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Dave Wilde

Business Manager

HP e3000


Customers First, During HP’s Last Period

As time winds down for HP’s participation in the 3000 market, Dave Wilde finds himself calling plays for a 3000 community gathered in varied huddles. The former R&D manager for what was once the Commercial Systems Division (CSY) developing HP 3000s, Wilde was promoted on May 7 to lead HP’s efforts at customer satisfaction with the platform. Most of HP’s activity of the past half-year has led to a better-defined migration path away from the system. Far fewer questions have been answered for the customer who won’t be heeding HP’s advice to compute on another platform.

Wilde, who’s now reporting to an HP marketing organization since CSY has been absorbed into other HP operations, expresses a desire to do right by all of the 3000 customers, regardless of their destinations. The Illinois native came directly to HP from a computer science program in 1984, but first encountered the 3000 as a high school student in the 1970s, doing data entry on a 3000 at Crawford’s Department Store in Chicago. He took his degree to HP and worked his first two years in the Electronic Instrument Group, where his first project was to create a VLSI IC tester.

Wilde made the transition to software as the R&D manager of HP’s Allbase core database and interoperability project. Ten years ago he entered the HP 3000 division, when Allbase made the move into CSY labs alongside the more pervasive IMAGE database. Project management and more R&D with some of HP’s biggest 3000 accounts led him to a post as lab section manager, handling the growth-related designs for the next generation of 3000s. In 2000 he was promoted to R&D manager, after Winston Prather was named CSY general manager.

Now Wilde takes the position of “go-to guy,” as his former boss Prather described him, during an era when the 3000 customers are still actively deciding where to go. The team represented by his customers is huddled around Unix solutions, inexpensive Intel servers running NT or Linux, non-3000 choices such as Sun and IBM, and the HP 3000 status quo. The last group is a huddle where Wilde and his 3000 management has only just begun to take signals, admitting their visibility has been limited to the larger 3000 sites. We wanted to find out what plays HP will call during its last 14 active sales months, with the objective of keeping 3000 customers satisfied. Our interview, conducted as HP was readying for a closed-up week of July 4, spent a good deal of time looking for HP’s near term solutions for long-term plans of homesteaders — a field which HP will not survey with undue haste.

How’s your chain of command working in the new organization, with more than one manager up the line?

I’ll be part of a team in Mark Hudson’s marketing organization focused on understanding the needs of our installed base and customer retention programs. Ram Appalaraju, who’s been a manager for quite awhile in Mark’s organization, will be leading this Customer First Team across the Business Critical Systems organization. I’ll be reporting to Ram, as will the marketing part of what was CSY.

HP now has quite a few varied business critical systems, and we want to make sure we understand the needs of those installed bases.

What platforms will the Customer First Team serve?

The BCS platforms: HP-UX, MPE/iX, the Alpha programs including OpenVMS, and the NonStop programs. It’s quite a lengthy list.

How does HP manager Barbara Bacile, whose operations include the MPE lab members, interact with you?

The 3000 R&D team, with Ross MacDonald leading, continues to report directly to Barb. We’re managing the 3000 business, working closely with the same team that was in place before for the 3000. We obviously keep Mark, Barb and Ram informed of decisions and provide regular updates. But I think that they all have a lot of responsibilities, so they depend on us to manage the 3000 business.

So if you wanted to make a decision to speed up the A-Class systems, would those upper-level managers be involved?

That type of decision would be made by us as the 3000 management team. I think the managers above us pretty much give us a lot of leeway, with the traditional HP management by objectives.

What decision have you made on how HP will work with OpenMPE for your customers who are unable to move off their HP 3000s?

We’re working on understanding the needs of that community, both post November 2003 and after December of 2006. Mike Paivinen has the lead on post-2006 issues, working closely with OpenMPE, and Kriss Rant has the lead on value chain issues on post-2003 issues that come up.

What’s an example of a value chain issue?

That would be something like what sort of things will be in place if a customer has a need for a new storage device after 2003: what we think the environment will look like, and what customers should plan on for that environment. Or things like a license transfer in the post-2003 timeframe.

A lot of the post-2003 issues have to do with manufacturing and supply chain issues. Beyond 2006 will be basically what are some of things that OpenMPE and Interex are advocating, issues around long-term supportability: if a customer wants to run systems beyond 2006, what sorts of things will be available for that type of environment.

Do you want to license MPE so people can create a 3000 hardware emulator on Intel systems?

That’s one of a number of issues that have been brought up, and those are decisions that we haven’t yet made. We’re trying to not make individual decisions like that one-off. We just had an announcement where we extended hardware support for platforms that were due to come off support between now and the end of 2006. We also decided on customer feedback and needs that we’re going to extend 6.5 support for a year.

