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January 16, 2017

Older hardware, current support, new prices

TapeMaster LTOHP's 3000 hardware is still being offered for sale. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise wants none of this 2017 action. Independent hardware brokers sell HP 3000s today, and by the looks of the pricing the transactions might be simply for parts. How could anyone operate a company while they rely on a $975 server?

The price is one data point on a wide spectrum of a sweeping array of servers, all offered on the 3000 mailing list this week. At the tip-top of the spectrum was a $3,175 system, first introduced early in the 1990s. At the very bottom was the faithful Series 918LX, priced at $675 including a DDS-3 tape drive. The newest computers came in at that $975 price.

The range of power ran from the 918 to the Series 989KS/650. It was a $290,000 system sold new in the late 1990s. The one on offer this week from the broker carried a price tag that was discounted $288,625.

Antiques? Some, perhaps, but not all. Series 918 and 928 servers from HP—both on the list—are running production systems today. Roy Brown, a consultant and developer in the UK and a member of the 3000 list, is running two Series 918s. One much newer server is holding archives at a migrated shop in Texas. While using the old, or very old HP iron one smart customer keeps support current for such boxes. Even when they're not on the critical path for computing.

HP's sales ended in the fall of 2001 for those 918s and 928s. In that year the servers were sold for $3,700 at Phoenix/3000, the used hardware outlet operated by the North American HP 3000 distributor. In 15 years' time those boxes have held on to about 20 percent of their price.

The hardware is only one part of the ecosystem that's gotten inexpensive. We've heard of simple support agreements that are just $140 a month. At Republic Title of Texas, Ray Shahan said he's got an N-Class system hosting archived data. Shahan's company has a current support contract for this archival 3000.

It's been over a decade since that 3000 went into archive mode, so long ago Shahan said he's not sure anymore what the actual model is for the HP server. Independent support is around now to keep track of such details.

The original sales prices for those older systems "might be too depressing to hear," according to Terry Simpkins at TE Connectivity. Simpkins is among those 3000 veterans who remember when something like a $311,000 Series 997-500 included MPE/iX license fees charged by the number of users. HP placed value in its databases for the 3000, too. Non-3000 servers were less costly, until you added in the software HP included with MPE/iX. 

Today's prices don't suffer under the valuation of included software. Transferrable 3000 licenses remain an audit-worthy strategy. Management rigor won't be stout for licensing software on a $675 backup server, though.

Moving onward to new prices will remind 3000 migrators of the old HP midrange pricing. For example, an LTO-5 tape duplicator—an device useful for anyone keeping archives of older enterprise data—costs $12,000 from TapeMaster today. That's an entry-level 1:1 unit that simply replaces older tape with new. Someday that duplicator will be discounted by 96 percent. It will be sold as scrap or for parts much sooner than a 3000. It won't be working in 2033, 15 years from now. The A-Class servers for sale this week for $1,200 are already 15 years old and are still working in shops like Republic Title.

It's not easy to say for certain it's depressing to see a $311,000 server go on the market for $3,175. The 9x7 line was rolled out before Bill Clinton took office. That a 9x7 is worth anything is a tribute to the stubborn economics of the 3000 line. As Clinton liked to say while winning office, it's the economy, stupid.

07:27 PM in Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink

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