HP World stands at brink of changes
Conference woos 3000 users with donated stand; group sails
toward more independence from HP
Interex, the HP user group built on a mission of
advocacy, is advocating attendance of the HP 3000 community this
month at the groups signature, sustaining event. But this
years HP World will mark the last soiree where the systems
vendor and its oldest user group will dance cheek to cheek.
HP announced in late July that it will mount a new
technical user conference in September, 2005, reaching out to members
of Interex, Tandem, OpenView and Encompass user groups. The Interex
board of directors then voted on August 3 to pursue an independent
path, sticking to its plans to exclusively produce the next HP World
in August, 2005.
The two conferences will vie for exhibit space sales,
speakers and sponsorships, the first time Interex has faced a serious
challenge to its user conference business. HP already produces an
Americas Field Sales Conference each year including a partner expo
HPs David Parsons, VP of enterprise segment
marketing for the Americas, said HP wants to create a training event
for its employees and partners, one which includes an invitation to
user group members. The HP conference strives to tie together
platform training just like Parsons said its customers are
integrating disparate HP platforms.
Weve approached each of the user groups
in a cooperative dynamic, he said. User group communities
are very platform-centric. Theyre very passionate folks.
Probably some of the most passionate ones are the HP 3000 folks, the
Tandem folks, the OpenVMS folks. But they recognize that their
systems need to interconnect with others. I dont think this
[conference] compromises any of their interests.
But after this month, HP World must draw attendees
and exhibitors who will consider the new HP show as another
opportunity to be purchased. We want to invite our customers to
enjoy the same deep, rich technical training that we provide to our
partners and customers, Parsons said.
The fact that Interex has now chosen to continue with
its own conference in 2005 the same decision was made by the
Tandem and OpenView users groups wont change HPs
If the charter of the groups is to create
technical training, were going to try to create an event that
will allow them to do that, Parons said. Encompass, the
Compaq/Digital user group, voted to hold its 2005 event inside
We respect Interexs decision,
Parsons added. We will continue to support them to some level.
It wont change our plans. We still have a huge requirement to
train employees and partners.
Parsons said HP will look to any co-producing user
groups so far, just Encompass to drive the Expo portion
of its conference. These user groups will share revenues from the
Expo to support and sustain those organizations. The user
groups charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to
train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.
The fate of HP World has more impact on the 3000
customers who are leaving the platform than those who are staying to
homestead, according to exhibitors and community leaders who helped
found the user group.
Its all focused on migration, said
Terry Floyd, founder of ERP support solutions company the Support
Group, inc. I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World
will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. Were sending someone to
talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.
Paul Edwards, a former Interex board member, chairman
of the MPE Forum and an independent HP 3000 consultant, said the user
groups focus has drifted from its founding 3000 members.
Interex has not focused on the MPE customers at
all in the last few years, Edwards said. Thats
understandable, based on sales of other products and HPs
picking up the Compaq customer base. HP World is just not relevant to
the MPE customers anymore. HPs not really doing the response to
the 3000 advocacy they used to do.
Even while the communitys homesteading
constituency plans to pass up the meeting, Interex has reached out a
little further to welcome 3000 users. This years show includes
the first HP e3000 Community Networking Lounge, a
double-booth of expo hall space and Internet access donated by the
user group and sponsored by a handful of 3000 vendors. HP 3000
business manager Dave Wilde and R&D director Ross McDonald were
among those scheduled for lounge appearances.
But MPE-related sessions at HP World now number fewer
than 30 out of a total thats close to 600. Over the last two
full conference days, the 3000 sessions are on a single track,
augmented by just five meetings of Special Interest Groups (SIGs),
which once numbered more than 20. All but a handful of the MPE
meetings at the show will detail migration advice, while the list of
3000 advocates in attendance will be missing some notable names.
During the 30 years that HP sold the 3000, HP World
provided advocacy engagements for 3000 customers. Community advocates
said that HPs dwindling attention to the server will mean less
advocacy attention at HP World.
The customers are feeling like theres
nothing there for them to talk to HP about, Edwards said.
Most of the SIGs were 3000-based, and the volunteers were
For example, the IMAGE database SIG will not meet at
the annual show for the first time in 14 years even though
SIG-IMAGE/SQL chair Ken Sletten acknowledges that engineering
IMAGE/SQL for the SQL99 standards remains an unresolved issue.
Sletten passed on attending HP World 2004, after leading enhancement
requests for many years.
