HP proposes new MPE emulator licenses
First draft of HPs offer to cost $500; company expects
to issue licenses in 2004
of HP's license proposal
Homesteading customers of the HP 3000 got a new hook
to hang their hopes upon last month, when during the dark of a
weekend night HP posted its first cut at licensing details for new
copies of MPE. Initial reaction from the community labeled the
proposal as a good start. But as we took the NewsWire to press,
potential creators of the software-based HP 3000 emulators
hadnt sprung into action on the basis of HPs offer.
Some of the reservation stems from the fact that HP
has not yet made a firm commitment to the new licenses, which are a
vital part of any effort to create an HP 3000 emulator running on
non-3000 hardware. The HP proposal still includes the phrase HP
intends, which represents little change from HPs tenor
about homesteading help that it delivered during the 2002 HP World
Mike Paivinen, the HP engineer assigned to
organize HPs response to customer requests for a longer MPE
lifespan, posted a notice to the OpenMPE mailing list after midnight
on Feb. 22, outlining HPs intentions to sell more MPE after
Oct. 31 of this year.
Low cost, low maintenance
HPs offer would give customers a $500 copy of
MPE/iX to run on an emulated platform, one that is not an HP 3000.
The MPE license must be run on HP hardware, though the company admits
there will be no technical feature to enforce that restriction. The
license wont require customers to disable any HP 3000s they
HP wont provide any means to transfer these
$500 licenses, however, citing a desire to keep costs down. It also
wont allow emulator vendors to resell the $500 MPE licenses
along with emulation software, or send a demo version of the MPE
license along with trial copies of an emulator. A prospect
considering the use of a 3000 emulator must buy the $500 license from
HP directly before they can test any emulator.
Jeff Vance, the HP representative on the OpenMPE
board of directors which negotiated the first draft of the agreement,
said in an Internet posting that HP doesnt want to resell MPE
after Oct. 31, just offer it directly through means such as Web sites
HP does not wish the emulator vendors to be
official resellers, which is what would be necessary for them to be
able to buy MPE and resell it to their customers, he said.
Also, HP desires the final end user (licensee) to directly
agree to the terms and conditions of the new MPE/iX license.
Vance said the process should enable the emulator
vendors to go forwards with a business and technical analysis,
eliminating the worry if the license issues would prevent them from
making a business out of selling an emulator.
We intend to sell an MPE license divorced from
e3000 hardware, at a very low price, so that the license and its
price are not a deterrent for anyone considering purchasing an
emulator, Vance said.
Limiting transfers reduces HPs cost, he
explained. HP is trying to reduce its internal costs to deliver
so that we can make the price to customers as low as
possible. One way to keep the selling price low is to eliminate
transfers and refunds. There is an admin savings to us.
Bob Green of HP 3000 software provider Robelle
Consulting Technology said the first draft of the license looked
encouraging. The HP proposal makes a lot of sense to me. Very
simple, low price, easy to administer.
But the language of the first draft hadnt
motivated Allegro Consultants, one of the most likely firms to create
a 3000 emulator. Vice president Gavin Scott said the roadblocks that
remain include HPs lack of firm commitment, as well as waiting
until 2004 for licenses to begin to flow. Theres also the
challenge of funding what Scott called a million-dollar project.
Its hard to make a decision to invest
real, non-refundable money in response to HPs dont
hold us to any of this announcement, Scott said. I
appreciate the difficulty and effort required by CSY to get as far as
they have, and that theres nothing that says they have to do
any of this stuff. They really do feel some responsibility towards
their homesteading customers. But a year is a long time, and any
number of events inside HP could wipe out the people who are driving
this program forward.
HPs first draft notes that the company
wont offer emulator licenses if no emulator is created, a
chicken-and-egg standoff that hasnt motivated Allegro to start
Were still neutral on the whole
thing, Scott said. The current announcement really
doesnt move us much closer to a decision either way on the
project, which leaves us in the default state where were not
yet working on developing an emulator. There are at least two other
companies with an interest in doing an emulator, so maybe one of them
will feel more optimistic as a result of the HP announcement.
