One Man, One Shop: An Independent
Michael Anderson is staying busy with HP 3000s this
summer, taking steps to make old skills continue to pay off while
learning new techniques. Anderson represents the classic HP 3000
shop, one man handling one HP 3000, but during the last year
hes taken a step closer to user groups. Not the national
organizations like Interex, but the regional user group that calls
itself Greater Houston RUG. Last year GHRUG was one of the first RUGs
to invite IBM to its annual conference, a move which Anderson played
a part in making happen.
It was not the first time Anderson has taken an
independent step in the world of the HP 3000. He arrived at his
current place of employment his organization wants to remain
anonymous in 1999 and helped replace HPs spotty support
with third party options, a move thats now brought three years
of savings and success.
In 2001 he spent less than 25 percent of a budget
which had been established to purchase a new HP 3000 by
upgrading the existing HP 3000, resulting in a higher relative
performance rating than the brand-new option.
Anderson started out in operations in his first IT
job, working his way up from a trade school certificate into
programming over the course of a couple of decades, all spent working
with HP 3000s. The computer just happened to be at his first job, and
so it selected him as much as he chose it. Today hes utilizing
his time-honored skills including FORTRAN/66 and COBOL, but looking
forward to learning more about Microsofts .NET, and the
open-source platforms like Linux technology far removed from
his earliest days when he loaded tapes and pulled 24-hour shifts
operating a Series III Classic HP 3000.
We got to meet Anderson while we examined the GHRUG
MPE content last fall, and we found an experienced 3000 professional
with clear opinions about the future for the computer platform and a
willingness to get more involved, even after HPs decision to
leave the system behind. Hes also got an open mind about the
role IBM might play for 3000 users who need a big company to turn
toward as they turn away from HP. In the weeks leading up to the
biggest HP conference of the year, we wanted to talk with a voice
that wont be heard at HP World but one we believe
represents a prototypical 3000 customer, opening the door to
whats next while preserving the value for his organization and
himself in what he knows.
What is your organizations status regarding its HP
3000? Will you homestead for awhile, indefinitely, or not at
My recommendation is to homestead for awhile. I
dont see any problem with getting pretty close to 2010.
Its not going to be around forever. Its days are numbered, but
that depends on what happens with OpenMPE and an emulator.
What kind of shape did you think your computing platform was
in when HP announced its news?
I thought we were in pretty good shape, and I still
think were in good shape.
In 2001 they gave me a generous budget to get a new
HP 3000. I only had to spend about one fourth of it to upgrade the
one we had, and that got us a better performance rating out of it
that I would have gotten from a new machine. Their Series 979 then
carried only the default RAM in it (256Mb), and a single processor.
They were using the internal drives, so they only had one IO channel.
They said it was slow and needed to buy a new one. I purchased two
additional IO channels, three more CPUs, and then maxed it out with
RAM. We added two disk arrays, one on each of the new I/O channels.
Using the right volume set configuration I balanced our application
evenly across the two disk arrays, and made use of the internal disks
for temporary, sort, and work files, and this machine screams now.
I was foreseeing that machine taking them out at
least another five or six years. We were only using about 10 percent
of that machines potential for awhile. Now were adding
things on, like the QSS COBOL Web server [QWEBS]. The HTTP protocol
that QWEBS uses does take a lot of resources, but we still have a
long way to go before we max out that 3000.
Do you think your relationship with HP has changed since the
Nov. 2001 announcement?
Its hard to answer for my organization. I know the
way our IS director looks at it. She sees it from a business point of
view. She has a budget to think about, and is
frustrated with HP, their billing and their support. She
agrees that the 3000 hardware is extremely reliable, but shes
frustrated with the business side of things.
My opinion of HP slowly started to change in the
mid-1990s, when their support for the 3000 started going down. I
called for support on the 3000 and someone asked Is that a
printer or a server? Then they sent HP-UX people out to work on
it, and they dont know MPE. That was the turning point for
When I got here in 1999, the folks here were
complaining about support, so I went third-party, with Beechglen for
OS and software support, and Surety Systems for hardware support. The
third party support options are not just cheaper, they are better.
These guys dont need to ask what an HP 3000 is.
So when HP made the announcement in 2001, it
didnt change much for me. I was already on third party support,
so it didnt affect me much. It made me look at the future of
the 3000 differently, but I wasnt bothered by them ending
How do you see the future being different?
Just before they made their announcement, the
N-Class and A-Class were just hitting the market. They were too new
to buy, in my opinion. I was thinking after we went through the five
years with our 979, it would be a better system when it was running
on an Itanium chip. All the problems would be ironed out with the new
When they made the announcement that there
wouldnt be any new 3000s, you have to look at something else if
youre talking 10 years down the road. Theres no panic or
Ive heard a lot of panic, and some are actually
in a hurry to jump to HP-UX. I always ask why, why the rush? One time
I was asked, Havent you heard that HP announced the end
of support for the 3000? Id answer They
havent been supporting this machine for years anyway.
Whats the big deal? One phase I like to use, that I heard
first from [AICS Research president] Wirt Atmar is, The bits
dont wear out. Hes thinking you can run this thing
another 25 years, and in his environment, hes probably right.
Everyone running MPE needs to keep their eyes open. Im
researching everything I can, and five years from now well have
a lot more options available to all of us.