August 20, 2019

More 2028 date help on its way for MPE/iX

January calendarPhoto by Kara Eads on Unsplash

3000 managers are still asking if the year 2028 will be the first one where MPE/iX can't run. The date handling roadblock has been cleared already, both by internal app software adjustments (MANMAN sites, worry not) and also through a third party solution from Beechglen. 

If you've had the Beechglen experience, we'd like to hear from you. The software has been in the 3000 world for almost a year and a half by now.

Beechglen holds one of the Select Seven licenses for MPE/iX source, as do Pivital, Adager, and several other active 3000 vendors. Not much has been discussed about how 2028 has been handled by these solutions, but 3000 owners are such a careful bunch that you can be sure there's been testing.

One source of date-testing software is among the Select Seven. Allegro created Hourglass for the Y2K date hurdle. It rolls date controls forward and back across any user-designated threshold for testing. Hourglass might already be in a lot of the remaining homesteaders' 3000 shops. The ones who still rely on MPE/iX make up a crafty, adept group.

Reggie Monroe manages the HP 3000 at the Mercury Insurance Group in Brea, Calif. He asked on the 3000-L mailing list if his MPE/iX was going to stop running at midnight of Dec. 31, 2027. Several other managers and vendors assured him that MPE/iX has a lifespan beyond that date.

"It doesn't stop running," said Neil Armstrong at Robelle, "but the dates will be incorrect — however, a solution is already available and a number of us vendors have resolved this issue in our software to continue to 2037." Armstrong pointed to an article at Beechglen for some details on one 2028 software workaround.

The latest solution is coming from Stromasys. The company has been referring its emulation customers to third party support for the 2028 fix. This week we heard there's a Stromasys-based workaround on its way, too.

Tracy Johnson suggests a fine idea for anyone who chooses to ignore the year that MPE/iX will report automatically starting on January 1, 2028. The 3000 will roll back to the year 1900 on that day. If you reset the 3000's date to the year 1972, or 2000, then the days of the week will align on the same ones in 2028. The year 2028 is a Leap Year, just like the ones in '72 or 2000.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:49 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

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May 24, 2019

Get a job, won't you?

Resume Monster
Listening to the radio silence of a job hunt can be chilling. Experts whose lives have focused on the HP 3000 have faced declining options for the past 15 years, of course. The companies' need to upgrade and develop disappears. Then the installed 3000 systems, still serving their owners, don't seem to need professional service. At least not in the opinion of IT management, or in some cases, top management.

So DIY maintenance rules the day, and so the administrative tasks might fall to staff better-trained about websites than IMAGE database schemas, or the means to recover STDLISTs from jobs sent to printers.

The installed applications care about those things, unless they're simply installed for archival purposes. An MPE server should never be on autopilot and mission critical duty at the same time. If the archive breaks down, you can hire somebody to get it running.

That task might be an opportunity for MPE experts. Will Maintain Archival 3000s. Not exactly a new offer. The remaining support suppliers are doing just that, and sometimes more. Archive Support could turn out to be a thing.

Tim O'Neill, whose pondering and good questions have sparked several articles, asked a good question this month. "Can you speak to where the jobs might be and who the talent searchers are?"

The jobs are at the companies still managing 3000 activity on the behalf of 3000 owners. Few of the owners seem to be hiring now. Freshe Legacy was running a big bench for 3000 talent, but it is a back bench. An expert like O'Neill can contact the support companies. Few jobs, though, with actual employment. Lots of contracts, and maybe that's what Tim meant.

Who are the talent searchers? At first, the machines search. The workflow above shows how Monster processes its applicants. Acquaintances and contacts, friends, partners, people who you're hired and now have moved up. Stay in touch at the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn. People who need 3000 help are up there. There's more than 700 in that group. There's a good jobs service there, too. Well worth the $29 a month for the Premium subscription.

The truth is that there's a genuine limit on how much work remains to cover the care of HP's MPE hardware. People will pay for it. The question becomes — is the pay enough to avoid needing to build other IT skills up?

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:17 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 20, 2019

Charon's orbit around our blog's pages

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

With more than 3,200 stories across 14 years of writing, the Newswire blog brims with useful reports. It's big enough that important things can get overlooked. Charon, the Stromasys virtualization software, is just about the most important software product to emerge since HP announced its end-date for its MPE and PA-RISC operations. Here's a recap of the just the essentials we've reported over the last five years.

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

The Stromasys software will soon include a Unix PA-RISC edition of the Charon emulator, too. It's designed to bring the same kind of longer future to companies running Unix on the classic RISC systems that HP released alongside HP's 3000 iron. Any additional connection to HP business servers, no matter what the OS, will be good for the future of Charon — and by extension, the lifespan of MPE/iX. That's PA-RISC being emulated there, regardless of 3000 or 9000 designations.

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

Charon is a moon of Pluto, so big that Charon is in tidal lock, as one scientist explains it. That moon reminds me of the Charon software that powers those apps at Boeing. Its emulation of the 3000 keeps it in lock with the PA-RISC chips that continued the orbit of MPE/iX at the world's largest aircraft maker.

Northeastern cooperative plugs in Charon

A leading milk and dairy product collective, a century-plus old, is drawing on the Stromasys emulator’s opportunity. A $1.2 billion milk marketing cooperative — established for more than 100 years and offering services to farmers including lending, insurance, and risk management — has become an early example of how to replace Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 and retain MPE software while boosting reliability.

One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

Stromasys made its case for how shutting down HP's 3000 hardware can reduce an IT budget. Using data from Gartner analysts and other sources, the company estimates that downtime can cost companies $1 million per year on average.

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

The market is hungry for a forthcoming performance lift from the virtualizer. At Veritiv Corporation, Randy Stanfield will need the fastest version of Charon that Stromasys can provide.

Archival presents prospects for Charon

We're hearing from 3000 sites which are in archival mode with their 3000s, and several such customers have been installing and evaluating the Stomasys emulator

3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never

The company selling the Charon virtualizer (many think of it as an emulator) announced a new bundled offer as well as announcing that any public cloud can run Charon. Sites that employ the Oracle Cloud to host their virtualization systems get un-metered cloud services as part of that deal with Stromasys.

Overview compares emulation strategies

There are many ways customers can re-host HP 3000 applications. Virtualization, using the Charon HPA solution from Stromasys, is the ultimate solution discussed in 45 minutes of presentation from MB Foster as it toured rehosting choices.

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

There are always good reasons to move along to something newer, different, or improved. Emulating a 3000 in software seems to deliver a lot of those, as well as options for backup that are novel.

New DL325 serves fresh emulation muscle

When the Proliant DL325 shipped in July, it was  a newer and more powerful model of the DL380 server — one suitable for powering a virtualized HP 3000 driven by the Stromasys Charon HPA system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:16 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 22, 2019

A Handful of Users, and Steady Supply

Plumbing
A company in the Midwest is using an HP 3000 this month. They don't have plans to replace it. Chuck Nickerson of Hillary Software described a customer who will remind you of the grand days of MPE, the era when PCs might have been on desktops but the 3000 served businesses.

It's a small company. Four people in total work at the plumbing and electrical supply firm. Their 3000 arrived with its application, and the staff uses it every working day. This is the kind of place where the part comes off a shelf in back and the contractor gets exactly what they need. In that manner, they are a lot like the 3000 users, getting what they need. The 3000 is the conduit between municipal utility and trade pros.

A 3000 without a utility like Hillary's byRequest is a lot less useful. The Hillary software takes the 3000's data and does things like replace impact printers. Forms become something that a modern front end utility like Excel or Word, or even a basic PDF can deliver. "It the intimate connection with the host that we sell," Nickerson said.

Excel is a closed format, he reminded me, so the magic of connecting an OS with its roots in the Reagan Era with laptops that cost less than one small antique 3000 memory board—well, that's priceless.

Some 3000 users do move off their machines while they're Hillary customers. The intimate connection with other servers moves along with the data from places like plumbing supply firms. Cable and connections, pipe and fittings, make up the everyday infrastructure of our worlds. Good data from days past is important to seeing trends. Keeping up the intimacy is worth a lot.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:53 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 04, 2019

Playing ball for keeps with MPE

Pete-Rose-ball
In a regular conversation with MPE software vendors, surprising news surfaces. As I was calling into Hillary Software to catch up, I said hello to Carrie in support and sales. We hadn't met but she felt like an old comrade. Some of that has to do with tending to the needs and desires of people who won't let go of their legacy. In this case, the historic need was a sports company.

If you've ever purchased — or been gifted — a major league baseball, there's a good chance the case was made with the help of a 3000. Carrie said the country's largest manufacturer of sports memorabilia cases uses the Hillary Software, byRequest, to move its information into reports. The reports operate in a more modern era than MPE, of course. Excel is just 11 years younger than the HP 3000 and MPE.

At the manufacturer, the focus is on a much older pastime. There's something poetic about the HP 3000, a legacy giant, serving the needs of a company that preserves historic items. The value of a baseball lies in the heart of its collector. Sometimes the value of a legacy system lies in the heart of its manager. Preserving what's meaningful and productive isn't the same thing as protecting a signed baseball.

But they are the same in one special way. Decades from now, these balls will retain their memories of happiness. To be fair, it's MPE that will retain that happiness. Microsoft Excel began its life as Multiplan, a spreadsheet created in the days of CP/M. DOS overtook CP/M, just like Windows overtook DOS. The essence of what's great about Excel remains from those early days.

It's a joyful moment to see something of a legacy era doing everyday work. I found particular pleasure in seeing a software product, built to connect newer tools to an older OS and apps, help to create a preservation tool. Simple boxes. A simple solution.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:47 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2019

Why a UPS FAIL let down a 3000's shield

Fail
Previously, when a pair of HP 3000s were felled in the aftermath of a windstorm which clipped out the power at Alan Yeo's shop, his Uninterrupted Power Supply in the mix failed as well. After a couple of glasses of merlot, our intrepid developer and founder of ScreenJet continued to reach for answers to his HP 3000 datacenter dilemma. Why did that UPS that was supposed to be protecting his 3000s and Windows servers FAIL once the power died? 

By Alan Yeo
Second in a series

Feeling mellower and with nothing I really wanted to watch on the TV, I decided to take a prod at the servers and see what the problems are. I decided I'd need input to diagnose the Windows Server problem, so that could wait until the morning. Power-cycled the 917 to watched the self-test cycle and got the error, did it again. (Well sometimes these things fix themselves, don't they?) Nope, it was dead! 

Google turned up nothing on the error. Nothing on the 3000-L newsgroup archives, either. I'd tell you the 3000 error code, but I've thrown away the piece of paper I had with all the scribbles from that weekend.

Where's a guru
when you want one?

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

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

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

False Dawn

Pulling the 3000's memory card is no problem. Working out which of the five banks is bad takes a bit more work, but a bit of plug engineering and a couple of reboots shows that we have 64MB (2x32) of bad memory. No problem, plenty left, so remove it and reboot. Great, get to the ISL prompt, do a START NORECOVERY and go get a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and I’ll soon have this system back up.

SYSTEM ABORT from SUBSYS 143

SYSHALT 7,$0267

FLT DEAD

Oh, hell.  

Long Story Short (or another one bites the dust)

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

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

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

Why? Given that the APC “Smart” UPS's had done such a wonderful job of protecting everything, the conundrum was why they hadn't protected everything. It was time to do some research on UPS's.  

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

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

There’s something in the mix called Dirty Transfers.

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

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

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:29 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 11, 2019

Making a UPS Light Up a 3000

Lightning_bolt_power_stripEditor's note: A recent message thread on the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup reported on attaching an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to a 3000. The question came up when an MPE/iX manager asked about hooking up a UPS to an emulated 3000. While that is proof enough that the Charon emulator is working in the field, the question still covered HP's MPE hardware. More than five years ago Alan Yeo covered this ground for us in a lively and informative two-part feature.

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

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

By Alan Yeo
First of a two parts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch passes, with a glass of Merlot. 

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

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

Fireworks!

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

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

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

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

Why do these things always hit at a weekend?

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

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

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:33 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2019

What can a 3000 do to talk to a modern UPS?

SmartUPS
Michel Adam asks, "How can I install and configure a reasonably modern UPS with a 3000? I'd like to use something like an APC SmartUPS or BackUPS, for example. What type of signaling connection would be the easiest, network or serial?"

Jim Maher says

First you need to find out what model 3000. Listed on the back will be the power rating. Some of the older ones use 220V. Then you can match that with a proper UPS.

Michel Adam explains in reply

This HP 3000 is an emulator, i.e. a 9x8 equivalent or A-Class. I guess a regular "emulated" RS-232, or actual ethernet port would be the most likely type of connection. In that sense, the actual voltage is of no consequence; I only need to understand the means of communicating from the UPS to the virtual 3000.

Tracy Johnson reports

While we have three "modern" APC units each with battery racks four high, they also serve the rest of the racks in our computer room. Our HP 3000 is just a bigger server in one of those racks. Each APC services only one of the three power outlets on that N-Class. Their purpose is not to keep the servers "up" for extended periods, but to cover for the few seconds lapse before our building generator kicks in in case of a complete power loss.

As far as the UPS talking to our HP 3000 serial port, we didn't bother. Our APC units are on the network so they have more important things to do, like send emails to some triage guy in Mumbai should they kick in.

Enhanced, or not?

In the history department, Hewlett-Packard had its labbie heart in the right place just weeks before the vendor canceled its 3000 plans. We reported the following in October of 2001

HP 3000s will say more to UPS units

HP's 3000 labs will be enhancing the platform to better communicate with Uninterrupted Power Supply systems in the coming months. HP's Jeff Vance reports that the system will gain the ability to know the remaining time on the UPS, so system managers can know that the UPS will last long enough to shut down my applications and databases and let the system crash. Vance said that HP has scheduled to begin its work on this improvement—voted Number 8 on the last System Improvement Ballot—in late fall.

Late fall of 2001 was not a great time to be managing future enhancements for the 3000 and MPE/iX. The shortfall of hardware improvements and availability has been bridged by Charon. Adjustments to MPE/iX for UPS communication have not been confirmed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:53 PM in Hidden Value, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 26, 2018

3000 security status: obscure and secure

Bank vault
Earlier this year Jeff Kubler of Kubler Consulting was trying to label the status of MPE/iX security. The distinction between hardware and software is noteworthy. Whatever security the 3000s had confers onto the virtualized 3000s running under the Charon emulator from Stromasys.

Kubler built a list of the known conditions and advantages

  • Unknown operating system
  • Password protected
  • Must know how to address it with HELLO
  • Must know or guess the user
  • Could have additional security like VEsoft strenghtening the additional login string
  • Security on the account, user and group level could keep those who even know a login from getting anything important 
  • No visiting websites while using an HP 3000 application

When Alan Yeo of ScreenJet said the 3000 security is weak ("if you have locked the doors, then it will stop someone who just tries the door handle"), Pro 3K's Mark Ranft wanted to disagree.

The correct description is Security through Obscurity. If your HP 3000 has VESOFT's Security 3000 installed, and it is properly configured with two factor authentication, I don't know if anyone, without physical access to the machine, or access to unencrypted backups media, that could break in.

Where the HP 3000 falls short is in encryption of data that is in transit between the user and the system.  For this, I recommend you turn to MiniSoft Secure 92 for terminal access.

And unfortunately, if you host a website on the HP 3000, I have to admit the HP WebWise MPE/iX Secure Web Server is not TLS 1.2 capable. This would be a showstopper for PCI certification. But this is only a big deal if you accept credit card or other protected information via the website.

Finally, depending on your location or customer base, you may also need to worry about GDPR.

That two-factor feature might not be fully available under MPE/iX, depending on your definition of 2FA.

John Clogg said that asking for two passwords or a secret question is not two factors.

One weakness of MPE is that unless you have a password insertion utility, such as STREAMX, passwords for jobs must either be typed in when streaming, which precludes many job scheduling methods, or they must be hard-coded in the jobs. If you can prevent command-line access, some of these weaknesses can be overcome. I would say that the 3000's security is pretty weak without Security/3000 or a similar product.