SRI, which makes a software-based emulator for the
Digital VAX hardware, and Strobe Data, which has created a hardware
emulator for the HP 1000 systems, have both expressed interest in the
3000 market. Neither company had commented on the HP license proposal
Funding a commodity in short supply in the
stalled economy would help motivate Allegro to proceed, Scott
said. I think if we could solve the problem of funding the
development of the initial emulator version, then it would be a
no-brainer to proceed with the project. But at the moment that would
require someone willing to contribute something on the order of $1
million. Its probably less than this to get 1.0 developed, but
its still the right order of magnitude for discussion
Scott suggested some large customer, a small group of
customers, or some other entity will need to see the emulator
as a solution to a problem of that magnitude and be willing to
make a significant contribution to the development in an environment
where theres no guarantee yet that HP will be able to follow
through with their licensing proposal as it exists today.
OpenMPE, which hasnt collected much in fees up
to now while negotiating HPs MPE license offer for an emulator,
sits at a natural nexus for such funding. The OpenMPE board met
with [Scott] and the others from Allegro, said OpenMPEs
chairman Jon Backus, prior to last years Solution
Symposium and talked about a funding model. Certainly now that we
have HP off of square one we will have to start looking at it much
HPs offer had sparked mostly positive and a
some negative reaction from the customer community at presstime. But
several customers reported that the license announcement had not
changed their plans to follow their application providers to Unix, or
to replace 3000 apps with off the shelf solutions.
advocates by the NewsWires tally, more than one
third of customers polled late last year found the most to
like with HPs offer. Zelik Schwartzman, who manages MPE
manufacturing applications for makeup and fragrance maker Estee
Lauder, said his personal opinion was that HP made a stride toward
The announcement is definitely a huge step in the
right direction, Schwartzman said. If I could say one
word to Mike Paivinen, that word would be Bravo! 500
dollars is a mere spit in the bucket as opposed to the
thousands and thousands of dollars that would have to be expended in
re-writes of in-house software.
But Tom Gerken of ProMedica, a health care
organization based in Toledo, Ohio, said the HP offer wasnt
changing much for his organization.
I dont believe this will impact us at
all, said Gerken, who reported to the NewsWire in
November his company was still forming a Transition plan.
Unless Amisys decides to use this as an excuse to homestead on
the HP 3000, we will either follow them to HP-UX or choose a
competitor of theirs which more than likely will involve
moving to Windows 2000.
For some, the HP announcement came too late.
HPs announcement had no effect on our plans, said
Paul Meyerhofer of Wilson Greatbatch Technologies, a manufacturer of
cardiac device power sources. We recently made the decision
that we are definitely moving away from MPE within the next 18
months. We are going to migrate from MANMAN to another ERP system,
The announcement, first released on the OpenMPE
mailing list, had drawn only a few end-user customer comments on that
list by presstime. But a 3000 manager at Time Inc. felt encouraged
that HP had made its offer.
I personally think its a step in the
right direction, said James Reynolds. Could it be better?
Yes. But then again, it could be not at all.
MPE Forum member John Burke, who also chairs SIG-MPE,
said All-in-all I think it is a good start on something we can
live with. Mike [Paivinen] calls it a draft and my hope is
that he means it in the sense that there is negotiating room on some
of the stickier points.
Independent consultant Cecile Chi said the first
draft is very welcome news, and I appreciate the effort that
went into it. The conditions and costs seem reasonable to me, even
though some of the rules are not easily enforceable.
The HP milestone will need to trigger development to
play a part at NWS Corp, according to MIS site manager Karsten
An important consideration for us is the time
to market, Holland posted prior to the HP announcement.
Every month that goes by without a prototype of this emulator
is another month of searching for a migration solution. An existing
prototype, and a plan for making it available for purchase, could be
the de-facto long-term solution for those who have not already made
heavy investments in migrating to another platform.