User Reports

Last Words from First Users on HP's Pullout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some couldn't believe the pullout at first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HP3000 Reunion sparks visa for emulator

Veterans of the 3000 community have become some of the hardest-working men and women in the show business. With the HP3000 Reunion starting less than a month from today, the three-day event that includes the CAMUS user group show has snagged a speaker from so far away that he needs a visa -- and will cross 11 time zones

We're not talking the Visa credit card company here, but travel documents to transport the 3000 lead developer Igor Abramov from the Moscow officlink service providers with application providers, so customers can have application deployment alternativese of Stromasys, where the Zelus HP 3000 emulator is being built. Abramov, who's fluent in English while he's been learning the deep language of MPE, will be speaking and taking questions during the Friday CAMUS meeting at the Computer History Museum at 4 PM on Sept 23.

An emulator is a vital part of keeping some HP 3000 ERP operations in production. The Support Group's president David Floyd has said that MANMAN -- which is at the heart of CAMUS member sites such as Ametek Power Instruments, Crane Electronics and century-old Fasco Motors -- can be supported through 2020. Ametek has a shutoff date of 2024 for its 3000.

An emulator like Zelus appears to have a secure place in the future of MANMAN. CAMUS director Terry Floyd says, "I think CAMUS will be happy to dedicate the entire Technical Presentation part of our meeting to Stromasys. [Abramov] can have over an hour, including the Q&A with [Stromasys CTO] Dr. Robert Boers."

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Healthcare systems heading to waiting room

Bruce Conrad, a longtime HP 3000 developer working at Dell's Services group which was formerly Perot Systems, provided a check-up on the Amisys apps he's supporting for US clients. Oracle is making a beachhead at the 3000 shop, where Conrad works on an EDI claims system. It's been a long transition, but that 3000 will be making its transition before too much longer.

"Amisys is still the heart of the system, but it'll be headed to God's waiting room soon," Conrad said. "I'm sure the HP3000 will still be around for a while. We have so many feeds/extracts going in and out that it's going to take a while to dismantle them."

Conrad says the transition to Oracle Health Insurance is still underway, and will be for some time. "I think we are doing some major migrations soon, though. I haven't seen the app yet, but we use Oracle's database, eBusiness, FMS and other stuff, so we're becoming a big Oracle shop.

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ProLiant's speed, price spur 3000's exit

ML 150 HP put a new model of ProLiant server on sale today at a starting price of $599. This isn't a laptop. It's an ML 110 G7 system which can run either Windows or Linux, and it includes a quad-core 3.10GHz Xeon processor and 2 gigs of memory. The total cost to acquire will run under $1,000, including drives and support. If you want to step up to a bigger ProLiant, the ML 150 (shown at left) running the prior-generation G6 chip, with Windows Small Business Server 2011 preinstalled, is priced at a shade over $2,000.

Comparing this HP hardware has never been fair to the HP 3000, because the ProLiant -- created by Compaq and so popular that the brand survived the 2000 HP-Compaq merger -- was built for the commodity market. A $2,000 Series 979 on Amazon is about as close as a business-grade 3000 will get to commodity status. It's also an unfair comparison because the 3000 gets some of its oomph from using an integrated OS-database, pairing MPE with IMAGE/SQL. Microsoft, of course, has been working with Oracle to capture some of that same kind of oomph.

But this analysis is one reason that companies to move on from 3000 hardware built before 2000: the hardware's hard numbers, in GHz and dollars. There's more to compare. Duane Percox of K-12 software vendor QSS compared COBOLs six years ago. Those performance numbers have gotten nothing but more persuasive for Windows- or Linux-bound migrators. (Percox will be on hand at the Sept. 24 HP3000 Reunion. He's helping to arrange the Reunion's menu -- just as he did for the first 3000 meeting outside of a user group, a few months before he benchmarked those COBOLs on 2005 Intel chips.)

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A Full Day of Free 3000 Networking Advice

In a flurry of under 24 hours, six HP 3000 veterans chipped in advice this week to help a 3000 manager who's weathering poor network response times. All of the consulting was free, offered though the 3000's ultimate community resource, the HP3000-L mailing list and newsgroup.

Kevin Smeltzer, an IT Specialist in MPE Systems at IBM's Global Services group, said he was watching his development N-Class responses slip into unusable measurements. "Today was so bad that test programs could not stay connected to a Quick program," he reported at 4 PM yesterday. "Linkcontrol only shows an issue with Recv dropped: addr on one path. This is a known issue with some enterprise network monitoring software that sends a packet that the HP 3000 cannot handle. Even HP last year had no solutions for that issue."

Donna Hoffmeister, Craig Lalley, Mark Ranft, Tony Summers, Mark Landin and Jeff Kell all came to Smeltzer's aid in less than 24 hours. Hoffmeister, Lalley and Ranft work support and consulting businesses, but nobody wanted to collect any fee. Summers and Landin chimed in from veteran 3000 manager status. And Kell, well, he founded the 3000-L, and headed the System Manager's special interest group for years. Like the others, he's steeped in the nuances of HP 3000 networking.

So long as the 3000-L is running, no one has run out of places to ask for this kind of help. There has been a thread of 16 messages so far, back and forth emails with long dumps of NETTOOL reports, examinations of TCP timer settings (Hoffmeister wrote an article for Allegro about this on its website), and discussion of switch port settings. "Do I need to shutdown and restart JINETD or restart the network," Smeltzer asked this morning, "to have my TCP changes in NMMGR take effect?"

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Sustaining support can maintain migration

More than a few 3000 sites are making a lengthy transition to a different platform. But the story from Viad Corp. shows that dropping 3000 savvy too soon can add expense to any change of environment.

GES Frank Surina reports that he's managing the task of making the company's 3000 data reliable once more. The mission has been complicated by the company's interim 3000 choices. Support for the system's backup software got dropped more than five years ago. Now the 3000's internals are jumbled so badly that a LISTF request for names of files spits out escape sequences along with the filenames.

Surina, who started working at the company in 1989 on the 3000 and returned after a hiatus, has been tasked to sort out the problems. He said its third party support firm hasn't been able to clear up the issues. It's an unusual implementation among 3000 profiles: the IT architecture uses all KSAM files. But unique 3000 software choices have been a part of this shop since the era in the 1990s when one of its groups was called Greyhound Exhibition Services, serving the trade show vendor base. Cerina was part of a team during that time that wrote an in-house Pascal to C converter -- not a typical in-house project.

Viad, an S&P SmallCap 600 firm which now includes a travel group managing Glacier Park tourism as well as the trade show marketing, appears to have lost its 3000 management for too long on the way to a migration. Surina said that Oracle Financials are now nearly complete in serving the company. But one last application that generates job numbers resides on a 3000. The server hasn't completed a full backup since last August, and a hot backup system has had the same data confusion problems exhibited by the main server. Not even the STORE command is working as expected.

Although there's a narrow group of support firms which have broad enough experience to solve the problems at Viad, Surina is pursuing the expertise he needs to repair the 3000 before his migration can complete. This final piece of the transition may have been less costly, if support contracts (for the backup software) and 3000 administration skills remained in place.

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Must-have firmware, patches for 7.5 install?

We have just started up a new A-class 2-way running 7.5 PP5. This system is configured with 4GB RAM, a VA7410 running off two PCI FC Host Bus Adapters, one DTC 16, and two SureStore DDS-2 tape drives running off the LVD SCSI interface. SUBSYS products consist of NS, COBOL, and FORTRAN. We do use FTP, incoming and outgoing. We will probably start using Sendmail for a few things (as an old Unix admin, I respect Sendmail, but do not fear it!) Our primary use for this system is MANMAN with around 170 users.

