a low number of apps that can fall off that chart completely, ready for retirement. The largest group is often suited for same-capability migrations when they creep downward. That 70 percent of the apps can get a lift-and-shift of their functionality, usually through replacement.
Working in advance makes it less painful and swifter. "It's like moving out of a house," Foster says. "If you go through your closets regularly, you'll be moving less of what you don't need." In this analogy, the closets are your data, which "has to be made available to the new app. It's not automatic."
"They see a list of 100,000 files and do not want to scrap any of them," he said. "So they move everything to the new system." A tool like Vesoft's MPEX assists by managing those files. That's work that can take place even before a transition is underway. There's no such thing as Data Portfolio Management, but the governance of data is one way to practice for the informed choices of application governance.
Retiring applications is part of a succession plan. The aging of the HP 3000 workforce is upon us. Today when people refer to senior staff, they're also thinking senior citizens. Setting up an application two decades ago, or four, gave companies a durable asset. In time, the moment arrives for change. It can be transformation or elimination. When to set up an application portfolio? When assets degrade through declining business fit, agility, and maintainability.
HP 3000 and MPE/iX manuals might be found anywhere these days. It's a common request to hear from a 3000 pro, "Where can I find that manual?
HP is back in this business with a new interface. These webpages at HPE's website are a high-value address to locate documentation and make it available to a new 3000 administrator. Or a migration team trying to understand how something like TurboStore/iX works.
There's no guarantee of how long HP Enterprise will keep this library open. Get it while you can.
It was easy to complain about OpenMPE's unmet hopes and dreams. HP never gave the small collective of ardent MPE veterans a chance to change things top to bottom. Hemmed in by non-negotaible NDAs, and sequestered to the corral where smaller customers live, OpenMPE didn't do what everybody wanted. Good-hearted and high-minded people came to the board and left, sometimes dismayed.
However, OpenMPE became a harbor for the schooners of 3000 capability. The OpenMPE website recently came under the curation of Keven Miller at 3k Ranger. He's rehosted and returned many of the assets of information OpenMPE created.
For example, there's a great grid showing the relative performance of HP 3000 hardware. Why might anybody need this in 2020? We live in a world where reusing assets is more possible than ever. These MPE systems remain for sale at hardware brokerages. the 3000-L newsgroup doesn't get many new messages these days. One regular post, though, comes from Jesse Dougherty. Systems like A-Class, N-Class, and even 9x9s remain for sale.
Comparing these is a lot easier with a performance chart. So 3k Ranger helps out, forwarding the research collected by OpenMPE. Knocking at the web address of "openmpe.com" doesn't deliver an answer anymore. The work remains at another address, still serving a purpose more than nine years after OpenMPE disbanded.
The aims of OpenMPE were high. At one point in 2009, the group was in line for a source code license. Even 11 years ago, the phrase succession planning was in the lexicon of 3000 owners. Succession was a part of MPE's future, since it's a long-serving asset.
Nineteen years ago, Hewlett-Packard rocked the 3000 world with a fateful announcement. "No more new 3000s," the creator of the system said. "December of 2006 marks the end of HP's MPE road. Your ecosystem has been shrinking for some time." And so on.
How bad was that decision, really, in the long view from 2020? It killed companies, cratered careers, made vendors vanish. The world's landfills and scrapyards gathered tons of aging 3000 iron, over the next decade and beyond. What good came of it might be measured in how companies and experts rebuilt their prospects and skill levels.
Not many injured parties fell immediately from a mortal wound. Like COVID, though, the news attacked those whose careers or business models were already vulnerable. I was tempted, in the years that followed, to compare the HP choice as another kind of 9/11. I didn't go there, and I won't try to equate that business decision with a pandemic that's killed close to 1.5 million people worldwide.
The pain of a loss, though, isn't so easily defined. For some people and companies, November 14 was the wildfire that cleared out the old forest floor to make way for new trees. Minisoft was roaring along with its terminal emulator and middleware business. Its founder Doug Greenup summed up the firestorm and the aftermath eloquently.
"At first our business was not really affected," he says. "In fact, our sales actually trended up slightly with upgrades. We were faced with a critical decision to either let our company fade slowly away with the declining MPE business, or reinvent ourselves. I remember that 90 percent of our total business at the time was MPE."
"We decided to take Minisoft in a radical new direction going back to our old word processing days. We originally produced a product called Miniword which competed with HPWord and TDP on the HP 3000. Based on our long lost past, we created a document management suite written in Java that was operating system agnostic. We then marketed this software suite into several new non-HP worlds: QAD, RedPrairie, Manhattan, STW, and Microsoft Dynamics."
"It was very difficult to reinvent, and it took several difficult years," Greenup wrote to us on the 10-year anniversary of the announcement. "HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result."
A few weeks ago, Minisoft dropped a marketing flyer, full color and tri-folded, into my mailbox at the curb. The flyer updated me on eFORMz, its solution for printed forms. It emerged in the years after 2001. Minisoft says, "The world's great brands run on eFORMZ" with a list: Petco, Tiffany, Office Depot, Adidas, Victoria's Secret, Mrs. Fields. The lineup reminded me of the Who's Who list that Ecometry boasted during the year of that 2001 HP announcement. Known brands, the Ecometry sites, all using the HP 3000.
eFORMz doesn't require a 3000. If a company has one, the software integrates effortlessly. The non-HP worlds began to open up as opportunities for Minisoft after Nov. 14. The fact that a printed flyer could promote software in 2020 is a tip of the cap to the continuing power of paper. When the HP news of 2001 arrived at the NewsWire, we were as deeply invested in paper as a little business could be.
Like Minisoft, paper lined my path away from the loss. Books, to be specific, paper that's more durable than periodicals.
I think of books as the HP 3000 of communication. Steady, knowing, rich with data that becomes knowledge and then wisdom. I had to write my way out of the trouble. The Web, as we called it in 2001, became the bridge.
It's been 19 years since HP canceled its future for the 3000 and changed ours. Our lives stopped building on the success of periodical editing and publishing. We still did our 3000 storytelling, of course, and I keep doing it. But every Friday now, for six of them in a row, I write a little newsletter about writing and editing, instead of coding or managing an enterprise system. In the work of becoming a book editor, and the author of a novel and a memoir, I’m not a reporter any longer, not about the book work. I’m an author, as well as an editor and evaluator of other authors.
And Abby? Whoa — a yoga teacher who's produced three DVDs and is now in her 15th year of leading classes. Now people can attend her classes over Zoom. Students come from around the country, where they once had to show up at our address, or live in Austin for private sessions. People who don't think they might do yoga can practice Heavyweight Yoga. Thirteen retreats, too. A Fitness Magazine Fit 50 member, alongside notables like TV anchor Robin Roberts. Obesity Action Coalition's Bias Buster of the Year.
Could I see the way to this day if HP hadn’t ever stopped its 3000 business? Would our tribe instead be like the OpenVMS people who still have vendors and customers, but the latter isn’t spending much anymore, and so the former doesn't have money for ads? That all began in 2013 for VMS, when HP announced the end of its unlimited service to the Digital community. My new cattle drive toward books would’ve started 12 years later than it did. I’d have been 56, just beginning my journey. In that future, we might've had more in our retirement account. Or, we might have looted it for experiences, as we did through the years. What trip, Abby always asks, would you have not gone on?
I can think of a few, but they all promised to be delightful in the cozy run-up to each experience. Were there some lemon meringue pie slices we could have left in the San Antonio Tip Top diner’s cold case? To be sure, there were. How could we know which ones we didn’t need as comfort food for the soul, though?
There are, of course, other ways to measure how things worked out because HP lost its faith. We bet on a business that we didn’t think would last so long. You would've had to ask us on a really honest day in 1996, say, to hear me say this venture had about five good years in it. The unfettered, blue-sky time amounted to six years or so. The next 19 after 2001 have had some seasons better than others. You won't mistake technical publishing for the creative compensations of books and yoga. The satisfactions, though, are a different element to measure.
Many an MPE expert made this kind of transformation. John Burke became a mathematics professor. Some just branched out further, like Birket Foster and his Storm rural internet service company. He's still serving 3000 sites with data migration, too. Fresche Solutions waded into the IBM i Series market and held on to its 3000 work that'd begun while the company was called Speedware.
It’s an alternative history game, this one. However, it’s also a commemoration report. What did we do for Christmas in 2001, versus Christmas of 2000? I always mark what we are spending with the high water mark of the holidays. That was a time that always included the Dec. 31 birthday of my boy, the rock star who was proof I could create something warm and attractive and funny and smart. Amid my obvious failures, Nick is my durable success. And my marriage to a partner both special and true.
We got the Nov. 14 news a few days ahead of the vast majority of our customers. Some of the bigger vendors knew about it days or weeks ahead of us. I've written about hearing about the 3000's end of HP days while holding a payphone receiver with a cord on it. Fitting, considering how classic the 3000 was then and remains today. Wherever Nick and I were headed in Switzerland that night, we kept our appointment. A train station with a payphone on the platform led me to this New Tomorrow. We're all headed there by now because of COVID. Survival is going to be the outcome for so many of us, just as it was after 2001.
The US Department of Labor levied the fine, which will cover back pay for 391 California women who suffered "systematic pay discrimination" while employed at HP.
The irony bubbles up because HP's two longest-serving CEOs this decade were Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. The fine includes interest, to be paid to the affected female workers.
Under the settlement, in addition to the settlement payment, the two arms of HP agreed to analyze compensation and take steps to ensure their employment practices follow US law. That accounting will include record-keeping and internal auditing, all to ensure HP's compensation practices are legal.
A Labor Department news release says HP has cooperated. But the arm that sells servers that replaced HP 3000s, Enterprise, says it disagrees with the allegations.
HPE has "settled in the interest of putting this matter behind us.” This enterprise HP, whose HQ address is now San Jose rather than Palo Alto, says it is “committed to unconditional inclusion, including pay equity regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.”
The other HP, headquartered in Palo Alto, says "the charges in this case are without merit. We felt it was in the best interests of all involved to resolve this matter as quickly as possible through a voluntary settlement agreement. HP does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
The Hewlett-Packard that developed the HP 3000 might not have hired as many women as the newer HP arms. However, the classic HP never was investigated by the US government about hiring misdeeds.
The Labor Department alleges that through routine checks for compliance with employment laws, it found “disparities in compensation between male and female employees working in similar positions.” HP offices in San Diego and Boise, Idaho — the latter where HP board kingpin Dick Hackborn headquartered himself throughout the 2000s — as well as HPE offices in Houston and Fort Collins were the sites where illegal compensation was discovered.
I’m writing to you from a blackout. It’s a willful one, because I’m staying clear of the election vote totals until later today. It’s too soon to tell what the results might mean to people like me, hoping for change, or at least trying to hold back the chaos.
HP 3000 owners were in blackouts back at the start of this century, the last era we had a contested election. It wasn’t all that rare to hear about somebody just learning, quite late, about the November 2001 HP decision on the 3000. A few years later, even into 2005, a vendor would tell me they’d run into another site where time had stopped at the early-2001 marker.
They were so isolated we might have called them willful in their blackouts. They self-maintained, so the greatest source of news, from people like any indie support company on first response, was outside their view. These blackout customers had long ago left HP in all but spirit, buying hardware from the used market. The newer stuff would’ve returned their investment faster, considering parts and repair time they’d spend on their own. They shopped as if it was the Depression and they were strapped for cash.
Their software vendors hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Not because the support from the vendors had lapsed, although it often hadn’t been renewed. When you buy support as if it’s insurance you never use, not much changes in the viewfinder.
While I didn’t expect this blackout to last as long as it did, the lack of death march music helped preserve all of us in the 3000 world longer, so we could grow stronger. I stood on the train platform in Switzerland with a phone in my hand on the 2001 night when Abby told me what HP was about to do. “Don’t worry quite so much,” I said in the dark. “Lots of people are going nowhere soon.”
I then applied the term "homesteader" to those who would choose to push back migration. Eventually HP adopted the term, because their customers started using that. Once in awhile, something from the press sheds a new light on a decision.
There was a virtual blackout, too. Those who knew that HP’s tastes for MPE had run dry didn’t think that would alter their career or their company. HP said most would be migrated in five years. It was more like 10. At the end of that blackout run, lawyers might have become involved. Companies needed valid support contracts from HP, some of them. I guess leaning on lawyers at the end, and then judges, is the endgame for lots of important decisions and turning points.
In a few hours, I’ll wire back in and see what has happened in the election. So far, anyway — it's easy to believe this one will have a long road to settlement. Things will change a lot less than we think, no matter what the courts give us later on. Come to think of it, for quite awhile, 3000 things changed a lot less than Abby thought.
Customers didn't get a vote in that 2001 decision. Democracy promises everyone's voice will be heard. Capitalism and commerce doesn't operate by democracy, though. We'll see if we can manage our government any better than HP handled its 3000 endgame.
We've marked the end of HP's passions for the 3000 many ways and many times over the last 19 years. The month of November is upon us again, and once again filled with changes. From 10 years ago, the story of the 3000's could-have-been fate, reflected in NonStop and its then-current division leader, rubbed some salt into an old wound.
November is a month filled with memory for many a 3000 owner and user. Some of the sting of watching HP stop its futures for the 3000 is sparked by the enthusiasm offered by HP's NonStop general manager, Winston Prather. NonStop enjoyed its first exclusive conference this fall, while Prather is finishing up his fourth year as GM of the server's Enterprise Division.
