Even while the third party community offers a way to turn a generic PA-RISC server into an HP 3000, the vendor looks to be launching a project to change the process that permits MPE/iX to boot up on such hardware. It seems like an unusual time for HP to be revising boot processes on hardware HP is dropping.
Earlier this month the computer technology job site DICE listed this opening with HP (although the vendor is working through a third party contractor):
HP PA-RISC Kernel Programmer
Skills: Hewlett Packard PA-RISC servers of HP 9000 and HP 3000, BCH (boot console handler)
Job description: We are looking for a core HP programmer with in-depth knowledge of HPKernels. The Ideal candidate should have experience of Hewlett Packard PA-RISC servers of HP 9000 and HP 3000 class which use standard architecture that has been published by HP. PA-RISC 2.0 architecture has standard entry points in the BCH (boot console handler) firmware that calls an area of non-volatile memory called STABLE STORAGE.
The ideal candidate will be responsible for coding following areas of HP Kernel Architecture.
• How the server is configured, such as hardware boot paths, operations etc,
• Maintains a software ID (called SUSAN code) that third party software vendors can key software to
• Maintains software capability code (0x10000001) that specifies number of users and operating system
• Maintains a model string that identifies the servers configuration for example: e3000/A400-100-11
• When hardware fails, the stable storage can wind up being replaced as it resides on the defective component being replaced.
What we need is someone to write a machine code utility that is read in from the BCH prompt that allow us to reconfigure the stable storage configuration to our customer’s original values.
Why would HP be embarking on this project? There are a lot of potential reasons, some more pedestrian than others. Since the work is aimed at PA-RISC servers, and not the Itanium-based Integrity machines, this doesn't look like an extension of the boot capability for new server models.
Could the end result of this project alter whether a program such as SSEDIT, offered by Advant and its Immediate Recovery Solutions, can configure HP's server hardware?
Then there's the novelty of hiring from outside HP to do work on the HP Kernels. A fella has to wonder why HP doesn't have this expertise in its own labs anymore. It might just be a matter of HP keeping that expertise busy doing something else these days.
If that sounds like a lot of speculation, well, it's the nature of the 3000 community in 2006 to wonder what's happening inside HP about its server. The last official communique from HP outlined its extension of the support business to 2008, on a limited basis. Jeff Vance of the HP 3000 labs has posted less-official updates this year on extending the beta patch test field and updating customers on the prospects for another 6.5 PowerPatch release.
This rewrite of the boot control handler might be a project with wider focus than any of those informal updates. One seasoned 3000 vet explained that the BCH is the jumping off point for the deepest of processes on the system:
BCH = “Boot Console Handler.” See docs.hp.com/en/diag/ode/pa_ode_over.htm
To run the Offline Diagnostics Tools, the system must be at the Boot Console Handler (BCH). When the system is configured to boot to the operating system automatically, it waits for user's intervention for 10 seconds. You can press any key to stop the auto boot process and go to the main menu prompt.
So it is the 3000/9000 boot prompt, from where you can run very low level utilities.