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October 2004

Number 103 (Update of Volume 8, Issue 12)

MPE advances might be ported back

Two years ago HP 3000 customers asked HP for an enhancement to the MPE/iX Command Interpreter (CI). After a year of waiting for the request to be defined better by customers, HP went to work in 2003 on user-written functions for the CI. This summer the HP work went out for testing in the 3000 customer base. Only the latest version of MPE/iX, 7.5, is getting this enhancement. But HP might be back-porting the work to older releases.

The CI enhancement illustrates a issue smoldering in the remains of HP’s 3000 lab effort: What to do with the 26 months left before HP’s MPE development ends? Items such as the CI functions were requested by a customer base known for upgrading MPE versions slowly, if at all. Customers who asked for a “parking release” for their HP 3000s are being pointed at 7.5 by HP, but the majority of customers are using earlier versions. As long as HP continues to develop first for 7.5, its soon-to-be-precious development time will break ground for a minority of its 3000 customers.

At HP World, the company’s 3000 managers discussed back-porting during the SIG MPE meeting, but it was clear that the 3000 labs are looking for customer clamor to justify the extra work to make enhancements run on the older 7.0 and 6.5 releases. In the weeks leading up to the conference, HP engineer Jeff Vance announced the CI enhancement testing period as well as the porting considerations.

“In the 2002 SIB there was a request for us to add the ability to the CI to execute user written functions,” Vance said. “In 2003 this top-tier item was more clearly defined, and we started working on the externals and design. It is now available for GR testing. We are considering back-porting this patch to earlier MPE releases, so if you have input for us on that topic, please let [us] know.”

7.5 users can request the CI user-written function patches MPEMXP9 and MPEMXQ0, which are only available to customers on HP support during the testing phase. Vance said MXP9 is the code, and MXQ0 is the error catalog and online help text. When these patches clear testing, they will be available to all HP 3000 shops running 7.5. Whether these advances go beyond the parking release for the 3000 remains to be seen -- and depends on what HP hears.

Vance retakes his saddle in recovery

Just a few weeks after that Jeff Vance message, the key HP 3000 asset and advocate took a bad crash in a mountain bike accident. He had to drop out of his HP World commitments, and became the focus of sympathies and good wishes from the community that came to Chicago. Considering how prolific Vance has been for the 3000’s enhancement efforts, the accident was a blow to more than his immediate family; the 3000’s family has been concerned, too. Recovery from such a serious spinal injury is usually measured in months. But Vance has been speeding toward better health at a surprising pace.

Recently he updated the 3000 community on his progress. Just about a month after his accident, he wrote, “I am not wearing a neck brace all day long any more, though I still wear it in the car and crowded situations where I might lose my balance. I am typing this without my left hand brace on, and there are other smaller improvements daily. Still a long ways to go, but I remain optimistic for a full or almost full recovery !”

Considering how much typing the prolific coder must have done in his 3000 career, his frustration must be keen. “I spend a lot of time doing various therapies and I am still typing painfully slowly,” he said. Vance also reported that he rode his bike for the first time since the accident. “I rode about two miles around the school track, and it felt great to be riding again! My arms and wrists finally gave out, which isn't surprising to me, but another milestone!”

MPE looks for a friend in Interex election

While the US presidential election race ground through its last weeks, the Interex user group was also mounting a vote, one with possibilities for HP 3000 users. Only two candidates are competing for the only open slot on the Interex board, and one candidate has 19 years of HP 3000 experience. Chuck Ciesinski is running for this volunteer position, and he’s the only member of the MPE Forum advocacy group who is on the ballot. Ciesinski has chaired Interex Special Interest Groups and the High Availability Forum, has educated managers with his HP World talks, and chaired panels at the user group’s annual meetings.

Ciesinski has run for the board once before and said he lost by less than a handful of votes. At HP World he had kind words for his opponent, Julie J. Smith, a sentiment that has been absent from the election playing out on the bigger US stage this year.

The Interex group has been holding its own during an era when travel to conferences has been declining and vendor-focused user groups are scrambling for meaning in a heterogeneous, commodity marketplace. Interex still has resources that could help HP 3000 customers. Putting another member onto the group’s board who knows the 3000 community might help customers who are moving away, as well as those homesteading for the long run. The Interex elections wrap up on Oct. 31; members were supposed to get their ballots by Sept. 15 via e-mail. Interex will receive notice of the winners from its accounting firm by Nov. 18.

Interex says HP commits to HP World ’05

The Interex user group said in our August issue that HP will continue to support the group’s annual conference. A press release from Interex has provided a few more details on how next year’s show is being treated, as well as a note on the attendance at this year’s event. Interex said it has confirmed HP's commitment to the next show, “including an HP keynote speaker, session presenters, hands-on workshops and expo booth” at the 2005 event August 15-19.

The user group reported that about 7,000 registrants attended this year’s conference, the last one that didn’t have to compete with HP’s new Technology Forum, scheduled for September, 2005. HP, Interex explained, said it will tell its resellers and partners to “consider” the user group’s 2005 show.

“We will continue to encourage our system integrators, value-added resellers, and other partners to consider HP World 2005 as a viable venue for supporting their respective sales and marketing objectives,” Interex said while it reported on a recent letter from David Parsons, HP's vice president of Americas Enterprise Marketing. Parsons added that "HP has enjoyed a long history and working relationship with Interex in support of the HP World conferences and expos."

