Can a 3000 server become generic?
Advant's GREB-master takes another step

HP hasn't been open to personality changes

In the first day after we reported on Advant's program to offer third party services for creating HP 3000s from "generic" PA-RISC systems, HP has not responded to the news. But the vendor might feel that it doesn't need to answer. Its policies on third party alteration of systems are already on record — on a Web page which Advant's Steve Pirie has already pointed out.

The business landscape has changed since HP laid out its policies on PA-RISC server alterations. HP no longer sells its HP 3000 line, so the damages it might sue for, to prevent third parties from changing HPCPUNAME, may be harder to tote up. The method to alter the stable storage in the servers has changed, too; an SS_CONFIG program — long requested by the OpenMPE advocates for the transition to third party support —  is no longer HP's key to transforming a server from one model to another. Advant will do such work for a fee for other third party suppliers, as well as its own support customers, by using SSEDIT, a program that it developed "with no knowledge whatsoever" of HP's technology.

"SSEDIT's been around since 1995," Pirie said, "and HP has had a good look at it. Listen, why don't they go after the people who do MPEX? Anybody that writes their own program and runs it on an HP system — what does HP have to say about it?"

What HP has said is that third party resellers aren't allowed to reset model strings on HP 3000s. HP enforces this with a statement that its support engineers will not repair problems with 3000s that fail to because of errors induced by third-party changes.

From the HP Web site where Pirie — posting anonymously as "Captain GREB" — said "What HP wants you to know about model strings:"

Model Strings Cannot be Set by Customers or by Resellers

Mismatches between HP e3000 A- and N-Class Server model strings and the actual processors installed in the server may result in the server not successfully booting until an HP field CE properly sets the model strings. Mismatches related to processor module frequencies are the most frequent reason for “model string failure to boot” error messages.

If the actual number of processors in an HP e3000 A- or N-Class Server is greater than the number specified in the model string, the number of processors configured at bootup time are limited to the number authorized in the model string and a warning is issued to the user.

These bootup failures and warnings are most likely to occur if someone attempts to move processor modules between servers, or if someone attempts to convert an HP 9000 Server to be an HP e3000 Server. HP field CEs have been instructed to only reset model string values when repairing failing equipment or installing properly purchased HP e3000 field upgrade kits or additional processor modules—never to reset the model strings when someone has improperly added processor modules to an HP e3000 A- or N-Class Server. [Ed. note: italics ours]

There can be little doubt the customer community has a right to modify the HP 3000 hardware once the vendor exits the market. A step toward a third-party's capability before the end of 2008 — when HP can still charge a customer a support fee for this service — might be tested by HP. While using SSEDIT, enabling a processor's full speed under MPE/iX is just a matter of adding an "A" after a pound sign in the program. SSEDIT's sample script to set a model string makes note of the speeding up enhancement. This is the change HP has refused to make to its A-Class and N-Class lineups.