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Smoke off the show floor

HP throws strikes, OpenMPE gets to bat

Forumcrowd HP's VP of its customer solutions group Jack Novia threw a strike last night in a ceremonial first pitch at the Houston Astros baseball game. The hospitality event brought more than 1,000 HP Technology Forum attendees to the Minute Maid ballpark as HP's guests, sitting in sky-high $6 seats and eating a spread of barbeque laid out for HP Certified Professionals.

Novia's pitch offered the only mention of the HP spying scandal here. HP CEO Mark Hurd, who dodged a reporter by jumping into a waiting Lincoln SUV just minutes after his speech to open the forum (speaking to the packed hall above), said "I asked him not to embarrass the company, given the press coverage we've  gotten over the last week." The latest reports on the scandal include news that HP placed spyware on a reporter's computer and that it studied a ruse to infiltrate news offices with investigators posing as janitors or clerks.

On the 3000 front here, HP tipped off its pitch it will throw this fall. 3000 managers Dave Wilde and Jennie Hou explained that a policy statement on HP 3000 licensing rules is forthcoming "because customers have asked us to clarify the issues" Wilde said. He explained that some customers either never heard or don't recall HP's licensing policies in the wake of the vendor's suits against hardware brokers in 1999 and 2000.

The OpenMPE meeting, one of only two here at the Forum without a 3000 migration theme, reported than an OpenMPE volunteer is reviewing the source code build process at HP this week. The group has been waiting for months to place its volunteer as an observer to the process, which will assure OpenMPE the process can be duplicated by an outside entity.

At the meeting HP explained that it is looking at which third parties will be able to help support the system once the vendor leaves the market. One key issue is which firm might be able to administer the changing of stable storage information to modify PA-RISC system personalities. HP does such changes now through its support operations, and third party IRS4HP offers stable storage reconfiguration using its SSEDIT software.

Future policy for the HP 3000 community came up as a primary subject of the only non-migration meeting so far here at the Forum, an event with about 5,000 attendess. The meeting includes "Campground" gatherings of Special Interest Groups, a forum for smaller groups focused on things like legacy operating systems such as the less mainstream OpenVMS and MPE. OpenMPE met in a group of a dozen attendees, including three of its board members, HP's Wilde, Encompass board director Chris Koppe and Client Systems' Dave Spear.

Spear, whose company was the last authorized distributor for HP 3000s in North America when HP ended 3000 sales, said "We might be able to help, after we have talked some more" with OpenMPE's directors and HP.

Numbers remained unchanged for OpenMPE's goals to get a lab up and running, to take over some of HP's development and patching. the group needs 100 systems signed up for support that ranges from $3,750 yearly to $20,000 per system, depending on system size and numbers signed up. If HP says "no dice" to the release of parts of the 3000 source code, to let OpenMPE create patches, "then OpenMPE dies."

HP has already said it will release source code for third party use once it leaves the 3000 market, but didn't say how much, to which company or organization, or when the transfer will occur. But too late did not seem to be a roadblock, according to OpenMPE chair Birket Foster, who led the campground meeting.

"We have one customer, a school who's in year 5 of a 10-year plan to migrate, and a police department who's in year 3 of a 5-year plan," Foster said. He added that several of the company's customers have 2010 to 2012 timeframes for their migrations. Other firms such as drug compaines need to preserve  data for 7 years. Such companies will need patches to keep their 3000s running until then.

One 3000 consultant, John Berkebile, said he had a client who told his firm they wanted to support their HP 3000 through 2019. He shook his head at that prospect, but said support through 2011 was possible.

In the meantime HP continues to tell customers that parts availability will make such support a struggle. Robert Gordon of Genisys, one of a handful of HP 3000-related companies on the Techology Exchange show floor, said that parts for 9x9 and earlier 3000s are in easy supply. A-Class and N-Class systems are easier to get this year than last, but still more of a challenge to find.