HP proceeds with MPE source audit
Project prepares vendor for potential pass-off of code
HP hasnt agreed to license its MPE/iX source
code to a third party yet. No guarantee exists that the vendor will
ever let non-HP engineers repair bugs and produce enhancements. But
HP has been working for months on a project that tells the vendor for
the first time about the condition of the HP 3000s source code
a precursor to passing off the operating environment to an
One result of the HP project might knock down such a
pass. The vendor might discover that its source code is not well
enough documented to release to any third party. HP could also get
blocked by any discovery about its own licenses for MPE modules. Some
parts of the 3000s operating system were not created by HP, but
licensed from other third parties.
But with the clock now under a year until HP decides
whether to give MPE/iX an outside life after 2006, the internal audit
will deliver crucial information to aid that decision. According to
HP engineer Jeff Vance, the vendor has assigned Mike Paivinen to lead
a group of engineers and managers to meet the needs of
customers who will be relying on their 3000s past the end of HP
Vance is part of the group, but just recently
rejoined the team after his recovery from a summertime mountain bike
accident. He said the HP work will help determine the current level
of MPE/iX sustainability.
One issue that team is investigating is
documenting our current build process, Vance said, the
steps we use to build and certify MPE, including all of the
subsystems, networking, database, etc. At the same time, we have been
looking for ways to simplify this process both for internal
benefit and in case we decide to offer all or parts of MPE source
code to one or more third parties.
HP is still some months away from making its decision
about the release of MPE/iX to any third party. The customer base has
asked the vendor for such a release, by way of a vote in the most
recent Systems Improvement Ballot. HP has said it will reply to that
request during the second half of this year.
We have not made this decision, but we are
doing some of the activities which have a long lead time, Vance
said. It is very possible that we will have fully documented
and streamlined our internal procedures, but still decide not to make
MPE sources available to anyone.
In the meantime, the advocacy group OpenMPE hopes to
have a voice in the results of the HP source code audit. Chairman
Birket Foster said the group wants HP to include an OpenMPE engineer
in the audit review process. The request is being reviewed favorably,
he added, since outside review of the audit would be a customary part
of the process.
Foster said that HP is pulling together all the MPE
internal documentation into a single repository. Once thats
done, the documents are supposed to be submitted to an outside
auditor, to see if the auditor could create an MPE build from the
files and documentation.
The community which must stay on the 3000 beyond 2006
by a recent survey more than half of all sites, including
those with lengthy migration timelines could be heartened to
see that HP is following through on the steps to see if MPE could
live beyond HPs labs.
Large companies that have made heavy investments in
business applications want to see MPE/iX continue beyond HPs
December 2006 deadline to end support.
We are a heavy user of the HP 3000 with
numerous 99x and N-Class systems deployed in multiple
countries, said one IT manager who wanted his name withheld.
We believe that our particular missions can be accomplished on
the HP 3000 well into the future.
We are self-supporting both in hardware and
software. We have a ton of money tied up in software and would be
willing to help fund an effort to continue the platform if the effort
appears to be viable.
Those firms which have no plans to migrate off the HP
3000 hope the operating system will have an afterlife on other
We still love it, and are hoping for OpenMPE so
they can port it to Intel or something like that and we can port our
application that way, said Stevin Almes of California-based
Practice Management Systems. Id love to see a PC boot up
with a colon prompt!
HP has offered a set of licensing guidelines for
MPE/iX to run on PC-based emulators. But that HP letter of licensing
intent, published in 2003, does not envision the MPE/iX source code
leaving HPs labs.
One issue which HP reportedly must face is a wide
variance in documentation of MPE/iX. Not all modules are documented
in the same way. The auditor for the project must have experience
with building an MPE/iX release, but not work inside HP. OpenMPE
officers point to fellow board member Mark Klein, who has worked as
an outside consultant to HP on 3000 projects, as a likely external