Homesteaders hope emerges from
First steps help customers to carry on 3000 tradition
LOS ANGELES -- HP gave customers here the first
ledges of opportunity to continue their climb with their HP 3000s,
announcing it will allow a 3000 hardware emulator project to continue
as well as creating new MPE licenses.
Nothing changed about HPs beliefs about the
proper future for HP 3000 owners, however. HPs leader of its
3000 operations, Dave Wilde, still believes that every customer must
begin planning for a transition of some sort. But the companys
HP World announcements represented its first realization that staying
on the computer platform is the best course for some companies.
Of the Gang of Six OpenMPE requirements
for homesteading, HP granted three outright: the ability to let a
hardware emulator project proceed, including creation of new MPE
licenses in the future; the protection of HPs documentation
about the system and freeware, including the Jazz Web site; and the
removal of passwords on HPs diagnostic software for the 3000.
The timing and details on the emulator and licensing remain to be
worked out, as does the removal of the passwords.
The other three OpenMPE requirements are being
investigated. HP expects to report back on its intentions regarding
access to MPE source code, helping to enable third-party support, and
post-2006 hardware add-ons and reconfigurations no later than next
August. Although HP is taking slow, deliberate steps on making
homesteading a viable future, it also recognizes that its customers
are moving slower than expected toward other platforms.
Weve heard a lot of feedback that people
dont have the resources to migrate in time, Wilde said of
HPs December, 2006 end of support deadline. It will take
them longer, or they dont plan to migrate. They have a very
stable application, and would prefer to have some simple, easy
infrastructure in place, to allow them to continue to run their
applications for a longer period of time than HPs current
support road map allows.
Wilde wanted to be careful that customers not
misunderstand the companys preference and recommendation for
its customers. He noted that 19 of the top 20 application suppliers
for the 3000 are moving to HPs other platforms. And HP is now
offering a 50 percent trade in credit for all N-Class systems
purchased after Sept. 1, to be used toward any HP-UX system, a
discount that drops to 40 percent during 2005 and 30 percent during
But HPs announcements here represented its
first tangible offer to customers who see continued HP 3000 ownership
as their most cost-effective strategy. Wilde said the initiatives and
plans are the result of an outpouring of opinion and discussion from
a customer community thats never been shy about engaging with
I dont think it will surprise to anyone
in this room that weve been getting a lot of feedback over many
different forums over the last year, Wilde said. We asked
for feedback, and said we were interested in listening and boy
did we get feedback. It really has helped us in understanding what
your issues are, and how we can respond.
The announcement of allowing an emulator written by a
third party to proceed sparked many more questions in a well-attended
two-hour meeting of OpenMPE. HP did not release pricing for the MPE
licenses that would have to accompany such an emulator, software that
would make Intel Pentium and Itanium processors look like PA-RISC
3000 hardware. The pricing and how soon it could be
established are crucial elements, according to Allegro
Consultants vice-president Gavin Scott.
For the moment, weve done no technical
work toward an emulator, but we are still interested in developing
it, Scott said at the OpenMPE meeting. The issues
surrounding price and the distribution for the MPE license are pretty
much the remaining variables in whether or not its possible to
do this as a commercial venture.
Scott was realistic about the price of an emulated
solution having to compete with a used system. A solution that would
cost $15,000, when factoring HPs MPE license fee and the
Allegro software cost, might be a tough compare against a used 99x
system purchased on eBay.
The economics of this are really touchy to
begin with, even if [HP] can start giving it all away, and Allegro
can start distributing the operating system, Scott said.
HPs insistence on distributing MPE adds a complication to
letting customers run a demo copy of the emulator, for example.
That becomes a big impediment, Scott
said. Youre getting very close to the point where I think
an emulator will happen it will, however, be an open source,
freeware thing that gets built in our garages in our spare time over
the next five or six years. Whether that will be something youd
want to run your businesses on is less likely than if theres an
active, commercial effort to do it.
More processors, software
If the problems of making a replacement for 3000
hardware are still tangible, HP took steps to make the next four
years more comfortable for customers who are remaining on the
HP-built hardware. Mike Paivinen, the HP platforms roadmap lead for
the 3000, detailed what HP intends to do about hardware flexibility
to accommodate customers who need more 3000 gear than HP was planning
Paivinens slides, marked subject to
change, said the vendor intends to provide new and remarketed
add-on hardware for A- and N-Class HP 3000s beyond 2003, limited by
the supply and demand in the marketplace. The components
wouldnt include entire systems, but will include CPU boards,
embedded disks, memory, IO and network cards.