Prather held the very last post of General Manager for the 3000, a job where he said it was his decision alone to announce the "end of life" (as HP loves to call it) of the server still running more than a few major firms. You can pretty much see the retread from his 3000 talks in his message in the NonStop bimonthly magazine, The Connection, from his intro for this Fall's issue (pictured above; click for details).
With all the changes we've made... we've stayed true to the what NonStop has always done best: delivering the scalability, availability and integrity you rely on to run your business. It's a NonStop, not a Tandem. The difference is real, the fundamentals remain.
Fundamentals remain on duty at many HP 3000 shops which Prather predicted would be long ago migrated. But the struggle continues to eliminate an IT asset as quickly as he eliminated 3000 futures. One customer wrote us -- and didn't want their name used, for fear of risking a severance package -- about a second attempt to replace a custom-built application. "The packages that we’ve been sold, complete with rosy allegations of full asset management functionality, simply don’t have it," he said.
Some kinds of applications are custom-written all over the world, the manager added, and "whole concepts of our line of business are obviously brand new to the programmers."
This manager retired a few weeks after the organization's “conversion staff was only now asking for descriptions of the old database. They’re obviously not converting anything; they’re just going to archive the data and hope they can refer to it later."
In the meantime, the company's management dropped all support for the HP 3000s, even though one lost a disk drive and failed to boot from it. Other than a daily full backup, there's not even a shadow of support for the systems. Without a tool like Adager to rely upon, "the database will overfill (work order lines keep on coming!) in about four weeks." Of such high-level organization's decisions -- running a 3000 until it careens into a ditch -- are a system manager's nightmares conjured.
"I’ll return to the fray seeking work," said this 3000 pro. "But what I’ll do is in the air -- obviously not much 3000 development going on, but I may be just the ticket for maintenance projects, or I can probably be valuable in a conversion. I know I’m employable and there are a few 3000 community residents who know I’m reasonably smart; I’ll be okay."
HP's hubris hovered on the dream that any 3000 app could be moved or replaced. NonStop made it to the other side of the 2002 merger with Compaq, and the 3000 didn't. Along the road, the scalability, availability and integrity relied upon by some businesses fell into in the hands of the migration and conversion companies assigned to muck out the mess.
Perhaps the product name of the NonStop line will keep its customers from looking backward at the last business decision which HP put in Prather's hands alone. That's his story of your November history, even to this day. The buck stops at his GM's desk, right up to when he decides to dismantle the furniture that might still have a future.
Close to 30 years ago, a fresh software vendor included the HP 3000 in its targeted platforms. The hopeful mission was to help level the HP playing field for Unix and MPE/XL business computing. In the years when mainframe stability was the IT standard — and MPE still hadn't locked in its iX suffix — SAP chose the 3000 alongside the HP 9000 servers.
The announcement about the software suite already changing ERP standards came from SAP's world headquarters in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg. SAP was trying to expand its beachhead in the US. The Internet played a minor role in corporate computing. "The company is going to SAP" wasn't a strategic cliche, because unless that company operated IBM mainframes, there was no widespread target platform for the manufacturing and ERP keystone app.
Twenty-eight years later, SAP has carried its clout to a fresh destination. The target may even dislodge some of the most staunch customers using ERP alternatives like MANMAN. SAP is already the replacement system at TE Connectivity, once the largest HP MANMAN user by system count. The final MANMAN database goes offline this month. SAP will complete its occupation in the TE campaign.
The new platform isn't TE, of course. A company doesn't represent a platform for an application. Even State Farm Insurance, with several hundred HP 3000s during the Nineties, wasn't an MPE platform. The new SAP platform is Suse Linux 15. The Suse Linux world considers SAP adoption a milestone for its customers.
Suse says the majority of SAP customers in the late Nineties "didn’t take much note of SAP’s 1999 announcement that SAP R/3 had just been made available to run on Linux." The 2020 media release from Suse last week reported a historical footnote. "Despite the establishment of an SAP Linux Lab, Linux was a wallflower in the SAP community."
The German vendor was as resolute as any military general about winning a space in the US market, though. Hewlett-Packard was going to be an ally in the assault. The app was so new to datacenters that 1992 coverage included an explanation of what SAP stood for. Systems, Applications, Product was in R/3, "mainframe-class software" headed to HP 9000 and HP 3000 users. The R/3 version had gained client-server abilities to reach beyond mainframes.
In 1992, "the foray into the US market has yielded big fruit in the shape of an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to offer SAP’s R/3 mainframe-class software to its HP 9000 and HP 3000 users." As part of the agreement, SAP and HP opened a joint development center at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, staffed by full-time engineers from both companies.
German soil already had a HP 3000 development lab. Down the road in Böblingen, the European HQ for MPE/XL systems was battling the push of Unix. The 25th anniversary of the 3000 was celebrated best up the road in Stuttgart, where a disco party roared with a sax player on a trapeze cable. SAP’s first new products for the North American market were expected in first quarter of 1993.
The software was building its legend of an infinite and sometimes maddening range of customization. That made the concept a good match for the 3000 strategy of robust customization. Business rules for accounting, personnel, manufacturing, materials management, sales and distribution, and plant maintenance — they all were executed in custom modules for most ERP.
Suse said in its 2020 announcement that in the Nineties, "customers already installed other operating systems like IBM AIX, HP-UX, OS/400, and Windows that worked just fine. Back then, SAP even still supported a combination of HP 3000 machines and operating system MPE for R/3."
The lab in Walldorf turned out an HP-UX version of SAP. The MPE/XL edition failed to embed itself in the combat unit of HP's 3000. Böblingen HP engineers were fighting the good fight against migration to Unix.
Linux had such blue skies ahead that it's eventually replaced Unix at many datacenters. Carrying around the proprietary versions of Unix like AIX and HP-UX was extra baggage for a platform: Suse is the second most often used Linux in the world among the branded distros, behind RedHat.
"Suse deployments/transitions for business-critical workloads and applications have been made available for public cloud environments," last week's release says. "Furthermore, major release 15 is the first version to take multi-modal principles into consideration." The names of the distros alone spell the coming change. Vendor specific operating systems were once named as acronymns. VMS, MPE, HP-UX, AIX: these ruled the corporate datacenters.
SAP modified its application to stand on the Linux platform. That represented the strategy beginning in the 1980s. On-premises computing was complemented by time sharing data processing. Everything needed a footprint in corporate offices, even if that footprint was no more than HP 2622 terminals or PCs that emulated them.
Linux won over the acronyms. The Suse report says, "Thanks to valiant efforts by SAP and partners like Suse, customers were able to see the benefits that highly efficient and optimized Linux systems have for mission-critical SAP systems."
There are new acronyms by now, like software-defined infrastructures (SDI), and application-focused architectures. IT is still run on acronyms. The emulation and virtualization of hardware and machines is a modern solution. The Stromasys Charon emulator replaces VMS and MPE servers. What's old, like the Nineties era servers, can become new again.
TE Connectivity is closing down its HP 3000 operations by the end of this year. The company uses MANMAN to manage its manufacturing operations, including IT leadership from Terry Simpkins. This veteran of the community threw his light into my life when he called with a tip on disk drive failures that became an epidemic in 1985. It was a widespread problem HP was keeping quiet. Management at HP had to announce a recall and repair blank check, so companies could get their storage hardware bulletproof again.
About 35 years later, Simpkins and those N-Class servers at TE are retiring. One of the databases in the 3000 cluster at TE had been running since 1978. Now that set of servers is available for sale.
"As we wind down the last remaining MANMAN database here at TE, it’s time to think about the ‘new home’ for our HP 3000s. Therefore, we have 4 N-Class machines, all of them 8-way 750Mhz, that are for sale. Two are available immediately; the other two will be available in early December. Anyone interested, please contact me via email or by phone at 757-532-5685."
Simpkins says he started managing the MANMAN operations at TE in 1993, when the company was Lucas Control Systems. It's been 27 years with the same phone number and mailing address," he says. "My HP 3000 time started at HP in 1981. That's over 39 years on the same platform, not a bad run. I started on MANMAN in 1985 at Spectra-Physics."
The last MANMAN database at TE is scheduled to convert to SAP over the Thanksgiving weekend. "Our legacy begins in the mid 1970's, but I can't quote an exact year — way before my time. That said, the 3000 was turned on before 1978.
Before the corporation became TE, the company names where the 3000s operated were
Lucas Control Systems
The 3000 closeout puts two other veterans into the markets, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson. Releasing good talent and assets into the wild is one of the upsides to shutdowns. Experience in the 3000, so rare these days, becomes available once more.
Photo by PxHere
The World Series is on stage this week, seven games of baseball as rich in legend as anything the 3000 represents. In midsummer, the Series appeared to be a longshot to be played. COVID and its threats were reducing the baseball season to a mere 60 games, and even those were in question. Big stars were driving the Players Association, which had to approve the limited schedule.
The stars must have seen a better outcome in playing fewer games for less money, because now we have a Series pitting a mighty payroll against a tiny one. The LA Dodgers have the second-highest payroll in the game. The Tampa Bay Rays sit three slots from the bottom of the payroll rankings. The mighty Yankees lead the list. The Rays spend more than $80 million less per year on players, developing talent and making wise trades and signings.
The no-stars approach is far from old-school baseball. But one classic supporter of the old-school HP 3000 likes what he sees in the Rays and the Series. Steve Suraci says, "Old schoolers do not appreciate what the Rays do on the field. I am not in that class! I find the no-stars approach refreshing. Every player's willingness to put the team ahead of self is unheard of in this day and age."
That fits a professional who runs Pivital Solutions, an HP 3000 support company that was the last distributor to sign on with HP to sell the servers. That was back in the early Nineties, an era when salaries began to explode after the horrific 1994 strike that wiped out that year's Series.
The concept of the 3000 itself has always been everyday goodness. We saw that during the first year after the strike, when we launched the NewsWire. Within a year we were spreading the word about everyday excellence. We used a Willie Mays quote to describe the 3000. "It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What's tough is being good every day."
Steve and I are betting on the Rays to make the team concept a winner in this Series. The Rays are the underdogs, but they ran up the best record in their league during those 60 games, avoiding COVID troubles even though they play in Florida. That kind of resilience echoes what the 3000 has amassed in its many innings of the IT game.
Do you remember the day your first 3000 logon banner rolled across a terminal or a PC? That heady feel of stepping into something new with a promise of permanent promotions? You knew about MPE, a little, or just slid into an office chair and began to plug away at COBOL apps that tapped IMAGE data for the first time.
Starting the NewsWire, 25 years ago today, was not like that. My partner Abby and I arrived at the first issue with 22 years of publishing experience. Between us, we'd managed and launched operations for 18 news publications in the tech industry. Abby was already a publisher at four different magazines.
What was different about the NewsWire startup was its ownership. Just us, along with 10,000 or so owners of HP 3000s. Our audience owned our future. A few told us we were making something that would turn out to make us nothing. A subscription was "Not even worth $10 a year," said one 3000 veteran who'd written features at the HP Chronicle, my previous 3000 outpost. He came on to write for the NewsWire in our October 1995 issue, Volume 1 Number 1, as we say in publications.
That first technical feature, written by someone who doubted we'd sell subscriptions, was "PatchManager/iX: Maintenance Simplified." It toured the new software from HP for patching MPE/iX 5.5. That release was only forthcoming, as they call books that are promised but not yet released. In particular, one staging tool in PatchManager would improve patching. "Welcome to the 21st Century," the feature read. "MPE will go one better than most Unix systems with the StageMan/iX."
The software resolved a crying need. "Backing out a patch in today's MPE/iX environment can rival the agony of abdominal surgery—without the benefit of amnesia," Guy Smith wrote.
HP had been working on PatchManager/iX for more than a year by October of 1995. In publishing the NewsWire 25 years ago, we were picking up the trail of a business server getting a restart from its vendor. PatchManager was "created strictly to address customer issues with the patching process, not as a cost-saving measure," HP said.
Like our readers, we were more cautious about new technology from the commodity sector. One report said "HP 3000 managers press Win95 into service—slowly" while the 3000-ready app Netmail/3000 was releasing DeskLink. The module of Netmail connected HP Deskmanager mail nodes to the outside world. "Until DeskLink came along, HP had been recommending the HP Deskmanager sites set up a Unix system to give their Desk users Internet access." The fall of 1995 was so different that email systems were thriving that didn't use the Internet—we always capitalized the word Internet that year.
We counted on those subscribers for our first revenues, but it was the advertisers and vendors who showed up first. At one point over the last 25 years, we had more than a thousand paid readers. That point arrived years after ads from sponsors—we borrowed the term from TV advertising—carried the NewsWire's fortunes. A publisher, my partner Abby stared down the daunting first months with just a few advertisers. WRQ, the biggest software company serving the 3000 other than HP itself, shook our hands on the Toronto Interex 95 floor for a full-page spread. Those pages 12 and 13, plus HP's ad on the inside front cover and Adager's ad on the back cover, were among our bedrock supporters. Full pages from MB Foster and the Support Group were also part of the starting lineup of our startup. All are serving the 3000 today. Well, not HP.
Creating the graphics files for printing was also Abby's job, tied so closely to the artwork for the ads. I came in during her first issue work to find our Macintosh LC struggling through refreshing pages. We ordered a Power Macintosh 8500 that day, but the chugger of the LC was going to have to get us through our first printing. 1995 was not a great year for Apple. In a few more months, Bill Gates would advise Apple to sell itself to Microsoft.
HP assured our readers they wanted open systems computing. The 3000 was putting on the clothing of an open system, an ill-defined term that usually meant Unix. Open was certainly not the truth about any system vendor's Unix, operating systems usually handcrafted from the standard Berkley Unix to exploit vendor hardware. Unix was open in the sense that software vendors always supported it in general. On the ground, vendor to vendor, the OS had as much support in apps as MPE/iX. If your app was having a problem, you called a vendor support line and logged your problem.