With MPE or any other OS, security is effective only if those administering the machine take it seriously and don't make dumb mistakes. Years ago an employee of a company I worked for was being visited by her sister who was an HP SE in another city.  I caught the sister trying to log on to our system using the default passwords for TELESUP and other standard accounts. Fortunately, I had changed them all, but I'm sure this approach works in many cases.

I often see systems where jobs with hard-coded passwords have read access granted to "ANY", lots of users with excessive privileges, and so forth. Unfortunately, these problems persist because most IT auditors don't know an HP 3000 from a hole in the ground.

Ranft got in the last word on the matter, which seems to suggest the Vesoft Security 3000 is essential.

If you set up Security 3000 to ask you for a series of questions, like your dog's birthday, instead of just a second password. I am pretty certain that qualifies as two factor authentication. Wikipedia defines it as: Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) is a type (subset) of multi-factor authentication. It is a method of confirming a user's claimed identity by utilizing a combination of two different factors: 1) something they know, 2) something they have, or 3) something they are.

And you are correct. Most un-enhanced HP 3000 systems had poor security. Vladimir Volokh of VEsoft made a living visiting companies and selling them Security/3000 and the rest of the VEsoft suite by breaking in while they sat beside him at the console. I would always enjoy my visits with Vlad. After a few visits, I learned enough that he was no longer able to break into my systems. But in those days there were some backdoor ways to get PM capability.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:40 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2018

A Pro's World After 3000 Retirement

Cruise-ship-retirement
Over the past few months we've talked about the 3000 veteran John Clogg. His name is written all over the 3000 online community, as well as in the histories of companies that continue use MPE/iX for manufacturing. He's been helpful to us in telling the story of the end of his career, one that reaches back to 1974.

He was a part of the NewsWire blog from the very first week we pushed it online. In June of 2005, but HP's exit-the-3000 decision less than three years old, Clogg wrote this about the future of access to MPE/iX source code.

HP has had three and a half years since its 3000 EOL announcement — and who knows how long before — to consider the source code issue. It is no longer a credible claim that they have not made a decision. Instead, they are are simply keeping their decision secret for whatever reason.

To me that says one thing: the answer isn't the one we want. Either HP is hoping to kill off interest in non-HP support for MPE by delaying an announcement to the point that no one can afford to wait any longer, or they want to wait to further alienate the HP 3000 installed base until they are no longer serious prospects for other HP servers. In either case, homesteaders had better not base any of their plans on being able to obtain future enhancements to MPE. The handwriting is on the wall -- in flourescent paint! I just wish HP would admit it.

Postscript: HP never did the right thing by releasing the OS source to the community. Seven support companies and developers (including Pivital Solutions) got read-only access. But on a brighter note, like a lot of 3000 pros, Clogg's personal life is about to get richer after all that he's left to his employers and the community. We asked what his retirement by the end of this year is going to bring. 

For the last 44 years I have been on call virtually 24/7/365. I haven't had a New Year's holiday in a few years, and for the first time in 25 years I have a job with only two weeks of vacation. Mostly I just look forward to having time: time to play, time to explore, time to develop new interests that remain unnamed at this point. I have a good job with a good company, but I am simply burned out.

In the longer term, I know I will need something to keep me busy and engaged. I have been asked by my employer whether I would be available for part-time work, so I expect there will be some of that.  I might offer my services to friends and others who need help with PC issues.

My wife and I are going on a cruise shortly after my retirement date as a sort of celebration. As an interesting window into how retirement changes things, when we were looking into airline schedules for getting to and from the embarkation point, we realized we have as much time as we want.  We can drive there and enjoy sights along the way, and on the way back. It was a revelation.

He adds, "Volunteer work of some kind

is something I will investigate, and I may take up a hobby, such as woodworking. The possibilities are many and I have made no decisions about them. In the near term, I am just looking forward to having time with my family and being able to travel."

Clogg, and other experts of 40-plus years, carry stories and legends that can serve communities in the years to come. Practices of today arrived on the backs of experience built by 24/7/365 people in development and production. We've begun to work on a set of oral histories with these 40-plus-years of service folks. Not biographies, but stories about how this 3000 thing got started. Get in touch with me if you want to sit for a portrait.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:17 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2018

3000 warehouse opens on distributor's shelf


Wine-racks
National Wine and Spirits has been using an HP 3000 to track inventory and shipments since the 1980s. Now the N-Class server at the distributor based in the Midwest is opening a new information shelf for its COBOL application.

Michael Boritz counts his HP 3000 experience back to the 1990s. The independent pro has a new project at NWS, implementing a data warehouse for the in-house application. 

"There's some Suprtool here, and some ODBC network interfaces that I'm not involved with," he said. "I'm strictly on the HP 3000 side: TurboIMAGE, Omnidex [for fast indexing], ViewPlus."

The development is happening on HP's 3000 iron over a nine-month contract for Boritz. There might be another six months of engagement at NWS for him, too.

New development on HP 3000s is not the typical reason to hire a pro of more than 25 years at a 3000 shop in 2018. Much of the time the professional engagements are in support of leaving MPE/iX. Companies need the experienced hands at IMAGE and VPlus screens while they make the transfer.

At NWS the methodology has been forward looking for a long time. In the summer of 2000 Kim Borgman was a manager there and wanted more training available from HP. And not just in classes about IMAGE, either. The newest technical capabilities were on her wish list.

“I think HP could do a better job on education,” said Borgman at the time. “For example, is there a class on using and setting up the Apache Web server on a 3000?”

There's more advanced technology on the N-Class. A few years back the company in Oak Brook, Illinois was using Hillary Software's byRequest to move its email and PDF from the 3000 to computers in the rest of the IT environment. byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application.

"We use it to e-mail all our reports now," Borgman said. "Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore." byRequest will support secure FTP as well as standard FTP.

The fate and future of the 3000 application has been in flux. In 2012 another NWS official reported that the 3000 app was being moved to Windows Server. The code was headed to NetCOBOL at the time.

Dwight Demming, the VP of the company's IT operations, kicked off the new data warehouse project last winter. Demming said the work might possibly be leading to full-time employment. A year's worth of HP 3000 work starting in 2018 is a prospect few people could have forseen when HP turned off the lights in its MPE/iX lab almost eight years ago. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2018

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

Ledger pages
We've turned the corner here at the Newswire to begin our 24th year. Thanks for all of your continued interest. We've always been interested about the future as well as the past which can teach us all. By this year, the 3000's experts are looking at working in their 60's and tending to servers and an OS which are more than a decade old. You have to make plans for the future to keep a legacy system working. Here's a few we've heard about.

At one HP 3000 site, the chief developer for its app turned 69 this year. There's an HP-branded server (a box with "3000" on the label) working at that manufacturing company. The plan for the future is to keep using HP's iron while the application gets migrated. 

That 3000 iron? If if goes south, there's always Stromasys Charon. The company's IT manager already evaluated it.

At RAC Consulting, Rich Corn says he's "still kicking here for a while longer with a handful of ESPUL customers still active. I spend most of my time supporting robotics programs in the local school district." Like a lot of the most seasoned HP 3000 gurus — Corn's software is at the heart of Minisoft's NetPrint products, as well as ESPUL — this charter advertiser of the Newswire is still working with the companies which are tied to MPE/iX for production boxes.

ESPUL is software that wouldn't have much use in an archival 3000, since the utility is a spoolfile and printing wizard. Those are production systems.

Roy Brown has been on the pages of the Newswire from the start of this century and onward. He's still running four production HP 3000s for a major U.K. company. Lately he's been trying to see if those servers might let him loose. The last few IT managers who tried to have the 3000s snuffed out found the systems still running on the day the managers left the company.

There are always good reasons to move along to something newer, different, or improved. Emulating a 3000 in software seems to deliver a lot of those, as well as options for backup that are novel. Ray Legault at Boeing passed along a tip to use PIGZ, a backup solution that makes sure the 3000s in the Charon emulation files have everything replicated.

Every time we need to shut down the Linux server, we shut down the HP 3000 first. Then we backup up all our disc drive files with PIGZ. We copy the compressed file to the other Linux server for safe keeping.

He shared this code that illustrates how he used PIGZ in Linux, the environment that cradles the Charon emulator.

PIGZ code

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:39 AM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2018

Planning to migrate has been the easy mile

Postman3000 owners have made plans for many years to leave the platform. The strategies do take a considerable while to evolve into tactics, though. The planning stage is easy to get stopped at, like an elevator jammed up at a floor. 

For example, take a company like the one in the deep South, using HP 3000s and manufacturing copper wire and cable. The manager would rather not name his employer and so we won't, but we can say the 3000 is dug in and has been difficult to mothball.

In fact, the only immediate replacement at this corporation might be its storage devices. The datacenter employs a VA7410 array.

We do have to replace a drive now and then, but there hasn't been any problem getting used replacements, and we haven't suffered any data loss. I think if we were planning to stay with MPE for the long term, we might look for something newer, but we are planning to migrate. In fact we planned to be on a new platform by now, but you know how that goes.

More companies than you'd imagine know how that goes in 2018. We're nearing the end of the second decade of what we once called the Transition Era. The final mile of that journey can be the slowest, like the path of the postman who must carry the mail on foot through urban neighborthoods.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:25 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2018

Durable 3000s seek, sometimes find, homes

Computer Museum 918Earlier this month a notice on the 3000-L mailing list tried to match an old HP 3000 with a new home. Joshua Johnson said he's got a Series 918 LX (the absolute bottom on the 9x8 lineup) that's got to go. It's a good bet this server hasn't been running any part of a business since HP left the support arena.

I have a 918LX that's been sitting around for a while that I'd like to get rid of. It worked when it was last shutdown. I think I still have a bunch of ram for it in a box somewhere. Anyone interested?

Then there was a question about where his HP hardware was sitting. "I’m in Providence RI. It sat in a shed for 10 years. When it was shut down it worked fine. I think I have several memory sticks for it as well."

This was a give-away 3000, the kind that goes for sale on the used market at about $700 in the best case. The Series 918 LX weighs enough that the shipping is going to be the biggest part of that free transaction. The 918 was at the bottom of HP's relative performance ratings, 10.0 on a scale where a Series 37 was a 1.0.

Last week we talked with a 3000 developer who witnessed the shutdown of seven N-Class systems. "They were going to throw them away," he said, because the health care provider had followed its app and moved to Unix. He got the rights to an N-Class and talked the broker who took the rest of the orphaned N-Class systems to trade one for an A-Class server. "The power situation was just too great for me to use the N-Class," he said— referring to the hardware's electrical needs, not the horsepower.

Old 3000s seeking new homes is still news in your community. Sometimes the adoptions feel like they're foster homes, though.

HP's 3000 iron was built to extraordinary standards, or there wouldn't be a Series 918 available to give away in Rhode Island. That's a server built while Clinton was President. In an odd piece of comparison, the N-Class system is 60 times more powerful than the Series 918, but at the end of the line, it had just as much value.

The N-Class and A-Class boxes are newer, of course, and that decision to send them to the scrap-heap might have been wasteful. The durable value of these computers isn't in the hardware whose components age every day. It's in MPE and the applications. 

Holding on to old hardware could be one way to prove that MPE/iX has an evaporating value. Being able to move the apps and the OS onto a newer box puts the brakes on that decline. To be fair, lots of elderly 3000s are able to reboot after a long winter's nap. Our developer who got that A-Class also has a Series 967 in his garage. It was powered down for more than two years before it switched on. 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:04 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2018

Hear tips for MPE iron to protect and serve

Podcast: Ending the Reruns

Podcasts have become more popular than ever. We started recording and sharing stories about 3000s back in 2005 when blogs were just taking off along with the audio content that people think of as free. It's free to listeners, and the good companies sponsoring the NewsWire take care of the expenses. Thanks to the backing of firms like Pivital Solutions (support service) and Stromasys (emulation) and Hillary Software (file sharing software that's 3000-savvy) we can bring audio about MPE to you.

DDStapeI call it MPE Audio because it's told by voices, my own and those from experts in the field. Some of them gathered at this summer's 3000 Reunion. A chalk talk out there in the Bay Area, across the street from the former HP campus, examined what homesteaders need to succeed. In this case success is overcoming the age of HP's 3000 iron. And storage. And so on.

There's a new wrinkle in the watch-out category. Not that the old disks have started running more reliably. It's just that other media is a failure point too. DDS has gotten older, along with managers who know MPE. Companies are treasuring the latter. The former is turning into trash.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 PM in Homesteading, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 06, 2018

E-commerce keeps making sales on 3000s

E-commerceDespite having both hardware and application vendor deserting them, companies who chose the Ecometry e-commerce software to run on HP 3000s keep making sales. Fluent Edge Technologies has served Ecometry sites for more than 20 years. Cliff Looyenga checked in on the LinkedIn HP 3000 group to mention that five or six companies in his client list continue to use MPE/iX for Ecometry.

"Ecometry is currently owned by JDA," Looyenga said. "They no longer provide any support for the HP 3000 version. They don't even advertise the current Windows version. In my opinion, Ecometry is dying a slow death."

"On the positive side," he added, "they are still enhancing and collecting support revenues for the Windows version. For users of the HP 3000 version, support comes from ourselves, Snapshot Design, Hire Experience, and Odin Technologies."

Here's the best part of the report. "We have continued to see support demand decrease," he said, "as more clients are moving off Ecometry altogether and going with other vendor solutions."

The fate of the 3000-using companies has had many seasons since 2001. Losing the vendor's support for hardware, for MPE/iX, for applications: these are events that trigger opportunities for replacement expertise. There are four suppliers of Ecometry support today, more than 16 years after HP declared the 3000's ecosystem doomed.

"I still have clients running on the HP 3000," Looyenga said. "One of them is running the Charon emulation software. None are planning to get off anytime soon."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:10 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2017

2028 and beyond: This FAQ answers all

FaqAbout a month ago, HP 3000 managers, vendors and developers shared techniques on getting their MPE/iX systems a longer lease on life.That upcoming CALENDAR issue hits 3000s at midnight, Dec. 31 2027. The barrier of 2028 and beyond has been cleared. Now it's time to clear up some questions about the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding the lifespan of the 3000's OS.

Will my HP 3000 stop working on January 1, 2028?

The hardware itself may be worn out by then, but nothing in the operating system will keep PA-RISC systems — emulated or actual — from booting, running programs, or passing data and IO through networks and peripherals. MPE/iX will do everything it can do today, except report dates correctly to and from software and applications which rely on an older CALENDAR intrinsic.

Is this a problem with the hardware from HP? Will an emulated 3000 prevent this?

The CALENDAR problem is in the OS, not the hardware. The old intrinsic was only built to record accurate dates until then. The resolution will involve work within applications' use of intrinsics, among other software revisions. Replacing CALENDAR with HPCALENDAR is part of the solution. Stromasys Charon sites will have to deal with it too, because they are running faithful virtualizations of the PA-RISC hardware — and use MPE/iX. 

If I don't change anything on my 3000, will the operating system know what day it is on January 1, 2028?

SHOWTIME will report that it's the year 1900. SHOWCLOCK will report the correct year.

Will all file information remain correct?

All file creation and file modification timestamps will be accurate, and files which are created will have correct timestamps, too.

So what kinds of software will be reporting the wrong date starting in 2028?

Software which still relies on CALENDAR for its date-keeping may show incorrect dates. This software can be applications as well as utilities and reporting software. Changes to source code for the programs which use CALENDAR, replacing it with HPCALENDAR, take care of the issues. If software uses internal logic for data calculations, it will continue to work correctly in 2028, so long as it doesn't rely on CALENDAR. The problem actually occurs if FMTCALENDAR is called to format the date. Unless that call is trapped, FMTCALENDAR will always produce a date between 1900 and 2027.

What about the compilers for the OS?

COBOL 85 uses the newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic. The older COBOL 66 uses the older CALENDAR. 

What can I do if I don't have source code for my applications?

