Newest IMAGE/SQL datasets tackle largest databases
Enhancement extends HP3000 reach to high-growth
HP3000 customers have been working to deploy very large
databases (VLDBs) with IMAGE/SQL this summer, now that HP is shipping
an upgrade that enables Jumbo datasets in the award-winning
VLDBs stand at the heart of an important growth segment
for the HP3000, mail-order catalog management. Customer databases in
excess of 30 million names are common for companies such as
Time-Warner Cable, Hammacher-Schlemmer and other companies which have
recently installed the HP3000. Such databases carry more than 20Gb of
data, the commonly accepted starting point for a VLDB.
But until this year, IMAGE/SQL and its predecessors had a
limit that restrained the practical size of HP3000 databases. No
dataset could exceed 4Gb in an IMAGE/SQL, TurboIMAGE or IMAGE
database. Applications which called for larger datasets couldnt
be easily managed on HP3000s.
The dataset barrier stood as a roadblock to HPs
march to make the HP3000 a mainframe alternative. The limitation was
a function of the MPE/iX operating system, a bottleneck thats
been removed with the latest release.
By using the 5.0 Push release of MPE/iX, the HP3000 sews
up to 10 chunks of 4-Gb datasets together, pushing the dataset limit
to 40Gb. HP employed its new POSIX hierarchical file system naming
feature in MPE/iX to extend the limit.
While HP admits that only 10 percent of its HP3000
customer base is pushing the old dataset limits, the new jumbo
datasets have an impact on every site. HPs IMAGE/SQL lab
manager Jim Sartain said that expanding IMAGE/SQL into VLDB territory
gives the database new growth opportunities in markets such as health
care and mail order operations.
There are some very successful software vendors that
have been selling into major new HP3000 installations, Sartain
said. Theyre going after the top companies in respective
industries, and those companies would have encountered the old
Jumbo dataset tests have been underway for several months
at some of the largest HP3000 installations in the world. At Current,
Inc., a $300 million card and wrapping paper supplier and a division
of check and form publisher Deluxe, a 60-Gb production database is
planned for deployment later this year. HP system specialist Dave
Jennings said his four-processor Series 995 system will support more
than 900 online users. Hes preparing for the busiest period of
Currents sales year, the months which precede the year-end
holidays, by testing jumbo datasets this spring.
Jennings reported that only a handful of tools have been
revised to work with the datasets that are key to HPs growth
for the 3000. Current is using Suprtool from Robelle Consulting, and
it was also deploying a version of Adager that handles jumbo
If I didnt have these programs, Id be
handcuffed, Jennings said. A few of our datasets are now
12 gigabytes. I couldnt finish my job because one of my
datasets filled up, and I didnt have any tools to expand it.
Adager is the only supplier [of an expansion tool] whod commit
to support jumbo datasets in a reasonable time frame.
The short list of tools tested to work with the datasets
is a result of the extensive changes in HPs design. HPs
Sartain said the expansion of the datasets is a major change to
the [file system] structure, so its a major amount of work [for
tools vendors]. And its a major amount of work with no obvious
with no short-term financial benefit to them.
While some HP3000 customers are buying database tools
regardless of whether it supports the jumbo enhancement, Jennings
said it wasnt an optional feature for his operation at Current.
HP didnt hesitate to add the feature, either, according to
It really wasnt an option, because we
didnt want to forego these big deals, he said.
People who have been using it are very happy.
Jumbo datasets, not prices
Neither of the HP3000 tool suppliers who support jumbo
datasets today are charging extra for the feature, even though
potential customers have budgets much larger than most HP3000 sites.
Jennings said hes procured about $500,000 of software for the
two Series 995s and Series 937 HP systems since he arrived at
Current. But the size of the prospective jumbo dataset user
hasnt triggered higher prices for tools yet.
We dont charge extra for the kind of
native-mode RISC support Adager does, like dynamic detail dataset
expansion and jumbo datasets, said Adagers Alfredo Rego.
Were here to help our customers travel the Infobahn, not
run them over.
Other suppliers are working toward supporting the
datasets. Omnidex, from Dynamic Information Systems Corp., is being
tested both at Current and at Pilgrim Health Care, a health
maintenance organization headquartered in Norwell, Mass. HP3000
director Jim Harding said hes looking over a long list of
programs essential to his 6-way Series 995 system.
Im still not overly confident that all of the
third party products will work together with files larger than the
4-gigabyte limit, Harding said. In addition to Adager, Suprtool
and Omnidex, Pilgrim Health Care is using Vesofts MPEX,
Quests Netbase, Cognos Quiz and Quick, Lunds
performance products, and Unisons DCM Pak. Pilgrim is also
using the Third Party Indexing (TPI) features for IMAGE/SQL from
My greatest concern is with searching through
datasets larger than 4 gigabytes with the indexed products,
Harding said. Keeping databases shadowed with Netbase and
indexed involving TPI has been difficult enough within the 4-gigabyte
The work at Pilgrim and Current involves some of the
largest datasets in the HP3000 world. Harding said his medical claims
and services application, AMISYS from Advanta, has one dataset with
more than 20 million records, and another of more than 9 million
IMAGE/SQL and expansion plans
Customers using AMISYS and the MAC mail order software
from Smith Gardner Associates are among the first to need jumbo
datasets, but Sartain said HP plans to be releasing the enhancement
to the full customer base this month. Sartain said no serious
critical problems were reported across 30 beta sites testing the
software this spring.
HP will make the enhancement available as part of its
patch system, bypassing the delay of waiting for another full release
of MPE/iX. But there are already discussions from the HP3000
community that a more thorough change will be needed before long -
because 40-gigabyte datasets someday might not be large enough,
Wirt Atmar, reporting to the SIGIMAGE membership from this
years Interex IPROF conference, said the jumbo datasets
are much more of a fix than a solution.
If the pressure exists to maintain datasets that
exceed 4 gigabytes, this 10-times extension will soon become
unacceptable, too, Atmar stated. The relatively
small dataset size limit of 40 Gb is going to become a
severe problem in the near-term future - simply because of the
changing nature of what people are going to consider appropriate
material to be stored in databases.
As HP customers continue to fill IMAGE/SQL databases with
business-critical data, Atmar and others say the best solution
involves calls for reworking the MPE/iX file system. Atmar noted that
MPE/iX still has room to grow, provided HP continues to be willing to
invest in the work needed.
Because the problem lies in the file system itself
and not in IMAGE, Atmar reported, Craig Fairchild, the
MPE file system architect, was asked during the [IPROF] conference,
Is it possible for the file system to be fixed? Craig
said, Anythings possible. And that, too, was
precisely the right answer.