trip report DECUS europe symposium 1996
the journey begun on saturday october 5, 1996 on a rainy night at the zürich airport. even if it was a busy holiday weekend, our takeoff was delayed only 20 minutes. it was a spectacular takeoff in the dark. the last thing i could recognize on the ground was the campus of the ETH hönggerberg, then we were swallowed by the clouds. as we flew over grenoble, the clouds suddenly disappeared and we could se the lights of the towns in the valley of the rhone. around 9:15 pm, barcelona greeted us with an almost clear sky.
the overall impression was certainly very positive. the symposium was well organized and the equipment functioned well with a very few exceptions. for outside connectivity, there were nearly 100 Intel based Windows NT Workstations which from my point of view functioned very well. the exhibition was interesting and provided lots of opportunities to learn more about various products and services. i personnaly fell in love with the Alphabook even though they still want more than 10'000 dollars for it.
in my opinion, these are the main messages (with some comments from myself):
by the way, the quote i liked best was the one i heard during the session called Microsoft Internet Directions. The speaker said: "A PPTP is NOT a north american toilet !" (for those who don't know: a TeePee is a tent of the navajo indians and other native americans.)
tim mueller gave a basic introduction to the World Wide Web, its terms, fundamentals and features. his talk was geared towards OpenVMS and Rdb, but he also mentioned Windows NT often and UNIX occasionally. he listed three of the available http daemons for OpenVMS:
personal note from the author: i would strongly recommend the OSU httpd for OpenVMS, it is fast and extremely reliable. we run it on VAXes and Alphas with great success ...
tim explained the interaction between the http daemon and cgi scripts. he pointed out that different http daemons act differently and the parameters passed to cgi scripts may even vary with different browsers. he therefore recommended to test cgi scripts with as many different browsers as possible.
in his explanations, tim assumed that data from an existing database shall be made available on the Web. he encouraged the audience not to change the database or operating system just because the data shall now be accessible on the Web. OpenVMS and Rdb in conjunction with the appropriate http daemon are easily capable to do the job. on the other hand, if he would have to started from scratch, tim recommended to consider Windows NT with Internet Server first. if the database already exists, tim suggested to write cgi programs in C which include SQL statements. the enduser shall be provided with a form to fill in the information needed to query the database, the program then would translate this into a SQL query and returns the results as an HTML document. unfortunately, tim was not familiar with the Oracle Web suite which provides highly sophisticated tools to generate such forms and relieves the programmer from writing his own code to create the SQL statements. i hopped he would talk about these tools. so to me, the training seminar basically ended, were it should have started ...
larry woodman gave an extremely valuable talk about tuning Digital UNIX. as a member of the Digital UNIX engineering, he is coauthor of the virtual memory subsystem of the UNIX kernel.
first, larry gave a short overview of the internals of the Digital UNIX kernel, which is based on Mach V2.x, BSD, system V and the Posix standards. the main features of the kernel are:
larry continued with a brief description of the virtual to physical memory mapping and the paging and swapping algorithms. Digital UNIX tends to use as much physical memory as possible. beside the so called wired memory, which holds the contents of the system, there are two memory consumers:
if the system runs out of physical memory, it starts to reclaim it from these two consumers. a set of tunable kernel parameters controls the algorithms that are used for these operations.
to be able to tune a system, a system administrator needs to be able to measure the current use of the various resources. possible tools are:
some of these tools are part of the operating system, others are either freeware or may require a license. all the tools mentioned above are simple tools. there are more sophisticated tools with graphical user interfaces, but these tools tend to use a significant amount of system resources so that these tools may influence the system's behavior. this is particularly true if the system is only under a light load and/or is not very powerful. therefore larry recommended to use the simple tools which do not consume a lot of system resources.
even though the information presented so far was very valuable, the most helpful information was yet to come. larry presented a number of different scenarios where he described the symptoms of a badly tuned system, a set of indications that help to identify that the system is badly tuned and a number of suggestions how to improve system performance. he described the effects that a modification of some kernel parameters may have and what undesired side effects that may occur. larry suggested not to change the parameters dramatically, but to test slightly higher or lower values. he also included a list of tunable parameters in his extensive documentation with descriptions of these parameters.
roland kessi "our" swiss DECUS europe president opened this symposium officially on tuesday, october 8. he introduced
nancy strecker, vice president at Digital for DECUS and customer programs. she welcomed the attendees on behalf of Digital and
showed a short film about the last thirty years of DECUS.
this year, DECUS celebrates its 30th anniversary in europe and its 35th anniversary in the U.S. !