Vendors who continue to serve the MPE/iX market can change the call to CALENDAR into a call to HPCALENDAR. A support provider can assist a customer, with the cooperation of the source code holders, in using the newer HPCALENDAR. Alternatively, the call to FMTCALENDAR can be trapped at run time, and the replacement routine can re-map early 1900 years into years starting with 2028.

How about MPE/iX itself? Will that intrinsic ever be repaired? How do I get SHOWTIME running correctly?

Some portions of the OS will continue to rely on the old CALENDAR, which only has 16-bit range to use. Source code license holders—the eight companies licensed by HP to use MPE/iX source—may have an advantage in bringing some OS internals into line with site-specific patches. They are site-specific because HP doesn't permit a revised version of the OS to be recompiled and distributed. SHOWTIME is likely to remain incorrect, since it uses CALENDAR and FMTCALENDAR.

What about date-dependent work like job streaming?

Applications that can be revised to use HPCALENDAR will stream jobs on correct dates. Native job-streaming service in MPE/iX will work if a command uses a request such as "three days from now." In general, the more closely a piece of MPE/iX software relies on CALENDAR, the less likely it will be to deliver accurate dates starting in 2028.

My third-party software might keep track of the date to keep running. What can I do?

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in this case. Some support companies are considering a certification service for Year 2028 operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 11, 2017

Still migrating after all these years

Project-scheduleI began writing about migrations only in 2001, after HP decided that moving was the way forward for 3000 folk. I already had 17 years on the 3000 beat by then. Much has happened over these last 16 years, and yet, less than you would think in some places. Companies began in earnest to move away from MPE/iX, sometimes for very good reasons. For example, if your application vendor starts sending you end-of-life warnings for your software, it's a good time to plan for a trip away from an HP 3000.

At other kinds of companies, migration seemed to be the safest way forward. Starting sooner than later was part of the 3000 ethos, too. That ethos might be one reason why some 3000 customers were working in their second decade of departing the 3000. The apps that were not broken didn't have to replaced right away, did they?

Eleven years have gone by since I produced this 8-minute podcast about one of those customers. From the very first year of the Transition Era we knew about the Speedware shop at Virginia International Terminals. VIT was a success story HP shared with its uncertain customers. VIT made the move to HP's Unix and all was well.

However, more than four years later (in 2006) not everything was moved off the 3000. Earlier this year we heard from someone at VIT about replacing their final MPE/iX app. This year. An interesting thing happened on the way to the exit. First they found the job bigger than they could handle themselves. To their credit, their IT management saw a bigger picture. Why just have a functional migrated application? You want it as efficient as it can be.

Back in 2006 VIT thought that way. It tested its migration about 18 months later than expected. Not everything made its way through that assisted migration process. VIT must have found a way to let migration pay its way, permitting a bit of functional MPE/iX to be left alone. Our 2006 podcast talks about the Why of a migration, as well as what happens when that Why changes.

Start to finish from 2002-2017 might be the longest term of any migration. A good 3000 manager doesn't care how long it takes. They care if it's done right—and on the schedule that best suits their organization. The podcast made a point back then which continues to be true. It's your calendar that matters.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:15 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Podcasts, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2017

Adminstrator to Architect, Aided by 3000s

Architect-bookLinkedIn reminded me today that Randy Stanfield has moved up in the IT management at Vertiv Corporation. The company in Carrolton, Texas is a Fortune 500 firm with 8,700 employees, $8.3 billion in revenue, a leading provider of packaging, print and paper, publishing, facility solutions and logistics. Stanfield has been there for 20 years, working with HP 3000s and going beyond the MPE/iX engines to broader fields.

Prior to that you can read in his LinkedIn profile other 3000 shop experience. Amfac, Wilson Business Products, places where MPE/iX and its resources made companies much smaller than Veritiv run smooth.

Managing HP 3000s can build a special kind of bedrock for a career. When you read the rest of the company description for Veritiv it sounds like the 3000's missions for the last 20 years. "To serve customers across virtually every industry – including more than half of our fellow Fortune 500 companies. We don’t just encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, we embody it."

The company also has an eye out for the future. Back in May, Stanfield said the company needed a plan that reached out farther than 2027. It's the kind of mission an architect takes on, a move away from the four high-end N-Class servers working at Veritiv. Ensuring value for money gets amplified while replacing HP's 3000 hardware for a long run. "We don't need to ignore the issue of hardware," Stanfield said while investigating migration partners. "We need to put together a better long term plan than staying on the HP 3000 for more than 10 years."

The decade to come might be the final one for the MPE/iX, although it's pretty certain some companies will keep 3000s in service beyond 2028. The issue isn't a CALENDAR workaround; we're pretty sure the market will see that emerge in 2027, or maybe sooner. The requirement that can move any company, no matter how devoted they're been to 3000-style computing, is application savvy. Whoever will be supporting MANMAN in 2028 is likely to have that market to themselves. By some accounts, MANMAN only has a handful of working experts left in the market.

Architects like Stanfield, who come from 3000 bedrock, will understand that moving away from such MPE/iX apps takes patience and detailed study. They'll benefit from application expertise while they migrate, too. Stanfield had a list of questions for the 3000 community architects who've already migrated, to help in re-architecting Veritiv's IT.

In May he had specific questions (and would appreciate an email in reply)

1. What system did you convert to (Unix/Windows/Linux)?
2. What system did you convert from(HP3000 A-class/N-class?) and how busy was the system? Number of users?
3. Are you still running that system?
4. Did you convert to using the Eloquence DB?
5. Performance after conversion: good or bad?
6. Any Do's or Don't's?
7. Primary Code base (Speedware/Powerhouse/Cobol/Fortran)? Amount of code converted?

The issue might look like needing to be off the system before MPE/iX stops date-keeping in 2028. But as another savvy veteran of application services said to me this week, "The experts will fix the date issue, but it will be too late—because the app always drives the ecosystem, not the hardware or OS."

One takeaway from that prediction is a homespun app suite stands a greater chance of remaining in service by 2028. The IT manager has long been told that applications can be peeled off into production like aces off a deck of cards. As much as software's commodity future has been promised, though, there's always been customization. Some IT pro must stay available to IT to tend to those modifications of commodity software. Those kind of mods are not the same kind of problem the MANMAN user faces, where source code mods will kick some systems offline on the day all of the MANMAN experts finally retire.

However, future-proofing IT goes beyond choosing a commodity solution. Most companies will want to be "shaping our systems and processes to support a successful and sustainable future," like Veritiv says in its mission statement. Systems and processes were at the heart of the 3000's initial business success. The experience is good bedrock to build a future upon.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:55 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 03, 2017

More than ever, old sticks trigger backups

Memory-cageRegular and frequent backups still hold their spot as keystones in a stable HP 3000 datacenter. The backups are even more essential this year. 2017 is the 14th year and counting since any HP 3000 components have been manufactured. Excepting some third party disk solutions, the average age of Hewlett-Packard's MPE/iX servers has more than doubled since HP stopped building the boxes in 2003.

In 2003 a manager might be daring enough to run a shop with a server built in 1991, the first year the 9x7 servers were manufactured. Systems in the first wave of PA-RISC design were still in service, but a Series 950 was a rare box by the time HP stopped building them. That oldest 3000 server at the time was still only 15 years old. That made the average age of a 3000 about 8-10 years.

Add 14 years to that lifespan and it's easy to locate a 3000 and its components which are more than 16 years old. The Series 9x8 systems turn 25 this year. The numbers came up in a recent emergency repair discussion out in public. A Series 918 at Harte & Lyne ground to a halt with a bad memory component, and even a pair of replacement sticks were duds on this 23-year-old system. The 918-928 servers are still among the most frequently used servers in the community.

The manager at Harte & Lyne keeps this hardware high-wire act going because of Powerhouse licensing problems. The repairs of his 918 coincided with very recent backups, but it could have been up to 30 days behind. Loss of company data was well within reach at this logistics company. The backups prevented the calamity that's now started to hit spare parts, too.

Two failed memory sticks, plus two replacement failures, triggered the system halt. The problem was a defective card.

"I am doing a full backup just in case," said James Byrne, "but as it happens we did our monthly CSLT and SYSINFO jobs yesterday. Once the new backup is complete I will add two more sticks and see if they work, and repeat until we encounter the problem of getting the memory cage filled."

Byrne has access to independent support for his 918, but used the 3000-L to diagnose the problem at first. "One of the two replacement cards I initially used was also defective," he reported after he got the 3000 back online. "It took some time for our support people from Commerx and myself to finally realize what was going on, as we pulled cards and swapped locations trying to get a full bank of memory reinstalled."

Fortunately I still have about six two-card sets kept in a vault as spares, together with sundry other spare parts. No doubt there are other duds lurking therein but now I am alive to the possibility. Thanks for all the help.

And yes, the reason for all this dancing around to keep a 23 year-old piece of hardware running is Powerhouse and the intransigent present owners of the 'Intellectual Property Rights' thereto. To describe these people and their representatives as unethical grants them too much dignity for what they are. And what they are I shall leave unsaid.

These aging 3000 servers sometimes have been retired out of production duty, serving out their remaining days in archival mode. But even archives must be updated from time to time. Production data demands a more serious backup regimen, one getting more serious every year.

Solutions to avoid this risk run a wide gamut. Migration onto other environments reduces the age of replacement parts. A stout support contract for MPE/iX hardware ensures component replacement. Good backups are still crucial there. Beyond these remedies, there's one way to get newer hardware without migrating. PA-RISC virtualization software doesn't make backups an optional task. It can make them less likely to be needed, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 27, 2017

HP's storage devices trigger extra 3000 care

TractionWhere can an IT professional ask a question about bringing a 3000 peripheral back to life? The best place to ask is a support company, one that can even supply a replacement device if the aging 3000 iron has gone offlline. The next best place is the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. The free advice has covered warnings as well as solutions on how to rescue the process of recovery.

The 3000 console shows an ABORTIO detected on device 9. A backup stops at Wesleyan Assurance Society and Jill Turner asks what causes the abort. "The backup logs off. No one has typed a command to do that. What would cause that message to appear?"

Tracy Johnson manages 3000s at TE Connectivity. "Sometimes an error with the mechanism shows up as an abortio. It doesn't have to be a typed command. Hitting the eject button in the middle of an operation would do it.  I have forced the issue myself sometimes: 'Damn, wrong tape! Press eject.' It then shows up as abortio detected."

Hmmm, mechanism error. That amounts to a troubled piece of hardware. Al Nizzardini suggests that the troublesome tape drive get a thorough cleaning, "and have a spare on hand to do a replacement." Good advice, although a manager has to ensure the backup tapes written by one elderly HP drive can be read by another. It's not automatic.

Disk drives have 3000 managers on watch, too. Companies have options beyond device replacement here in 2017.

Lance Mortensen of Beechglen left a message for the 3000 newsgroup readers that summed up the prospects for HP-supplied storage.

The disk drives that  HP 3000s and HP 9000s use are in some cases more than 10 years past the manufacturer's designed lifetime. Most failures are detected during a full backup or at month-end processing, because that is the only time that most or all of the data on the disk is accessed.

He didn't mention quarter-end processing, which will start for a lot of companies this Friday evening. This week would be a good time to check your HP device support coverage.

Beechglen has a disk backup device that it offers for 3000s which includes cloud computing. "You are actually lucky if the drive simply dies," Mortensen said about the failures. "The two worst cases are when no errors are reported by the disk or system, but data is corrupted slowly over time (and now multiple backups are no good); and after a power outage, when multiple drives fail to spin up and two of them are mirrored pairs (think Mirror/iX, VA arrays, and Model 20s)."

Focused support companies that are all-3000 vendors like Pivital Solutions take the guesswork out of backstopping the backup strategies of servers that were built at the start of this century, or even earlier. Even with the adoption of cloud computing as an IT architecture, on-site servers are still a requirement for many enterprises. A hybrid of cloud and onsite is what Terry Floyd of The Support Group recommends.

When a manager cannot recover an MPE/iX server—when first the disk fails, and then the tape drive aborts—the next step could be replacing the entire 3000. Full system replacement won't bring in any 3000 iron built after 2003, though, just different units. The care strategy has different goals for virtualized HP 3000 systems. Managing change is the tradeoff between new-gen iron like the SSD-driven Intel server systems and replacing and cleaning HP's gear.

An MPE/iX system that's in set-and-forget mode can get away with relying on HP's devices. The extra care is something everyone will have to pay for, of course. Nobody's going to forget the day a failed server could not be restored.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2017

ODBC treasure might be in your system

Treasure ChestSolving HP 3000 challenges can sometimes be as simple as tracking the tools in your hand. Tim O'Neill, a 3000 manager never shy about asking for help, checked in on the 3000 mailing list needing help for his databases.

We would like to export all the data in a format that could be imported by Microsoft Access.  Data relationships would be redefined after import.  It would be nice to export, with relationships defined, that would run on Windows.

Minisoft's Doug Greenup peered over O'Neill's shoulder, as it were, sitting at his console. 

Actually you own our ODBC driver which could be used for the requirement you outline. You were on support until 2009, so you have a version that handles this.The website  support.minisoft.com has extensive documentation on our ODBC tool. You could also renew your support and get the most current ODBC version, along with access to our technical team to assist you.

The HP 3000 community is full of databases that need access to the world of Windows. Sometimes those 3000 servers have lightly-used tools to make the connections. As is customary for a budget-sensitive group, O'Neill's collegues on the mailing list had ideas on how to do that export without buying anything.

Lars Appel, helping out from a perspective of supporting the Eloquence database (an IMAGE workalike) said a migration tool from the Marxmeier labs might do the job.

If ODBC is not an option, you might also try the DBEXPORT program that is available for migrations to Eloquence. By default, it writes output to "comma separated" text files (unless you use binary mode), which will likely work for importing to MS Access. The link page includes a link to the download location, including source code (so customizations would be possible).

However, using ODBC is likely better for transferring structure info.

Appel's sum-up takes note of the advantages of buying tools and maintaining support for them. Paid solutions do more, do it faster, and include access to support pros to explain how the hidden treasure can solve problems. Minisoft is still selling its ODBC solution, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:22 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2017

German A-Class sells for $162 per CPU

HP-3000-A400-and-A500Yesterday afternoon the seller of the A-Class twin-processor model A500 closed his auction of the server. After seven days the bidding rose from an opening bid of $1.07 to $323.59, not including shipping. Some lucky bidder who's been using eBay for stocking up on computers, terminals and servers now owns a system that sold for $37,000 new: A greater than 99 percent discount.

One way to sum this up is to watch nearly all of the hardware value of an A-Class—a device that represented the ultimate line of HP's MPE/iX hardware design—evaporate over 15 years. However, the computer sells in today's US market for at least $1,300. That preserves almost 4 percent of original pricing.

However, another way to calculate this turn of events relies on return on investment. These servers are clearly in their 15th year of service. Dividing that original price by its incredible term of service gives you a cost of about $200 a month for hardware which will run a business and doesn't require replacement. The enduring benefit of MPE/iX was its astounding value. This discouraged hardware replacements, a problem HP could not solve.

Half-empty or half-full? HP's 3000 iron keeps dropping in cost. The components are aging, of course. Finding a handful of systems to part-out for spares could keep such a 15-year-old server running. Intel hardware, of much newer vintage, provides an unlimited lifespan if you're using the PA-RISC emulator from Stromasys.

eBay can be a resource for HP's MPE/iX hardware, but my, a manager must be cautious. A hardware resource that's a company rather than an individual seller—or better yet, a coordinated hardware-software support enterprise partnership—is more prudent. At $162 per processor, eBay might be worth a gamble. But getting money for a server returned may not be as simple as for a disappointing collection of sports cards: one of the other purchases the new owner of the German A-Class made last week.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:36 PM in Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 23, 2017

SD cards take a hand in 3000 storage

One of the most unpredictable hardware devices in HP's 3000 iron is its SCSI drives. Out in the user community one enterprising manager is trying to link the server to microSD cards. John Zoltak checked in with other users last week about the project.

