Waking up to an afterlife
October 31, 2006
Three years ago today HP stopped taking orders for the HP 3000. The day was marked around the world with a wake, celebrated in pubs, bars and backyards, as customers and engineers who grew up around the server gave it a fond farewell.
But 36 months later, just how far has the 3000 moved? It's nowhere near HP's corporate price list, a move that has made the hardware cheap, even fully licensed. This summer a Series 987, complete with valid license for the MPE software on it, sold for 0.1 percent of its price new. Matt Perdue grabbed the steal of the year with a check under $300, a long way away from the $230,000 of the system new in the 90s. Thanks to the Spring, Texas school district auction starting at a $5 opening bid, that 3000 enjoyed the greatest discount of any. "They just didn't know what they had there," more than one 3000 manager said about the deal that sprang from Spring.
Support from HP is still available, many months away from beig discontinued by the vendor. Meanwhile a wider array of third party support companies ply their trade, waiting for the HP customer to go independent of their system vendor. The Wall Street Journal, ABC News and others might be surprised to see systems still for sale, companies continuing to rely on MPE and an afterlife in full flow, three years after the wake.
Witness: HP about to report on the repairs to the IMAGE/SQL Large File datasets, more than five years after LFDS sent customers fleeing from the new feature. HP's report will at least show the vendor has been studying fixes for 3000 problems. Three years after the wake.
Witness: An HP 3000 conference in Houston, even after the original nationwide HP-specific user group folded its tent during 2005 in bankruptcy. The conference is being held next weekend, just two days short of the fifth anniversary of HP's "We're pulling out" announcement in 2001.
Missing: New versions of off the shelf applications.
Missing: A clear vision of the transition timeline. The 3000 was supposed to switch off by now. HP was supposed to be selling 70 percent of its server revenues on the strength of Intergrity and Itanium 2. Even PA-RISC was supposed to be in steep sales decline, from a forecast HP gave the world less than two years ago. HP and the world have tried to handicap the rise of Integrity/Itanium, or the fall of the 3000's utility. Either guess is just that, a forecast of a front moving ever-so-slowly across your landscape.
Not stalled, that front. But not dead in the sense of extinction. Like so many things in the realm of the supernatural, waking up in the afterlife has given the 3000 community freedom.