State of the 3000 World:

Feedback from Frontline People…

By Bob Green, Robelle

Tom Clarke, Ron Horner and Craig Solomon

Last month we heard from Paul Edwards and had a detailed discussion of RAID drives on MPE. This month we feature feedback from three consulting firms: Fluent Edge, Ron Horner, and the IT Consulting Consortium:

Tom Clarke at Fluent Edge writes:

We are still working with Ecometry sites, almost exclusively. I haven't recently heard any of our customers discuss upgrading to larger HP3000 machines. We have one customer currently migrating from the 3000 to the Windows Ecometry open system. We've also had one other customer migrate to a non-Ecometry, non-HP3000 platform. Other than that, most of our clients seem to be staying with the HP 3000 for now but are starting to look at options. One of our clients that we know of is seriously considering "homesteading".

Tom Clarke
Fluent Edge Technologies, Inc.
208-765-2900 x112

Ron Horner writes:

My client base ranges from people are in the process of migrating to other platforms, to clients that are homesteading.

The homesteaders are not looking to upgrade to the larger systems, or the latest releases of MPE. They have contracted with 3rd parties to handle their hardware and software needs.

Those companies that have migrated off the HP 3000 are not willing to support an organization that chooses to pull the rug out from under its customer base. As much as that statement is a personal one, it makes very good business sense.

All of my clients just want is to be able to run their businesses on the platform that they want to use. I am just grateful that they have chosen my company to get through this difficult time.

Ron Horner
Horner Consulting

Craig Solomon of ITCC writes:

It seems that everyone I have dealt with is interested in getting off the HP platform. I think there is a long queue of resentment for the discontinuation of the HP 3000. Linux seems to be on the horizon for most, looking to port over to inexpensive equipment and open source. I personally have been buying all equipment online from eBay to 3rd party vendors.

I think Ron & Abby's 3000 newswire is a good source of updated information. HP still sends out some newsletters, the Inside HP update and a few other publications that have a better chance at recycling then actual reading. I think more people will refer to online options over printed material. As for the 3000L, I must admit I have not visited there in about a year.

I think about 20% of the 3000 sites I know are going to stay on the HP 3000 until options wear out. The changes to the technical environment are happening faster than ever and prices are still rapidly dropping. The concern of course always remains software cost and support.

For those staying with the 3000 for now, concerns are: software issues, long term loyalty, long-term solutions. Companies invested a large sum of cash into a system that was supposed to last a lot longer than promised. The fear of reengineering their environment and then have the whole mechanism pulled out from under them, causing another migration, is not a favorable future.

I have been pushing migrations towards other support companies who are better equipped to move into new areas. ITCC has decided not to follow the HP 3000 migrations and instead push further into e-commerce solutions.

Craig L. Solomon
IT Consulting Consortium
1405 Eighth Avenue SW
Albany, Oregon 97321

Phone: 541-924-0736 / Mobile: 541-905-2333
eFax: 561-760-0179 / Corvallis: 541-752-5500 /

Paul Edwards

This month we interview Paul Edwards who has been an HP 3000 contributor for almost as long as I can remember. Paul writes:

"Last year was terrible for consultants. No work at all in the HP 3000 community. I'm doing more this year so far than all of last year. My work so far this year has been Wireless Internet Installations, PC support, and RAID array installations at HP 3000 homesteading sites."

"No migrations yet. I have been involved with a Platinum partner in the migration bidding process, but no work yet. Most people I talk to are not migrating yet but some are starting to investigate and plan for the future. Most companies don't have the funds to do a migration and are scared of the high cost and disruption of their company operations it involves. I think that most migration will happen in 2005-2010 time frame. I am just getting involved with a company to do support and outsourcing for HP 3000 companies. They want to do migrations when that market heats up."

"Many people use the 3000 Newswire and HP3000-L as sources of information. There was very poor MPE customer turnout at HPworld and Solutions Symposiums last year, and so far at the Solutions Symposium West this year people tell me they are not interested in additional information or changes to their environment. Interex is not very relevant to their current situation any more. People perceive that HP is ignoring their requests for changes to MPE they made in the SIB balloting the last couple of years. The interest in the OpenMPE organization is fairly high for many users. I'm now on their Board of Directors."

"Not much upgrading going on except for the RAID installs for better reliability. The company doing this is a broker that is providing 3rd party maintenance and the arrays are part of their services."

Note: for general information about RAID disk drives, read this web article (although the article is PC-oriented, the basics of RAID architecture are similar on all servers).

"The RAID solutions are HP Surestore E Disk Array Model 12H (a.k.a. Autoraid) and HP Nike Model 10, 20 and 30 boxes (the number indicates the quantity of disk slots available; the Nikes support 4, 9, and 18GB drives, depending on firmware; they support RAID 1 and RAID 5 on MPE, RAID 1/0 as well on HP-UX)."

