Winston Prather means to lead from his products
strengths. The general manager of the 3000 division (CSY) succeeded
Harry Sterling last fall, after Sterling made the decision that saved
the HP 3000 by committing to new IA-64 architecture. Now Prather must
deliver on Sterlings commitment, starting with the N-Class HP
3000s due at the end of this year. Prathers predecessor left
him with something in the bank to pay for these 3000 commitments:
political coin within HP once more, showing the company s top
management the value in a product with profit and a loyal customer
base. Comparisons between these two men are inevitable, but a close
look will show they are cut from the same cloth believers in
Prather was a part of the renaissance the 3000 enjoyed
under Sterlings leadership, leading in the divisions
labs. He has been working with HP 3000s since he was in ninth grade,
and joined HP in 1985. After more than 22 years experience with the
system the first eight as a customer and user he has
led the HP 3000 architects and engineers in the labs during
Sterlings GM tenure. What Prather gets to build upon is the
respect the 3000 division has regained inside HP. His GM post is now
part of Business Critical Computing general manager Janiece
Chaffins staff, one that helps the 3000 division get included
in technologies for other IA-64-bound systems.
The question to be resolved in his predecessors
term was the survival of the HP 3000. Prather faces a mission just as
important the successful transition to HPs latest
technology, and making the system a vital part of the new e-services
push so central to HPs message in 2000. Perhaps even more
crucial is the challenge to make the HP 3000 stand out from other
systems in an era when hardware is fast becoming a commodity. We
asked Prather to outline his goals for building on the renaissance
and his plans to establish the system as a unique computing
Customer connection has been CSYs mantra. Have
the customers been asking about the e-speak connection to the
Not necessarily. It seems to be more interest from third
parties and ISVs. I wonder if thats because of a lack of
understanding from customer about what you can do with e-speak. Or
everybody is pretty locked down with Y2K. The way we have positioned
the technology is that if you have an asset that you could
Internet-enable, e-speak will broker that asset across the Internet
and either sell or buy services. Its a technology that could
work for customers as well, although I see it as first being deployed
Since youve had e-speak running on an HP 3000
since mid-summer, what kind of connection will the language have to
the MPE platform? Is e-speak helping to elevate Javas potential
for the 3000?
Im not sure I understand enough about how the two
would interact to know how it would elevate Java. The general message
we heard back from our ISVs was they like the [e-speak] vision, and
they think its really going to turn into something. But I think
they feel very focused right now on taking advantage of the Internet
and what may be called Chapter One-type technologies. We asked the
ISVs what theyre spending their R&D time on now, and
its Internet enabling their applications. They view that as a
prerequisite for taking advantage of e-speak. There was lots of
intrigue and interest, but Im not sure theyre ready to
start working with it. Well continue to keep e-speak ported to
the 3000. We do have a prototype running on the 3000, and were
evaluating how to best use that with our ISVs. I think its too
early to know exactly what its going to do. Its still an
up and coming technology, and HPs pushing hard to ensure it
will help the industry evolve toward e-services. Its still a
little early to say when our ISVs will start using it.
SIGSOFTVEND chairman Birket Foster says that MPE/iX
only lacks seven Posix calls to qualify as a Unix under
the standards. Assuming what he says is true, would it make good
business sense to add these calls to MPE/iX if they dont
break anything already installed?
First let me comment on the only lacks seven Posix
calls, because Birket has mentioned this to me, too. I went and
talked to some of the lab folks about this. There may be seven
different categories of things or issues. But heres the bottom
line: if they were easy, we would have already done them.
Its a huge effort to implement some of these things.
A lot of them have to do with the way MPE interacts with terminals.
Theres this thing called a General Terminal Interface, or GTI,
that most Unixes support, and thats a big issue for us.
Theres something else called select, which is a Unix function
that allows you to find out if youre talking to a socket, a
file or a terminal so its also related to terminals
thats not easily implemented. Theres something
called hardlink, that Im not familiar with, but I think that
would have a ripple effect through the STORE and RESTORE and
potentially third party products.