We also had made some decisions on some of those value chain sort of issues. There were questions of whether there would be conversion kits available after 2003, and whether boards could be installed in systems after 2003 that came through alternate channels.

We committed to keeping our storage roadmap current, beyond the specific commitments we made our November announcement. We’ve already announced some additional device support and we’re continuing to update that roadmap.

We’re trying to bundle decisions like these together, so customers don’t feel like there’s a constant trickle of news, and the message is darting around. We’re trying to make some longer-range decisions together, and group them around so customers can get a cohesive picture.

How much time have you budgeted to mull over all the options before you get to the licensing MPE decision?

I don’t have a very crisp timeline. Many people are telling me, and I personally believe, that everybody is better off if we can make as many decisions as we can relatively earlier, so people can plan appropriately. I think there’s a significant amount of anxiety for people who are trying to plan, to know what the environment is likely to look like in 2003, in 2005, and in 2008.

You recognize that homesteading customers have planning to do, just like those customers who are migrating, right?

Yes. As in any business, it’s always good to do scenario planning. I think it’s appropriate for people to be planning now. Scenario planning involves looking at the current situation and possible future situations, understanding what the triggers are, what you would do and what the current scenario is you want to be executing. We would like to remove the open questions and concerns as expediently as we can, making sure we’re making decisions that are going to be durable and sustainable. We don’t want to make decisions that send incorrect messages in the long run. We want to make sure what we plan and set up is something we can follow through on.

Do you feel that HP has its migration strategy in place, and can now move forward on its plans for homesteading customers?

I feel that’s not a binary, yes-no answer. We’ve made tremendous progress on our programs for our customers and partners. Things like hardware conversions, programs to help our partners in transition, programs to deliver services and programs to help publicize tools and methods for migrating.

I’m getting feedback from customers and partners that they are seeing ways to evolve. I’m feeling we’re able to spend more time and focus on thinking about and planning for some of the things that are being advocated by OpenMPE and by Interex.

I don’t think we’ll make all the decisions at once. I think HP World is a good forum, and that’s a good time to communicate a clear, consistent message. I think it would be nice to communicate some decisions, if we have them made, before HP World. That would be a positive sign for people who are anxiously awaiting them.

Looking at all of the decisions out on the table, I don’t think they’ll all be made within two or three months. As we answer some questions, new questions will come up. That’s been the pattern since November.

Do you expect to cross into 2003 with some questions unanswered for the homesteading customer?

I would like to have enough questions answered for people to be able to plan their futures with a high degree of confidence. It’s certainly my intent that people will have enough information to do that planning by the end of this year. It’s certainly a priority for me. I want to be cautious on setting expectations.

Since you’re in a marketing organization now, do you see serving these homesteading customers as essential to retaining them as HP customers?

It is important to me. I believe that the segment of customers who believe they’ll be running 3000 applications beyond 2006 is an important segment of customers for us. These are customers who have bought 3000 systems and other HP products over the years, and I believe they’ll continue to buy HP products in the years to come — as long as we work to address their needs.

What I don’t want to do is rush into announcements that today make it seem to those customers that things will be okay. Mis-set expectations, over-promise, and then have anger, frustration and disappointment, and lack of success a couple of years down the road.

Do you believe it’s riskier to maintain an IT operation with MPE applications?

There’s no black and white answer to that. If it’s a customer who decides later it’s the right thing to migrate, and they can do that in a timeframe that doesn’t put their business at risk, then I don’t think it’s necessarily a risky thing to do. If they also feel there’s enough of an infrastructure in place through 2006, and they have ways to have a dependable infrastructure without any of the things HP hasn’t committed to yet, then I don’t think it’s risky.

However, if a customer would need to migrate, and would not have time to migrate before 2006, and would find the current status quo environment after 2006 unacceptable, then I do think that’s a risk.

Will you offer HP 3000 owners of A-Class systems more performance by eliminating the slow-down code in MPE/iX?

That’s something we do not plan to do right now. The systems have been priced based on performance relative to other systems in the past. Our customers have been very happy with the systems we have. They’re also priced relative to other systems in the family, relative to the N-Class. They have a strong cost of ownership associated with that. Changing the performance points of one model starts to have other impacts that ripple through the system.

There will be a release of the PA-8700 systems, and there will be a new set of performance points available when those are released. The 8700s will be available in both the A-Class and N-Class configurations. They’re on target for the fall timeframe, September through November. They will be tied together with the 7.5 release.

Do you expect reductions in the HP 3000 staff by November?

Right now I can’t say that I expect any. I would not ever promise. Sometimes decisions are made at the high end of organizations. With the early retirement programs that are being offered, there’s some impact to all organizations.

