Even while HP 3000 customer Korry Electronics is searching for HP 3000 expertise to fill a position, the company is figuring out its strategy for the rest of this decade. On the MANMAN user mailing list, Deborah Lester asked good, fundamental questions about the Transition Era.
Fundamental questions are often the best kind, even if they seem to be asked long after other people have heard the answers. I liked Lester's list of questions so much I'd like to share some of my answers, as well as ask for yours on few. Experience makes us all smarter.
1. Does any vendor refurbish HP 3000s legally without HP? What does this entail and how do we know those vendors from other vendors? Will others emerge?
If refurbish means upgrade, there are upgrade kits for sale on the third party market, as well as from Client Systems, which was the last authorized North American HP 3000 distributor. (With no official hardware resellers anymore, no distribution has taken place through HP since 2003.) The "legally without HP" part of the question gets more complicated. HP insists that every customer has a Right to Use License now for their HP 3000s. So an upgrade can involve a license transfer, if you're taking on a system from another customer.
This third party market in this community has the hardware which customers need to keep running. For a customer who recognizes the authority of a Right To Use (RTU) license on a 3000, HP's License Transfer process can make it simple to "know those vendors from other vendors" while doing a "refurbish."
2. Has anyone had a business case for HP to convert an HP 9000 into an HP 3000? What does it entail and how long does it take? Does anybody have a firm commitment from HP to create a HP 3000 from an HP 9000?
Many customers have had business cases for converting 9000s to 3000s, but HP has never recognized one. This "personality" of the PA-RISC server is set in Processor Dependent Code, which HP claims cannot be modified by anyone except Hewlett-Packard personnel. (Note: HP 3000 owners have done this kind of modification, aided by vendors, without regard to HP's wishes.)
3. When buying an HP 3000, how do you transfer SUSAN numbers legally?
Now here's an easy one. Or at least the answers are easy to understand, since HP has documented the transfer process in great detail at it Web site. The transfer costs $400 to precess, and you must provide proof of purchase from prior owner. The sticky part turns out to be The Proof, as HP calls it, that the 3000 had a legal MPE license to begin with. HP has several forms and elaborate instructions for this.
4. How should parts and entire HP 3000 systems be stored if stockpiled? What ration of parts will be functional after being stored for 6-24 months? What will be the level of workability for parts and systems after 2008?
We know of people who are shrink-wrapping old disk drives to stock parts. But nearly everything can be found on the used hardware market. Some of it really cheap. You could buy a similar spare system for parts alone. Keep in mind that these systems were built to last (more on that next week). Hardware breakdown, aside from power supplies and disk drives, is not the risky end of staying on an HP 3000.
I do wish others would report on how long a part might be useful when stockpiled. HP 3000 components don't have "sell by" date stamped on them
5. Will MPE emulators emerge? Will Infor allow emulators or have any control over what machine we run MANMAN on?
Emulators of HP 3000 hardware are being considered, even designed. But their marketability will be many years off. Strobe Data, if anyone, will be the company to offer that solution, really an emulator of PA-RISC servers. But the used HP 3000 hardware supply will stand in the way of any real market for an emulator.
As for Infor, the owners of MANMAN, the company hasn't stopped the application from running on any particular kind of HP system, unless that system runs Windows or Unix. A year or so earlier, there was talk of porting MANMAN to HP-UX, but it's only been talk. The emulator availability for HP 3000 hardware is so far off that Infor probably won't even own MANMAN by then.
6. Will new 3000 drivers be available or emerge?
HP has probably built its last device driver for the HP 3000. It's called SCSI Pass-Through, and it ws released earlier this month.
7. What will be the HP 3000 inventory after 2008?
You might as well ask, "where does the sun first start to rise on Earth?" The question puzzles all of us in the community, because HP has kept no inventory of how many systems were made, sold or resold. Nobody can even guess about 3000 inventory after 2008. Nobody knows how many are running now. Estimates run from 2,000 to 5,000 systems, but you can get a different number from anybody.
The real question might be, "Can I get enough inventory in 2009 and beyond to stay on my existing MPE/iX application?" The answer is "yes, if budget is not an issue. We haven't heard of any company who cannot find an HP 3000 this year, once they'd committed to buying one.
Lester also wanted to know how to safely move HP 3000s to a new facility. That's an answer for an expert we would like to hear from. If you have a "moved our 3000 recently" story, share it with us. It's a fundamental question about a complex process — something like being a 3000 community member during this Transition Era.