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Planning a Path for Patches

HP is asking customers to tell the vendor how they want to see the HP 3000 patch operation run in the future. A message posted late last night on the 3000-L and OpenMPE mailing lists, and then forwarded from Jeff Vance at HP, directs customers to a Web site to take a survey. Vance said in his message that HP will be reviewing the results and "Your responses will make a difference in our patching approach."

HP's survey form is at HP hasn't announced a deadline to receive survey forms. You need to register with to submit the survey form, but it doesn't ask many questions and promises to keep the information private. It looks like a fine overhaul of the Web site.

That patch process at HP has only 18 months left to operate, according to information the customers have today. When HP pulls out of the 3000 market at the end of December, 2006, it will take down its support operations. Today, the only way to get a patch from customer's bug fix request into general release is through an HP support account. Beta testers must be HP support customers to test patches before HP makes them available to general release. The customer community has already told HP they'd like to have fewer restrictions on who can test HP 3000 patches. HP, for its part, has said last summer they want to hear more from customers about what to do about this "patch gap," the distance between the smaller number of customers on the latest, most-patched HP 3000 release and the majority of the customer base.

Even doing more backporting would close the gap. SIG MPE co-chair Donna Garverick said that at the last HP World meeting, "SIG MPE requested HP to back-port to 6.5 and 7.0," she said. "But the question on everyone’s mind is — if stuff is back-ported will anyone install it?  CSY really needs to get a clear answer to this question.  If most people say ‘no’ — that’s clear.  What we don’t want is people saying ‘yes’ when they can’t actually patch their systems (probably because they’re locked down)."

One interesting element of HP communique is the mention of patching scope. The message says the survey is:

...specifically aimed at MPE 9x7 and other issues regarding an understanding of your MPE/iX patching and/or updating plans and requirements over the next 1-2 years.

If you're keeping score, two years from today is six months past HP's end of support date for the 3000.

The customers told HP in several e-mail exchanges and at the last HP World conference that the beta-test patches now mired in untested status could be sprung from patch jail, if you will, by letting a broader set of sites test them. That's an opening to put the patch process out into the full 3000 community, not the 40 percent or less of sites who still have a support contract with HP.

Another possibility would be to include Series 9x7 systems in the patch process, by giving these systems the ability to run MPE/iX 7.0. By some estimates, only a third of HP 3000s are running the MPE/iX 7.5 release, the version HP has focused upon for its patching process. 7.5 is becoming known as the "parking release" inside HP. Most customers, however, have their 3000s parked someplace else today.

Steve Davidek, a City of Sparks, Nevada Systems Administrator on the Interex Advocacy Survey Task Force, is running point on this joint survey effort between HP and the user group. You can contact him for more information — or perhaps to say something the survey form doesn't have a field for — at   [email protected], or phone him at 775.353.1671.