OpenMPE boosts its slate of candidates for 2005
Election shows more interest in membership on board
for the advocacy group serving MPEs future
Some might not believe a group dedicated to
the HP 3000s future would see more interest this year than last
in its board of directors. But then OpenMPE has operated beyond
belief for much of its three-year history.
This month, eight candidates are competing
for seats on the OpenMPE board, an election that drew only six
candidates for a half-dozen open seats in 2004. Four seats are up for
grabs this time; the group has never had a 2:1 ratio of candidates to
open posts. Some candidates say they especially want to serve this
year, the one when HP will finally decide the future of the MPE
Candidates in the election were incumbents
Birket Foster, Paul Edwards and Alan Tibbets, as well as Chuck
Ciesinski, Martin Gorfinkel, Keven Miller, Mathew Perdue and Jim
Phillips. Balloting took place through the OpenMPE Web site; voters
had to hold a free membership in OpenMPE. (Results will appear in our
Online Extra e-mail.)
Those candidates who won a seat on the
OpenMPE board the election ran through the first half of March
must take on volunteer duties, since the directors comprise
all of the groups available manpower. An outside accountant
also assists OpenMPE.
The groups critics might argue that a
handful of men and women are more than enough to deliver what OpenMPE
has provided since 2002. OpenMPE has also battled to convince
customers to believe in any future beyond HPs stewardship.
OpenMPE will not be able to command that feeling of
confidence unless you are pretty much self-sufficient at the moment,
and you do not want to change anything, said IT manager John
Boyd of paper merchant gm2 Logistics. We are continually being
criticized for not supporting
printers or GUIs, despite offering a robust base
However, extending the 3000s support to
new devices and interfaces is precisely the mission OpenMPE wants to
pursue. Some in the group say that only those sites who can freeze
their MPE environments can continue using 3000s after 2006
unless an enhancement lab forms outside of HP.
Such a lab requires revenues for funding. The
groups accountant couldnt stay busy tracking revenue that
has surfaced up to this year. OpenMPE has operated almost entirely
since 2002 on donated time and resources such as business planning,
advertising, Web programming and server space. An HP cash
contribution of $5,000, pledged during 2004, still hasnt
arrived in the groups coffers.
But OpenMPE wasnt founded to generate
revenues. Jon Backus, a consultant who specialized in 3000 training
and Ecometry programming, started the group just weeks after the 2001
HP announcement that cancelled the vendors 3000 business. He
dedicated the organization to making a future for MPE/iX, the
3000s operating system, after HP stops supporting the software
in December 2006.
HPs computing customers have petitioned
the vendor in the past to help users of cancelled systems. HP 1000
customers worked to get HP to put the RTE source code in a
repository. But the HP 1000 efforts didnt have a named
organization that has tried to fund projects or field a board of
directors like the one at OpenMPE.
The first year of the groups efforts
were aimed at helping a 3000 emulator project emerge. Three companies
showed interest as a result of the OpenMPE discussions, but only one
has proceeded to develop a PA-RISC emulator. During the last 18
months the group shifted its focus to the future of MPE/iX, rather
than emulating the 3000s hardware to offer a new source of
Over its three years of existence, OpenMPE
has wrested one document from HP that details plans for a post-2006
MPE future. After one year of non-disclosure meetings between HP and
the OpenMPE board, HP engineer and OpenMPE liaison Mike Paivinen
circulated a letter and FAQ that outlines the vendors
intentions about MPE licenses for HP 3000 emulators. Paivinen said
that on his initial review, the 2003 message looks like it
doesnt need to be revised.
To this point, we have had no follow-up
discussions on license terms, Paivinen said. I just
re-read the original e-mail and dont see anything obvious that
needs to be changed. However, as we go through the process of
creating the specific license, the terms, as described in the letter,
will be subject to change.