Our third party portfolio is the usual: Suprtool, MPEX, Minisoft ODBC, and Adager, plus some other odds and ends. So, for this kind of system, what are the “must have” patches that we should install on top of PP5?

After Gilles Schipper assured the manager that "PowerPatch 5 should be all you need," Jack Connor replied:

You may want to check the PDC firmware level. I believe the Fiber Channel patches found in 43.43 for the N class are in 43.50 for the A. You can see the PDC level at the boot menu.

Do you have an HP-UX or Windows box with Command View set up to monitor the VA? It's very advisable, as you can do a lot of drill down if you have problems and all can be remote to the system. Did you configure High Availability Fail Over (HAFO)? You may want to offload the CIO network interface card with a standalone 100Bt card and leave your DTC on the CIO.

Craig Lalley added:

Yes, MPE can do HAFO. What I do is configure all the odd LUNs down one path and all the even LUNs down the second path. Then SYSGEN IO HA , and then create the secondary path. It works on the VAs because all the LUNs are seen down both paths.

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3000 is 4 years from graduation at district

The HP 3000 has four more years of service to give to the San Bernadino County Schools, but the server's apps are being migrated to make room for fresher hardware. Dave Evans, manager of the 3000s at the school district, said that availability of more current hardware started pushing the apps onto Dell's Windows-based servers.

The Human Resources app has been turned over to virtual servers running on a Dell system, Evans said. When HP stepped away from delivering service and products to the district -- Evans said the schools couldn't get a call returned from the vendor -- it started the shift to Dell for new systems. The HP 3000s, however, continued to enter the IT shop. The district bought latest-model N-Class servers in 2002 and 2007, both off the reseller market from Ideal Computer.

Evans said that Ideal assured the district that it could get whatever hardware was need to keep the production running through 2015.

Of the nine major systems at the district, four have been migrated, including the all-important human resources apps that are crucial to any school employing thousands of teachers and staff. Still to complete are the big general ledger, payroll and retirement systems. San Bernadino, which is doing the migration itself, expects to be completely migrated in 2015. That's 31 years since the 3000s started working at the school district, right along with Evans in May, 1984.

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3000 can listen for less to link with printers

We want to use a Ricoh Afficio printer with npconfig on the HP 3000. However, we do have an HP LaserJet that could be used. What I recall hearing is that the Ricoh can work -- but the HP LaserJet, not being a foreign printer, would be easier to use. True?

Jeff Kell of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga replies:

If you are using real HP network printing without any third-party bells and whistles, the HP software is expecting to output something to a device along the lines of a JetDirect card or a networked Laserjet III/IV, and not much else. The 3000's MPE/iX generates fairly straightforward PCL output directed at TCP port 9100, has a rudimentary knowledge of SNMP status reports from a LaserJet/JetDirect. Later versions attempted some PJL handshaking in order to synchronize headers, print, trailers, and some error recovery.

So everything worked exactly as expected/planned, but for a very narrow window of time and hardware.

With that said, if you disable PJL (pjl_supported = FALSE), it eliminates many problems with earlier LaserJets and third party PCL-compatible printers, and now you're strictly dealing with fairly straightforward PCL.

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3000 app moves to Linux via experiments

In our latest email update on NewsWire stories we invited readers to share reports of Linux migrations, past or planned. While some say that larger migrations haven't appeared much for 3000-to-Linux, Ford Motors makes extensive use of Linux, and in a prior decade HP 3000s served at Ford.

We gathered more details from James Byrne of Harte & Harte Ltd., a 3000 site using the system in Canadian shipping brokerage. PowerHouse on an HP 3000 is a long way from the flexibility of Linux, but Byrne said the company has started a Linux rollout. The costs to experiment have been worth the journey, he says.

By James B. Byrne

We are presently rewriting all of our business application, currently implemented in Powerhouse on an HP 3000, to run as a web app on Linux-based servers. It has taken us far, far longer to get to this point than we imagined. But now we are actively rolling out functionality, albeit one small piece at a time.

We choose PostgreSQL for the backend store, Ruby as the programming language, and Ruby on Rails as the web application framework. We discovered that the most telling thing against using proprietary solutions is the ease with which we can experiment with -- and discard as unsatisfactory -- different software tools.

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Always online system sustained 3000 site

Stories of uptime are the limbs of legend in the 3000 forest. Companies stick with these servers, years after HP has shut down its 3000 business, because a 3000 can run for years without rebooting. (In contrast a few generations of OS ago, Unix designers at HP were happy that those systems "reboot real fast.") Reboots are not quite as critical in these days of virtual CPUs and provisioning. As application plans trigger a move to other platforms, some long-serving 3000s are being decomissioned. But a recent report from the field shows 3000 uptime is still measured in more than months.

Craig Lalley serves companies who are keeping 3000s in production. He reported that one system, a beefy N-Class 750, has been online since before HP closed its 3000 labs.

I noticed that I was still logged on the console (my session name). So I thought I would look, because I certainly do not recall when I would have done that.  Now I know what I was doing on Sept 26th at 12:29 am -- in 2008. Nothing special to see here, though.

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Transition timing flows from manager savvy

Managers of HP 3000s sometimes have full control of what's to become of their systems. The most fortunate have management's faith in a skill set that has kept company business running for many years. Some of the best-situated IT managers see succession as a key element in sustaining business critical computing.

Enter Dave Powell, the prolific and veteran manager at MM Fab, a Southern California fabric manufacturer. Last week he gave the community notice of a potential job opening at his company. Powell was suggesting that learning the firm's 3000 environment might be a good first step in take over his own duties, someday. It takes a confident manager to start a job search for their own replacement.

Powell's story looks like a tale of savvy that's keeping his company on the 3000 -- and if they had a replacement to cover his retirement, maybe they'd delay a migration. He adds that MM Fab has not "picked a package yet. They've sent out an RFP and are in the early stages of evaluating a bunch of proposals."

Powell is proposing a plan to sustain the company's knowledge about a totally custom application, written in "some pretty horrid COBOL" in some spots. While he's still on hand to help, he'd like to see somebody else learn about that business logic.

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Phoenix police pull over its N-Class 3000

One of the earliest users of the N-Class 3000s has become one of the latest to pull its server off the road. The Phoenix Police Department shut down its last remaining 3000 this month, a system that Senior IT Systems Specialist Robert Holtz reports was an N-Class server.

Phoenix was among the major US cities that counted on a 911 dispatch software package written for MPE/iX. In the years that led up to HP's exit announcement, 911 installations were a point of pride for the platform. HP even said that 90 percent of large cities were using 3000s for law enforcement. These cities tapped an application from PSSI. One replacement, Sentinel, employs Windows. But that solution from the Motorola subsidiary doesn't use the term PC, Windows or even "the computer" in its data sheet. 911 has become computer telephony.

Holtz said the 3000's application, rather than MPE/iX or the 3000 hardware, triggered the shutdown of the system in Phoenix. "We replaced our Computer-Aided Dispatch (911 application) and support for our computers in the police vehicles with a new vendor," he said. "That vendor was to recommend new hardware, too -- hence, the retirement of the N-Class."

Not many HP 3000 N-Class servers were already installed, as the one in Phoenix was, before HP backed away from the platform's futures. Holtz said the department owned its server while HP was still promoting a future for the newest generation of 3000s.

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Framing Wires for 3000 Management Plans

CFAWireframe Last week we reported the plight of Connie Sellitto, an IT manager at the Cat Fanciers' Association who's the 3000 expert at CFA. The association is just starting a move to Windows and using a contractor who's most comfortable with "wireframe" maps of systems. Sellitto had just a few days to create one of these diagrams that outlined its 3000 databases.

