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Doug Felder
ORBiT Software


November 2004

Organizing a New Orbit of 3000 Experience

Doug Felder is working to bring a quartet of veteran 3000 companies into a cooperative orbit. The new Chief Operating Officer of ORBiT Software, Felder took the COO post directing the datacenter and backup provider this summer. His move came not long after he began talks with Allegro Consultants’ Steve Cooper about forming a new consortium of 3000 companies to fill the service and support void created by HP’s decision to quit the MPE business. ORBiT, Allegro, Lund Performance Solutions and Ideal Computer Services will make up Resource 3000; the group has held several meetings since its inception and will be firming up its brand message and Web site this month.

In his work with Resource 3000, Felder looks like he is re-creating the project he has been tasked with at ORBiT: to patiently nudge a collective of companies into a single corporation. Felder says his mission is to make a focused corporate entity out of ORBiT’s operations, which include separate companies in France, Germany, and the UK. ORBiT’s founder Joerg Grossler took the company’s CEO post in 2003 after buying out his partner Peter Ackermann. Groessler engaged Felder to analyze the company later that year.

Felder is returning to a marketplace where he began his career. His first job out of college was working with Hewlett-Packard in what was then called the Dymec division, the group that created HP’s first computer. The HP 2114 was on the company’s boards back then, one of the 3000’s predecessors. It was a time, Felder says, when founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would send employees a card and a gift on anniversaries.

Felder and the alliance partners want to aim the Resource 3000 consortium at that level of care, a kind of relationship that the oldest customers in the 3000 market recall fondly. Before a short stint with consulting firm InterVenture Partners, Felder worked for companies such as National Semiconductor, Seagate Software and secure networking supplier Hifn, often managing alliances between companies.

We wanted to know about the need for a consortium to serve the 3000 customers still using the machine, as well as how ORBiT’s future looks in the Transition era. We spoke by phone in the week before the US Presidential election.

Why organize a consortium for 3000 homesteading customers?

This consortium is the key for thousands of e3000 users to receive, now and in the future, timely, expert support from people who have hundreds of years experience with the e3000.

Do you think a smaller company can offer HP’s former level of service today? Can the 3000 customers ever hope to get that same kind of experience from smaller firms?

I would certainly hope so. We are making it our mandate to provide the best and we have assembled a team with the capability of meeting that mandate. I still believe in the fundamentals that HP was founded on, to treat the employees and the customers right, and provide the best technology and support available.

In fact, HP’s philosophy had a tremendous impact on the way I have approached business during my career. I started my own company and ran it for seven years based on the same principles: treat employees right, share the equity with them, provide your customers with the best service possible. If you make it the focus of your business, I believe you can treat the customers and employees the way Hewlett-Packard did years ago.

Are those the goals you want for Resource 3000?

I believe we need to provide more timely service,and better support, more timely service and support, in a more efficient way than HP has done recently. I know that the consortium members have more people with more experience than does HP at this time. We will be here for the customer base far beyond the period that HP has set for end of service.

What is ORBiT’s role in the consortium?

ORBiT plays a key role. We are an international sales and marketing company, as well as technology company that has provided a proprietary backup and restore product to the e3000 user for 12 plus years. We have European offices in the UK, Germany and France. We have been growing by reselling other people’s software and services. It makes sense for us because we have highly technical people in Europe to take on the front-line offering of the services and products associated with the Consortium companies.

HP probably still has the majority of the backup and restore business. When HP discontinues support, we will offer the customer support on a superior product.

Our ability to sell products and services in Europe could in some cases be beneficial to our Consortium partners. For example, we will be taking on Allegro’s services and representing them in Europe and the US.

Do you think the consortium companies will maintain some independent operations?

I think that is entirely possible if a partner offers a product or service outside of the e3000 environment.

A couple of your consortium members have not done much marketing. Is that one place where ORBiT adds value?

Absolutely. I hope that our international reach and technical experience will bring value to our partners. At ORBiT Germany, we have a manager [Bernd Olthoff] who has 20-years experience with Orbit and the e3000. Bernd will provide front-line support for Allegro in France, Spain, and Germany. All our European managers are very optimistic that they will expand Allegro’s support business in Europe in a short period of time.

