User Reports

First production emulator wins IT's respect

The first HP 3000 manager to take an emulator into production moved the services of very old iron onto a very new MPE/iX platform. IS Manager Warren Dawson’s company was using a Series 947 server which was more than 20 years old to take care of mission-critical operations. That 3000 had 112 MB of memory. Now it’s working on the HPA/3000 Charon emulator with 2 GB of memory. “We’ve really increased our speed, our memory and our disk,” Dawson said. 

WarrenMug“I was testing the emulator over the last 10 months, and I was most impressed with the speed gains,” he said. The gains on month-end processes on the emulated 3000 system slashed the time from almost 10 hours to 65 minutes. “That was phenomenal, and it was on the main database. The guys at Stromasys were very pleased to hear some of the statistics I was churning out. They could emulate, but couldn’t have someone hit it every day, and hit it hard.”

Print-Exclusive“The users are very happy. They’ve notice their reports are coming up a lot quicker. Instead of 15-20 minutes, in a few minutes it’s done. Performance gains are bigger in some areas than others. The lowest performance gain I’ve found is in backup itself.”

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As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows

Within the next week, HP's going to ship a new generation of Itanium-based servers. Using the Poulson chipset known as the Itanium 9500, these blade-based systems are going to outperform the current generation of Integrity servers by a factor of 3.29, according to HP.

Rx2800i4The engineering gains are impressive. HP tested the new Integrity blades that use the 9500 series against the Itanium 9300-powered servers. Blades start at $6,490 for the 9500-based systems. "For those remaining committed to Itanium and its attendant OS platforms, notably HP-UX, this is unmitigated good news," said Forrester's analyst Richard Fichera. HP's building these new servers exclusively in Singapore, so it can offer three times the computing speed at about the same price.

But even with all that improvement, HP needed to remind the market that these gains were also heading to its Intel x86 Xeon systems. The reason for that reminder: more of HP's customers, such as those leaving the 3000 in migrations, are moving to Windows.

We're not hearing nearly as many reports of migrations which landed on HP-UX systems. The latest news arrived today from Bob Thorpe of National Wine and Spirits. At the Detroit-area IT center, this 3000 pro turned migrator said their customized system is being moved, COBOL and all, to Windows.

"We are in process of having our in-house designed app (using COBOL, IMAGE, and VIEW) converted to NetCOBOL," he said. "We will migrate to a Windows Server platform by March or April next year."

It doesn't matter so much that it took NWS 12 years to leave MPE/iX. What seems more meaningful is that in spite of the Itanium speed-ups, HP couldn't lock NWS into its single-vendor, OS-plus-Itanium environment during those dozen years.

Continue reading "As Itanium speeds up, sites fly to Windows" »

Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky

Editor's Note: I asked several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation of the new freeware version of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator worked for them. In yesterday's article, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet led us through a weekend-long journey to get the right VMware and a 2GB Player-ready file onto a server, rather than a desktop. A genuine HP 3000 played a key role. Now with an ISL> prompt on his screen, Yeo plunges forward.

By Alan Yeo

Second of two parts

Okay, so with no documentation at hand (as of last weekend), let’s try ISL>START NORECOVERY

This starts the MPE launch, I get prompted for date and time which I correct, and it continues with a normal 7.5 launch, right the way through to starting JINETD and logging on as OPERATOR.SYS.

You know what they say. "If it looks like a Duck and quacks like a Duck, it’s probably a Duck," and this thing looks like an HP 3000 and would have probably quacked like one if it could.

As far as I can tell I'm sitting at the console of an HP 3000! I’m running in a Putty Terminal, so I'm not going to be able to do any block mode stuff, but it’s good enough to run a whole load of MPE commands and have a look at the created environment. Yes, it still quacks!

Continue reading "Running a Freeware Emulator: Just Ducky" »

Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor

Editor's Note: As soon as the freeware personal edition of the Stromasys 3000 emulator went live for downloading, I sent the FTP links to several HP 3000 veterans to see how well the installation worked for them. Before we'd follow through on helping to host this freeware, I wanted to see the state of the packaging. Allegro's Gavin Scott also installed it at our request, and his report appears in the forthcoming 3000 NewsWire print issue.

By Alan Yeo

I'm not sure why I agreed to Install the Stromasys CHARON-HPA/3000 freeware. It's disruptive technology to the HP 3000 migration business that my company depends upon. However, as I have spent most of my working life using an HP 3000, it would be nice to always have one available after all the old hardware dies or becomes uneconomic to keep alive.

This is almost one of those stories that went nowhere. There seemed so many stupid obstacles to overcome that I almost gave up a few times -- and that was mainly down to lack of documentation that could have saved hours of work. There was also the fact that instead of wanting an emulated HP 3000 on my desktop, I wanted one on a server where a few of us could test drive it.

Hopefully, the lack of documentation last weekend will have been resolved by the time you try the freeware. But here, over today and tomorrow's articles, is the tale of getting my HP 3000 Emulator into the delivery room and smacking its little bottom until the first little colon prompt appeared.

Part 1: Getting things downloaded and installed, starting with a compatible VMware Player and a 2GB Stromasys file.

Continue reading "Installing the Emulator: Ahoy, the Disruptor" »

Accepting Irregular Statistics

Nov. 5 538We're on the eve of the US national elections today, so a lot of stories are being told about statistics. In many segments of the country, one-third of the registered voters have already cast ballots. We are told that statistically there are under 1 percent of the voters who remain undecided.

A small percentage might continue to matter. And the trends often do matter statistically. For example, Microsoft's Windows XP still represents about half of the PCs still in use, according to metrics company Net Applications. And just this week, the number of Mac users who are clinging to three-year-old Snow Leopard Mac OS still leads the installed base.

And maybe just as surprising, some large and well-known companies are still continuing to embrace their HP 3000s. It's irregular to believe that major corporations continue to use an operating system this dated. Well, maybe not so dated. MPE/iX got its last security patches in 2008, just a little bit farther back than Snow Leopard was created. Maybe because of their stability, both Snow Leopard and MPE/iX continue to serve in the market. One place we discovered this morning is PC Mall, an online sales outlet selling computers that will run Snow Leopard and Windows XP. And they're doing it off software written for MPE/iX.

Continue reading "Accepting Irregular Statistics" »

Personal 3000 iron offered for shipping cost

The HP 3000 emulator is still en route toward its freeware personal version. But in the meantime there's still plenty of equivalent HP-badged iron out there in the marketplace. One spot to look is in the shops of the recently-migrated companies.

Series 918Lane Rollins of Boyd Coffee sent us a notice about a pair of Series 918s he's been wanting to move out of his datacenter. (There's a Series 979 on hand that's not going away, even though the company has been migrated for several years.) Rollins was looking for a good home for his rack-mounted Series 918 and a standalone 918. Both of the systems are the same power as the personal version of the HPA/3000 emulator software. The rack-mounted unit had an added benefit of an extra SCSI card as well as HASS storage.

This kind of hardware is still circulating in the community, even if it's got as much cost attached to it as that personal freeware emulator. If you can find something like this out on the market, Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions -- which still sells 3000s -- says you shouldn't be paying more than shipping. Although his company collects systems like this for their depot parts value, they also keep an eye the shipping costs.

We still take them on at times when it makes sense.  Some gear is too far away to make sense.  By the time we get a mover out there to collect it all, and get then have it shipped back to us we have more into it then we could ever get back.

But the closer a 918 sits to your own shop, the better value it can be -- so long as it's offered free, plus shipping.

Continue reading "Personal 3000 iron offered for shipping cost" »

Taking Care of Too-Great Expectations

Apple is weathering the woes today of an entity which is managing expectations that are too great. Migrators may be laboring under the expectations of moving too much of an HP 3000 to another platform at one time.

CoalmineOf course, these are very different times for these subjects. Apple set a record for a single quarter. At $35.9 billion in sales ending Sept 30 -- a boost of 27 percent over last year -- it's on a run rate that can make it a $143 billion company during 2013. People continue to call Apple a consumer company, although millions of its devices are powering the mobile needs of business. You simply cannot sell 40,000 phones and tablets -- a whopping $24 million worth -- in a brief 90 days just on the whims of consumers.