Sellitto got a lot of advice from the 3000 community to help solve her problem, a challenge that began when the Microsoft Visio charting tool wouldn't work with 3000 information. She reported back to us at the end of last week. "I've gotten the Minisoft ODBC driver to work with the 2003 version of Visio. Really a major time saver. When you select 'Load Automatic Masters' in the ODBC definition, Visio even draws the relationship lines. Some tweaking is needed, as for primary indexes, but all in all, this is a good solution."

Wireframes like the one above (click it for detail) are common planning tools for website designers. Sellitto says the contractor's primary business is websites. But just because websites seem like an odd match with enterprise IT doesn't mean that wireframe diagrams are ill-suited to 3000 planning. Sometimes you need that 30,000-foot view to start -- or to sustain.

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Architecture Toolbelt Emerges for 3000s

When Connie Sellitto of the American Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) asked for help preparing for a migration, the 3000 community hacked out suggestions and pointers. But much of the toolset designed to identify what's to be migrated off a 3000 can also be put to use in sustaining projects. Sustaining is what a manager should be doing to homestead, if they are not migrating. As the word suggests, sustaining is an activity that goes beyond glancing at a console to see if the 3000 is running, plus ensuring there are enough backup tapes.

The advice from 3000 managers and experts was aimed at Sellitto's deadline of tomorrow; she needs to present a "wireframe" diagram of the system's database architecture by March 15. The document will go into the hands of a web design company the CFA's board has chosen, one which has won the right to migrate its HP 3000 to a Windows environment.

Wireframe is architectural terminology for the map of website design, page by page. In the environment at CFA, databases and applications take the place of website pages. Alan Yeo of ScreenJet, which has built the EZ View modernization kit for 3000 user screens still in VPlus, said the ubiquitious PC tool Visio that Sellitto was learning quickly might be overkill.

If you have Adager/Flexibase/DBGeneral, or already have a good schema file for the databases, just generate the schema files and import them into Word or Excel and give them to [your migrators]. If they can't put together the data structure from that, no amount of time you can spend with Visio is going to impart any more information.

A schema file isn't difficult to understand, and if they can't, there isn't much you can do to help them.

Yeo added a few pointers on understanding the schema file.

A Primary Key is a sorted key, and indications that a specific numeric has (n) implied decimal places should be the most they should need, plus a couple of pages from the IMAGE manual that describe the data types. IMAGE structures aren't complex.

But 3000 consultant and developer Roy Brown wrote us to advise further, with detailed pointers on how anyone who needs to chronicle and maintain the architecture of a 3000 can get the job done -- whether they're migrating, or sustaining.

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Zero-dollar prep cages Fanciers' migration

At the US Cat Fanciers' Association, Connie Sellitto needs help on a very small budget. The CFA got itself new leadership last year, top management that has voted its HP 3000 off the island. But at the moment it looks like the migration can't get off the sandy beach without a wireframe boat.

A wireframe what? Sellitto send a request to the 3000 community this week that asks for help finding a wireframe mapping tool to outline the 3000 system design that's been running CFA for more than 20 years. Wireframe is a term more often used in web page design projects, a way to outline everything that a page touches in a website. It's no wonder the term is in use there, since CFA's lead migration consultants are web designers by trade.

"CFA has just signed a contract to have a web-design company rewrite our entire business application on a Windows platform," Sellitto reported last month. "The timetable has been stretched from six months to something a bit more realistic, but as yet there are no firm dates. I have already met with the project manager of this formidable undertaking, and expect that I will be acting as 'technical coordinator' for CFA."

The most immediate need at CFA is for a wireframe application, of zero cost, to identify all of the 3000 apps and allied tools and databases. Sellitto needs to provide to the web designers a map of "several IMAGE databases, as well as the 350-plus COBOL programs that feed them. This will be used by the contractors who are planning our imminent migration off the HP 3000. I have already sent copies of the schema files, source code, COPYLIB layouts, and so forth."

On a zero-budget, can you recommend any software which might be of help to me? Otherwise, I'll be using QUERY or ADAGER to create copies of the schemas, capturing screen shots of all applications using Reflection and/or MS92, and fluffing up our text-based documentation.

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How to Procure Connections for 3000s

Even in the most crucial of IT operations, an HP 3000 can remain a keystone. Last week we got a call from a 3000 manager whose clients provide a very crucial military service, run off a 3000. The system design at the shop includes a tool advanced for its time, the ADBC database middleware that uses Adager's Java-based tool designs. ADBC was implemented and sold by David Thatcher.

This 3000 helps ensure that military operations can keep rolling, literally. It provides logistics for all the US Army's tires, as one example. It's custom software that does the routing and tracking of addresses, where the materials are going and where orders came from. The manager described it as a mini-ERP with a lot of hooks into different providers.

This 3000 is going to remain on a roll for awhile. "We're trying to rewrite it, but it's not that easy to do away with it," the manager added. "The HP 3000 just keeps chugging along very reliably." Our NewsWire reviewer John Burke once said of ADBC that since it provides "the prospect of being able to program in a language whose compiled output can run on virtually any platform without modification, and natively access TurboIMAGE databases, MPE files and XL routines on an HP 3000, it made even an old curmudgeon like myself sit up and take notice."

This manager called to locate the ADBC developers; an error code had just popped up on his software. We reached out to Thatcher to connect him with his former customer, one who had let support for the software lapse awhile ago. Thatcher, working at a New York bank now, provided his help for free. But there's an online resource of 3000 experts where he's listed that might be a first stop on this kind of former-supplier search: LinkedIn. You'd have to find a spot to connect Thatcher to ADBC first, but we've got that covered, too.

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Consultants' costs falling in 3000 world

A pair of consultants in the 3000 marketplace are offering their services for as low as $30 an hour, one of the most inexpensive rates we've ever seen quoted. This ripple in pricing -- there's many other experts who charge two to three times as much per billed hour -- says several things about the 3000's Transition Era.

When consultants like Olav Kappert ($35 hourly) or Michael Serafin ($30) tell 3000 newsgroup readers about their lower rates, these experts kick sand in the face of HP and some of its partners. The accepted wisdom from 2002 onward was that such expertise would get eaten up by the market's demand; you'd struggle to get on someone's client list, especially in the world of migration. Or in another scenario, few consultants would maintain 3000 practices, since there wouldn't be enough demand.

The pricing from these 3000 vets (34 years for Kappert, 27 for Serafin) seems to show that the first scenario didn't play out as predicted. These are individuals, of course, and a migration or app maintenance company might have less bandwidth. But it looks clear that supply is outpacing demand, at least from these fellows' viewpoints. Any sensible business needs to lower rates when they have time available to sell, as a part of marketing themselves.

On the other hand, there's that sense of declining need that could ripple from these offers. Do companies need less help on a platform that's stable and whose OS is frozen? One counter-argument is that such independent providers fill a gap created when on-staff 3000 experts get let go, or retire.

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Making High Availability Work on 3000s

"We just launched a new A-Class 2-way running 7.5 PowerPatch5," reported Mark Landin not long ago. "This is our first 7.5 system; our two other machines are still on 6.5. The primary use for this system is MANMAN [ERP] with around 170 users."

Landin added that his storage resource for the A-Class is a VA7410 array running off of two PCI FiberChannel Host Bus Adapters, one DTC 16, and two SureStore DDS-2 tape drives running off the LVD SCSI interface. "So, for this kind of system," he asked, "what are the 'must have' patches that we should install on top of PP5?"

Advice from the 3000 community brought the High Availability Failover (HAFO) techniques into the discussion. An HP engineer who helped keep the 3000 up to date with storage added his take on HAFO abilities for MPE/iX systems like the A-Class.