If MPE/iX enjoyed the popularity of Unix in 1995, we might not have taken our shot with the NewsWire. The 3000 world was a forgotten backwater of IT. Our modest venture of two publishing pros in two back bedrooms, tapping experience and a deep list of contacts and experts, never would have had much chance against the likes of publishing giants like IDC, CMP, Ziff Davis, or even Datamation. I'd written freelance for Datamation two years before our NewsWire upstart startup. In the year before we launched the NewsWire we'd both worked on contract for Interex, writing and managing subscription campaigns. One of the hardest talks we faced in that fall was telling Interex executive director Chuck Piercey we were going to sail our own ship into the rest of 1995.
Always the former sports editor at heart, I wrote an editorial for that issue that compared the 3000 to baseball legend Cal Ripken. That year, Ripken broke the record for consecutive games played without a day off. Choosing to use the 3000 represented that same pursuit of reliability.
"All around MPE environments, other systems go down, fail, and struggle to stay online. The HP 3000 takes the field every day. If computers were baseball players, the HP 3000 would be the Cal Ripken of the league. Cal recently broke Lou Gehrigs' Major League record for most consecutive games played." The numbers matched up. Ripken had played in 99 percent of the innings across the 2,131 games in a row. "Cal is steady, productive, and not flashy—but respected by those who watch baseball closely. Those are the traits of the HP 3000."
We started up in October, a time that leads up to the World Series. In the summer of 1994, I'd toured ballparks with my 11-year-old Little Leaguer for a road trip. The journey and its fatherhood roots would become Stealing Home, after 25 years of conception, revision and writing, then publishing. Baseball felt like a natural fit for the NewsWire and our 3000 focus. Willie Mays was a baseball legend and a star. He knew it was an every day, all the time job. "It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What's tough is being good every day," he said. That was the 3000 and its community and its major league of vendors: good every day.
We had our panic and fears during those earliest days. 3000 owners might have experienced some on the day they learned HP wasn't going to continue selling the servers. They could do little to change that. We had to ride out the fallow times in the first year, those months when some vendors wanted to wait to see who'd support the upstart news outlet.
When we traveled to our first Interex show with a full issue, in Anaheim's HP World of 1996, HP was waiting with a warning. Frankly, the state of the 3000 market was not going to earn an HP recommendation of the 3000 to the large corporations. Glenn Osaka had been in charge of the 3000 group and then moved up to managing the business server group. Hearing that HP's heart wasn't in its 3000 work sent a bolt of panic into us. Two people with ad contracts to serve and plenty of ink, paper, and postage to buy—we didn't want to hear how little the upper HP brass thought of the 3000. It was a legacy business, after all. Show some respect.
Little of that first hard summer of 1996 matched the wonder of dreaming up the NewsWire in the spring of the previous year. In March of 1995, we talked about a newsletter that would do the work of a magazine, produced on a tight budget. We'd worked for a publisher together whose purse strings were always drawn tight. We didn't need four-color printing. We'd learned to do good with two colors: black, and a fire engine red. We had to educate many a vendor on how to create artwork that required only two colors.
Then we printed the first issue and got the newsletters delivered two weeks late, produced on too-heavy paper that busted our postage budget. A new printer took us to press the very next month. Abby had to hunt down a graphics company to replace the in-house work the old printer performed.
Like many people in our community, the approach of the Year 2000 lifted our ship. Advertising swelled as software companies added products and customers. The legacy applications and systems were going to need more attention to get them through the narrow part of the calendar, that Dec. 31 when the first two digits of the year were going to turn over for the first time in computing history.
The 3000 business seemed to be soaring by the end of 1999, a period when we posted some of our highest page counts. Interex conferences carried extra ad dollars and gave us chances to sign on new subscribers. The web site was popular enough to carry a paywall tied to subscriptions. For the first three full years, an HP 3000 hosted our web pages. Our webmaster Chris Bartram created a random passcode generator on a 3000 which assigned login passwords for subscribers. After more than three full years, another website, 3kworld.com, paid to license our content. We walked away from further subscription growth to get our stories into a wider world.
More than two years later, HP's managers looked at the prospects for selling these servers in a post-2000 world. Maybe legacy computing became more vulnerable after the classic apps cleared the Y2K hurdle. We'd only been publishing for about six years when the fateful November 2001 news arrived. I developed the Homesteading label for the thousands of customers who'd be going nowhere soon. I was in Europe vacationing with my son when the call from Abby arrived. In a burst of hubris and desperate hope, I rewrote a front page of the Flash Paper that handed the shutdown news from HP to a readership stunned at the prospects of fewer tomorrows.
For some of our readers, HP's intentions of almost 19 years ago mattered little. Their companies were always going to follow their own counsel and were devoted to a full return on their 3000 investment. Many more had careers derailed or sidetracked, saw fortunes dwindle, made plans for different tomorrows.
The NewsWire was never built to become a massive operation with offices, staff, and benefits. Things were lean enough in the Nineties that no one here carried health insurance. Organizing for a small footprint—though not so small that healthcare didn't ever arrive here—gave us a plan for survival long term. Here at the end of 25 years of publishing, 20 of those years have unfurled in the shadow of HP's certain departure from 3000 life.
Those earliest months when we could believe in HP's 3000 faith were still tinged with wry, sometimes dark comedy. Citizen Kane is a favorite film here, and we'd often quote one of its lines at each other when times got tough. Kane is replying to his trust manager when he's asked why he'd want to buy the New York Examiner. "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper," Kane said.
It's been fun. We look forward to more, bolstered by support from companies with a long-term view of 3000 usefulness, like Pivital Solutions. We have enjoyed support from readers and owners and veterans of the 3000 world, too. Here's to a fresh quarter-century, however it looks. The Tampa Bay Rays are looking like a good prospect to get into the World Series, winning on a pittance of a payroll. Little things that are built smart can surprise you with their ability to be good every day.
Gilles Schipper, our Homesteading editor who's shared so much advice and instruction, wanted network help. Along the way to answers, an MPE/iX flaw was uncovered. There's a fix. But first, the problem.
Schipper writes, "All of sudden, two HP 3000s (running MPE/iX 6.5) are unable to accept VT sessions from terminals on same network. Network administrators unable to point to any network configuration or equipment issues that could explain the problem.
"Further investigation shows that one or two IP's associated with PRINTERS (usually 1, but sometimes 2) have appeared in the "GATELIST" command within NETTOOLS.NET.SYS (along with the IP address of the router). It seems that the inability of network terminals to log on to either system is always due to this bizarre situation that I've never seen before."
Currently, the solution is to run a job every five minutes or so that issues a
NETCONTROL NET=LAN; UPDATE=ALL, which results in ONLY the correct router IP address in the GATELIST, and after which everything is okay.
How can I fix the problem permanently without requiring the running of the UPDATE job?
Craig Lalley says he's seen this before.
"I suppose you will probably want to know how I resolved it. I don't remember... but, network redirects come to mind. Are they getting network redirects at the console? Do they have the correct gateway in NMMGR? Have you looked at the buffers?
NETTOOL.NET -> RESOURCE -> DISPLAY?
Of course, what does
LINKCONTROL @,A show? Finally, look at the Name Resolution."
Mark Landin puts the blame on a routing table.
"Sounds like your routing table is getting polluted with bad RIP updates. Doubt it’s coming from the printers themselves. Not sure how you’d track that down. Maybe if you put a PC running Wireshark on the same LAN you could find the source of the bogus updates."
Billy Brewer thinks the router redirects cause the problem.
"What you are seeing most likely is ICMP Redirects (normally coming from a router). I don't think I've ever seen where you would get a printer IP address showing in your gatelist in Nettool as that doesn't make any sense. Basically the culprit is sending out an "alternate" gateway and the HP 3000 unfortunately listens and updates the gateway (Gatelist).
The network guys (at least in my experience) are never wrong or guilty until you prove it to them. Anyway, if this is the case, you can watch your console and if you get the result below, it will tell you the IP address of the equipment sending the ICMP Redirect.
SYS-A:** NETXPORT IP : NETWORK PROBLEM; Gateway redirects severe
Loc: 215; Class: 2; Parm= $A1C37920; PortID: $FFFFF972
If you convert the PARM= value from hex to decimal you get the IP 220.127.116.11, which should be the router that your system is having trouble with.
A1 = 161
C3 = 195
79 = 121
20 = 32
Update: Schipper says the problems came through PCs on the network.
"It turns out that the ICMP redirect requests were being issued by two virus-infected PCs. This was determined by utilizing a packet sniffer. Once those PCs were disconnected from the network, all was good."
Finally, Doug Werth pointed out this is a flaw in MPE/iX which introduced a security hole. That's significant, because 3000s don't often exhibit those. The continued use of these servers on modern networks, pretty remarkable for a server first built in 1972, will expose such stuff.
Werth says, "What you are seeing is in fact caused by ICMP redirects. It has nothing to do with printers or DNS or network resources of any nature. Simply put, a router on the network is inspecting packets and believes it knows a better gateway for the HP3000 to route to use and tells it so via a gateway redirect. The HP 3000 dutifully updates its routing table accordingly.
"If the redirect packets occur at a high enough rate the 'ICMP redirects severe' message is written to the system console. This makes identifying the culprit fairly easily whereby one can ask the network administrator to disable that feature. Yet it only takes one redirect to mess things up which won't reach the threshold of 'severe.' and thus making identification much more difficult. The offending packets can be located by formatting a link trace directly on the HP 3000, or with a packet sniffer like Wireshark externally.
"And how to fix the problem permanently without running the UPDATE job? Beechglen has a patch for all versions of MPE/iX to permanently ignore ICMP redirects. Contact us on how to track down the offending gateway and patches."
"I have long considered this a significant security hole in MPE, as well as all operating systems that accept and act upon ICMP redirects. Turning them off permanently is a must. No server should allow for the possibility of a rogue piece of equipment getting on the network and rerouting its packets. That is a job that should be left solely to the configured default gateway."
It's November of 2000, close to a year past the harrowing Y2K milestone. The HP 3000 is now renamed the HPe3000, adding a letter to remind customers and prospects that the 36-year-old server is ready for the Web.
HP Europe is running a "Let's Go e!" conference. The event is so multilingual that a set of translator booths sits at the back of an Amsterdam hotel conference room. The presentations will convince customers from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK that tge 3000s in their datacenters can connect data with remote customers.
I'm in the audience and look back to see a UN translator setup worthy of a scene in Judgment at Nuremburg. In real time, the genuine capabilities of a Java-driven app are being demonstrated. It's a proud moment for people like me who invested in the future of the 3000 world.
In a way, the conference is multi-lingual for technology, too. Java made its debut in commercial markets just a few years earlier. In that room we're being told that MPE/iX can speak Java right alongside Unix and Windows NT. It's an important point, that similarity with an open Unix environment, or the omnipresent Windows. The 3000 deserves a seat at the table, HP believes. It's especially important in Europe, where they've had a tough year selling against Unix. HP-UX and Sun Solaris are well dug-in across the continent.
An IT manager from Dornier, which makes custom looms for the fabrics sector, explains how their Enhydra web app server built upon Java/iX runs as fast anything. An outside team built them the app for Windows NT, then moved it to the 3000. At the time, that would've been a 3000 before the ultimate generation.
Not especially fast compared to what would be announced four months later: PCI-based 3000s of the A-Class and N-Class. Still, for Dornier's business clients, fast enough.
Java earned a reputation over the next year or so as being significantly slower on MPE/iX than open system implementations. In almost one year's time, HP decided the ecosystem of the 3000 didn't have a strong future. Despite the translation magic in that Amsterdam meeting room, the place the e3000 was going to go was away from HP's futures.
Emulator day was a Saturday. February 2, 2002 arrived less than 90 days after HP cut short the lifespan of the HP 3000 hardware. On that Saturday, Robert Boers of Software Resources International announced a prototyping project.
We are currently building a prototype HP 3000e emulator, capable of running unmodified MPE and its applications on a Windows platform. Note that this is an A/D project only, we have made no decision yet about making it a product.
Boers was leading the company that would later become Stromasys after a name change. On that Saturday in 2002 he noted, "It is correct that we did not get much response about my note about hardware emulation. Our experience with the VAX and PDP-11 emulators is that the concept is often confused with operating system emulation, and the assumption is that recompiling would be necessary, or that not all applications will run.
"The hardware emulators we build are operating system-independent. The demo we use to show the concept is to unplug a SCSI system disk from a VAX, plug it into a SCSI port of a PC, and boot VMS (or another VAX operating system) from it. We do not need to convert the binary VAX code in any way or form. Performance is not an issue, we have reached VAX 7000 Dhrystone performance on a PC.
"The emulator engine we use is likely flexible enough for the HP3000 hardware (we use the same for PDP-11 and VAX). The core VAX emulator prototype (CPU, memory, disks) took less than 4 months to develop.
"It took us about a year to convince Compaq to support their software on our VAX emulator as they would any other VAX," Boers added. "We did that by passing their VAX hardware diagnostics and architecture tests. They now offer very reasonably-priced VMS transfer licenses."
At the time Compaq was the owner of the DEC lineup. Later that became HP, but the vendor grappled with the concept of transfer licenses without a released emulator in the 3000 marketplace.
In those early days of 2002, we asked HP's Winston Prather about the prospects for speed in setting up a licensing program for an emulator. What's the rush, he wondered. As we pointed out during his interview in that same season, many more people would be available as 3000 emulator customers in 2002 than, say, 2006.