So Apple's on a mobile computing upswing, but not enough for the finance analysts. These experts who predict how much a company will earn guessed a little more than Apple posted. So today's a down day for the stock, just at $593, the first time under $600 since last August. HP used to suffer from such Great Expectations. Today, not so great.

However, the HP 3000 has expectations as well. Not for the growth of the platform or an increase in the revenues from its economy. 3000 expectations run to how much of its databases and applications need to be mined and moved -- and how much can remain on a 3000 in near-line storage, ready for the ultimate extraction.

Continue reading "Taking Care of Too-Great Expectations" »

Speeding Along Migration's Silver Linings

SarofimMigrations off HP 3000s come in varying degrees of difficulty. One set of choices gives sites a way to move their MPE-based environments with the Fresche Legacy (Speedware) AMXW. Even heading to HP's Unix servers, this kind of project can take more than a year. George Willis of the investment portfolio management house Fayez Sarofim talked about their project that moved COBOL and Powerhouse onto Unix.

Coupled with Eloquence as their database, the migration took around 16 months, "largely due to the volume of code that we used," Willis reports. 

We used Speedware to help us migrate our portfolio accounting system, “DataVestor”, to HP's Unix Itanium servers. The Unix server was the best choice for us because we leveraged AMXW to emulate the MPE/iX environment -- so that we could lift and shift our COBOL and Powerhouse code with somewhat minimal changes.

But moving away from older HP 3000 hardware uncovered an advantage. "The silver lining to being pushed off the HP 3000 by HP is that our overnight batch improved three-fold," Willis said. "That means we now have a comfortable recovery window before users log onto the system in the mornings."

Changing Engines, or Cars? It Depends

ReplaceEngineHomesteading customers are looking at the Stromasys emulator product as an interim solution before migrations. Dan Miller, a consultant in the community whose roots go back to using MPE in 1975, helps a client who wants to know if the HPA/3000 will perform in place of a Series 9x8 server.

The customer of Miller's runs their 3000 without HP support, but the site has risk avoidance measures in place.

As insurance, they have an additional redundant HP 3000 system on-site should hardware parts become immediately unavailable;  besides HP, there are many third party hardware resellers available to replace or repair their hardware. They are assured of software support, as I am retained on an on-call basis should they run into system or software problems. They can also contact the local HP office or other third party vendors for pay as you go software support.

But Miller noted an unusual profile for the homesteader. The company is running "lights out," which in this case means operating with no IT staff in place, except for the on-call Miller. The arrangement which gives ERP and financial processing to about 35 users has been flawless, "but time marches on," Miller says, "and a future migration is inevitable." Perhaps not nearly as close as it might be, if the emulator meets Miller's definition of viability.

For another aspect to the question, customers will weigh how cost-effective any emulator will be. That's a subject where ScreenJet's Alan Yeo says the costs depend on a customer's comfort with MPE's limits and the success of current applications.

Continue reading "Changing Engines, or Cars? It Depends" »

COBOL You Know, vs. COBOL You Don't

DevilMigrations are in play all over the world between HP 3000 systems and Linux environments. Nobody seems to be reporting very many at the moment, but the Little OpenSource Environment That Could is a regular replacement when a 3000's futures go a-wanting.

All well and good, in many instances. Hiring Linux help is never an issue, but the know-how and replacements for the rest of the 3000 ecosystem are more complex. For example, a customer who's been using scripts in their HP 3000 ops needs a replacement. MB Foster's created one for Windows in UDAXpress, which the company has been demonstrating this year.

COBOL, however, becomes an element that might be integrated tighter than you'd imagine in a 3000 program suite. For example, one recent migration project we heard about included a 4GL-to-4GL Powerhouse.

The decision was made to move the application largely as is, to Powerhouse on Linux, and to Oracle. Porting Powerhouse is not too onerous; apart from a few limitations and differences, you just port the code across and recompile it with Oracle as the target database, and off you go.

There was one catch, and it might become one in a migration near you. Some core calculations can be enshrined in a set of COBOL routines. Maybe they were too complex to write in Powerhouse. So at this point, a Linux-bound customer is looking seriously for a COBOL replacement. They can reach for commercial products which run on Linux, or look to the open source community at OpenCOBOL. Some such migrations are moving from a COBOL they know, to a COBOL they don't. The commercial COBOLs have support staff and training. Open, not so much, unless a third party gets involved.

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When HP's SUSAN Won't Say Enough

Emulator vendor Stromasys has sold a few instances of its Charon HPA/3000 virtualization engine. But there's even more interest in the free version of the product. Not much surprise there, considering the average budget for a company that's sustaining its 3000 in production use.

DSSHowever, there's another kind of 3000 user who's looking at this personal freeware. Developers of MPE/iX code -- mostly consultants, and some tool and utility providers -- are expressing an interest in downloading the freeware version. When they do this, they'll require some strategy to tell their other software that the emulator is actually an HP 3000 with a valid HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN number.

The HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN combination is used by third party vendors to validate a license. If the combo doesn't match, most software won't load at all. (At best, you might get a demo version, but that's more of a personal computer fallback.) Stromasys is looking at the issue for the freeware it calls the A200. The paid version of the product uses a USB stick with these numbers encoded, which makes any Intel i7 Core PC capable of running a utility like Adager or an application like Ecometry.

But the days of that HPSUSAN being a unique number -- identifying only one MPE/iX licensee -- are over. CEO Rene Woc of Adager said that as HP began to use and re-install these numbers, creating its own 3000s out of HP 9000 servers, duplicates have emerged. But the combo of HPCPUNAME and HPSUSAN is still needed for verification. Even it it's not unique, it's still not generic.

"Way back when, with an HPSUSAN I would be able to tell you the HP 3000 model, and even the serial number, I believe," Woc said. "Today that's not true anymore. It's not a unique number."

This leads the users interested in freeware HPA/3000 to a challenge which Stromasys must master: How to give hundreds of freeware emulator users a way to employ their valid HPSUSAN numbers with third-party software. Only using the full complement of software on the emulator constitutes a complete test, Woc said.

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App design changes induce homesteading

At the e-commerce site Musical Fulfillment, ERP manager Chris McCartney would prefer to remain on the HP 3000 with an app which has been working well. But migration mandates at these kinds of satisfied sites are triggered by many things, including the loss of HP support or acquisitions by larger companies.

AMSLogoMusical Fulfillment has used the Ecometry application for more than 10 years. The company even moved up to the N-Class HP 3000s just a few years ago. "We were hoping to get a few more years out of it before we had to make a decision to upgrade or move to a different ERP system," McCartney said. Her firm is the parent company for musical suppliers such as American Music Supply.

"Personally I love HP 3000s," McCartney said. "They are sturdy, they run forever, and they are just one box with none of this load balancing across multiple servers."

The alternative path away from the 3000 induces changes, sometimes ranging beyond a new environment. It starts with a new vendor, in McCartney’s case. Red Prairie acquired Ecometry’s creators last year.

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E-commerce sites examine migration plans

One year after the Red Prairie buyout of Ecometry's owner Escalate, the e-commerce suite is getting a more secure open systems future. Ecometry once represented the largest and most vital part of 3000 growth, especially during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. A list of 3000 customers circa 2003 showed that one customer in five was using the e-commerce software.

ElectricGuitarWhen satisfied users of 3000 apps are sparked to make a migration away from the server, they often rely on the considerations of their longtime app vendor. At e-commerce and catalog firm Musical Fulfillment, manager Chris McCartney is still searching for a solution that will improve on the 3000-based Ecometry software she's managing. Her company serves several e-commerce sites such as

Even though the Ecometry app's supplier Red Prairie sells a commodity version of the software, that migration target is not registering a higher note at McCartney's company.

"Unfortunately there is very little ROI in an upgrade to the Open Systems Ecometry," McCartney said, "so that is a hard sell."