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PDF techniques span integration skills

HP 3000 experts and veterans recently swapped a wide array of techniques to create PDF files from the server's data, then move them via FTP to a Windows server. While the simplest answer to getting a report into PDF format and out to Windows is probably Hillary Software's byRequest (called a slick solution by Dave Vogt of Miller Compressed Air Company) there are other commercial solutions -- and a raft of bolt-together techniques you might try if you've got very limited budget to homestead.

Bob McGregor reported:

We used txt2pdfPRO by Sanface. We had a job that would run and check a pseudo device for spoolfile output, and if the pri > 0, would run the sf2html process, convert to PDF and then FTP to a Windows server. The process would then delete spoolfiles=0 on the pseudo device the next day. Setup took a bit... but once done, worked well.

Lars Appel, author of the Samba/iX file sharing tool, added:

I wonder if it might make sense to configure a "dummy" network printer on MPE/iX and have it send spooler output to a little socket listener on the WinTel system (similar to the FakeLP example from the 3000-L archive) and then invoke GhostPCL on the Windows side for generating the PDF output.

The "dummy" network printer would let the MPE spooler take care of the PCL conversion and also perform the "file transfer" automagically. The GhostPCL software is probably easier to get (or build / update) on Windows than on MPE (okay, I admit that it did also build on MPE long ago...)

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Pushing Out PDFs Until Retirement Orbits

LEM HP 3000s can create PDFs in many ways. The user community has been reporting its methods this week, but one inventor in 3000 IT broke ground, and then broke away from 3000 use altogether.

Bob McGregor works IT at the Great Falls school district in Montana. We've written about him using Sanface software to do PDF file creation for his enterprise. There are better solutions available for the HP 3000, tuned by companies who know the server from long ago -- and so offer more native integration. (You know who we're talking about, Hillary Software, with your byRequest solution. It's ready for homesteading and migration.)

But McGregor hails from that generation of IT pros who never feared rolling up their sleeves to integrate themselves, taking tools from less-specific suppliers and making them work in a 3000 shop. He wrote us this week to report that he doesn't need to integrate like for his 3000, because the server was retired over the year-end school holidays.

There are many ways to bring 3000 reports into PDF formats, just as there are many reasons to retire an HP 3000 at a shop that has been a poster child for innovation. At Great Falls, the reasons seem to relate to retirement age of the staff vs. managers. It's a story we often hear these days when a 3000 is unplugged.

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Hardware appliance links up MPE encryption

Q3 HP 3000 sites are encountering a growing need to encrypt data, or at least secure it during transfers. Secure FTP protocol was never delivered as an HP-engineered solution for the MPE/iX OS while the Hewlett-Packard labs were building 3000 software.

Several software companies have offered encryption solutions for various scenarios. Orbit Software's Backup+/iX encrypts data during backups. For the part of the 3000 market that still uses TurboStore, however Orbit's software requires a move away from the HP software -- which isn't supported now that HP's gone out of the 3000 support business.

FluentEdge Technologies encrypts data moving through applications, as well as databases themselves, using software solutions that tap into apps and don't require any rewrites

But a hardware solution that's been tested with the 3000 may offer a different method to keeping data secure in transit. Jack Connor of Abtech reports that 10ZiG's Security Group offers "data-at-rest" security solutions, including the Q3 and Q3i appliances, one of which Connor put between a Digital Linear Tape device and a 3000. The results impressed him for a device that costs a few thousand dollars -- and will work with any host.

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Replacing precedes virtualizing in migration

At the City of Sparks, Nevada, the HP 3000s are working in their last complete year of service for the municipality of 80,000. Migration is scheduled to be complete sometime next year, a period when some of the PCs in the IT picture may be virtualized -- that is, taken off desktops and into the cloud.

Well before that begins, the tools from HP 3000s must be replaced with counterparts on the Windows target platform.

Steve Davidek is waiting on a courts building remodel before the virtualizing proceeds. "It's been held up for six months, waiting on funding to get the remodel done," he told us late last year. "We can't do the virtualization until we rewire the building, and they don't want to rewire until they've moved all those walls."

Davidek calls the virtualization "my nightmare project that I want to get done, but don't know if I'll ever get it done. It'll be my first true foray into desktop virtualization." The city's courts found funding for a new server and software to enable thin clients. These virtual PCs will live on the server at the city's IT shop, connected over a private network. "It'll be the start of the cloud, and if they need to run court over here at IT because there's a problem at the courthouse, they can do that. Their desktop lives wherever they can connect to it."

HP 3000 tools have been replaced even more slowly, in some cases, even while the city's migration has moved forward over five years' time. The Cognos PowerHouse language is still in place -- Sparks has been using it since the late 1980s -- but the PowerHouse release is so elderly that Cognos doesn't want to sell the city a support contract for the software.

"We haven't paid support on it in years, and Cognos just allows us to run it. I bet there is not a soul at Cognos, or whatever it is today, that has the knowledge of the HP 3000," Davidek said. IBM purchased Cognos in 2008, mostly for the company's business intelligence product line.

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3000 vet pursues remaining installed sites

Editor's Note: We've been checking in with HP 3000 veterans to survey their plans for 2011, tracking migrated sites as well as those which are still relying on 3000s through this year and next. Our story today combines both homesteading and migration situations.

Dave Darnell wants to move across Ohio to take his 3000 skills out of migration and into management. He's leaving a site where the younger talent is now taking over the closing steps of a migration to HP-UX. Darnell is in search of a spot with The Andersons, a retail and grain processing corporation with outlets across the Midwest. At that firm, the 3000 remains in charge of grain operations, tracking the purchases and movement of the fruits of farmers' labors.

Darnell reported on a pair of 3000 sites that have moved away from the system, using his help.

I administered the systems retirement and data archive project for all systems at Qualchoice/Wellpoint. (To replace the 3000 we did Microsoft SQL, VB, and Access w/VBA work on that, too, including SQL database work.) I then moved to Weltman, Weinberg, and Reis, where they have been trying to get off the 3000 for 10 years.

Darnell's departure isn't triggered by a lack of work for him at the largest creditors' rights firm in the country. But he's moving to western Ohio this spring. Andersons offers a potential 3000 post, he hopes.

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Support continues, even as 3000s move on

Welcome to the new business year for HP 3000 owners, a time when things have changed for some 3000 sites, while for others they're pretty much the same.

Sites are still checking in with reports of 2011 support offers from Hewlett-Packard. At the University of Washington Medical Centers Pharmacy, the 3000s are under HP's care -- and the vendor wants it to stay that way, here in this year after the vendor's "end of life." Computer services coordinator Deane Bell reports.

I received a proposed contract in mid-December from HP to continue our HP3000/969 support post-2010. The proposal is for the same level of coverage (7x24x365 4-hour response).  It will now be two contracts (I had to specifically request the separate 'mature product support' contract). The standard contract covers LDEV1 and not much more. The 'mature product support' contract covers the rest of our equipment, except for the Jamaica disk drives (9GB and 18GB) which fell off support two years ago.

The combined cost of the two contracts is significantly more than last year (but less than two times last year's cost) Since we're hoping to be off the 3000 (sadly) by the third quarter of 2011, most likely we'll accept the HP contract proposals.

The University was courted by third party support firms about its system support, too.

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3000 sites proceed toward new year of life

We're taking Dec. 31 off in celebration of the New Year, one that will usher in the first days of a new era in 3000 management -- the demise of HP's support for the server, although one HP engineer reports that he recently took his first support call for MPE/iX and the 3000 in a year. We'll see you in the coming new year of afterlife.

