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March 1999

NewsWire Editorial

3000 gardens challenge HP to vary growth What's your opinion? Send your comments about this article to me. Include your name your company, or just post anonymously.

Ron Seybold, Editor In Chief

While the Eastern US digs out from two feet of snow, it’s springtime here in Texas. February is a month we take as a fair-weather hostage in exchange for September, a time when the sun will fry any flower unshaded from triple-digit heat. This month Dottie and I are gardening, a meditative act that has me thinking of the growth the HP 3000 division (CSY) is nurturing.

Out in the front yard we’re proposing a British look to color our dark earth: Gerbera daisies, pansies and geraniums, planted in neat rows and competing for the coy sunshine of this first month without frost. It’s a great respite from the details of the computer business to sink your hands into rich soil, poke open a root-bound plant and provide a roomier home. Each day there’s watering, feeding and weed-watching, something to do while the real work goes on underground.

In our back yard we’re going tropical, thinking of the hotter months to come. After slinging verbs and nouns all morning, it’s refreshing to swing a pickaxe and shovel to dig deep holes for banana plants and perfumed jasmine. Later on there will be palm trees and canna bulbs to blossom in July’s rude heat.

HP has a couple of gardens to tend in its 3000 estate, too. They are as different as our front and back yard plots. Much of CSY’s current work seems to be aimed at new business opportunities. It’s growing the 3000 into a mainframe substitute with a big enough shoes to fit fast-growing healthcare and mail-order companies. Work on file size limits, on scaling the IMAGE database, on big-boy disk drive arrays and backups — all this is easy to spot. CSY talks about this work often, its renaissance resting on making new customers successful.

We see another 3000 garden, less conspicuously planted by now. This one is the site of database enhancements like an easier-to-use ODBC, one that links databases to PCs without head-scratching. Other plants there are in the MPE/iX family, where hoped-for improvements for system managers are still working to poke shoots out into the open. This is the installed base work, never finished because everything you grow for these customers makes them want more. This class of customer knows the potential of an HP 3000 as well as its value. They ask for a stronger root system instead of more dazzling blossoms.

We need different skills to keep both gardens healthy in our home. In the back yard under the strong sun, the labor required is as broad as the leaves of the plants. Our front yard demands delicate spadework and close planting, to keep our flowers in the safe shade of a 10-year-tall cottonwood.

We hope that CSY remains committed to practicing diverse gardening for the 3000’s growth. It’s obviously important to ensure platform growth and scalability for the Amisys and Smith-Gardner & Associates customers. The needs of these sites, some of the newest to deploy the 3000, are getting ample attention from the growth gardeners in CSY. It’s pretty easy to make a business case for a customer spending more than $3 million to get a catalog operation online. These are like our Gerbera daisies, impossible to overlook in their Technicolor hats.

It takes a more patient gardener to nurture the needs of the legendary customers, the thousands who bought the 3000 when HP sold it as a general purpose computer. These hardy plants now sit in the part of the garden where the sun is harshest. They established a root system long ago by building their own applications — and now they defend them against the heat of NT’s marketing dazzle. Home-grown customers have needs with less flamboyant business cases. Some of these sites will never get halfway to a seven-digit HP 3000 expenditure in the life of their ownership, let alone beyond $3 million. Their 3000s need less in some ways and more in others, like new technology built right into MPE like its NT and Unix counterparts. They need the food of new Internet features like secure Web service, an up-to-date Samba for safe transfers to NT, and easy-to-administer client-server connections.

Just because those legendary plants have been in the ground longer doesn’t mean they deserve less of the gardeners’ care. It takes extra effort to walk around back to do our big plant work after we toil in the shade of that cottonwood. We do it because we love variety, and the contrast ensures a garden for all seasons.

CSY is working on many projects right now, from retooling its marketing credo to building customers a 64-bit platform even if Merced goes bust. A lot of the work is going on as invisibly as the spring growth in our gardens: roots pushing downward, small, shy leaves uncurling in the overcast day. It’s still too early to measure the CSY plants’ progress. But it’s easy to see that enterprise-class customers buying packaged software are assured a well-tended spot.

There’s more to be done than making the high-growth customers satisfied with recent HP 3000 purchases — or feeding future opportunity with that high-end work. Even good gardeners lose some plants, in spite of their best efforts. I’m impressed with the growth HP is providing the 3000. But its general purpose computing customer needs tending, too. It will give HP a garden of investment to appreciate, financially, no matter what kind of weather appears.

— Ron Seybold

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