Paivinen, charged with developing a path for the
homesteading customer, cautioned the OpenMPE audience not to expect
the intentions to remain set in stone, but to look at the offers as a
sign of HPs desires.
I dont even know if Ill have a job
in a month, he said with a smile, but this really
represents what we want to be doing. HP announced an extra
1,800 layoffs earlier in the day of the OpenMPE meeting, but 3000
staffers hadnt been tapped yet as part of the extra
HP would only look at a period of six to 12 months
beyond the October, 2003 end of sales date to offer the add-on
hardware for the A-Class and N-Class systems. DTC controllers and IO
cards for Series 900 HP 3000s were not part of the added hardware
Software products from HP for the 3000 such as
compilers, development tools and backup software will continue to be
sold beyond 2003 as well. These HP products dont have the
inventory problems that HP said surrounds the hardware sales
extension. While customers will be turning in A-Class and N-Class
hardware over the coming years to HP, that hardware can be required
to let HP continue support activities.
The support channel has a completely different
supply chain for used parts, Paivinen explained. HPs
Kriss Rant, charged with organizing channels for the afterlife
marketplace, said the add-on sales and support supply chains
are managed separately, and even if they have the parts in
support, they dont show up [for add-on sales]. Our number one
goal is to ensure we can deliver the support on these servers we
promised until 2006.
Keeping a hand in the market
Although HP remained steadfast to its December 2006
end of support date and its intention to stop selling 3000s, the
company wants to remain in the market to approve license swaps
between customers. Paivinen said the HP software license transition
process will continue in some form or another past end of
sales, probably past the end of support period as well, so hardware
can be exchanged.
HP showed more obvious interest in sparking sales of
the 3000 and protecting that business through 2003. It wont let
a version of MPE be used with a hardware emulator before the end of
sales date, although that kind of timing of releasing an emulator
would be a remote possibility anyway, according to Allegros
Scott. Another company, SRI, has said it considers creating such an
emulator to be a less lengthy project. SRI sells an emulator for the
Digital VAX hardware.
While HP wants to retain its impact on the
marketplace, it flatly refuses to permit the hundreds of thousands of
HP 9000 computers be turned into HP 3000 systems. Customers such as
Mike Berkowitz of Guess, Inc. and Alfredo Rego of Adager proposed
that the HP-UX customers trading up to Itanium-based systems would
provide a rich bed of used systems. These computers are identical to
HP 3000s but have a firmware personality chip that can be
HP also wants any emulator project to run only on its
brands of PCs, the Compaq Proliant and HP NetServer models. This
requirement wouldnt be enforced with a technical check at
first, verification that Paivinen said HP has not talked about yet
among its engineers. Running an emulator on HP hardware would be a
condition of the MPE license on the honor system. MPE is
HPs intellectual property, and it chooses to use it this
way, he said.
Paivinen said those left in the virtual
CSY really care about the 3000 and its customers.
Thats going to change over time, but Ann Livermore made a
commitment this morning that 2006 means 2006. They plan
to hold on to the people who can make good on the support
commitments. On the other hand, there are a lot of unknowns about
career decisions. The people who are left behind all care about the
3000, and its all going to be up to us as to when we move
John Wolff, a CIO running HP 3000 systems, pointed
out that unknown future could present a good reason for opening up
the control of the 3000s future.
I have a greater comfort level with a smaller
company than HP, Wolff said. HPs going out of this
particular business, and all good intentions aside, you may not have
control over whether youll be able to work on it any further. I
think HP is going to want to transform itself into a royalty holder,
rather than doing the work itself.
Paivinen noted in reply that third party companies
continue to approach HP to enhance the MPE operating system.
They said, If you guys cant do it anymore, there
are lots of us out there that are willing to contibute our expertise
to make that happen. I dont think were closed to
that concept at all. Whether we ask them to do it as partners with
us, or transition stuff over to them over time, is an interesting
question. There are definitely people out there who are very capable
of providing continued enhancements to the operating system.