NCMS Browser interface HP's Mature Support for 3000s ends in less than 48 hours here in North America. While the vendor still wants some business from 3000 owners, the 2011 HP services are limited at best. Hardware support? Yes, some parts of the worldwide support arm are seeking a renewal of existing contracts. Why not — the 3000 hardware failures are rare, and parts are plentiful.

For operational purposes, HP's going to pass away on Friday night if you're not using anything but 3000s and PCs in your enterprise. This is the "End of Life" Hewlett-Packard has been warning the world about for the last two years. Many customers simply don't have Dec. 31 on a calamity calendar, however.

Some are migrating (like the January go-live for a college data processing firm in browser-Linux-Eloquence technology, whose after-before screens are shown above -- click for detail). Others have no plans to move. But most customers checking in during this last week of HP's 3000 operations are working on their own schedules. "Two HP 3000s continue in use here," reported Mike Mayers of The Andersons, a grain processor and network of retail stores in the Midwest." One will more than likely be around 3-plus years, and the other at least another year or more."

Mayers used to support applications on another Andersons 3000 "that went out early in 2010. I sure like the 3000, but I now support Baan ERP on HP Unix."

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University's migration aims at simple goals

Bob Adams, director of the Washington State Board of Community and Technical College's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has planned his 18-month migration off of 3000s with basic goals. Moving the apps intact, without changes, has been his aim since September 2009.

Some third party solutions used at the colleges were ready with a version for HP-UX, the SBCTC project target. One solution which moved from the 3000 to the Unix environment was Hillary Software's byRequest e-forms and PDF report solution. The software is used by the colleges in varying processes. “It's been pretty transparent,” Adams said of the tool that's been serving the colleges since 1999.

Hillary engineered byRequest to work with a bedrock technical solution, Speedware's AMXW environment emulation tool. AMXW takes the place of SBCTC's home-grown job scheduler, for example. But some 3000-specific pieces will be replaced with new software, created by 3000 developers. Adams pointed to the Dictionary/3000 data repository, which feeds the colleges' reports.

“We didn't actually replace Dictionary/3000,” “[UDA Link] still uses that database to get its file and database structures," Adams said. The TransAction replacement for the colleges' Transact supplies the needed replacement for the repository.”

Speedware's Didem Chatalolu said that the company had five full-time staffers at one time dedicated to the Transact/TransAction issue of the project. The migration vendor said it's been able to apply resources as needed to accomplish the code migration within schedule.

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HP-UX to serve 10,000 college users by 2011

Speedware is leading work from four vendors to enable the migration of a 10,000-user HP 3000 site to HP-UX servers in Washington state. The State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) has relied on Speedware for management of the project since the September 2009 inception. The vendor promotes a “lift and shift” approach for many of its projects that move complex 3000-based systems to newer hardware. Sometimes that means recreating tools and technology that wasn't broken on MPE/iX, just hosted on a platform the customer wants to leave.

ScreenJet's TransAction, as well as its EZV screen generation tool, are two prime examples of this kind of recreation. While exploring the programming behind hundreds of application user interfaces, ScreenJet's Alan Yeo documented VPlus anomalies and bugs in the UI. To keep the coding straightforward and the project basic, the EZV replacement for VPlus recreates all of the known and discovered UI behaviors.

“We had to find out what's going on” in the VPlus interface, Yeo explained, “and then we have to replicate the bugs and the undocumented features, because we don't know for certain how many times they're being used.”

A system with thousands of programs, using tens of thousands of reports across more than 30 servers is simply too complex to succeed at anything but this lift and shift strategy. The key is to put all the pieces back in their places on a new platform, so an interface behaves exactly as it did on the HP 3000.

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34 colleges start testing 3000 migration code

A team of four vendors led by Speedware has been helping 40 IT staffers at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges wean itself off 34 HP 3000s around the state. After the first year of planning and work, the principal delivery of millions of lines of migrated application code has been accepted.

The vision of moving this three-decade HP 3000 customer, a plan first conceived in 2003, is becoming real enough to test with users on the college campuses.

SBCTC now goes into user test mode for the next six months or so before it starts to power down the major 3000 applications that have supported higher education in the state since the 1980s. Bob Adams, director of the SBCTC's Portfolio and Project Management Office, has been managing HP 3000s since the start of that decade. He's now leading the group's efforts to move away from hardware HP will stop supporting in less than two months.

The biggest risk that prompted the move off the 3000 was parts availability, according to Adams. Several of the colleges use the Series 9x7 generation of servers, for example, hardware which HP stopped building in the 1990s.

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User advice: have a spare CPU board ready

At the most recent CAMUS online user group meeting, Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties shared advice about getting a 3000 CPU board configured by HP in a downtime crisis. Don't do it, he advised. You can be ready for this with a on-site spare, just like his worldwide manufacturing company does for its 3000s.

Regarding the change HP will do for a Time & Materials fee to copy an HPSUSAN number to fresh hardware, Simpkins said, "It baffles me about why anybody would get themselves into a situation where they had to react like that -- why they wouldn't have a spare processor board already set with their system name and SUSAN number sitting on the shelf. Unless, of course, you're paying Hewlett-Packard to provide your hardware support."

HP won't offer that kind of hardware support full-time in about two weeks. (Well, for much of the world, although the vendor wants to retain support business on a selective basis.) Simpkins said creating this kind of hot spare is an easy thing to do. "I wouldn't have anything to do with HP when I'd get my extra board set to my SUSAN number. They are not the only people in the world who can legally perform that service."

Measurement Specialties is a $230 million company with operations in North America and China. It's not a firm that would fly under a legal radar just to have its 3000s supported independently.

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CAMUS user reports on emulator's value

The HP 3000 community is waiting on development and testing of its first PA-RISC hardware emulator. At a recent meeting of the CAMUS user group for ERP applications, one member testified about the emulator's predecessor, Charon -- already working in Digital shops running the MANMAN app.

Tim Envy of Peer Systems said Charon "gives you better performance" than customers get under native OpenVMS hardware, "especially because of the IO dependency you get under Windows." Stromasys has reported that Windows will be the controlling environment for its Zelus emulator for the HP 3000. "The system sometimes delivers many multiples of performance improvement. You have more configuration capability on the Windows platform in terms of optimization. Solid state drives fit nicely into the Stromasys configuration for OpenVMS."

Envy added that Stromasys told him the release date of the Zelus product has been pushed back by a few months. The original plan had the emulator selling in the second half of 2011. The new date is during Q3 of next year, which might be a matter of few extra months. Stromasys has hired a product manager for Zelus, and the company is on the hunt for HP 3000 software vendors and customers who want to participate in the 2011 pilot and alpha testing.

The CAMUS group met via a conference call rather than gathering in person. Peer said that Charon is a very stable platform for OpenVMS applications, plus it adds options such as hosting a tape drive as a virtual device. The Charon product has the advantage of being developed by Stromasys' staff which worked on the Digital migration team in the 1990s. Stromasys founder Dr. Robert Boers has said HP's delivered the technical information to let his company create a product as strong as Charon.

Boers also said in a recent newsletter that the boom of 1980s enterprise systems is creating an ever-larger field of customers for companies like his, which sell "cross-platform virtualization" solutions.

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Sparking 3000 Changes through Transition

Sdavidek_gray A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. In Friday's interview we talked with him about how the 3000 came to a turning point at Sparks. We also wanted to know where he's networking to stay current on migration issues, and the potential for user group Connect to help the 3000 homestead community.

It sounds as if your migration was never approached as a calamity. How are you able to weather all this change of  the situation, given all your 3000 work?

Well, I took the city from a Series III. But then we started with Windows NT, and before that an OS2 LAN manager. We started going in the Windows direction for a few things. I did HP-UX OpenMail for a number of years. We’ve kind of evolved over the last 26 years. I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward.