64-bit APIs have come along, Unix branding requires you follow the
specific APIs for 64-bitness that our large file project hasnt
implemented. We do understand what it would take to do, and its
a big technical issue. The real issue that it comes down to is
whether its worth the effort.
have two thoughts on this. If we could attain a Unix branding, it
would allow resellers and ISVs to say, Its just
Unix. Which may get them in the door, which is probably where
Birket is coming from. I can see value in that, although it leads me
to another thought. I dont think were doing a good job of
selling the value of MPE. I believe its a differentiator, and I
dont want it to be another Unix. I believe MPE is better than
most Unixes, because of all the things it has built into it. If you
go back to some of the core things like transaction processing,
reliability, I think its better.
understand the point about getting in the door with RFPs. Thats
why I go to the technical staff and ask what does it take to do this.
I dont want people to try to position us that way, because you
miss the point. You need to be able to articulate the added value.
Thats something I think we need to help our resellers do a
better job of. All too often we end up trying to compete on price
alone, when what we sell is a completely different package if you
look at the value you get. Buying an MPE system versus many of the
Unix systems out there, I think its a whole lot better. But I
dont think we do a good job of articulating that.
Christine thinks that way too, and is working with the
marketing team to look for ways we can help our resellers articulate
that. Its a much bigger deal than Birket thinks. Every one of
those seven things are very hard. The real bigger issue is we have to
help people articulate that MPE adds more value than Unix. Look at
all the additional things you have to purchase when you buy a Unix
system. Everybody ends up with these huge MC ServiceGuard
configurations to get the reliability. The majority of our customers
dont need that, because the base reliability is so high. I had
one reseller tell me jokingly, The thing is just too damn
reliable, and because of that we dont get to sell redundant
systems. I told him, Well, I think thats a positive
All too often our resellers get stuck, because we
havent provided them with that information. Then youre in
there competing on price.
It sounds like what youre proposing is a way to
highlight the different and unique features of the HP 3000. Are you
ready for that?
Im a little tired of being defensive. I understand
the arguments about Unix this and Unix that. But I think we get too
defensive, as opposed to articulating the value of MPE. We accept
that its not Unix, and people think of that as a bad thing. I
actually think its a good thing. Im very proud of MPE
because of the things that differentiate it from other environments.
Too often we end up defending why we dont do it that way, as
opposed to saying why this way is better. I totally understand about
the getting in the door, which is why we should look at accomplishing
these things. Theres a team looking at exactly what it would
take. A quick estimate of what it would take to accomplish these is
probably something on the order of eight engineering years.
Even if we cant support all of it, we have an effort
underway right now where we are evolving the Posix environment to
porting enablers. These make it easier to port applications to the
3000. There may be overlap between the improvements we want to make
from a porting point of view, and this list of seven things. But if I
had to guess, we wont be able to get every one of these things
on the Unix branding list. And the way I understand it is, if
youve got 230,000 of them and you dont have one,
Is the forthcoming N-Class HP 3000 a candidate for
Multiple Operating System Technology, where more than one OS could be
on the 3000?
The past projects were all software based. The N-Class
does not necessarily make it easier to do this. If you look at the
version of the N-Class well come out with initially, and the
version thats supported on Unix, the hardware doesnt
support multiple instances of operating systems.
Now, in the future HP will be coming out with hardware
that will help move in that direction. Its not been announced
yet, or coming in the short term. In the long term were
definitely coming out with hardware that will make it much easier.
Youll get the hardware support you need to make it easier. I
think when we have hardware like that available, and then it will
make sense to go back and reevaluate whether it makes sense to do
dont think when the N-Class is shipped it will be a good time
to re-evaluate this, but we do see it coming down the road.
