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6.5 users give patches cold shoulder

HP has released five PowerPatches to extend the useful life of the 6.5 release of MPE/iX, but the prospects for a sixth collection of patches look doubtful. It's not because HP is reluctant to do the work. 6.5 sites, which make up a very large portion of the installed base still under HP support, just don't seem to want to change anything.

HP's Jeff Vance reported on the thinking from inside the HP labs on this issue. Vance has been out in front of HP's effort to get beta test patches into General Release status. An impending deadline has put the latest 7.5 beta patches on the bubble for inclusion in a PowerPatch. When we asked about including more customers in the beta test group, by allowing 9x7 owners to test, Vance told us that's a customer group not eager to add anything new.

"We have had relatively low demand from our 6.5 customers for PowerPatches," Vance said. HP released PowerPatch 5 for 6.5 in December, but Vance said the 6.5 community didn't take delivery of the gift.

We were surprised by the lack of 6.5 customer requests for this patch bundle. In general, 6.5 (and thus 9x7) customers are not installing patches or doing any significant changes to their MPE environment, based on our observations.

The observation makes sense when considering who's using 6.5: customers with little taste for change, since they're passed up 7.0 and 7.5 releases for many years. (HP brought out the 7.0 version of MPE/iX in 2001, along with the N-Class and A-Class servers.)

Some of those 6.5 users have no choice but to stay on the release, since their shops run 9x7s, which boot only with MPE/iX 6.5. HP has promised to continue 6.5 support until at least 2008, which will extend that release's lifespan to more than eight years. HP's never had an MPE/iX release supported so long.

Vance added that if the 6.5 customers get more interested in patching, another PowerPatch for the release might appear.

"This will to some degree be driven by customer demand," he said, "meaning, if 6.5 defects are found; and 6.5 customers help to beta test these defects to create GR patches; and there are “enough” GR 6.5 patches that it makes sense to bundle them into a PowerPatch release, then we’ll do that.

9x7 customers — who make up a lot of the 6.5 community — do have interest in helping with the patch testing process, according to OpenMPE board director Paul Edwards:

If HP would only listen to the continuous cries from the user community about letting 7.0 and 7.5 boot on the large number of available 9x7 systems, then these systems can be used as test systems and provide the needed feedback to HP to get those patches out of Beta jail.