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Chuck Ciesinski
OpenMPE Director
Independent consultant


April 2005

New Face for a Legacy of Spirit

Chuck Ciesinski is hosting hope for the future of MPE. The HP 3000 systems manager and technical help resource won himself a seat on the OpenMPE board of directors last month. He ran twice for a spot on the Interex board of directors, narrowly missing, after more than a decade of volunteering for the organization. Now Ciesinski has succeeded in his third attempt at extending his volunteer service to the HP community. He began his volunteering with a modest position as a session host at the Interex 1991 conference. Now he’s signed on to help HP find its way to a decision about the post-2006 life for MPE.

User group organizations have been a big part of Ciesinski’s career. He is one of the few HP 3000 experts — along with fellow director Paul Edwards — to have made efforts toward both the Interex and OpenMPE boards. His volunteer work has ranged from program committee efforts for Interex to chairing the group’s High Availability Forum, the latter in an era when RAID arrays were just emerging for HP sites. He’s been a steady presenter at Interex conferences, and his postings are a regular source of instruction on the HP IT Response Center Web forum.

Ciesinski is stepping down new paths, just like many HP 3000 veterans, as HP 3000 opportunities grow more scarce. He came to data processing, as it was called in 1980, after taking a communications degree in advertising and PR. Hughes had him join their DP group, where he met his first HP 3000, a Series III. After nearly a quarter-century of work to manage HP systems at several Hughes units, he accepted early retirement when the company’s needs for dedicated 3000 management declined. Like 3000 pros who are exploring new futures this year, over the last several months Ciesinski pursued contracts to continue his career, landing an assignment just before we spoke for this interview. We wanted to ask him about his outlook for the future, both in his own career and for MPE. We talked by phone just after he had participated in his first board meeting after OpenMPE’s 2005 elections.

How does it feel to join OpenMPE’s board of directors?

It’s an awesome responsibility for me to join this board and represent such a large number of users on an international scale. I’d like to thank those who voted their confidence in me at this time. This board is somewhat similar to being a member and chair of the High Availability Forum where we had to deal with international issues, multiple platforms, a wide variety of issues.
And it feels like a lot more after my first board meeting than I’d realized. It will be a large scale task to accomplish all the goals of the organization.

What do you think OpenMPE can accomplish this year?

Initially I was thinking it was going to be just opening up the MPE environment and getting the source code available. After the first board meeting, I think there’s a lot more to it than that. There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done by both OpenMPE and HP to just get to a position where decisions can be made.
Hopefully we can expedite HP’s decision, and muster the resources that both HP, the 3000 customer and OpenMPE need to make good decisions. Once the resources are in place, hopefully HP can either A, release the software to a third party at the end of support, or B, sell the software to a third party support organization. Or you never know, HP might just say they’re not going to do it.
We have to give them the tools and the criteria to make a decision.

What’s been your experience in looking for independent MPE assignments over the last six months?

There are jobs and assignments still out there. However, the value of an HP 3000 professional has diminished in the eyes of a potential employer.
I’ve found that most of assignments are in the migration area for development, and in operational support. Most companies have a system manager already on the new platform and they don’t want to hire a system manager on the old platform. On the HP 3000, a lot of people are going to stop-gap measures for systems management.

Can you draw a link between preparing for disaster recovery and migration?

For both of these, you have to know what your application does, what tools you need to run it, today and tomorrow, in the event of a disaster and when you migrate. Disaster recovery gets you back up and running, while migration prepares your company for a change. Preparing to change is bigger, like from a MANMAN organization to an SAP organization. You have new education for your end-users. Most users are not too kind toward changes in how they do business.

One first, then the other — but which?

If you’ve done a disaster recovery project, you are better prepared to start a migration project. You have an inventory of your applications, hardware, tools ahead of time. You’ve already done a lot of your homework. You have to know what you’ve got: business procedures, hardware and software, people skills.

What areas of technology that are new to you are you starting to explore?

Personally I’m going HP-UX and Linux. Those are the prime areas where people want to go, the areas where HP 3000 system managers should focus on if they want to continue their employment. I’ve already taken several SAP basis administration classes. Oracle database administrators are going to be very marketable in the future.
Employers want Cisco certification and Microsoft certification. For the HP 3000, you must call somebody who’s experienced to really get the job done. The 3000 manager with these added skills is that experienced person to get your company from point A to point B if you choose to transition.

What’s the role of a user group for the HP customer versus an advocacy group like OpenMPE?

