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November 14, 2011

One Decade Later, You Survived HP's Pullout

MigrationcartoonSo here we are, 10 years to the day since HP announced it would not be participating in the future of the HP 3000 anymore. It's still Nov. 14 in most places where the NewsWire's blog is being read, so here's a history that nobody's been dying to tell. It's about customers of a company that thought it was killing off a computer line. Instead, it killed off a lot of its customers, in the sense that thousands of them though HP was dead on arrival in the IT futures department after Nov. 14. There were careers and companies killed, too. But we've never called it the End of Life for the HP 3000. It's always been the end of HP's life with the 3000. By this year I think of it as a pullout, an act that signals a loss of will and faith, forgetting why you got into a relationship in the first place. HP had given up on a group that I was glad to dub "homesteaders." Everybody was one, until they could manage a migration, after all.

The shock and outrage on that Black Wednesday was astounding at the time, because HP didn't whisper a word about the customers who could never leave a efficient, vital platform. The first HP message was filled with warm concern about getting everyone onto the right computer as soon as possible. As if the bolts and boards of the 25,000 systems working worldwide were about to go toxic or something. HP couldn't even pin down when the closing date would for the 3000 division, CSY, then headed by Winston Prather.

From a CSY perspective and a support perspective, it’s business as usual for the next two years. It’s time for customers start their planning to move to a platform that will serve their businesses better in the future. HP recommends that customers begin transitioning off the HP 3000 to alternate HP platforms.

Customers were not surprised at the news, Prather said, "and they really appreciated HP being able to tell them what we see as the future role of the platform." Prather said these top-tier customers of late 2001 "already have a multi-OS strategy, so they’ve been evolving their applications over time. It is a stake in the ground, but the CIOs I talked to were appreciative of hearing what the future holds."

As proven by the reactions of the next two years, Prather had only talked to companies who could afford to migrate -- and were grateful for an infusion of truth from HP after years of everything else.

For the last week I've been asking the community members to tell about where they were on that star-crossed day that they heard the news — plus what's become of their careers, companies and the computers running on Nov. 14. We've got a massive feature coming in our November print edition, which went to press at 5:30 this morning.

The outpouring of memories and updates and resolve for the future has been profound and prolific. But this has always been a group that knew how to say what they meant, and how they felt. "I'd say we've all been a pretty good human chain holding the 3000 Community together," said Jack Connor, who just departed the OpenMPE board. He was kind enough to note that the stories and articles here "do a lot to make us aware that there's indeed life after HP, and a pretty full one so far." Considering the promise of an emulator and the state of virtualization today, the last decade could have unspooled a better future than what HP delivered.

Some of us had a little advance notice, and some said they saw the move coming before HP announced its exit. My preview involved a phone booth, a cassette recorder with a suction-cup phone pickup, and an Internet Cafe. That's how long ago this all happened. Somehow to a lot of you, it feels like it was only a moment ago.

We leave the first word in the storytelling here on our blog to Alan Yeo, who commissioned a pair of iconic editorial cartoons to express the feelings of customers who didn't get a heads-up, but felt blindsided. Some were even resellers, who learned about the pullout at the same time as their customers.

Yeo wrote us this morning about his "second Black Wednesday," noting a British event that seems as much a cock-up as dropping a profitable platform and its customers at great loss to the little guy. He advised we read up on Wikipedia about that other Wednesday in the UK when £27 billion was spent while a speculator made $1 billion.

On the "Second Black Wednesday" of Nov. 14, I was waiting for America to come on-line and find out if what I had been told a week earlier was coming was true or not. Unfortunately it was.

What became of the HP 3000 we were using at the time? It's still running and still used for development. When you're developing migration software to replicate HP 3000 software, there is no better place to test than under MPE.

My strange observation is how different the last 10 years could have been, if HP had acted differently. Sitting on my desk this week, 10 years after HP announced the end, is a little blue box with a silver-blocked Stomasys logo on it. Inside is a USB stick that will hopefully this week allow a brand-new Intel i7 server that is just being installed here to boot up as an HP 3000 running MPE.

Ten years on, and there is still a potential market for an emulator? We have had a decade where it appears at every turn HP took the wrong path.

Whilst a few people may have been disappointed, most people would have slowly moved and been more than happy if: Instead of announcing the EOL for the HP 3000 — because upgrading MPE to IA64 was too expensive — HP had decided that they would support MPE running in 32-bit on Itanium, or even in a VM under HP-UX on Itanium. Remember even today, most "modern" server applications are still running in 32-bit mode on 64-bit architecture. HP might have sold quite a few more Itanium Servers and certainly would have kept a lot more customers. And there are a lot of vendors around the world that would have had a completely different decade.

Even though they decided to EOL the HP 3000, it then appeared they did their best to frustrate the third-party ecosystem which they indicated was expected to carry the load. The couple of extensions to their end of support dates, well, those damaged both the third party support vendors and the migration vendors — as the need for users to make any decisions was pushed out. Which is probably why there may be enough users still around to make an emulator viable. The Chinese curse goes, "May you live in Interesting Times." And the last decade has certainly been interesting.

01:43 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink

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