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One important job OpenMPE can do

HP has unfinished business in its 3000 labs: testing and releasing the scores of MPE/iX patches created since 2005. Yes, some of that engineering is more than two years old, and still not being released to the 3000 community.

Just in time, OpenMPE raises up its collective head this week and announces another election for board volunteers. We remain on duty, the group says, with the desire to help 3000 owners who remain on their systems. OpenMPE needs a mission, one that won't tax its resources too much but feels essential to the customers.

CEO Rene Woc of Adager proposed a task. Let OpenMPE administer the beta testing of those patches, enhancements caught in HP's logjam. Right now only HP Support customers can do the beta testing of these lab creations. If they're important enough to build, aren't they important enough to release? HP must've considered the patches essential when creating them. But HP support customers aren't biting off these new bytes. Meanwhile, OpenMPE has pan-community service in its essential charter. Secretary Donna Garverick-Hofmeister says support — which includes patch release — is a big part of what OpenMPE wants to offer the community. It can speak for the thousands of sites which cannot test patches, she said.

If it weren’t for OpenMPE, all these companies coming individually to HP for post-end of life support wouldn’t have a collective voice. HP could tell each company whatever they wanted without letting them know that other companies are asking the same questions. In my opinion, it’s OpenMPE that’s uniting these voices.

OpenMPE volunteers take a lot of guff from community bystanders. The organization hasn't paid its board members one dime, nor have the volunteers earned any advantage except a ringside view of how HP considers the 3000 market. Off the record, as HP insists. But releasing those patches via a program that taps non-HP-support customers for testing — that could deliver as much benefit as creating any patch during 2009 or later. No HP source code license required, either.

The patch release is an issue for migrating customers, too. Many who intend to migrate will do so years from now. Patches frozen in HP's labs can help migrating sites make the best use of a system that will still be working years from now. What needs to change? HP's ideals for those who can test patches. Frankly, HP support customers might be the least qualified testers in the community.

We don't mean any offense to the HP support customer who's hanging on because vendor-branded support is all that top management will tolerate. No, the less-qualified support customer who doesn't know much better than to shift to a better caliber of support, dollar for dollar, or who leaves HP's support contracts in place out of habit — that's who HP expects to test its most advanced software updates.

Not exactly the most senior, seasoned sites. It doesn't make much sense, but the strategy does follow HP's past policies. At the moment, OpenMPE can't even garner an HP contract to oversee proof-of-OS-build practices. The vendor passed up giving OpenMPE any more of that work.

Patches already created, however, and ready to be released to customers don't fall into such confidential territory. Maybe, Woc suggested, 2008 is the year that HP can push its patches into the community. Someone needs to do the testing and study the reports. HP's support customers are unwilling to do the former, and so HP can skip doing the latter task.

An independent organization feels like the best choice for this kind of quality assurance anyway. HP is likely to have its reasons to avoid tapping the OpenMPE resource for this work. Technical capability, however, seems like a unlikely reason to keep this untested software under wraps.

The proposal might be a way for HP to demonstrate that its work with the third party 3000 community doesn't have to wait until January, 2011. Such cooperation could silence community members who believe that HP is running out the clock by extending support, until no third parties can make a business out of serving the remaining customers.

Besides, OpenMPE still gets collective answers to questions which customers might have to ask alone. Test results are a form of certification of patch readiness. OpenMPE's Donna Garverick says work on behalf of the entire community has always been OpenMPE's mission. "The question for this year is, "Is this patch ready to do its work on my 3000?" One or two testers seem to be beyond HP's capacity to engage. More than 100 companies are on the OpenMPE membership roster. A simple release of liability — something the HP support customers don't even have to sign to do tests — is all that's required.

Oh, and there's HP's trust of OpenMPE and the community. The customers need that, too.