That said, I would like to add that our partners have plenty of marketing experience and very creative ideas. Jerry Mills at Ideal, Steve Cooper at Allegro, Andy Herbert and Bill Lancaster at Lund Performance Solutions have all made more marketing contributions to the consortium than I have. For example, Andy and Bill’s team created the newspaper, and Jerry Mills developed our first Web site.

Do you think you will be wresting business from the third-party 3000 service and support suppliers, or replacing HP?

I would much rather win the HP business than go out after the other third-party companies. HP is telling their customers they will not support them after 2006, and they will need other methods to support themselves. I would much rather go after an abandoned market than one that is being serviced by a competitor.

Will it be tough to get companies who have been supported by a big HP to consider a smaller entity like yours?

The consortium consists of over 75 people with hundreds of years of HP 3000/MPE experience. We obviously have more years of 3000 experience in this consortium than HP currently has on their staff. If we can get that message across, then I do not think there is any problem.

Is it easier to get traction for this kind of consortium now, three years after HP’s 3000 announcement?

I think that earlier it would have been more difficult. The closer you get to a time of crisis, the more apt people are to pay attention and look for solutions.

Will Resource 3000 benefit from HP’s decision to release MPE source code to third parties?

It most likely would benefit many third party service organizations to have a license to the MPE source code. I’m unaware of any HP decision at this time to release the code.

Do you need to be that company that HP would license that source code to?

We don’t need to be, but it would allow us to provide enhancements to the code for our thousands of e3000 customers. The consortium partners want to create a team of experts providing timely, efficient, MPE support and service for our clients and ex-HP clients. With source code we could enhance the clients’ experience by offering MPE enhancements and bug fixes.

What will you be sharing?

At this time we will be sharing databases, a Web site, and marketing plans. A newspaper will be forthcoming in December.

How many 3000 users can you touch across your databases?

It’s in the thousands. We have 800-plus customers ourselves at ORBiT. A preliminary evaluation shows there’s some overlap with the other companies, but not as much as we thought.

What’s your guess on how big the 3000 market is these days?

We always throw around about 10,000 users. I don’t want to speculate on whether that’s 10,000 licenses for 3000s, or 10,000 companies.

What’s the next major milestone for the consortium?

Authentic Marketing, a marketing consulting group, is creating a brand bible for us which will be the document that governs development of all our marketing efforts and offerings. Once the brand bible is complete we will launch the Consortium with a new Web site, a newspaper created by the experts at Lund, an Executive Summary, press release and advertisements.

What about ORBiT’s future?

I’m doing a new business plan for 2005 right now. ORBiT has been a conglomeration of companies, and I’ve tried to bring them together as a corporation, so we can work better as a team and provide our customers services, support and the right products in a timely manner.

I’ve instituted things like putting on Grant Thornton in Europe to do the accounting so we get US GAAP-formatted accounting. We have a corporate consolidated financial statement, which we didn’t have before unless you took a look at an Excel spreadsheet.

I’m looking for new products to sell in Europe and the US. I’m making certain our technical guys are top-notch and can handle the new HP 3000 services and any new products we take on. With our development capability we’d like to be able to create another proprietary product — hopefully one as successful as the Backup Plus product that Joerg Groessler developed.

Do you think ORBiT’s future lies along HP 3000 products and services as its primary offering? How long do you think the company can ride the 3000 steed?

I’m putting us in the best position I can to take advantage of the situation. We do a lot of third party reselling, particularly in Europe.

We plan to offer the e3000 community enhanced products, services, and support for as long as the market demands. If the majority of the customers say they’re going to migrate sooner or later, that certainly is a message I should take into consideration as far as my plans are concerned.

How does it look like things have changed for the 3000 while you were away from the market?

If you look at the bell curve, you’re down at the bottom right-hand side of it. It isn’t a growing marketplace, but it may be a growing customer base for the consortium because HP’s abandoning the market.

In the HP 3000, there’s a product that has a legacy in what HP used to be all about. Evidence of that is that people are using a computer first developed over 25 years ago and it’s a viable, secure, reliable product. That’s almost unheard of in today’s market of disposable products.

The 3000 computer and MPE OS just keeps on truckin’ along. You don’t have to reboot it, like Windows products. It’s solid as a rock, secure, and reliable. It’s the old HP. I’m kind of a nostalgia guy, so it makes perfect sense to be in this market.

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