|Speaking Up on 3000
Compilers are essential in getting the optimal
performance out of RISC hardware, both the current PA-RISC as well as
IA-64s EPIC architecture. But what good will the new hardware
do you if the computer language you create and maintain in wont
make an improvement as well? If you write software for the HP 3000,
caring about compilers and their future is elementary.
Although the newest technology for HP 3000s is more
than a year away, and 3000 IA-64 systems at least two years beyond
that, its not too early to be thinking about the future of HP
3000 compilers. All of HPs engineering to create new hardware,
without new compiler technology to match, will make up only half of
the work needed to get IA-64 to the customer base and ensure a
lengthy growth path for HP 3000s. Thats what made us wonder
about HPs plans for the programming languages, and how
theyre being updated and re-architected for the next generation
of HP 3000s.
Its still early in the IA-64 game, but just the
assurance of program compatibility wont be enough to justify
buying the new systems. Programs will have to run significantly
faster, and that demands revised compilers. HP promised 3000
customers this spring that it was putting COBOL at the top of its
priority list as a long lead-time project, but no notice has been
given about other languages. HPs C compiler on the 3000 needs
an update just to take full advantage of the PA-8000 series
introduced in the Series 979s, for example. And no supported C++
compiler is available today for the 3000.
Languages are created in HP at its Computer Language
Labs, while compiler maintenance and enhancements go on in the
Software Services Group (SSG). Meanwhile, the HP 3000 division (CSY)
has established direct management links with SSG in the past year.
And the division has hired a new translator language architect from
outside CSY working with SSG and the 3000 operating system
team to develop a compiler road map.
We checked on the status of that road map, one intended
to complement the hardware road map HP has released this year for HP
3000s. HP has turned over its 3000 language strategies to a pair of
managers who job-share, Pam Bennett and Becky McBride. The two
managers clocked in on the same day to help us track the future of
MPE/iX compilers, software as essential to the HP 3000 as power cords
and IMAGE databases.
you share the view that compilers are critical to any HP 3000
McBride: Theres so much behind-the-scenes work that
has to take place to build the foundation where we can deliver the
next platforms. The compilers need to be optimized to get the most
out of the hardware.
Bennett: We have talked about all the building blocks for
the platforms, things we need to improve in the core operating
system, and we see theres the same kind of work in the building
blocks for the compilers to move us toward IA-64. There are some very
key, long lead-time items that we need to start very early. The
compilers and the translator are keys. Everything else we do after
that hinges on these core areas like compilers.
Will customers need to recompile their applications no
matter what to take full advantage of the new systems greater
McBride: Its similar to our migration from Classic
3000s to the Spectrum systems [in the 1980s]. We continue to be
committed to compatibility and making sure the applications you
developed 20 years ago will still run on IA-64. But there are steps
the customer will want to go through if they want optimal
Bennett: They will be getting performance boosts from the
raw performance of the hardware.
even if they dont do a recompile, they can see better
performance for their programs on the new hardware?
Bennett: Definitely. It depends on how your application is
built. Weve done some testing and discovered that some of the
things we thought would provide better performance did not.
McBride: If you look at our roadmap youll see
theres a long period of time where IA-64 and PA-RISC co-exist.
Well need to be working closely with our customers to assess
when the right time is for them to jump to IA-64.
Will there be IA-64 compilers available for the 3000 as
soon as hardware is available?
McBride: At this point, that is our objective.
Bennett: There is potentially a difference between when we
could provide functional compilers to customers, and when wed
be providing compilers we need to move the operating system over to
IA-64. There may be a difference between when an [IA-64] system gets
out there versus a full development environment. Wed be working
very closely with the software vendors and channel partners to see
what their needs are then. Our ISVs are very much part of our [IA-64]
Whats the plan for Modcal, the HP version of Pascal
that MPE/iX is written in. Is it being ported to IA-64 hardware? The
most elementary support of this operating system root language would
be runtime, right?
McBride: Modcal and Pascal are basically the same compiler;
Modcal is the  system programming extensions. Were
leveraging as much of the new code generation [capabilities] as
possible from HP-UX, and they do not explicitly support Pascal or
Modcal. So its a big effort for us to move in that direction.
We are moving forward with creating the runtime libraries, and then
figuring out how we really want to go with Modcal, and whether
thats going to be the best option for us or not.
youre not going with Modcal, does that mean youll have to
rewrite part of the 3000s operating system?
