Looking Over a Surprising Year
Doug Greenup has seen the last year prove him wrong about
the 3000 markets transition movement, and hes happy about
the unexpected turn of events. Greenup founded Minisoft more than 20
years ago, a company that challenged bigger firm WRQ for emulator
market share and then built up a strong following for its middleware
products. Minisoft serves more than 10,000 companies with one or more
of its products, according to Greenup, giving the firm a broad
perspective of how the HP 3000 installed base has reacted to
HPs withdrawal from the market.
Greenup has been glad to see the customers take the
prudent path of sticking to the platform while they study their
options. While counseling customers to take their time,
Minisofts staff has been at work expanding its product base
during the year, releasing a new PDF forms product and adding
Eloquence support to its database connectivity tools. The company has
also stayed out of the migration business, despite an invitation from
HP to provide such tools.
Greenup and the Minisoft team occupy a unique position
in the marketplace, by our accounting a firm with a vast 3000
installed base that sells products in other markets and is sticking
with software as its core business. Minisoft supports Eloquence, but
doesnt sell it; sells cross-platform print and driver products,
but doesnt promote migration. We wanted to ask Greenup what
hes seen from Minisoft HP 3000 customers in the first year of
Transition, and what path the future holds for what he calls a very
smart customer base. We spoke in the week before the end of year
Minisoft is among those companies working both the
migration and homesteading sides of the 3000 marketplace. What do you
see among your customers regarding a readiness and willingness to
migrate versus staying put and improving what theyve
These customers are so smart to wait. The way theyre
hesitating like they are is brilliant. HP-UX is going to be around
for awhile, but now that the vendors are embracing it, I think Linux
has a shot. And I didnt think so a few months ago
I took a call a few months ago from a university thats
going to skip over HP-UX and go right to Linux. Theyre in no
hurry. Theyre looking to migrate, and theyve got some
Linux boxes in house and are going to use our ODBC driver to link
My belief is that the migration vendors are really
overestimating their opportunity. These customers who are waiting are
smart, because Linux may pay off for them. Ive always counseled
customers that theres no hurry.
There are people doing some stuff, and people doing
absolutely nothing. We see a few migrating, but they tend to be the
ones going to a new vertical package. Or its big companies that
have acquired someone, and they were required to migrate. Whats
ironic is that some companies are centralizing on big iron, and some
are still decentralizing. At International Paper they have no more IS
department; those 40 people are gone. [Chuckles] I dont know if
thats a migration or an absorb-tion.
The people who have home grown applications who have done a
lot of tinkering with them are not moving. I think theyre still
banking on OpenMPE. I think when push comes to shove theyll
eventually move. They cant find an off the shelf package, and
thats where the migration opportunity is for an MB Foster or an
MBS or a Speedware or a Lund. These guys might be an opportunity for
those partners. But theyre also the customers who are the most
technical and have the resource to do it themselves.
Youve chosen to skip the business of offering
migration services. Whats the thinking behind sticking with
Migration is a one-time thing. We talked about it because HP
came to us one of the few times they did and said they
were looking for companies that would be interested in migrating
customers with tools. We didnt think it was a long-term
opportunity. You put a lot of energy into it, and then its
done. Its not an enduring business, no support revenue. There
may be a product you develop, but could those products be sold after
the fact? The answer is probably not.
Instead of doing the migration, we decided we would focus on
building products that would have a life beyond this great migration.
Ways to adapt our middleware so it would have some use after someone
has migrated. An example of that is our ODBC and JDBC drivers can
support Oracle now. We support Eloquence. So just maybe, when our
customer base gets to Linux or Unix, theyll find value in our
middleware and continue to use it.
We also wanted to work on building other products we could
sell on Unix, NT and AS/400s that have nothing to do with migration:
document forms, archiving. We felt it was a better use of our
resources, rather than having them help companies migrate, to keep
them home working on products. Were a products company, not a
services company. Some of these other companies have had a lot of
experience in selling bodies to do things.
Weve made great strides, since all our products run on
all these other platforms. The migration stuff ties up your best
people, so theyre not building great products.