Since Oracle 8i is so tightly aligned with HPs
announced plans for e-services the database is being given
away on HP systems that go out in the box-for-profits swaps HPs
doing. How can the 3000 participate in HPs e-services plans
The main reason Oracle is such a big part of e-services on
the 9000s, its where the majority of the applications really
run. If I were to do a comparison with the 3000 world, I would say
the majority of our applications run on TurboIMAGE. In the 3000
space, to participate in e-services, it would be more important to
make sure TurboIMAGE works with e-services. The 3000 has a small
installed base of Oracle customers.
Are you working on making TurboIMAGE participate in
Were working to make the 3000 participate.
Specifically what does that mean for TurboIMAGE versus Allbase or
Oracle, Im not really sure. The 9000 people feel strongly about
bundling Oracle because thats where a lot of the applications
are. For the 3000, we already bundle TurboIMAGE.
So you mean theres no inherent advantage to
Oracle in an e-services offering on the 3000?
dont see a connection between having Oracle 8i on the 3000 and
being successful in e-services. A lot of the e-commerce successes
weve got going with Smith-Gardner dont involve it.
dont want to be defensive about why we dont have Oracle8
on the 3000. I want to say why we think TurboIMAGE on the 3000 is
really the right thing.
Have things changed much for Oracle on the 3000 since
last fall, when you explained the Oracle installed base on MPE
determined the divisions level of investment?
couple of things have happened. We have gotten contacted by a number
of resellers and ISVs who think making a business case for Oracle on
the 3000 is a really good thing to do. Its still a very small
percentage of the resellers and ISVs on the 3000. It was enough that
it prompted me to have some discussions with Oracle, that are still
ongoing. I have been discussing the possibilities.
have a jointly funded porting center in Bangalore, sitting in both
the HP offices and the Oracle offices. Its more than a porting
effort; from Oracles point of view, its a porting effort
and a support effort. Whatever is ported has to be supported.
Its not as simple as we go port it, although even that is not
simple. Oracle has to be really behind whatever the right thing to do
is. Their position over the last couple of years is that TurboIMAGE
is the 100 percent successful database on the HP 3000, and they just
cant get any penetration and dont see it as a viable
platform for Oracle. The customers on the 3000 love TurboIMAGE.
Oracle cant get a high enough market share on the 3000 to see
the value proposition. There are resellers who use Oracle on their
3000 applications, but not that many.
I go to the application providers on the 3000 and ask them to port to
Oracle, what percentage of them are going to do that? There
havent been enough ISVs that thought that was the best answer
Customers view Oracle on the platform as a signal that
will influence the future for the 3000. They need to recognize that
its such a small portion of the 3000 business that it
doesnt have anything to do with the life of the 3000. Oracle
looks at it from a business perspective and says, Customers
dont want our database on your platform. Until our ISVs
line up with Oracle, its harder for them to [commit].
Weve got to make sure we do something thats good for
What does it take to be a trusted peripheral on the HP
3000? What plans do you have to help customers who are encountering
tape-related database errors happening over SCSI busses?
Most of the customers have already moved to SCSI devices
already, dont you think? If we support a peripheral, you should
trust it, or we need to make it trust-able. If youre implying
that SCSI peripherals quality is not acceptable
[database utility suppliers] need to make sure they dont do the
support on this, and they turn it back to our support folks. Im
personally not aware that SCSI drives are less reliable, other than a
question I heard from Ken Paul of Adager at HP World.
the real issue is whether SCSI is having a quality issue, I can put
that to the right people, and what are the issues. [Ed. Note: CSY
lab managers subsequently confirmed they are studying this problem.]
We dont draw a distinction between devices. If we port it
and write the driver, our goal is that they will all be trusted.
Will the HP 3000 be part of the capacity-on-demand
program HP recently announced for the Unix N-Class servers?
Its something we are considering for our version of
N-Class. It depends a lot on customer feedback about whether
its something a lot of customers will use. Technically, we
basically just ship a system with all the processors. You can turn
them on on the fly. We dont have online processor allocation
and de-allocation, and Unix already supports this. The basic idea is
that based on the load, the operator could turn on five more
processors, for example, based on the load. Since theyre
sitting in the system disabled, its easy to do. Then you get
billed for it.
