HP has made another patch available to a portion of its 3000 customers, opening the vista of disk drive space for a subset of the installed base. Even if the patch's scope is limited for the moment — only support customers of HP who use 7.5 have a patch, today — the work is no small feat, literally and figuratively. HP 3000s can only boot up drives of 300 GB or smaller today. The work of Jim Hawkins and cohorts at the HP labs will let users attach drives up to 1TB under the MPE/iX operating system.
In an HP brief on the enhancement, which Hawkins and crew call "Large Disk," he points out it's been a very long time since any boundaries got moved for disk on the HP 3000. The Large Disk team moved these limits a long way after that long hiatus, too:
The last major initiative to address disks size was done in MPE XL 4.0 for support of disks larger than 4 GB. These changes were done to address an approximately ten times (10x) increase in disk from 404-670 MB to 4.0 GB disks. In 2005 with MPE/iX 7.5, we were confronted with nearly a hundred times (100x) size change (4.0 GB to more than 300 GB) over what had been possible in MPE XL 4.0.
Hawkins' detailed article notes that 3000 sites who want to use HP's 146 GB and 300 GB Disk modules ought to consider installing these patches. Customers who might have MPE Groups or Accounts which use more than 100,000,000 sectors — that's bigger than about 24 GB — will also find the patches useful. But at the risk of repeating a mantra we have chanted all summer long, the question of who will be able to discover the fine work in these patches remains unanswered.
Large Disk is in the same beta-test limbo as other recent HP enhancements. But of all the patches HP is hoping you will test this year, Large Disk looks like it has its eyes fixed firmly on the 3000's post-2006 future.
The problem lies at first in how many HP sites can use this beta patch. Sites running 7.0, 6.5 and 6.0 releases, you need not apply, for now. Large Disk only runs on 7.5. Then there's the supported HP customer subset to whack down that group. Companies which use third-party support firms — by now, probably the largest group of 3000 sites — cannot help test these patches out of limbo and into the customer base.
The answer to the question "What's to become of HP's engineering in 2007?" lies in the hands of the customers. HP won't backport this patch, or any others, without enough interest to get Large Disk out of limbo. If these patches remain in beta through 2006, we have to wonder what will become of these well-crafted bytes on January 1, 2007. It would be sad to think such exacting work would be locked away on some DVD disk in an archive, simply because the scope of its testing was locked in the box of MPE 4.0-era thinking: only supported customers need apply to test.
For using that old thinking, crafted in an era when HP had not obsoleted a business-critical system simply for business reasons, Hewlett-Packard might be creating Hidden Value in Large Disk. From the HP lab desks to the customers who need to keep using their systems, everyone hopes that's not true. HP has made the task of bringing the patches out of hiding a customer collaboration.
Come to think of it, this is the sort of thing a user group could help accomplish. So it becomes an reason to think about what will replace Interex for HP 3000 users: Encompass, or something else?