Weve heard that Java has helped move software to
other platforms easily for Minisoft. Did it do its job of getting the
3000 compliant with the rest of the computing world? How well has it
worked for companies writing software as you do?
Java really came late to the 3000 platform. Its a
shame, because Java runs pretty well on the 3000. By the time Java
showed up, the 3000 customer base had lost so much of its technical
expertise, and it couldnt get its arms around Java.
Java helped us tremendously. We took advantage of it. All of
our products are written in Java, and we continue to build in that
Youre still writing software like eDirect for the HP
3000. How do you justify your outlay of expertise for a market which
the vendor is leaving?
A lot of our customers ask that. Its not very hard to
do, because we develop in Java. The 3000s Java is good enough
for our purposes. Javas promise is write once, and run
everywhere, and it does. It takes about a week at most for a product
were developing on Unix, for example, to run on the 3000.
Thats not much of an investment. And the products run the same
on all the platforms.
We made the investment in Java years ago. If we were in C,
where we were a few years ago, it would be harder to justify the
The other reason we continue to develop is that we have a big
installed base on the 3000. We have 10,000-plus customers running one
or more of our products. Were very widely installed with our
emulation package. Our ODBC driver in the last few years has been
delivered to a very large number of HP 3000 shops. It makes all the
sense in the world to deliver technologies like eDirect to them with
the message that when the customers move, they can take it with them.
You just transfer the license.
You offer products across a lot of platforms. Which
alternative platforms are the favorites among the 3000 sites
A few months ago I would have said the 9000. When HP made its
announcement there was a lot of emotion and resentment toward HP. We
heard a lot of Ill never buy from HP again. In the
end, the majority of customers are looking at the 9000. I emphasize
looking, because Linux is a sleeper. That might still mean it will
run on HP hardware. For now, the safe choice and the path of least
resistance is HPs Unix. The hardware looks the same.
The next most popular platform, which has surprised some of
us, is Windows. If youve got a gigantic database, with gigs and
gigs of data, 400 users, Windows probably cant scale. I
havent seen companies like that adopt Windows. The customers
who run low-end 3000s, we see them giving some real consideration to
Windows. The smaller Ecometry shops are migrating to NT: Massage
Warehouse, PetDoors, Aquascape, are all NT now. These databases
arent that big, they have only 20 users or so. For companies
like Hickory Farms, the path is the 9000 and Oracle.
Is Linux ready to replace MPE/iX this year, or is it still
growing up to enterprise grade functionality?
I dont know what the timeframe is, but theres no
question Linux will be a player. Theres a stigma still, and I
just dont see a substantial company with some IT staff,
thats not a university, has bet the farm on Linux yet.
Its still just a little bit out there. Having said that,
were seeing a lot of Linux Web servers. Were seeing Linux
making its way into those companies for a specific need. If it proves
to do well, then maybe theyll take it the rest of the way.
But even if the technical comforts havent arrived
yet, it sure looks like Linux is a better choice for price at
least compared to the HP 3000 cost of ownership. What have you
In our experience weve competed with WRQ on price. Our
products were equivalent functionally, but there were companies that
made decisions amounting to spending three or four times more for the
other product. It was based on a perception that they were a more
substantial vendor. Many times companies will spend more money for
the security, comfort.
Its not always price. Free comes with its own set of
issues. I think youll find companies will pay a little more to
be comfortable. Remember, people get fired for screwing up,
especially in for-profit companies these days. I think theyll
be more risk-averse, and Linux has more risk. But I think its risk is
HPs announcement of last year about the 3000 makes
Oracle more compelling for some 3000 sites, as they look at where
theyre going next with their applications. How can the right
database access tools make adopting Oracle easier for 3000 sites?
They can use our products in a lot of different ways: to
migrate, or to do what most of them want to do, which is co-exist.
Most of them dont want to unplug the 3000, and be on a new box.
In most cases theyll have the 3000 awhile, and it will be a
player along with new boxes. Theyre looking for tools that will
allow them to coexist.
The ODBC and JDBC drivers can go with you in a move, so
theres still value in them. We try to protect our
customers investment, and quite honestly, our investment.
