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Grooming Alliances for 3000 Software

March, 1999

Kriss Rant has spent his fall and winter taking care of HP 3000 ISV alliances. The former MPE Product Manager, who was well-known in the HP 3000 tool supplier community for his work with MPE/iX, got a new assignment last year as Alliance Development Manager for the Commercial Systems Division (CSY). The job drew great expectations from the 3000’s strongest supporters, customers and vendors — people who view the state of the system’s application offerings as crucial to MPE’s ability to thrive.

Rant’s work has begun with the existing 3000 partners, those known to HP and those forgotten who have already developed HP 3000 software. He holds the opinion that a great untilled field of applications lies dormant, one that can provide enough options to attract new customers. Rant comes to his work from first a technical and then a marketing career, entirely spent at HP. He joined the company in 1983, working as a programmer supporting internal cost accounting software based on an HP 3000. Later he worked as a developer for the MM II manufacturing application at HP, then added technical marketing and product development experience with ODBC, IMAGE/SQL and Allbase/SQL. A short stint in Europe as an HP 3000 product manager gave him some global business experience.

When we last interviewed Rant in early 1996 he was serving as the product voice for HP’s databases and the 3000 operating system. As HP ramps up the new SPP offering for MPE/iX developers, a project that Rant spearheaded, we asked the manager for a roadmap to more software choices for HP 3000 customers.

How do you describe CSY's role in the development of alliances for the HP 3000 community?

To define the markets we’re going after and define the whole product offering, what we’re going to bring to that market. To recruit the appropriate partners to bring that solution to the market. That’s really where I come in. The next step is bringing all these elements together, from the product to the alliances with our partners, orchestrating this whole thing to bring value to the marketplace. Of course, then there’s making sure everyone’s rewarded appropriately.

How would you describe a good candidate for HP 3000 software vendor status? What qualifications should such a company have?

The have to have an application available, preferably on the HP 3000. Second, they should have a solid business plan in place, with a focus not only on new business but also the installed base. They should have a solid channel strategy, in that they’re linked up with the appropriate channel partners and know what services are available to them from HP and distributors. Also, they’re aware of what’s going on in the industry that they’re serving and keeping products not only current with industry trends but with current MPE/iX offerings, and are certified with current releases.

If a company’s business plan doesn’t include the HP 3000 when you first meet with them, is that something you want to help them develop?

That’s certainly a possibility, if the market we’re going after could potentially leverage their application. We’re focusing on specific markets and looking for partners who we can leverage into those marketplaces. We’re not going after the broad-based market.

Which companies have signed on to provide HP 3000 software to the marketplace in the last six months?

None at this point, but that’s not to say that it’s not going to happen. It takes time to create these and develop them. We’re planning on working with existing ISVs to help them modernize their applications and increase the visibility of their solutions in the marketplace. Our ultimate goal is to leverage these applications into new high-growth vertical markets. We feel we have a huge untapped potential with our existing base that we can’t ignore, so that’s going to be our first priority.

ISVs are critical to us winning new business for the platform. The work I’m going to be doing is only going to help build a stronger base of ISVs for the HP 3000.

How much time do you feel you have to do this kind of work? Do you think of it as something with a deadline?

I think this is a continuous thing we need to do. There are always going to be obstacles to be overcome. There’s always going to be a place for the 3000 and proprietary systems. I think we learned our lesson going through the Unix revolution. That’s going to repeat itself with NT again. Our job is to figure out what the place is for proprietary systems, and go after it aggressively before our competition does.

What new application areas, currently being unserved or under-served, do you think provide the richest opportunity for HP 3000 solutions?

The whole area of e-commerce is red-hot right now. Many internet retail companies go out of business their first day. These companies have fancy Web sites but no back-office applications to handle distribution, inventory and so forth. This is where the 3000 could really play a role. There’s a whole new marketplace of Internet retail startups that sell CDs, books or whatever.

Will these companies be selling exclusively through the Web, or also through brick and mortar storefronts?

It’s going to be any combination of those. The applications we have out there today in retail and distribution on the 3000 let traditional companies Web-ify their applications, and there are the Internet startups.

What new configurations in the 3000 product lineup (cost, size, bundles) do you think will motivate software companies to offer HP 3000 solutions?

I’m not sure special configurations are going to motivate software companies, unless there’s some margin in it for them. Most of our customers purchasing the 3000 are buying the total solution. Anything we can do to make the solution more complete will be a feather in our cap.

Is there a possibility some software suppliers might be motivated to offer a 3000 solution if the box had a more affordable entry point?

That’s an opportunity we should explore. In the market we’re currently serving, the customer is paying for the total solution, so they don’t see the individual component price. I can see how in the smaller companies that could potentially be an issue. We’ll be taking a look at that this year.

After visiting with the market's solution providers for the past four months, does your field research show the 3000 market needs big application names like SAP or J.D. Edwards to remain viable?

