June 16, 2005
Source code makes tomorrow like so yesterday
Sun is putting a little heat on HP this week by offering an open source program for the Solaris operating system. Open source was a rally cry during the early days after HP announced it would stop supporting its proprietary OS for the 3000, MPE/iX. (Anyone who's developed for any vendor's version of Unix will admit that these Unixen are all proprietary, in the same way that Windows is proprietary. Proprietary is not an epithet, such an honest look at software's reach.) You do an open source program to make sure your OS stays relevant and in broad use. Sun's intention is "to release as much of the existing source code as possible through the OpenSolaris project and for future development of the source to take place in the OpenSolaris community."
Although MPE/iX future development will have to take place in the third-party developer community, open source wouldn't work for the 3000 community — something most customers realized when they got honest about the size of the 3000 development base. You can't count customers to measure the potential of open source resources; you have to look for people capable of doing their own builds of software such as perl, sendmail and the like. HP's Mark Bixby has warned 3000 customers who want to homestead they better get fluent in such development, or get to know a consultant who knows his way around the make command.
But the Sun offering this week reminds the 3000 customer about opening up source, a topic HP has promised it finally weigh in on by the end of 2005. HP's been very quiet on whether MPE/iX source can ever be developed outside HP's labs. Will the announcement come at HP World, in about two months, or at the first HP Technical Forum, during September? Or will HP wait until the end of the year to deliver disappointing news, that MPE/iX is not going to gain more functionality for customers who need it?
There are things such 3000 customers need to ensure a long line of tomorrows. IPV6 support for networking adds security in an era when we seem to care about nothing else so passionately. The SQL99 standard could be added to IMAGE/SQL, a standard which "addresses some of the more advanced and previously ignored areas of modern SQL systems," according to the Web resource faqs.org. IMAGE support of SQL99 could add object-relational database concepts, call level interfaces, and integrity management. It would also give the 3000's database a better chance of staying current with Windows, since Microsoft is already moving to support SQL99 in its SQL engines. Birket Foster at MB Foster has talked about SQL99 support for several years now, since the standard is a topic of study at company's database labs (when they maintain the ODBC drivers included in MPE/iX).
So even though parts of MPE/iX are well outside of HP's labs, the whole wooly bunch of source, millions of lines, isn't a candidate for open source like the Sun project. But it might be, someday. So much of the ground is shifting in intellectual property around software. Sun is making its move to protect itself from the rising popularity of Linux. In our latest survey of migration choices, almost as many 3000 sites were migrating to Linux as were moving to Solaris.
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OK, HP has had 3 1/2 years since the 3000 EOL announcement (and who knows how long before) to consider the source code issue. It is no longer a credible claim that they have not made a decision. Instead, they are are simply keeping their decision secret for whatever reason.
To me that says one thing: the answer isn't the one we want. Either HP is hoping to kill off interest in non-HP support for MPE by delaying an announcement to the point that no one can afford to wait any longer, or they want to wait to further alienate the HP 3000 installed base until they are no longer serious prospects for other HP servers. In either case, homesteaders had better not base any of their plans on being able to obtain future enhancements to MPE. The handwriting is on the wall -- in flourescent paint! I just with HP would admit it.
Posted by: John Clogg | Jun 16, 2005 7:00:02 PM
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