Boers answered a raft of questions in the same timeframe from 3000 customers about the PA-RISC hardware emulator that would become Charon.
1) Would hardware emulation take more processing power than an OS emulator?
Depends on the OS. With a rich feature OS like VMS, the amount of code required to map all functionality accurately would be huge, expensive to write and to debug, and techniques to speed up execution by dynamically translating instruction sequences would not work. With 1-2 Billion instructions per second available the trick is more to keep the code size small. The total size, including the emulation of the major peripherals, of the run-time part of CHARON-VAX is < 500 KB and it fits in PC cache memory.
The big advantage of hardware emulation is the ability of fast and comprehensive testing by running the hardware diagnostics.
2) Does your VAX emulator provide bridges or gateways to the native OS or hardware? Is such even desirable?
Those bridges are available and used e.g to store emulated disks as files (although you can connect physical disks). Serial lines are effectively telnet sessions, and instead of mapping to the host serial ports, you can link them to host applications. But the goal is to leave the OS of the emulated system in control; our design goal is always to be able to run any available OS of the emulated system.
3) For MPE to run directly (ie. loaded directly from HP tapes) wouldn't you have to emulate the entire HP 3000 architecture?
Yes, certainly, that is exactly what we do for the VAX and PDP-11 emulators. For the PDP-11 we emulate over 100 devices (for the VAX less). We generate each device emulator component directly from its hardware description. A CHARON-VAX emulator is booted directly from the standard VAX/VMS installation kit on CD or standalone backup on tape.
4) Could you emulate multiprocessor 3000 hardware config (or, would you need to?)
Yes, but you need a host SMP system to benefit from the multiple emulated CPUs. We run actually clusters of VAX/VMS systems on a single SMP host that way. It only makes sense if performance is an issue, but if the original hardware is capable of it, the emulator should be capable as it is a direct copy.
5) Seems that if you implement a truly portable HP3K hardware implementation, as more modern host hardware becomes available, you could end up with a more powerful MPE box than you could ever have with real 3000 hardware - cheaper too!
Our standard VAX 3600 emulator runs at about five times the speed of a hardware VAX 3600 on an AMD 2000+ system (and probably gets 3 percent faster every year). But the 3600 is a slow system (compared to current technology) to start with. I have not looked into the HP 3000 designs in detail to be able to give an opinion here.
6) How much would we be restricted to peripherals and storage that are compatible with a real HP 3000, and how much could we use non-3000 components: tape drives, DASD, NICs)?
It is a matter of documentation and implementation time, there is no fundamental restriction except for real-time requirements (e.g. connecting with a parallel interface to an instrument), where the host system PCI latency might play a role. But NICs, disks, and tapes map very well. Emulated disks are generally faster than physical ones, because you can use the latest technology.
It remains uncertain when everyone can return to an in-person office. For the HP 3000 manager, this kind of return may not even be necessary. With few exceptions, nearly every hour of maintenance, configuration, and development on MPE/iX can be virtual. And virus-free, unless you consider the kind of viruses transmitted over the Internet.
The HP 3000 often had its vaccinations to resist such viruses up to date. Security breaches continue to be rare, too. Securing passwords is usually enough to prevent uninvited traffic in the 3000's processors. Even configurations on Intel servers — through the Charon HPA emulators — can be secured in a way that gives 3000 managers few intrusions to talk about.
The conversations about security took place over the 3000's mailing list. In our articles we often called it a newsgroup, one that serves a need the face-to-face meetings served. Online does it more efficiently, and at less cost. It’s the kind of thing I wished we would have sponsored earlier. We had to start with print, because ink on paper made it real. Even today in the book world, reviewers demand a printed book at times. Anybody can publish an ebook. Paper makes the author more select.
But by the year 2001, there was room for the newsgroup. 3kworld.com, and a website plus paper for the NewsWire. This year the news exchange on 3000-L has slowed to a trickle. We made our transition to survive by broadening beyond paper for the 3000. There were opportunities. The 3000-L newsgroup begat the NewsWire. For a time, we even licensed our articles, the reporting and content, to a website operated by the biggest North American 3000 distributor. 3kworld didn't last long, but it continued the tradition of getting what you need to know remotely. For decades, August was a big month for in-person training, and September hosted a lot of conferences, too. Web access has filled those opportunities
Long ago, the 3000 experts could work safely from a laptop to administer and repair 3000s. Some of these support pros even had a customer carry around a phone to show the hardware racks and insides of cabinets. Parts that had been shipped to the datacenter, where that phone was running a FaceTime session, were customer-installed. We figure out what we can do that can be helpful to a community whose people are still serving.
The deepest and dimmest part of the 3000's road might have been the earliest days of 2002. All customers knew for certain was that HP had lost its desire to create more MPE/iX customers. Sixty days earlier, the vendor had revealed its plans to end manufacturing the HP 3000 hardware. About another four years was all HP could promise to thousands of customers.
We talked to Winston Prather, head of the 3000 division, during that darkest month of January. OpenMPE was only an ideal from a few loyal customers, including Jon Backus who spurred the organization's creation.
We asked Prather questions about where 3000 people might head next. This was a time before customers leveled serious broadsides at Hewlett-Packard. His replies went beyond the standard "migrate to another HP server platform."
People are talking about a hobbyist’s license for MPE source code. Is this a good first step for an OpenMPE?
I have no problem showing our source code to people from a hobbyist perspective. I’ve always been an advocate for sharing source code.
Would sharing source code hurt HP in any way?
It’s not obvious to me. I tend to think not. I tend to think that HP would not consider that harmful to us. Those customers who would stay beyond 2006 don’t buy anything from us anyway.
Is HP willing to allow MPE to move beyond the HP umbrella?
HP is willing to allow MPE to live on. I don’t know anyone who’s said differently.
People use Microsoft operating systems with HP hardware today. Do you think an OpenMPE, from a third-party entity, could keep people buying HP hardware?
Would people stay on and eventually buy some HP systems? Probably. Is it material, financially? I don’t think so. Would we invest to make that happen? Probably not. I don’t want to stop MPE from living beyond HP, but the return on investment wouldn’t be worth it for us.
How soon do you think have to make a decision about licensing MPE to parties outside HP?
I don’t feel the need to hurry, other than I know in the chat rooms there’s a lot of discussion about it. It comes back to my feeling that, yes, I want to enable an afterlife. But it doesn’t change my recommendation. If I think the majority of my major accounts — and maybe some medium and small accounts — need to do something different than [use HP 3000s], then what’s our hurry? What’s the difference between announcing this type of enablement here in January, versus waiting six months?
For hobbyists who operate emulators, licenses for OpenVMS have a new supplier. VMS Software Inc. is supplying OS licenses for the VAX users who employ the Stromasys Charon emulators. Up until this year, such licenses were only available from HP.
The HP-only license remains the only type that 3000 hobbyists can use. It might seem like a small point, since a hobbyist won't often be concerned with OS licenses. But the 3000 was once on its way to such a license, attached to the need for an emulator.
The OpenVMS free-to-tinker agreements from VSI have an attractive price, one that MPE/iX never achieved: free.
Hobbyist licensing for VAX and other DEC systems was already a tradition by the time HP merged with Compaq in 2002. Compaq had acquired DEC and its business servers in 1998. The plan for a large footprint for OpenVMS might have played a role in getting the first Stromasys emulator into the world.
That was back in the day when Charon was offered by Software Resources International. The company renamed itself Stromasys in 2012, remaining in close connection with HP. Hewlett-Packard said Charon "prolongs the usability of HP OpenVMS VAX and MicroVAX applications by enabling their transfer to new hardware platforms without any conversion effort."
It was just the sort of thing the 3000 community desired: vendor blessing of an independent emulation tool. More important, such a blessing was going to arrive before HP stopped selling new OS licenses.
"CHARON-VAX emulates a complete MicroVAX system on an OpenVMS Alpha, Linux, Windows NT or Windows 2000 platform," HP told customers in a 2005 web page, "allowing OpenVMS applications to run unmodified."
A $500 license for a production-level system was HP's best offer at the time. Users had to be running an Alpha system to get that deal. Windows and Linux systems would cost a user $1,000. HP called these extension licenses. The hobbyist-grade OS was free.
HP is providing the following extension licenses for the CHARON-VAX environment, allowing the OpenVMS VAX operating system and OpenVMS VAX layered products and licenses to be transferred to the CHARON-VAX environment.
HP bought in fully on integrating Charon with HP's support. The existing HP software service contracts were valid on supported OpenVMS VAX applications running on the emulator. HP fixed software problems if they were also seen in a comparable VAX environment. The offer extended to a layered version of the OS, which included compilers, clustering, and more.
HP 3000 users were teased with a deal that hinged on the release of Charon or any other emulator. In a crucial move, a customer would be able to purchase a license that was not connected in any way to an existing 3000 system.
Late in 2003, HP said it "intends to establish a new distribution plan for MPE/iX which will likely be effective by early 2004. The MPE/iX OS would be licensed independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform. The license terms would grant the licensee the right to use a single copy of MPE/iX on a single HP hardware platform subject to certain terms and conditions."
HP wanted its emulator-based users to host the systems on HP-branded PCs. There was little technology available to verify such a condition, though. MPE would be provided "AS-IS" with no warranty.
HP didn't endorse the use of a 3000 emulator in 2004. The HP stuck fast to the strategy that the best move was a transition from MPE/iX to another HP platform. "At the same time, HP realizes that some customers are interested in running MPE/iX applications in an emulated environment."
The expected price for an MPE/iX license was $500, with a right to use that was non-transferable. HP was going to include subsystems software such as compilers, but it didn't get specific about products.
The DEC VAX license was generous in its bundle of software:
ACMS, ALL-IN-1, HP Ada, HP BASIC, HP C, CMS, COBOL, DCE, DCPS, DECmigrate, DECram, DECwrite, DFS, DQS, DTM, DTR, DECnet-Plus, DECnet Phase IV, DECwindows Motif, FMS, Forms, Fortran, GKS, LSE, MACRO-64, MAILbus, MMS, Notes, Pascal, PCA, PHIGS, RMS Journaling, RTR, SLS, SQL, TCP/IP Services for OpenVMS, VAXcluster, OpenVMS Clusters, Volume Shadowing for OpenVMS, X.25, X.500.
For MPE/iX, the emulator license to create new 3000s based only on PC-Intel hardware never showed up in time. HP inserted a clause that said such a license could only be purchased when an emulator was being sold. Then the vendor closed out the offer by saying it would sell no MPE/iX licenses of any kind after 2010.
The deal stands in sharp contrast with the OpenVMS lifespan engineered by HP Enterprise. An independent company, VSI, holds the rights to the OS. Now it's going to be able to distribute an OpenVMS for hobbyists.
For any manager outside the HP 3000 ecosystem, it's hard to fathom: a business server last sold during the 1990s hosts a scheduling app today. Yes, it's a 9x7 Series HP 3000, the servers that launched the second generation of PA-RISC computing at HP. First, there was the Series 930 in 1987, followed quickly by the Series 950 and the 925. In a blink of an eye, HP built the 9x7s, known as Nova servers at the time.
MPE/iX 6.0 is as current as it gets for a Series 957, the system that Jim Maher is trying to keep in play at his company. That's an HP 3000 first shipped 29 years ago. These are usually the RX models that sold for about $63,000 new. That configuration gets you 64 concurrent users. Back in those days, a 3000 was sold with a fixed number of users.
"Has anyone experienced issues, or had to make configuration changes, to their HP 3000 when upgrading Cisco switch IOS to version 16.09.05?" Maher asked on the lightly-used HP3000-L list.
He explained that "it's a 957 running 6.0 that runs an old scheduling app developed years ago. We have been trying to get off it for years. We connect through a transceiver on the multi-function board. Pretty simple, I'm told. The last time they updated the Cisco switch they had some problems. Any help would be much appreciated."
For the most part, development on the 9x7 Series ended in 1997. That's when HP rolled out the Series 997 along with the recently updated Java/iX. The version 4 of Java turned out the be the last one included with MPE/iX.
Maher didn't get a reply on the 3000-L to his query, so if a reader here has Cisco-plus-MPE/iX 6.0 experience, please pass it along to him. Meanwhile, marvel at a 29-year-old design managing to keep up with 21st Century switches — with a little help from the 3000's friends.
HP 3000s can surprise us with their tenacity. A consultant to a financial services company is managing mail exchange from an HP 3000. The work relies on the Telemon MAIL software, created in the 1990s by the well-regarded data transfer company.
Telemon gave the world the Typeahead Engine during the 1990s. The hardware device improved HP 3000 connectivity speeds. When the Internet rose up in the next decade, MAIL made its way into some 3000 shops.
In the years that followed, MAIL found a place in many other IT shops because it had been released into the wild. Stein said MAIL, installed on a 3000 today, shows as being from 1998. "They would like to send email out via a service, such as SendGrid, instead of a local exchange server."
The HP 3000 in the equation is timeless enough that it doesn't have a formal database. It uses Keyed Sequential Access Method files. "They are big on KSAM," Stein says. "KSAM is definitely a different animal."
Emailing data from a 3000 is a different animal, too. The Telemon software is at the heart of MAIL.MAIL.ESP from Beechglen. "Addressees can be configured with SETVARs," says Tracy Johnson from TE Connectivity. "It sends via our company exchange server and is routed from there."
"Beechglen's software uses Telamon's email program. MAIL was shareware. If SendGrid uses SMTP relay, I believe you can configure it to use SendGrid." Johnson offers to cut a DDS tape of MAIL and snail mail it to Stein.
