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The awards and rewards of Web support

Web pages probably deliver the most HP 3000 support from the vendor to the 3000 community this year. HP extended by two years its commitment to remain in the 3000 support business, until at least the end of 2008. The Web gives HP a means to do this without taxing its resources of live IT support engineers. People who own 3000s contribute to the knowledge that HP offers in Web support. But the real gold online comes from HP's 3000 engineers.

Nevertheless, the HP IT Response Center — ITRC, to the community — is described as an "online community" in this week's press release that touts another award for HP's Web support site:

[The ITRC is] an online community of IT professionals with an average of 1.5 million visits per month worldwide. The website provides enterprise and commercial customers with online tools, expert assistance from HP response center engineers, online training, community forums of IT experts and a broad, fully searchable multi-vendor knowledge base.

Customers can receive services and support for HP-UX, Linux, MPE/iX, NT, OpenVMS and Tru64 UNIX servers and workstations, as well as diverse tools and information for managing multi-vendor environments.

That's right, you see your MPE/iX brand right up there with some operating environments HP is still selling and installing. (Come to think of it, HP is still selling MPE/iX, since its Right to Use (RTU) licenses showed up in the price list this year.) The reason the 3000 and MPE get on the roster is because support has a much longer shelf life than software enhancements or new hardware.

HP just earned an award from the Localization Industry Standards Association naming the ITRC as one of the Ten Best international Web support sites. Other than the RTU, support is the one 3000 product HP wants you to buy — although that ITRC does deliver patches for free.

But paying for HP support lets an ITRC user gain access to services and knowledge (e.g. submitting cases electronically, accessing knowledge documents like the setup for Sendmail under MPE/iX). Of course, as shown in our recent article on Sendmail, you could find that a former HP 3000 lab expert has delivered as much detail on Sendmail as what your paid support agreement will net out of the award-winning ITRC.

3000 support veterans argue that you get what you pay for in MPE/iX and hardware support. They're right, but customers report they pay less to receive more outside of HP's channels. The only exception is those patches, and the increasingly rare MPE/iX enhancement. HP's Jeff Vance has chipped in plenty of the latter over the past five-plus years of 3000 transition, an astonishing output for just one engineer.

It probably comes as no news to the 3000 owner that the ITRC is the resource to search HP's Technical Knowledge Base for technical documents. HP's list of operating systems with tech docs on ITRC is a curious one, though. On the Web site you can find Security Bulletins, Patch Information, Service Requests and more "related to MPE, DOMAIN/OS, HP-UX, RTE, Windows 95, and Windows NT operating systems."

Five of those six operating systems are no longer sold by the vendor. But the support lives on, as does your use of the systems that run these OS's.