Though the consideration HP will be encouraging will be aimed at sales and marketing efforts, the user group wants the users to know marketing won’t be a part of HP World session talks. The Interex release said that “In response to member and attendee feedback, Interex will be offering ‘marketing-free’ conference sessions to ensure that sales or marketing presentations will not interfere with the technical content.”

Interex CEO Ronald Evans also stressed the technology content of the show. “We are happy to be returning to our roots by delivering 100 percent independent solutions-oriented training, developed for technologists by technologists," he said. Registration opens online in March of next year for the event.

iSeries makes blot on big quarter, rolls out big iron

Even though IBM turned in its strongest third-quarter performance in
several years, the iSeries systems which the vendor is promoting as an HP 3000 alternative made a poor showing. IBM said that iSeries revenues were off by 26 percent for the quarter against 2003’s numbers for the same quarter. IBM had a 12 percent increase overall in server revenue, but its pSeries Unix systems didn’t drive those higher numbers, either. The xSeries servers based on Intel and AMD systems, as well as the mainframe-class zSeries servers, led the increase. pSeries revenues were up only 1 percent.

IBM stoked high hopes for the iSeries futures with its i5 eServer announcements in May, but the shipment of those new systems didn’t arrive in time to boost the quarter that ended on September 30. The version of IBM Unix that would run on the new i5s didn’t even start to ship until September. IBM announced the results one day after this month’s COMMON user group conference Town Hall meeting, a place where iSeries loyalists could have asked IBM’s iSeries officials about the i5’s trajectory.

IBM made other news with the iSeries later in the week by announcing the first 64-way model of the new i5s. The Model 595 has more than three times the processing power of the 16-way 570s that used to top the i5 line. IBM claims to get closer to the 1:1 ratio of extra processors to extra power with its architecture, and the 3.5-times performance rating against four times as many processors looks to bear out that claim. The 595 moves into mainframe territory with a max memory capacity of two terabytes. The 595 comes in two enclosures, one for processors and memory and the other a tower for IO storage devices.

IBM’s AIX Unix runs in partitions that the iSeries operating system controls on the i5, a configuration that is sure to demand more power than any that rely only on the native i5/OS. IBM also announced that the i5/OS is now available for use on its p5 servers, the Unix-native systems which use identical hardware to the i5.

More than 200,000 unique customers run the iSeries and AS/400 servers, an ecosystem much larger than the HP 3000’s ever became. General Manager Mike Borman admitted this week that his IBM product line could use some extra marketing attention, according to a report in iSeries News. The iSeries will be getting a new VP of marketing, a part of what IBM calls a regular rotation of its executives. Borman took his job in July.

Transoft joins Mainframe Migration Alliance

HP 3000 migration services vendor Transoft has joined the Mainframe Migration Alliance, a community of software vendors and service providers that a Transoft press release said are “focused on enabling mainframe customers to migrate from their proprietary platforms to the Microsoft Windows platform to reduce costs and gain more flexibility.”

Transoft said the MMA, recently formed by Microsoft and other industry partners, creates a community where companies can find a variety of “best of breed” resources, tools and information (including case studies) to help them move applications off the mainframe onto Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft .NET technologies.

Transoft said it calls on 17 years of experience in migrating legacy proprietary platforms to open systems, such as Windows Server, to offer a “’don't just move – improve’ approach that delivers real long term business benefits and gives a clear return on investment.”

Samba, Apache get security alerts in HP-UX

HP 3000 customers moving to the HP-UX environments will have to be ready for more potential security risks than those in the calmer waters of the MPE/iX world. Although Samba and Java run on both HP 3000 and HP 9000 platforms, the newer versions on the Unix systems recently forced the vendor to issue security alerts for the software on the HP-UX B.11.00 through 11.23. Administrators need to update to Java 1.4.2 on the servers at http://www.hp.com/go/java, and to Samba version A.01.11.03 available at http://software.hp.com

HP managed to serve more banking

Although the HP 3000 is still a common sight in the US credit union industry, the computer did not make heavy inroads on the worldwide banking sector. Now that HP is pressing its managed services business as hard as its technology, it is building its profile in banking with a series of services contracts. Many of these simply put the banks’ IT employees onto the HP payroll as a first step. This month HP announced a $500 million five-year contract with German financial services provider WestLB AG. HP will give the bank its Adaptive Enterprise treatment, as well as being able to leverage its services work with banks in Ireland, India and elsewhere.

The numbers on these contracts are interesting. Getting another 450 people onto the HP Services payroll for five years will cost upwards of $150 million, presuming an average salary of $45,000 and standard HP benefits. That leaves $70 million per year in profits on the deal, or about $18 million per quarter. HP Services is one of the company’s businesses that continues to plug profit into the bottom line.

But HP sees more than profits in the deal. It’s getting better-known in the banking community through services contracts with Bank of India, TD Dominion Bank in Canada, and the Bank of Ireland, CIBC and the Development Bank of China. As for the German financial services provider, it considers IT to be outside its core business. Klaus-Michael Geiger, a member of WestLB's managing board, said the HP deal was “a cogent strategy for the employees of [our IT division] WestLB Systems.” Such deals are building HP’s services expertise. They also bring IT pros to work for HP who might never have considered employment with the vendor.


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