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HP peers back into its past

Are there support changes coming?

HP 3000 customers still want updates about HP's support of MPE and the HP 3000. We get messages regularly from people like Alex Purves, the Six Sigma Expert at Raytheon's UK operations, who asked last week: "Can you please provide me with the latest position of HP support of MPE/iX?"

This question may have a different answer very soon. We don't know what HP's end-of-2005 announcement will cover, but a pretty safe bet is an update on the MPE source code licensing issues. HP has not promised any kind of third-party license for MPE post 2006 — yet. But time draws near for the decision-mulling process to end; HP promised news by the end of this month.

To answer Alex's question, at the moment, HP is committed to support MPE/iX with HP engineers until Dec. 31, 2006. All year long HP has said, "2006 means 2006." We'll see if it that's what it means soon enough. If HP means to shift that deadline, the sooner the vendor announces that good news, the more it will seem like a goodwill gift to a customer base that has been struggling with migration deadlines by the end of next year. We can't say if any change in that deadline is even a remote possibility. We can only say that it's not impossible — because it's not the end of 2006, yet. And HP has been listening to customers who are migrating. The vendor knows there's customer anxiety about meeting that 2006 deadline.

In the meantime, there's other questions to consider, like, "What is HP's support level, anyway?" From reactive to proactive to mission-critical, there's lots of levels to spend support dollars at HP. Reactive works for most people: Something breaks, and HP helps you fix it. Other levels of support don't get nearly as much pickup by the 3000 community, a very DIY bunch that's been cautious with their spending.

Across the board, you can spend less and get better support for most enterprises with third parties. The level of HP support to help out on the most complex problems is about the only place where HP might surpass a third party — if HP still has the bandwidth to write patches to fix problems like the LargeFile mess in IMAGE. (We haven't heard anything about that fix going into beta-test, five months after it crept into alpha testing.)

The customers' spending caution is the reason those migrations have moved so slowly so far. Slower than HP expected. Slower than third-party partners expected — both those selling migration services and tools, as well as those trying to get alternative support businesses ramped up. Companies haven't budgeted much for their 3000 enterprise, compared to Windows or Unix installations. Migration is big and can be costly, too, depending on which strategy you choose for your transition. People have expected 2006 to be a watershed year for migration — at least HP was pointing to that kind of future just two months ago. That's when HP's Alvina Nishimoto, manager of the HP migration center, told HP Technlology Forum attendees that HP expects something of a panic in 2006. Back in October we reported:

According to HP’s Migration Center manager Alvina Nishimoto, “The majority have some sort of plan by now,” she said. “It’s going to be a little bit of a panic now, as people start to wake up to the fact. The ones that are waiting the longest are the packaged app folks, because they do think it’s going to be faster [to move to a packaged app]. It’s faster, but they still have all their surround code, and they don’t necessarily think of the implications of the surround code."

If the vendor can avert that panic, somehow, thousands of customers might feel some relief. HP has been saying for quite some time now it will extend some support services beyond 2006 — where it can, as resources allow — if you have a clear migration plan for them to review. Just ask customers like Hertz what their migration deadline is. If all that doesn't exactly sound like "2006 means 2006," well, HP can reply that migration is a complex matter. It must be, when we see how long it has taken for a decision about source code licensing to surface. If it surfaces soon. Stay tuned here — we'll report what HP tells the world.