Friday, October 22, 2010

Thoughts on HP-UX, AIX, and Integrity

Those who know me personally and have been following this blog know that I ditched my HP-UX admin career to become a systems architect in another division at my company. The reasons for this were mostly personal, although maybe 10% of my choice to move on was due to other reasons. Bottom line is that even though I miss the technical side, I'm glad I've made the switch to the "clouds" and became an architect.

I'm now mostly attached to stuff made by Cooper Power Systems and OSISoft, which is fine. Expect the content of this blog to switch to these two vendors over time. HP still has a place too, as I've spent so much time using their products. But here we're not a HP shop; we have some HP products of course, but also IBM, EMC, and other vendors on the floor.

Some HP reps came in this week to show us what was new this year. While I used to be very fond of HP since relying on a limited number of manufacturers was part of my one-sysadmin-for-all strategy, I must now step back and try to be as objective as possible.

That being said, there was the usual presentation about let-HP-shove-its-converged-infrastructure-down your-throat, then a half-hour presentation on Integrity systems (among others) during which I kept my mouth shut. I couldn't help myself thinking what's the future of this great platform. All talk about running Linux and Windows on the platform is now gone, which is a good thing, as we all know it can no longer be an option. Only HP-UX and OpenVMS are left. The BCS rep, knowing my division runs RHEL and AIX, told us to "please challenge us", meaning that we should evalutate HP-UX as a contender as much as possible.

I've worked with HP-UX for 10 years and love it. But, in my opinion, AIX is roughly equivalent. Although I haven't been administering AIX systems for 10+ years, I know enough that it is a mission-critical OS backed by a manufacturer who won't let my company down, same as HP-UX. If we were running Solaris, things would be very different. But for the moment, as an architect, I consider both HP-UX and AIX as equals: these are the last true "Enterprise" UNIX options available.

So, what's left for the Integrity platform? Not much. As AIX is the same as HP-UX at a glance, I can only think that Integrity is the same as POWER systems, give or take. So it's not a bad platform per se, but a niche one for sure.

It's too bad HP lost the big bet they've made on the Itanium. I still remember all the talk about Merced when I started my sysadmin career in the late 90s. Things didn't turn out as expected for sure, but even if HP had stayed on the PA-RISC bandwagon, they would be at the same spot they are right now. That doesn't mean HP-UX has no future - the OS still has a big place in my heart. I can only hope HP will eventually port the HP-UX kernel to x86, or make an HP-UX ecosystem and support infrastructure revolving around a Linux kernel. This is probably the best thing to do to this operating system to ensure its long term viability.

Have any comments? Please leave me feedback.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Announced: An official Cooper EAS web forum

I've been informed that Cooper EAS has to intention to build a community around their grid automation products such as IMS, a process to which I'll be glad to contribute when the time comes.

A first step into building a community is, in my opinion, to set up a web forum. To my surprise, EAS just announced one today. It is available here:

There is no DNS name yet, but I'm sure they'll fix this soon. Also note that access is limited to current customers only.

I think that a critical mass of their current customers is mostly interested in DR, which means that I don't expect to see many grid automation subjects in that forum to start. But it is a really, really good first step.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cooper Power Systems EAS, Stuxnet and control vs. IT

I'm currently at the Cooper Power Systems EAS (Energy Automation Solutions) user conference in Minneapolis. I don't know much about DR, AMI, Smart Grids and such, but had to go there to at least learn the basics and be able to do a better architecture job.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I'm an "IT guy". Seems that most who work in control don't like IT and I can't blame them. Many control systems are increasingly being linked to ethernet and IP-based networks, along with remote and consolidated interfaces, and this brings many challenges which only IT can address. Enhancing security of these systems is especially important, and many control users don't seem to view security as that important.

I've had an interesting chat with EAS's security guru about the Stuxnet worm. Many technical details have been leaking through Slashdot and elsewhere for a few weeks, thus I won't speculate on its possible origins or intents. But the bottom line is that Stuxnet does exist, and it is a staggering proof that even though its engineering is not within the reach of just anyone, SCADA systems are not immune to security threats.

Like we IT people have been disgusted by the security guys for years now, it's now the turn of control people to have to live with IT. Nice threesome. Looks like I'm stuck in the middle position. FML.