McBride: One of the things were doing is looking at
leveraging C compilers as much as possible. C might be able to step
in for some of the Modcal, but we will be generating Modcal as
Bennett: At this point we have not completed
investigations there to know what the best answer is. Were
trying to be open to both what we need to do with the operating
system, and what customers will need for the best performance for
their applications and ease of transition. And those are questions
that dont lend themselves to the same answer. We have a good
relationship with HPs Languages Group. We think of the whole HP
team as part of our CSY team.
What are HPs plans for transition of languages like
COBOL to IA-64 hardware?
Bennett: We recognize that COBOL is fundamental to customers
and their applications, and were very much committed to having
a solution there. Were early on in the investigation of how
were going to do that. Were very much a part of the COBOL
J4 committee, looking at the standard going out to 2002 and where we
need to get to in order to move the compiler forward, and which
compiler that would be. The whole COBOL question is one were in
support of making sure its available for IA-64.
some of the problem with COBOL plans that the new standards
deadline keeps slipping?
McBride: As Pam said, it has moved out, and it looks like it
wont be approved until 2002.
will you be providing any of the interim enhancements the COBOL users
are asking for in advance of when the standard is completed? Some
3000 customers want object-oriented COBOL for the system, and it
doesnt sound like theyre ready to wait three
Bennett: I dont think we have a timeline yet that we
can announce for when well have an object-oriented solution.
Were part of the committee thats trying to define those
standards. HP has someone there whos an active voting member.
We need our strategy in place, so this conversation wont have a
lot of concrete dates. Were definitely committed to COBOL, but
were early on as far as which direction were going. How
were going to carry forward the HP [3000 COBOL] extensions is
also getting discussed at the standards board.
Were also working with some of our third-party
partners to look at some of the other application development
environment tools that we could be using that would help out
programmers like our COBOL programmers.
there going to be a C compiler engineered for HP 3000 IA-64
McBride: We are currently working on enhancements to C. Many
customers have been asking for 64-bit integer support in C, and so
were currently working on a long-long data type, to be
available for customers in the fall. Thats not only for our
customers we have internal needs for that as well. Were
Bennett: The C compiler has become more important to CSY
because a lot of new middleware and tools were trying to move
forward on the 3000 for example, Apache and Samba are
all really using a C compiler.
McBride: Another effort were working on is Java.
Java will be replacing the work you got from some other compilers in
McBride: Right, and were seeing that open up a lot of
possibilities to getting new applications and tools on the platform,
having Java available. Our focus on the Java compiler right now is
Bennett: Middleware seems to be a parallel of open systems
years ago. Its moving into the standards area, and Java is the
core to that.
the GNU C++ compiler going to be ported for use on IA-64?
McBride: Its something were looking at, but we
havent made that decision yet. We dont see that it will
be replacing C. We continue to have a dependency on it [in CSY
Are any of the current HP 3000 compilers not scheduled to
make the transition to IA-64 compatibility? Since C and COBOL and
Pascal will be making the transition, what about the others, like
FORTRAN and Transact?
Bennett: Were pretty early on in that investigation in
the full gamut of compilers that will be available.
McBride: Youve hit the top ones, plus FORTRAN.
Theres ones that are lower in the priority list such as RPG,
Transact and Business Basic. Were still looking at whether
translation does meet the need there, versus native.
Will any of the current HP 3000 compilers get
re-engineered for next years PA-8500 systems?
McBride: Well do whatever we need to do to optimize for
those systems. We looked at the PA 2.0 compiler to see if it would
give us any benefit, and for the most part it hasnt. But we
have taken some of that [compiler] and put it into our assembler.
Were finding other ways to get our performance.
Bennett: Were not sure we need to re-engineer those.
There are some places [those compilers] provide us with a performance
boost, and were looking at integrating some of those boosts
directly into the operating system. We are in investigation, and we
dont have answers to what were doing with each
McBride: There are individual compiler enhancements that
may be needed for other solutions that were developing, to meet
our 30 percent- per-year performance goals. Long-long is an example,
and there are changes weve made for large file support.
Which compilers are now being maintained and developed
inside the CSY labs? We had heard that CSY took back COBOL; are there
McBride: Its all within Randy Rotens HP SSG team,
which has a dotted-line report to Pam and myself. If you look at
where we are with the compilers compared to a year ago, its a
much stronger linkage, working with the SSG team and the Computer
Language Labs. That dotted-line report from our perspective has made
a world of difference.
Bennett: The relationship between Support and CSY has
grown immensely in that time.