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July 29, 2016

HP's Unix Demise, and Rise of the Machine

Star-Trek-HP-MachineThere it is, HP's nouveau The Machine. Ready to do work in the Star Trek era. A bedrock to 23d Century tech, we're told.

Alternatives to MPE/iX and HP 3000s amount to about four choices. Windows, Unix, Linux, and non-HP environments comprise this list that migration projects assess. Most of the time the choice leads to an application or a suite of apps to replace the MPE computing. When the door of migration has been kicked open by an environment re-boot, though, then discussion of operating systems is worth time spent in study.

HP-UX came of age in an era when the 3000 became the old-era product on Hewlett-Packard strategy slide decks. Unix was an open environment in a simple review. Deeper study showed most Unixes carried a stamp of the vendor selling the OS. HP's was no different. Now the demise of HP-UX is being debated, especially among those who do their work in that environment. Almost 4,000 members of an HP-UX Users group on LinkedIn heard from Bill Hassell about the future of HP-UX.

"Reports of the demise of HP-UX are greatly exaggerated," he said in reply to a taunt from Dana French, a fan of IBM's Unix. The lack of a major Version 12 release is of no concern, either.

Itanium and HP-UX are dead? This is definitely not the case as the attendees at the HP-UX BootCamp found out in April. HP-UX will be fully supported on current and future hardware beyond 2020. With the addition of de-dupe on VxFS filesystems and containers for legacy systems, new features will continue to expand the most stable OS in enterprise server offerings. The lack of version 12 is an acknowledgement to hundreds of application providers (not just Oracle) that a major release number change is very costly in regression testing and certification. Instead, major functionality is released as an update to 11.31.

Rise-of-HPs-MachineHP hasn't been the greatest help in telling this story of the stable HP-UX's holdout, a tale that's important to several thousand 3000 users who've migrated to HP-UX since 2002. Instead, another version of The Machine, the HP computer intended to make all others obsolete, will appear like it's been transported from a starship. This is a product with no known OS. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise doesn't talk much about operating systems. The Machine has been touted this year like it's a keystone to the future. That's why Star Trek's images have been employed to let this tech vision rise up.

There's nothing wrong with continuing to use HP-UX, according to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The future belongs to another platform, though. In one of the more surprising aspects to the story about The Machine, the man who hawked it hardest will soon retire from HP. Martin Fink did a lot of work on behalf of keeping HP-UX in orbit, too. It's a matter of debate about how quickly that orbit is degrading.

Fink is the first leader of HP Labs to leave the company in mid-project. Just as this year's prototype of The Machine edges into reality, he'll take his three decades of Hewlett-Packard experience into retirement. CEO Meg Whitman said “Martin has had a remarkable career, driving some of our most important initiatives, including our cloud, open source and Linux strategies, and leading the Business Critical Systems division and The Machine." She added that he left his mark on HP.

We'll overlook the marks of performance from the Business Critical Systems division of HP. It holds the future of HP-UX in its hands, but it's a group that C-level HP management has written off as a money-maker. The Machine is getting the television ad time this month, not HP-UX.

MPE/iX once was hungry for attention, too. It mattered even more to the 3000 user than this month's ads matter to Integrity server sites. The 3000 clan was already beset by HP's inattention inside the company. Hassell and others say that an April BootCamp for HP-UX and a Kittson chip to run the OS look like a steady future. 

Just like the NewsWire and its sponsors have a dog in the 3000 fight, Hassell has decades of knowledge and expertise in the struggle for HP-UX. When Hassell stops setting the record in place about the OS, then the 3000 converts to HP-UX will know the end is near. He's says that there's another nine years of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support in the pipe.

That will be nine years that HP uses to try to make The Machine something more real than a prop in a Star Trek commercial. There's no BootCamp for the memristor memory substrate, silicon photonics, a new operating system, and customized chips, all essentials to The Machine. The HP project for the future of another Enterprise — yours — has been a talking point for more than two years. HP talked about a 3000 architecture replacement for more than five years before anything shipped.

Hp-memristor-roadmapIf The Machine is lucky enough to earn the attention that HP gave to PA-RISC, then HP-UX will still have eight years of support left when the first Machine goes out of the HP Labs doors. Fink might be there in an emeritus role to wave it into the future. The timeline above shows The Machine shipping in 2018, but HP walked back that plan last year. PA-RISC had its delays too, but it was still part of HP Labs director Frank Carrubba's job when the first systems emerged in 1987. HP credits him as one of two inventors. The other was Joel Birnbaum, the scientist who campaigned for RISC adoption after he came to HP in 1981 from IBM.

The Machine is rising in a different manner than the PA-RISC architecture which made the HP-UX takeover a reality. The realism kicks in for The Machine because HP said it will "accelerate the time it takes to drive technology from research and development to commercialization. We will move Hewlett Packard Labs into the Enterprise Group." And so pure research takes its dive into a product organization at HP. Fink is the last director of an autonomous HP Labs to hold the job.

The customers who invested in HP's prior offering for vendor-specific tech—those HP-UX users—must now rely on Fink's management vision to carry them into a new generation of their Enterprise. Linux on Intel is a more likely next-generation for HP's Unix customers. It's a choice that needs no special vision. Linux is the open system software that HP-UX was touted to become. The migration to Linux is already underway at 3000 sites which adopted HP's Unix. They're can't tap the power of a transporter, but then neither can HP.

09:12 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink

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