Mark Ranft of Pro3K says, "I’ve used the Telamon mail.exe program for years. The mail hosting server must be configured to allow mail forwarding from the IP address of the HP 3000. Keep in mind, your mail/security teams may not permit this.
"I am not familiar with SendGrid, but it may allow mail forwarding. I see it has an option for Address Whitelist setting, which allows a specified email address or domain for which mail should never be suppressed."
MAIL and the Beechglen software were created by utility software firms. Meanwhile, Netmail/3000 was built by an Internet pro who focused on well, email: Chris Bartram at 3kassociates.com. Netmail was as full-featured and standards-based as an email package ever got on the 3000.
“They are big on KSAM” is a phrase I never thought I’d hear again. Of course, people think there’s no more MPE enterprise computing, either.
One decade ago this week, the Stromasys PA-RISC emulator made its debut in the market and on our webpages. The founders of the project were Dr. Robert Boers and the company's CEO in 2010, John Pritchart. Their interview with us remains useful. The talk, published a couple of years in advance of the release of what Stromasys called Zelus at first, shows the path for replacing HP 3000 hardware remains sound.
A long-awaited 3000 hardware emulator appears to be on its way to market, as Stromasys this summer announced a development, test and shipping timeline for Zelus. The product is described as a “cross-platform virtualization system” by the company that was founded as a spin-off from the Digital Computer European Migration Center in 1998. Stromasys, which called itself Software Research International until last year, has thrived on an emulator for DEC customers, those who need to keep using Vax, Alpha and PDP-11 hardware to support legacy applications. HP put the 3000 effort at Stromasys on ice for more than a year while it cleared the transfer of MPE boot technology for the emulator.
The software has more to offer than making companies able to use 3000s indefinitely. Stromasys says Zelus will buy time for the sites which are migrating and need more connectivity and power for their interim 3000s during a migration.
Robert Boers headed up the company during 2009, but this year brought on John Pritchard as CEO so Boers could focus on the tasks of being the firm’s CTO. In the wake of the company’s announcement about Zelus at the recent HP Technology Forum, we interviewed the pair via Skype, bridging the gap between Texas and their Swiss headquarters -- even as the company works out details to bridge what will be an 8-year gap in 3000 manufacture when Zelus goes on the market next year.
Your press statement on Zelus says the product “ensures continuity after the phase-out program of the HP 3000 hardware.” Do you believe that’s how your customers will view the situation: phasing out the 3000?
Pritchard: For people who have mission-critical legacy systems, they believe all of their hardware are on life support. What we’re offering is to shift their focus away from worrying about hardware maintenance to giving them a software platform life that is independent of a hardware platform.
When it ships next year, will this product bridge the gap between 3000 hardware last built in 2003 and the newer technologies such as iSCSI?
Boers: Things like iSCSI will work out of the box. We do that for our VAX and Alpha emulation routinely, because iSCSI is elegant and useful. You tell Windows to create a virtual disk which is an iSCSI disk. You can tell the emulator that this virtual device is your SCSI drive. You can map to new hardware, so if you have serial ports, for example, you can map them to an Ethernet-based remote serial multiplexer. Most of this stuff is mapped standards.
So does that mean that the controlling environment for the emulator will be Windows?
Boers: It can be anything. For the time being, we typically develop under Windows 64 bits. But we provide these products under Linux as well. The customer only sees MPE. Basically, these things behave as virtual clients. From a usage point of view, you don’t have to know where they run. In Linux, we remove what we want, so you have something that runs on the footprint of VMWare. But for all of these choices, we need to know more about what the customer is looking for.
Pritchard: One of the purposes of this announcement to start to invite a dialog with the community. We want to select a few sponsor companies who’ll say, “Here’s my application, I want to be one of the first to migrate. Here’s my configuration, and here’s what I need.” We want to focus our development team on just a few specific customer applications.
We’ve gotten far enough in our prototyping to know that it really works, and what we need is a lot more market feedback and a couple of sponsor customers to work with, to get a few successes under our belts.
What is being a sponsor customer going to look like?
Pritchard: We’ll select a couple of companies that will give us complete access to their environment for their 3000 application. The customers we’re looking for in early adopters should be lower-risk environments.
Boers: Let me give you a couple of examples. In dealing with Hewlett-Packard, the issue they had the most difficulty with was the whole physical licensing process, their hardware-enforced licensing mechanism. They have given us two device ID strings which we can use in out emulators, a low- and a high-end machine.
The other issue is something that HP is washing it’s hands of: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]
We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key. Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.
We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, as part of their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX] who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.
Hewlett-Packard manufactured countless hardware devices over the 31 years that it built HP 3000 gear. The earliest systems could heat rooms while running and buckle pickup truck beds when moved. In time, the 3000s could be carted in a luggage carrier (remember those at airports?) and even held under an arm.
People hang on to these creations for several reasons, not the least of which is the boxes get forgotten. This treatment was common even where the servers were at work, since the systems themselves rarely needed tending and disappeared into closets and under staircases.
The gear continues to surface, long after the last manufacturing line shut down at HP in early 2004. Peripheral devices like tape drives and disks were built for several HP lines including the 3000. A few of these bits of 3000 iron floated across the horizon recently.
Free to a good home: This A-Class A400 server recently used by Michael R. Kan, retired MPE/iX support engineer now enjoying a post-HP life. The A400 had a dual boot capability and include a C1099 console terminals and cables. This was especially worthy of genuine care and affection. "I was on the MPE/iX support team before transitioning to XP/P9500 support," Kan said.
HP didn't want the A400 back when Kan left on a retirement buyout. "Since I was a ‘remote’ who was working, no one ever followed up on the equipment and I couldn’t find anyone to take it. MPE/iX had wound down and no one or group with HP wanted the extra 3000 stuff."
Kan's A400 made its way into a Bay Area workshop. As a penultimate model of the newer PCI-based 3000s, the server's worth is still something that can be tracked by hardware resellers. Only the A500 is newer.
On the other end of the value scale sits the HP 7978B tape drive. A working model surfaced on the 3000-L newsgroup last month. This was a $22,000 device in its heyday that backed up onto a 33.75 MB 9-track reel. One of these behemoths appeared in the 3000 community not long ago. The owner was reporting about taking it to its natural finish line: the scrapper. We'd call them recyclers in a more current term.
Tracy Johnson has owned this backup device since 1998. Just sitting in his garage, he said, when the day of community junking came around. He managed to fit the device in the back of his minivan for the 7978's last ride.
A $22,000 tape drive, sitting in a minivan (for now). Think about the resale life of those two devices. How much could you get for a 36-year-old minivan? No, it’s just parts on wheels there. Maybe some useful ones.
The van only has to navigate through gravity and traffic markers, while it avoids taking up the same space as other vehicles and pedestrians and structures.
The tape drive has a lot more to do. It’s almost like a clown car compared to the minivans of today. It has file formats, tape locations, and network-serial connections to navigate. There’s calibration to consider, plus the age of the media. All more complex than staying on the correct side of yellow lines on asphalt, or following the routing from one address to another.
The drive needs an operating system. The minivan’s operating system includes a driver, plus a set of maps or memories about how to get where the driver intends to appear. To be fair, it will be the rare minivan of 1984 that could still run. I don’t think the first minivan arrived in the world until a few more years after that.
Between those two points lies the XP line of storage devices. An XP12 started this run, and XP9500 wrapped it up. One of those surfaced in the community, too. Worthless? Not as much as the 7978. More of an antique, honestly. Without monetary value, unlike the A400, but able to store a thing or two. Headed for its last ride in a minivan, maybe.
Apple soared through a $500 per share mark yesterday. The market confidence comes from assessing the outlook for Apple's business model. The computers and devices Apple sells are powered by proprietary chips, either today, for phones and tablets, or next year for the rest of the company's line.
The operating systems for these devices are also Apple's specialized OS's. Software created for iOS or for MacOS will not operate on other devices. Soon, the Apple-branded chips will demand rewrites of applications.
Does this sound familiar? It should for customers who recall the state of HP's Year 2000 business plans. Proprietary operating systems all around for MPE, VMS, HP's Unix, and NonStop. HP-only chips powering all of those servers. Software rewrites needed as newer HP-proprietary chips entered to replace PA-RISC.
In a tale of two companies, HP's valuation at $70 a share in 2000 could be compared to Apple's $3.68 per share. Then there was a 3:1 split for Apple, and now there's a 4:1 split coming next week.
Making its own hardware and OS has been a good business play for Apple. HP turned away from this model to embrace commodity computing. Today only NonStop and HP-UX operating systems are sold by HP.
OpenVMS has been licensed by VMS Software Inc. MPE/iX licensing ended in 2010. Hewlett-Packard has a split over those two decades, indeed; the company is now halved into Enterprise and Inc. The size of its wide-ranging mission was too inefficient to maintain as a single entity. Commodity couldn't carry HP into a higher orbit.
Legacy strategy has often been powered by vendor-specific technology. Many factors apply to this year's soaring valuations. Apple became the first company ever valued at $2 trillion this month.
There's still value in legacy enterprise. The HP-UX and NonStop environments can be purchased from HP Enterprise today. Tru64, the Unix built by Compaq before HP bought the firm, is sold through indie outlets like Island Computing.
The last two decades seem to have proven there's no harm in engineering proprietary hardware and software environments. The crucial element is innovation and market reach. The invention within OpenVMS and MPE/iX keeps working for corporations that invested in legacy designs. Apple is releasing its 16th version of MacOS this year. Version number 14 of iOS rolled out this summer.
HP was able to create about 14 major releases of MPE/iX over the 20 years it sold the OS. It just hasn't been able to sustain growth using its own designs. That's a mission its legacy customers have accomplished.
In this week of 2006, HP was readying its first updates on how to manage the forced 2006 migration date for MPE/iX. The president of the only remaining international user group, Chris Koppe at Encompass, had picked the key sessions from the upcoming HP Technology Forum.
The 2006 Forum would be HP's first trade technical show for its enterprise customers to make its appearance as scheduled. The previous year's Tech Forum was bounced out of New Orleans when Katrina blasted in. August is a dicey time to schedule anything in the Gulf. This week we hear that the Gulf will host two hurricanes at once next week.
In '06, customers could come to an HP conference in Houston to hear
HP e3000 Transition and Migration Customer Panel
Successful Migrations: Making Them Happen
HP e3000 Business Update
OpenMPE: A Current Status
HP e3000 Peripheral and High Availability Environment
HP would cover a lot of ground in the 75 minutes that Dave Wilde would speak along with Jennie Hou, who became the 3000's final Business Manager. They'd cover
A high-level summary of developments in the HP e3000 business during the past year, recent news, and a review of what customers and partners can expect from HP during the next couple of years.
How HP was helping customers and partners transition to other HP platforms
How HP is supporting companies’ business-critical environments as they transition
There would be some frank discussion for the 3000 customer who was not well-along on a migration path, or even considering that road:
Address the concerns of companies that may continue to depend on the HP e3000 to meet some business needs beyond HP’s end-of-support date.
2006's show marked the last time the HP 3000 got so much airtime at a conference.
It was a simple Monday assignment. Fill more most of a football field with 2,809 sheets of paper, each printed from an HP 3000 in four colors, to make a pattern of football players. "MPE Users Kick Butt" was tacked down with gutter-sized roofing nails to show HP's top executives the system could still do great things. The point was to make sure HP knew its 3000 could be connected to Postcript printers to print an enormous job, and that its customers were devoted to the product.
This was the World's Largest Poster Project, a brainchild of Wirt Atmar. The owner of AICS International made his bones in the word processor application field before shifting to reporting tools. QueryCalc was a ultra-spreadsheet for 3000 applications, giving its users a way to view and organize reports as easily as any Excel sheet set could. The volunteers wrapped the poster design around the name of the 3000's OS, which probably baffled some HP execs of the day.
This was also an important day for the still-new 3000 NewsWire. The poster was assembled at the Loara High School Football field in Anaheim, the town where we put up our first exhibit stand at the HP World conference. Interex had licensed the rights to the new conference name from HP. The NewsWire would be showing off its July, 1996 issue the next morning at the conference. We were also catering the volunteer effort with an array of Subway sandwiches and Domino's pizzas.
The poster was much splashier than anything we could order from fast food places. We engaged the high school's booster club to man the feeding tables, cementing the new relationship between school and 3000 community. Winds pick up by midday in Southern California in summer, so the dozens of poster builders getting a suntan from the bright sunlight glaring off the paper were racing the clock. Just after the stunt was completed, a helicopter was chartered to take a photo that Adager paid for, and then pitched to the Orange County Register.
Nothing is perfect, of course, so the panels of paper peeling up in the wind led to some hard feelings that a few volunteers took out on the catering menu. A typical 3000 tech expert — the Register called them nerds — can be picayune and exacting. "What do you mean you don't have a vegetarian kosher option for pizzas?" Domino's was unaware of how to make a pizza that fit both of those bills. Of such gripes were our debut day made in that sun. All were fed, and the newspaper smacked the photo and a story onto the front of its Local section.
We chronicled the record with an article in the August issue, the first-ever NewsWire edition to make its way in full to the World Wide Web.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- More than 100 HP 3000 customers and channel partners succeeded in assembling the world's largest printed poster here, building a document of about 36,000 square feet on a high school football field. The poster was generated by an HP 3000 driving an HP DesignJet plotter, producing 2,650 3x4-foot sheets joined with tape and roofing nails.