Olav Kappert, whose IOMIT International firm has
served 3000 sites for nearly 30 years, said HP looks eager to stop
spending on 3000-related user group events.
HP would rather not spend another dime on
something that has no future with them, he said. It will
first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere
in-between, maybe even Interex will disappear.
HPs consolidation quest
The 2005 conference picture plays a major part in
deciding the user groups fate. HP wanted to consolidate its
outlay for user conferences, according to Interex board chairman
Denys Beauchemin, one element that led to the announcement of
HPs new technical conference. Beauchemin said the group
doesnt believe its 2005 show will battle for conference
resources with HPs own event.
Were not competing with HP,
Beauchemin said of HP World 2005. HPs going to be there
next year. He said HP will scale back drastically
its involvement in the show. Beauchemin estimated that HP spending
makes up about 10 percent of HP World revenues.
Last month the user group polled part of its
membership on what Interex should do about its 2005 conference. In
its poll, Interex offered two choices to the members: To become less
independent of HP and benefit from strong investment from the vendor,
or assert more independence in its conference and rely less on
Interex was already contracted for 2005 conference
space at San Franciscos Moscone Center. The group has announced
in a statement that its 2005 conference will offer a diverse
line-up of membership driven solutions-oriented sessions and content
tracks, and that the user group will work closely with
partners and HP to plan the content. It also noted that
pre-registration of 2004s full conference attendees is up 10
percent over last years show.
Such future HP World participation has been a popular
topic in the 3000 community this summer. HP told the user group that
its customers wanted a single user group show to attend, rather than
meetings for Interex, Tandem, Compaq/Digital and OpenView.
Beauchemin said HP told Interex that it wants to
invest less in independent user conferences. Beauchemin sees
HPs involvement as essential to the conferences survival.
If HP were to say it wasnt interested in
going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue, he
said. They said they have four user group conferences to attend
after their merger. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events
they try to go to especially the ones that are not in their
Fewer familiar faces
HP World and Interex meetings offered a forum for
customers to air complaints and learn about HP 3000 future plans. But
with the vendors 3000 life-cycle set to expire in December,
2006, customer advocates are dropping their talking sticks. Some of
the strongest 3000 supporters say this years show will be their
Jeanette Nutsford, whos chaired the SIG-COBOL
group for more than 15 years, told members in July she wont be
attending next years show. Seasoned 3000 experts like Robelle
and Adager, which provide first-call MPE support as a courtesy to
their customers, wont appear on the expo floor or give talks.
Budget cutbacks at Interex and elsewhere have forced some regulars to
drop the show.
This will be the first conference Ive
missed in 22 years, Edwards said. Interex paid travel expenses
for leading volunteers such as Edwards, but the organization had to
cut back its volunteers budget this year.
Budget issues prompted the Interex choice of an
independent conference, according to some in the 3000 community.
Joining an HP mega-show, as one board member called the
new HP technical conference, would mean sharing revenue that is
essential to Interexs viability.
I know from being on the board that
Interexs main income is from the conference, ex-board
member Edwards said. Interex could have continued with HP
running the conference, but theyd be in danger of HP dropping
them like a hot rock. They also would have lost their worth as a user
group: Pushing HP a little bit on issues.
In the meantime, this months conference will
marshal the remains of the 3000 community one more time. Benefits of
attendance have tilted toward networking for 3000 manager and vendor
even with tech sessions like a four-hour hands-on tutorial
about migration to IMAGE-workalike database Eloquence on the
Such sustained speaker spots have become rare
opportunities. Chris Wong, whos presented at many years of
Interex events, said this years crowded schedule is changing
the value of HP World. When she submitted a proposal for a two-hour
SSH talk, Wong was asked to cut it short.
Conferences like HP World can only continue to
exist for non-technicals or for techies who are looking for general
information that isnt too detailed, she said.
Its hard to get too technical when youve only got
an hour. There are much better places to go to learn about anything
But that networking will draw at least one 3000
manager to see his first HP World. Mike Baker, a 3000 manager at
employee benefits firm AMG whos got 20 years of MPE experience,
will make his first trip to the conference, even though his company
is migrating off its HP 3000.
Ive never been to one of these, and my
friend [Michael Liska] who retired in June asked me if I could pal
around with him when he goes, he said. Baker lives near Chicago
and plans to attend for a single day at his own expense. AMGs
migration will take longer than HPs planned support life,
and theres got to be other people there who are taking
steps to keep their boxes running.