SCSI2SDZoltak was simply trying to copy one 917LX disk to a new disk on the server's SCSI bus. A 4GB drive is standard on a 917, so just about any microSD card would match that storage. A bit of open source wizardry props up SCSI2SD, a combination of hardware and software. You can purchase an SCSI2SD card on eBay and in other Web outposts.

Zoltak didn't begin there, however. He was searching for an offline diagnostic tool to do the disk copying. "I want to copy the system volume sets, so using VOLUTIL is not an option. And at this point just how does anyone get the diagnostics passwords? My other choice is to attach the 3000 disks to a PC and copy there."

That other choice leads the way to SCSI2SD. Using PC-based disks, of course, is one of the serious advantages to using a Stromasys Charon emulator for 3000 work. The 9x7s are so old they don't have a Charon equivalent, but the strategy is the same. 

As for ODE, once you locate a diagnostics password (an exercise left to the 3000 customers who have a support provider) you must be prepared to wait on DISCCOPY. "There is a DISCCOPY in the ODE," Craig Lalley reports. "Hook up both drives and you should be able to copy the drive if it is copyable. I must warn you, it is slow, like all night all day sort of slow. But it is free."

Stan Sieler of Allegro took a hand in this quest to more reliable disc via cloning. 

My recollection of using ODE is that portions of it might not allow reading/writing to non-HP disk drives. I know that's true for some diagnostics, just can't remember which ones. If you use ODE, try to somehow check that it copied the entire disk. At some point, these HP diagnostics didn't handle large disks.I don't recall what "large" meant, but I recall bugging HP about it for some time until they released a (perhaps final?) version of the diagnostics that did support larger disks.

A few days later, Zoltak announced he was working on getting his 3000 to boot off an SD device. 

I'm attempting to install to a device called SCSI2SD V6 and run the 3000 off of an SD card. So far, a few glitches. I'm in discussion with the developer and working through issues. I'll let everyone know how it goes.

Sieler said he'd tried out SCSI2SD a while ago. "I found that it worked, but that it was much slower than it should have been. I worked with the developer, but with no real success."

Things have gotten better with the device, perhaps, according to Zoltak.

I'm using the V6 version which should be faster. It supports sync transfers up to 20MB/sec. I can't yet get MPE to install on it. It hangs when I try.

So far I've hit a few repeatable problems using an Adaptec 2940 simple setup on a PC and have been emailing [developer] Michael McMaster.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:22 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 16, 2017

Older hardware, current support, new prices

TapeMaster LTOHP's 3000 hardware is still being offered for sale. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise wants none of this 2017 action. Independent hardware brokers sell HP 3000s today, and by the looks of the pricing the transactions might be simply for parts. How could anyone operate a company while they rely on a $975 server?

The price is one data point on a wide spectrum of a sweeping array of servers, all offered on the 3000 mailing list this week. At the tip-top of the spectrum was a $3,175 system, first introduced early in the 1990s. At the very bottom was the faithful Series 918LX, priced at $675 including a DDS-3 tape drive. The newest computers came in at that $975 price.

The range of power ran from the 918 to the Series 989KS/650. It was a $290,000 system sold new in the late 1990s. The one on offer this week from the broker carried a price tag that was discounted $288,625.

Antiques? Some, perhaps, but not all. Series 918 and 928 servers from HP—both on the list—are running production systems today. Roy Brown, a consultant and developer in the UK and a member of the 3000 list, is running two Series 918s. One much newer server is holding archives at a migrated shop in Texas. While using the old, or very old HP iron one smart customer keeps support current for such boxes. Even when they're not on the critical path for computing.

HP's sales ended in the fall of 2001 for those 918s and 928s. In that year the servers were sold for $3,700 at Phoenix/3000, the used hardware outlet operated by the North American HP 3000 distributor. In 15 years' time those boxes have held on to about 20 percent of their price.

The hardware is only one part of the ecosystem that's gotten inexpensive. We've heard of simple support agreements that are just $140 a month. At Republic Title of Texas, Ray Shahan said he's got an N-Class system hosting archived data. Shahan's company has a current support contract for this archival 3000.

It's been over a decade since that 3000 went into archive mode, so long ago Shahan said he's not sure anymore what the actual model is for the HP server. Independent support is around now to keep track of such details.

The original sales prices for those older systems "might be too depressing to hear," according to Terry Simpkins at TE Connectivity. Simpkins is among those 3000 veterans who remember when something like a $311,000 Series 997-500 included MPE/iX license fees charged by the number of users. HP placed value in its databases for the 3000, too. Non-3000 servers were less costly, until you added in the software HP included with MPE/iX. 

Today's prices don't suffer under the valuation of included software. Transferrable 3000 licenses remain an audit-worthy strategy. Management rigor won't be stout for licensing software on a $675 backup server, though.

Moving onward to new prices will remind 3000 migrators of the old HP midrange pricing. For example, an LTO-5 tape duplicator—an device useful for anyone keeping archives of older enterprise data—costs $12,000 from TapeMaster today. That's an entry-level 1:1 unit that simply replaces older tape with new. Someday that duplicator will be discounted by 96 percent. It will be sold as scrap or for parts much sooner than a 3000. It won't be working in 2033, 15 years from now. The A-Class servers for sale this week for $1,200 are already 15 years old and are still working in shops like Republic Title.

It's not easy to say for certain it's depressing to see a $311,000 server go on the market for $3,175. The 9x7 line was rolled out before Bill Clinton took office. That a 9x7 is worth anything is a tribute to the stubborn economics of the 3000 line. As Clinton liked to say while winning office, it's the economy, stupid.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2016

University completes its course with regrets

ISU logoAfter decades of use in a wide array of business and educational functions, the Idaho State University of has shut down its HP 3000s. The institution worked with Powerhouse tools from the earliest days of the 3000, a period that included some years using MPE V.  Idaho State University turned off our HP 3000s. "We have the one N-Class server, plus two A-400s, for sale or for parts if there is interest." 

John MacLerran reported to the 3000 mailing list, "with fond memories", the accomplishments and lifespan of MPE/iX at the university based in Pocatello.

The HP 3000 had been in use at ISU since the early 1980s, running everything from Procurement and Payroll to Student Registration and Grading. When I started work at ISU as a programmer in 1984, we had two Series 68s (later upgraded to Series 70s). Over the years, we upgraded as budget allowed. We installed the current boxes in Summer of 2001. Our production box was an N4000 4-way 440 mHZ box, and our development box was an A400 110 mHZ box. In 2004 we added a VA7100 array to our N4000 box, and it was this configuration that we turned off in October.

We went live with Banner, an ERP for universities, in 2009— but some applications on the HP 3000s hung on much longer because there was no suitable replacement in the ERP system. 

Since we are a State of Idaho agency, there is a somewhat convoluted process for us to sell the boxes, but if there is any interest, you can contact our Customer Services manager Tony Lovgren at [email protected] for more information.

Idaho State worked, tested, and managed its migration over more than 11 years. Since the choice to migrate was replacing in-house Powerhouse with the Banner application, its exit from the 4GL was simplified. Batch processing was harder to replace.

A bank reconciliation functionality in Banner (by now, renamed Ellucian) splits up accounts payable and payroll, while the MPE/iX app unified both AP and payroll. "I am rewriting that in Oracle PL/SQL as an add-on for Ellucian," MacLerran said, "at the same time, adding enhancements to include unclaimed property processing, as mandated by state law.

These revisions following a strategy that lets the university rely on updates from Sungard, the vendor selling Ellucian. MacLerran said that whenever possible, his department wants to "not to modify Ellucian directly, but to do add-ons instead — and we were able to hold to that in all but a very few cases."

It's a significant choice for any migrating 3000 site that's moved to a replacement suite. "Having a no-modification policy saved us quite a bit of heartache," MacLerran said, "as Ellucian comes out with patches and updates quite regularly. Since we didn't modify the original code, we don't have to spend too much time making sure it's still in sync."

Ellucian has aspects that are common to wide-ranging replacement applications. There are organizational operations at the university that have been handled by the 3000 which the ERP's inventory module couldn't match, for example. Another bit of replacement software will step in for the existing MPE/iX app.

A more complete spec listing of the available 3000s:

  • N4000 - 4-way 440mHZ with 16 GB RAM, 3SCSI ports, PCI Fibre-Channel interface card.
  • A400 - 110mHZ -- Perhaps RAM of 512MB
  • A400 - 400mHZ -- not sure how much RAM (we got this from another state agency, but never turned it on) 

Due to State of Idaho regulations, the university cannot include disk drives -- by law they must wipe, and then shred them.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:17 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2016

Security in cloud IT expands to fit ERP

Raining-cloudsHP 3000 sites that make a migration bring a broad array of technology into their planning rooms. In the world of MPE/iX, the server and infrastructure was almost always on the premises of the company or in a subsidiary's offices. Once a company begins to migrate to commodity environments, this structure starts to evaporate. In a meeting about what to do next after something like MANMAN, clouds and the ground they float above get equal valuation.

Security is a challenge in the process of floating clouds for enterprise IT. As Terry Floyd from The Support Group is leading Disston Tools through its migration, he's seen that security is no sacrifice to the gods of change who live in the clouds.

Kenandy is making its way into the command center of Disston. "We are seven months away, on schedule, and on budget," Floyd said when he checked in last week. "There is a lot to do here. MANMAN is very robust, and Disston has a lot of customizations, as well as serious use of EDI."

By its nature EDI passes sensitive information across networks. Kenandy works by riding the Salesforce cloud and its networking. Disston won't have to settle for something less secure.

"We are just getting into setting up user security settings," Floyd said. "Kenandy is as robust as MANMAN is.  It can be tightened down as much as you want."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:16 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 09, 2016

First came MPE's migration—now, the apps

Bull-Elk-migratingBy mid-2011, the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) stopped using the 36 HP 3000s that had powered 34 campuses since 1982. Even at that time, though, after the largest transfer of educational apps off MPE, SBCTC knew the target HP-UX systems would see another migration. One migration began another. Migrating off MPE hosts was a prelude to another migration, four years after landing on HP's Unix.

Michael Scroggins, the CIO at SBCTC, checked in with us after we spotted him on next month's HPE Discover conference speaker list. He's talking about the role of a CIO in today's IT. Why Would You Want to be a CIO? promises insights.

The CIO is a high-risk position. There are many thoughts and much advice related to surviving as a CIO. You’ve got to get there first. This discussion will center on strategies and considerations that you can use to get there. Why would anyone want to be a CIO? It is the best job in the world… if you have what it takes.

SBCTC has been taking its data forward for more than 13 years, proposing and moving and re-moving its data since 2003. SQL Server and Windows NT was the first target announced, and by 2009 that HP-led initiative had been shuttered while HP repaid what it hadn't finished to the colleges. The Lift and Shift Project was next and took about 18 months. Then in 2014, the eight HP-UX Integrity servers at SBCTC were upgraded to Itanium 4 systems. The original MPE/iX apps were lifted onto Integrity servers after being virtualized.

"We used AMXW’s MPE virtualization environments," Scroggins said, "and consolidated multiple colleges onto isolated environments on the HP-UX instances of Itanium 2 blade servers on the C7000 chassis. The solution leveraged the state’s data center where all colleges are centrally hosted." Lift and Shift cut the colleges' server count from 36 down to eight, all in a consolidated state datacenter.

Another move, off the lift and shift apps, was always in the plans, however.

Some parts of the shifted solutions were supposed to have a 5-7-year lifespan before they moved again, to a managed services platform. Back in 2010 this was the novelty of the cloud. But the foundational move took the MPE apps onto HP-UX. Back then, we asked Bob Adams at SBCTC and heard that a hosted ERP setup without servers onsite was the ultimate goal.

"The bottom line is that this project was our last chance to get this thing done right,” he said. “We weren't going to change technologies. All we wanted to do was extend what we have.” Making the next change means going to Oracle's Peoplesoft applications. This will cut out the Marxmeier Eloquence databases that have subbed in for IMAGE. The migrated apps will be considered legacy systems — to be maintained for several years after the last colleges go live, in order to maintain an archive.

Scroggins says that ctcLink is

the largest higher education project of its kind in the U.S. The goal of the ctcLink Project is the implementation of Oracle/PeopleSoft ERP software applications including Campus Solutions, Finance, Human Capital Management, and Hyperion pillars at all 34 colleges.

"This affects every student, staffer, and faculty member in the college system," Scroggins said. "We went live with the first three colleges last August and are scheduled with the next six in October of this year. The balance of the colleges will go in two additional phases a year apart."

SBCTC moved a Student Management System, Financial Management System, Payroll and Personnel Management System, and Production Management System in that 2010 move. The migration was "with minimal technical changes in programming languages, operating systems, and database and no changes to user application functionality." At the time, Scroggins considered the HP 3000 to be "seven years past end of life. The project was intended to stabilize our applications" by moving away from the hardware that HP stopped building in 2003.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:20 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2016

CPR for a Non-Responsive Console

On my HP 3000, after a short power blip, the console is now non-responsive. I can connect to the system's GSP port and the session is connected, but nothing is displayed. Neither <ctrl> A or <ctrl> B works. I type away, but get no response. I can then connect via VT-MGR and take the console :console !hpldevin and I receive all the console messages.

So, the messages are being sent (since I see them on the VT connection), but neither the physical console or the GSP gets any console messages. What can I try?

Gilles Schipper says

I believe a START NORECOVERY reboot is in order here. Since <ctrl> A <ctrl> B do not work, you will need to power-recycle the machine to effect a reboot. Presumably you would want to do this after gracefully stopping all jobs and asking online users to log off, if possible.

Depending upon which patch level your level of MPE is on, the :SHUTDOWN RESTART MPE command may also work from a logged-on session with at least OP capability.

Mark Ranft adds

If you haven't rebooted, I've seen similar issues. From the VT console can you try to do 'abortio 20' until it says no I/O to abort. A WHILE loop may make this easier. I've had luck with this in the past. But since Ctrl-B doesn't work, you may be out of luck.

Robert Thwaites notes

These are the simplest things to try first

<ctrl>Q (x-on)

<return>

Among the commonest issues: forgetting to do an x-on after a <ctrl>S (x-off) to stop output, so you can look at the line you are interested in. One time I saw another issue where someone had pressed <space> on the console and hadn't pressed <return>.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:37 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2016

Like a Classic Mercedes, Those Old 3000s

Built to last.

That's what a veteran analyst called the HP 3000s at her company. It's a UK firm, The Wesleyan, and it's been running MPE and MPE/iX since at least 1990. Jill Turner says the oldest system is a Series 947. That would be the early part of the 1990s, to be sure.

MercedesThat 947 and four other HP 3000s including an N-Class, are going offline in 2017. "We are a financial services business, and the HP 3000s hold all the policies sold up to about 2010," she said. "These are serviced daily, weekly, monthly, yearly depending on the type of policy."

Turner called those 900 Series systems, including a 987 and 969, "old proper machines." They're the sort that never quit. They do eventually get out-performed by newer models, or can't run Oracle, or have experts with knowledge about 3000s retiring soon. The hardware does age, though, as it does for all owners. That's not why the 3000s are leaving The Wesleyan.

"The Wesleyan are currently migrating the data from the HP 3000s onto a new system," Turner said, "and we expect everything to be migrated by mid- to end of 2017. As technology moves forward the company is moving to other platforms, and I think the new systems are hosted on IBM Pureflex servers."

Turner admits to being biased in favor of the 3000s. This can happen after a couple of decades of success, when a migration choice is based on the age of the hardware instead of the utility of the software. You can't beat the cost of owning a 3000, she adds.

"The HP 3000s are probably the cheapest platform to run within the business," Turner said. I am very biased as I have only ever worked on the HP 3000s, but one example is we had a disc failure on the 969."

The system carried on as mirrored disc. Our support firm Newcorp couriered one out to me so I received it the next day (and they sent two spares). I changed the disc, no one knew but me. The new replacement system for the 3000s had a failure when the power went off. It took IBM two days to get the part, and it came from Holland.