You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?

When you say hard to manage, do you mean the way the new tech is designed compared to the HP 3000?

Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much move robust than people ever realized.

But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.

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Warming to Sparks of Change for 3000s

Sdavidek_gray A veteran of 26 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek is looking toward a different future in his IT career. He’s the IT operations and Systems Administrator for the City of Sparks, Nev. But sometime in 2012 the last HP 3000 app will step out of production mode at the city that’s not far from Reno. During that same year, Davidek will take another step, into the chair of president for the one remaining HP user group, Connect. He’s been serving on the group’s board of directors since 2008, volunteered in Encompass user group advocacy programs before then, and even worked in Interex local and regional user groups for 20 years, until the group went bankrupt in 2005.

    Davidek is managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline already, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than managers expect. For all of the devotion and experience he’s developed for the server, however, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles two 3000s, hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows. Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks; he chuckled repeatedly even while telling stories of revisions of management plans. It’s the sound of humor you would expect from a man who’s an Honor Society Order of the Arrow award winner as a Boy Scout leader, the kind of leadership that seemed to fit into a story of transition, told by a pro whose first HP IT chapters were written on Series III HP 3000s.

You work in IT at a US city that’s cut back in a big way. How did that affect moving  away from the HP 3000?

Just before they started cutting things we signed on the dotted line for a new financial system and get us off the HP 3000. Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward. 

   We went live with that part of the project last December. After our HP 3000 died in April, they decided this July to give us a little money to get the payroll system moved off, too.

The payroll 3000 died? What happened?

I just came in one day and the system board died on the 969. We’d moved that 3000 in here in September of ‘96. We’re at 7.0 MPE/iX. Every time we tried 7.5 we had issues with it not reading the second CPU in it.

Did these failures present the first reason to move away?

We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.

    Back then the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.

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HP tries to retain some 3000 support deals

In the early response from the community, it looks like HP is continuing to ask customers to keep their 3000 support deals with the vendor. But in many cases, HP is learning that the support business has already moved on to independent providers. In some cases, third party companies have partnered to provide both hardware and software ends of support.

Customers are still reluctant to identify themselves by name, but the reports of HP extensions are consistent. "Our HP 3000 System Manager got a renewal notice this week for HP 3000 support," a contractor said today, working at a Georgia-based manufacturer. "The System Manager called the HP sales office, who confirmed they are still offering HP 3000 support though 2011. Unfortunately, they gave no advance notice, and our company had to make other arrangements."

HP's support levels haven't been uniform enough to retain some customers who would prefer to stay with the vendor. In one case, a snarl in getting a part reconfigured led to more than a week of downtime.

Until an incident last year when HP took over a week to fix a hardware issue on a corporate critical system, HP would have been the preferred vendor. HP’s problem at that time was in getting parts -- a lack of willingness to modify an in-stock backplane to our needs. After that incident, it was perceived that we can’t do much worse.

After that case, a backup hardware onsite was negotiated with a new hardware support vendor. A separate company is working with the hardware firm for that site. Meanwhile, some HP support customers just want to know how they can ensure they've got the final HP MPE/iX release tape before Dec. 31.

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Oracle support makes case for open source

SkySQL Back in July we looked at the potential impact of Oracle's ownership of MySQL, the database at the heart of migration-bound sites who want an open source alternative to Microsoft or Oracle databases. "Oracle's history of tough contracts, however, indicates that Sun's paid-only patches could become a MySQL bug -- er, feature of relying on MySQL."

We guessed right during the summer. Oracle is embracing and extending the support mantra that's spreading through enterprise vendors: support is not an optional item any longer. Prices are going up at Oracle for its small-company solutions; this week it doubled the entry-level support costs for MySQL. Industry watchers were wondering if Sun might ignore MySQL to death after Oracle acquired Sun. It's just the opposite: Oracle has decided that the open source alternative will now become a "better earner," as the gangster movie phrase goes. Support is high-profit, built to fill high pockets.

These are issues to consider for any company moving out of the known world of HP 3000 ownership. Some small-customer alternatives, acquired by larger vendors, will have stark changes waiting in the future for small companies investing in them.

The alternative to such price hikes is third-party support, while you can still get it. For MySQL users, SkySQL opened for business this summer, peopled with engineers and staff from MySQL AB, creators of the database. "Growing big business’s bottom line has once again taken precedence over ensuring that MySQL software, services and support is readily accessible to customers that need it. Fortunately, you have an alternative," the company said in an open letter this week. Unfortunately for the open source fan, even this kind of independent company is falling into the gunsights of Oracle. The latest evidence of that aim is in the courtroom next week, where Oracle's CEO is trying to make HP's new CEO testify in a lawsuit.

Leo Apotheker has only been on the job for HP since Nov. 1, but Oracle's working to get $2 billion in damages from a company once owned by Apotheker's prior employer, SAP. HP said that Oracle only wants to harrass its CEO. The offending SAP company, TomorrowNow, was already flushed from SAP by the time Apotheker took the helm. TomorrowNow was in a business familiar to HP 3000 customers, though: Providing service for products sold by much larger vendors like PeopleSoft. Oracle bought those larger vendors, and its march toward winning damages began.

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NonStop note flows from 3000's eliminator

NonStop News

 

 

November is a month filled with memory for many a 3000 owner and user. Some of the sting of watching HP stop its futures for the 3000 is sparked by the enthusiasm offered by HP's NonStop general manager, Winston Prather. NonStop enjoys its first exclusive conference this fall, the same year that Prather is finishing up his fourth year as GM of the server's Enterprise Division.

Prather held the very last post of General Manager for the 3000, a job where he said it was his decision alone to announce the "end of life" (as HP loves to call it) of the server still running many a major organization. You can pretty much see the retread from his 3000 talks in his message in the NonStop bimonthly magazine, The Connection, from his fall issue intro (pictured above; click for details).

With all the changes we've made... we've stayed true to the what NonStop has always done best: delivering the scalability, availability and integrity you rely on to run your business. It's a NonStop, not a Tandem. The difference is real, the fundamentals remain.

Fundamentals remain on duty at many HP 3000 shops which Prather predicted would be long ago migrated. But the struggle continues to eliminate an IT asset as quickly as he eliminated 3000 futures. One customer wrote us -- and didn't want their name used, for fear of risking a severance package -- about a second attempt to replace a custom-built application. "The packages we’ve been sold, complete with rosy allegations of full asset management functionality, simply don’t have it," the manager said.

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More notes on 3000 SFTP, and HP's advice

We got expert response from the community for our Monday story about Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), something that UK-based Adrian Hudson wants to manage from his HP 3000. Hudson checked in with us after hearing from consultant Mark Ranft of Pro 3k as well as the NewsWire. It turns out Hudson is a contractor working at Europ Assistance, a company using an HP 3000 to "provide insurance and assistance (e.g. motor breakdown, travel) cover across the world."

They have a need for SFTP to transfer new policy details from the Internet. I have a feeling that if Europ Assistance can’t do SFTP from the 3000, or if there is a cost involved, they will simply use one of their non-3000 servers as a piggyback to do the SFTP on the 3000's behalf. But with me being a nostalgic old soul, I would like to see it done from the 3000.

So, last week I started to look around for a zero-cost solution and found a Beechglen web page about it. This web page all seems perfectly okay, so I started to see if I could source the components mentioned on the web page, namely Openssl, Openssh, perl and a GNU C compiler.

On the openssl list server, I also started to independently look for versions of ssl and ssh which had been ported to the 3000 and I also sent an email to Tracy Johnson of OpenMPE to try and get a logon to the invent3k2 server to see what I might find on there.

