October 26, 2016
MPE/iX to private licensees: A new HP way?
Fifteen years ago HP was cutting its 3000 business loose and software vendors scrambled. A few of the bigger ones, like Adager, were looking for a way to buy the MPE/iX assets from Hewlett-Packard. Nothing could be arranged. However, HP recently started posting notices about its patented technology it's trying to license.
The IAM Market (free registration required) has started to hawk the intellectual property of both sides of the HP, a company about to mark the first anniversary of its split-up. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is offering a range of patents, all designed to let a company use HP technology to serve business users.
HPE Patent Sale – Mission Critical Computing Portfolio
46 issued patents (41 US, 2 JP, 2 GB, and 1 FR) relating to servers and storage products for Mission Critical Computing (MCC). Key applicable areas include High Availability, High Reliability, Replication/Failover, SSD/HDD, System Management.
Except for that SSD element, everything in the portfolio could fall into the realm of HP 3000 and MPE technology. If only such a marketplace existed 15 years ago. More importantly, if only HP was actively licensing its IP back then. Something could have been worked out. Today, at least there's a mechanism for listing patents for sale and finding interested buyers.By the time the 3000 pullout at HP started to set in stone during 2002, the licensing discussion was being steered toward emulator-ready user licenses. Meanwhile, the source code licenses were more than seven years away from being a reality.
For many customers, the only issue that matters is the licensing of MPE to be used on an emulator that mimics HP 3000s running on Intel hardware. Rumors continued to abound that HP is proposing the destruction of a licensed HP 3000 for every MPE license for an emulator that a customer wanted to deploy. The 3000’s longest advocates are howling over that possibility.
“It’s clear that HP’s intention is to limit the MPE user community to the number of licenses at the time of its death,” said Wirt Atmar of AICS Research, “thereafter drawing the population constantly downwards over the years. This is completely opposite to the future that I believe is possible, where MPE would be distributed world-wide, at prices comparable to Linux distributions.”
Emulator licensing makes the Stromasys Charon product a realistic choice for companies keeping their HP 3000s in use, either as permanent archive machines or in production. But the software communnity was reaching for so much more in the months following HP's 2001 notice of a pullout. Perhaps those MPE/iX bits, as well as the related subsystems, are available today.
The only companies who've even seen MPE/iX source, to use as a support and development reference, are the eight licensees of the code. They don't get to sell it or release modified MPE/iX. But it's there as a resource for support providers like Pivital Solutions and software companies as well.
Any dreams of restarting an MPE/iX business would have to begin with IP licensed for commercial use.
Stranger things have happened. The HP WebOS software developed for the Palm smartphones, as well as the heart of ill-fated HP tablet, found its way into LG Smart TVs, after all. At one point, LG was planning a range of consumer devices that would use the HP IP which the vendor sold to LG. LG never got WebOS into its ThinQ line of refrigerators. MPE/iX, should it ever go into the market, might become an item of the IAM Market.
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