"I have a 26-year-old Mercedes which I always compare to the old HP 3000s: built to last." The Wesleyan bought into the future of 3000 ownership, even when HP was counseling not to do that. The N-Class server was purchased in 2002, the first full year HP was preaching migration.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:12 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 06, 2016

Stromasys reports aim at speed, and help

InstrumentsThe fine art and craft of tuning an Intel-based server to mimic HP's 3000 hardware has evolved. The Charon HPA emulator has been in production shops for more than three years. In the beginning, the software's demands on hardware were outlined in a table of preferred servers. Or in calls to a product manager. The latter has always produced more robust performance than the former. A recent string of messages on the 3000-L showed why. They also showed that a 3000 jobset that ran three times faster, after "setting power management to dynamic."

Performance tips on the L about selecting and tuning for the best hardware have included the following advice

Set other settings for performance
System Isochronous Mode enabled
Hyper-thread off or 1
Turbo-boost enabled
c-states enabled
Intel Speed Step enabled

If this set of instructions doesn't make much sense to a prospective user, it illustrates why Charon HPA is a fully-guided product by now. Customers and prospects buy services from Stromasys to deploy this solution. There's no other way. Downloadable freeware copies left the marketplace last year.

Emulating a legacy hardware server to run enterprise-grade applications is not a hobbyist's mission. Stromasys product manager Doug Smith says the customers have been better served with engineering-driven integration insights. He's got success statistics to prove it.

The nuances of installing and integrating Charon for the success include networking deployment advice. Ray Legault, a systems manager at Boeing, shared these insights when another manager asked him about the impact of networks on Charon.

I did not perform any tests over the network. My actual servers are 1,800 miles away. In Linux, I make sure my ETH1 is set correctly.

ethtool -K eth1 rx off tx off sg off gso off gro off txvlan off rxvlan off

To avoid having to redo every time you reboot, just add this line to the bottom of the ethtool file:

post-up ethtool -K eth1 gso off gro off

So it looks clear that knowing Linux's ethtool will be an essential skill of integrating Charon, too. Expert services are now crucial for the product. That's why it's become a solution for the serious user, one trying to eliminate the need for 15-year-old HP hardware.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:30 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2016

Working to Set MPE's Future to Forever

AbacusWhen a 3000 manager asked about running Speedware on the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator, the question evolved quickly. In just a few hours, MPE experts were talking about how long the OS could keep running. The detour of the 2027 CALENDAR intrinsic came up. It turns out the community experts are already working on that.

Jeff Elmer of Dairylea Cooperative, whose success story with Charon was part of our 2014 reporting, told the readers of the 3000-L that he's pleased with the way the Stromasys product cut out HP's MPE/iX hardware. The words "run MPE forever" were part of his message.

We used HP's 3000 hardware for 30 years. We've been using the HPA3000 emulator in production since December 2013. Our users would have never known the difference if we had not told them.

We had a 969KS 100 and went to a 2-CPU A-Class on the emulator. Performance is essentially identical but all concerns about "ancient" hardware went away. (Our RAID array hard drives were older than our web developers). Charon is running on a 1U "off the shelf" Proliant server under the Red Hat Linux environment (if we didn't have a DLT8000 and a DDS tape drive attached to it, all that it would take up in the rack would be the 1U). We run our disaster recovery version of the emulator in another location under VMware on OmniCube hardware, although we have never used it for anything other than testing.

Forever"Based on our experiences we would recommend it to anybody," Elmer said. "You could run MPE forever with this setup and over time your performance would only improve as you put newer, faster hardware under it." Whoa, forever? It's the promise of virtualized servers that emulate antique hardware. But MPE/iX has that calendar problem that'll rear up at the end of 2027, right? Not so fast there, said one MPE expert.

When Denys Beauchemein said that forever really meant December 31, 2027, Robelle's Neil Armstrong begged to differ. "That doesn’t stop the system from running, and a lot of issues can be handled at the application level quite easily," he said.

There are people working on such things at the OS level. I’ve been reducing the dependency on CALENDAR in all our software as well. By reducing the number of calls to CALENDAR, this helps mitigate the impact, of course, and adding options to change the result of a call to CALENDAR directly after a call are being considered.

It is an interesting problem.

Beauchemein retorted with the viewpoint of the IT manager who needs to be away from MPE/iX, since it's old.

That is fantastic news. Now I need to find my abacus and see if I can get them to refurbish it along with my slide rules.

Has anyone here even booted a 3000 for December 31, 2027 and see what goes on at the virtual stroke of midnight? Unfortunately, I do not have one handy.

All that Armstrong could offer in reply about a Jan. 1, 2028 bootup was "Yes, it’s been done. Nothing catastrophic happens."

He is right, nothing catastrophic happens. But what does happen?

SETCLOCK allows a manager to revise such a future date and time, but only up to December 31, 2027. It won't accept a higher date; it reports "out of range" if you try. MPE/iX continues to run. After midnight SHOWTIME will give the wrong result, year 1900. But if your application doesn't care about a time stamp (which is unlikely in a business computer) this doesn't matter. SHOWTIME will show Jan. 1, 1900. If days of the week matter, by setting the system date to Y2K, the day of the week will align with the correct day for 2028.

One of the sharpest of the MPE minds, Vladimir Volokh -- who co-created MPEX -- has given us a deep dive on that set of CALENDAR problems. He reports he's done that 2027 boot 10 years ago. In our conversations, his opinion has been that someone in the community will find a way to reroute MPE/iX to a future in 2028 and beyond, relying on current dates.

Dates don't vex MPEX, Vladimir added when we talked about this a few years ago. MPEX can do operations with dates—because unlike COBOL, or even the first language of MPE, SPL, MPEX has a DATE datatype. "If you have MPEX," he said, and here we could hear a wink, "and who doesn’t—DATETOCALENDAR is a function in MPEX."

Last week's exchange on 3000-L shows there's already work underway on getting beyond 2028. The thing about an abacus is that it does still work. Ours hasn't needed to be refurbished since we bought it in 1989. Unlike an abacus, MPE/iX has a purpose for being an everyday tool when the software has close ties to specialized business logic. It has a better reason to keep working forever—however you define that timeframe.

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

March 30, 2016

Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch

Wheaties 3000This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.

Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.

"I was the system admin for all the HP 3000s at General Mills," Ranft said. "At one time they had 30 systems.They were used for plant, logistics, warehouse management and distribution applications. We had a proprietary network called hyper channel that allowed fast communications between IBM mainframe, Burroughs (Unisys), DEC and the HP 3000 systems."

It was an era where the 3000 community dreamed of earning attention from Hewlett-Packard, as well as enterprises which were considering Unix. The 90s were the period when HP-UX vs. MPE was in full flame inside HP as well as among customers. In 1993 Hewlett-Packard ran an ad in Computerworld and InformationWeek touting the use of the 3000 at General Mills. One of the best pieces of HP advertising about its longest-tenured business system, the ad captured the flavor of the cereal giant.

It also helped us on the way to another anniversary being celebrated this month. Ranft dropped us a congratulations, along with other 3000 lovers, on the 21st anniversary of the first stirrings of the NewsWire. "I am so happy that you have done this for us for all these years," he wrote us. Growing notice of the large customers of the 3000 pushed Abby and I to start a business plan, project revenues, and research readership and sponsors during March, 1995.

General Mills was glad to point the way to lifting the 3000 into a higher rank than Unix. In the period where The Unix Hater's Handbook was making the rounds, IT Manager Mike Meinz booted out HP-UX from General Mills' datacenters after a brief fling. In language of the era, Computerworld said that General Mills "tried Unix, but it did not inhale."

"There is a panacea of thought that you have to have Unix," Meinz said in the article. "You don't have to have Unix."

Cheerio ComputerworldGeneral Mills went so far as to pull an HP 9000 out of the IT lineup and move its warehousing application over to its HP 3000s. The company was just into the process of converting those Classic 3000s to PA-RISC models. The vendor was taking steps to position the 3000 as a less-proprietary choice. "Not only is the HP 3000 open," Meinz said in the ad, "but it's an excellent, easy-to-use transaction-processing system for business-critical operations."

The headline that provided too-rare coverage of the 3000 in Computerworld enjoyed a joke at the expense of Unix. "Cheerio to Unix, cereal giant says," noting that the 9000 was chosen at first because it was the only platform that could host a preferred warehouse system. General Mills bought the source code for the application and did the porting. "What followed became a testimonial to MPE's portability," the article said. Meinz said he had anticipated the porting project would take six months, but it only took two. And much of that time was spent developing enhancements rather than actually porting it."

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

March 28, 2016

For any fate, applications need budgets

Fate-destinyAt Idaho State University, the HP 3000 is moving into its final months of production use. It's been more than eight years to bring all of the MPE-based applications' duties into a new hosting environment. Sun was the early winner in this migration, but after taking the early round of replacement apps onto Solaris, the university is settling on Linux. This was a migration that didn't give Hewlett-Packard any place as a host. 

Even in the realm of replacement software's big bounty, some apps moved across more slowly. Payroll, financials: these things moved in a straight line to Ellucian's ERP software for universities. But telecomm, inventory, motorpool — the 3000 ran all of this — had to be moved separately.

Along the way, the prospect of keeping those extra applications alive included the option of virtualizing the 3000 onto a Stromasys server. The timing didn't work for the university because it was so close to decommissioning its last 3000 apps, according to Senior IT Analyst John MacLerran.

We were hoping to use the emulator for a year or two while we finished migrating our remaining applications off the 3000. However, it was decided that the effort required to obtain software licenses from all of the vendors would be better spent accelerating our migration off the platform.

Whether an application remains on MPE servers, or makes its way to Linux as a replacement or a rewrite, applications require budget. The word "effort" means the expense in man-hours and dollars. Staying has a cost. Analyzing the timing can help a 3000 owner decide when its budget should be turned to departure dollars. It's only possible when the Hewlett-Packard hardware remains sound and healthy.

"It's not like we saw anything that would keep Charon from working for us," MacLerran said, "but it didn't save us any work in our migration."

The cost/benefit ratio didn't work for us -- we wouldn't have been on the Charon platform long enough to recoup our investment in the emulator. It made more sense for us to pay an additional year of maintenance on the original hardware, since we would've had to do that anyway during the migration to Charon. Instead, we put additional resources into getting the applications migrated.

The University began its look at the Charon solution in 2014, but its thorough evaluation got interrupted when MacLerran was tapped to help a languishing internal project get back on schedule. By 2015, the final evaluation decision was made, based on the finish date of migrating its final MPE applications.

We are in the final stages of shutting our HP 3000s down. Everything we used to use them for has been migrated elsewhere -- much of it to Ellucian, and some of it to other third-party vendors (i.e., where Ellucian doesn't have an equivalent function). The only remaining activity on the HP 3000 is data archival for records-retention purposes.

To satisfy that, we're extracting our data and putting it in Oracle tables. That way, we can query for the information that may still be needed for audit, but not for transactional purposes. 

MacLerran said the university expects to pull the plug on its HP 3000s by the end of June, 2016.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:55 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2016

Brain drain reduces migration options

Retirement exitAt a large Eastern Seabord organization in the US, the exit of MPE-skilled staff has cut away the migration choices for its HP 3000 operations. The server ran the organization's management of equipment parts. Some of the parts are being tracked back into the 1980s, so unique are those components.

It's like taking the durability of an HP 3000 and applying its model to vehicles, for example. Old F-150 pickup trucks, or the most beloved Jeeps, need parts that might've been designed decades ago. Get a large enough fleet and you need an extensive and fast database. 

IMAGE/SQL drove all of the enterprise business operations until 2002, when other solutions started to rise up at this enterprise. The HP 3000 9x9s there stepped back into a support role, running the parts application. When HP announced the 3000 was leaving its product list, the organization started to plan for a database migration.

"I still had a licensed HP-UX server (HP9000/I70) with paid software support at that time," said the IT manager, who didn't want us to use his name. "The plan was to purchase Eloquence for HP-UX, move IMAGE data to Eloquence, and rewrite our data entry and retrieval programs from their original Pascal to something on HP-UX, which might have been Pascal (if available) or C."

The migration to Eloquence, with what the manager called "universal homing capabilities," would be moved to Linux, which might have required another program rewrite. It could have been as simple as going from C on HP-UX to C## on Linux. Then expertise started leaving the organization.

Then "it became impossible to buy Eloquence," the manager said. "There was almost no one left working here who knew what IMAGE and the HP 3000 are. No one knew what Eloquence was, and no one wanted to know."

This enterprise shop already had MS SQL with paid support on Windows, "so I was led to hire a consultant to migrate the data to SQL and rewrite the apps in PHP.  It sounded like a quick way to a good end."

The Windows momentum had carried the organization away from HP-UX, eliminating Eloquence in the process.

With money being dumped into Microsoft as the solution for all, no one would want to hear a request to buy another database. We bought a new-at-the-time HP-UX server (RX 2660) for this project, but could not go ahead without the Eloquence piece and someone to convert the apps. So the server languished, and eventually was boxed up.

Now the plan is to migrate only the 3000's data at that enterprise. "We would rather stay on MPE and keep on developing," the manager said. "What I really wanted to do was to migrate the application from IMAGE to Eloquence, which would have set the stage for future migration to a new OS if necessary."

Migrations can be delayed for many reasons. But with the market's HP 3000 expertise in flux, keeping a migration moving seems to be one way to help ensure the widest range of choices to preserve app code. If application expertise leaves a company, all that's left is to move data. There are good solutions for that in the MPE world. MB Foster talks about some today at 2 PM EDT.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:33 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2016

21 days of radio silence on the 3000-L

Right_WirelessTelegraphThe slowing current of 3000 communication showed a fresh signal by the end of this month. As we write it's been 21 days since a message of any kind on the 3000-L MPE newsgroup. The resource that carried 45 messages during last February has 10 for the current month. All of this month's traffic was wrapped around finding resources: Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies and Vesoft support. Both were located.

However, the three weeks without a new message is new territory for the community's log of technical help and outreach by cohorts. Among those who were posting during 2015, several told us they're on the mailing list-newsgroup out of habit — rather than needing details for their datacenter's 3000s.

"I’m still on the list out of inertia, nostalgia and mild interest," said Dave Heasman, a UK IT manager. "My employer got rid of their 3000s and me in 2008. Bought a series of packages to replace a big bespoke brokerage/investment system."

Robert Mills said he "remained a member of the list, mainly as a lurker, to keep appraised of what was happening in the 3000 community. Except for three requests in September 2012, December 2014, and February 2015, I've only posted to the list when I felt that the 3000 knowledge I had would help somebody solve a problem." Mills said he retired when his company went insolvent in 2009, but he's kept his hand in IT.

"I have been involved with the GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) Project on SourceForge since October 2014, and decided to write a macro preprocessor that emulated the functionality available on the 3000," he said. "The preprocessor, CobolMac, is now in its 5th version (B.04) and has received good reviews by its users."

Others who contacted us said they haven't worked on the 3000 since the days that HP sold support for MPE/iX. "I have been a BizTalk developer full time since 2008," said Kent Wallace. "I needed to work, and this was the direction the world was going." The 3000-L still has more than 500 subscribers on its mailing list rolls, but much of the messaging comes from consultants and vendor experts, supplying answers to questions and tips. A total of 45 messages have passed through the list since the start of 2016. The IT pros like Wallace have taken the path to other platforms, first to HP-UX, then to Windows.

"I left my previous employer in Boise and I moved to a Microsoft shop, whose mainframe was HP-UX," Wallace said. "However, in 2015 we migrated off HP-UX and onto SQL Server on Microsoft Server 2008. We do health insurance and the purchased software, Trizzeto, was moved to MS SQL servers."

Another registered user keeps up with the community, but he can imagine a future where he'd be back on the MPE/iX front lines. "We're totally out of the 3000 business," said Ted Johnson of Wake Forest University, adding a sad-face emoji. "But I love seeing the 3000-L posts and keeping up. Who knows — maybe they'll get rid of me one of these days, and I'll end up back on a 3000."