Print-ExclusiveThe application and its creators have moved from part of the Escalate software group to an even less prominent part of Red Prairie, which now has 43 software solutions in its stable after a series of acquisitions during the last three years. But recent signs point to protection for this application suite -- at least its versions built for non-3000 environments.

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Core memories spark a cold start for 3000s

Editor’s Note: Jon Diercks, the author of the only comprehensive MPE/iX administration book, offered us this story of the 3000’s very first year. It was a time of HP retreat from the minicomputer market: HP staff resigning, others unselling a system touted just months earlier as “a happening,” as the slogans of 1972-73 said in HP labs and offices.

Diercks worked at Anderson University in the 1990s alongside Tom Harbron, who’d been the college’s computer department director during 3000’s first months on the market. Diercks said Harbron was heavily involved in early discussions with HP about MPE and IMAGE. 

The institution began as Anderson College, and its very first HP 3000 was one of the earliest models. Diercks said the bragging line in those days was "Anderson College has the first HP 3000 ever installed anywhere between the Rockies and the Appalachians."

Harbron’s report on the 3000’s 1973 is part of Diercks’ 3000 memories, and so he’s contributed the writing as part of our 3000 Memoir Project — in all of its authentic, human and humbling beginnings. It's the first story I've read that details the 3000's retreat. An HP employee who couldn't look his customers in the eye about the 3000, and so resigned. A man whose job was to unsell the 3000s -- and later would bundle the greatest software HP ever wrote, IMAGE, to the Classic hardware, which not long after, fell behind the state of the art.

By Tom Harbron

Reports of problems with the HP 3000 operating system, MPE, continued to be received in the opening weeks of 1973. While it was not encouraging, I had confidence in the basic soundness of the 3000’s design and the integrity of Hewlett-Packard to ultimately deliver what had been promised.

HP’s Phil Oliver called and scheduled a meeting with me for February 6, 1973.  He brought along Bob Stringer, who had replaced Ed Pulsifer as the District Sales Manager; Ed McCracken, who was now HP's Market Manager for Government, Education, and Medical Markets; and Jay Craig, who was a new HP salesman from Indianapolis. McCracken would tell me, years later when he was the 3000 division manager, that the morning in my office was the most difficult day of his career. The people that HP hired were, mostly, an honorable group of people.

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NorCal transit will run its 3000 route again

AC Transit logoAnybody who wonders where HP 3000s are hanging on can grab a rider strap on the Alameda-Contra Costa transit service. The public entity AC Transit just opened up a one-year contract to maintain its two HP 3000s, along with the applications.

The systems under maintenance are a Series 957 and a Series 987. If you're scoring at home, these are servers built and sold during the 1990s -- still powering a California organization with duties to ferry 191,000 riders daily with a fleet of  584 buses. The District’s service area extends from western Contra Costa County to southern Alameda County, and the organization employs 1,863 employees.

As if that's not enough, this contract -- which is out for bids until Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 10 AM -- has a provision for extension. The district isn't sure when it will be able to stop using those 9x7s.

At the sole discretion of the District, the contract may be extended up to 12 additional months in increments of three months. This is to  accommodate the uncertain end date for the District’s use of these HP 3000 computers.

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Moving Data in Migrations: the Tools, and Who Uses and Develops Them

Arby's sandwich chain turned off some HP 3000s recently, but moving its data stocked a menu's worth of practices and tools. Based on a report from Paul Edwards, the journey worked smoothest when expertise could be outsourced or tapped.

68-69 Cruise PhotoEdwards described part of the project as a move to Oracle's databases, facilitated by Robelle's Suprtool and Speedware's software. The former supplier has retained its name for 35 years by now. The latter has become Fresche Legacy, but DBMotion as well as AMXW software is still available for data transfers. In the photo at left, the veteran Edwards is in motion himself, flying on a 1968-69 US Navy tour on the USS Hornet. He figures he's been working with 3000s half his life, which would give him enough time in to witness Robelle's entry into the market, as well as the transformation of Infocentre into Speedware, and then to Fresche Legacy.

I'm standing on the right. The two young guys kneeling down are the enlisted operators that ride in the back of the plane. The guy standing on the left is our Crew 13 Aircraft Commander. The aircraft is an S-2E Tracker Carrier Based Anti-Submarine Warfare Navy aircraft. It has a large propeller attached to a 1500hp Wright R1820-82 engine -- one of two on the plane.

Some of the data moves at Arby's went to Oracle, he reports. "They were using Oracle for part of their operations. Using Speedware with Oracle was interesting. Most of that was dumping data with Suprtool or Speedware, then formatting it in the layout they wanted." Suprtool has been guided and developed by Neil Armstrong at Robelle for nearly two decades. He recently marked his 20th year with the vendor, according to the Robelle newsletter.

Arby's also took its payroll application off the 3000, "and it went off to a service bureau. We had the file layouts that bureau wanted, and so it was a lot easier. We just said, 'this field is the one on the HP system, and this field on your layouts is equivalent.' We just matched them all up. We had some where we could say 'forget about that field, we won't need it.' "

But the transition to Oracle, as performed by a team that was supposed to be experienced in the database, was not so easy.

Continue reading "Moving Data in Migrations: the Tools, and Who Uses and Develops Them" »

What You Need to Do and Check for SLTs

At a recent visit to a customer's shop, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh spread the word about System Load Tapes. The SLTs are a crucial component to making serious backups of HP 3000s. Vladimir saw a commonplace habit at the shop: Skipping the reading of the advice they'd received.

"I don't know exactly what to do about my SLT," the manager told him. "HP built my first one using a CD. Do I need that CD?"

His answer was no, because HP was only using the most stable media to build that 3000's first SLT. But Vladimir had a question in reply. Do you read the NewsWire? "Yes, I get it in my email, and my mailbox," she said. But like other tech resources, ours hadn't been consulted to advise on such procedures, even though we'd run an article about 10 days ago covering CSLTs. That tape's rules are the same as for SLTs. Create one each time something changes in your configuration for your 3000.

Other managers figure they'd better be creating an SLT with every backup. Not needed, but there's one step that gets skipped in the process.

Continue reading "What You Need to Do and Check for SLTs" »

Just how good were those good old days?

NewsWire subscribers who receive our email updates have heard that I'm collecting stories about the early 3000's days. I'm working on an autobiography of the 3000, written "as told to" me, by the system. I've fielded phone calls and gotten some nice email stories. Today's was great fun to read and instructive, too. That's because the negative experiences in our lives are remembered clearer than the positive ones. 

What I mean to say is that war stories are more fun to read, chock-a-block with details. Before I offer an excerpt from today's story, I want to make an observation about the 3000's life. It wasn't always the better time we prefer to remember.

Even the president of the Connect user group falls prey to this memory. In his column in the latest user group magazine, Steve Davidek remembered days when HP was packed with people eager to service a 3000 customer. After a disk head crash in 1984, Davidek recounted three HP employees he knew by name who chipped in to resolve the problem. A different time indeed, when Davidek managed just one Series III HP 3000.

Our HP sales rep would visit every month or so just to see how we were doing. Some months he'd even bring a Systems Engineer along to check on things. It was amazing.

Dave Wiseman, who says that "Most of you will know me as the idiot dragging the alligator at the Orlando conference, or maybe as the guy behind Millware," told us a tale of days even earlier in the 3000's life. Buying a system from HP in 1978 meant investing in a terminal to test your application -- before HP would even fill the system order.

Continue reading "Just how good were those good old days?" »

How Support (With)holds Key to Emulation

At some HP 3000 sites, the servers are working to deliver IT services to a subset of customers. One site in Virginia which handles healthcare administration is keeping an N-Class server online using Amisys/3000. But the issue which concerns the company isn't so much the tech capability of the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator. Licenses with existing vendors worry this prospect.

Cognos/IBM is at the top of the list for this company, even through they dropped Powerhouse support long ago. Powerhouse has been an integral part of the Amisys surround code. Cognos wasn't the friendliest company to negotiate with during the MPE heydays. An emulator license for Powerhouse would have to be arranged with IBM.

