Paul Edwards and
Commanding HP 3000 Conservation
Paul Edwards is committed to conserving what the
e3000 community has created. The owner of a Dallas-based consulting
firm since 1980, Edwards has been a familiar face in the community
for more than 25 years. His experience with system management and
application development for HP 3000s includes posts with HP 3000
vendors and HP itself, a position on the Interex Board of Directors,
and then on into training classrooms around the US teaching 3000
fundamentals and new system management skills for HP and third-party
suppliers. As it turns out, Edwards will lead one of the first
classes on the newest version of MPE/iX 7.0, teaching an Express 1
course at Tech Group University early next month.
not the newest developments of the HP 3000 which drew our attention
to Edwards, or even the years of experience dating back to punched
card days of the platform when he was a system engineer and district
manager for HP. A few months ago the retired US Navy Commander began
to talk up a concept for using the existing applications written for
MPE as a springboard for reviving the systems applications
business. HP has long made reference to the thousands of programs
once sold and supported for MPE, and pointed to their demise as a
fact of life. Edwards refuses to accept the situation as an
unchangeable fact, and wants the vendor and its business partners to
see the value in those applications. As a long-time partner of HP and
the community, Edwards was listening while HP was promoting its
e-services message for the system. He believes providing applications
on tap requires applications without risk: those proven in the field
and with little to lose in trying the ASP model.
about conserving the systems accomplishments seemed especially
poignant this month, as the HP e3000 is turning 29 years old. We
asked Edwards to outline why his conservation program might help the
3000 community, as well as his views on other matters of preservation
for the platform.
Youve mentioned an idea about using
existing, under-developed HP 3000 applications as a means to help
revive the community. What kinds of software seem to be the best
prospects for the plan, and what sorts of resources would be
It began with a friend of mine who used a
medical collections package, and talked to me about setting up a
separate company to do medical collections. He wondered if I might be
able to take over the software package. Then there was a
mini-warehouse application written by Chris Schaefer, also being
It occurred to me
there was a lot of software out there in the 3000 world where
companies were leaving the platform to develop on Linux or whatever
the OS of the day was. They were either shelving or trashing the
software. I got to thinking about the software application
development cycle. If you want to develop a package for one of these
industries, youre probably looking at two to four years of
development. Its hard to get venture capital for that kind of
environment, because youre betting on the come for a
considerable period of time.
You could take these packages, and you can
liberate them by paying a license fee or just rescuing it from the
dumpster. Most of it is written in COBOL, and the report part of it
has been tested for years. You could take that software and put a
pretty GUI front end on it, and run it over the Internet or over a
Do you expect the venture would sell new HP 3000s,
since HP says applications sell the platform?
doesnt have to buy a 3000 unless hes a good enough size
to own his own system. You could get into an ASP model with it and go
after some fairly small companies as customers. Medical collection is
one area, and that product could be modified for other kinds of
businesses. You could expand the scope of the vertical package. The
mini-warehouse package could be expanded to RV parks and marinas,
where people are renting space, garages where people are renting
space for cars.
Theres several products around like
that, and if people look for them, we could pick them up at a pretty
good price. HP must have some old application catalogs with these
There are, of course, hurdles to be overcome in
organizing such a business, right?
Someone could call these companies, see if
theyre in business and go pick them off, and dust them off, and
go run them. You could run this from an ASP model.
talked with the folks at the CSY [e3000] division about this, and
folks at Client Systems also. Nobody seemed to have a lot of interest
in it at this point. As I looked at it, the problem I saw in going
out and doing it myself is the technical part is the easy part of it.
The hard part is to go get somebody to run the finances, do the
billing, the HR stuff, the overhead stuff. You also need salespeople
to go to the trade shows for the vertical industries, to find
customers to show them the product. I suggested that Client Systems
could do some of that overhead, we could get technical people to do
the overhaul, and the applications could be hosted on 3000s at Client
The idea would be
to go out to the customers and sell them on the concept that all you
need is a PC and a connection to the Internet, and wed charge
them by the transaction. Much like the Open Skies model. Youd
need to figure out what that per-transaction cost is so you could
make a profit.
What are the positives of the plan?
The hardware is available. The technical
talent is available, and that talent can telecommute, so thats
not a problem. It seems like a good idea since you would take
applications that had been tested, and have them out and ready for
market in 60-90 days, instead of several years. With all the dot-coms
going away, it should be something you could sell fairly easily if
you had a good business plan for venture capital. A lot of those VC
guys dont have any place to put their venture capital these
days. You have to get back to the basics.
You continue to work with the 9x7 platform as part of
your consulting business. Can you make a business case for why HP
should have continued to support 7.0 on those systems?
In 1984 I leased a Cadillac El Dorado, part
of my philosophy that if you look successful, youll be
successful. When I got through with the lease Id had virtually
no problems with the car, much like the HP 3000. I decided Id
buy it out of the lease. I didnt want to go lease another one,
because it was during one of the valleys of my consulting time. I
kept it awhile longer, and replaced things like alternators, air
conditioning compressors, brakes and tires.
My wife asked me
why I didnt go buy a new one. I said the car was in great
shape, I knew its maintenance history and it was reliable. I got good
support from the dealer, and owning it cost a little less than some
cars. See, theres all these parallels with HP 3000s. I figured
if I spent less than the $5,000 a year lease fees on mechanical
repairs, I was ahead. I continued to invest in it, and its
to 9x7 HP 3000s, first off, theyll run for probably another 20
to 30 years without a problem. The only thing that will wear out on
them would be disk or tape drives. My Cadillac salesman would see me
for years and ask, Arent you ready to trade that
in? I said until the car quits, or I cant get parts for
it anymore, why trade it in? Theres value in it for the dealer.
