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OpenMPE gathers help, hope at Forum

The Campground (Special Interest Group) meeting of OpenMPE here drew only a dozen attendees, a number not far off the average crowd for all of HP's e3000 breakout sessions at the Technical Forum. But rather than count numbers to gauge relevance of OpenMPE, it may be more important to see who attended the one-hour meeting.

Openmpetx HP's business manager for the e3000 Dave Wilde (far right) was in the meeting room, one that user group Encompass divided into two parts for multiple campground meets in the same hour. Also present were OpenMPE's directors including chairman Birket Foster (above, left) and Speedware's Jennifer Fisher (above center) Encompass director Chris Koppe, and Dave Spear of the former HP North American distributor Client Systems. One customer on hand, Ralph Berkebile of Data Management Associates, stepped up later in the day to pledge $100 toward contacting the 3000 customer base.

"I want to be involved in this," he said to me at lunch, "and I want to offer some help. Later on, once [our consultancy] is more established, we can do more." DMA is starting up this fall, has just one Series 928, but many years of HP 3000 experience and one client at the moment.

Of such modest, grassroots effort is today's OpenMPE made. A recent upgrade to the group's Web site will enable polls of its membership, to help decide which projects to pursue first in its "virtual lab" of 30 experts. Questions have already been drafted for the first interactive survey, according to board director Fisher. Foster said the group's plan to create a virtual lab "has been treading water for the last year, while waiting for HP." But those in the room here in Houston remained upbeat and could make the group's goal of acquiring MPE source a reality, sometime in the future.

HP has extended its end-of-support date to "at least 2008," but in the same announcement the vendor said it is willing to release selected parts of source for MPE to some third third party, whenever HP exits the 3000 business altogether.

"There's no guarantee that OpenMPE will be selected as custodian of the source," Foster said. "But who else?"

In the meantime, OpenMPE still has work to do. The group started to execute one of its major projects this week, the review of HP's engineering process for building an MPE/iX release and testing releases. "We're reviewing the knowledge preservation process at Hewlett-Packard, so they can put it away properly," Foster said. "Our hope is one day when we have to open the box and build a machine from scratch, everything we need is in that box."

OpenMPE has a job as well in planning for the business transfer of MPE/iX. The HP Development Corporation (HPDC), which owns the intellectual property which is MPE, has been given questions by OpenMPE. Answers are still forthcoming.

The OpenMPE meeting noted that HP 3000 Professional Certifications have been reinstated, after having been revoked by HP in 2005. The reinstatement happened as a result of OpenMPE work by director Paul Edwards. Edwards and partner Frank Alden Smith want to take on the certification for the 3000 skills, now that HP won't certify any more professionals for the platform.

But HP's Dave Wilde was glad to name OpenMPE as an important part of HP's planning for a post-2008 ecosystem for the platform. He said that HP's top priority for the platform continues to be support for existing customers. OpenMPE offers a listening point and data delivery service to the HP 3000 team working inside HP.