"To use RAID solutions, your HP 3000 has to have a certain level of firmware, 3728, in the FW cards. This is a problem because you can't easily check or upgrade the firmware version. Autoraid is more sensitive to OS release versions and patches are required prior to MPE/iX 6.5."

"Nikes work very well performance wise and better than Autoraid. You need to make the first logical unit number have 4GB for MPE so that it will boot okay. The installation is easy. The vendor I work with here in Dallas is giving an array to their customers who sign a long-term support agreement. There are lots of units available in the marketplace. It is a very good arrangement for homesteaders to provide an excellent level of reliability. No MPE installs and a reload of their data is required for disk failures. I highly recommend it in my homesteading presentation."

Gavin Scott of Allegro comments:

The 12h is a disk array that's similar to (made by the same manufacturer and uses the same disk, power supply, fan modules as) the "Jamaica" 10-disc enclosure that's fairly common. The 12h supports RAID 1, RAID 5, and "autoraid" where the array dynamically shifts from RAID 1 to RAID 5 as you use up storage and tries (sometimes even successfully) to put less-used files on the slower RAID 5, etc.). Performance can be a problem.

MPE supports booting from (LDEV 1) a 4GB RAID 1 (mirrored) Logical Unit on a Nike. The disk arrays have a basic SCSI address (0 say), and then the logical volumes defined in the array are exposed as SCSI "LUNs" / Logical Unit Numbers, which are a sub address on a SCSI device. So where your I/O paths on MPE for disks usually end in a zero, that last digit is actually the LUN so for a Model 20 array configured as four RAID 5 LUNs, you might have four LDEVs configured, all with the same SCSI address but with the LUN being different for each one.

The 12h (and especially the Nike arrays) are relatively easy to set up, but all of these things have complete operating systems which come in various releases, and the operating systems for the enterprise class arrays (VA7xxx from HP, EMC Symmetrix, etc.) are often as complex as the computers that hook up to them, and generally come with an engineer to configure them and support them.

Here are some more more comments on 3000 RAID, from this Beechglen article: :

All of the hardware options have options for the RAID level, whether it is full mirroring RAID1, or striping RAID5. The Autoraid can even switch back and forth dynamically. You configure a LUN (logical unit) that is n GB of disk space to present to the system as a single disk, then the operating system is configured with a single LDEV number for each LUN. The disk array handles which physical disk(s) to store the data. Moreover, all of the disk arrays include hot swappable disks so there is no need to shut down to replace a failed disk (High Availability.) The disk arrays generally include large read and write memory cache to increase throughput; however, performance can be a serious issue with any of them.

On the other hand, Mirror/iX software has some distinct differences. It only offers RAID1 (mirroring); no other RAID levels are available. The system actually sees two different LDEVs for each logical volume of a volume set. That is, PROD:MEMBER2 exists on both ldev 32 and 42, they are mirrored images of each other. The advantages of this are: A) When reading data the operating system can choose which of the pair of disks to read from which can give a performance improvement. B) Since you configure the mirrored partners on different SCSI channels there is built in redundancy. The down side to Mirror/iX is that you can only use it on user volumes, you can't mirror the system volume set. This is not big problem for most users. They will simply move all of their production data to the user volumes, and only the operating system and (third party) utilities are left on the system volume set. In the event of a lost disk in the system volume set, a simple re-install and a relatively small restore and you are back up and running. Those that are looking to be close to 100% uptime will use a Nike disk array for the system volume set.

If you have any questions or feedback for Paul, here is his contact information:

CDR Paul Edwards USNR Ret.
HP 3000/9000 Certified Consultant
Paul Edwards & Associates
Phone: (972) 242-6660   Cel: (214) 384-8728
1506 Estates Way, Carrollton TX 75006

Chris Bartram

Last month we heard from Taylor Lumpkin, an Ecometry expert out of Delray Beach Florida. He still has quite a few customers, who are 100% Ecometry/MPE. They have a few clients who are in the planning stages for migration; most are swayed into Windows/SQL simply because of perceived cost savings. He thinks that about 25% will homestead past 2005.

Some consultants that I tried to contact were no longer in business. Their web sites were gone and their phone numbers were disconnected, so I assume that they probably accepted jobs on another platform. Others were having great difficulty finding work.

This month we interview Chris Bartram of 3K Associates, creators of NetMail for the HP 3000 and other Internet products. Chris operates the web site, which contains lots of useful information for HP3000 users. Chris has been a 3000 booster for years.