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Getting OpenSSL, SFTP Working on 3000s

HP 3000s can use OpenSSL, cryptographic protocols that provide security for communications over networks such as the Internet. SSL can encrypt segments of network connections at the Application Layer to ensure secure end-to-end transit at the Transport Layer. It's an open source standard tool, but deploying it on an HP 3000 can be less than transparent.

Consider the following question from Adrian Hudson in the UK.

Does anyone know anything about putting OpenSSL on a HP 3000? I've seen various websites referring to people who have succesfully ported the software, but with the HP 3000s being used less and less, I'm finding lots of broken links and missing pages. My ultimate intention is to try and get Secure FTP (SFTP) running from Posix on the HP 3000.

Several up-to-date support providers can help Hudson and others who want this security tool running on a 3000. Mark Ranft of Pro3K (612.804.2774) said, "I would be happy to assist. I recently did this for another client. I have all the pieces and instructions to do this." Beechglen's founder Mike Hornsby also has software and experience at hand. "Beechglen has OpenSSH_3.8.1p1, OpenSSL 0.9.7d 17, SFTP and SSHD versions for MPE/iX," he said.

HP placed the OpenSSL pieces in its WebWise MPE/iX software, according to former HP Internet & Connectivity engineer Mark Bixby (now developing at K-12 app company QSS). "When I left [HP's 3000 division], a fully functional OpenSSL was part of the Apache bundle. The last Apache/WebWise patch that I built contained all of the necessary source code and build scripts, and more."

However, Secure FTP is not provided in the WebWise bundle. A longtime friend of the 3000 community, still working in support, provided a white paper on how to set up SFTP for the HP 3000. The paper was written just two years ago.

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Low expectations forecast for HP's board

Many aspects of HP have become history, says a former HP engineer and current HP 3000 systems manager. It's true whether you're a migrating customer with a long HP history, like Boeing, or a homesteading company who's disappointed with the apparent changes at the very top of this storied system vendor.

John Wolff is in the latter category. His company LAACO Ltd. is a Los Angeles firm that manages fitness clubs as well as storage facilities and it's used HP 3000 as mission-critical servers since the 1980s. Wolff retired from the OpenMPE board this year, and while he was checking in on OpenMPE business mentioned how the HP board is driving business strategy wildly deviant from the HP Wolff served.

HP's new CEO Leo Apotheker will spend his first week testifying in court -- another first for the company -- as Oracle pursues damages for misappropriated intellectual property: engineering taken by SAP while Apotheker was CEO there. A check by the board on such background is another example of a major vendor falling short of its legacy.

"If Bill and Dave failed at anything, it was at installing the culture in board members that could be passed onward," Wolff said. "When I joined the company [in the '60s] there was an orientation process introducing new employees to the HP Way. "They should have a program like that for members of the board as well." Wolff submitted a letter to the Wall Street Journal, a customer's complaint about the mess at HP's top which has gone unpublished.

The disconnect isn't limited to business press profiles of HP. Not even a company using the 3000 and enjoying a dedicated HP rep enjoys a clear understanding of how HP's 2011 CPU support will play out. "It's not easy to find these things out," said Boeing's 3000 systems manager Ray Legault, while he researched CPU ID reset services.

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Discover the New World of 2011: HP Maybe

Christopher-columbus-6 In the US, a lot of business is on holiday as the country celebrates Columbus Day. Everybody knows that "Christopher Columbus discovered America" (not exactly a true historical account) and others know that Columbus discovered The New World. That latter belief has some bearing on your 3000 management, no matter whether your plan is to migrate or homestead your HP 3000.

The New World is the year 2011, the first year in 40 years when you can't order a stock HP 3000 service or part from Hewlett-Packard. HP's selling Time & Materials support on an official basis next year; it's one way to rescue a failed CPU board or reset HP's 3000 ID codes. You also might be lucky enough to qualify for HP's 3000 support -- if your management insists -- for next year. HP decides on a customer-by-customer basis. But this world of "maybe HP" or one-off support is a place as unknown as the Americas in the late 15th Century.

However uncharted, many 3000 users are going to have to explore this world of Maybe HP. And soon, too. HP's official 3000 operations end in about 10 weeks. Procurement and support managers are also looking over the horizon to see how to keep 3000s under support next year -- whether their firms are running 3000s while migrations start up or wrap up, or the systems continue to do mission-critical work.

Discovering the new land of HP 2011 support is a challenge while locating a support contract rep at HP. A good place to start is the HP IT Response Center, although those engineers don't handle contracts -- just support handles and fixes and patches. Less costly, more responsive alternatives to the "HP Maybe" new world lie in independent support firms. You can chart stops in your exploration at former HP authorized reseller Pivital Solutions, the ERP-grade mission-cricial experts at the Support Group inc., or our Homesteading Editor's Gilles Schipper Associates, among a few others. You'll want to know where you can sail to a safe harbor in the New World of 2011.

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Independent support plumbs 3000 internals

HP will remain in the 3000 support business during 2011, but only in a limited role. Aside from the under-the-radar contracts that independent support vendors are reporting, there's a Time & Materials option for critical services like setting CPU name and HPSUSAN numbers on replacement or upgraded 3000 boards.

But is Time & Materials response -- which has no guarantee of any deadline or an established price list -- the only avenue for this work? We're getting reports from indie support providers that HP has engineered back doors into configuring 3000 PA-RISC hardware. There's been ample research around the world to document PA-RISC system use with Linux. Stromasys, working on the Zelus 3000 emulator for release next year, piloted the product by booting a PA-RISC emulator with Linux.

The indie reports indicate a better understanding of the 3000 server hardware's internals than you might expect. As one example, a dual-port SCSI card is part of the IO board on HP's A-Class servers. HP's own documentation details that, so a third party might leverage the information to introduce older SCSI to the later models of the 3000. HP, for the record, doesn't support this SCSI card in the newer models. But as 3000 vets like to say, SCSI is SCSI. The blend of newer server and older IO is one element in upgrading to later model servers.

That expense of going to the A-Class or N-Class servers from 9x9 systems can be justified. Aside from power savings, the ultimate generation of 3000s is younger than 9x9 or 9x8 predecessors, and some support companies say it's easier to find replacement parts for the newer models. HP has made parts that work in both HP 9000 (the rp line of servers) and HP 3000 systems. Other than a CPU name change introduced at boot-up, the systems are identical. Many parts on the market for the tens of thousands of HP 9000s will do the job inside the newest HP 3000s.

What's more, there's value in the range of performance available on the N- and A-Class servers. You need a expert support source, comfortable with experimenting on PA-RISC, to get to greater speeds or eight-processor HP 3000s. But it can be done. And the task apparently doesn't conflict with HP attempts to block 3000 internals configuration.

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Products, programs push remote printing

3000 consultant Michael Anderson tapped a wellspring of advice over the last few days with a request about remote printing from an HP 3000 to multiple locations.

I have a need to support "Printing on printers at the remote locations" to multiple client companies from my HP 3000. Kind of like the old time-share paradigm. The client companies can access the HP 3000 using Telnet/iX, but they need to be able to print from the HP 3000 (Telnet session) to their own local printers. Does anyone know of any “canned” software that would help achieve my goal, or perhaps another network strategy?

Charles Finley of Transformix, a migration and software services company that's been working with Robelle of late, posted eight replies of considerable detail to solve Anderson's problem. But along the way the 3000 community which still trades 3000 technique at comp.sys.hp.mpe chipped in a few commercial solutions for the challenge, as well as one recommendation to use Samba.

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Homesteaders, migrators both tout trends

While service pros at migration firms point at the limits of the 3000 lifespan, homesteading customers are answering with snapshots of substantial sites using the 3000 beyond 2011.