Have you had a lot of acceptance of early retirement among the 3000 staff at HP?

I wouldn’t call it a lot. There has been some, as you would have with other businesses.

What plans are being developed to guarantee a minimum MPE support infrastructure will remain in place at HP beyond 2003?

We’re doing the same things we’ve always done over the years. We try to work with the team members to make sure they’re confident and enjoying their work, with things like cross-training opportunities; sharing responsibility so we have good knowledge retention; making sure the dollars we have to invest can be deployed to people resources, as opposed to inefficient IT processes.

I’ve never seen an environment where retaining people was as hard as during the years of the dot-com hysteria. Even during that time people stayed with the 3000 business, because what they valued are the culture we have, the customer focus, the teamwork we have, the community and the ability to contribute. I very strongly believe that culture is continuing to be very strong in the 3000 community. We have a very strong management team in place across the community. I view it as a self-maintaining kind of environment.

Do you believe that HP’s November announcement about the 3000 would have more impact than the dot-com opportunity?

People could be more concerned — but you need to look at ways to structure people’s responsibilities, so only a part focuses on things that are specific to the 3000 technology. Some people in the 3000 business are contributing to many new technologies, such as networking and Internet technologies.

When you’re in a very large organization, you’re typically in a very narrowly defined role. You rarely get to expand into other areas. In the 3000 business, it’s often the opposite: you get to do things that far exceed what you can in other organizations. I don’t think I make these statements thinking it’s a slam-dunk to retain talent through the next years. We’ve been successful in very challenging environments, and I believe we’ll be able to continue to do that.

Will there be an MPE/iX 8.0? Will 7.5 be a push release, or one only available by request and on new systems?

8.0 is something that remains a possibility. Currently the likelihood of having an 8.0 is dropping. The main driver for having an 8.0 release is if there’s some patch or functionality we need to get out there that requires a mainline release. It’s still very possible, but right now the likelihood has dropped to 25-40 percent we’ll need an 8.0 release.

I don’t think our customer base in general would prefer a large main line release. I think having a more stable environment would be preferred.

Right now 7.5 is scheduled to be a pull release. I think of 7.5 as a mainline release. 7.5 is big, but not as invasive as 7.0, though Fiber Channel is a big change. Making the change to PCI systems was a very large one for us, relatively speaking. The main things in 7.5 will be the 8700 support, Fiber Channel and support for greater than 4Gb LDEV 1 devices.

Have you made a decision to support the Ultrium tape family for the 3000?

We haven’t. One of our goals is to exit 2003 with a very up to date storage offering.

What do you see in the future for HP’s relationship with Client Systems?

Client Systems has been a great partner, and they’re providing an essential channel for our products in North America. We’re actively discussing ways that Client Systems can continue to play an active role in the 3000 business in the years to come to the benefit of customers and other channel partners in HP. I also think there are many opportunities for Client Systems to partner with HP in other businesses in the years to come. I expect Client Systems to play a role in the years to come in both the 3000 business and in other parts of HP.

Do you believe they can play a role in maintaining a homesteading option for the 3000 customer?

They’re clearly in the 2003-2006 timeframe as we talk about supply chain and value chain; there are opportunities there. I also believe there are opportunities in the post-2006 timeframe.

Will there be any more Platinum partners for migrations?

We try to make sure to size the customer need and assess the capabilities of the customers involve, and have a healthy competition in the market — but not so much competition there isn’t enough business to sustain the partners in that space. Right now, we feel there’s a good balance in the system.

There’s a need for customers to have help with transitions. We believe there’s a mix, a competition, different types of offerings and strengths. We’ll be monitoring that over time. Right now there are no plans to add more Platinum partners in the near future.

IBM is making a play for HP 3000 customers now, pointing to a healthy iSeries market as proof that proprietary computing can be a successful choice. How do you respond to keep 3000 customers inside the HP fold?

We’ve spent a lot of effort since our announcement to make sure there are programs in place for customer transitions. There are incentives like TradeUp credits, migration kits, and a migration center. We’re worked very hard on communication through white papers, Webinars. We’ve begun rolling out a very comprehensive program to help customers get access to training programs.

We just completed a very successful event for our North American HP 3000 partners to help them engage with other parts of HP. All of those different programs are making a difference in terms of customers seeing how they can effectively and efficiently evolve with other HP solutions.

But philosophically, an HP 3000 customer has more in common with the bundled solution of IBM’s iSeries, the old AS/400s, than anybody’s Unix. Does HP have a solution like that one, now that it’s stepping away from the 3000?

Customers can use tools to have an environment that’s more familiar to them, to ease that transition as they migrate. They can create more of the MPE environment after that transition with the emulator solutions [from Neartek and Denkart], plus the HP Eloquence database product.