Can they turn them off when they dont need
dont think you can. From a technology viewpoint you can, but
from a sales point of view, I dont know if thats part of
the program. Its a really fast upgrade, and most environments
that need that are really at the high end.
How do you expect the HP 3000 community and market to
change once youve cleared the Y2K issues? When do you think
your customer base will have most issues resolved?
would hope [as of late November] they have most of their issues
resolved already. I think the comfort zone is going to be after the
leap year date, February 29. I think the masses wont feel
its behind them until we get into March. Then theyll get
back to normal, which is looking for ways the IT department can add
value for the business, as opposed to ensuring theyre safe. I
really think were going to see Webifying, and turning their
attention back to that. Theres a big pent-up demand for non-Y2K
What are your goals for the growth and evolution of
CSYs Bangalore operations?
The goal for the program, which just celebrated its fifth
anniversary, was to create two strong labs. It has taken us quite
awhile, but I do feel like were successful now. I will
absolutely acknowledge the challenges we had. I would look at them as
normal challenges for growth. It wasnt doubled, but it was
significant growth. The number one challenge has been learning to
operate as a global team. How we can increase our efficiency as a
global team, because of the time zone difference. Its either 12
and a half or 13 and a half hours difference. Theres no overlap
in time of day when the two offices are there. How to do design
meetings when half your team is not at your site. How to rely more on
e-mail and less on face-to-face meetings.
Its been a huge learning curve for us, but I really
feel good about the program right now. It still impacts a lot of the
personal lives of those here and in India. My staff meetings as
R&D manager used to be at six in the morning, so we could have
the section managers from India there. I still have one-on-ones at
9:30 at night. Every CSY R&D employee has had to have that kind
For the first number of years, the ramp up was even
greater: every night wed be doing training sessions. Weve
gotten to a steady state now. At first Bangalore provided current
product engineering, bug fixes only. Its probably one-third of
what Bangalore does now, and two-thirds new development. That was
always our goal. In the last year instead of duplicating teams,
evolving to where we have centers of expertise. If you look at the
majority of where our networking work is done, other than the PCI new
driver development, all of the rest of it is done in Bangalore. If
you look at databases, we have a small number of engineers here, but
the majority of the work for the databases is done in Bangalore. If
you look at kernel, its still split 50-50. This cuts down on
the overhead when half your team isnt there.
we decide to launch a new networking project, it will probably be in
Bangalore. We have two labs, and they have different expertise.
Your engineering dollars go farther in India?
Thats hard to say. The cost per engineer, in
salaries and floor space, is pretty significantly cheaper. In the
Cupertino organization, the average experience is 15 years. Once you
weigh all those things, its hard to answer. The average
experience there is two and a half to three years. I view what
weve done as a big success for the business, but at the same
time very challenging for the people. This has become part of our
culture. People enjoy working at CSY because of the flexibility we
give. We have many people who have decided to leave the Bay area. We
are a global environment.
Why is it necessary to fork the operating system to
think theres confusion over what we mean by fork. Our goal is
to have common source meaning that if we put new features into
the CI, for example, for the version of MPE that sits on IA-64,
youll still get that functionality on PA-RISC. We will have to
have separate binaries, so the operating system will be compiled with
either a PA compiler or an IA compiler. It will be different bits,
but we really hope that wont be something the customer sees. Is
there a fork in the operating system? Internally, there will be
things like low level code that actually talks to the hardware. There
will be separate code for the two different platforms. But I
dont think customers are really going to see that.
When a customer says fork, they think when the IA-64
version comes out there wont be new stuff on the PA-RISC
version. That is not the case. This is very different from when we
went from CISC to PA-RISC. That was a complete start over, to rewrite
the kernel and user interface and then emulate the old one. With this
were only changing the low-level code, so all the high level
code will be the exact same code. That wasnt the case when we
went from MPE V to MPE XL. From a customers perspective, that
was a fork, because we didnt have common source for the user
interface, for example. Our goal here is to have common source
wherever possible. To date I havent seen a place where we
arent able to do that.
