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April 08, 2010

How HP's Unique Enterprises Stay Alive

The HP 3000 launched Hewlett-Packard's groundbreaking computer community. Designed as an enterprise-grade solution, the environment's technology was unlike any other at its bones. Internals and intrinsics shared little with other computing choices for a long time -- even the connections with Unix starting in the '90s were not essential. But by the '90s the vendor's competitors had a slur they used for the design that once powered all enterprise computing: proprietary.

Today the most sophisticated enterprise replacement for the 3000, at least from the HP stable, qualifies for the same title. HP-UX is Unix at its bones, albeit a distinct dialect of the OS. Choosing UX has become a more serious matter by now because it only runs on one processor, created by HP and Intel and becoming more of a niche choice with each year. We're talking Itanium here, and the Integrity servers and blades, an ecosystem for HP-UX that can be best kept alive by HP's contributions.

That's not a hopeless task for the long run. IBM continues to achieve this for its AS/400 environment, now called Series i in its 2010 incarnation and running on the proprietary POWER chips. HP achieves the same thing for OpenVMS, although much of the sustaining power is generated from outside the vendor from an installed base of hundreds of thousands of systems. Remaining in the HP-UX community after accomplishing a migration, or joining it if you're making a decision on where to migrate, should include some review of community in any proprietary world which HP still develops, sells and supports.

OpenVMS, whose future is also tied to Itanium, is being enhanced by its advocates this week, this fall, and throughout 2010. HP has not said anything about an end-date for its OpenVMS business. In fact, there's a revival of the OpenVMS Boot Camp this September 12-16 in Nashua, NH.

The HP 3000 used to have this kind of boot camp. It was called the SIG 3000 symposium, and it often followed the Interex Computing Management Symposium. Together these events focused on the 3000 and MPE/iX, and little else. If you wanted to learn about 3000 tech without the distraction of a broader set of non-3000 tracks, the ICMS and SIG 3000 would offer instruction and news similar to this week's OpenVMS Technical Update Days in Dallas.

2007 Boot Camp The Boot Camp is an even bigger event, a full week that costs $1,595 and is chock full of hundreds of sessions covering only OpenVMS issues (2007's lineup is shown at right). Sue Skonetski is near the top of this OpenVMS community, because she logged 25 years of advocacy service to VMS working at Digital, then Compaq, and finally HP. She's become a leader independent of HP, and still strong in the community, after HP laid her off last year. Now she's a VP at third-party vendors Nemonix (strictly OpenVMS support) and eCube (multiple platform tools.) and Of the boot camp, she reports that the annual event was put on hiatus last year "because the economy was so bad." It's held in Nashua because until 2008, an HP facility in the city was one of the places where VMS grew up.

The 2010 Boot Camp is in the stage where its filling with speakers. "Many of your favorite speakers will be there," Skonetski wrote in her March Tech Tidings, an online newsletter that chronicles the latest in OpenVMS developments.

We just opened up the call for participation but some of the things I can tell you is that, one of the different things this year is we will be having not only hands on storage but a full OpenVMS storage track as well. Another area that might interest you is a block on OpenVMS File System Performance Topics and another on OpenVMS Dynamic Volume Expansion, Using Shadowsets with more than 3 Members, C7000 Virtual Connect for OpenVMS.

TUD-Dallas The TUD event this week is one of several sponsored by HP, Software Concepts International and Nemonix. HP's OpenVMS engineering team -- plus a familiar face at the 3000 marketing effort, Coleen Mueller — will address technical issues along with OpenVMS partner companies, discussing innovations. TUD includes a strategy update for OpenVMS and Integrity servers. These Tech Days are free, but everyone must sign an HP Confidential Disclosure Agreement, so the press isn't allowed to attend.

More to the point, this kind of community exchange is exemplary of what keeps an HP proprietary platform alive and vibrant. It's a blueprint, perhaps, of how HP contributes and feeds a community that is not powered on industry-standard servers. The non-HP contributions look to be a crucial part of TUDs and the Boot Camp, although it's hard to imagine either succeeding without HP participation.

Is there a HP-UX Boot Camp dedicated only to H'sP Unix tech details? Not that we've been able to find, although the Parsec Group in Denver offers paid training which it calls the HP-UX Virtualization Tools Boot Camp. Tech is becoming tougher to rally a community around. Technologists have seen their influence decline among user groups. Connect's HP Technology Forum extends the widest and deepest array of HP-UX training. However, the content at any Tech Forum's technology track changes from year to year. The user group must respond to the popularity of a platform among customers.

Such popularity is crucial to the life of any environment labeled proprietary. Predicting the lifespan of any environment is an inaccurate effort, because market forces are always at work. The rest of what the vendor sells and markets has an impact on the adoption and retention of HP-UX, OpenVMS, even NonStop. These proprietary choices had a hand in HP's exit from the 3000 business. Tomorrow we can take a short look at using the Itanium roadmap to discuss lifespans -- and how much these predictions might matter to 3000 customers already migrating.

01:15 PM in Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink

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