In conjunction with this year's HP World '96 Conference and Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, intensely loyal users of HP 3000 high-performance minicomputers bettered an existing world record by more than 35 percent. The HP 3000 mega-poster covered a 159 by 238 foot layout on the Loara High School football field just a few miles from the site of the HP conference. The completed poster weighed more than 670 pounds, and completely covered the area of the field between the 10-yard lines.
It was an accomplishment crafted from extraordinary cooperation. Born of Internet discussion and pushed along by a broad supporting cast of customers, the World's Largest Poster Project succeeded in attracting attention to the loyalty and satisfaction of HP 3000 customers, with only the support of a few channel partners to fund its material needs. And in the last hours of the record breaking effort, the poster was held together by the combined energies of a few dozen avid volunteers and thousands of two-inch roofing nails.
Fewer than three dozen volunteers were at work within a few hours of the start, rolling out strips of three-foot wide printer paper along the grass of the Loara High School football field. Fastening the paper to the field took more nails than the team had brought to the site, and soon several volunteers were dispatched to supply more of the most critical element in the project.
Meanwhile, the winds continued to climb, testing the resolve of a growing number of volunteers. Panels would spring up in the breeze, which seemed to appear from every possible direction. Project organizer Wirt Atmar (above, pointing out details to a volunteer's son) had printed the thousands of panels over a six week period and the driven the rolls of paper in a U-Haul truck from New Mexico. He stood alongside the poster's edge and gave instruction on holding it in place.
By 11AM, no more nails were on hand, and the question was on everyone's lips -- where are they? The winds climbed with the sun in the sky, and volunteers were forced to use shoes and poster tubes to hold the panels in place. As a section would rise up, dedicated customers would call out "It's coming up!" and race to tack it in place, an organic version of a fault tolerant system.
In succeeding to break the existing poster record, the HP 3000 customers started with virtual relationships. Unlike the previous record, which was done as a product promotion for HP and Disney, this poster was put together by a collection of individual HP 3000 users. There was no single corporate entity behind the poster -- the idea to put it together was born on the Internet. The group which grew to 100-plus volunteers assembling the poster each thought the event was an ideal and enjoyable way to make a gentle, irreverent statement about their belief in their chosen operating system.
Fifteen years ago today, the 3000 community was on a quest. Where a conference was supposed to take place, San Francisco, there was nothing but unpaid bills for exhibit halls and meeting rooms. No HP World 2005 would start up, gathering the MPE/iX community for the annual North American meeting as it had for 30 years.
A luncheon was arranged, though, to serve community members who had nonrefundable tickets to the canceled conference. The Interex user group didn't host it, of course. The group was belly-up dead. The effort emerged from the minds of Alan Yeo and Mike Marxmeier, software vendors who faced the prospect of time in the Bay Area and a hunger to meet 3000 folk.
I wrote about how reunions are a part of family life. The 3000 still has a family, even while many of its members are retired. The gatherings are all virtual now in our lives. Such a thing was nearly impossible 15 years ago. My mom is just as departed as Interex by today, gone but well remembered. We love things that leave us, which is a good reason to grasp onto one another until the departures.
Even though we work with machines to compute, we crave the spark of personal contact. I felt that contact this month in the heat of Las Vegas with my brothers and sister. We met in Mom’s hometown to move her. She went down Jones Boulevard just one mile, a significant journey when your next birthday, like Mom’s, will be Number 80.
Our days were filled with strapping tape, corrugated cardboard, and sweat in the desert heat. But the nights and the early mornings carried our laughter and the looks that passed between three adult children remembering the bumpy roads of our youth together. It was a summer reunion, a rich consolation for me in this first season without an HP World after 20 years of meeting old HP friends at Interex shows across North America.
I sat in the airport with my brother Bob and told him the story of the Interex demise, then rattled off the array of cities that have been my summertime stops. Most often, we met in San Francisco. And yes, even Las Vegas once. The Interex show never visited Texas during my summertimes in the market, just like my brother John never has visited me here. That’s why we Seybolds needed a reunion, to fill our cups with the memory of the looks on family faces.
Face time, we call it in business, something to savor and prepare for. The longer we all have stayed in the 3000 community, the better each summer’s reunion became. We could tell stories, gaze into eyes under brows growing gray, recall and dismiss. I would come back from the summer trip full of flint to strike for stories, leads I could track and then transform into news you could use.
So in a summer where I now feel adrift without an HP World reunion, I also give thanks — for the fortune that turned Mom’s apartment complex into condos, forcing a move that rounded up the Seybold kids for the first time in five years. We kids are well connected, here in the early bit of the new century. I don’t mean that we’re movers and shakers, but that we use e-mail, websites, cell phones, and blogs to keep up with our family news. All those links pale compared to that contact, the feel of the firm grip of a handshake or grasp of a heartfelt hug.
We Seybolds have another reunion on our horizon, and there will be one more on the HP 3000 community’s calendar, too. I’m not talking about the meeting next month when HP will host its first Technical Forum, the New Orleans show that contributed to the Interex demise. That won’t have the feel of mom’s 80th birthday this December. We’ll plan and anticipate that event with as much ardor as 3000 veterans, the folks who helped Interex grow for more than a decade.
Instead of New Orleans-bound meetings, the news broke early this month that the 3000 family will have a luncheon as its 2005 reunion. Mike Marxmeier and Alan Yeo made the best of non-refundable tickets to San Francisco and hosted a lunch gathering. A few days later the OpenMPE user group — just about the only one left, now — held a meeting at an HP facility. We’re all wondering how large that OpenMPE family might grow up to be, now that Interex has passed away.
The meeting at the HP campus reminded me of the gentle tug between vendor mother-ship and user tender-craft. Before Interex began to called itself by that name, the group was the HP 3000 Users Group, operated with an eye toward collaboration with the vendor rather than combat. Maybe it’s time to remember, during this month of the Interex flame-out, how that relationship operates when it serves both vendor and user.
My friend Duane Percox at QSS explained it well. The HP 3000 members of Interex — those who founded the group — got more radical and active through the 1990s as their HP options grew slim. The scuffles were fun for a while, but also something a vendor won’t brook endlessly. When HP got the nerve to squash Interex with a competing show, the market's more nimble marketers didn’t hesitate.
Percox said that give-and-take between vendor and users lets both sides save face. Marketing wants a great spin on customer experiences, while the customers want the truth. You must claim to be independent from your very first day — if you want the truth to be your main mission.
“You can’t begrudge marketing for wanting the best spin on things,” he said, “just like you can’t begrudge the users for wanting the truth.” The long-term formula to mix these elements has always been collaboration, something Interex’s founder Doug Mecham recalls in his Q&A interview.
At that 3000 luncheon we got a few hours of face-time with one another — so the 3000 customers and partners might feel like I did right after my family reunion in Las Vegas. All of us went home in the afterglow from a handful of days of hard work, marinated in laughter and yes, some sadness over days past. Toss in that OpenMPE meet, and mid-August felt a bit like the typical Interex week. In Vegas and in the Bay Area, I was getting to know a town better and a hotel or two — like the way we Seybold kids learned the short cuts around the sprawl of Las Vegas Boulevard, or finding the back steps up to the room at the Tropicana.
Because I’ve had my stand-in reunion as well as my family gathering, I’ll miss the Interex show a little less this month. I could count on the family of brilliant, funny, and fulsome people like the 3000’s founders and fans to engineer a replacement reunion.
Face time can give you a chance to hear significant answers. In our last hour together in Vegas, Mom read us questions off a newsletter from her new apartment — good ones like “What event in history would you like to have experienced?” or “If you wrote your autobiography, what would its title be?”
We kids shared many lessons learned in spite of ourselves, something I wish for any group of people who consider themselves family. I hope for other reunions in my future among 3000 folk. You’re a group that can teach lessons about collaborating.
The first Interex board chairman, Doug Mecham, served for the initial five years of the user group’s existence. In 1974 he first gathered the group at Ricky’s Hyatt House hotel in Palo Alto. When the 31-year-old group failed to host its annual lifeline conference and slammed its doors shut suddenly in July 2005, we wanted to talk to the founder of that feast, to hear his views on what makes a good user group serve both vendor and customer at once. Now retired to the Oregon coast, Mecham made himself available by phone within a few days of the Interex announcement.
How do you feel this week, now that Interex has closed its doors?
I knew there was contention for a while. I’m not necessarily surprised. I think it’s highly unfortunate that HP chose to be competitive; obviously Interex chose to terminate right before a major conference. Obviously they didn’t have the money. It’s very disappointing. I could handle it intellectually, but it’s like a child you’ve created. You see the child and then the death. It takes its toll, deep down in your psyche.
An era has really passed. People have changed, the situation’s changed, the world has moved on in many ways. Interex ran for so long that a lot of people marveled that it had done so well. It was a high tech company, and it had a long life with a lot of people passionately involved.
How essential was the HP 3000 to the existence of Interex?
It began with the 3000. That was the genesis. The 3000 had a couple of problems when it came out. It was a real new adventure for HP. They thought it was going into the engineering world. It had FORTRAN, no COBOL, and a 16-bit integer. You know how long that lasted in the engineering world? About two nanoseconds. The one small hitch was when it first came out it had some bugs and was crashing a lot. I sort of initiated communicating with a bunch of people around the world, saying, “Look, we’ve gotta talk, because we’ve got to find solutions to these problems.” So we developed a users group and called it the HP 3000 Users Group.
Was a computer user group a novel idea when Interex was first created?
There was SHARE, GUIDE and DECUS. They were all there already, but DECUS was company-owned, and SHARE and GUIDE were IBM captured. Our approach was going to be entirely different. We wanted to be very collaborative. We knew the relationship had to be A, independent, and B, very collaborative. We never beat up HP like DECUS, GUIDE and SHARE did with DEC and IBM and waste a lot of energy. In fact, our technical group headed by Ross Scroggs actually met with the HP lab quarterly over two or three years to sit down and work out the issues. Boy, did that make a difference to the HP 3000. HP pulled it off the market, redid some things and brought it back out as the Series I.
So do you mean the user group played a key role in the 3000 becoming a usable system?
I would like to think that’s true. But certainly there was a lot of technical expertise and software put into it. The users group grew users, and it grew vendors. There were a lot of contributions made in support of the users, who needed tools and software. I feel that over the 31 years that a great deal has been contributed. We got HP to perform the miracles that make the HP 3000 probably the most stable business machine on the face of the earth.
Do you believe the machine’s stability will allow it to outlast HP’s interest in it, or the lifespan of this user group?
Absolutely. The HP 3000 lasted a long time, because it kept getting upgraded, and it’s still a fine machine today.
Do you think the Interex shutdown is something that will reflect on HP and on the HP 3000?
Probably. It’s an older computer, so when the user group goes away, who’s going to get out there and support each other and swap stories? The 3000 users may form their own group. Remember, Interex expanded into Unix and all of the other HP computing platforms.
How will it affect HP? If you were a customer out there and they suddenly pulled the user group from you, and then the next day they said they were going to lay off more than 14,000 employees, what would you tend to think? It probably broaches the concept of trust in a vendor. It certainly doesn’t help it.
What’s at the heart of running a successful users group, well past 31 years?
Interex has never had the propensity to challenge the vendor, at least in terms of the old user groups. Collaborate with the vendor, yes. To confront them? Not in an adversarial way. They were advocates for HP, and probably facilitated billions of dollars of sales. In the early days, the salesmen used to bring customers by. Those customers saw the user group’s customers having great successes, and that was a great motivator for sales.
The essence of the user group was a collaborative process. One reason Interex was running so long was that the user group grew its members. People were programmers, then they became vendors. Many users helped other users. They pushed them up the ladder. That was essential to the success of Interex.
Do you think the HP 3000 needs a user group to replace Interex?
I think someone will step in and do something, and there will be some sort of meeting. There’s still a bunch of 3000 vendors out there. They may want to get together and discuss the 3000 because they want to make their investment last longer. That’s happened with other groups, like HP’s calculator group that kept on with a small cadre of interested users.
Should we have another users group like Interex? It would certainly take a different format, because it’s no longer super-technical, because the technical problems for the most part have been solved. You’re interested in applications now. The issues are how can you use the 3000 better and what software can I run on it.
Do you believe the Internet stepped in to do the work that the user group did for HP customers?
That’s pretty simplistic. There’s still a need for face-to-face meetings. Look at how big the conferences became. Some of them have topped 8,000, and they came from all around the world. They came for face-to-face integration with other users, as well as with the vendor.
I’m sure that over time the technical aspects began to diminish, because the systems became very stable. The application software became far more important. The 3000 had a lot of technical issues to begin with, but they were resolved, and it grew into a technically stable platform. There were some problems, but not like the early days, when it crashed every half hour.
So do in-person meetings still deliver special results?
They always have and they always will. With the advent of the Internet, it’s provided a wonderful means for communication. But it still does not take the place of the face-to-face, one-on-one, seeing the other person. There’s something about people meeting people. You don’t run a marriage 10,000 miles apart by the Internet. You can do a lot, but when it comes right down to it, then it’s much better to have your wife right next to you, right?
What kind of a substitute do you think HP’s Technical Forum will be for what Interex did with its conference?
It’s obviously going to be a vendor-driven affair, right? The downside is that the vendor is going to drive his own agenda. How open are they going to be? If they’re truly open and collaborative, then it may work out fine. But if you look at the core competencies, what’s HP’s? Engineering. Can they run a users group? Maybe if they get the right people. The core competencies of Interex were user groups and user advocacy and vendor advocacy.
We’ll be able to see, once HP’s conference is over, what things result from it. It will be interesting to see, that’s for sure.
Since collaboration remained popular at Interex right up to the end, do you think collaboration with user groups has become unpopular at HP?