I think the missions are very similar. The user group in its truest form is always going to be advocating for its customers. OpenMPE is advocating strictly for the openness of the MPE operating system to its membership. Interex wants to see its roots survive and continue. The OpenMPE group wants to see the 3000 survive because that’s where we’ve made our livelihoods. Interex may be better off if OpenMPE can get HP to release the source code.

How far do you believe HP is willing to release it?

That’s where the board of OpenMPE relies on the skills of Alan Tibbetts, and what he did with HP’s RTE environment. How it was done in the past, will lead us to our future.

What kind of impact do you think Resource 3000 can have on the homesteading customer?

This consortium has some really great talent in its organizations. It’s a really strong group. I think it would be nice to see some other companies join into it, like a Cognos or a Speedware to provide additional services at the application level.

Do you think Resource 3000 is a prospective place for HP to license the MPE source?

I haven’t been in any discussions about the players, or who HP may look at, so I really don’t know. From a personal perspective, I would love to see Allegro involved, because of their past transition experience from classic MPE to MPE/XL which has become MPE/iX. They’ve got the background, the knowledge, and the skills to continue with MPE. To me it would be a great fit.

Do you think OpenMPE and Resource 3000 can work together?

My initial reaction is possibly. Resource 3000 is a commercial venture, and they’re still in it for profit. OpenMPE is not in it for profit, but rather advocating to HP for all of the 3000 customers. Until 2006 comes along, I don’t know if that could work. The consortium is out there trying to make money, and OpenMPE is just out there trying to get HP to release the source code.

Was it significant to you as a customer that OpenMPE failed to get 100 systems signed up for its post-2006 lab services?

I think that fell on a lot of deaf ears because of the economy. People were still able to run their businesses and get HP support. As support gets nearer to falling away, OpenMPE will probably be able to generate the revenue to do the things we need to do. A lot of it is the economy, and what’s important to each individual business.

Do you expect changes from HP as it acquires a new CEO?

Since the makeup of the HP board of directors hasn’t changed, the new CEO is probably not going to be in a position to make a lot of changes right away. In my opinion it will take him a good 5-6 months to make any changes.
I think the new CEO of HP needs to talk with his customers and get a feel for where the customers are at, rather than the internal strategists.

The most profound change would be for HP to reverse course about the 3000. Does that make any sense to you?

I would love to see them do it. It’s going to depend on groups like OpenMPE and Interex providing a strong enough business case for the powers at HP to realize that we aren’t just customers but also business partners. There are a large number of small shops who partnered with HP and big sites, too, like State Farm and Southwest Airlines. I’d hope that HP will want to review how those partnerships are today and what they’ll be like tomorrow.

Do you think too much has already been done to push along migration?

Migration is still a long term objective for these companies. Doing it overnight is not a possibility. But the resources to support MPE are dwindling, as people move on. It’s a Catch-22 for the 3000 engineer. HP’s engineering resources for the 3000 are moving on, too, as they move to other assignments internally.

So what’s more important about OpenMPE’s priorities: source code license, or getting HP to review its 3000 decision?

Ideally, I’d love for HP to change their mind, but we need to muster the resources to get a decision on the source code as a top priority in my opinion. Will they make a decision today or tomorrow? Probably not. Will it happen this year? My best guess is probably.

What’s the biggest misconception the world has about the HP 3000 and MPE?

That it’s dead. The 3000 is not dead, it’s alive and it’s well and people are still running their businesses on it.

Since you led a “big storage” SIG for Interex, what role can RAID play at a 3000 site?

A lot of the growth in storage options for the 3000 is due to the pressure of OpenMPE and the MPE Forum of Interex, which jointly pressured HP to provide new drivers. The technology has changed dramatically. People need to have sufficient storage capacity to archive data. Storage is a good market for HP as it continues to support its 3000 partners.

Do you think HP should be offering an extension to its end of support date to everybody?

HP, in my opinion, should offer an extension of support to everybody. It would be a great customer relations action on their part, to say they realize they still have a lot of customers who are still partners. I say partners because that’s how we were treated by HP when I started my career over 23 years ago.

If HP doesn’t license MPE to an outside entity, does that spell the end of the 3000’s community?

No, it won’t be the end. If HP decides to cyber-freeze the 3000, the community will continue. The 3000-L will continue to stay there, alive and well as it has been these many years. I feel that the 3000 community is as strong as it was during the 1990 Interex Conference in Boston, when we as a community last got HP to reconsider its course about IMAGE.

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