HP revenue growth shatters quarterly marks
Spelling thanks with an "e"

More beyond than behind

Another two years, HP says, and it will be closing up its HP 3000 support business. Will that 2010 date mean the end of migrations, or homesteading, or the community? Not by my figuring.

I like to do some fun figuring here when I glance at the calendar. By December 1, The 3000 NewsWire will have pursued 3000 news and delivered issues and blogged reports longer in the post-cancellation period than before it. And 2008 promises to be a fun year to keep telling stories. After all, HP’s still going to be in the business, supporting us and you.

After all, why give up now? HP’s 3000 support business is a profit center. Until its resources retire or shift to other HP projects, keeping those doors open in a limited way is an easy choice — or easy if the decision-maker works in the HP Services group.

But this makes the OpenMPE initiative worry, concerned that yet another two years will elapse before HP must keep its promise and turn over the keys to the MPE/iX kingdom. That move would give OpenMPE a chance to become more than advocates. Right now, some community members see OpenMPE and homesteaders as worn-out horses, thoroughbred but as blinder-ed as any aging racehorse relegated to harness racing.

This is a short view, by my analysis. First, OpenMPE isn’t any less open than HP’s 3000 business group, which cannot say how many engineers still work there, what number of customers continue to receive PowerPatch tapes, how much business the group books, and a host of other details. Millions of dollars are sent to HP on behalf of 3000 customers, but the business is no more open than HP decides it should be. It’s a profit-driven operation, just as it should be.

But oh my, put OpenMPE in the same harness and its critics revile the volunteer effort. How can it be open when the member list is unknown? What are the group’s true objectives? Is this group just a handful of vendors clinging to the past, hoping to continue to make money off MPE?

In order, the answers appear to be
1. It can as open as it wants to be, just like HP and its 3000 group.
2. Its objectives are the same as they were nearly six years ago — to make a life for the 3000 beyond HP’s business schedule.

Please note, HP’s extensions of its 3000 support now total almost as much extra time as HP first allotted to the system’s lifespan (five years promised, now four more years extended.) Or as Gavin Scott put it at last weekend's e3000 Community Meet, the extension period now represents 20 percent of the entire HP 3000 lifespan.

As for the final question, it’s the most important query. Yes, the OpenMPE volunteers (exactly nine) and supporters (perhaps a few hundred, including The 3000 NewsWire) are hoping to continue to make money off MPE. Yes, profit motives are afoot in business here, and elsewhere. That’s capitalism and initiative and looking out for yourself. People who have been around this community a good while — I’m 23 years in here now — have always embraced thinking on their own. They had to, once HP decided the 3000 was going to be a minor player in the enterprise strategy, say about 15 years ago.

Homesteaders are not kooks or luddites, and migrators are not lemmings or budget-busters. We believe they both have a place in our community, like liberals and conservatives and yes, even libertarians, to get a little political.

One migration and homesteading vendor (maybe that would be a libertarian, to stretch the metaphor) thinks that not more than 35 percent of the 3000 sites in the UK are already migrated. This month, six years after HP’s “we leave you” announcement, about two thirds have not finished the job. Some will retire before that finish line arrives for them.

We believe that homesteaders make up about 25 percent of the 4,000 or so our estimated HP 3000 installations. These are companies unable to afford a move away from the 3000. The cost they don’t want to bear is disruption.  A major backup vendor said in 2004 that one of their homesteaders had a run rate of $50 million. It’s not all small companies.

I heard another migration story about Interstate Brands this week, and not a pretty tale. Seems the company has had to go into Chapter 11 — and part of the foolish spending was an SAP conversion project, a vehicle which hit the wall trying to  migrate away from the 3000. A $60 million project. The 3000 is still doing day to day work there. It appears Interstate could have used some help.

But yes, I think someone, and more than anyone, will stay on the 3000 for years to come. You are homesteading until your migration is complete. Temporary is a word that probably doesn’t fit for a 3000 still in production in 2008.

Some users have given only this much consideration to a migration plan: “Sometime in the future, I won’t be able to buy a part, system, upgrade or service for this server. When that time comes, I will be forced to migrate. But not now. We cannot afford the disruption and the budget. We will investigate and keep up to date.”

No, not everyone on the 3000 is in the form of some migration status. Everyone in the 3000 community still running the system is keen to keep some 3000 expertise on the payroll or on call. And they will all need upgrades, eventually, if their business is growing.