The 3000-L, hosted at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where the late Jeff Kell launched it the early 1990s, holds more than two decades of traffic. 10 years ago the list was big enough to measure a signal-to noise-ratio, but by now it's almost entirely signal. When John Burke was a monthly columnist for the NewsWire who summarized its content in net.digest, he rounded up the following help in just one month's communications. For a 3000 owner managing a homesteading shop, the 3000-L's tips still carry some value.

Quick Cuts

• Do you want to know when a particular account or group was created? LISTACCT and LISTGROUP are no help. But “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME,3” for the account or “listfile /ACCOUNTNAME /GROUPNAME,3” for the group tell all. And then some.

• The number of sectors reported by the REPORT command for a group or groups is sometimes inaccurate, sometimes very inaccurate. Running the program FSCHECK.MPEXL.TELESUP and issuing the SYNCACCOUNTING command will fix this problem.

• In case you were wondering, despite many requests for the enhancement, TurboStore will NOT append store sets to tape. Well, it might if you use the proper incantations, but it is unsupported and highly dangerous because under certain circumstances you could overwrite a previous backup without knowing.

• Speaking of things you cannot do that you might like to do, the ALLOW command is not persistent across sign-ons unless you use the extremely dangerous “ALLOW @[email protected]; commands” version. This is another example of an enhancement that has been requested for years, but now will never happen. Fortunately, there are a number of options, for sale and free (MPEX, CSL, etc.).

• CI integer variables are signed 32-bit entities. So be careful if you are doing some wild arithmetic in your CI scripts.

• Here is a little trick when using Apache’s indexing (for example to keep track of documentation) to index file displays. You can override the default ascending sort by name by appending “?N=D” to the url. Instructions on changing Apache’s default behavior are available on the Web.

• If you are trying to program VPlus applications and are interested in working examples programmed in your favorite language, look in the group HP32209.HPPL89 (which should be on every FOS tape). This group contains source code for the ENTRY program in a variety of languages including COBOL, Fortran, Basic and Pascal.

• To see the firmware (aka PDC) Revision of a system (CPU): Run cstm, and at the cstm > prompt, type ‘map’ and note the Dev Num of a CPU and then type ‘sel dev DEV_NUM’ (e.g., ‘sel dev 41’) and then type ‘info’ and then type ‘il’ and look at the output for the ‘PDC Firmware Revision’. Easy, huh? Thanks to Guy Paul of HP for this tip.

• SPFXFER will allow you to write to disk (undocumented “feature/bug”). But don’t do it, because SPFXFER cannot read the disk file it creates! Doing this could lead to a big oops.

• While it would certainly be a nice to have, MPE/iX CI scripts have no provision for inline comments. Sorry, don’t even bother trying.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:01 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 24, 2016

Bringing a First 3000 Love Back to Life

Antiques RoadshowStories of HP 3000 longevity are legend. Less than 10 years ago, Paul Edwards could report on a Dallas-area customer who was running a Series 70 system in production. Paul was circumspect about who the lucky company was — lucky because they were still leveraging a system HP stopped selling in the late 1980s.

Area-code-716-new-york-mapWe heard from a longtime 3000 lover in Buffalo recently who wants to turn back the calendar on his Series 42 system. By his system, we mean that literally: Matthew Bellittiere took personal possession of the same system which he learned MPE upon in the early 1980s. The 42 was a server that considered a DDS tape drive an upgrade. Reel to reel was the standard backup peripheral for any computer HP first sold during the early half of the 1980s. HP gave the Series 42 its debut in 1983.

Series 42Bellittiere waited awhile to rekindle his old flame. About 20 years ago, he took the Series 42 into his home, but only this month is he working on getting it up to speed. A system that is 30-plus years old, that hasn't been started in 10 years: some might think this is scrap, or worse. But listening to his request, we hear a man who's finding a long ago sweetheart, rescued from the mists of time.

This HP Series 42 is the first HP mini mainframe that I started on around 30+ years ago. I arranged many updates over its active life. Some of the updates include increasing the memory by exchanging the 1/2 meg cards with 1-meg boards. I upgraded to the HP670H disc drives, and also to the DDS tape drive. In 1996 the company upgraded to a Series 947, and HP did not want the 42 back. It was going to scrap, so I requested it and it was given to me. I have had it ever since with plans to get it up and running.

I had to ask: Is the Series 42 project a hobby, or a work system? "Yes," Bellittiere admitted, "it is more of a project for me." But he needs the help of MPE V experts in our community to bring his old flame back to life.

Bellittiere understands there are special procedures required for a server whose discs are its newest parts (circa 1990, so 25 years old already). "My first question: does it need any special treatment before powering up?" he asks. "I think any internal memory will have been lost long ago. It has been at least 8 to 10 years since being powered up."

The components that die soonest in a 3000 are usually the power supply and the internal battery, although the disks are often not far behind. "I am not sure of the power up routine — can you help with some ideas?" I said we knew some 3000 experts with MPE V, CISC-generation hardware savvy. He replied with some hopeful praise aimed at his community.

"I am glad that you are still out there. I would not know who else could help me."

The Series 42 was a noble steed, one of the genuine workhorses of the 3000 line. HP used it like a team of draft horses in its labs. I took a tour of the company's disk drive manufacturing plant in the late 1980s — in the days when HP still built some of the world's most dependable drives in the industry, in Boise, Idaho. A wall stacked with Series 42s was doing burn-in testing for the 7973 drives that were already a mainstay in 3000 shops. At five-plus years already, the Series 42s looked like tiny tugboats, computing craft like ships whose decks was peeling but whose hulls were still buoyant.

I hope there's an MPE lover out there who's got advice for Bellittiere. The wisecracks are easy enough about boat anchors or semiautomatic target practice. People said the same thing about F-150 pickup trucks for awhile, too. My son Nick bought his first F-150 right after cut its lines on the 3000, when that truck was 22 years old, an age Nick hadn't yet achieved himself. People live and work in our world who find old tech a delight. Send your help and advice to Matthew via email, or at 716-536-3298. Let him see a colon prompt from a server introduced before fax machines were common office tools.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2016

Linux box feeds Series 918 for daily needs

Data pipelineHP never designed a smaller PA-RISC 3000 than the Series 918. The server that was released in the middle 1990s helps untold 3000 sites keep MPE/iX in the production mix. While surveying the customer base to learn about the 2016 state of the server, James Byrne of Hart & Lyne reported that a 918 at the company processes data FTP'd from a Linux system. The reason for sticking with MPE/iX, Byrne said, is the state of today's toolset for Unix and Linux. We'll let him explain

By James B. Byrne

Our firm has been running its business applications on HP3000s since 1982/3.  First on a time-share service, and then on our own equipment. Our first in-house HP 3000 was a Series 37 ("Mighty Mouse") running MPE IV, I believe.  Anyway, that is what my little brown MPE software pocket guide tells me.

We subsequently transitioned to a Series 42 and MPE V, and then a 52, and then to a Series 925 and MPE/XL, which soon became MPE/iX. Then through a 935 to our present host, a Series 918LX running MPE/iX 7.5.

And in all that time we ran the same code with the same database. We still can produce reports of transactions going back to 1984.

Presently the HP 3000 runs the greater part of our online transactions and handles all of our billings and payables. Due to changes in our business model, our main business operational application is now provided by a service bureau. Twice each working day a separate process, written using the Ruby on Rails framework, scans the PostgreSQL database, extracts all unbilled items, and produces a transaction file that is then forwarded via FTP to the HP 3000. Once the transaction file is transferred, the same FTP process triggers a job on the HP 3000 to process that file into invoices.

Our intent is to move off of the HP 3000 and onto Linux, moving away from proprietary solutions to open source computing. This includes bringing our operational software back in-house and off of the service bureau. We are actively developing software in pursuit of this strategy. However, the progress toward a final departure from the HP 3000 has not been as rapid as we had hoped.

There are many reasons for this but the main one is the primitive nature of the tools in common use by the Unix-Linux community. These have improved greatly over the past decade, but they are still nowhere near the effectiveness of efficiency of software I used on the HP 3000 in the 1980s.

There are exceptions, of course.  Git as a version control manager is head and shoulders above anything I was exposed to on the HP 3000, or any other platform of my personal knowledge, whatever may have existed elsewhere. Likewise Perl, Bash and Ruby are far superior to MPE's native command scripting language. And the sheer variety of software tools available for Linux dwarfs by several orders of magnitude that which was ever provided for the HP 3000. Even if you could afford the 3000 tools.

But for online transaction processing and speed of development, not to mention stability and reliability, nothing in the *nix world that I have encountered even approaches the HP 3000. PostgreSQL is certainly a more then adequate replacement for IMAGE/SQL, but the open source rapid development tools are a different story.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:05 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2016

MPE site sizes up Linux distro for Charon

Linux KVMWhen we interviewed one HP 3000 manager who's homesteading, James Byrne had a question about the kind of Linux that's used as a platform for Charon on the 3000. Byrne's heart rests in the ongoing lifespan of MPE apps, a thing Charon can help make possible. There's a matter of spending additional money on a proprietary solution, though, no matter how stable it is.

There's another issue worth looking at in his organization, Hart & Lynne. The Canadian logistics company has Linux wired extensively into its datacenter. Having been burned with an HP pullout from MPE, the solutions that go forward there have to meet strict open source requirements to run in the datacenter there. Nobody wants to be caught in the vendor-controlled blind alley again.

Bynre's got a problem about about something called KVM, and how genuine open source Linux needs to adhere to that product. Byrne described KVM as a Linux-kernel-based virtualization system and is therefore Open Source software.

Doug Smith, the HP 3000 Director of Business Development at Stromasys, said KVM isn't a part of the Charon installation set. "KVM is part of the Linux kernel, the part that allows Linux within itself to create virtual machines—kind of like a hypervisor. This is not utilized by our software."

KVM users have strong feelings about hard-line open source licensing. Byrne's issue is that VMware's software—which isn't required for every Charon install—looks like it might be operating outside the General Public License that many open source solutions utilize.

Byrne says that "Charon-HPA runs on ESXi vmkernel, which VMWare claims is not derived from Linux." Then he explains why that's a problem for his adoption of Charon.

VMware is presently being sued by Linux developers for violations of the GPLv2 with respect to the Linux kernel. It is alleged that VMware is in fact using GPL code but are not providing the source for their derived vmkernel, as is required by the terms of the GPLv2.

VMWare is thus attempting to benefit from Open Source projects through misappropriation of public goods for private profit, and attempting to assert proprietary rights over the work of others. In short, they are not a company we wish to deal with, either directly or by proxy.

(Below, VMware's overview of the architecture of VMware's ESXi architecture.)

VMware ESXi architectureRegardless of what happens between VMware and those Linux developers, VMware doesn't have to be deployed as part of Charon HPA, according to a Stromasys product manager. VMware is a commonly used component, but it's not mandatory.

This alliance of Linux and MPE was considered beyond a dream back in the days when the HP lab for MPE was closing. A fully open sourced OS acting as a cradle for a legacy OS first created in the proprietary era? Cats and dogs living together. It says something nice about the flexibility of Linux, a trait that's a byproduct of its open source development community.

But the alliance also says something about MPE/iX and its continuing value. Stromasys believes as much, investing in R&D not even HP could get into its budget to give MPE/iX a way to boot up on Intel hardware. Extend the value of your apps with fresh hardware, the vendor says. To this day, even HP-UX won't jumpstart on Intel systems—unless they're Itanium servers. X86-Xeon won't work with HP's Unix.

That enduring value of MPE and the 3000's PA-RISC architecture is something Byrne sees clearly after decades of managing 3000s. "The real problem with the HP 3000 is that it just works," he said, "and so every other issue gets precedence above migration."

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

January 26, 2016

Migrating apps creates years of 3000 work

Calendar pagesA double-handful of HP 3000s, 10 in all, remain on duty a few more years at a North American manufacturer with multiple sites. The systems are a mix of 9x9 and N-Class systems, waiting on a project to complete that will replace the 3000 apps with comparable software on Windows.

This app replacement is an example of one of the three flavors of migration discussed tomorrow (Jan. 27) in an MB Foster webinar. The first of a four-part series, Application Migrations / 3R's of Migration, starts at 2 PM Eastern US time.

At the North American manufacturer, according to systems engineer Dan Barnes, the Fortune 1000 company uses Lawinger Consulting for HP 3000 application management.

Our client has four remaining production locations using individual HP 3000s, plus one EDI server and one development server.  All are awaiting conversion to a Wintel-based application alternative, which is still two-to-five years down the road for them. We have an additional 4 DR servers as backup to these systems.

There's nothing virtual about these systems. The servers are physical HP 3000s. "We will stay with these until completion of the application migration, then harvest," Barnes said.

Lawinger's support team does all the 3000 support remotely, unless specific activities require them to be onsite. The application "is being modified as a replacement to the shelf app," Barnes added.

Replacement plans for migration have some of the highest rates of success, even though the software must often be heavily modified to match existing business practices. Lift and shift proposals from the past decade, where tens to hundreds of thousands of lines of code were dropped onto a new platform, are being trimmed back.

Foster's webinars often include advice on the best practices of choosing replacement software. A company making a transition to a replacement app needs to understand what data will be needed, at what detail level, and in what timeframe. The best answers to those questions might come from outside of the IT group. In fact, Foster says they often do. A solid team of transition stakeholders always includes an important seat for a member from the business group.

Replacement of a 15- or 20-year MPE/iX app suite also might not be a favored choice in the IT group. That group includes the experts who know the programs best. Nothing seems like it will be a clean, quick fit for what's been running the company — not at first. Replacing with a non-MPE version of the app sometimes leaves key integrated surround code at the curb, too. Replacing surround code is a good project for outside expertise. Companies which consult on that task have field experience on success to share.

The good news: replacing a business suite is not as dangerous as replacing a human body joint. You get to shop and specify and test for replacement software, even while the worn-down hip of the business suite continues to bear the weight of the company's enterprise. Backing out of a replacement -- replacing the replacement -- is just as extensive in software as it is in medicine. It's like doing it all over again. But replacing after an attempt at rehosting? That's the least effective strategy of all.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:30 PM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2016

VMware solution assists Win10's 3000 debut

Windows 10 is making its way into HP 3000 shops. Earlier today a manager had loaded up Win10 and then discovered that Reflection, the terminal emulator built for HP 3000 access, wasn't working anymore.

Win10 upgrade"My Attachmate Reflections v14.1.3.247 does not work — it has an error when trying to start," said George Forsythe. He wanted to know about any available updates for the former WRQ product. It's not a former product, but Reflection for HP, as it's known today, is a Micro Focus product. Last year Micro Focus bought Attachmate, the company that purchased WRQ.

The short answer is version 14.1.543 (SP4), according to Craig Lalley. It's a matter of an update, but a mission-critical connection might demand a faster solution. One well-known program that aids Windows migration of 3000-attached desktops was mentioned by Neil Armstrong, developer of the Robelle data utility Suprtool. VMware can have your back if you're taken a PC onto Win10 and something critical like the 3000 connection stops running, he said.

This is why I've "virtualized" some key environments that are used for development. If something like this comes up, you're not stuck with a critical problem at a key moment.

Supported software is sometimes built with customized routines to use desktop OS modules. That means it can stop working when a desktop environment changes. There's profound changes in Windows 10. Forsythe reports the AICS freeware terminal emulator QCTerm, built for the 3000, still works on Win10, even while his not-quite-fresh Reflection didn't.

Armstrong said the reliance on using VMware to preserve stable desktops comes with a cost. You can't ignore updates to the virtualization engine.

Once something like [a desktop OS release] is stable and set up, you just turn off all updates and back it up. Of course, the weak point then becomes if VMware doesn't work with whatever OS update is currently going on. But there seems to be enough resources and typically there is a solution on hand, as long as you keep that software up to date.

Micro Focus is maintaining Reflection, but one 3000-L member reports the upgrades are no longer free. Older versions of Reflection work with Win10, according to Steve Cooper of Allegro, "with only a few nuisances that can be worked around."