Other arrangements would include a license for Amisys itself, which is part of the McKesson Group by now. This is one of the software programs running in Virginia where support is being paid -- Adager is another -- and so there's a better chance of getting that license transferred. A transfer license is what's needed for this market. However, it's a lot harder to start up a transfer discussion after you've terminated support.

There are going to be other kinds of prospects where the Stromasys software has a better chance today. The sites where support is intact, or there's plenty of in-house code with no vendors to negotiate with, will have a smoother path. In a spot like that Virginia IT shop, licenses are linked to vendors which will likely expect some support.

This support renewal raises the price bar for the emulator, of course.

Continue reading "How Support (With)holds Key to Emulation" »

Make backups, but a CSLT is just as vital

Many homesteading HP 3000 shops are working with limited system administration. If you're reading this blog, that probably doesn't apply to your own 3000 shop. But you can pass on advice about backing up to any 3000 site you know. A backup of applications and databases isn't enough.

The CSLT needs to be fresh and available, too. The Custom System Load Tape tells the 3000 how the configuration is set up for devices attached to the system that you're restoring. (The original SLT that was distributed from HP has a generic configuration. This customized SLT reflects your physical configuration of your specifically-built system.) Also referred to as a boot tape, it contains the system load utilities, diagnostic subsystems, base system files, and other HP system files such as IMAGE, FCOPY and EDITOR.

A CSLT is generated with the system generator (SYSGEN) utility. You can build a CSLT for individual systems, each with a different configuration, after updates. These configurations tell the 3000 what other volumes are available to accept data. You can also put a full backup on the end of a CSLT, but it's better to have that backup on separate tapes. (Separating a backup from the CSLT also speeds up creating a CSLT.) Consultant Paul Edwards advises that managers make a CSLT at least every other time during a backup, plus having two tape drives on each system. "Being paranoid makes for a good system manager," he says. "If you're not paranoid enough, you better have a good resume."

Overlooking the CSLT is so common that even some admin pros have done it from time to time. For one such pro, an A-Class 3000 was recently rebuilt and had its apps consolidated. But the rebuilt system didn't have its CSLT freshened, which was discovered when the boot volume failed. 

We lost LDEV1 in the 'system' volume-set. The apps and databases are fine, but I'd neglected to make a fresh CSLT once the rebuild/configure/setup was complete. Fortunately, all the data volumes are protected with Mirror/iX -- but rebuilding the system volume accounts, network config, administration jobs and so on has been a pain.

An honest mistake like this is not one you need to make yourself. Even if, as another 3000 consultant notes, your shop has gone into Frugal Mode while it makes in-house moves. You have the right to be wrong in Frugal Mode. But you really don't want that right, unless you've got plenty of extra time.

Continue reading "Make backups, but a CSLT is just as vital" »

Disbursing 3000 Gear to the Next Life

BoydsSome 3000 shops which have made migrations are looking for a new home for older equipment. At the Boyd Coffee Company -- whose motto is "Fuel, not fashion" -- director of IT Lane Rollins has systems which once did good work but might be ready for retirement. Or repurposing.

"I need to get some clutter out of here," he said, "and I'm not sure who is reselling HP 3000 gear these days, or if anyone would be interested in the stuff. We’ve been off of the 3000 for five years now."

His list includes two Series 918s, including a Jamaica storage unit (HASS) and an extra SCSI card. Also on hand at the Coffee Company's shop: DTC controllers, an HP line printer with a LAN card, plus terminals.

If the gear doesn't seem like it could launch a thousand ships, it could well be equipment to keep a 3000 ship afloat. This kind of inventory won't draw much resale value, but some service companies need it for their spare parts depot. There's nothing quite as good as replacing a failed bit of hardware with an identical unit.

Continue reading "Disbursing 3000 Gear to the Next Life" »

Find SSD on SCSI? It might be time for 3000

OCZ's RevoDrive

SCSI remains the primary method to connect disk to HP 3000s. That means that most of the Solid State Disk (SSD) memory-based devices won't serve for MPE/iX storage. But it's not impossible to make the quantum leap from rotational to RAM storage. It might be worth the experimentation, given the upsides. In short, if a manager can find the SCSI, honey, find the time -- to experiment.

Starting at about $250, the devices are not costly anymore. And even in the more-rare SCSI units, 120-480 GB models are available in online stores.

"You would need to find a SCSI SSD," said Larry Kaufman, a systems engineer with BayPointe Technology. "They are out there, but there are not a lot of choices. Here is something to consider: When a SSD fails, the failure is likely to be catastrophic, with total data loss. HDDs can fail in this way too, but often give warning that they are failing, allowing much or all of their data to be recovered."

Kaufman offered a note about the old HP's "silverback" disks used with 3000s. "They would make tons of noise for weeks, sometimes months, before they would die."

That sound of rotation is also the sound of slower operation, of course. Once you go non-rotational, you won't go back, said one consultant. Using SSD tech in a 3000 carries the usual warning that was often quoted in the 1990s and onward: This is a storage unit not tested for MPE/iX. But there's plenty of tests not yet performed for SSDs. Like any advanced technology, SSD has also got some emerging downsides now being discovered in the field.

Continue reading "Find SSD on SCSI? It might be time for 3000" »

Still ample time to study IPv6

UnderstandingIPv6A new guidebook to learn the latest-generation Internet protocol will be a useful tool for 3000 pros, at least any who are expanding their networking skills. And while it's true the HP 3000 won't ever support IPv6, this style of trailing the current net technology has been part of the 3000's experience for decades.

In 1984, for example, IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA) ruled a vast swath of a very diverse computing landscape. Almost three decades ago, 75 percent of corporate-level data processing was performed on an IBM or "plug-compatible" system. And about half of those systems were supporting SNA devices. So there you had it: a networking protocol used by more than a third of the world's corporate computers, and completely unsupported by Hewlett-Packard's business computers.

In a story in the venerable InterACT magazine, Sharon Fisher wrote this dominant and rising technology wasn't for sale, just adoption.

The most important fact to remember about SNA is that is is not a tangible product, but an abstract concept. You cannot buy SNA; it is neither hardware nor software. Instead, it is definitions, rules, protocols and formats that govern the structure of hardware and software.

So HP embraced SNA for the 3000, its only business computer, but late. As usual. Adopting standards early might look good in a tech planning presentation, but in practice can be as useful as messaging between a fridge and a TV. We heard as much from a veteran of standards-based networking in the 3000 community.

Continue reading "Still ample time to study IPv6" »

Web console resets, environment rebuilds, dumping form printers lead Hidden Value

I switched from an A400 to an A500 some time back, and I only realized I had not set up the remote web console after the console was down. Where can I configure this? This last time my only access was via VPN, or verbally over the phone. ("What can you see? Okay, so type...") I want to be able fix this myself next time. The console is the built-in one, and not an external box.

Gilles Schipper replies

You can configure your web console from the main console via the GSP interface. Specifically, the command you're looking for is LC (LAN configuration).

This command can be invoked even while the system is up and running by typing ctl-B (control and B together). For more help, at the GSP interface, type HELP, then HELP LC. 

Craig Lalley adds that if you arrive at a password roadblock and need to clear a console back to the default login, "at the physical console, hit the GSP reset in the back of the system, then press P on the keyboard. It will reset the passwords."

I need to rebuild an environment from one HP 3000 system to another. Trouble is, we want to have groups from the same account end up on different user volumes. Is there a way to do this using BULDACCT? 

Keven Miller adds

BULDACCT was made for processing complete accounts. Do BULDACCT  CHC%VSACCT=MEDADV_1. Then edit BULDJOB1 for the other group, changing MEDADV_1 to _2

Continue reading "Web console resets, environment rebuilds, dumping form printers lead Hidden Value" »

Long MPE future, longer list to learn about

Up on a favorite technical mailing list of mine, one HP 3000 manager laid out his future for MPE and the 3000. While it may well be a long one, he's now looking to learn IBM mainframe technology. Yes, studying up for work on a system whose legacy is even longer than MPE's.

Yes, I know that COBOL is dead and there's no future in mainframes. Somehow, I think they're both going to be around as long as I am. Remember, I work for state government. We have at least one agencywhere their idea of application modernization is converting from Assembler to COBOL.

