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HP's 3000 expertise keeps moving on

Mark Bixby announced his departure from his 3000 duties at HP yesterday, closing a rich chapter of development and advances for the server. Bixby came to the HP labs from a position at a California  college's IT department, where he'd already worked on porting the Apache Web server to MPE/iX. He's been one of the leading advocates of the open source movement; a good deal of his work for the 3000 has revolved around open source subsystems such as DNS and bind that brought the platform into the modern era of networking.

When Bixby arrived at HP in 1999, the vendor was still pushing the 3000. He joined the company without relocating to the  Cupertino area, working remote from his Southern California home. It seemed a natural fit for someone so closely tied to the Internet. His personal Web page, which is thick with links to 3000 shareware, includes this mission statement:

At one time or another, every one of us has thought "If I were in charge we'd do it THIS way and life would be great". Using the Internet, you CAN do it your way. Turn your creative ideas into reality and share them with the world. Let the satisfaction of making the world a better place be your primary motivation.

By the end of the '90s, the 3000 division had been hiring some of its talent through such telecommute positions. Bixby was already well-known when he put on an HP badge, having already created the Patchman patch analysis software for MPE/iX and filed more than 100 Service Requests for MPE/iX. His list of ports outstrips nearly every other single developer's: Apache, BIND, OpenSSL, Perl, PostgreSQL, sendmail, syslog and more. He even wrote a perl script that converts the 3000's help files to individual Web pages. HP put a Posix interface into MPE in 1994 to tap the wealth of open source solutions. Bixby was one of the leaders in putting Posix to work for the community's benefit.

As he moves off to full-time work in another segment of HP, Bixby noted that he'll have to reduce his 3000 efforts to personal time. A few other HP resources for the 3000 are working on their own time, but that's a limited effort, as it must be balanced with family, friends and outside interests. HP's handing off Bixby's 3000 duties to another HP 3000 linchpin, Jeff Vance.

Bixby made his reputation among most of the 3000 community with his Internet advocacy. While that seems like a quaint term today, 3000 customers didn't take to the Internet like their Unix counterparts already had when Bixby joined HP. His experience with 3000s at the Coastal Community College included working with them alongside Unix systems. He helped bring these advantages of Unix to the 3000.

The departure of such talent from the 3000 division is a clear signal for HP 3000 customers who rely on the vendor's support — as well as those who believe there's no need for outside lab efforts for the 3000. HP support technicians who know the 3000 are managed by HP's Services group, but so is the 3000's the lab these days. TCSD, the Total Customer Experience and Support Division that contains the staff of the 3000's lab, remains the HP division where Bixby will work for HP, but now in a group called the Server Health Management Lab. Lab experts like Bixby not only resolve customer questions directly, in an informal setting like the 3000 newsgroup or personal e-mail, but they also back up HP's ITRC support reps. Watching HP's 3000 group "diaspora," as Bixby called his exit, shows customers the need for alternatives to HP's lab efforts. Bixby's departure also shows the clock is ticking on HP's end-game for its 3000 work. Generous in his exit, he told customers they can continue to ask him 3000 questions

via personal e-mail to [email protected], so that I can pass on my MPE knowledge before those neurons get recycled, but please be aware that I must now limit my MPE replies to my too-scarce personal time.  So don't be surprised if it takes you several days to get MPE replies from me.

As Jeff Vance takes on Bixby's work, it's clear that 3000 lab alternatives like OpenMPE need HP's support — as well those of 3000 sites staying on the platform beyond 2006, either migrating or homesteading. Sign up for lab services with OpenMPE to give that lab alternative a chance.