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Q&A: Visualizing HP's new level of support

HP Q&A: Hou envisions post-08 support

Hou_2 Jennie Hou may get to author HP’s final chapters in the 3000 saga. A veteran of 23 years of HP’s work on the platform, Hou took over the reins for 3000 business manager Dave Wilde when he moved on to another HP division late this spring. Like Wilde, Hou joined an HP 3000 group when the platform was rising to its peak installed base, a day when the vendor was active in the software tools market for MPE V and then MPE/XL.

   Hou began her computer experience during her high school years, as many 3000 veterans have, attending a Fortran class. She brought a Computer Science degree to HP when she joined in 1984 and later earned an MBA.

   Hou has been a part of many of the areas of HP’s business: Release Management, Quality, R&D, Partners’ Consulting, Marketing, Planning, and Escalation Management. Her work includes communication with partners and customers, as well as many years of labor to make Oracle a database alternative for HP 3000 sites. Hou has worked with Oracle for more than a third of her HP career.

   It would be fair to describe the Oracle assignment as yeoman work, considering how few HP 3000 sites deployed the IMAGE databaase alternative and how much effort she and HP invested in the relationship. Between 1992 and 1996, the porting and consulting team worked onsite with the Oracle Lab team at Oracle’s corporate headquarters in the Bay Area. Hou later became the business and technical alliance manager for the HP e3000/Oracle relationship and stayed with the project through 1999.

   This year she assumes the official title of R&D Project Manager in the HP’s Business Critical Systems Customer Experience Technology Division. Hou becomes a key leader in shaping serious endgame decisions for HP’s 3000 business: source code licensing, cooperation with third party support firms, release of HP intellectual property to the community and more. During the HP Technology Forum, HP's update for the 3000 customer included a talk on the Customized Legacy support concept, something that — if it emerges — will keep HP in the 3000 support business beyond 2008. We spoke with Hou to find out more at this summer’s Forum.

There’s been talk this week of a new Customized Legacy support concept for the 3000. How is HP thinking about this, and where will the company find the need for such an offer?

   Customized Legacy support is something that Basic support may evolve into, but since it currently is a conceptual model, please take what we’re saying as a framework. It’s based on feedback we received from the installed base and our partners as we continue to monitor our customers’ needs and concerns.

   The theme we have been communicating is that there are stages in the 3000’s lifecycle. The first one was from the 3000’s introduction back in the ‘70s until 2001; we offered full support with active development. When we announced obsolescence in 2001 we went into another phase. This second phase had full support with limited development. The development work was to ensure there was a stable environment and availability of the latest platforms so we can give people the time to go through this transition.

   When we reached the end of 2003 we stopped selling systems, but we did provide hardware add-ons for another year. All along, HP provided full support for our customers on a worldwide basis where we worked on fixing defects, delivering General Release patches and PowerPatch Releases for our [support] customers.

  As we approached 2006, we also heard from customers that migrations were taking longer. There were many reasons: budget, internal timelines, government regulations they needed to prepare for, etc. Everything got shifted farther out, because there’s always a gap between planning and implementation.

   Despite this fact, migration had passed the plateau and we were in a downward curve. However, there will still be some customers planning and migrating beyond 2008.

   We’ve heard a lot of success stories with the migrations, and lots of ISVs are offering other HP solutions for our customers. The installed base is transitioning, and many have completed those transitions.

   On the other hand, because of extensive and complex home-grown solutions, it is taking some large accounts a longer than anticipated amount of time to complete their migrations.

    In working with our customers and partners on these migrations, we have seen a lot of different scenarios out there. Therefore, we extended “basic” support through 2008. This support phase has limitations. We will not do enhancements to support new peripherals. We only do critical bug fixes with some limited enhancements to improve stability. These are things like securing the FTP environment and SCSI pass-through. We look to choose those efforts that will help our customers have longer business continuity and connectivity.

   People who need more than Basic Support can work with HP to get customized support for their mission-critical environment. So far, in general, this has been meeting our customers’ needs.

   We do want to stress the fact that there are fewer options as time goes on. In the basic support life cycle we have dropped some products, such as Java and Predictive Support. So there are some restrictions.

   We believe there is another possible phase we call “customized legacy” support. It will be one more step down from the “basic” support. It will be based on local capabilities and with even more restrictions.