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April 19, 2017

Where will HP even take 3000 money today?

CashboxCompanies want to do the right thing, even while they're keeping their budgets in order. When a customer of the 3000-only support shop Pivital Solutions needed to add Netbase/iX to their server, it was time to find the correct way of doing that. The customer didn't have a license for the HP software needed to power Netbase.

HP once sold such a thing. More accurately, HP's distributors sold licenses for this subsystem software. The most common purchase was TurboStore, but items like a COBOL II compiler and odd ducks like Business Report Writer and Allbase 4GL were on HP's price list. Now it looks like there's no longer a list, and scarcely anyone left to take a check.

Pivital's Steve Suraci was resolute about serving his customer with integrity. It might've been a lot easier for a 3000 vendor to just load a subsystem onto a server that HP stopped supporting more than six years ago. Some customers need to satisfy license requirements on everything, though. Getting a license meant finding a reseller or someplace inside HP Enterprise to send the check. Media for subsystem software on the 3000 doesn't ship from HPE by now. This would be a license-only transaction. But where was the cash box?

After Suraci reached out to me, I touched base with people in the 3000 world who might still need a contact to purchase MPE/iX software from HPE. The first wave of requests came back stumped to identify who'd be running the 3000 store anymore. A trip to the website for Client Systems, the final 3000 distributor in North America, draws a couple of parking pages for domains. The OpenMPE advocates planned for many things in the eight years they worked with HP. A missing HP pay station was not among those plans.

"We don't know the answer to this one," said Terry Floyd of The Support Group. "We didn't think HP sold software for the HP 3000 anymore." He reached for some tongue in cheek humor. "Maybe install it and see if they sue — then you'll know who to pay? I'm glad I don't have this problem."

Donna Hofmeister, a director on OpenMPE through most of its existence, was surprised as well.

"Wow. OpenMPE never thought of this particular wrinkle -- what to do if the authorized reseller goes out of business," she said. "I'm not sure if there's anyone (like [former business manager] Jennie Hou) still with HPE who could help. It might be that the best thing to do is to buy a system that the add-on software is already licensed for."

That might be a good strategy in some simple cases, but a transfer of that license to another 3000's hardware might be missing software that was on the target machine already. You'd need a clone license. Even though there are oodles of 3000s out there, finding a clone -- or even a basic FOS lineup, plus one subsystem -- could be tough.

We checked in with Ray Legault at Boeing, and the manager of the MPE operations there said if the 3000 were at Boeing, he'd "have to let the Computer Science Corp. SAs perform the work." Software upgrades are not usually within the reach of hardware support companies, through. For example, the 3000 service at Blueline doesn't include hardware sales "for quite some time," said Bill Towe. "Our only involvement in the HP 3000 is supporting existing hardware and the OS."

Faced with a shrunken HP ecosystem and a vendor whose only operations look like they're limited to taking the $500 to transfer a license, Suraci took a chance on a phone number in his email files. Like a few of us, he's got archives that go back to the glory days when Client Systems was a going concern, full of fire to host the 3KWorld website and sell used hardware. Suraci found a phone number for Casey Crellin, one of the last people left when the doors were wide open at Client Systems.

A phone call off an old email turned up Crellin, who gave Suraci an email address to continue the conversation. It's uncertain where license money collected for 3000 subsystem products would end up. At one point not so long ago — okay, it was eight years — OpenMPE wanted to help HP take money on such sales.

It's not a surprise Suraci needed to do the right thing. His company was one of the last that gained official HP reseller status before Hewlett-Packard clamped off the futures for the 3000. It's a testament to Pivital's persistence that the place to do the correct thing was under the rocks Suraci kept turning over. Due diligence and integrity are behind finding someone to accept 3000 subsystem license money in 2017. Companies that need t's crossed and i's dotted know where to go.

07:10 PM in Homesteading | Permalink

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