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June 2004

HP offers updates on MPE improvements

Response to ballot requests approves seven requests, delays strategic answers

When a talking dog drops a few lines of a Shakespearean sonnet, few would quibble about the omission. 3000 customers were taking the same view of HP’s response to the tactical items on this year’s HP 3000 Systems Improvement Ballot (SIB). Like the talking dog, the concept of HP continuing to enhance a server it no longer sells seemed a miracle more important than which enhancements are left out.

HP’s Jeff Vance, the engineer who acts as spokesman for many lab-related decisions about the 3000’s future, posted a reply about the 2004 SIB late in May. HP decided to go ahead with seven of the 18 customer requests from the tactical part of the ballot. An eighth item is being partially fulfilled, though HP announced no timetable for delivering any of the improvements. Two other requests can be fulfilled with CI scripting workarounds, HP said.

“At this time we intend to fully or partially implement seven out of the top 15 requested items,” Vance said, “including the top two items: network printing and FTP security enhancements.”

Updates on the strategic section of the SIB — which asked for eight things like un-crippling the processors in the A-Class and N-Class servers — have been promised for the August HP World show. “We have incorporated the Strategic SIB items into our business planning process and will give you an update at HP World,” Vance said.

Green light on green bar

The biggest project appears to be enhancements to network printing on the server. HP said it is “planning on implementing” a way to let MPE/iX network printing work with non-HP printers. The language HP used to confirm its projects all used the “In plan” term, but didn’t add much detail beyond restating the language of the SIB request.

Network printing upgrades were the top vote-getter in the SIB tactical ballot, marked by 223 customers and partners this spring. (The ballot results are online at the Interex Web site, www.interex.org/ advocacy/survey/2004mpe_results.html.) First-rate MPE/iX support for non-HP printers is already available to the market through solutions such as RAC Consulting’s Printpath — and HP’s efforts already look to be loaded with chances to fall shy of the total support that third-party solutions already provide.

The networked printing request will be satisfied if HP “[does] no device status checking and reporting, failure

recovery, imbedded PCL sequences, or handling of CCTL information.” But HP was revisiting the request that customers first asked for in the late 1990s. HP cited the third-party solutions back then when it said it wouldn’t make networked printing inside MPE/iX any better. Improved network printing, by either a third-party solution or HP’s engineering, can eliminate the need for DTC controllers, technology that is fading even faster than the HP 3000.

Other requests that got the HP green light were improvements in FTP services; source trees and build scripts for open source parts of MPE/iX like Samba; CI functions for device info, spoolfile info and volume info; and partial approval of “providing a privileged program which reports the [SCSI drive] firmware information.”

Customers also asked for a way to update the drive firmware on their 3000 disks, but HP said “The updating aspect of this item will be addressed as part of our business decision-making” to be announced at HP World.

FTP improvements will be more limited in scope than some customers hoped for. “We plan on a full implementation of the ftpusers file and a partial implementation of the ftpaccess file,” Vance said in his reply. “At this point, after a brief investigation, we believe we can support the following features controlled by ftpaccess: Noretrieve, log commands, log transfers, deny option, and banner option. Noretrieve seems to be the most desired ftpaccess feature.”

HP will also build CI VOLINFO functions similar to FINFO and JINFO.

Two requests for system-level CI variables can be addressed through scripts that HP has made available to users on the Internet. “There is a script on Jazz which basically implements this feature very closely to an earlier internal design,” Vance said, at jazz.external.hp.com/ src/scripts/sysvars.txt. Documentation is also available for the script on the HP Jazz Web site.

Another script workaround delivers the ability for the SHOWJOB command to see all jobs in a job queue, the No. 9 request on the SIB ballot results. “There is a script on Jazz which we believe meets most users’ needs,” Vance said, at jazz.external.hp.com/src/scripts/showj.txt.

HP said it is still investigating the No. 8 request to allow MPE/iX applications to send SCSI commands directly to SCSI devices not supported by MPE/iX. “We are currently investigating this item to fully understand what the limits and restrictions are in MPE so we can communicate these restrictions and validate that this request, given the constraints, is still desired,” Vance said in his reply.

No plans, or later updates

Gigabit LAN capability was the highest ranking request that HP reported “no plans” to engineer. Customers and advocates all agreed the project had little chance of earning a green light, given the scope of engineering HP would have to dedicate to the project. The 3000 will remain at 100-Base-T bandwidth for now.

HP also turned down requests to upgrade its Java implementation for the 3000; create local CI variables; add a filecode for Perl scripts so MPE/iX could automatically run the scripts; and create ACDs for root, accounts and MPE group directories for better security.


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