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September 2002

Newest MPE/iX release speeds IO

Version 7.5 adds Fibre Channel support, Secure Web Server

Fulfilling one of HP’s older promises, Version 7.5 of MPE/iX shipped this month enabling Fibre Channel connections for HP 3000 peripherals, as well as freeing a secure Web server and expanding storage and database limits. The software is billed as the last mainline release HP will create for the computer.

Fibre Channel just made it under the wire. Promised for delivery in 1999, the HP 3000’s support of Fibre Channel was first deferred in favor of MPE/iX Y2K repairs and then the addition of PCI bus engineering. With the 7.5 release, the technology is finally available for Series 9x9 and 99x owners. The Fibre Channel card will list price at $2,240.

The features in 7.5 make good on promises, according to SIG-MPE chairman John Burke. “All these items were requested by the customer base, so it is good to see there are still some technical people working on MPE/iX,” he said.

The native support of Fibre Channel increases IO transfer rates to 2 gigabits per second. But the most tangible enhancement from Fibre Channel could well be the support for a broader range of peripherals, especially Storage Area Network disks and arrays like HP’s VA7100 and the SureStore XP line. The two newest XP array models, the 128 and 1024, will be offered only as Fibre Channel devices on the 3000.

HP’s MPE product release manager Mike Schneck said the native support delivers an asset that HP 3000 users have learned to count on: simplicity. An SCSI-to-Fibre router was required with all prior MPE/iX releases. 7.5 eliminates the need for the extra network hardware.

“It simplifies your network,” Schneck said. “You had an additional complication point with the routers, and you were ultimately at the SCSI bandwidth limitations.”

HP is also bundling the WebWise Secure Apache/iX Server into the 7.5 release, a software product HP was selling for between $1,200 and $1,900 until this year. The Web server enables secure connections directly from HP 3000 systems over the Internet, using SSL encryption for applications such as e-commerce and database lookups of sensitive information.

Another industry standard for Internet connectivity is fully supported in 7.5, the sendmail e-mail transport facility.

Version 7.5 also unshackles millions of megabytes of storage space in the 3000 user community by eliminating the 4Gb limit on the HP 3000’s LDEV 1 boot drives. Now MPE can use all the disk space available on a boot device whose capacity is larger than 4Gb. HP was not able to make this expanded LDEV 1 capability available to customers running on MPE/iX 7.0 through a patch.

IMAGE/SQL enjoys increased dataset capacities of 128 Gb in the version shipped with the 7.5 release. HP said it is also continuing the support of ODBCLink/SE in the release. An HP-written JDBC driver is also part of the release for connection through Java applications.

HP has also increased the number of users enabled for logging from 1,140 to 2,851, adding more stability for customers with a high number of users. 7.5 increases the open files table limit from 1,024 to 4,096, welcome news for sites running large databases, using the HP 3000 as a Web server, or running multiple applications which open many files.

Moving to 7.5 also enables new UPS Monitor/iX capabilities that users have requested to pull them through powerfail situations. HP enhanced the UPSUTIL utility program for UPS subsystem management on Monitor/iX. System managers can specify a custom-tailored MPE/iX Command File to control the HP 3000’s behavior during a UPS-detected power failure that lasts longer than a user-specified amount of time.

“The primary benefit of this powerfail command file enhancement is that it can be used in conjunction with another Release 7.5 enhancement,” said Schneck, “the new CI-based SHUTDOWN command. This will cause an orderly system shutdown when the system is notified of a UPS-detected power failure.” The 7.5 version includes a new CI-level command SHUTDOWN with a RESTART option.

The HP manager said 7.5 also delivers improved HP Predictive Support software, a proactive hardware support utility that helps increase system uptime by monitoring system memory, disk and tape drives. Some potential problems can be identified with the software, which then sends a message to the HP Response Center for attention and resolution.

HP leveraged the Predictive code from the software’s HP-UX version to let the Predictive Support Monitor utilize both the Posix and MPE/iX environments. HP also said it’s improved the accuracy of the Predictive SCSI disk scanner to detect more failures. An SCSISCAN scanner on the STM version of Predictive is able to look at the logs residing on both HP and OEM-manufactured disks.

The newest MPE/iX release will be available to customers on the Software Update Manager electronic access service, as well as the rest of the owners of Series 9x8, 9x9, 99x and N-Class and A-Class systems. SUM customers will receive an e-mail notice of the 7.5 upgrade and can reply through a Web link and order it online. Other customers will get mailed notice of the upgrade with order instructions to be returned by standard mail.

HP won’t push the release unordered to any customer, but it comes pre-loaded on the newest A-Class and N-Class systems. As for the first upgrade to 7.5 — typically the time when production-grade systems get a release, to ensure early bugs are fixed — Schneck said 7.5 PowerPatch 1 might be awhile. “It hasn’t quite been planned yet,” he said. “It’s probably six months to one year away.”

Schneck said that 7.5 is “the last major software release” from the company for the HP 3000. “Future enhancements will be incremental, and based on customer needs.” Any additional functionality, as the result of customer balloting, “really needs review at HP.”


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