HP extends its 3000 support date to 2008
The unique value from HP's extension: labs

Something new: more HP lifespan

It took less than six hours for the 3000 community to digest yesterday's announcement of extra 3000 support — then a reader wanted to dismiss the announcements as "Nothing to see here. Move along."

We want to disagree. I had the chance to ask 40 minutes of questions just a few minutes ahead of HP's release of its announcement. I spoke with Jim Murphy from HP Services  — ultimately the arbiter of how long HP will remain in the support business — and e3000 Business Manager Dave Wilde. Unlike what that 3000 customer had to say, there is something to see here. The question for any 3000 shop is, “Will I have any use for what I see?”

HP will remain in the support business in 2007 and 2008, but it will be “basic reactive” support, unless you need mission-critical enterprise level support. Basic reactive gets you HP’s repairs, but nothing proactive. And the vendor’s “6 hours from call to completion” guarantee isn’t part of the basic reactive service, according to Murphy.

HP's FAQ file on the extension of its 3000 business says, "Based on local capabilities, HP will offer at least hardware maintenance, software update services, and business hours software technical services on selected components."

As for those limitations and exclusions, those will apply more to the mission-critical level of support. If you’re way out in the boonies, or HP’s just not servicing much of anything in your geography, then mission-critical is either going to be A) More expensive than it’s been, or B) Just not available. Prices change after the end of next year, or the end of your service contract, for mission-critical.

HP claims it’s going to keep resources (read: MPE experts) in place to ensure a satisfactory level of support. Murphy even said HP is training its people (in, I presume, MPE/iX and the HP 3000).

For most customers, asking HP to extend their support contracts is all it’s going to take to get the vendor’s support for two extra years. No proof of migration plan, no promise to buy HP systems to replace your 3000. If you want them to support 6.0, forget it. We didn’t hear if they planned to drop 6.5 anytime soon. Probably not; still ample contracts out there, and 6.5 is pretty stable. There’s still no plan to let 9x7s boot up on 7.0, no plan to drop the slowdown code that cuts all A-Class and most N-Class server performance to a fraction of HP-UX counterpart systems.

But this delays HP’s exit from the 3000 market by two years.

Five years was not enough to let HP leave this market without leaving revenues on the table. This move continues a profitable revenue stream for HP — at the same time that it gives customers more time to either set up an alternative support provider, or, as HP insists is the best course, get off the server. HP was so adamant about this being the take-away message that it started off its Media Fact sheet with two paragraphs of how the majority of its customers are in some stage of migration, and that the best plan is get off the 3000. The fact sheet noted this before revealing the news, pretty unusual structure for a communique to the media.

HP also said that those customers who signed an NDA promising not to reveal their support extension now have the NDA's provisions waived, since HP made the blanket extended support offer. So the wraps are off to talk about their support extension experience.

Whether basic reactive support is enough to keep a business relying on an HP 3000 is up to the customer. HP says it found a better stream of parts available for the 2007-8 period than it first expected. And it still considers third parties to be a potential part of its own service supply chain for the HP 3000. For the moment, however, the HP support you get is going to come from an HP employee or contractor.

Third party support actually now takes a step up in a comparison with the new ‘07-’08 levels of service. Most companies offering support won’t charge as much as HP to do mission-critical support. What they will have, in their toolbelts, is the HP support backup that was going to disappear in just 12 months.

As for the third-party MPE licensing offer, it’s real, but it’s hard to say when it will be extended, or to who. Or what will be in the license. HP's said, "HP intends to license major portions [italics ours] of MPE/iX source code to qualified providers for the purpose of helping them support their customers." Right now HP doesn’t have to open up the source code to anybody until December, 2008, when the vendor is currently scheduled to end all its HP 3000 support. It could be later than that, according to HP. They say they keep listening to what customers want to keep buying (if you overlook the fact that the customers wanted to keep buying 3000s in 2001 -- just not enough customers to keep HP interested in building them.)

Oh yes, definitely something to see here.

As for the relative silence from the customer community, this might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Much of the world is already making plans or departing for R&R. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, well, 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change the options for 2007.

It’s too bad this decision didn’t come at a time when more people were listening and allocating budgets. But HP did more to announce this than its last two updates to OpenMPE requests. In those instances, responses came in the form of postings to this mailing list and the OpenMPE list. This time out there was PR support and an outreach to business analysts and the mainstream IT press. You’d think the vendor had something to sell here, like goodwill in a holiday season, or another couple of years of support.