2009 support from HP, for a few, maybe
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HP's end of patch days remains unclear

It's not exactly news, but the update on HP's patching futures did not change at the recent HP Technology Forum. HP continues to work on useful enhancements and needed fixes for the 3000. These repairs and improvements, like new disk support and more secure FTP, arrive in the form of patches.

HP builds the software and tests it in its own labs. Then it goes out for public beta testing. Only HP support customers can test a patch. At the moment, more than 80 of HP's patches, for MPE/iX versions ranging from 6.5 through 7.5, remain in beta test. So, only HP support customers can download these enhancements and repairs, until the testing is completed to HP's standards

Last year HP was considering whether the non-HP-support customers could test patches. No decision has been made during the past 13 months.

HP's plans to wrap up this process are in-process, we learned after asking at the Technology Forum. Possible plans include setting free all the beta patches available once HP's public patch creation process ends; leaving the beta patches in limbo, unreleased; or perhaps passing them off to a third party which holds a limited license to patch MPE/iX during 2009 and beyond.

The current list of such limited license candidates appears very short. Only OpenMPE has asked for the ability to create patches for MPE/iX. The group would like to get started on this just as soon as HP can complete a process to share MPE/iX code.

One other patch distribution candidate — a company which hasn't proposed any development, like OpenMPE — is Client Systems. The Denver-based company was HP's last North American HP 3000 distributor, and it remains an outlet for refurbished (read: used) HP 3000s, already loaded with transferred-license copies of the 3000's OS.

Whoever carries on the HP patching work could be liberating many man-hours of HP lab work, if that third party can continue beta testing to HP's satisfaction. Otherwise, the final 2006-2008 stories of the 3000 patch skyscraper may go unoccupied and unused.

For example, the fate of enhancement patches like the SCSI pass through driver — which goes into beta test sometime before the end of this year — is not clear. If that driver patch does not receive enough testing from customers, HP won't give the patch general release status. It might remain in beta test status on December 31, 2008.

HP hasn't decided yet how its beta-tested patches will fare after the vendor shuts down its patch process. The best option for the user community which plans to use 3000s in 2009, and relies on patches, is to test those beta patches now.