Backup for the Community,
Present and Future
Paul Meszaros leads a company that backs up a 3000
customers past, while making connections with the future.
Its a familiar position for a long-time MPE vendor like ORBiT
Software, with thousands of customers around the world. The majority
of the companys business remains in the HP 3000 marketplace,
but about half of those customers are trying to decide what to do
about their platforms future. ORBiT and Meszaros, always a good
touchstone about the communitys intentions, want to provide
choices while they protect whats working.
Meszaros came to ORBiT in 1993, after more than a
decade of work in the healthcare and computer industry. He had
brought a biology and chemistry degree to his drive to become a
doctor, but landed in healthcares computer commerce instead. He
met his first HP 3000 in 1981 at an aviation company where he was
selling a turnkey system. It was as big as a
refrigerator, Meszaros remembered, and the 3000 wasnt
displaced by the Data General system he was selling that day.
After selling managed care systems through Computer
Sciences Corp. in the early 1990s, Meszaros joined ORBiT in 1993 as
general manager of a company with a worldwide installed base of
customers using HP 3000s. ORBiT made him president eight years ago,
and he assumed responsibility for the companys US, French,
German, and UK operations. Under Meszaros guidance, ORBiT has
become a place where third-party packages come to be sold, as well as
a development house that breaks ground connecting MPE customers to
the latest backup technology.
While ORBiT and backup are a well-known match, the
firm has spread out into a broader datacenter solutions company, too.
We wanted to ask Meszaros about what his customer base is thinking
about its transition, and how the latest backup technology is being
adopted by the 3000 customers. We spoke in the week before the West
Coast Solutions Symposium in late March, talking about future
destinations for a community still looking for ways to get there.
Linear Tape Open-2 backup devices are out there, and
prices are falling. How can customers use these with HP 3000s?
There are a number of powerful tape devices on the
marketplace which are not supported on the HP 3000. Its
becoming increasingly so as manufacturers back away from offering
High Voltage Differential devices, which are required if youre
going to use them on any 9xx Series HP 3000.
Our solution to this is a new product, which were going
to roll out very shortly. It enables an HP 3000 user to use any tape
device in the world, made now or coming out. Its a software
solution with a hardware component in it, allowing an HP 3000 user to
use LTO and SuperDLT libraries, as well as all other devices on a
network. We call it the Virtual Storage Engine.
This allows HP 3000 administrators to take advantage of
resources they might not otherwise be able to use. We like that
because it extends the usefulness of the 3000, and removes barriers
that might be in the way of fully utilizing the HP 3000 in a
Why does LTO offer to the 3000 user?
There are some drawbacks to DLT architecture, like the way
the tape meets the tape head. This newer technology eliminates this
complication, reducing a potential failure. LTO also offers greater
capacity than DLT.
Is HP still responding to service requests and enhancement
requests that relate to backup devices?
Were on the outside looking in at that
process. I will say that when HP does these patches, sometimes they
are pull releases, not released to the general world. The biggest
problem weve seen in the past year is that when new patches are
released, customers arent participating in beta testing.
What advice do you have for customers about their 3000
backups now, in an era when lots of companies are making plans to
leave the platform? Should they be backing up to non-MPE
People are going to have face up to the fact that at some
point theyre going to have to commit to homestead on the HP
3000, or go to another platform. Many people who are on the 3000 who
havent committed to homesteading are still uncertain as to what
platform theyre eventually going to land on. Being able to back
up their HP 3000, knowing that whenever and whatever they go that
theyll have access to their historical data, would be a
reassuring thing. We offer our Rosetta Store solution; it allows that
data to eventually be restored to non-MPE systems. In the medical
field, new HIPAA regulations say a patient has the right to know
about the disposition of their confidential information, and they
have the right to ask six years into the past. If youre a big
HMO and youve got 500,000 members, you may not want to keep six
years of data online. You either have to keep an HP 3000 cooking in
the back corner or youve got to make arrangements to read that
legacy data on your non-MPE machine.
What do your support renewals tell you about the stability
of the 3000 customer base, in general?
Over the past two years we have been tracking this very
closely. Early on, we estimated that the installed base would
diminish by 20 percent a year. That hasnt happened. The first
two years it was closer to 11 percent a year. This year we expect
that to accelerate a bit, and were trending at about 15 percent
shrinkage. However, we are still adding new customers, so the net
decline is somewhat less.
