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May 16, 2018

Wayback Wed: Charon's coming out, at a pub

Tied House 2013Springtime in the Bay Area is a good time to gather in support of MPE/iX. Five years ago this week Stromasys hosted a social mixer at the Tied House pub, a Mountain View venue just 10 minutes away from next month's 3000 reunion at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. There's something about good beer in cold glasses that seems to go along with the veterans who still have 3000 know-how.

In that week of 2013, a meeting room also bubbled at the Computer History Museum, a place where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA. The market needed an emulator to carry on from the end-game of HP's MPE/iX hardware, a need that began as early as 2003. HP stopped building new servers that year. The clock started running on HP's hardware aging. By ten years later the wraps were completely off Charon HPA.

By the time the emulator sparked those pours at Tied House, an HP licensing mechanism was in place for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator. Then, as today, you needed to know how to ask HP for the required license.

Charon's HPA product manager uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to Intel hardware,"an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most Software License Transfers happen between two companies. HP might've wondered, who sell themselves their own hardware?

HP's SLT mechanism began to license emulated 3000s in 2012. The development of an emulator, slowed by HP's balky cooperation, cut off an emulator-only MPE/iX license at the end of 2010. The License needed an emulator for sale before a customer could buy a new MPE/iX license.

In that May of five years ago, the process to earn an HP 3000-to-Charon license was not well known yet—which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.

Perhaps HP's lawyers insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in that stillborn license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but a customer could never pay that money without a working emulator for a 3000 for sale on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses, because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. With no RTU, and no emulator license, 2009 was the moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron (and attached licenses) were on hand.

The never-sold Emulator License for MPE/iX was not the first time the vendor allowed an emulator maker to license new servers. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and spearheaded that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was ongoing support revenue to keep older systems running. In some places, they were still the best solution.

HP's ending for the 3000 was nothing as generous as the ending for VAX system licenses. HP intended to cut off all 3000 business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still would call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies.

At that Stromasys training event in the History Museum, the general manager Bill Driest said the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a 3000 customer would call emulation.

"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," he said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."

Even today, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said a new MPE/iX emulator license would cost, it's $400 -- the same fee HP collects on any MPE/iX system transfer. You just need to have a 3000 license to begin with.

04:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink

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