HP has communicated once more about
OpenMPEs issues, addressing issues raised during 2003 by
OpenMPE directors. Despite results that are difficult to link to
OpenMPE, the groups supporters say those HP talks have driven
many of HPs efforts for customers who will use their 3000s
after 2006. One year ago HP responded to OpenMPEs advocacy with
another message: A timetable of when it will decide about licensing
MPE/iX source code for third-party use beyond 2006. That decision
will represent a lot of the post-2006 future Backus and the roster of
OpenMPE directors has pursued.
HP officials say that OpenMPEs advocacy
gives the vendor input on how HP can assist the customers who are
called homesteaders. OpenMPEs directors presented a list of six
requests to HP during 2002, ranging from a release of MPE source to
third parties to eliminating the slow-down code in the last
generation of 3000s, the A-Class and N-Class servers.
HP representatives like Paivinen, HP e3000
business manager Dave Wilde and engineer Jeff Vance consider OpenMPE
a community within the 3000s customer base.
When OpenMPE made its pitch for funding from
the customers this fall, HP remained neutral on the groups
business plans for a post-2006 MPE lab. Wilde said at the time that
the vendor wants to see partners such as OpenMPE survive on their own
Although post-2006 enhancements might help
some customers remain on the 3000, HP didnt bless or curse
OpenMPEs lab plans. Ive found it is best for all
involved when partners work to ensure their viability on their
own, Wilde said. If theyre not self-motivated to
survive in a given space, and they dont have the resources to
sustain their investments, youre just propagating a bad
Some say three years of talks between HP and
OpenMPE have improved the future for customers who arent
The future looks brighter than the
present for many of our customers who dont have HP support and
dont purchase from HP, Vance said, since I believe
at least some of the requests made by the OpenMPE community will be
Some of the requests have been impassioned.
Board member Ken Sletten sparked some controversy last year by
unveiling details of the HP-OpenMPE talks, insisting HP was dragging
its feet on requests to license MPE. OpenMPE members have swung
between insisting HP needs to respond immediately to requests and
waiting for deadlines to pass.
Board chairman Birket Foster, the only
director whos served OpenMPE since its inception, pushed a
campaign last year to fund the group for development projects. In a
letter to the board he said last fall the time has come to
raise the dollars necessary to get HP to see OpenMPE has enough funds
to provide good stewardship of the MPE source. Such an OpenMPE
virtual lab would provide sustainable development and therefore
value to the installed base.
A limited campaign last fall failed to sign
up 100 HP 3000 owners for support fees to fund OpenMPEs lab.
Foster said the campaigns target was the customer who needs
changes to MPE to remain on the platform.
This is the one chance that customers
planning to homestead have to have changes applied on a regular
basis at a reasonable cost, he said. Without OpenMPE, all
changes will be ad-hoc. Such source code access was the biggest
OpenMPE issue for 2004, although some in the 3000 community believe
HP might give another entity access to the code during 2006.
HPs slow timetable for deciding on
the key OpenMPE issues has reflected back on the volunteer group.
While customers wonder what OpenMPE has been able to accomplish, many
recognize that no other user organization could have gotten faster
I dont know that HP is going to
decide until its gotten every last bit of revenue out of the
operating system, said Alan Maitland, president of the Commerce
Company, an Internet portal service using HP 3000s.
HP contends that deciding on a third-party
license for MPE source is a complex issue one thats best
decided closer to the end of HPs support for MPE. HP set a
timetable of the second half of this year to announce its plans.
While HP follows a longer timetable than
OpenMPEs advocates desire, customers, consultants and vendors
remain dedicated to the potential of what they admit has become a
volunteer advocacy group. HPs 2005 deadline for making its
source code decision has some volunteers looking for a ringside seat
in OpenMPEs show.
Id like to be on the board, if
only to see what happens this year, said Paul Edwards, who
became a director in last years vote. The improbable contest
for 2005 seats on an MPE advocacy group suggests the HP 3000 saga can
still muster impact.