News Headlines
Tech Headlines
Plan Headlines
Front Page
Search the NewsWire
An Enterprising 3000 Optimist

December, 1998

Brad Tashenberg has spent much of his career believing the HP 3000 could do more. The founder of Bradmark Technologies, Tashenberg has extended his company from its database management roots to include offerings for 3000 middleware, indexing solutions, a manufacturing front-end, disk space management, COBOL-to-Java tools and HP 3000 system management. What sounds like a broad swath to cut through the 3000 marketplace fits Tashenberg’s optimism about the system. He started his HP 3000 career as a consultant guiding what he described as the first mainframe-to-minicomputer conversion done at a major US corporation. That was back in the ’70s, when minicomputer was an upstart word and the 3000 was an upstart solution.

His consultancy wrote a book on the experience: “Distributed Processing Systems: The End of the Mainframe?” While the HP 3000 didn’t bring about the mainframe’s end any more than other systems have, Tashenberg saw the system’s potential and began to write database utilities for it in 1980. Two years later DBGeneral was released — a program that Tashenberg said was first designed as a complement to Adager. Before too long, customer enhancement requests led him into a competition and healthy market share.

Over the last 16 years Tashenberg has presided over a company eager to try new fields, many of them rooted in the 3000’s strengths. In recent years he’s been promoting the system as a resource being overlooked for no good reason, and blowing the whistle on the failed promise of Open Systems. Bradmark is good at taking in technology and has created some of its own as well. Its latest offering, MPE Command Center, brings a modern GUI to administer the system and suggests the 3000 has a role as controlling console among networks of HP 3000s. That seems like a healthy message for 3000 owners who have heard plenty about the 3000’s alleged shortcomings. Coupled with its marketing and distribution of COBOL-to-Java compiler PERCobol, the latest releases show a company willing to take new wagers on an older thoroughbred. We asked Tashenberg to explain why the HP 3000 is still a platform worthy of such varied business investments.

As a 3000 solution supplier, why do you choose to offer a wide range of products instead of focusing on just a few? What’s made you want to branch out to things like PERCobol and WinMPE?

I don’t see myself as offering such a wide range of products. If you look to see what’s at the heart of our business, it’s still about database utilities. It’s in two segments, on the IMAGE side and the relational side. If you look to see my heavy investments, I’ve spent over $6 million within the last five years. That’s a substantial feedback into R&D to improve the product line. We’re very committed to database utilities, and I can honestly say they way I originally developed it is not the way it looks today.

I started our new development five years ago to build a very robust product line that will come around and encompass IMAGE. We will slowly phase out our older product line. What we will be offering is a much more current up-to-date form, and that’s where we got into the MPE Command Center-type projects. All I was doing was carrying on that new format. I thought it would make more sense to support Windows throughout the environment. Many of the features in DBGeneral on the open systems side are in the process of being put into the MPE Command Center as well. If you see it from that perspective, we haven’t changed that much. The basic functionality is coming out of the development that took place in DBGeneral.

But what about the PERCobol offering? It doesn’t have much to do with DBGeneral, does it?

That’s a different story. It’s an excellent idea for people looking to move to Java. Those people are going to need a transition path. I’m a very big believer in transitioning, rather than trying to develop from scratch. Since most of the code would be in COBOL, it would make sense that the transition path would be a transitive language that would go from COBOL to Java.

I view that product as an extension of the StarVision idea, the middleware concept. That’s just another middleware concept, to be able to move from a traditional environment as we knew it over the last 20 years to a client-server model.

You’ve said COPA is an open systems architecture that lives up to its name. How is it different from the open systems promise of the early ’90s?

What we found is there was a very strong interest in movement in the industry in general. Professional data processing managers were trying to figure out how to get out of the problem of hardware dependence. People really rallied around the idea of a set of standards, where you could go to another piece of hardware relatively easily.

But the concepts always change as they move forward. By the time they get implemented, it doesn’t sound anything near what it was to begin with. Unix began to gain strength as an operating system and professed to be the universal operating system. If everybody rallied around Unix, it would end up in the same situation.

The difference is that you had to get rid of your older systems to go to Unix. Rather than an evolutionary approach, it became a revolutionary approach. I saw this thing rolling out in the wrong direction. I was a strong proponent for Posix. It became a more natural way for getting to the true open systems answer. Once Unix became immersed in Open Systems, then the Open Systems market became the Unix market. You could no longer use the term Open Systems — you really meant Unix.

I thought in our case it was necessary to build new terminology to give credence back to the original concept. Rather than calling it Open Systems, we call it COPA.

Most of the development has gone away from the legacy environments, toward Unix and NT. I felt that was wrong. If you look to see what’s driving America today, in all the Fortune 500s, Unix ain’t doing it! They’re being run by the legacy systems, and these are the guys who need to become part of the fold again. COPA is my little movement to bring the legacy systems back into the state-of-the-art environment.

