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August 02, 2017

Long-term value rests in short-life servers

Buried-treasureIt's a summer afternoon in Virginia when a 3000 expert takes inventory. He's got a declining number of billable hours this month, enough of a problem to reach for resources to liquidate. His pair of big 9x9 systems in offsite storage have been offline for all of this year, and all of last year, too. There's gold in them there chassis, he figures. They've got to be worth something.

Then the expert has a look at last week's 3000-L newsgroup traffic. The messages have dwindled to a couple of dozen even in the good months, but one hardware reseller posts messages monthly. Old 3000s are for sale at an asking price that doesn't exceed $5,000 for even the biggest server. HP only built one N-Class bigger than the 4-way 550 N-Class that tops the list. The 9x9s in the message? About $1,000-$1,200 apiece, even for a 989. Selling servers like that to a broker might net maybe half that to our expert.

Even though the servers are in great shape, stored in temperature-controlled storage units, and sport some nice peripherals, the resale value of the boxes isn't surprising. They're short-life assets, because eventually they'll break down. There's something in them that might be more valuable than $500 per system, though. The MPE/iX licenses for these systems could be worth something, even if the hardware isn't exactly golden.

Series 989A historical note or two: The Series 989 models sold for as little as $175,617 when HP launched them 18 years ago. MPE/iX 6.0 was the first OS to power them. Like everything else HP built for MPE/iX, the servers stopped being sold in 2003

How much such licenses would fetch is an unknown this year. A low-cost server in the used market usually has MPE/iX loaded on its disks. A clear chain of ownership, though, might not be a part of that discount price. Who'd care about such a thing? Our expert thinks of the one company more devoted to the everlasting future of MPE/iX than anybody: Stromasys.

Any 3000 customer with enough dedication to using MPE/iX in an emulated environment may very well want good MPE/iX licenses. HP promised to deliver an emulator-only MPE/iX license to the community, but the vendor stopped issuing licenses before Stromasys Charon got into the market. A license for a 3000 is the one element of the MPE/iX environment in shortest supply. For now, nobody has started to list server licenses as a product that can be purchased.

It's going to kill our expert to just scrap all his hardware and software. But it's a buyer's market for HP's iron, since it's going to expire far sooner than later. Selling the licenses would be like trying to find someplace where at least those instances of MPE/iX could live on.

HP's 3000 boxes are stripped for parts every week, and for good reason. Part availability is still driving the ultra-long-term homesteaders into migrations. Stripping a 3000 for its license to be used in Charon has prospects that could last much longer. At a minimum, a license has a 10-year useful lifespan if Charon is involved.

Reseller systems on the market with explicit transfer paperwork aren't rare. The papers aren't automatic, though. Taking in HP's 3000 iron, but skipping the $432 fee to get HP's official transfer, complicates the value of the license. If any such hardware owner hasn't done the transfer, they'll have to deduct that expense from what the license will bring on the market. Anybody who wanted to get a Charon system set up, but doesn't have an eligible system from which to transfer a license, would find value in a license marketplace.

Charon customers I've interviewed so far don't need licenses for MPE/iX. Their old systems were still on hand when they made the jump to virtualized servers. User counts for licenses become important in the 9x9 family. One site that's looking at virtualization has utilities with support fees that will rise, they believe, when they make the jump. If there's a way that a license with a smaller user count could keep that from happening, then the licenses will be worth a lot more than the paper they're printed upon. And the shipping for this virtual 3000 component? So cheap, compared to moving HP's iron.

06:47 PM in Homesteading | Permalink

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