IBM says its iSeries will be a less costly alternative
than Unix solutions, because customers dont need a DBA for DB2.
Whats been your experience with that kind of claim among your
It may be accurate, but I dont think the customers will
listen. I dont know what advice I can give IBM to be more
effective with these customers. Theres been some talk of the
iSeries among our customers, and we sell to the AS400 and iSeries
market. I havent seen very much movement toward IBM by the 3000
community. Think about when many of them bought the 3000: they
probably considered IBM and ruled them out. I think it would be extra
hard for a lot of those guys to go IBM. It gets back to the change
Its not as strange for me to go to a 9000. Its
the devil you know, less change and less traumatic. If HP makes it
pretty simple, theyve got the home court advantage. IBM will
get a few, but among those theyve already gotten, IBM was
already somewhere in the company.
Is Eloquence ready to take over for TurboIMAGE?
Weve spent a lot of time with it, and its pretty
damn impressive. If you think about it, that product has been around
forever and its been underestimated. It works well, performance
is good, and its easy to support. We had our ODBC driver
running against it in very short order.
The problem [Marxmeier AG] will run into is the
companys size. There will be some doubt for a lot of people;
Oracle is so overwhelming with its name recognition. But were
so impressed with Eloquence that we will promote its use in our
customer base wherever it makes sense. I think its a wonderful
choice if people want the familiar feel of IMAGE and people
dont want to employ the overhead of Oracle.
What have your customers been doing in the first year of
the Transition era about the HP announcement?
A lot of it has just been researching, gathering information
about whats out there. The smart ones have been investing,
stocking up on 3000 hardware and components. Theyre going to
use this baby for another three to five years of productive use.
At first there was the denial and the shock, the anger. Then
they realized it really was going to happen. I think the people who
migrated in the last year were people who were going to do it anyway.
I didnt see anybody pull the plug and scream fire. I think
theyre doing a lot of soul-searching, asking what applications
are important to their business.
Is the economic slowdown a good thing for the 3000s
homesteading movement, since it might keep customers from jumping off
to less cost-effective platforms while homesteading gathers its
I think the slow economy has prevented some customers from
taking action later on in 2002. Once the economy turns up, I think
youll see some companies take action.
Anything that keeps the customer base on the box and slows
down the attrition is an advantage to the homesteading group. I
dont know if the OpenMPE movement is going to succeed or not; I
hope it does. I think it would be neat to have an emulator or two,
something that would allow the operating system to live on.
If an emulator became available, would you have your
products tested for use on it?
Of course. It would absolutely be to our advantage to have a
lot of those many customers of ours stay on the box. I think the slow
economy plays to that group. I hope HP will agree to do something.
But if HP doesnt, I dont think the installed base will go
How has your outlook for the 3000s prospects changed
in one years time from the HP announcement?
I was a lot more negative then, just after the announcement.
This shows you how much I dont know: I thought the switches
were going to get flipped and people were going to be out of here.
Looking back now, thats definitely what I thought then.
But resistance to change and the slow economy have meant very few
customers have moved. Thats what has startled me how few
have left. It makes perfect sense. You cant turn on a dime.
They would take the time to understand their business, whats
Do I think there will be a lot of migrations this year? I
dont think so. Its going to be a lot slower than I
How long will you be selling and supporting software for
the HP 3000?
We will absolutely continue. We dont have any fixed
date. If there are customers in any significant number around in
2010, well be supporting our products. We came out with a word
processor in 1982 for the 3000 called MiniWord, and we still support
it today. We just sold a MiniWord license today. It runs on 3000s,
Windows, 9000s, even HP 1000s.
Ive got to believe by 2010 most of the base will be
somewhere else. But if Im wrong, thats great too. We want
to continue to innovate and support and understand whats
happening out there. Its hard, because theres a lot going
on. Weve got a wonderful customer base that has been good to
I just wish MPE could be released, to offer a roadmap for the
benefit of the customer base. I wish as an organization HP could be
better at cutting MPE loose. It clearly is not a business HP wants to
be in anymore, so just find a way to let it go.