I dont know whether the fact that October, 2003 has
come and gone has accelerated anything. A survey that we did recently
showed that 22 percent of our customers indicated they were going to
How are the ORBiT migration tools being accepted so far?
Have Rosetta Store or Cobol2C helped out at some customer sites?
Frankly, the bad news is that the migration wave hasnt
really started yet. Of course, thats also good news for us.
Weve seen interest in both Cobol2C and Rosetta, but we
havent reached that point where the migration plans for a
majority of companies are underway, and they see the immediate need
for those products. I think were still a little ahead of the
Are a serious share of people still deciding what to do
about their Transition?
Exactly so. When we did our survey, about an equal number of
people as the homesteaders, 25 percent, had made or were executing
their migration plans. The remainder were undecided.
Do you think the customers indecision reflects how
difficult is has been for everyone to plan?
Yes. Theres also a certain amount of animosity we
see; people are angry at HP for letting them hang out in the lurch.
Some MPE companies are really starting to shift their
focus to software they offer on alternative platforms. How much of
Orbit business still lies on HP 3000s?
Currently, our MPE business is still our bread-and-butter
business, the majority of our business activity. Theres no
getting away from the fact that the marketplace is going to diminish.
Years ago we faced up to that fact, even before HP made its 3000
announcement. We werent necessarily hedging our bets about the
future of MPE, just trying to better address the needs of our
customers, who over the years have started to deploy more open
systems in their environment. Were no longer just an MPE shop.
We look at ourselves as being in the business of ensuring data
protection, data storage, data management. Thats why we got
into things like job scheduling, output management and virtual
In one way, were obviously committed to our HP 3000
customers for as long as they remain on the 3000. As our customers
broaden their horizons and look for other non-MPE solutions, we have
solutions and services for them in those areas, as well.
Do you have faith that the homesteading marketplace will
provide revenues in the years to come?
Our indications are that it will. Obviously not to the extent
that it did in 1998, but if we believe what we hear, there is a
significant number of companies homesteading.
And there are some surprises in that group. A very large
company has gone through their due diligence, and examined how much
it would cost them to move, specifically to HP-UX. The cost they
estimated was $50 million and wouldnt even get them anything
new: no more functionality or power. When you add $50 million onto
your cost, in the industry this particular company operates in
a market with very small margins its a no-brainer. They
just cant spend $50 million to be in five years exactly where
they are right now with HP 3000s. They just closed up the issue and
maximized their position on the 3000, to make sure they can operate
indefinitely on what theyve got.
Youve got cross-platform offerings like Spinner and
Dollar Universe. How do you qualify these kinds of packages for your
As we consider other products to offer, were trying to
find those that are relatively seamless as far as their applicability
on MPE boxes and open systems boxes. We can offer solutions to a
company that is saying today, Were not homesteading, but
I dont know where were going, and I dont know
when. Were able to say, When you get to where
youre going, youll already have software that is
transportable to your other platform.
Is the 3000 community using networked storage to a
I dont think so. Networked backup is relatively
cumbersome in terms of performance. That was one of the areas we
attempted to address with the Virtual Storage Engine. The 3000 uses
it to see virtual tape drives, as many as you want. You do a store to
all of them simultaneously, and it takes the bottleneck out of that
DDS-5: Necessary evil, or improvement that makes DAT
useful at last? Support it with Backup?
Its a continuing evolution of DAT, and any time
youre getting more performance its a good thing. But in
my opinion theres much more powerful technology available for
tape backup, viable options in all but the smallest environments.
DAT is still the common denominator of tape technologies. If
you wanted to be safe, its almost like using Microsoft Word to
exchange documents. If HP supports DDS-5, then we will, too.
Whats your view about HP electing to support 6.5 for
an extra two years?
Thats a good idea. Frankly, I think anything that HP
does to assist the 3000 community to be able to use the equipment for
as long as possible is a good thing. Its no burden at all for
us to continue 6.5 support in our products.
Is an MPE source code agreement between OpenMPE and HP
essential to the 3000 markets survival?
For the MPE market to survive, its really got to grow.
It cant stagnate. And if its not growing, its
probably shrinking. In order to be a growing, viable market, there
has to be an ability to create new licenses and sales of MPE. From
what weve been able to see in the last two years, I dont
see progress, concrete steps being taken. I dont see HP and
OpenMPE coming to agreement on difficult issues.