Our veteran manager wants to make a shift that looks like this: 



The common element in there is COBOL, a language almost always essential to supporting 3000 applications. In spite of its repeated death announcements, COBOL's in use on every platform being run by enterprises today. Not everywhere, by a long shot. But since COBOL training won't be a big part of our manager's tech learning list, he could move on to newer tech. Maybe you're interested in Java, for example. One of HP's arch rivals is streaming free training for a language that's being classified as legacy. It should be so lucky.

Continue reading "Long MPE future, longer list to learn about" »

Reductions via migration feed 3000 pipeline

RoastbeefIt's a fact of life in 2012 that HP 3000s are being retired by some companies. Migrations are far enough along -- in some cases -- that backup 3000s are finally being turned off and sold. Many migrators report there's a 3000 still running just in case, even after the MPE applications have been replaced, re-hosted, or re-written.

However, the exits of these servers are usually not from service to the community. By this year, the latest-generation 3000s are coming available on the market once they move out of an IT shop. At the US sandwich chain Arby's, an N-Class 3000 is on offer at a price below $4,000.

Speedware, which is now making a fresh mark as Fresche Legacy, moved out more than 730 HP 3000s between 2002 and 2011. Speedware (the fourth generation language) provided the landing platform for Arby's move off MPE, too. Paul Edwards recently announced an entry-level N-Class for sale that once worked at Arby's. Recently, Fresche reports that it's landed a new project to "eliminate the mainframe environment at a major North American railway, providing $10 million in cost savings and improved performance."

Not all of Arby's change in platforms is spinning off of HP's strategy, however. Arby's and Wendy's married up over the last few years. They're splitting up after a short union, and the IT resources are being dispatched as a result. A 3000 that feels stale to one company may look fresh to another.

Continue reading "Reductions via migration feed 3000 pipeline" »

Database changes target weekend's quiet

The HP 3000s still serving throughout the world are often on all-day, every day duty. But activity can quiet down on the weekends. That's when Terry Simpkins, Director of Business Systems at the manufacturer Measurement Specialties, wanted to add an index.

"I need to add a new index into a detail dataset," he said. "But I'd like to complete this change on Sunday, if possible, while there are no users on the system." Simpkins hoped that DBGeneral would be able to adjust a Jumbo dataset in IMAGE, but a problem cropped up that didn't have an immediate weekend solution using that Bradmark tool in his IT belt.

The detail is a 'JUMBO'. The new index will be to a new Automatic master set. Using DBGeneral, I get an error when I attempt to 'activate' the change. It says the number of blocks exceeds the IMAGE max. The detail is very large. Is there some undocumented switch that needs to be specified for DBGeneral to work on JUMBO databases?

Whether DBGeneral has any undocumented Jumbo dataset switch didn't come up in users' replies to the issue. But Sunday support expectations, and the built-in nature of the alternative tool to DBGeneral, Adager, rose up. Not even a better tool can enable a change to such a very large detail dataset, however.

"I think that you probably are exceeding the MPE file size on your detail dataset when DBGeneral tries to add the new index pointers," Pete Eggers said. "My choice would be Adager over DBGeneral years ago, and I suspect that would still be true.  But even Adager cannot create datasets that exceed MPE's file size limit." But these are the instances when such advice helps teach about the limits which applications must respect in IMAGE/SQL, as well as the tools to work around them.

Continue reading "Database changes target weekend's quiet" »

Keeping up with Cognos can demand a lunch

Print-ExclusiveWhile IBM's enterprise juggernaut keeps rolling out in front of HP's, the share of business that Powerhouse contributes is miniscule. HP 3000 operations comprised far more of HP's business while the vendor was still selling MPE. Nudging along Powerhouse technology has become a tricky assignment for indie tool providers who need changes. Sometimes an informal lunch works a lot better than any official action on tech agreements between IBM and the long-time 3000 partners who hail from years before IBM bought Cognos.

In the era of this kind of response, 3000 software vendors such as MB Foster have promised Powerhouse-using customers like Dave Vinnedge of Accuride that their software would continue to keep up with Cognos changes. But communications into the 3000 community have become a low priority for the IBM Advanced Development Tools group. (IBM didn't respond to requests for comment on this story.)

Support for Powerhouse at Accuride is $6,500 yearly, a figure that buys the highest level of access for an HP 3000 user: Vintage Support, created in 2009 after the $5 billion merger. It hasn't improved via the association with IBM.

"During disaster recovery testing, about the only time we ever called Cognos for quick support, it took about two hours for them to get us a 'disaster recovery key', " Vinnedge said. "At that time Cognos support needed to contact our Cognos sales rep for an okay. We have not yet tried to contact IBM's support during a DR test." Contact is tough; it took over 15 minutes to find a US support phone number to add to Accuride's DR docs, "and that was from using links in IBM's emails they sent when they merged in the Cognos support."

Continue reading "Keeping up with Cognos can demand a lunch" »

Powerhouse future spurs 3000 adjustments

Print-ExclusiveAfter IBM's Cognos acquisition, the Powerhouse language now offers slower development prospects. Some long-term users are adjusting their expectations further in 2012, even while they work to make other software integrate with the fourth generation language.

It might be easy to pin today's prospects for Powerhouse onto IBM. The computing giant purchased the creator of that product, Cognos, in 2007. The years since that purchase have frustrated some users who try to rely on the 4GL. While the concept of a 4GL remains a useful Advanced Development Tool (ADT), the potential for adapting Powerhouse or extending its reach looks challenged.

One example is at the manufacturer Accuride, a 3000 shop using Powerhouse. Dave Vinnedge says he's been working to integrate the latest, 8.49F version of Powerhouse with MB Foster's UDALink software. As Cognos was edging into the realm of IBM, it was changing internals in the Powerhouse data dictionary. These differences were not communicated to such independent software allies in time to make the changes so the products might integrate. More than four years later, the liaison between a now-small Cognos ADT operation to allied companies still isn't working on an official level.

Customers expect this kind of technical exchange to continue between their vendors. But reports from the installed base of Powerhouse customers indicate that IBM's interest in Cognos remains largely in the Cognos Business Intelligence products. The ADT tools like Powerhouse look forlorn in comparison.

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Oracle's legal jousts missing Media's marks

MediaGeneralLogoHP and Oracle have been squaring off in court over the future of the database on HP's Unix servers, jousting since the first week of the month. But after a break on Wednesday to attempt to settle the battle out of court, these two companies were back at it after talks crashed. Oracle's got HP's database futures in its hands, and testimony from its executives asserts those hands have crimping sales of HP's Itanium Business Critical Servers.

But that's just not enough to keep the attention of some Itanium owners. One migrator is already heading away from HP's Unix and onto Oracle's Unix. But the death-knell that Oracle wants to spread about the HP-UX platform isn't spooking Greg Barnes.

Barnes has an 3000 background that dates back to MPE III, but his company took its time getting away from 3000s. Media General, which agreed to sell off nearly all of it newspapers to a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, was using publishing software from Collier-Jackson until the late 1990s, when the shift started off 3000s. Barnes said the Oracle jabs didn't rattle him a bit in HP Unix management.

"I'm not aware that the snipe-fest had any effect whatsoever," he said, while reporting on the company's in-house migration to the Itanium servers. "Like much of the death knells I’ve read over the years, I have better things to ponder." Among his new interests are Oracle's direct competitor to HP-UX, Solaris. Media General is now phasing out the five HP-UX systems left in its datacenter. It's also focusing on its TV business, post-newspapers.

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Migrations replacing apps, working in-house

Print-Exclusive3000 migrations are continuing at companies that choose to follow one of two paths. At the Visalia school district in California, operations for its 40 schools will continue to be served by the QSS K-12 applications they've used on 3000s. But IT manager Al Foytek said that Visalia will be following the QSS customers who are moving to the Linux version of the app.

"We will be moving as soon as that's ready, and the front runners are poised for this year," Foytek said. "We won't be in the first wave or two." Schools have a narrow window during the year to make such a transition, typically in the summer between school years. "July 1 would be the ideal time," he said.

