February 12, 2015
TBT: Sure, there's 20 more years of the 3000
Just 22 years ago this month, the leader of the HP 3000 division figured HP would still be selling and supporting HP 3000s working in businesses today. Glenn Osaka was in his first few months running what HP called CSY, a group that was coming up hard against HP's own Unix sales force.
"I think there's another 20 years in it," he said in 1993, "but I can tell you that 20 years from now, we'll probably look back and the 3000 won't be looking at all like it looks today."
Nobody could see a virtualized server looking like HP's proprietary hardware. PA-RISC computing was just becoming dominant. In 1993 there was no serious emulation in enterprise servers, let alone virtualization. The magic of Charon had not even dawned for the Digital servers where the Stromasys product notched its first success.
But HP was thinking big in that February. Osaka said the 3000 was about to take on "applications that traditionally would have been thought of as IBM mainframe-class applications. That program is going gangbusters for us. To get that new business on the high end of the product line is very effective for us, because it's the most profitable business we can do. More and more of our new business is going to come from people who are coming from mainframes."
The division was posting annual growth of 5-10 percent, which might have been impressive until HP compared it to 40 percent annual growth in its Unix line.
In a year when HP was just introducing a Unix-like Posix interface to MPE, Osaka said HP's "work that we're doing on Unix is very easily leveraged to the 3000, and we're simply using our sales force to help us find the opportunities to bring it to market first."
He identified the newest generation of the 3000's database as "SQL for IMAGE," something that would help with relationships with partners like Cognos, Gupta Technologies, PowerSoft and more. What HP would call IMAGE/SQL "will give our customers access to these partners' tools without having to change their database management system." A new client-server solutions program was afoot at HP, and the 3000 was being included on a later schedule than the HP 9000 Unix servers.
The server would "carve itself a nice, comfortable niche in some of the spaces we don't even really conceive of today, particularly in transaction-based processing." Osaka would hold the job until 1995, when he'd become the head of the Computer Systems Business Unit at HP. By that time, he'd guessed, HP would still be able to show its customers that "the level of capability that we provide on the 3000 is higher" than HP Unix servers.By the time we interviewed Osaka three years later, in a new post in 1996, he'd dialed back his forecast to say "we have at least 10 more years of very strong presence in large companies and medium sized companies with the 3000 in the marketplace. What I don't know is what people are going to buy. For a long time I have had as a core belief that the life of any computer is tied to the lifespan of the application."
But by 1996, with his unit containing both Unix and MPE divisions, Osaka was giving us at the NewsWire the first notes of warning that things had changed for the server inside HP. In our September 1996 Q&A, he said new applications ought to be launched on other platforms.
The whole dynamics around the application software industry have changed. Because of Microsoft, it's turning into a volume marketplace, and there's not enough volume in the 3000 business to fuel the early growth of such companies. If I were a developer, depending on what kind of application, I'd say put it on Oracle, or Informix, or NT BackOffice. Then I'd feel more comfortable I'd get a return.
You're making us glad we didn't ask you about the NewsWire's chances when we started.The NewsWire is an interesting thing. Information that is critical to this user community has high value, because HP has become less effective at delivering that information to the broad user base. That's a viable business plan, but there are others [in this market] that people talk to me about that don't quite make so much sense.
We left that interview feeling lucky to have pushed out our first year of a publication that was doing what HP couldn't do so well anymore. We'd also be facing the hard reality, within five years, that HP couldn't manage a belief in any future role for the server beyond 2006.
Osaka left HP within two years of our second interview, moving on eventually to Juniper Networks and other high-tech firms. Today he's a private consultant and advisor. Of his work in the 3000 division, MB Foster's Birket Foster says on Linked In
Glenn provided leadership and "out-of-the-box" thinking when running the CSY division. Glenn saw value in the software vendor community, completing solutions for mutual customers. Glenn assisted the formalization of the SIG SoftVend meetings, to exchange directions with software vendors and facilitated non-disclosure meetings for access to MPE source, and working with tool/utility software vendors.
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