When I caught up with Chris, he had this to say:

I'm still consulting for one main client, which still runs a couple of HP 3000s, though as "legacy" systems (read only). My primary focus in recent years has been with HP OpenView. Don't know of any sites upgrading, though a few have been buying up spare parts from various sources.
Where do you or your customers find your news on HP 3000? The 3000 Newswire, or Interex's HP World magazine, or the HP 3000L discussion group, or somewhere else?
Myself, and most the people I know still involved with the 3000 read The 3000 Newswire; and monitor the HP3000-L.
What percent of HP 3000 sites that you interact with do you consider "homesteaders", in that they have no current plans to migrate?
None, other than ourselves. We'll keep our 3000s running until they fall apart.
blockquote> What percent of your HP 3000 clients do you consider "migrators", in that they are actively seeking to move all of their applications off the platform?
100%. Though the stage of progress varies wildly. For what it's worth, I make it a point of recommending non-HP systems (hardware or software) whenever I can. The (mis)treatment of its HP 3000 (non)customers by HP left a really foul taste, and a mistrust of anything HP.
Do you think the phenomena of keeping old 3000 systems alive in order to access the archived history will be common? Health service firms may be legally required to keep the data. And in the EU I know that they "require" firms to keep the systems and the software that was used to generate reports for the government (whether they can actually make this stick is another question)!
The reason my main client is keeping theirs running is the 7-year legal retention requirements, so I suspect there will be a few other systems kept alive for the same reasons. When the data and application are so intertwined (MACS/ Ecometry in this case) you pretty much have to have the box and application available should you ever need to recover something... interpreting the data from extract tapes of their databases would be an exercise in futility.
What kind of extract format did the IBM system require from the 3000?
We used Suprtool to pull out large batches of data (several gigabytes per extract) from the MACS system, then tar'd them to tape [tar is the Posix/Unix utility to archive a set of files). All came out of the 3000 easily enough. The Unix systems (AIX and some intermediate Sun systems though) had trouble with the extract files being too large (some 2Gb per file limitations on some of the OSes) and we ended up having to split the large extracts up (on the 3000) and re-tar them for the Unixen.

We chose DLT tapes for transfer because even FTP'ing the data over our 100Gb backbone was taking days per file. DLT7000 has the fastest media the systems had in common. [note: it still took them several days to load those extract files into their systems...]

The replacement system was a custom-developed application written by IBM for my client. I believe they spent about $25M on that one: a mixture of AS/400s, AIX systems, and (many) Wintel systems. Siebel software was included in the mix, and some other COTS components, tied together with IBM's WebSphere and MQSeries stuff.

We try to keep the 3000 flame alight. Thanks for all your efforts over the years.
You won't see dropping out of sight anytime soon either :-) My 957, 918, and 917 will be churning away (and on the 'net) till they burn up. Keeping so busy on the contracting is nice, but I do hope to make some time someday soon to update our website and free offerings. We're still putting out software updates - and in fact will be consolidating a new release this week.
Chris Bartram
3K Associates
Tel: 703.569.9189

Feedback from Frontline People…

Taylor Lumpkin

Taylor Lumpkin is an Ecometry expert out of Delray Beach Florida who provides reports, extracts, interfaces, bug fixes, modifications, tech support, system review, EDI, XML, and whatever else his Ecometry customers require. Clients of his firm, Hire Experience, include Brookstone, Childcraft, Lego, Hickory Farms, and Tiger Direct.

I was curious about his experiences in the HP 3000 environment, now that HP has stopped making the servers. Below is my interview with Taylor in Spring 2004:

Are you still primarily dealing with Ecometry shops? Do you have any non-Ecometry customers?

We are 100% Ecometry at this point.
Are any of your customers planning to upgrade their MPE systems? If yes, where are they purchasing their upgrades? Resellers, or Ebay, or directly from companies that have migrated?
We have a few in the planning stages; most are swayed into Windows/SQL simply because of perceived cost savings.
Where do you or your customers find your news on HP 3000? The 3000 Newswire, Ecometry, or Robelle's newsletter/website, or Interex's HP World magazine, or the HP 3000L discussion group, or somewhere else?
All of the above.
What percent of HP 3000 sites that you interact with do you consider "homesteaders", in that they have no current plans to migrate?
We think that about 25% will homestead past 2005.
Do the homesteaders have any special concerns?
They all feel that the 3000 is a superior environment and they don't want to leave it for a much less reliable platform. They feel that the 3rd party hardware support combined with Beechglen will be able to support them indefinitely, or at least until backup devices are no longer available. Some project this to be as far out as 2020.
Of the 25% of sites that currently plan to homestead, what is the range of sizes?
They tend to be the mid level shops with experienced HP professionals, and some small where conversion costs are an issue. The big guys seem to all be moving toward migration, mostly Unix, however some of the biggest think that they can put all their eggs in the Microsoft basket because, they say "We already run our entire Web application on SQL Server, so we should be able to run our entire business on SQL Server".

I know that all of the homesteaders would most likely continue to purchase support from Robelle because a) It is very affordable and b) Robelle provides good support.

What percent of your HP 3000 clients do you consider "migrators", in that they are actively seeking to move all of their applications off the platform?
It looks like about 75% of them are already vested in the process and have begun planning. A few have already purchased hardware for testing and development.
Without giving client names, what is your most interesting migration experience?
None of our clients have migrated, however, several are planning to go in 2005.
Taylor Lumpkin
Hire Experience, Inc.
Tel: 561.276.7730
Fax: 561.276.969