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April 16, 2018

How many 3000s are out there?

1954 CensusIt's a reasonable question, that one, whose answer gets pursued by homesteaders and migrators alike. How many of those computers are still running out there? That's the question asked by the vendors who aren't familiar with the 3000. From another voice, the query sounds like "How many of us are left, by now?"

We heard the question from a migration services company and thought we would ask around a bit. The range of estimates is wide, and unless you're reading from a client list, the calculation of how many systems is a guess based on whatever activity you've seen. Sales of used systems to companies would be one way of measuring such activity. Support contracts would offer another data point. Customers currently paying for support of apps might be a third.

From Steve Suraci at Pivital Solutions, the estimate is 500 active servers in production use, and at least that many more for some sort of historical purpose. In between those two systems might lie hot spares or Disaster Recovery servers. If a system is mission-critical enough to have a hot spare, it's probably going to be one of the last to be mothballed whenever MPE goes dark altogether.

Some of the mystery comes from the fact that 3000s are running all across the world. We've reached some North American community providers, but European and Mideast-Asia is beyond our reach. The numbers in this story reflect North American activity.

Starting with that low end of 1,000-plus systems, Steve Cooper of Allegro estimates 300 to 1,000 active servers. He adds that his number includes both real and emulated systems, acknowledging the role that the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is playing. Another 3000 veteran at Allegro, Donna Hofmeister, estimates up to 2,000 active systems, "but that seems a bit optimistic to me," Cooper adds.

Another data point on this chart came in from a software vendor with widespread coverage. Database utility supplier Adager's CEO Rene Woc is willing to take the estimate to 1,000-3,000 servers. He refers to the active system count as servers "under commission."

As with many things, the answer depends a lot on the definition of what’s “an HP 3000”: a system in production, a system as DR, a system in storage for spare parts, systems used for hosting multiple organizations, emulator systems, systems for archival purposes, etc.

We also asked Woc about his guess at the size of the 3000 community. This would be the number of humans who know of and care for 3000s and MPE/iX servers. "The same comment about the definition applies to the 'size of the community,' he said, "namely, how many persons per site, how many persons still interested in participating in the HP3000-L and other mailing lists but who do not use HP 3000s any more? That’s a tougher question to answer."

We can report there are almost 600 subscribers to the HP3000-L mailing list. Those names can include active suppliers of support, customers still driving machines in production, retired 3000 fans, consultants who could hop in on a 3000 migration or renovation if needed, and more.

The definitive numbers for machine count and community census haven't ever been something to confirm. Ideal Computer says it's supporting 89 HP 3000s, including one outside of the US. That's also an encouraging number for anyone who's got an eye on the upper end of these estimates. The idea that one company could be supporting close to one-third of the world's active 3000s? That would only be true if there were about 300 HP 3000s running today.

You can mark us down for 3,000 of the 3000s. Change happens more slowly that we predict or expect. It's been more than 14 years since HP last built one of these physical servers. Well-built environments like MPE/iX and HP's iron have lifespans that exceed expectations. And as for the lifespan of MPE/iX, by using the Stromasys emulator, the populace of 

04:56 PM in Homesteading | Permalink

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