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February 29, 2008

OpenMPE answers from some candidates

By this morning, less than 24 hours are left to cast a vote in the OpenMPE election. This year's balloting has already topped last year's voting, but there's still time to make your voice heard. (You should vote at openmpe.org, where you must join first. Membership is free.)

Last week we posed questions to all seven candidates by e-mail, as well as posted them to the OpenMPE and HP 3000 mailing lists. As of yesterday, we had four candidates reply: Keith Wadsworth, and incumbents Matt Perdue, Tracy Johnson, and Donna Hofmeister.

We'd like to tease you with our final question, since it gives the candidates a chance to say what they believe OpenMPE should do right away to let the advocacy group help the community:

Should OpenMPE go after the mission of testing the dozens of beta test patches still stuck inside HP’s 3000 labs? What can the group do to convince HP that the expertise is in place to do that independent testing, and so release HP's improvements and engineering to the full 3000 community?

Keith Wadsworth’s answer: This raises many questions about the needs of the users, and the OpenMPE organization as well. For example, is there any hard data that strongly indicates that a large number of remaining  users, or even a small number, need these patches? I believe the OpenMPE board needs to raise, explore and answer such questions thoroughly. Addressing the question of testing, although the OpenMPE board members and  members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent  that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to  conduct such testing.

Matt Perdue's answer: OpenMPE has discussed this issue many times and offered to host the beta test patch distribution and result reporting process for HP. Paul Edwards has suggested that HP offer the beta patch test process to the DSPP community, and OpenMPE has the access to the machines necessary to perform this task and the expertise as well. OpenMPE has asked [HP R&D Lab Manager] Ross McDonald to consider having OpenMPE administer the beta patch test process as a “proof of track record” for OpenMPE, and it would help with the business relations between HP and OpenMPE as well.

Tracy Johnson's answer: That would be a perfectly fine goal. I believe the one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other.  Everything else hinges on this.

Donna Hofmeister's answer: The question on everyone's lips! (see the NewsWire blog story about this).
HP -- we need an answer, we need action. It's time!

Answers to our other four questions:

How soon must HP make a decision about its source code licensing for the 3000’s operating environment? Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as it plans to do now?

Hofmeister: How soon? Yesterday... a year ago... two years ago!  I want MPE's transfer to be a success for all parties. The sooner this process can begin, the better for all concerned.

Wadsworth: It occurs to me that this “decision”  belongs to HP and that it is not the purview of others to presume to tell HP what they must do, let alone how soon.  Having said this, is it possible that HP could well have already made this decision? And that the decision is the source code will not be released?  I believe that the OpenMPE board needs to take this real possibility under consideration and re-evaluate its goals and purposes to best serve the community should the source code not become available.

Perdue: HP in the person of Ross McDonald has made public statements to the HP3000-L and the OpenMPE-L that HP will release responsibility for MPE/iX at some point in the future. I and others on the Board have been holding HP’s feet (well, Ross’ anyway) to the fire on this issue and that’s one of the main reasons I’m running to remain on the Board - I want to continue to press Mr. McDonald to follow through with his (and HP’s) commitments to release MPE/iX to an “outside of HP” company. Mr. McDonald may feel uncomfortable when I “put him on the witness stand and cross examine him” but sometimes that’s necessary.

As to 2010 - no, that is not acceptable. I’ve expressed to Mr. McDonald that the transfer needs to begin NOW, while HP still has the people in place that deal with the processes involved every day, and can pass on that knowledge in a business like and timely manner. I don’t mean the technical ability to do the work, that already exists outside HP; I’m talking about the build and test processes that HP has created over the years that actually create a build or patch release.

Johnson: As a organization with nine people on its board with with little or no funds, I don’t believe it is in our power to tell HP a that they “must” make a decision and have them listen to us.  It is apparent HP cares not one wit whether OpenMPE declares any decision “acceptable” or not, and making such declarations isn’t going to gain any friends at HP. We’re more like a Public TV station that needs a telethon every once in a while to keep us going. But there’s only one donor with the currency (MPE) to make it worthwhile, and that is HP. If we want HP to make that donation, we need to convince HP (our viewership) the donation is worth their while. Otherwise MPE stays permanently on Pay Per View.

What is the one achievement for OpenMPE which the group must accomplish during 2008 — the mission which the group must not fail at?

Hofmeister: The MPE emulation project is gaining traction. OpenMPE will be playing a critical role in this.  I’m hopeful that HP, OpenMPE and the people looking to bring an emulator to market will jointly work out all the details in the coming year.