He added that Visalia won't move this year and is not likely to make its transition next summer, which would mean its 3000 apps may be migrated to the Linux version of QSS software by 2014.

Customers with packaged applications see advantages to migration beyond just having commodity hardware supplies. Foytek said that moving to an SQL database is also a plus. But QSS has engineered that change for the app, rather than an outside firm selling services to the district. QSS adopted the Postgres SQL database for the Linux version of its 3000 app. Founder Duane Percox has hired key developers from HP's labs such as Jeff Vance and Mark Bixby to do work on the new app's technology.

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Powerhouse drives users toward transition

Fourth generation languages may well be an artifact of a classic time in development, but 4GL code still powers some 3000 applications in enterprises. Powerhouse is the 4GL with the widest installed base, and some of its users are wondering how much time is left on the clock for this advanced development tool.

After its genesis as the Canadian company Quasar, Cognos released and developed this range of tools during the '70s and '80s for HP 3000 reporting, screen design, data dictionary work and applications. At first the Quiz report writer ran standalone on thousands of HP systems, including a bundle as a part of MANMAN's services. But when QDesign, Quick and QTP made their way into companies along with Powerhouse, the whole lineup wrapped itself around commercial apps such as the Amisys/3000 healthcare software -- plus many an in-house 3000 app.

Powerhouse users aren't holding out much hope for improvements to the tool which was purchased by IBM in 2007 along with Cognos. This Advanced Development Tool software didn't drive the IBM acquisition -- the Cognos Business Intelligence tools motivated the purchase. Established Cognos managers retort that ADT continues to produce profits for this business unit. Support contracts for even the smallest of HP 3000s run more than $500 monthly, revenue paid for service now called Vintage Support.

The good news is that Powerhouse for MPE/iX has outlasted Powerhouse for the IBM AS/400, in any vintage. But the language labors under the same yoke that COBOL carries, a profile of a tool built for another time. "The PowerHouse business has to have seen substantial decline for IBM over the years," said Vaughn Smith, a consultant in Canada. "How many more sites can convert to other development environments, reducing IBM's revenue, before they shut down Cognos?"

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App replacement may spur emulator evals

The 3000 community continues to examine the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator from a capital cost perspective. It sounds like a costly investment for a customer who's already working on a limited budget. But there's some evidence from migration prospects that the $50-$100K price tag for the software and Intel hardware may be a price that can bridge the timeline to app replacement.

Users and managers in the Powerhouse community have been studying the future of remaining with HP 3000s, some 16 months into a period where Hewlett-Packard stopped providing support for the OS and hardware it created. While the debate included one "get off, anyway" opinion -- a consultant said Powerhouse users should "put a bullet in this OS and IMAGE database and move on" -- another view is that the emulator might be a stopgap for replacements.

Anne Quirke of the Dublin, Ireland consultancy Uturn Ltd. said that one client prefers to replace an app now on the 3000, instead of migrating it. Replacement is a different set of costs and efforts than lift and shifting business apps. But it still might spur some attention during plans to sustain computing resources.

Migration is not an option for a long, long list of reasons; replacement to a new application is preferred. The time-line to these new applications is not directly in our control, so in the meantime we are looking at options to reduce the risk associated to the hardware.

Continue reading "App replacement may spur emulator evals " »

3000 system census surprises in UK

CensusAt a recent 3000 webinar among CAMUS user group members, the Talk Soup Q&A brushed across the 2011 HP3000 Reunion. While the talk examined activity of 2012, one attendee on the conference call could be heard saying, "Not another reunion!" It's a tiresome but expected response to the scope of the 3000 population.

On one side stand the users and managers who employ an HP 3000 in everyday production. They're grateful for any relevant information to keep 3000s running well and updated as much as possible. These community members don't often ask how many systems are still running. For some, another Reunion would be a chance to attend an event they couldn't enjoy because of a 2011 conflict.

Other HP 3000 managers want to view the community as a seriously shrunken village. They've made the choice to migrate, or they can't find work any longer that taps their MPE and 3000 skills. Perhaps they do business in the community and haven't had new revenue in a long while. Other opportunities call, so they're eager to reinforce their choice to move away.

However, we sometimes encounter census trail-posts that lead away from the "too small to be relevant" viewpoints. In the UK one prominent community member had a trail blaze that opened their eyes about who might still remain in the homesteading populace.

Continue reading "3000 system census surprises in UK" »

Continuing support key to homesteading

In a webinar last week the makers of the HPA/3000 Charon virtualizing engine (read: emulator) took questions from attendees about licensing. Not the license of MPE/iX (already in place from HP) or licensing their product with customers (something they'd love to do once a customer commits. Soon, we were told.)

The licensing issue in play is how to get a software vendor to embrace use of their product on HPA/3000. For some companies this is an automatic. They generally don't charge for upgrades and haven't created anything that needs special handling inside MPE/iX. Terry Floyd of the Support Group sells software that his company has crafted. His customer, Ed Stein of Magicaire, is on the short list for early adoption of HPA/3000.

"I don’t write any tricky stuff," Floyd said. "We don’t have anything that needs testing. If Ed could get a box with Charon running, our test would be a full month-end close (dozens of jobs) and an MRP run. I think he’ll do a very thorough job – that’s his nature."

Some vendors, especially app suppliers, might have a different approach. The key to getting software from HP iron onto the emulator may well be keeping up support. 3000 software support contracts can be left behind while trimming budgets. This can present a problem that can be fixed by restarting support -- which is a good idea anyway, if the 3000 is mission-critical.

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Federal program helps 3000 IT pro re-train

ExcellentMachineGroupHP 3000 IT pros have a challenge to overcome in their careers: how to add modern skills to the classic tooset they learned managing 3000s. Those between jobs must handle the costs to train, too. Craig Proctor has been spending time to learn the likes of C#, Java and Visual Studio. After a year of study, he hasn't been spending his own money.

"I took a dozen different classes," Proctor said. "The Trade Act paid for it all. It's possible to take one class at TLG Learning, or work with them to design a series of classes."

ProctorProctor worked with a 3000 for more than 20 years at Boeing, as a Configuration Management Analyst and Business Systems Programmer Analyst. He left Boeing in 2010 and began a period he calls Updating IT Skills in his resume at LinkedIn. TLG, based in Seattle, gave him training that he will blend with the business analysis that's so common in 3000 careers. He understands that by drawing on his recent education he'd accept at an entry level IT position. "You get the merger of an experienced analyst, using new tools," he said of his proposal to any new employer."

Last year an extension of the Trade Act was signed into US law by President Obama in one of the few bills that escaped the partisan logjam. A federal website describes it as a way for foreign-trade-affected workers to "obtain the skills, resources, and support they need to become re-employed." $975 billion in federal funds have been sent to states like Proctor's in Washington, adminstered by each state. Furloughed workers file a petition for training, job search and relocation allowances. These pros have an average age of 46, which is the younger side of the HP 3000 workforce.

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Migration racks up list of emulated tasks

Some HP 3000s which remain in service are using many MPE nuances to get their jobs accomplished. Each of these tasks needs to be emulated in a migration away from the server. Even as companies embark on migrations to reduce risks, the list of tasks that they hope to replicate from their in-house apps can be surprising.

Such is the case at MM Fab, a fabric manufacturer in LA's South Bay Area. The 3000 shop is now taking its first year of steps off the system, developed and managed by Dave Powell. He shared a list of the things that an emulator must do if it were to succeed at replacing HP's 3000 hardware at his shop. The list also serves as a extensive catalog of the capabilites required of any new operating environment.

"We are thinking about migrating," Powell shared, months before the decision was made. "Which means we have to think about the choice between buying a package vs some form of emulation. Which means I could use some assurance that the [3000 hardware] emulation tools out there would actually work for us."

I can't afford to take this for granted because our system uses some rare features and does unusual things. Lots of them. Example: we do lots of tricky escape-code screen handling (mostly for point-and-shoot, drill down inquiries) that breaks some terminal emulators. Reflection 10.0 works, as does Minisoft WS92 v5.4 and actual terminals from 262x on, but last I checked, Minisoft Secure92 fails big-time. Not trying to make Minisoft look bad, but I need to make the point that software that works elsewhere may not work for us.

