After One Year,
We're All Still Here

NewsWire Editorial

It's fall in Texas, but this year we're talking baseball instead of football. When you compare the Cowboys' September record to the American League standings you can see why. The Texas Rangers, the only American League baseball team never to make the playoffs, have reached those extra innings. And here at the NewsWire we're printing our first issue of our second year -- which feels as good as any post-season game played on a gridiron or a diamond.

It's been a good year for the HP 3000, something of a surprise to those who keep predicting the demise of the system. In the past 12 months we've watched Windows NT capture the heart and soul of the top HP brass, usurping Unix as the solution that's best for everyone. If Unix wasn't the Final Solution, than nothing else will be either -- so there's always going to be room for the HP 3000. HP has gone user-centric instead of technology-centric, a very good move for less-publicized solutions like MPE/iX. You get to keep running what works for you.

Customers who use the 3000 know what works best for commercial transaction processing, especially the commerce that brooks little interruption because business moves too quickly. Against long odds, the 3000 renaissance we predicted when we printed our first pages has taken hold in the minds of customers who own an HP 3000.

That's our audience, the faithful who haven't been lured away to the land of promises of NT or Unix. After a year, both the 3000 and the 3000 NewsWire are still here. Both of us bucked dim predictions to thrive during the past 12 months. It's not automatic for either computer products or publications. HP closed up shop on its disk drive operation during the year. We watched our European colleagues at HP Omni magazine fold their pages closed forever. Sometimes jsut staying in the game can be a legitimate success. We celebrate this fall with the Always Online web version of the NewsWire and Ken Do, our intrepid 3000 manager, choosing the most productive path for his career and company.

Here on our pages, our FlashPaper, our Online Extra e-mail updates and Always Online, we've reported one story after another that proves the 3000 is a system that can absorb any new technology. In the past year, we've seen the arrival of Internet Web server software and Java on the 3000, as well as rapid adoption of browser technology as an interface that can replace VPlus for 3000 applications. Add the Autobahn Web development kit, a good start on Hierarchical Storage Management, Digital Linear Tape and online configuration for MPE/iX, and you've got a lot of improvement in just 12 months.

In this business, 12 months is a mini-lifetime. It's a good idea to track how much progress the HP 3000 has made since our first issue, and where we can expect to go during our extra innings.

MANAGEMENT: The team just keeps getting better at the Commercial Systems Division. HP has turned to its most seasoned hands to run the HP 3000 business in the past year, with 10-year R&D veteran Harry Sterling running the division and longtime marketing expert Cathy Fitzgerald now heading up the marketing manager post. If you heard Sterling's speech at HP World, you now know the division is being run by somebody who genuinely cares about the customers he serves. Another piece of good news was seeing Glenn Osaka named as Sterling's immediate superior and the head of the Commercial Systems Business Unit. Osaka, who held Sterling's job just over two years ago, won't have to learn how to stay close to 3000 customers -- he helped start the Customer First movement at CSY. Finally, we think that Dick Watts has the ability to listen and act on customer requests. He is the first general manager of CSO, the number three post in HP, to have his own Web page where questions about the 3000 are being answered.

DEVELOPMENT: Two major projects emerged from the CSY labs during the year, the Open Market Web Server port to MPE/iX and a fresh version of the operating system brimming with customer-requested features. In places where HP hit the wall on resources, it has reached for outside software to supply solutions, like the M.B. Foster ODBCLink driver or an NFS server from Quest Software.

Other solutions emerged outside the CSY labs: FrontMan from Minisoft provided an able client-server development environment; StarGate from Diamond Optimum Systems now gives 3000 users the Windows interface to MPE they've been asking for: and CSM from SolutionSoft /ORBiT supplies the first brick in an HSM structure that managers need: automatic compression. Throw in full-GUI editors like PSG's Facade and Robelle's new STExport productivity booster, and you've got 12 months of advances in a marketplace that was easy to write off in 1995.

HP's 3000 PLANS: We all hoped for a development system built on HP's workstation designs, with software bundled and priced for the small developer. It hasn't appeared yet, but it's not completely out of the question according to Glenn Osaka at HP. Meanwhile, the 64-bit question is supposed to be answered in January, along with plans about moving MPE/iX to the new Merced family of HP/Intel RISC chips. We agree with analyst John Logan that HP simply has to do both of those things, or chain a big boat anchor onto its hopes to fly Merced-powered systems into its installed base. But neither 64 bits or Merced got a safe hit in the game during our first year. It would appear the 3000 has struck out on the prospect of DCE service.

APPLICATIONS: Probably the place where the HP 3000 can hope for the most improvement in its extra inning -- application availability needs a rally. Customers still want to host applications on the 3000 in order to keep things simple and cost-effective. HP keeps working on bringing the latest from the Oracle stable to the 3000, and that can help ensure applications can be ported from other platforms. We think there's a lot of solutions out there that are native to MPE/iX and have been overlooked. As publicized as Microsoft BackOffice, SAP and Peoplesoft solutions are, they aren't necessarily the best.

To borrow an old line during these political times: on balance, I think the HP 3000 is better off than it was one year ago. The game is far from over. HP's top management sees investment protection as a fundamental rule, as immutable as three strikes make an out or the home team always gets the last at-bat. It's up to the customers to tell HP what investment protection means to their HP 3000 enterprises, and expect that some calls just won't go our way.

The HP 3000 is the home team, the system that first proved HP could build a successful commercial computer. I expect some lively extra innings this year from the best lineup I can imagine: dedicated and satisfied customers, solution suppliers with imagination and nerve, and a CSY staff who've proven their ability to manage. In Texas we've learned that long shots can make the playoffs. They go as far as their desire can take them when, like the 3000, their talent is beyond question. Thanks for giving the NewsWire a great first year, so we can take more at-bats for the home team, answering the questions you've got about the HP 3000.

Copyright 1996, The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.