HP’s changed a lot in the last five years, haven’t they? The HP Way is no more. I think Interex ran very much along the lines of the HP Way. When I met with David Packard, he assured me they supported our group. HP went for many years with lots of ups and downs, and they got through every one of them. You have to ask why.
So you think HP’s competing conference contributed to the Interex shutdown?
They tried to split the pot, and pot just wasn’t big enough to support both. What surprises me is that HP didn’t come to Interex and say, “We want to accomplish this — will you help us do it?” They always had before, but this time they wanted to do their own thing. That’s their call, and they have to accept the consequences.
The support of Interex depended on the Interex conference. Why didn’t HP throw in with Interex, when user conferences are not part of HP’s expertise?
In 2002, an emulator to enable an open MPE was fresh on the 3000's table. A group of the same name, OpenMPE, took its first mission as taking hold of the 3000's OS futures. HP's Dave Wilde met with Jon Diercks shortly after HP's "we're quitting" news surfaced. Diercks launched the idea of a group to promote an open-source MPE/iX. With Linux soaring, open source would lift all ships.
Even the ones that were drifting along at the end of three decades of success.
The emulator question rose when the community appraised its options to keep its legacy choices alive. Millions of lines of proprietary HP code couldn't stand a chance of becoming open-sourced. Quickly, OpenMPE's mission became saving the HP hardware that could run MPE. In 2002, HP drew a firm line that no emulator could ever mimic the PA-RISC chips unless the hosting hardware wore an HP badge.
During the summer that led to the first Interex conference where HP had to face angry customers, the HP-only mandate stuck in the community's craw. Patrick Santucci, working with systems at Cornerstone Brands, shared his frustration on Sept. 27. "HP still seems to be saying, 'Die, MPE, Die!' Why not let the company writing the emulator decide what hardware they will support it on? After all, they're the ones doing the work."
From that conference during that week in Los Angeles, I reported, "HP gave customers the first ledges of opportunity to continue their climb with their HP 3000s, announcing it will allow a 3000 hardware emulator project to continue as well as creating new MPE licenses."
Nothing changed about HP’s beliefs about the proper future for HP 3000 owners, however. HP’s leader of its 3000 operations, Dave Wilde, still believes that every customer must begin planning for a transition of some sort. But the company’s HP World announcements represented its first realization that staying on the computer platform is the best course for some companies.
HP won’t let a [licensed] version of MPE be used with a hardware emulator before the 2003 end of sales date, although that kind of timing of releasing an emulator would be a remote possibility anyway, according to Allegro’s Scott. Another company, SRI, has said it considers creating such an emulator to be a less lengthy project. SRI sells an emulator for the Digital VAX hardware.
Almost 18 years later, that SRI emulator is Stromasys' Charon, which boasts an HP 3000 PA-RISC version. Charon began serving 3000 owners about a decade after that HP move to permit emulators. From the very first months, HP's PCs did not power the 3000 emulator.
There's a new crop of people taking over management of these machines. Many of the people who have managed and championed HP 3000s in the past have moved on. Today's HP 3000 system manager is now more likely to be young and have little HP 3000-specific experience, knowledge, or training. New HP 3000 system managers have been successful managing environments that include Unix, and Windows. Now they've been given responsibility for an HP 3000, a machine about which they know little or nothing.
If you fit in this category, take heart; I think I have some understanding of what you're going through. When I encountered my first HP 3000 in 1983, all of my experience had been with IBM machines. I was glad to hear that the HP 3000 is comparatively simple and elegant to use (at least compared to a mainframe), but I was still expecting a long learning curve.
For many customers, information about the HP 3000 — especially beginners' information — can be hard to come by.
In Lewis Carroll'sThrough the Looking Glass, Alice is encouraged to "Begin at the beginning." This always seemed like good advice to me, and that's what I'll do now. Let's begin by exploring how one logs on to an HP 3000. We'll also see how to explore your system, and find the programs, files, and information that are available to you. We may even learn a few other things along the way.
You're likely to have a PC or workstation sitting on your desktop. In that case, you need two things: a physical connection between your desktop and the HP 3000, and a piece of software that lets your desktop computer act as if it were an HP terminal--a terminal emulator.
The desktop-to-3000 connection can use the same RS-232 protocol used by terminals. But a network connection using standard IEEE 802.3 or Ethernet is preferable. All you need to know is that the HP 3000 supports industry-standard telnet services, and you can use them to log on to an HP 3000 from your desktop computer.
If you're using a Windows PC on your desktop, a number of HP terminal emulators are available. Among the best are WRQ's Reflection series from Attachmate, and Secure92 from Minisoft. PC-based terminal emulators support industry-standard telnet services to connect to hosts like the HP 3000. Reflection and MS92 also support the NS/VT proprietary protocols.
Regardless of what kind of terminal or terminal emulator you've connected to the HP 3000, pressing the RETURN key (on a PC, it's usually labeled the ENTER key) will cause the HP 3000 to transmit the string "MPE/iX:" back to you. This is a prompt from the HP 3000 inviting you to log on. It's analogous to Unix's "login" prompt.
Incidentally, if something other than "MPE/iX" appears on your screen, don't panic. The system prompt is configurable and your system manager may have changed it. Regardless of the prompt that appears, the command you'll use to log on is always the same. It's called the "Hello" command. (Didn't I tell you that the 3000 is a friendly little machine?)
The HELLO command you enter will typically include two parameters separated by a period. These two words identify you to the system. The first one is your user name, and the second one is your account name. When you log on, at a minimum you must specify a user name and an account name. If there are passwords associated with your user and account (and there should be!), you will be prompted for them.
A few weeks ago, an email arrived with an offer to connect me to HP 3000 matters. It's an automation option that the classic mailing lists use. About once a month, the email asks if this is still a good address. If it reaches your box, the email does its job. If the list server gets a bounce from your address, you're a no-show. You drop from the list.
This is the kind of automation that has powered the 3000 as long as it's run in businesses. The server is built to withstand ignorance. The prospect of becoming invisible at a company does not tip the server into failure. The email came from the OpenMPE mail server, once a resource for news about getting MPE/iX into open development.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the host for 3000 mailing lists. The best known is 3000-L, plus another private list for masters of 3000 development. Then there's OpenMPE-L, starting in the 2000s. It was never a lively spot like 3000-L. OpenMPE was a defiant flag waving in the breeze of the 3000's future.
A decade ago this month, the days devolved into the time of disputes. The formal mission of the group, to liberate MPE/iX code and take it to a community of developers, was emerging at last as a reality. However, OpenMPE could not count itself among the license holders of HP's select source code distribution. HP code on a CD sat on a desk for a while, but the $10,000 fee went unpaid by OpenMPE. The organization spurred the existence of a community-level license. It could not hold itself together long enough to become the repository of 3000 code it wanted to be.
A decade later, though, those automated emails still arrive. We are still on a trajectory toward a future, they say. Like a satellite bound for Mars and beyond, the automation and adherence to routines of the 3000 itself remains ready. A few decades ago, Alfredo Rego of Adager said his company's product had to last beyond reasonable maintenance resources.
Adager still tends to its database power tool, but a spacecraft can get far away from repair depots. That's the situation for the 3000 and MPE/iX today: still orbiting customers' planets, needing little tending. That list and its automation is a similar sign, listening for anything related to OpenMPE.
This week is the end of the line for MANMAN support from Infor. A migration company once offered a webinar on leaving behind servers that delivered manufacturing data. The focus at Merino Services was not on MPE, or HP's 3000. The company wanted to help with an exit off MANMAN. In specific, this was a march from "MANMAN/ERP LN to Infor 10X."
While many manufacturing companies will recognize MANMAN ERP, it's the LN tag that's a little confusing. Terry Floyd, whose Support Group business has been assisting MANMAN users for more than 25 years, tried to pin it down.
"The ERP LN is Baan, I think – it’s very difficult to tell anymore. It’s not MANMAN, anyway." The target is Infor's 10X, more of a framework for the migration destinies of Infor's parked software. Such parking keeps up support, but nothing else changes.
Merino, not a company on the 3000's radar, might not be blamed for conflating a couple of ERP names, or just running them together in a subject line. The lineup of ERP applications has been declining. An ERP Graveyard graphic lists the notables and the little-known, next to their current undertakers. Infor, which is the curator of both Baan and MANMAN, has made a business of this less than active retirement for more than 15 years. Younger, more adept alternatives have been offered for MANMAN for several decades.
Floyd added, "They have bought a lot of near-bankrupt companies," Floyd added bout Infor. "As you know, a lot of people have been trying to migrate companies off of MANMAN." It's a testament to the sticky integration of ERP and the customization capability of MANMAN that it leads the graveyard in the number of times it's been acquired.
Earlier this week we marked a milestone on the NewsWire blog. A half-million pageviews ticked across the counter on our dashboard. I also noted that the pageview number didn't include the pageviews served off the original 3000newswire.com website. We didn't call it a blog when we started in 1996. The articles always started in print during the 1990s.
Google still tracks the performance of the original site. It's not paltry, either, even though nothing new has been posted there in more than 10 years. Google says 9,000 pages have been served during the month of May.
One of the most popular covered MANMAN advice. Cortlandt Wilson, whose pedigree on ERP goes into the 1980s, answered the question, "Is there still life left in the old MANMAN?" His conclusion was that a surround strategy would be keeping MANMAN vital, even though its owner of the time had curtailed development.
"Surround strategy," Wilson wrote, "extends the useful life of existing investments without sacrificing the business requirements for additional capabilities."
He added that "Bridging" is what I call a surround strategy that brings best-of-breed solutions to MANMAN today that are already being used by leading 'next generation' applications from the BOPS manufacturing providers (Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP)."
During the last 15 years, Baan has been absorbed by the current MANMAN vendor, Infor. PeopleSoft is now owned by Oracle. SAP remains the only one of Wilson's best-of-breed products whose ERP portrait is unchanged.
Sure enough, SAP is a regular choice for 3000 sites leaving MANMAN. TE Connectivity, one of the biggest MANMAN sites in the 3000 world, might be ready to cut off its last 3000 ERP databases in 2021. SAP will take over at TE when its 3000s finally go dark, 43 years after they first booted up MANMAN.
It's only a few clicks away from that article on the original 3000 NewsWire website to find reports on 3000 reporting tools, for example. If your 3000 is getting its first look by a new IT pro, because you're retiring soon, understanding what's on the server could make accessing the 1999 reports easier. Wilson wrote a roundup of reports, too. We've been fortunate to click on experts like him.
Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay
Earlier today, this blog served up pageview number 500,000. That's a half-million times that some business computer expert needed to learn about, repair, or plan for using MPE/iX or the HP 3000. Content at this web address still serves a community.
The straight-up math tells us that the total amounts to 33,333 page views a year on average. These days, the pageviews are closer to 16,000 per year. None of those pageviews are included among those off the website at the original 3000newswire.com. It's the repository for the 1996-2005 Newswire, the Online Extra newsletters, plus a record of 122 monthly FlashPaper supplements. That site goes back 24 years.
A half-million blog page views, all since the year before HP's original support shutdown, shows remarkable devotion. Not even necessarily to the NewsWire; that half-million illustrates how long a server can remain vital and useful. We've been telling the 3000's stories for more than 18 years since HP started to quit on it. We reported for six years while the product was still a part of HP's futures.
Although the news from that 2005 monthly roundup might seem like history, it reinforces the choices 3000 managers face today. Solutions not tied to a single vendor continue to face a steep decline. Going independent of a system vendor is the default move.
The 2005 news reports showed an HP trying to find relevance in a changing IT landscape. June was the summertime after CEO Carly Fiorina left HP. She departed after throwing the vendor's weight behind high growth, low-margin computing. PCs, laptops, and printers were ascendant in the HP of 2005. HP was finding new enterprise business elusive, unless the new systems ran Windows. Unix served some 3000 sites that migrated from MPE/iX. Many more of the departed had migrated to Windows. Some were taking a chance on Linux.
The 2005 customers were moving away quickly from the OS at the heart of their companies. By mid-year, only 43 months had ticked away since HP's exit announcement. There were not a lot of customers already exited by the month the blog opened for business. We surveyed customers to discover that a close to half were replacing a 3000 with Windows 2003 Server.
That was not HP's plan at all, figuring enterprise features of HP-UX were going to snare the ex-3000 sites.
This blog gave us the avenue to report survey updates immediately. One of the first five blog articles that kicked off the page view deluge updated our migration target survey with fresher results.
Customers expressed reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows. But Windows’ familiarity won it many converts. This made HP's exclusive tech advantages less popular. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment," said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department, "because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux.”
Hewlett-Packard was casting about for a plan to keep growing. In 2005 HP announced it would separate its printer units from PC segments. HP's 1990s management assumed everything was supposed to thrive on the business model that drove its laser printer success. A smaller direct sales channel, with less room for different and superior engineering, was the result of chasing commodity computing sales. HP was reorganizing, back toward a business plan that acknowledged not all products can use the same strategy.
Printers and PCs got their own leadership. At the time I looked into the future and saw that the HP 3000 customers were forced to leave might see another spinoff. A separate enterprise computing business. "An HP with non-Windows servers running HP-UX and OpenVMS could be just around the corner."
Nine years later, HP decided to break up the brand. Enterprise servers split off from the low-margin products. It didn't make HP more relevant to business IT. By 2014 even OpenVMS was flagging — and it remains the product line with the biggest number of customers not using Windows or Linux.