"We never cared about portabililty," Powell said, "because we never had any intention of moving to any other platform." From such situations are customers made for the Stromasys virtualization engine. If you're uncertain of whether you're using any MPE nuances in your application, it's a good strategy to get an evaluation of what's in production use today. Even if you're not migrating.

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Changing IP Addresses for HP 3000s

I need to change the IP address of our HP 3000 in the near future, and it's been over 10 years since I've done anything like this. Here's what I think needs to be done:

Open Config
Guided Config
Put in the network interface, (LAN1), then press Config Network
Enter the new IP address
Save Data

Tracy Johnson replies:

I would go with Unguided Config. Guided may change things (besides the IP address) to defaults that may have modified over the last 10 years.

Craig Lalley adds:

Depending on the old IP address and the new IP address, you may want to also change the subnet, and the gateway. The gateway can be accessed by hitting F4 for Internet. The gateway is found at the path NETXPORT.NI.LAN.INTERNET

If you are making the change because of a new switch/router, make sure the network guys configure the port for the HP 3000 correctly. In other words, if you have a 100MB card, make sure it is set to 100MB/full duplex and do the same on the HP 3000, and turn off auto negotiate.

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Manufacturers pull HP off support lines

CAMUS director Michael Anderson, an IT consultant in the Bay Area and a leader of that MRP/ERP users group, was an IT projects manager and applications manager at manufacturers Tencor and ThermaWave, both using HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard is off the radar at most of these manufacturing sites.

“As far as HP support for the HP 3000, I dropped mine a couple months after they announced the end-of-life,” Anderson said of the period in 2002 where he became Enterprise Wide Applications Manager at ThermaWave. “What are you spending money for at that point?  Long term there was not going to be any meaningful development for MANMAN, so there would also be no demand from the application for new features in MPE or IMAGE.  My employer was going through tough times and really needed the $58,000 in savings.

“As long as the old hardware continued to work and you had a good boot tape, what could HP provide that third parties didn’t already provide better for less?  The damage is done and most of the HP support customers are gone. Maybe if they had announced there would be some support in the afterlife there would be more users holding on.”

User groups, which have some of the most seasoned managers in the community, offer a better application and system resource. “On the other hand, for the companies that still use MANMAN on HP 3000s, CAMUS is still here to provide a supportive environment and forum for knowledge exchange,” Anderson said. “But it’s getting pretty quiet.”

While HP’s not making much noise on these soft feints into a market that it’s abandoned, there’s no doubting the attempts will continue, however unsuccessful. MB Foster’s Birket Foster predicted back in 2009 that HP would become a non-entity in the support field by now.

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CAMUS webinar includes emulator update

CharonFrontShotThe CAMUS ERP/MRP users group is hosting an online meeting in about a week, on April 17 starting at 11:30 EDT. CAMUS board member Michael Anderson is taking registrations for that Tuesday's call-in and web briefing, one which includes an update from the makers of the Charon HPA/3000 emulator.

Stromasys has added an HP 3000 business manager, Paul Taffel, who will brief attendees on this HP 3000 emulator. Taffel's got airtime on the docket through 1 PM. A demonstration is promised. The meeting is open to anyone who registers with Anderson, by sending him an email. He'll reply with login and call-in details.

In the hour following the Stromasys briefing, users who are managing VMS sites will share information in a Talk Soup about the track record of the Charon technology in the DEC world. The first ERP-MRP production work for the emulator took place in the Alpha and VAX community. Some CAMUS members have already shared high praise for the software's ability to mimic HP hardware (on VMS systems) using Intel PC systems. What's changed since those Charon versions is the hosting environment. It's now Linux instead of Windows.

Anderson says this spring's premiere of the HPA/3000 offer may not fit the users of older, smaller 3000s. The first release of HPA/3000 is only matching A-Class 400MhZ horsepower. Stromasys has proven lab resources to boost that. The rollout schedule promises an N-Class-powered, multiple processor version by sometime after July 1, but sold at a price above $50,000.

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Protecting HP 3000s Using Linux

While HP 3000 sites deploy Linux servers this year, some of them are using the environment as a buffer for 3000s which need to be in range of the Internet. James Byrne, who's hosting the website as well as managing IT project for Harte & Lyne, outlined his setup to use Linux for 3000 protection.

Byrne has his HP 3000s and the internet buffered by a dual-homed Linux box in front of the HP 3000, using that to provide firewall, SSH, and proxy services. He describes his setup a fairly primitive (where  GW/FW=gateway/firewall):

Internet-> GW/FW <-> Eth0:Linux:Eth1 <-> HP 3000

The network connection to the gateway/firewall provides our public routable access.  The link between the Linux front-end host and the HP 3000 is a x-over cable using a block address. Direct network connections to the HP 3000 NIC are physically impossible. This ensures physical network security over the non-encrypted portion of the network (for SSH access).

There are a wide assortment of Linux-based firewall appliance distributions which may simplify set up somewhat for novice users. Alternatively, one can simply use a mainstream Linux distribution, or a derivative like RHEL/CentOS or Debian/Ubuntu, and add and configure the packages desired.

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Assisting Off the 3000, En Route to Linux

Europ AssistanceA worldwide travel and healthcare insurer is making the move off their HP 3000 starting this year. While that's not remarkable, the destination is notable. Europ Assistance is starting the work to replace its MPE host with a Linux system, right down to considering a Powerhouse license re-purchase.

Adrian Hudson is part of the IT team at Europ, a firm which sells insurance for travels as well as supplemental healthcare. Since these policies are purchased one-off, as the UK-based firm might say, customers pay for them with credit cards. That's the spark to replace the HP 3000 with Linux, Hudson says.

"As Europ Assistance is involved in the Payment Card Industry, one of the key drivers for the migration away from the 3000 is regulatory compliance," he reported. The PCI regulations have been a challenge for some companies to master using the 3000. Last year Hudson was researching a way to permit the HP 3000 to process payment card information using Secure File Transfer Protocol. SFTP was not entirely supported by HP prior to the Hewlett-Packard lab closing in 2008. Hudson was diligently working on a way to involve the 3000 in these data transfers. The alternative, to use intermediate SFTP support on non-MPE servers, turned out to be the solution.

"We ended up piggy-backing files through a Windows server with SFTP installed," he said, "and then FTPing them to and from the 3000." Now the operations once handled by that 3000 are heading to a Linux server. Hudson is investigating the cost of keeping Powerhouse in place on the application. It's one of the simpler ways to migrate code to an alternative platform.

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3000 support demands spare inventory

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

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

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

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

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Respect MPE spooler, even as you replace it

PrintspoolerMigration transitions have an unexpected byproduct: They make managers appreciate the goodness that HP bundled into MPE/iX and the 3000. The included spooler is a great example of functionality which has a extra cost to replace in a new environment. No, not even Unix can supply the same abilities -- and that's the word from one of the HP community's leading Unix gurus.

Bill Hassell spread the word about HP-UX treasures for years from his own consultancy. Now he's working for SourceDirect as a Senior Sysadmin expert and posting to the LinkedIn HP-UX group. A migration project just finishing up drew Hassell's notice, when the project's manager noted Unix tools weren't performing at enterprise levels. Hassell said HP-UX doesn't filter many print jobs.

MPE has an enterprise level print spooler, while HP-UX has very primitive printing subsystem. hpnp (HP Network Printing) is nothing but a network card (JetDirect) configuration program. The ability to control print queues is very basic, and there is almost nothing to monitor or log print activities similar to MPE. HP-UX does not have any print job filters except for some basic PCL escape sequences such as changing the ASCII character size.

While a migrating shop might now be appreciating the MPE spooler more, some of them need a solution to replicate the 3000's built-in level of printing control. One answer to the problem might lie in using a separate Linux server to spool, because Linux supports the classic Unix CUPS print software much better than HP-UX.