Some of the discussion is surfacing at the HP 3000 Community Group on LinkedIn.com (You can join for free for such discussions and networking among 3000 pros.) More than 180 members subscribe to the group, a membership spread across 3000 migration vendors and established homestead shop managers.

"No doubt this is a difficult time for many 3000 users," said Transoft's Sonny Goodwin. "But the decision to finally do something may be the hardest part. There are many companies that have been through it already, so while it may be something scary to those of you that are doing it for the first time, there are vendors that have re-hosted/migrated these applications for hundreds of customers for many, many years. It will cost some money and it will take some time, but it has to be done sooner or later and no one can afford to wait until it’s too late."

Bob Sigworth of Bay Pointe Technology countered with testimony that large-scale IT shops remain devoted to 3000 use. "It's a great machine with the best operating system I've sold in 35 years of being in this business." Bay Pointe also resells Sun and HP's Unix systems among other platforms. "What is amazing is how many very large organizations are still using the HP 3000 and have no intentions of migrating. I am still selling quite a few e3000 N4000's and of course the 9x9s. Some are parts machines, but many are going into production."

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Series 42, from '80s, heads for 2010's net

HP built its 3000 servers well in the 20th Century, a fact that a former HP division engineer is proving from his California garage. HP's first products came out of a famed Palo Alto garage, of course. But Lee Courtney isn't trying to make a living with his 1980s server -- he's just putting a past tool onto today's technology.

Courtney has been working with a Series 42 HP 3000, a server first sold in the 1980s. The 42 was the 3000's middle of the road workhorse before HP turned to RISC chip designs in the late 80s. They called them Classic 3000s, once the PA-RISC servers went on sale. I toured HP's US disk drive assembly plant in 1988 -- when the vendor was still building indestructible disks, and making them in North America. I saw a rack of 42s in the Boise, Idaho factory's test bay, hard at work. HP was doing burn-in testing with the servers for its brand of drives, more than 20 years ago.

Even in that summer, the 42s seemed like relics. Imagine how refreshing it will look if Courtney can get his system onto the Internet. He's just one network card away from doing it, he believes. If you've got a LANIC for one of these, a system built before the Internet can make an appearance, you can help. It might also prove something about 3000 hardware supplies.

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A Baker's Dozen More Years of 3000 Use

AmetekArrays I may be at full US Social Security retirement age, 66, when Barbara Nimmo retires her HP 3000. The IT manager at the Chandler Chandler Engineering unit of Amatek Process and Analytical Instruments, Nimmo is in charge of an Series 918 -- smallest system that can boot MPE/iX 7.5 -- and says the company plans to migrate to Oracle.

In 2023.

"I hope it's still running by then," she reported today as we chatted about the longest-range IT plan I've ever seen. She only got the migration date this week.

For the HP 3000 customer, long-range plans never used to include a date for changing a platform. For Amatek, this server could well have no effective changeover. After all, MPE/iX itself is supposed to have a date problem that could stall the environment in 2027. Nimmo is doing her own MPE/iX maintenance and using BlueLine Services for hardware support.

Don't be thinking this is a tiny customer site, either. Ametek is a $2.5 billion manufacturer of aerospace components and assemblies. There's a massive array of Ametek business units around the world, a field of companies that looks as big as the solar array above, one of the company's markets. Just today Ametek announced it bought a manufacturer of linear actuators and lead screw assemblies. Ametek paid $270 million in cash for the new subsidiary. Nimmo says there are four other HP 3000s running in the company besides her 918. But that little 3000 is more than proof of the lifespan of MPE/iX.

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Archived 3000 site donates $18K printer

L5520-1 Mike Cheng wants to give away a printer that was once as busy as General Chemical's HP 3000. Both components are in semi-retirement today, but the Printronix L5520 has been waiting for a new home for four years. At its height of duty, this $25,000 device output reports for a range of in-house applications that managed the manufacturing at General Chemical. This can be a tough item to find; one online resource listed it available at $18,000; it's no longer made by Printronix.

Cheng, who can be contacted at 973-599-5536, will donate the printer for the cost of shipping a unit that weighs 300 pounds by his estimate. "Or if they're in New Jersey, they could just come by and pick it up" at his East Hanover IT shop, he added.

General Chemical's unit, where Cheng manages IT, manufactures soda ash and nothing else, a substance that's key to creating glass and detergents, among many other things. The HP 3000 at his shop is in archival mode now, generating reports for ERP operations up through 2005. The system will be in service for several more years at the instruction of the General Chemical legal department. This is another HP 3000 that will continue to run longer than HP's support for the 3000. It just doesn't need a printer, or the boxes of 12 x 8.5-inch, left-right feed 3-hole paper needed for the Printronix unit. The paper's part of the donation.

Cheng called us at the behest of VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh, who visited the General Chemical site this week. The indefatigable founder of the software company that sells MPEX continues to travel the country to visit customers, offering a day's support consulting -- and staying in touch with the community that includes such archive outposts.

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Changes swap Microsoft for HP in migration

When the wholly owned subsidiary True Value Canada made its migration away from in-house HP 3000 ERP, HP lost a customer to the world of Windows and Intel systems. IT manager Tim Boychuk said choosing Windows over HP-UX, or anyone else's Unix, was not difficult.

"We weren't very much of a Unix shop prior to our transition," Boychuk said. "There wasn't anything here that was was Unix-based, or even Linux-based. All of our file systems and print servers were Windows-based before we migrated. The only thing that wasn't Windows-based was the HP 3000."

True Value's story is typical of the 3000 migrator. HP announces its end of 3000 support and development, so there's a vision of no more life for the MPE/iX systems. The announcement triggers a plan to renovate the IT services in the company, fueled by more thorough use of the data. It all starts, of course, with the HP news of 2001, telling customers there was no more future in the 3000. As it turned out, this was the end of HP's future at True Value.

"There was an end-of-life cycle for MPE," Boychuk said. "We also wanted to improve our data access by going to a new ERP system, and that was one of the things that was most attractive. To this day I think that was a good move, because of data access down at the desktop. It's now very easy to do a lookup or a quick report on the data, because it's all integrated on one database." That's a Microsoft SQL Server database today, more than two years after the company completed its move away from both the 3000 and HP.

Hillary Software's byRequest has been one of the few constants in the IT architecture, however. The software that uses email to move reports around an organization, as well as distribute them over the Web, remains essential for communicating with more than 700 dealers across Canada. byRequest began its True Value service talking with the HP 3000.

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How much does XP's end of support matter?

Microsoft is in the middle of a migration, too. The service and software providers who migrate 3000 sites -- or just support homesteaders with a lot of Windows -- can roll their eyes at all the changes. But the shift from XP to Windows 7 is much bigger a deal than everyday security patches and product updates. Right?

Well, not so much. Over and over we've found that the 3000 site which has embraced Windows as a replacement doesn't perceive XP as a lame duck. At True Value Hardware Canada, for example, IT Director Tim Boychuk said the Microsoft announcements of end of XP life haven't changed his strategy.

"The majority of our production systems are XP," he said. "We're in the prototype stages of testing Windows 7 with [installed ERP solution] Microsoft Dynamics. If [Microsoft] does an announcement of end of support, they have extended it." The latest extension was announced last August; XP now has a 2014 end date.

This is practical and cost-effective IT management, the execution of "not broke, don't change it" strategy. Microsoft's latest announcement puts the third extension onto ending the life of XP Service Pack 2, with a new date of July 13. Online support is available after that, but extended support via Microsoft ends this summer. The simplest way to stick with Microsoft support is to upgrade clients to SP3.

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