DECUS europe started in 1966 with the first symposium in london. there were 51 attendees from 6 countries present. now, thirty years later, there are 23 DECUS chapters with 150'000 members and this year's symposium attracted about 1000 attendees.
harold copperman, vice president and general manager of Digital's systems business unit presented Digital's marketing strategy to the audience. he started his talk with a furious ride on a racing car in virtual reality, powered by an Alpha system. since the system was available for testing in the exposition hall, everyone had the chance to take a ride.
Digital's latest "go-to-market" strategy is based on three technologies:
Digital has identified nine markets that promise noticeable growth opportunities:
as a fourth leg, harold mentioned the installed OpenVMS base. this is recognized as a strategic market, but has not much growth potential. interestingly enough, various speakers mentioned during the symposium, that the OpenVMS business is actually growing. more precisely, the OpenVMS sales were on the decline until the announcement of the affinity program. since then, the OpenVMS business has significantly increased again.
another important aspect of Digital's marketing strategy is the cooperation with partners, of which four are considered strategic alliances:
The next version of OpenVMS will be V7.1 which will be shipped in december 1996. Oracle will ship its database products for OpenVMS V7 one month later.
OpenVMS V7.1 will provide the following enhancements:
OpenVMS V7.2 - which will be available by the end of 1997 - will extend the support of the affinity and all connect program. the first addresses interoperability between OpenVMS and Windows NT, the second the interoperability between OpenVMS, Digital UNIX and Windows NT. It will provide the following additional features and enhancements:
in general, Microsoft and Digital plan a new affinity wave every six month. Windows NT will become to platform for application development and the centralized management tool for Windows NT and OpenVMS systems. OpenVMS will continue its leadership in high power, high availability and secure computing.
There were rumors that Digital has sold AltaVista to another company. This is not true ! Digital has created a new subsidiary to make extensive use of the well known name. Digital will keep 80% of the shares of the new subsidiary.
AltaVista is not only the world's fastest and most famous search engine on the World Wide Web, but it is now also a complete product line. Currently, there are six products available, two for navigation, two for communication and two in the area of security:
the social event took place at the maritime museum near the harbor of barcelona. it was the birthday party of DECUS europe for its 30 anniversary. during the apero in the outdoor entrance area, people from barcelona built various spectacular "human towers" with up to five "floors". before the diner, nancy stecker provided five life time achievements awards to the following members of DECUS europe:
during diner, catalanian dancers delighted the audience and after diner, the dance floor was open to everyone.
the main message was: Digital wants to provide network solutions based on its 64-bit high performance platforms and the Internet. william strecker's technology strategy was in perfect match with harold copperman's marketing strategy. it focuses on the same three technologies: 64-bit platform, Windows NT for the enterprise and the Internet. In addition, OpenVMS is recognized as an additional important strategic market.
Digital wants to maintain its leadership in 64-bit UNIX. cluster capabilities shall be improved and Digital UNIX shall become the preferred platform for third party software vendors.
according to william strecker, Microsoft has committed to release future enterprise products on Alpha and on Intel platforms at the same time. in addition, Microsoft and Digital are working together on a 64-bit version of Windows NT on Alphas. finally, Digital wants to improve cluster capabilities on Windows NT and extend the interoperability of Windows NT and Digital UNIX.
the main goals of clustering are:
the speaker admitted, that OpenVMS-clusters are the de-facto standard, any other cluster solution will be measured against OpenVMS-clusters.
TruCluster is a successor of DECsafe. the later was SCSI based and basically a means to share I/O devices such as disks and tapes.
the TruCluster product family provides the following features:
an impressive panel of top managers was lined up to answer questions from the audience. beside people from Digital, there was one representative from Oracle and one from Computer Associates present, two of the four strategic alliances of Digital.
i can remember "Digital listens" sessions, where the questions were a lot more aggressive and angry than this time in barcelona. this does not necessarily mean that i liked this session better.
many customers are concerned about the fact that Digital sold some product families to other companies (Rdb to Oracle, Polycenter to Computer Associates), mainly because they have to deal with more than one company now. also licensing issues become more difficult.
overall, the session was interesting, but there was not much news ...