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Developers, users manufacture 3000 chat

LinkedIn-LogoA lively discussion is in play at the HP 3000 Community of LinkedIn, where users, developers and managers are examining issues around migrating away from an MPE application of serious size and age. Or the need to do so.

Once Randy Thon mentioned he's using MM/3000 to manage maintenance services at Cessna Aircraft -- adding that the company's looking at options to leave the 3000 -- others in the 425-member community supplied advice and counsel.

The options suggested to Thon go beyond using the new Stromasys emulator. He's pleased with the way his app is working on the 3000 for Cessna. The hardware is the burr under the aircraft maker's saddle. The migration of an app like MM/3000 is a project that taxed every aspect of the software's owner, a crew laden with ex-HP engineers.

"The eXegeSys team spent years trying to migrate MM/3000 to Unix and ultimately gave up," said Jeffrey Lyon, "and sold the intellectual property. 11.7 million lines of COBOL, SPL, and Pascal is a big beast to move."

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Third Party Futures Revisited, Maintained

CessnaEarly this morning I went on a search for modules of HP's Maintenance Management/3000 software, known as MM/3000. A new member of the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community posted his user profile on that group (425 members and counting), and Randy Thon identified his shop as an MM/MNT user. The software that's running at his HP 3000 site was first installed in 1988. Thon explained that the program suite is still functional and efficient today.

The HP 3000 is still the core of our application. We're running on a Series 969-420 and rebooted two months ago -- we last rebooted five years ago. So far the application has been very robust, averaging production application changes weekly, allowing us to change at the speed of thought to accomodate changes in the manufacturing workplace and reductions in workforce. One of the main reasons we are still on this application and platform is that it is cost effective, solid and all development and management of the system is within the Maintenance Department.

That's the maintenance department of the Cessna Aircraft Company, the world's largest manufacturer (by aircraft sold) of general aviation airplanes. Not exactly a small enterprise, and there's clearly no software problem in Cessna's maintenance group. (Thon, by the way, is looking for fellow users of MM/3000. You can link in to him via the HP 3000 Community.)

The ease of integration which lets Cessna "change at the speed of thought" is enhanced by a third-party piece of software that improves MM/3000. Products like the eXegeSys eXegete client, a front end for the MM/3000 software, have made using 3000s to drive a big company a safe long-term investment. It's been that way for more than 30 years in your market, but there was a time when any software sold outside of HP was a budding enterprise. I located a link to illuminate this pedigree at the Adager website, where long-term 3000 resources have always had a generous harbor.

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Managers report on mobile access to 3000s

Put a problem or a possibility in front of HP 3000 veterans and they will share what they know about solutions, usually on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. As we first noted last week, the problem of connecting the iPad or iPhone to a 3000 -- or the possibility of enabling this most mobile of clients -- sparked some tests and suggestions from your community.

"I've had a couple of requests from sales people wanting to log on to the HP 3000 to do lookups," said Randy Stanfield of Unisource. It's a company using the HP 3000 in support of its business selling printing materials such as papers, facility supplies and equipment, and packaging materials and equipment.

Telnet, as we noted yesterday, is the state of the art for apps to communicate with the 3000. A telnet client will most probably not know anything about HP escape sequences, so the app access will be nothing more than character-mode.

ZatelnetConsultant and security expert Art Bahrs reports he's found a couple of telnet emulators, and wondered if WRQ might have one that runs on iOS. Alas no, and WRQ became a part of Attachmate years ago. Its Reflection line still offers NS/VT and telnet links to 3000s. Attachmate has no iOS apps, a fact that's easy to confirm because the Apple App Store is the only source of apps that don't need a jailbroken phone or pad. Jailbreaking adds power and options to these devices, but deploying jailbroken iPads to a sales force is a strategy that can change a career.

Then Bahrs checked back in to report on zaTelnet v 3.3, from zaTelnet. Bahrs and other 3000 vets are running tests to see if an iOS device can manage a 3000, access that's a few steps short of user-grade interfaces to 3000 applications. 

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Quality, emulator futures slowing migrations

RoadblockSome of the migration tool and service suppliers are expecting migrations from the 3000 to slow to a trickle this year. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet told us last week that the chance of extending the life of 3000 applications, by using the Stromasys HPA/3000 software, is going to put on the brakes for the sites that didn't have a clear future strategy for their 3000 servers.

Even without the possibility of replacing Series 900 hardware with the PC hardware plus software that starts at $15,000, most of the 3000 programs in production are not broken. They continue to do the job they were built for, although they could work faster, or connect better to new peripherals.

3000 managers wonder about these things. "Am I the only one out here?" they ask, in public forums like the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup. The answer is no, you're not the only one out there. In fact, the populace of 3000 customers is surprising, both in its numbers and the work these systems do. The brand-new chairman of the Connect user group's board has managed a 3000 shop for many years. Steve Davidek is on the record as a fan of the 3000, even while his shop at the City of Sparks has migrated numerous 3000 apps.

"The City of Sparks, Nevada will be running an HP 3000 and BiTech Payroll at least through 2011," he said on the newsgroup. "Maybe longer, as the process to convert to our new system was hampered by the amount of budget we are allowed. Then again, why the rush? It is still the best out there."

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Oracle serves Nordstrom's ex-3000 users

Nordstrom-shoppingEcometry e-commerce software once landed the HP 3000 some of its best-known customers. Store chains seen in shopping malls were also among 3000 owner ranks. One of the best-regarded retailers has replaced Ecometry when the company shut down its HP 3000. Both catalog and online sales were changed at Nordstrom. The beneficiaries of the multi-step move at Nordstrom were IBM and Oracle, but HP didn't get shut out completely.

Nordstrom-logoBob Thompson of Nordstrom's Sales Systems group said that the company's HP 3000 was used only for Ecometry processing. Triggered by HP's pullout of the marketplace, the retailer started to re-evaluate its e-commerce software along with the platform. Ecometry lost out to Sterling Commerce, a software provider which has become part of IBM. The software is listed under IBM's Selling Solutions.

Thompson said the company converted all of its Ecometry data to Oracle. The Sterling solution is running on Java, Oracle and Linux, but Oracle isn't a complete winner: There are a few Solaris boxes waiting to be replaced.

The migration started with a new COBOL program. Nordstrom wrote one to read its IMAGE/SQL data and convert it into XML. Then services were developed to use the Sterling APIs to add the data to Sterling's Oracle database. Nordstrom converted two years worth of data to import into the new software. Then even more Oracle embracing commenced. Nordstrom was not rewriting or doing a lift and shift migration. The strategy called for an application replacement and data migration.

"This part involved a direct conversion of all the Ecometry IMAGE datasets, for all time, to Oracle for historical reporting," Thompson said. "The initial COBOL conversion effort took close to a year," Thompson said, "plus another four months for the second part" to create the historical reporting facility. After leaving behind the HP 3000 and Ecometry and IMAGE, HP was left with a hardware assignment to fulfill at the company. But the Business Critical Systems, running Itanium, haven't been tapped from the HP product lineup.

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Happy New Year: Now we're 400 or so

Most of our in-boxes are full and the calendar planning is in overdrive today. It's the first full day of office work for the new year in many companies, what with the Jan. 2 Monday being a holiday all over. But there's already expansion afoot in the HP 3000 community.

Specifically, the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community now numbers more than 400 members. Fresh faces include Peter Prager, whose company sells XML solutions that work with MPE/iX; AMISYS/3000 developer Blanchard Carter; Lendy Middendorf, Senior System Administrator at Smurfit-Stone; Gavin Scott, VP of development at Allegro Consultants. Some are homesteading, others have moved to new platforms. And sure, there are recruiters in there, but they do have a line on jobs.

LinkedIn is a go-to destination to expand your career options. One of our favorite members, Scott Hirsh, used to manage the HP 3000 System Manager's Special Interest Group. He's long beyond the 3000 community these days, tending to cloud computing storage needs at Nirvanix. But Hirsh said that showing a strong LinkedIn profile with plenty of connections scores you higher when an employer or partner researches you.

If you don't belong to the group, join today. There's hundreds of people there who will make good contacts for you, as well as a news feed and discussions about 3000 issues and the future we're headed for in this new year.