Cooper was using version 10.0.5 of Reflection. When we last checked, that's software more than a decade old. Apparently the extra value of later releases is offset by their compatibility challenges. There's a lesson in there about older software, like QCTerm and elderly Reflection — and MPE/iX — being a more stable solution, even in the face of change.

And if Windows 10 is software that's too new to behave well on a PC connected to a 3000, there's a way to stay on a prior release and stop the "upgrade to Windows" reminders. Paul Edwards, consultant, board member and OpenMPE volunteer, offered this advice.

For those of us who really want to stay on Win 7 for a while and not be reminded to upgrade to Win 10, there is a tool available from www.ultimateoutsider.com/downloads. It is GWX Control Panel. The control panel has a status page to tell you whether the “Get Windows 10” app is running, whether it is enabled, whether the Win 10 files have been downloaded to your PC, and if so, how much room the files are taking up on your computer. If the files are there, the control panel can remove them for you. This is much better than modifying the registry.

I have installed and run the GWX Control Panel. I had it delete the Win 10 logo, folders, and files (6 GB). I had no problems with my PC afterwards. And no Win 10 reminder.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:13 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 22, 2016

A 3000, awaiting replacement, still at work

If the above headline sounds like your homesteading situation, then you're an interim homesteader. Or a wannabe migrator, which can amount to the same thing if the pain of retaining a 3000 and MPE is low. In the hospital they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10. Nobody says 0, unless they're deep into morphine. There's usually some.

Pain ScaleAt Cerro Wire, the pain level must be not more than a 2, but the 3000 is being targeted for replacement. As part of our survey of the 3000 managers who speak up on the 3000-L, we got a report back from Herb Statham. He's led the 3000 computing at the manufacturer based in Alabama, with operations elsewhere in the US, too. Statham notes that the MPE server at Cerro continues to work. It's something like staying on your job even after you've been laid off, because they can't find a replacement yet.

Uncommon for an employee. Commonplace among interim homesteading systems. Statham, who was hiring for 3000 operations as recently as 2014 -- and had a contract 3000 expert at work until October — reports that Intel-based systems are preferred now at Cerro.

We are still running an A500 box at Cerro Wire. The game’s afoot to replace our current business applications with ones that are Intel- and Microsoft-based. I do not know when the final decision will be made, but the HP 3000 just keeps chirping along. I am trying to get “semi-retired” to only work two or three days a week, until the “new and better” system is in place.

Intel had prospects earlier at Cerro, in a different capacity. Statham was public about a 3000 emulator's chances there, even before the Stromasys Charon software had a big footprint. Cerro was going to be a classic 3000 manufacturer pushing their MPE apps into a long-running role. Leaving the HP hardware behind looked to be important, but other apps on other platforms were already working there.

Some IT managers call this situation "floating." So long as the MPE applications don't fall short, their cost of ownership and low need for attention keeps them running. A turn-off date at the start of 2016 becomes a midyear close-out, and then that depends on how soon replacement apps on Windows get integrated. Any nagging pains about relying on an environment now in its fifth decade of useful life are offset by the Tylenol of low costs and stability.

It works for companies that don't see massive growth coming soon. At Cerro, which is a Berkshire Hathaway company, business has been good. Back in 2014, just before the help-wanted call went out, the pressure to migrate was low.

In profile stories from 2014, we heard this report.

Statham has no pressure from Cerro management to replace the applications that are successful at running the company. With ample spare parts, independent support and storage consulting, and his own source in hand, he needs only the green light from Dell to move forward. Specifics on pricing and performance are still in play from Stromasys, at least from his vantage point. A 1.5 version of CHARON HPA/3000 was announced late last year, promising increased performance. But meeting the speed needs of an A-Class would be no challenge for the CHARON lineup.

This veteran of 3000 deployment and management has little desire to send his company toward an application replacement that might end up with Cerro "spending millions of dollars." There are many years left for MPE/iX, and his company is an all-HP shop, with the exception of a couple of Dell monitors on Statham's desk. He can see a long future for the app the company has fine-tuned to its business.

The CALENDAR intrinsic roadblock is the only thing he can forecast by now. He's not sure how HP might react to an independent fix for that issue, a date challenge that's still 13 years away. (Of course, now it's 11-plus years until the December 31, 2017 deadline)

"If we could ever get this 2027 thing out of the way, you could run your applications indefinitely, so long as you’ve got someone to support them," he says. "My only concern is HP themselves, in the event that someone said they had a patch to the operating system. You wouldn't have to worry about the year, because there was some type of workaround."

There's a number of ideas in there, from relying on MPE doing its job 11 more years (not out of the range of possibility) to seeing an independent lab develop a 2027 workaround (also not impossible, so long as community experts don't do more than semi-retire) to HP getting in the way of this kind of lifespan extension. There's zero pain to the MPE's creator in letting the OS keep working. It doesn't require much pay by now. That's the sort of thing that makes some migrations wannabes, or at least keeps them floating in the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:39 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 19, 2016

It's becoming an MPE Server, this HP 3000

ForeverHewlett-Packard stopped building 3000s in 2003, cutting off a product line in the belief that users would leave the server. But after thousands of them did just that, thinking there would be no more MPE/iX servers to be purchased, an emulator emerged. After more than four years, it might be changing the concept of what is an HP 3000. Brian Edminster of Applied Technologies wonders what's the future for the system that delivers MPE/iX apps.

"It seems to me that it's almost more accurate to call these beloved hosts 'MPE/iX' systems," he said, "rather than 3000s, since — eventually, at least — no one will be running 'original' HP hardware."

We have asked around the community about how this concept plays out. James Byrne, 3000 manager at logistics provider Hart & Lyne, offers one view on what makes up his idea of a device to use MPE/iX. 

I consider our systems to be MPE/iX rather than HP 3000. The hardware does not really matter to us any more, since most of the rest of our critical infrastructure is already running on commodity Intel 64 bit boxes. We simply keep two or three of everything running on different 3000 hosts most of the time, and have them continually cross checking each other. That approach has covered us well in the one or two serious incidents we have experienced these past 15 years since HP gave up on the 3000.

If the Charon emulator was priced in the same range as a used HP 3000, and ran on Linux, and used KVM virtualization, then we would in all probability move to it as an interim step, if only to escape the aging hardware MPE/iX is running on.

There's more at stake at his shop: software migration patterns, a way to ensure what's running on HP-built hardware operates on a fresh MPE/iX server. Pricing for a key 4GL-reporting tool — you'll know which one — got in the way at Hart & Lyne. MPE's the keystone there, but Byrne says his company won't tie itself to a single-vendor system in the future.

I believe those conditions are unlikely to all be met, so we do not consider the emulator as a possibility. We still would have to deal with the issue of Powerhouse licensing fees. The last inquiry we made with respect to Powerhouse provided a price that was startling to say the least. We would even entertain moving to Powerhouse on Linux as an interim step, if the price were not so exorbitant and the product supported PostgreSQL. However, when last we looked Powerhouse only supports proprietary databases, so again it is not even a consideration.

Those examples are representative of why we are never going back to proprietary software: predaceous pricing and technological limitations dictated primarily by marketing. Whatever we write for ourselves in future, we are not going to be held to ransom if we wish to move it from one system to another.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:23 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2016

Migrating 3000 Data from Spoolfiles to Excel

I need assistance with putting an output spool file from MPE/iX 7.5 into Excel or other readable format. The file is generated by Query, then processed by Editor, then sent to the printer. Instead of printing it, I want to put it into a readable format.

MigratingI do not have QEdit or any smart tools on MPE, so my approach thus far has been to move the file to a PC before doing anything.  However, that carries with it the initialization sequence for the printer to which the job is spooled. The job is set up to print on a PCL 5 laser, which means it has hundreds of lines of control before the data starts.

Tom Moore replies

I would put commas in between my columns (in the query, or using Editor). I FCOPY from the file to a new file with NOCCTL to get rid of carriage control byte. You could also remove the PCL 5 lines by subset in the FCOPY command. Depending on the data, I would use EDIT3000 to change all " ," to "," and all ", ","," to compress the file, removing the spaces before and after the commas inserted above, then save the file for download to the PC.

I would also consider using ODBC to directly extract from the IMAGE database, rather than Query and all the subsequent steps. The HP free ODBC driver would do the job very well.

Birket Foster of MB Foster notes

Not only did we make that free ODBCLink/SE as HP's lab resource from 1998 to 2006, but we have continued to develop the ability to work with data in all kinds of file formats. We do supply 32- and 64-bit versions for ODBC to the HP 3000.

UDALink-MPE was designed for the HP 3000. We provide data in several different formats including XLS for Excel, XML, CSV etc. We can have a discussion about what you are trying to do with data; perhaps UDACentral is the right product for your challenge and we can organize a demonstration for you.

Charles Finley adds

There seem to be at least three steps to what you are trying to do.

  • Remove the headers, footers and perhaps page numbers from the report.
  • Remove the ff or CNTL characters from the text file.
  • Import a space-delimited file to Excel.

There are any number of different scripting tools that can do this including various Unix tools. Here's a reference to an Excel solution that might get you started. In fact, if it were my problem to solve, I would likely do it all with Excel scripting.

John Hohn replies

  1. Output to a delimited file (tabs, pipes, etc).
  2. Download to your laptop or PC or wherever Excel is running
  3. Start macro recording in Excel
  4. Import/format the delimited file, save as .xls
  5. Turn recording off, save macro

Set the Excel file to auto-execute the macro every time the Excel file it's opened, i.e., re-input/format the delimited file. Then you can, for example, schedule delivery of a new version of this delimited file whenever you'd like, to your server. When people open it they would automatically get the formatted version of the new data.

Connie Sellitto of Hillary Software suggests

Hillary Software has a product, byREQUEST, which does just this.

It has the ability to suppress headings on pages after the first, and define the type of data in the columns (text, numeric, dates in various formats). It can remove blank pages and leading and trailing blank lines. It can even call an Excel macro to make the headings a different font, background color, etc — anything you'd want to do with a macro. In addition to Excel, byREQUEST can create a PDF file, Word, csv or Text.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:25 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 02, 2015

HPSUSAN resources enable long 3000 life

As if in lock-step, the issues about control of 3000 licenses rose up yesterday after we discussed control of performance numbers and HPSUSAN for 3000 CPU boards. Consultant Torben Olsen wrote from Denmark that creating a backup hardware unit for a 3000 would be in the best interests of his client. 

SpockAs has been discovered before in your community, having control of moving an HPSUSAN identifier to a backup box has issues. For one, there are fewer resources available to make such a move. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, being a company in the throes of establishing new order and processes, is not one that Olsen wants to employ.

"I am not yet ready to spend weeks trying to get a valid answer on this matter from HP, so I hope there are another way," he wrote on the 3000-L mailing list.

I encourage my last HP 3000 client as much as I can to move on to another platform, one where they can be more sure to get required support in the future.

In the meantime, we consider getting a copy of the hardware. But we have the probably well-known problem that if that should work, we also need to be able to change the HPSUSAN. In the old days Client Systems could help with that, but my search for them did not give any usable result. Are they still in business? Are there any other possibilities? 

Client Systems still operates a website that even offers HP 3000 hardware. Other HPSUSAN administration possibilities have revealed themselves on the 3000-L already. There's more at stake for the 3000 software vendors who still operate product support efforts, however. HPSUSAN is their way of knowing their software hasn't been copied illegally.

HP once considered the 3000's CPUNAME designations as the most prized piece of the tech puzzle. In the late 1990s, a ring of hardware resellers were turning HP 9000 hardware into HP 3000 systems, according to the claims in a set of HP lawsuits. The vendor cared enough about protecting its reseller network that it pursued punishment for those ringleaders. It even rigged up a High Tech Task Force, using friendly law enforcement, to try to make a case against that theft.

The control of an HPSUSAN is a different matter, one that HP has never challenged with such legal efforts. An HP 3000's HPSUSAN number belongs to its owner, and it can be transferred to another owner. Making a hot-spare of a 3000 demands some advanced tech, though, to read the HPSUSAN into another CPU board's processor dependent code storage.

Client Systems was the last North American distributor to be able to do this. It's a technique that is matched in skill by the ability to un-cripple an A-Class server so it can run many times faster than HP concocted in its marketing schemes. As we reported yesterday, Craig Lalley of EchoTech has done such an un-crippling, returning an A-Class to its full speed capability.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (the new name of the old home of the 3000) has little to gain by helping, or to lose while overlooking, these homesteading customers' needs. It's now up to the independent consultants to supply what's needed. For a corporation in as much flux as the now-split HP, the value of controlling a computer that it's dropped seems a minor issue. Lalley's on the 3000-L reporting his skills, and there are others in the community with similar experience.

Andreas Schmidt, a 3000 manager in Germany, summed up the past as well as a proposition for a future where HPSUSAN could remain in control of its owners.

In the good old days, only HP support engineers had a tool to change the HPSUSAN on the main board so that third party software, licensed through the HPSUSAN, could continue to work if a hardware event forced a HPSUSAN onto a new board. If HP also provided this little program as open source, you could plan to change the HPSUSAN appropriate to use other hardware with different HPSUSAN.

The question to pose to a support provider might sound like: "How can I create a hot-spare of my 3000's CPU board, for disaster recovery purposes?" Or it might sound like Terry Simpkins speaking five years ago at a CAMUS user group meeting. He was saying, "Why doesn't everybody have a spare CPU board as part of their DR program?" It was possible to get HP to do the swap back then, when it was a single company that only had ousted its second CEO in five years.

Randy Meyer is the General Manager and VP of HP's Mission-Critical Systems group today. His unit sells Integrity servers, the successor to the HP proprietary hardware legacy. Even though Meyer's office seems like a place to get a ruling on this, in those latter HP support years the HPSUSAN swapping happened as an HP Support activity. Both of these units went into the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Getting anybody at HP to recognize a 3000 as something other than a latex printer sums up the challenge that Olsen wants to avoid.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:35 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 24, 2015

The Wide World of Connecting Storage

IO used to be more complex for IT. Sure, the array of choices for disk is vast today. But in the era when 3000s used to think they were lucky to get SCSI plugged into them, configuring disk connections was not simple. HP-IB protocol, built to link HP's instruments, was simple, used for all HP devices, and slow. But it was integrated and seamless compared to the SCSI of single-ended, fast/wide, and Ultra Fast.

Such was the case for one 3000 manager seeking advice from his colleagues. You never think about these things on a 3000 until the hardware breaks. Or backups fail. Or storage media gets rare. Aging hardware is one of several issues that require expertise, even if a 3000 runs the ultimate 7.5 version of MPE/iX. Our manager hunted for his help on the longest-running 3000 classroom in the world, the HP3000-L mailing list.

A single-CPU A-Class was moving away from DDS technology, the DDS-3 that was first launched in the '90s. There are other options for 3000 tape backup. But these options include single-ended, fast/wide, and other cable and termination combinations. DLT technology, introduced more recently but still a 1990s choice, runs with HP 3000s. It helps to get the ends right, though, if DLT is to have a new beginning on an old-school 3000.

"Until now they have done their backup on DDS," a manager talking to the 3000 newsgroup explained. "Lately they had a failure on the DDS drive, and have realized that it is getting difficult to get new tapes. They have decided to move to DLT8000, model C6378A, and have bought two of them. One is supposed to go live on the 3000, and the other to be stored as a spare device."

The DLT is hooked to the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on the A-Class. But ODE/Mapper doesn't recognize the device."

There was an error, and no DLT joy. Soon enough, one veteran consultant said, "You will have trouble connecting a fast wide SCSI device to an ultra-wide SCSI controller." It wasn't a rookie mistake, but the veterans who still prowl 3000-L had a solution and even a link to an inexpensive fix. So it goes, here in the fifth decade of HP 3000 mission-critical service. Answers are everywhere.

This wasn't an inexperienced 3000 pro, it seemed, when reading that he tried to "add the device in IOCONFIG by adding first the path 0/0/1/0.2, and then the device with the command: ad 8;path=0/0/1/0.2.0;ID=dlt;mode=autoreply."

