Taking Steps at MPEs Fork in the Road
Donna Garverick stands with a foot planted in two
futures for the HP 3000. On one side she has worked as an HP 3000
Special Interest Group (SIG) leader for many years, first in charge
of the System Managers SIG and then later as co-chair of
SIG-MPE. She also took a spot this year on the board of directors of
OpenMPE, the advocacy group HP has been talking with about the
3000s future after 2006.
In the other future, Garverick follows a different
path. This summer she joined the executive committee of the
SIG-Migration group. For years, this MPE veteran has studied the
Posix interface of MPE/iX, preparing to ministering to Unix systems
at her employers business. Longs Drug was once notable
for running more than 430 HP 3000s in its network of retail stores.
Garverick took care of that network during the 1990s, but now the
company serves part of the needs of hundreds of stores with a single
The consolidation of such a vast network of 3000s into
a single box shows the way of the future for Longs, and
Garverick is taking steps to be ready for change. At the same time
she serves a group which wants HP to prepare for a longer lifespan
for homesteading HP 3000 users.
Garvericks background might account for her
desire to prepare for all outcomes. After all, shes spent her
career managing HP 3000s, computers known for covering every
eventuality. She trained for IT at an Ohio two-year college, the kind
of institution that has graduated many an HP 3000 system manager. HP
3000s ran in the schools classrooms, and she worked toward
getting a job operating the computer.
In 1984 she joined the Armys effort in computing,
working with a 3000 at the Materiel Readiness Support Activities
center in Lexington, Ky. Garverick was on civilian duty in the months
that led to the 1991 Gulf War, making the Armys top HP 3000
step lively as it snapped vast columns of statistics to the attention
of Army chiefs readying for Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Garverick specializes in administration, the inglorious
but essential skills of problem solving that take up many of our
readers days. These days shes learning new skills while
defending the 3000 customers right to practice more mature
processes. We asked her to look out over the near future and tell us
what an MPE veteran with pragmatic vision might want to focus upon.
We spoke one week before HPs end of sales deadline for the
What do you believe the HP 3000 sites who are homesteading
should be doing now?
Planning, planning, planning. I just cant emphasize
it enough. These people are making such poor business decisions.
Theres no such thing as running a business computer for free.
Its a risky decision to try to go long-term on a box like a
Series 927 with a 2Gb drive without having spares or backup
For example, you know there are shops out there still
using DDS-1 tape drives could be the original drive that was
delivered with the 3000. Theyre thinking they get a backup
almost every night, never looking at $STDLISTs of their jobs and
never realizing they havent had a successful backup in
You can mitigate the risk by planning. Ive got
a tender spot in my heart for those little, lost MPE shops out there.
If I were running my company on MPE, Id come out of the
woodwork and let other folks know I was there. People have dropped
support with all their vendors, and are patting themselves on the
back. They think theyre running their computer without spending
a cent, and theyre out on a limb.
What are the hidden talents that 3000 managers will be able
to carry to their next assignment, outside the MPE community?
I want to point out that these are not the people
Ive just been talking about. These people know how to run a
datacenter, know what it takes to put a job schedule together, with
different requirements out of different applications. They know to
buy new tapes every so often. Theyre used to dealing with
operators. They have personnel skills, to manage teams they work
More than anything else, they know what it takes to have a
smooth-running application. Things about testing, to put a tool on a
test box before putting it into production. Things about hardware,
like running a server with a UPS, or not putting the wiring across
the floor. These are some of the thousand little things that
youre not necessarily going to find in a 20-something or
30-something Unix admin. They just dont have enough years
notched on their belts. Its 25 years of having done this that
makes a difference to a wise employer.
The timing of this 3000 transition couldnt be worse.
How many of us MPE users are 40-somethings now which
guarantees there are little people living in our houses and the
demands on our time are considerable? You have to make a tough
decision. Check out your local community college and see what they
are offering that could update your skills.
Did the 3000 give you any start on learning Unix-related
Eight years ago I getting into the Posix shell and
learning to navigate, to address files backwards from MPEs
namespace. I am comfortable on a Unix box as a result of this. It
doesnt mean I can go toe-to-toe with our Unix admins, but
youve got find ways to get this knowledge into your head. Go
get the Unix certification book, because its very much for
Rank these homesteader goals: build emulator for 3000
hardware; secure rights for MPE beyond 2006; ensure diagnostics get
Number one is definitely the source code for MPE. Number
two is the emulator, and number three is the documentation. For the
homesteaders, knowing theres someone out there with the ability
to get into the source code for bugs, and OpenMPE can repair it, is
very important. You know the requirements for FTP are going to change
as time goes on, for example. Just to keep you in business so you can
talk to whatever Microsoft comes up with.
The emulator is less important because its static.
If one comes out thats good, because the hardware supply will
be reduced over time. But theres no way to effect a repair of
MPE with an emulator.
Documentation is always a wonderful thing. I can
understand some of the hesitancy on HPs part to open up those
diagnostics to the masses. They are saying proceed with
caution with good reason. I am completely in favor of having
certain select third parties who have earned their reputation be
given access to these tools: Beechglen, Ideal, the hardware people
who have the expertise.
Whats the good of having negotiations with HP as an
OpenMPE member when you cannot share those talks with customers still
deciding about transition?
This is my opinion, and not necessarily as a board
member. The NDA is something HP needs, to know they can talk to the
OpenMPE board safely. Right now its enormously frustrating for
the community. Id call what popped up on the OpenMPE mailing
list last week anger. I dont disagree with that frustration,
but I was disheartened.
the nay-sayers are successful in destroying the dream of OpenMPE, I
dont see anybody else stepping up to do it. Its such an
enormous task, to see what its going to take to take over MPE
and run it as a business whose job it is to support MPE. I dont
think theres going to be an MPE in the future without
You signed on as a co-chair of SIG-Migrate this summer. What
do you hope to accomplish in that volunteer role?
They needed someone in there who knew the ropes of
what it means to be an Interex SIG. Nick Fortin, the chairman, has
some good ideas of the role the SIG can play. Most of the people in
the HP World SIG meeting were vendors. Having customer influence in
the SIG was necessary. SIG-Migrate is challenged, like some of the
other SIGs, to find what it is that its trying to advocate.
Speaking of advocacy, should HP unlock the processor power in
the A-Class and smaller N-Class servers?
If the folks at HP had it all to do over again, I
think they would have made other choices, because hindsight is a
marvelous thing. I know theres a lot of people who would love
it. I can see HPs point. They said what do we do with the
vendors? If you have an agreement with your vendor about your
software running on one HP 3000, and now its running on a
faster 3000, do these vendors have the right to come back and
re-license your software.
Has any non-HP platform piqued your interest in the months
leading away from November, 2001?
Linux. Ive got one sitting on my desk. I agree
with people out there who feel gun-shy about what HP is going to do
in the future.
How do you balance the need for security in using stable
products with the personal growth of learning new skills and
I sure hope I am. I worry nearly every day if
Im doing enough that if Longs were to say hasta la
vista if I could find a job. Ive got a family, and
thats a pretty big motivator. I can only say thank you to
Longs for the opportunity to learn Unix slowly. They are
encouraging me to get as much Unix training as I can, so when the day
comes and we finally switch off our last MPE box, I can still be
employed by Longs.
Frost or Wordsworth: which poet represents a better view of
the future for HP 3000 customers?
Wordsworths There were none to praise,
and very few to love it really describes MPE. But if we are at
the fork in the road here with MPE, thinking that one path is a
future with no MPE in it at all, and hoping the other fork is a
future with OpenMPE, I like what Frost said:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.