He said the value is that I am bringing it back to them for service.
Support money is coming in.
problem with HP. All of those support dollars around the 3000
dont go to CSY. Theyve got a bad internal money model in
HP for that. If it was the way it should be, where CSY got the
support money, I think youd see a lot of difference. Then there
would not be so much of a push to get everybody onto the new boxes.
You sell the product once, but youve got support thats
continuous. Its easier to sell to existing customers than find
For the 927s,
theyre giving them away. But the value is still there, and
these things dont break. Out of the five HP 3000s Ive
owned, none of them have caused me problems. You could support them
very easily, but HPs [9x7] choice will have them losing support
dollars. The 9x7s are the majority of the installed base. I think a
third of them are going to upgrade, a third will go to something
else, and a third will keep them awhile and then do something else.
HPs only making money on a third of these customers. I can see
why HPs doing it, but its a problem because theyre
cutting off a loyal customer base. The new HP is too commodity
minded, in my opinion.
Youve taught MPE skills for a long time in
the community, both for HP and on your own. Why is enrollment
declining for HPs MPE courses?
Its declining because HP didnt
teach classes for five years, and there was a pent-up demand for
training when they started again. I was one of the people who re-did
classes for HP, the system manager class for 6.0. That pent-up demand
was met, and the customer base started shrinking when the pent-up
demand was met. Theres a sustainable amount of training that
needs to go on, but its smaller.
of the application providers dont encourage their customers to
go to HPs training, because the providers offer their own
training on the 3000. The training on their products is good, but the
training on MPE is not, according to their customers, because they
dont have long-term MPE people teaching.
Another reason is
HPs marvelous marketing, or lack thereof. HP says the classes
are on their Web site and listed in their catalog. Theyre not
going out to the customer base and letting them know, doing mailings.
Whats the advantage of taking training from
HP versus a third-party outlet?
HP has good training centers and a set class
that they give, so everybody teaches from the same material.
Its standardized. People who teach from the outside can
sometimes not teach at the level of HPs instructors. HP does
quality assurance on their courses.
On the other hand,
outside instructors have more real-world experience than the
instructors from HP, because theyre never outside HP,
consulting at customer sites.
is that CSY doesnt own the training business at HP. The
graphics and material on most of the slides are not up to date. A
proposal was made to CSY that would allow Client Systems to outsource
the classes, which got lots of positive response from CSY, but
negative response from the HP Education Group. They wanted to
continue to teach in-house. But, they have had a major cut back in
the number of classes offered and the number of teaching sites
recently. They have also cancelled some classes due to low
enrollment. This proposal could have done a lot to improve the
quality of the classes and made them more available to the HP e3000
customers and resellers technical staff.
Whats the continuing value of HPs
supporting DTCs on the 3000?
DTCs are real important for printers and
terminals, and there are still a lot of customers in the
manufacturing community that use terminals. Theyre also
important for modems to dial into systems, but because of the
Internet, most of those requirements are going away.
Do the current level of services offered to 3000
developers through the CSPP and its progeny meet the markets
When you look at the current program,
its very Unix-, Linux- and Web-oriented on the Web site. When
you look at it from the 3000, its a stepchild, like everything
else. The development software bundle is very valuable, and if we
could figure out how to put it together with the applications we
talked about, youd find more 3000 developers using
The MPE release
schedule is backward. Customers receive the latest releases way
before the developers do. This causes problems for the developers
trying to troubleshoot problems in the latest releases. Beta releases
are sent out to prevent problems in the releases for the customers,
so the developers should have that opportunity, too. At the first of
November, I still dont have the 7.0 Express 1 release that was
distributed to customers the first of September.
Whats the role of a vendor-specific user
group in a heterogeneous computing world?
You cant have a platform-specific user
group anymore, because of the shrinking installed base of MPE and the
multiple operating systems in use at most customer sites today.
Rather than the control DEC and IBM have exerted over their user
groups, I think its great that Interex has independence from HP
to represent the customer base properly and provide advocacy for all
Does Open Source development have a significant
role in preserving the future of MPE?
At some point if HP decides to dump the 3000
and MPE, then it would be valuable. Im not sure that based on
the internals of the system internal, HP-only compilers used
on the operating system it would be otherwise. I dont
think the Shared Source project that Interex and HP have done works
at all. I dont think the mergers going to cause MPE to go
away, with the large 3000 customers in the installed base. I really
applaud CSY for setting up the Invent3k development machine for
developers that dont have their own systems.
Youre one of many HP shareholders who
watched your stock value drop in the Carly Fiorina era. Does the
proposed merger make sense to you?
I dont like the merger, and if I get a
shareholder proxy on it, I will vote against it. HP is trying to gain
market share without respect to employees and traditions.
Theyre becoming too commodity-driven. All of HP other than CSY
is commodity-driven. I dont think Carly has done the things she
needs to do to unify the company. I had a real problem with her not
being at the conference of all the HP users the last two years. Maybe
its time to think about another Wall Street Journal ad
Should HP be in the business of preserving its
technology investments, or leading its customers using the 3000 to
more modern technology?
Unix has lost its luster, and its not
really a scalable transaction processing system. I think that MPE has
a capability to run businesses very efficiently. Look at the AS/400;
its more successful than MPE, in large part because of its
applications, which we talked about earlier. CSY has done the right
thing in putting architecture standards on the 3000. Its the
best fully-featured open-system operating system on the market. MPE
and the 3000 have a niche that could be widened. I think HP should be
looking at that option. HP could talk about how open it is, and how
its the best operating system for business transactions.
Thats why they should be spending some of their money on