Third Party Watch
Shawn M. Gordon
President of S.M. Gordon & Associates

I would like to open by commenting on a paper I read recently by Wirt Atmar of AICS Research in University Park New Mexico. For those of you who don’t know, these are the guys who make and sell QueryCalc, and give away Equater, on the HP 3000. Wirt is very active in the HP community promoting IMAGE, MPE and the HP 3000 in general. Well he and I were chatting recently and he told me a few things that were going on at the upper levels of HP, see what you think of this.

In a recent issue of ComputerWorld, Wim Rolands (an HP exec) stated essentially that while they were committed to the 3000 and MPE they anticipate it starting to disappear completely in the next 5 years, and he would rather see it happen sooner than later. Does this make you feel good about your investment? It makes me nervous as hell, I’ve been on these machines for almost ten years now, and I could easily spend another ten (heck I’m not even thirty yet). So what do we have to do to make the 3000 viable and attractive well into the next century?

First off we have to get HP to stop apologizing for IMAGE, they have finally started to get the hint by giving us critical item update (could have and should have been done ten years ago or more), read/write relational access to IMAGE via ALLBASE (a baby step in the right direction), and direct support in IMAGE for 3rd party indexing schemes (HP does NOT give you the indexing software, just the ability to easily use it). IMAGE is one of, if not the best DBMS systems currently available anywhere. It is a big reason why the 3000 was as popular as it was. Unfortunately over the years as less experienced people who were only familiar with buzz words and not the meaning behind them took over at HP, we found them starting to try to do away with IMAGE. I don’t want to re-iterate the last 4 years to you, but I am going to tell you what Wirt described that HP should do to continue being a leader in the industry.

First, instead of trying to be like everyone else let’s make everyone else come to us. If HP fully implements SQL access to IMAGE then any SQL could then access it. IMAGE’s use of hashing algorithms are so effective that they were added to ALLBASE on XL 2.2 to help speed it up. There isn’t any reason why IMAGE should be available on any platform other than the 3000. If all DBMS’s are the same and will run on any box where is the incentive to buy a 3000? Since IMAGE is so tightly coupled with the 3000 and MPE it offers enormous opportunity for significant performance enhancement. However there are several critical enhancements that must first appear in IMAGE. They are:

IMAGE must have the capability of dropping and adding datasets easily.
IMAGE must have the capability of adding new dataitems to the end of a dataset
IMAGE must have the capability to add and drop indexes easily.
IMAGE must have b-trees for partial-key searches.

I am sure that Bradmark and Adager wouldn’t be to happy if this happened, but there is still room for their tools even if HP add’s these capabilities.

According to Wirt simple b-tree’s could be added to IMAGE pretty easily and at enormous efficiency (Alfredo thinks that if three of them got together they could write it in a couple of weeks). His scenarios show that IMAGE based b-trees would be 2-4x faster that standard b-trees, require 10-500x less computational load for maintenance, and up to 500x less disc space. Although these claims seem outrageous his numbers work out. This shouldn’t concern DISC and Bradmark however, since these are only simple b-trees and wouldn’t account for the complex types of indexing that they offer. It would however let them take advantage of the benefit of having the b-trees being a native part of IMAGE.

Remember, Wim Rolends is only one voice, a big voice, but only one voice. Let HP know what you think and that you are concerned about the future of your computer. I have worked with C and UNIX, and if you are use to COBOL on the 3000, you are NOT going to want to make the switch. Make as much noise as you can, don’t forget what happened at the 1990 Interex show where HP was booed from the floor, this is how we finally got critical item update, although they never did rebundle IMAGE. Quoting a source whose name escapes me at the moment “They should charge $75,000 for IMAGE and throw in the computer for free”.

Ok, so I didn’t really talk about third parties to much, but how are they going to survive if the company they are centered around is ready to abandon them? We all need to work together to keep HP active in maintaining the 3000 as the superior business system that it is.

Tally Ho