Any platform could benefit from new applications like this. SAP and J.D. Edwards play in broad-based markets that are pretty competitive and have huge barriers to entry. The 3000’s growth strategy is to play in markets that are either under-served or unserved, leveraging existing ISVs.

What can be done to re-motivate software suppliers who have tried porting to the HP 3000 and given up the effort, such as Progress Software?

In the early 90s, when we were positioning ourselves as a general computing platform, we were recruiting name-brand ISVs like Progress and SAP. A lot of things have changed over the years. Our current strategy is to focus on specific vertical markets and then identify partner relationships to go after them. The way to motivate those partners is to show them the market potential and what’s in it for them.

Given that our strategy is to go in where there’s little or no competition, a company could dominate their marketplace and gain the most from that.

Is the 3000’s relative ease of supportability a potential profit advantage that you can point out to a prospective ISV?

That’s more of an end-customer benefit than an ISV benefit.

But won’t a supplier like Smith-Gardner that provides all support for its customer see more profits with an easier supported system, one that takes less resource to support?

Yes, that is correct.

Is there a market-size barrier that's keeping software providers from porting to the HP 3000?

That depends. For SAP and J.D. Edwards it could be, since they’re broader-based. For ISVs that serve vertical markets with little or no competition, the 3000 is a natural choice. Open Skies is an excellent example of a company that leveraged the strength of the 3000 to a vertical market that was under-served.

Do you think the Open Skies path — internal application at Morris Air to external product — is a sound one for prospective ISVs?

It depends on the market opportunity. If there’s huge opportunity and we needed a product that didn’t exist from an existing ISV, I’d be open to approaching someone with a home-grown application to see if they’d be interested in commercializing that.

How many commercially-viable companies are offering HP 3000 software today? What share of them offer application software?

That’s hard to count, but if I were to take a stab at it from a North American perspective I’d say 300 application solution providers, and in Europe about 150. Some are in a better state than others, but that’s all starting to change with our refocused business strategy on the 3000.

All are providing applications?

Most of them are, and then there are the tool providers. About 80 percent of them are application providers. There are a lot of small application providers who went dormant, or were large players in the early days of the 3000.

How are you instructing current-but-dormant solution providers about the technical infrastructure that's been added to the HP 3000 in the past five years? Are there personal visits to these companies in your plans?

The primary way is through the HP Solution Provider Program. We’re going to use that program to reach out to our ISVs and educate them on what’s going on with the 3000. One way we communicate with them is through the Web seminars. Occasionally when I’m out talking with our partners in current focused verticals I take the opportunity to visit with an ISV, if there’s one in a local area. If I’m out at a conference I’ll do that for smaller ISVs. All of our ISVs are important to us, and we are focusing on them, but the belief is that we’re getting something out of all of our ISVs.

Have you encountered companies who want to sell computer solutions for fewer than 20 users per customer? Do you consider these a prospect for HP 3000 solutions?

Absolutely. All of our ISVs are important to us. We’re encouraging our ISVs to sign up. When it comes down to price, that’s where it can get a little touchy. I don’t have an answer for you today on what we can do in that area, but I think it’s an opportunity for us that’s untapped.

Do the 3000 solution providers need the same level of native-MPE technology as Unix or NT users— such as Secure Sockets Layer capability for an MPE/iX Web server?

It depends. There are ISVs out there that want the 3000 to act as a Web server for non-commercial uses, like for library management, where security on a commercial transaction basis is not an issue.

What prospect do the Internet and the Web holds for new HP 3000 applications — not Web-enabling older apps, but bringing new solutions to the 3000?

The Web has changed the world in ways we never could have imagined. CSY and HP have benefited from that. I would argue that by taking the existing applications and Web-ifying them and entering them into new markets, we are offering new solutions for our customers.

HP 3000 GM Harry Sterling and others have said many software companies have been forced to choose fewer platforms to support, and that MPE/iX isn't making their short lists. How do you make a business case to these companies to port to the 3000, or include it in platforms receiving active enhancements?

There’s a lot of homogenizing out there, and it will continue to be a long-term trend. Who knows if there will only be one platform in the future? I certainly doubt it. We’ve learned a lot about this over the last few years, and there is a place for proprietary systems. Our job is to identify what those specific markets are and build the solutions those markets require.

This goes back to identifying high-growth markets that are underserved with little or no competition and aggressively going after them. Our approach is not to go after the markets with huge barriers to entry that are highly competitive. Those markets are very costly to get into and maintain your position in if you’re not there first.

Do you see the changes in the MPE part of the SPP as the evangelism for the HP 3000?

That’s one way, and the other way is the work I’m doing here as development manager for alliances with ISVs in key markets we’re going after.

If I was looking for a 3000 evangelist in CSY, I could stop at your desk?

I think that would be a good stop.

Kriss Rant

Alliance Development Manager

HP Commercial Systems Division

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