Microsoft Internet Explorer V4 (MSIEv4) will become the central application to navigate on the local PC as well as on the Internet. Internet Explorer and Explorer will be merged into one application and will provide the following features (some of them are already available on V3):
because there is no national DECUS symposium in switzerland anymore, DECUS switzerland organized a so called "swiss event". there were about 50 attendees from switzerland in barcelona, of which about 30 joined us at the swiss event. gerhard wedening, chairman of DECUS switzerland, introduced reto ambühler (which is me) as a new member of the board. he pointed out that DECUS switzerland organizes what they call "stammtisch" every three month in zürich, bern and lausanne. see the DECUS Web pages for dates and exact locations. after the formal part, we enjoyed a true catalanian diner at the ???, an authentic middle age town, built for the world exposition in 19??.
there were probably around 1000 attendees at this and the following two sessions, which means virtually everybody was present in the auditorium.
Robert Balmer, president and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation, gave a brief overview of the state of his company. for the last quarter, Digital announced another loss of $320M. robert pointed out, that they have set about $500M aside for another re-structuring of the company. without that, Digital would have reported a profit of $180M, he said. robert believes, that with the new marketing strategies, Digital will be a profitable company again soon. Robert Palmer discussed the future of Digital and how his company will use and provide services for the Internet.
Charles B. Wang, CEO of Computer Associates, briefly reviewed the history of his company. CA provides solutions for system management in heterogenous environments. recently, they have bought the Polycenter product family from Digital and became one of the for strategic alliances of Digital. Charles Wang assured the audience that his company will continue to support and enhance Polycenter products not only for Unix, but also for OpenVMS.
Questions to Robert Palmer were mostly related to the financial performance of his company. Another person wanted to know, if the rumors about another layoff of approximately 7000 employees were true. Robert basically confirmed this and said, the layoffs will be world wide. Other customers complained because it becomes more complex to deal with Digital if more and more product families are sold to other companies. One customer asked Charls Wang to treat customers more polite than Oracle did ...
Microsoft's future Internet directions will focus on:
this was an in-depth discussion of the Windows NT registry. the registry resides in sysroot/system32/config and serves as a central information repository for:
entries in the registry consist of keys and values. keys are basically directories and values are filenames. there are system keys and user keys. the registry may be modified with Regedt32 or Regedit. many parameters are hidden. to make the visible, modify one of the parameters via the command line interface.
according to a study of INPUT, the traditional commerce will only slightly increase until the year 2000, but electronic commerce may triple its volume. Digital wants to provide solutions for companies who do business with or offer services for electronic commerce. these solutions will be based on Secure Electronic Transactions (SET). Digital's transaction servers will provide safe transactions over secure links using tunneling software. this means all data will be encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the receiver, but it is unreadable for anyone on the public Internet.
beside secure transactions, there is also a need for a charging mechanism to do electronic commerce. Digital's micro payment focuses on very small amounts of money, called "millicents". this is required to charge fractions of a dollar for small amounts of information, like phone numbers from directories, software, games etc.
the current implementation of TCP/IP is version 4 (TCPIPv4), the next generation of this protocol suite will be version 6 (TCPIPv6). it will provide the following enhancements:
some of these features will also be implemented in TCPIPv4, e.g.. RSVP and support for mobile networking.
Digital's contributions to TCPIPv6 include:
current status of TCPIPv6:
i have hardcopies of the documentation from the two training seminars i have attended. all the slides of the sessions shall be available on a CDrom, but it has not yet arrived ...
just a few days before this symposium, i was elected as a member of the board of DECUS switzerland. so i have now a personal interest in your opinion about DECUS in general and DECUS switzerland in particular. i believe there is a need for some changes in our user society. if you feel the same way and have some comments or ideas, please let me know ...
the next DECUS europe symposium will be held in september 1997 in kopenhagen, danmark.
trip report DECUS symposium 1997 in copenhagen, denmark
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