Our first month of blog reports included more tactical advisories. Some remain useful today. Keven Miller, who still supports 3000s and gathers MPE resources for the community, updated his 3000 firmware without the aid of HP's support engineers. It's the unusual site which doesn't need outside support help. After all, Miller's 3K Ranger firm serves 3000 customers. But the how-to about changing Processor Dependent Code is still on this blog's site, ready to serve its goodness through another page view. You will need patches, where the independent support firms can make them available.
We said at the time that "Miller's experience represents the level of admin skill a 3000 owner is going to have to call upon once HP's support leaves the field. If you're uncomfortable with this kind of admin, but need to keep your 3000s in service, there's a good lineup of 3000 service providers who can help you, all in the third-party market." There is still a healthy group of service companies working 15 years later.
Onward to the next half-million page views. It ought to happen around 2051, if we can keep up the current pace. I'll only be 94, while the 3000 will be 77. I hope to age as well as MPE.
Boeing has employed an HP 3000 for decades. The software was so embedded that MPE specialist Ray Legault got the corporation to approve a Charon HPA emulator, eliminating the need for HP's PA-RISC hardware.
Now Boeing is eliminating Legault's position. The MPE/iX app which he's cared for will remain in service, for now. It raises the question of who will be on the Boeing IT staff to keep MPE/iX's service on target in the years to come.
Legault, who's taken an early lead in implementing Charon at a major corporation, calls the work being curtailed "activities in supporting the four applications."
"My internal replacements will not know the HP3000 MPE/iX OS and may not be much help to the IT Finance analysts that support the applications.
"They will not know how to correct job aborts, create and submit finance batch files, or a lot of other routine tasks."
Legault's last day at Boeing is July 31. He may be the last expert with his level of expertise in HP 3000 operations and maintenance. The operating system has now outlived the HP hardware as well as the expertise at Boeing.
Photo by Nick Fisher on Unsplash
Chuck Piercey, executive director of the user group Interex during its greatest era of the 1990s, died last week peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Charlene, as well as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His memorial last weekend during our viral times was held over Zoom. That kind of essential innovation would have been in step with his vision for Interex.
He held his Interex post more than a decade, longer than any director in the 31-year group's history. Piercey helmed the organization that gathered thousands of Hewlett-Packard community experts under one roof after another, in city after city, for each year's biggest exchange of 3000 technology and commerce.
Piercey would be quick to point to his staff as the reason for those successes. He came to his post from executive work in Silicon Valley at Perkin-Elmer, a semiconductor firm with roots nearly as deep into HP's. Piercey grew a multimillion-dollar user organization that launched new conferences and established a digital footprint into the Web. New publications emerged during an era when paper was still the dominant means of information exchange. But thick volumes of tech papers made their way onto CDs, too. Panels of HP's top executives sat for tough questions from 3000 customers during a time of uncertain futures.
By the close of Piercey's era, Interex had moved firmly into the promise of development over the Web. HP created an MPE/iX Shared Source project, which Interex hosted for the 3000 division. HP started in a very timid way with Editor, Query, and the TurboIMAGE class libraries. Members of HP's labs collaborated with users to check source code modules out and check them back in after revisions. It was akin to the Github repository, mapped onto MPE's essentials.
The growth took place while HP was sacrificing its 3000 vision to the promises of Unix. That strategy was driving a stake into the hearts of Interex volunteer members. Those actions made Piercey's work complicated in a way that reflected the industry's era of change. Terminals were the predominant access to 3000s when he arrived at Interex. By the time he left the group in 2000, the dot-com boom was reshaping the way 3000 users shared expertise. Windows was the driving force as Interex's work opened windows to an HP future that relied less on vendor-specific environments like MPE.
Piercey managed Interex with a series of volunteer board members voted in on three-year terms. In a continual change of Interex leadership, Piercey was the constant for that decade. Boards often better steeped in technology than business presented challenges to the needed changes, evolution that Interex accomplished nevertheless.
He came to the position with no direct experience in managing an association, but Interex pursued him relentlessly in 1989. With a mechanical engineer’s degree and an MBA from Stanford, Piercey worked at Silicon Valley firm Ultek during the first 20 years of his career. As he described it, the middle section of his career was being the founding partner of three startups, doing turnaround management at the bidding of venture capitalists. He was doing his own business consulting when Interex won him to its mission in March of 1990.
Piercey took the wheel at an association facing as much of a transition as HP itself in the 1990s. The group’s roots and its volunteer strength lay in the 3000 community, but HP’s attention was being focused on the world of Unix. Platform-specific user groups were under siege in the middle of the decade. He pointed out that even the 32,000-strong Unix group Uniforum eventually withered away. But Interex persevered, forming a tighter coupling with the changing HP and broadening the group's focus. The Interex user show and news publication were both rebranded as HP World to tighten the HP relationship. The conference was ranked as one of the best in a Computerworld survey.
His retirement from Interex was supposed to bring him into full-time grandfatherhood, but a educational startup devoted to molecular biology carried into his final career post. When he announced his resignation, board member Linda Roatch said, "He is largely responsible for bringing Interex forward to what it is — the most successful vendor-centric independent user group in existence."
Before he left his work at the user group, Piercey reflected on the future of single-vendor organizations like Interex. He had enough vision to see that a multivendor IT world could render well-established user groups obsolete. In board meetings and in public, Piercey would ask, "What is the role of a vendor-specific group in a multivendor world?" Asking hard questions was one of Piercey's talents that kept Interex on its feet during a trying time for user groups.
In a NewsWire Q&A from 2000, Piercey's final year with Interex and the final year HP proposed 3000 growth, he summed up the changes that challenged the user group. "Customers don’t have the luxury of focusing on the HP 3000 like they did 10 years ago," he said. "We have less mindshare, and we have to be more effective with the mindshare we do have. It squeezes the value proposition: you have to deliver more value cheaper and faster. What they really want is wise filtering of information."
The transfer of that information grew as a result of his work. Last weekend's celebration of Piercey's life was transcribed, including photos. It's hosted on the Web as a Google Doc, an eventuality of sharing that he would have foreseen.
Terminal emulators began early. On the day I first met an HP 3000 in 1984, the box for the Walker, Richer & Quinn product Reflection sat on top of a PC in my HP Chronicle office. HP climbed into the field soon enough. HP AdvanceLink didn't do anything more than Reflection to emulate 3000 terminals, and often less. AdvanceLink had the system vendor's label, though. WRQ did very well selling against the HP product. HP relented and started to sell and recommend Reflection.
Terminal emulation launched itself into the iOS world about 25 years later. One vendor sells a product that emulates a vast range of legacy terminals. In 2013 TTerm Pro entered the market as a solution for fully mobile legacy terminal use.
Finding such a terminal in the wild can be rare today. The software that needs it, though, may still be on the job. Development started in 2013 for TTerm Pro. The iOS app from TTWin, all of $19.95, is getting maintenance and bug updates once more. TTWin has repaired the ALT key issues for several European-language software keyboards, including those for HP 3000s.
There's an interesting range of fixes. In this year's version 1.5.0, Bluetooth scanners no longer inject CR characters midway through barcode scanning. The fact that Bluetooth has anything to do with vendor-specific hardware such as terminals is worth a closer look.
It's mind-boggling to consider that an HP 2392, launched in 1984, is emulated 36 years later. That text-only terminal, if you can find one, cost $1,295 when it was new. The terminal's 12 inches of CRT screen produced characters on a 7x12 dot matrix. HP included a tilt and swivel base for each terminal.
It was a different world in 1984. "The most common cause of failure," says the HP Computer Museum's collector notes, "is a bad power supply. The first step in refurbishing these terminals is to remove the top case and remove the power supply PCB. (Printed Circuit Board) This PCB contains some metalized paper capacitors that are prone to failure and smoking with age. These capacitors are easily replaced."
That replacement is true if you've got a source for paper capacitors. Not so much? Today there's a resource for legacy hardware in many forms. For example, Stromasys sells Charon to use Intel servers for emulating PA-RISC hardware. And TTerm employs a $1,250 iPad Pro, about 13 inches in size, to carry terminal access anywhere we find a cell signal.
That's 13 inches of terminal you can carry around like a book.
Hardware never dies when good emulation engineering keeps it alive. Download that TTerm Pro app and marvel at the time machine bounty. In 1984, that $1,250 delivered 7x12 matrix characters. Nothing else on that 12 inches, not like the iPad Pro of today. One important reason to preserve legacy terminals: Companies continue to use the software that relies on them.
More than four decades after its launch in 1970s, MANMAN marks a milestone at the end of this month. On June 30, 2020, the app's vendor will terminate all remaining support contracts. Other will be available on a time and materials basis, either.
In a world where legacy datacenters continue to contribute thrive, losing support is not a crushing blow. MPE/iX and OpenVMS are the two environments where MANMAN dug in. Tim Peer at Envy Systems supplies good independent support for MANMAN on OpenVMS. Terry Floyd at The Support Group, along with his son David, bolsters HP 3000 MANMAN users. Terri Glendon Lanza of ASK Terri is another good resource for MANMAN on MPE. By all accounts, support from the MANMAN lab is minimal today.
When June 30 arrives, Infor will end its journey with MANMAN. The application has had at least five vendors own it. Created by ASK Computer Solutions in 1977, the suite moved item data from untold billions of products and materials across many midrange systems.
Infor has thrown in its official towel. "Finally, upgrading MANMAN to newer hardware would require a complete rewrite of the MANMAN software," an Infor release stated in 2018. "Unfortunately, after analysis, that is not an economically viable option."
One interesting element of the support shutdown is how Infor wants customers to consider sticking with the vendor. Infor has a cloud ERP solution. CloudSuite Industrial would be a good alternative, according to the marketing department at Infor.
"If your organization has not considered cloud, now is the time to start," Infor's end of support notice suggests. "We plan to offer an attractive and affordable program for MANMAN customers that want to move to one of our cloud products. For example, we recommend that you explore Infor CloudSuite Industrial."
Infor goes on to tell its customers that legacy computing is the problem. "MANMAN is based on legacy technology using hardware platforms that are no longer supported by their vendors," Infor's notice states. "As such, Infor believes there is a real risk in using the MANMAN software to manage your enterprise."
Yes, it's always the risk that a vendor is watchful about, especially when it cancels an enterprise-grade product. Minimizing risk can maximize a vendor's opportunity to replace an app that continues to work
MANMAN is supported by knowledge and code from the CAMUS user group at camus.org. Infor's internal requirements are getting in the way of continued support. Make no mistake: the HP 3000s without vendor support from HP have been that way since 2011. All through those last nine years, Infor has collected support revenue from MPE/iX customers.
Everything grows old, sometimes too old to turn a profit. CAMUS has resources to help MANMAN feel younger.
By Shawn Gordon
How many times have you just had some simple data in a table in your program that you wanted to sort? It seems like a waste of time to go through and write it to a file and sort the file and read it back in. COBOL has a verb to allow you to sort tables.
I’ve actually gotten a few e-mails recently asking me about this verb and sorting strategies, so I thought I would go over it. What I have this month is both a simple bubble sort, as well as a more complex but efficient shell sort. The bubble sort in Figure 1 only requires that we have two counters, one save buffer, and one table max variable, on top of the table data.
Here's the code in text, if you want to copy and paste, and apply your own formatting.
01 SAVE-CODE PIC X(04) VALUE SPACES.
01 S1 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 S2 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 TABLE-MAX PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
03 CODE-DATA PIC X(04) OCCURS 100 TIMES.
* Do whatever steps are necessary to fill CODE-TABLE with the values
* you are going to use in your program. Make sure to increment
* TABLE-MAX for each entry you put in the table.
* Now we are going to perform a bubble sort of the table.
PERFORM VARYING S1 FROM 1 BY 1 UNTIL S1 = TABLE-MAX
PERFORM VARYING S2 FROM S1 BY 1 UNTIL S2 > TABLE-MAX
IF CODE-DATA(S2) < CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE CODE-DATA(S1) TO SAVE-CODE
MOVE CODE-DATA(S2) TO CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE SAVE-CODE TO CODE-DATA(S2)
As you can see, this is a pretty trivial and easy to implement solution for simple tables.
What we have in Figure 2 is a macro that does a shell sort. I got this originally from John Zoltak, and the following text is his, with some slight edits from me.
He says, “When I want to sort the array I use
MOVE number-of-elements to N-SUB.
“Figure 2 below uses the shell sort, faster than a bubble. Also since it’s a macro, I can sort on any table. The only real constraint is that it compares the whole table element, so you just have to arrange your table element so it sorts the way you want.”
Again, here's the text from the routine for you to copy and paste
* SHELL SORT ROUTINE
* This macro expects parameter 1 to be the element of the
* table to be sorted. This sort compares the entire element.
* Parameter 2 is the element hold area. Can be a higher
* element of the table if you wish.
* To use this sort macro, you must COPY it into your program
* in the 01 LEVEL area. Four (4) variables will be declared
* and the $DEFINE for %SORTTABLE will be defined.
* Before invoking this macro you must set N-SUB to the
* highest table element to be sorted.
01 I-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 J-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 M-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 N-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
IF N-SUB > 1
MOVE N-SUB TO M-SUB
PERFORM TEST AFTER UNTIL M-SUB = 1
DIVIDE 2 INTO M-SUB
ADD 1 TO M-SUB GIVING I-SUB
PERFORM UNTIL I-SUB > N-SUB
MOVE !1(I-SUB) TO !2
MOVE I-SUB TO J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
PERFORM UNTIL J-SUB <= M-SUB OR
!1(TALLY) <= !2
MOVE !1(TALLY) TO !1(J-SUB)
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
MOVE !2 TO !1(J-SUB)
ADD 1 TO I-SUB