How can a customer who’s dedicated to using only HP 3000s as servers enjoy advances in networking like Java and remote site management? Is an NT or Unix system necessary to be a full partner in the world’s network?

Absolutely not. That whole thing is such a sham. I hear horror stories much worse than that. Look at one of the larger computer manufacturers in the Houston area — I can’t imagine who that could be. They invested $30 million so far in the implementation of SAP. The end result is that it runs something like eight percent as well as their current systems are running. This is absurd. Thomas Paine should be living now — we need a new version of Common Sense. There is no common sense in our industry. I see people just throwing millions of dollars away to be where they were five years ago.

Was it so important for them to move to these new paradigms? I don’t think it was. I think it was a magnificent sales job done through Arthur Anderson, Price Waterhouse and these consulting organizations. They’ve made a fortune.

So you can watch over everything you’ve got with the MPE Command Center, all running off a 3000 with no NT systems anywhere?

Yes. Even a series of HP 3000s.

Why is an HP 3000 system management package important to the customer base — how does it improve on what HP’s offered through OpenView?

OpenView initially started on the 3000. HP said they were going to be coming out with it on the 3000, developed for it. Then HP caught wind what was happening with Unicenter and Tivoli, and they totally revamped the direction of OpenView. It just kind of migrated into the Unix world because all the money was there.

I always felt something like that was needed in the 3000 world. You could see HP felt the same way. It was absolutely a necessity due to the client-server movement. You needed something like that just for network management.

So do you tell 3000 customers they can think of it as an alternative to investing in OpenView?

I would say it’s complementary. We’re not professing to be a network manager. We do overlap in some of that, but not a lot. It’s a systems manager product, or more of an enterprise manager. OpenView would manage whatever’s out there, and we would manage the 3000s for OpenView and feed back to OpenView. We could live without them or co-exist.

Are there places you’re going with the Command Center that OpenView hasn’t gone to?

We’re looking at the performance aspects, which OpenView doesn’t really address. I was looking at job control management, when you have aborts that occur in the jobs, a module that would go into the jobs and look for potential problems.

Why do you believe the HP 3000 was able to survive the slights it received from HP earlier in the decade?

It’s absolutely brilliant, and it has the tremendous loyalty of the customers. It’s a beautiful machine that outperforms your expectations, phenomenally reliable. You’d have to be deranged to want to get rid of it. That’s what HP experienced. They came in and told customers they had something better, and the customers told them they were out of their minds and threw them out. After being thrown out of enough shops, HP finally wised up to the fact that hey, maybe we’ve got something here.

From the financial side, if you made $1.2 billion in sales with $600 million in profit, why would you want to kill off that division? Even in Europe, which I thought was a dead market, you’re seeing revitalization.

Why should an experienced HP 3000 manager care about graphical interfaces for the system?

Speed of doing his job. Why doesn’t he drive 20 miles an hour while he’s at it — why drive 60? You can do things faster.

The other side of it is when you’re trying to draw people to a market, you want to look as state-of-the-art as you can. If you look antiquated, you have a hard time getting people.

How much difference can Java/iX make to 3000 shops over the next year? How would you rate its potential for 1999?

I should say something diplomatic here, shouldn’t I? From a practical standpoint, just about zero. It’s a great concept, but it’s so early in the cycle that I don’t see it has any production benefit for the next couple of years. It will be something worth looking at and following, because there’s some real benefits four or five years out. It’s just too early in the cycle today. The performance is atrocious, and everybody knows it. That’s just emblematic of all major movements.

You’ve released products for both Oracle and Sybase. What has your experience in the worlds of other SQL databases taught you about IMAGE for the HP 3000?

It’s different. When you’re going to an Oracle world, Oracle takes over everything. You don’t realize you’re on a 3000, Unix or NT. Oracle becomes the operating environment. Until I understood that, I didn’t understand that market. In the 3000, MPE is the operating environment and IMAGE is the database. In Oracle, Oracle is everything.

When you look at the databases, HP has features and capabilities that put Oracle in catch-up mode. It’s not database technology that made Oracle. What made them is being to be able to put it on 172 platforms, so you didn’t have to worry about connectivity between operating environments.

What’s the most urgently-needed improvement for the HP 3000 in the next two years?

It needs to be seen as a state-of-the-art system. If people view it as part of the new movement that’s taking place, they will rally behind it. It will help the managers justify it to their upper management. Before, they could say it doesn’t have the state-of-the-art look. Now I can say it does, and it’s better than anything else that’s out there.

What’s the most important enhancement to IMAGE over the last five years?

I don’t think you can point your finger at one thing. Over the last five years IMAGE has improved dramatically, almost 100 percent. They’ve done a magnificent job, adding great SQL capabilities, expanded limitations with the jumbo dataset logic. To me it’s still the most pleasing market and field to be in. I take personal pride in being part of the 3000 arena.

Brad Tashenberg


Bradmark Technologies

Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.

Copyright 1998 The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved