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April 2004

Number 97 (Update of Volume 9, Issue 6)

HP hardware, not software, should make conversions

The buzz about HP's April 9 letter to the OpenMPE community had not really begun to mount in the week or so after it surfaced, but Computerworld did its part to shine more light on HP's offers. The story didn't appear in printed editions of Computerworld, but on the magazine's Web site.

The venerable weekly might have misunderstood what HP is considering, however, regarding the proposal to convert HP 9000 servers to HP 3000s. The Computerworld story suggested that MPE/iX might be revised to run on HP 9000 hardware. Most HP 3000 hardware experts believe that changes will be made to the hardware itself, not to the MPE/iX environment, to turn HP 9000s into HP 3000s.

During the past 10 years, HP has used identical hardware for HP 3000 and HP 9000 servers, with one exception. A chip inside the servers has carried code that identifies the server as one model or the other. If that code says "HP 3000," for example, then MPE/iX will boot up on the server. If the code is "HP 9000," MPE/iX will fail to boot up.

Changing MPE/iX won't be required to let HP 9000 servers work with the operating system, in effect making them HP 3000s. Making a change to an operating system like MPE/iX, still in use at thousands of companies, is much more challenging and expensive than the way HP has always defined PA-RISC server identities: sending code to the chip inside the server to enable a processor to boot up with MPE/iX. In years past, a program like SS_CONFIG, run from an authorized HP Support laptop or a computer at an HP distributor like Client Systems, sent out that server identity code. (Unconfirmed reports say the new program is embedded in the Guardian Service Processor, and is called SS_UPDATE. "The Guardian Service Processor itself is a daughterboard that fits onto the motherboard," said one engineer. "It has its own firmware, circuit board and embedded software.")

HP hasn't made a detailed proposal yet about 9000 to 3000 conversions, or even promised they will do such a thing. But it seems unlikely that changes to MPE/iX will be the lever to nudge thousands of HP 9000s into HP 3000 identities. We hope to hear more soon from HP on the process for conversions.


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