Wadsworth:  To properly serve the community I believe OpenMPE needs more than one singular achievement goal, and this needs to be more than wishing and hoping to acquire and maintain the MPE  source code. It would seem that supporting a 30+ year old operating system with a shrinking market would be financially very challenging; especially for an organization that publicly states it has no money, no income, and no source of revenue other than limited contributions.  Addressing questions below might be a good place to begin discussing and outlining 2008 target achievements.

Perdue: Getting the license issues for an emulator “in cement.” This has progressed quite well up to this point, and I’m waiting to hear back from Jeff Bandle on a time for a joint meeting with all the interested vendors (U.S. based and Europe) to discuss license issues. Working with Birket Foster I’ve been leading the effort from the OpenMPE side to get the emulator into production, and that process has started. We’ve got a long way to go, but I definitely feel there will be at least one, and I’d prefer two, emulator products for the future.

Johnson: Given the current status of OpenMPE and HP relations, I believe the one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt, is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other.  Everything else hinges on this.  Although it is a cliché to say “Failure is not an option.”, a failure in 2008 is not a death knell, to parapharse Scarlet O’Hara, “2009 is another year!”

Should third party support providers have access to HP's diagnostics, especially stable storage tools such as ss_update, in case of a system board failure, or the closing of a software company which cannot update licenses (with HPSUSAN numbers) any longer?

Hofmeister: This is another area where I'd love to see some productive conversations occur with HP.  I just can’t stress enough about how quickly time is slipping away. These decisions can’t wait until the last minute.

Wadsworth:
Third party companies already have offerings and new offerings are being openly discussed.  OpenMPE needs to be evaluating what can be offered should HP not provide additional access.

Perdue: As others have said, there already exists third party software to address this issue. Prior to things like IRS and “Captain Greb” coming onto the scene, OpenMPE has had many discussions with HP regarding this extremely important issue. HP will not release ss_config for use outside HP, but HP has stated that their field engineers will be able to use ss_config with the guidance of the response center to service customers. HP has also stated the charges for this service is on a time and materials basis. Personally I’d like to see some way for HP to streamline this process to minimize the time it takes to recover a customer to production status when a CPU board swap is necessary. Perhaps one charge for 4 hour response time and another for 24 hour response. Presently it’s only available (as I understand it) on a 24 hour response.

Johnson: HP would have to change its modus operandi to lease those tools. Since such decisions aren’t usually made on a whim, I think the onus would be on the third parties to negotiate such any contract. In the worst case of a post-mortem software company, copies of such tools should be put in an escrow vault that can be purchased by one or more bidders. OpenMPE should encourage such a such decision without being demanding.

HP has expanded its “permissible upgrade” language in its RTU licenses.  Does the vendor need to offer anything to the community to prohibit the  movement of MPE/iX from system to system? Something perhaps like unlocking  the horsepower of the 3000s in the A and N Class?

Hofmeister: Hindsight is 20-20. If times were different, I would like to think that stronger MPE licensing might be something that HP would have done.  But at this point, i don’t foresee hp making this change or doing anything about CPU horsepower.

Wadsworth: Prohibit the movement” and “unlocking the horsepower” seem to be separate topics, so I will address unlocking the  horsepower.

On first blush this seems like a great idea – making it easier for the remaining  users to increase server performance.  And I am all for it. However, first we  might ask why would HP do this at this time to a product line that has less  than 24 months of HP support? If delivered by HP proper, this type of change  would not only add new breath to the e3000, it would add new life to a  platform that is being shut down.  So because of the unlikelihood of this happening I do not think it is a direction that OpenMPE should concentrate  resources on at this time.

Perdue: OpenMPE has tried numerous times to get HP to consider unlocking the available CPU cycles on A and N class machines. The issue involves the third party software vendors licenses and sales on tier levels, and HP has stated they have no plans to unlock the extra CPU cycles because of third party software license concerns. I’d propose a way should be found that if a site can certify they have only x, y and z third party software and get a certificate from their software vendors, that HP allow the unlocking. After all there are sites that don’t use any third party software that would have tier license issues, and these sites should be able to use their machines fully.

It’s questionable now if HP really could do anything to prevent the movement of MPE/iX to other machines, as they’ve not enforced their copyright literally hundreds to thousands of times, and any good lawyer is going to be able to beat them over the head with that issue and HP would stand a very good chance of loosing their case. In the case of copyrights, if you don’t aggressively move to protect it, you lose it.

Johnson: My first response is “Whaaa?”  “Offering” a “prohibition” seems like a contradiction in terms.  It is like driving to a toll booth, and paying the attendant to keep you off the bridge.  If you know you can’t get on, why drive there? 

Unlocking the HP 3000 systems is another subject entirely. Once you acquire a vehicle you should be able to make mods to the hardware, same goes for computers. Using the same metaphor, some mods may be only allowed in racing venues and may not be street legal. 

01:10 AM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink

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