If you’re a customer that’s bought an off-the-shelf application, most of our partners are pretty far along in moving their solution to another box. When you’re running an off-the-shelf solution, very often the change in the underlying technology is less visible to you.

Having said all that, I do believe the environments of Linux, HP-UX and Windows-based platforms are different. There are some advantages you get with that in terms of choice. With that sometimes comes a little to a lot more challenge in terms of integration.

If you upgrade your stereo system at home these days, there’s a lot of complexity. If you choose to take advantage of that complexity, it often comes with manageability issues.

What’s the biggest chink in the IBM armor around its iSeries offering?

IBM continues to be a very successful company, and the AS/400 is a very successful product. The AS/400 model is a lot like the 3000 in many ways.

But the market for those sorts of systems is shrinking. The core hardware, storage and database markets are all moving to commodities now. As they do that, it’s phenomenal to see the prices dropping for those systems. To offer a completely integrated system, which we understand very well, you need to be able to charge a premium for those systems to maintain the R&D. As the market share becomes smaller and the prices drop it becomes difficult to fund the marketing and sales channel to keep a vertically integrated system in place.

One thing that’s going to happen is the margins will drop for a solution like the AS/400. Their sales volume will drop because of the differences. The other thing that happens is that a channel partner doesn’t want to test on as many platforms, just one or two mainstream platforms that are an easier sell.

If I’m a channel partner, I see that commodity process happening, and the gap widening between what I pay for a platform like the AS/400 and what I pay for a Linux- or HP-UX-based platform. The volumes allow for lower price points. As that changes, it’s going to be harder for the vendors selling the AS/400 applications to be competitive. That’s a cycle we’ve seen in the 3000 community, and one that is continuing to happen for the AS/400.

While there are applications available to meet a number of needs on the AS/400 right now, and I believe the installed base is of a size that those will be supportable by IBM and the partners for a significant period of time, I believe over time the number of solutions and the amount that gets invested in them will drop.

Are you acknowledging that some 3000 sites will adopt the iSeries?

It may be a good solution for some customers with discrete needs for a specific application. To be very honest, if you can’t migrate a discrete application in time and you look out in the market and see a solution on the AS/400 or another platform that is available today, and you understand the tradeoffs and consequences of doing that, it may be a viable solution for some customers. Knowing it’s a familiar model, I believe there are a relatively small number of people for whom that will be the right business solution.

Is the planning for homesteading a process you expect customers will need to begin soon?

You should always have a plan, and that plan should include different scenarios. If a customer thinks homesteading is the right answer, then they absolutely should be planning for that right now: considering the trade-offs and forks in the road, depending on what things HP is able to arrange and commit to. People should make some assumptions and plan for what they think is the most likely scenario — but also understand the risks, and have contingency plans. It’s not too soon to plan, regardless of what you’re doing.

Would you acknowledge that the range of scenarios is incomplete for the homesteading customer?

Yes. I think there’s a significant amount of information that people do have. You can look at what’s happened in the past in terms of people running systems, and there tends to be a value chain of partners that work to support those systems. You can draw some reasonable conclusions about what the environment could look like if HP didn’t do some of the things that are being advocated by OpenMPE and Interex. I think there’ a lot planning right now with some base assumptions.

Do you think OpenMPE can handle this without the participation of Interex?

I have been an advocate of Interex and OpenMPE working together. While in some cases they are synergistic, I think they add value in different ways. The teamwork they have together is very positive. I would not say either of them is necessarily essential, that there wouldn’t be positive developments without either of them.

What do you want to leave behind of the CSY legend for customers who choose to move to another HP platform?

I would like to think those new organizations would benefit from the best practices that we’ve had. It would be nice to know that some of the cultural things that CSY has stood for move forward in other HP businesses. More and more, businesses like HP-UX are trying to spend more time with customers.

Being part of this Customer First Team will give us a chance to share some of those best practices. I believe there are significant elements of the 3000 business that HP learned from. An important legacy would be that people will see more of what they valued in the 3000 community — togetherness and the view of the business and the customers — in other parts of HP’s computing systems.

You’re likely to be the person who turns off the lights on HP’s involvement with the 3000. What legacy do you want to leave behind for the homesteading customers?

Regardless of the customer needs, I would really like for people to remember the 3000 business and the relationship with HP very positively. I’d like them to feel HP played a very positive, supportive and constructive role in helping them move forward. I’d like them to remember HP’s role as one that leads to continued loyalty to HP. I’d also like to know that customers had successful transitions, and their business needs are continuing to be met. If they’re not choosing to transition, I’d like to know people made good decisions on what the right path was for them, and that HP helped them in planning and they want to reward HP with continued business.

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