| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |
Click for Lund Sponsor Page News Icon

March 2003

HP proposes new MPE emulator licenses

First draft of HP’s offer to cost $500; company expects to issue licenses in 2004

Full text 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 hadn’t sprung into action on the basis of HP’s 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 HP’s tenor about homesteading help that it delivered during the 2002 HP World conference meetings.

Mike Paivinen, the HP engineer assigned to organize HP’s response to customer requests for a longer MPE lifespan, posted a notice to the OpenMPE mailing list after midnight on Feb. 22, outlining HP’s intentions to sell more MPE after Oct. 31 of this year.

Low cost, low maintenance

HP’s 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 won’t require customers to disable any HP 3000s they currently own.

HP won’t provide any means to transfer these $500 licenses, however, citing a desire to keep costs down. It also won’t 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 doesn’t want to resell MPE after Oct. 31, just offer it directly through means such as Web sites or CDs.

“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 HP’s cost, he explained. “HP is trying to reduce its internal costs to deliver MPE

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.”

Emulation motivation

But the language of the first draft hadn’t motivated Allegro Consultants, one of the most likely firms to create a 3000 emulator. Vice president Gavin Scott said the roadblocks that remain include HP’s lack of firm commitment, as well as waiting until 2004 for licenses to begin to flow. There’s also the challenge of funding what Scott called a million-dollar project.

“It’s hard to make a decision to invest real, non-refundable money in response to HP’s ‘don’t 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 there’s 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.”

HP’s first draft notes that the company won’t offer emulator licenses if no emulator is created, a chicken-and-egg standoff that hasn’t motivated Allegro to start cutting code.

“We’re still neutral on the whole thing,” Scott said. “The current announcement really doesn’t move us much closer to a decision either way on the project, which leaves us in the default state where we’re 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 at presstime.

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. It’s probably less than this to get 1.0 developed, but it’s still the right order of magnitude for discussion purposes.”

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 there’s no guarantee yet that HP will be able to follow through with their licensing proposal as it exists today.”

OpenMPE, which hasn’t collected much in fees up to now while negotiating HP’s 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 OpenMPE’s chairman Jon Backus, “prior to last year’s 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 harder.”

Customer reaction

HP’s 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.

Homesteading advocates — by the NewsWire’s tally, more than one third of customers polled late last year — found the most to like with HP’s 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 helping him.

“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 wasn’t changing much for his organization.

“I don’t 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. “HP’s 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, probably Unix-based.”

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 it’s 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 Holland.

“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.”


Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.