Will customers have more than one version of MPE if
they have PA-RISC boxes and IA-64 boxes?
They will have different binaries. Our goal would be that
this is not a big deal for customers at all. Im also leaving
open the door that theyll have a lot of work to do. Its
true that well support more than one version of MPE, but I
dont think the customer will ever know. It will be forked at a
level much lower than what you think of as the operating system.
Whats your philosophy about bundling
functionality in MPE versus working with third party vendors? How
much are the customers entitled to for free?
First of all, the customers would argue that nothing is
free; theyre paying. When you say free you mean included. I
dont have a clear answer. If you look at the way the industry
has evolved, third parties have been providing much more
functionality, and charging for it. Historically, where the 3000 has
come from, we bundled it and included it. I think Im trying to
find a happy medium. To continue to be successful I need to do less
bundling and including, and more relying on third parties to complete
the overall solution which by the way will mean customers will
have to pay for some of that functionality.
Which does beg the question about why you would expect HP
to give it to you for free, since theres clearly value there. I
dont want to go strictly to the far end of the scale, where
Unix and NT is you get nothing bundled, and you buy it all. At
the same time I have to move a little bit in that direction, so that
we can be competitive. If we try and do everything ourselves,
were gonna fail. We just dont have the resources. And the
third parties will fail, because theres nothing out there for
them to do.
will still bundle things, much more than Unix or NT, but youll
see where we do find opportunities where it does make sense to work
with third parties. The logic that Id like to use to decide is
Who has the best expertise? If were not the best
people to do that, Id like to have that opportunity for the
third parties. Thats the commitment Im making to the
third parties; there will be opportunities. For this entire ecosystem
to survive, we need everybody to win.
From a customers point of view, you will need to
look for third party solutions a bit more than you have in the past.
But not nearly as much as you do in Unix and NT environments. I do
believe this is a differentiator for the 3000. We will try to
articulate that. Its part of the value proposition, that you
get a lot of that stuff, and you dont have to pay for every
Its not because were just trying to get out of
doing stuff. To make this whole ecosystem successful, everybody has
to have some skin in the game. That includes the third parties as
well as the customers. Ive had frank discussions with customers
who say Why isnt that bundled? I say, because
its adding value. Shouldnt you pay for value? They
understand the point, and it depends who you ask. The technical
people and lower level managers say we should give them all that
stuff. The people who are running the business understand that
everybody is in business and if theres value in it,
theyll pay for it.
Isnt it difficult at times, because those
technical people often carry the torch for the 3000?
They do. They are our road warriors, and carrying the
torch. I need to be able to help them articulate the value to their
Can you describe what its been like to follow Harry
Sterling in the GM job? What are the upsides and challenges that
youve experienced in the last three months?
Its been great. Harry has been such a good personal
coach for me. [As of late November] hes not gone yet, and
Ive been to his desk many times to ask him What do you
think? Ive told him I plan on using him for advice as
long as I can get a hold of him. Ive spent most of my time in
areas that are new to me. I havent spent a lot of time on the
R&D side. Ive got a really great management team on the
R&D side, and they have not pulled me into anything. Which is
great and also makes me think I wasnt needed!
Thats a good thing. Ive spent most of my time
talking to customers and the channel and marketing, with Client
Systems, making sure I know what the issues and plans are there. One
of my personal goals is to get more engaged with end-user customers,
and also with our third parties and ISVs. Ive been on three
times as many of those calls as I would have in the past.
Im really looking forward to getting back out and
meeting one-on-one with customers. I have to balance that with the
family thing. Just like any new job, theres a big spike in the
amount of effort I put into it, so I can feel comfortable Im
doing a good job. Im clearly in one of those spikes now,
working long hours and loving it. My wife is very understanding;
shes seen it with every promotion Ive gotten.