SCSI on the 3000 sure isn't the world of USB, where just 2.0 and 3.0 cover the scope of IO choices. A $59 adapter card connected that DLT to the 3000. The IO challenge also prompted advice even a pro might not know — making a case for having fresher hardware than HP's to run MPE.

There was advice about using Mapper on the 3000 to troubleshoot an IO device from Michalis Melis.

Normally the path and the device should be recognized by running ODE/ Mapper without even loading the operating system. You do not have to go to SYSGEN. If Mapper fails you have a problem before the OS loads.

Craig Lalley made the link between two incompatible kinds of SCSI interfaces.

You are trying to hook up a Fast/Wide SCSI device to an Ultrawide interface. The C6378A can only connect to a HVD Fast Wide SCSI interface (A4800A SCSI card comes to mind). Remember, the A-class does not support Dual-Head cards, so your only option is A4800A. You need either a DLT8000 with a Fast-Wide interface, or you need a cheap A4800A HVD (High Voltage Differential) SCSI card. You can daisy chain devices to the card, but I would only use one tape at a time.

Lalley also tipped his hat to Keven Miller, who supplied the link to that $59 adapter card.

Then Denys Beauchemin, who has been among one of the more prolific contributors to the 3000-L, delivered detailed advice about connecting backup devices. His background reaches back to the first decade of 3000 use, including years spent with Hi-Comp on backup software development.

Fast/Wide SCSI (FWSCSI) is essentially HVD SCSI on SCSI-2 standard. This means that the signal is a differential in the voltage between various wires (HVD is High Voltage Differential) and Ultrawide SCSI is SE (Single Ended) SCSI, on the SCSI-2 standard which makes is wide (16 bits), like the FWSCSI.

So what is needed is a converter to power the signal from the Ultra Wide SCSI interface on your server to the FWSCSI interface on the DLT device. I have a number of those somewhere here, but they were for SE SCSI, not UltraSCSI.  They might work for that, since all they did was provide the powered signal and the cable is the one that converted from wide to narrow.

Another thing to consider is that since HP nicely crippled the A-class, that 3000 system would not be able to keep the DLT8000 streaming. And that device hates not streaming, so much so that it will enter shoeshine mode and perform abysmally. Just a parting gift from HP to the MPE community. You should hear what they're doing to the VMS crowd.

That last comment comes from Beauchemin's current duties as migration manager for the OpenVMS users who are leaving that platform. VMS had a steady Internet community to help Digital users, just as the 3000 has 3000-L. People like Beauchemin, largely working outside the 3000 world, are still providing advice for homesteaders -- even while assisting in migrations. After migration there is much to manage, but simply migrating off Hewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware makes using MPE/iX less complex.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:07 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 09, 2015

Making 3000 Disk Faster By Virtualizing It

Age is an issue for HP 3000 homesteaders, a challenge that must be met on more than one front. Aging in-house expertise will require a replacement IT professional. That can be tricky to locate in 2015, but one way to approach the task is to train a consultant who's already a trusted resource.

Faster dashboardAt Conax Technologies, the veteran HP 3000 manager Rick Sahr was heading for retirement, an event that threw the spotlight on the suitability of MANMAN for ERP. Consultant Bob Ammerman stepped in to learn MPE/iX and the 3000's operations. That was a solution that followed an effort to replace MANMAN with another ERP software suite, running under Windows.

The trouble with the replacement application stemmed from its database. Oracle drove that app suite, and Conax and Ammerman were assured that having strong experience in Oracle wasn't a requirement of adopting the replacement app. "I'm a SQL Server guy," Ammerman said. His work to interface MANMAN with Windows helped to preserve the 3000's role. That rescue was the best way forward when the company chose to back away from the new app.

The shift in plans opened the door for the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator. As it turned out, the $100,000 of server and SAN disk purchased for the ERP replacement app was a good fit for virtualizing the 3000. Charon can just about match the CPU performance of the replaced Series 928. The bonus has been what virtualization has done for storage and disk speed. It's erased the other age barrier, the one presented by old disk drives.

"As soon as you go out to touch the disk, it just screams," Ammerman said of the Charon solution. Backups now blaze along, because the virtualized 3000 system is writing to virtualized tape drives. A Windows-based backup for the Dell server and the SAN takes care of protecting the disk images which aere created while using Charon.

The emulator's virtualization of the 3000 CPU is governed by the number of CPU cores, threads, and the speed of the chips. The Dell system runs at 2.7 GHz, a little lower than Stromasys has recommended. "It just works," Ammerman said of what's kept the 3000's age from showing. The nips and tucks that came along with the facelift of hardware are protecting the company's MPE/iX investments.

A retiring MPE guru, along with hardware that's more than 15 years old could point to a migration, one with a serious deadline for completion. "Nobody's in a hurry to move now," Ammerman said. "We'd hoped to get off the 3000 years ago." Now the letters of interest for replacing MANMAN have yet to go out to prospective vendors. Infor, the vendor that's holding the reins and license for MANMAN, has a shot at replacing the MPE/iX app.

When a company can expand its IT know-how by hiring the right person to learn MPE/iX, that's a serious gap that's been overcome. The hurdle of disk age was cleared at Conax by virtualizing that hardware so it runs on late-model drives attached to a Windows system. The most important part of the mission-critical solution remains stable and unchanged: the MPE/iX application.

It's all been made possible with the right approach to managing legacy hardware. "I like old tech," Ammerman said, explaining that he started with Data General business servers. DG has emulation solutions, too. Finding something fresh to emulate what's been successful has been a proven strategy for companies that can't justify migration yet.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2015

Licensing advice for hardware transitions

Today the CAMUS user group hosted a phone-in meeting, one where the main topic was how to manage licensing issues while changing hardware. Not HP to HP hardware, within the 3000 family. This migration is an aspect of homesteading: moving off the Hewlett-Packard branded 3000 hardware and onto Intel servers. The servers run Stromasys Charon HPA, which runs the applications and software built for MPE.

LicensesIn-house apps need no such relicense, but everything else demands disclosure. This is a personal mission for companies that want to leave HP hardware behind, but keep their MPE software. In one story we've heard, a manager said the vendor would allow its software to run under Charon. "But you're on your own for support," the vendor told the manager. No-support licenses are the kind that satisfy auditors. In lots of cases, self-support or help from independent companies is better than the level which that sort of vendor offers.

We've talked with three managers who've done this MPE software relicensing, all reporting success. Two of these managers told their stories at today's meeting. Last year we collected the tale of re-licensing from Jeff Elmer, IT manager for Dairylea Cooperative. They left a Series 969 for a PC-based host when old drives in the 969 posed a risk.

He said licensing the software for the Charon emulator solution at Dairylea was some work, with some suppliers more willing to help in the move than others. The $1.7 billion organization covers seven states and uses at least as many third party vendors. “We have a number of third party tools, and we worked with each vendor to make the license transfers,” said Elmer. 

“We won’t mention any names, but we will say that some vendors were absolutely wonderful to work with, while others were less so. It’s probably true that anyone well acquainted with the HP 3000 world could make accurate guesses about which vendors fell in which camp.”

Some vendors simply allowed a transfer at low cost or no cost; others gave a significant discount because Dairylea has been a long-time customer paying support fees. ”A couple wanted amounts of money that seemed excessive, but in most cases a little negotiation brought things back within reason,” Elmer said. The process wasn’t any different than traditional HP 3000 upgrades: hardware costs were low, but software fees were significant.

“The cumulative expense of the third party software upgrades was nearly a deal-breaker,” Elmer said. “In the end, our management was concerned enough about reliance on old disk drives that they made the decision to move forward. In our opinion it was money very well spent.”

Another guest at today's conference, Bob Ammerman, manages 3000 operations at Conex Technologies. He didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said, "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

In the very first success story for Charon HPA, Warren Dawson moved his company's applications that relied on Powerhouse to the emulator in 2012. His company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations.

Nearly all of Dawson's third party vendors came on board and made efforts to ensure their software works. “One was a little slow in doing so, so we made a workaround," he said, "and then I made that a permanent workaround. I didn’t know when they would come on board. They came on just before we went live, and we’d already decided to move away from their product.” 

In the case of a switch in backup processes, Dawson’s procedures now back up twice as much data, using HP’s standard STORE and RESTORE programs — in less time than when the backup was done using the third party software on the HP box.

The change from using HP’s native iron to emulation has also reinvigorated some of Dawson’s MPE software vendors.

“I’ve even gotten better support from some of our vendors now that we’re emulating," he said. "They see that there’s an extended life in the system, and so a couple of them have made efforts in that regard. We’ve been paying support for years, and for some software we’d hadn’t asked for support in 10 years. They’ve come back to our requests to help us and been very good about it."

One backup software solution didn’t make the transition from 3000 hardware and storage devices to the emulated system. DAT tapes presented an extra effort. Dawson used a utility to copy the tapes to disk, “and for some reason when I did that, it didn’t work properly in the backup software. There was some sort of SCSI issue which was at Stromasys’s end, and they’ve since resolved that issue. But the backup vendor said initially they weren’t supporting the emulator, so we worked something else out.

The Quiz reporting tool is part of the software set that’s made the step onto the emulator. The company buys and maintains its Powerhouse licenses through a reseller, and that partner has handed the relicensing of Quiz onto the emulator. “I haven’t dealt directly with Cognos for a long time,” Dawson said.

Minisoft’s ODBC drivers run on the emulated system, since part of the application’s project is to extract data. Since the databases and the application have been emulated, Dawson’s remains able to use Visual Basic programs, using the ODBC drivers, to do reports as well as updates. Dawson singled out the company as taking extra time to help make the emulation succeed.

“Minisoft’s been the most helpful, because that reporting system started out being the most troublesome.  We’ve been having a VB 6 program issue, where those programs ran under Windows XP but are an issue under Windows 7. These programs were written 10 years ago, and the people who wrote them are long since gone. They explained how I could run their software in different ways, with the old driver under VB 6 on XP versus a new driver for .NET on Windows 7.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 27, 2015

Data migration taxes migration time budgets

PotpourriIt can take months to move data from one platform to another. Just ask Bradley Rish, who as part of the Potpourri Group managed a two-step process to migrate away from Ecometry software on an N-Class HP 3000. Potpourri first went to Ecometry on HP-UX, then a few years later moved away from HP's proprietary environment to Windows. Same application, with each move aimed at a more commodity platform.

But there was nothing commodity about the company's data. Data migration required eight months, more than the IT pros at the company estimated. Rish said that two full-time staffers, working the equivalent of one year each, were need to complete the ultimate migration to Windows.

Migrations of data don't automatically mean there's an exit from the HP 3000. At Potpourri, after a couple of years of research by IT, the exit from the 3000 was based on HP's plans for the computer, not any inability to serve more than 200-plus in-house users, plus process Web transactions. It's a holding company that serves 11 other web and catalog brands. Starting now through the end of 2015, more than half its transactions occur in the final 90 days of each year. Holiday gift season is the freeze-out time for retailer IT changes.

High-transaction installations create some of the largest collections of data. Two staffers working for one year is one approach to leaving an app. For the record, by the second migration, Ecometry still wasn't working as fast as it did on the 3000. But sometimes vendor plans for a server demand a migration. "Ecometry is IO unfriendly under Oracle," said Rish, "but Ecometry is less unfriendly under Windows than HP-UX. It's still not as fast as the 3000."

If the speed of processing takes a hit, at least there's a way to complete a migration quicker. Automation slims down the time required to move data. Some details on how this works, and reports of success in the field, will come from MB Foster on the Wednesday Webinar, starting at 2 PM Eastern Time.

Potpourri operates some familiar websites, but CEO Birket Foster's company has even better known case studies to share. Exxon, for example, "had a very customized application running on an HP 3000," he said, "and we moved it to an HP Itanium Unix box. There are Endian issues in doing that," referring to the differences between Big Endian and Little Endian data types of HP 3000s and HP's Unix systems." The company had an operation of 300 well-heads.

"You can't buy a 300 well-head off the shelf application anywhere," he said in a Webinar earlier this year.  "It was a $32 billion a year operation, and we were able to complete it for them under budget, and on time." UDACentral was at the heart of that project.

MB Foster recently began to license that software for use by independent integrators and consultants. Rental licensing is new, based on project size in records, as well as duration of use. Two years elapsed between those Potpourri migrations from Itanium to the Ecometry that runs on Intel Dell servers. In the retail business, getting a project completed in nine months is crucial. That holiday quarter is off limits for changes.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:53 AM in Migration, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 26, 2015

Migrating licenses: an individual's mission

Mission-possibleHewlett-Packard's 3000 hardware is getting older, and although it's well-built, 13-year-old drives make for a good migration spark. The move to Stromasys emulators is another sort of migration, shifting MPE onto standard Intel hardware, but what of the application and software licenses? Getting them transferred is a mission for each company migrating away from HP-badged 3000s. So far, we've heard few reports of show-stopper licensing woes.

The first company that's discussed is the owners of the Powerhouse software. While that's not Cognos, or even IBM anymore, its owners are still a company that does not automatically see value in keeping a customer on support. Bob Ammerman didn't negotiate with Unicom when Conax Technologies did its test runs of Stromasys Charon HPA. Another IT group member did the bargaining, and in the end, Conax still runs its Powerhouse Quiz, QTP and even the 4GL. But its license load is lighter.

The arrangement with what people still think of as "Cognos" took a long while, so long that IBM was dragging its feet in correspondence. As a consulting contractor for the company, he said "We were bringing our software packages over one by one, and the dealing started all over when the software was bought by Unicom." In the final arrangement there was an approval issued to transfer licenses, but Conax elected to reduce its user count for its software based on these products.

"We now have a 1-user license at the developer level," Ammerman said. "We've moved away from use of the software, too," although Quiz is still important to Conax. A reduction in reporting is possible because Ammerman wrote a set of SQL stored procedures in VB Net to move data from MANMAN operational databases into SQL Server. That's where some reporting has moved, although some canned Quiz reports still operate at the company.

That mission covered the biggest software tool at the company. There was still the matter of MANMAN to transfer. The dealing with Infor, the current owners of the manufacturing app, was still to come.

Conax cut back on its Powerhouse use by developing an in-house reporting system Ammerman calls SQLMan. "We built one application from [the Cognos products] as a sidecar app," he said. Cost codes drive the report queries at this manufacturer of temperature sensors. New reports are only developed as canned queries when they utilize Quiz. Much of the reporting comes out of a SQL Server database that runs off a snapshot of the MANMAN data.

"All the stuff that I've been building has reduced the need for the Cognos software," Ammerman said. The single-3000 shop has ported line-of-business important applications away from Powerhouse. 

It's significant to note at this point that arranging these license transfers is the responsibility of the individual company. Stromasys takes no role in making these transfers happen. Any existing deals in the marketplace between other 3000 users and their app vendors don't carry any weight — at least not officially. There's no posted pricing lists for these arrangements at the app vendors.

So Conax cut its own deal with Infor to keep MANMAN on MPE/iX under the emulator. "We moved it relatively cheaply," Ammerman said. "We're now paying an annual license to Infor. They were glad to be nice to us."

That's long-term thinking on the part of Infor. Vendors who are cooperating in these license migrations look toward a future when MPE won't be an option any more for their customers. Some vendors have solutions that run on other platforms. As an example, MB Foster "was happy to do a transfer," he said. This strategy preserves an investment while it maintains support revenue for vendors.

Users at Conax employ a front-end interface to SQLMan. If the company could "bring down MANMAN nightly for a snapshot, we would." Instead, they shut down the application completely once a month. It also means that company historical data is online at anytime. "One company manager asked me to look at 2010 data, and we could," Ammerman said. "We used to have to purge the old data, but we don't have to anymore" with the SQLMan transfer procedures.

Carrying licenses forward involves calls and contact vendor-by-vendor, but some have policies in place. Especially those who've done decades of business with 3000 users. From backup software right down to applications, everything's been migrated to the fresher Intel hardware running MPE/iX. "They'd be silly not to re-license products," Ammerman said, "if they want to keep their support revenue."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)