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Michael Anderson

MPE Vice-Chair

Greater Houston RUG


July 2003

One Man, One Shop: An Independent View


Less than a year after HP announced its end of support for the 3000, you joined the board of your local user group. Why did you get more involved with the community?

I felt like being vice-chair for MPE that I could make a difference. We were preparing for our November 2002 conference. Then our RUG president hooked me up with the IBM guys. They thought it would be pretty neat to bring IBM into an HP show, and I agreed with them.

What kind of response have you gotten from the users, and from HP, once the iSeries showed up on the GHRUG show floor?

Once we confirmed IBM was coming, I was able to talk some customers who weren’t planning on attending into coming to the show. Since the announcement about discontinuing the 3000, they were disillusioned, I guess. They asked why go to a RUG meeting, or even have an MPE track? I pointed out some of the things that the iSeries has in common with the HP 3000. First it’s an AS/400 renamed with new features, and runs Linux, Windows, and OS-400 with DB2, which was designed for OLTP, as was MPE and IMAGE. It’s really a good option, if you’re going to move away from HP, and you want all the stability and reliability that MPE has been giving us for three decades.

Your other choices are pretty much Unix and Windows, and neither one of them were designed for mission-critical business applications. Neither of them are completely integrated, especially Unix. It’s all piecework on Unix and Windows.

How has HP been interacting with the RUG over the past year or two? What changes have you seen in the way HP treats its user group?

There was a letter that CEO Carly Fiorina wrote that talked about how important these regional groups were for business and networking. At the time she wrote the letter, HP was not supporting us at all. The liaison to HP on our board was never around — but after that letter came out, he was able to use that as ammunition with his superiors to spend more time with our group.

Does the prospect of inviting non-HP vendors to the user group meetings seem like it has benefits for the GHRUG community?

The GHRUG is first and foremost for the users of Hewlett-Packard computers. Many of our HP 3000 members feel abandoned by HP and as a users group we must acknowledge this. It was interesting to get IBM at the conference, just to give people another option. Especially for people who like that big company support, a one-stop complete integrated solution. After all, the AS/400 as always been considered cousin to the HP 3000.

What have your investigations shown about alternatives to the 3000, for both your own career and the organization you work for?

The iSeries is my number one choice; I’d like to get our app vendor to port the 3000 software to that. Other than that, I like the open source solutions, the Linux and the open source databases. It’s a direction I want to go in personally. I think it will be something that will be marketable in the job market I’m in. Also the Microsoft solutions; it looks like .NET will be around for awhile.

I don’t like to jump on things that have just come out, and are brand new. Perl, and Java, I’ve played around with them. I think Microsoft is going to be around for the long run, as well as the open source solutions, and the iSeries supports both.

What kinds of skills are you working on, or hoping to accumulate, during these transition years?

I’m trying to work on some of the open source databases and connectivity with Windows clients, .NET has got my interest, and some of the XML database stuff. Then it doesn’t matter what your back-end database is. I’m kind of on the fence with open source and Microsoft. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about both of them.

Can you get time to go to classes for these, or do you have to train more informally?

I’ve been working on getting classes, but with my schedule it’s difficult. For the summer I’m working a four-day a week schedule of 10 hours a day, and then I do contract work on the side for a company in Houston. They have an accounting application written in FORTRAN 66 running in Compatibility Mode, and it still uses the old HP-REAL format in the IMAGE databases. They call me to work on it. I’ve been working on converting some of it into HP 3000 COBOL, so when the day comes they can move it to another platform. The only big problem was that COBOL doesn’t know how to address real numbers, so I wrote a program that converts the old HP Real to the IEEE Real, and then to packed decimal for COBOL.

The company I contract with is a company I worked for before coming to my present organization. It was a good education working back there, because they didn’t buy software. If they needed something, they wrote it. For example, the old Classic 3000 needed to be networked with the Sun/Unix machines, so we wrote the equivalent of FTP and inetd on the old classic HP 3000.

What would you say is special about an in-person user group meeting that Web access or e-mail can’t duplicate?

That’s kind of obvious. You interact with people and communicate with them, get to know their personality to network with them. That’s real important, to network with people. E-mail is one thing, but actually meeting face to face is much better as far as getting to know one another.

Have you been able to attend any of Interex’s conferences, or do you have other plans for your travel and training?

I have not been able to make it to any of those shows. Last year’s was out in California and I wanted to go, but I was too busy. I make it to some of the Speedware conferences and to the Carter-Pertaine conferences that more directly apply to me. With my workload it’s difficult to justify going to something that’s strictly HP.

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