At last week's GHRUG International Technology Conference, HP reminded the community that nobody owns MPE/iX but HP. Owns it forever, even if you bought a server because you believed MPE/iX was bundled, added value of a great operating system and database. No, your money was spent on a license, not software.
At GHRUG, HP's e3000 business manager Jennie Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP will cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exits the 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."
See the presentation slide below (by clicking to get a larger view) for the exact HP wording.
It looks like HP's statement about licensing, announced in the dark holiday week of December 2005, must be re-evaluated. Not that it was untrue, but consider what it amounts to. It's a mystery how HP can give any significant use of MPE/iX to third parties in the years after the vendor won't offer services for the 3000 community. A third party owns nothing under these rules, but should build a business model and employ experts on this basis? Risky business, that.
A third party will just have to hope to rely on access to MPE/iX source. And nothing else but hope. In any contract no better than a typical customer's, a support firm would own nothing but that Right To Use what HP owns. Support for the third party support supplier for MPE/iX from HP? Shut down, by 2010. Support suppliers could consider that deal a sketchy foundation to build a business upon.
The 3000 community can only hope that's not HP's intention for support providers: To make any alternative support for the 3000 community remain sketchy. HP retains its ownership, but the intention of this 2005 announcement was to "help partners" do support business. Here's that HP 2005 statement, as a reminder of Hewlett-Packard's intentions.
When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties — if partner interest exists at that time — to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.
If this sounds dour, the update was at least a disappointment for any community member bringing expectations to the GHRUG meeting. HP has refused, according to community sources familiar with the matter, to budget any monies for the source code project until at least November, 2010. That's right: the word we heard is that the work that only HP can do to put MPE/iX into the community didn't make it onto the 2008 budget, and won't make it into 2009's spending, either.
We would love to be corrected on this last point by HP, or at least learn of a change of its strategy. Because if the report is right, it means that Hewlett-Packard is not doing the right thing for any companies which won't be migrated by the end of October, 2010. Hundreds to thousands of companies, according to our reports from HP's partners. Despite HP's statement at the conference that migration activity is "now on the down-slope," we hear very different reports from customers both large and small. Something is on the down-slope in HP's 3000 view, to be sure, but it's not the work of moving off the HP 3000.
If HP gets to work late in 2010 on source code transfer, that's late enough to consider the project a non-starter — as well as a surreptitious turnabout from HP's intention in 2005 to enable your community to continue with MPE/iX servers.
To be clear, we heard that HP plans to shut down all of its public 3000 operations just 60 days into the HP 2010 budget. We're at a loss to figure who inside HP could do enough preparation for MPE/iX transfer in what will be less than eight weeks' time. By November of 2009, the HP 3000 lab will already have been closed for 10 months. Workarounds and site-specific patches are all that will be done.
Business sometimes includes no fairness. But conduct with a community should be built on justice. HP has long maintained that your money paid for support has no business funding any work inside HP's development labs. Forget if that is fair. Think about whether it seems a just act to receive revenues this year, with no regard for how a longtime partner — the customer — will fare after a supplier closes the doors.
Some people buy insurance for peace of mind, with no intention of using it. HP's support customers get access to untested enhancements and fixes for their money. By the end of this year, third party support gets better than anything HP offers to the customer at large.
Any community members who need HP to finish its end-game work, by beginning to reveal specifics now, should consider this kind of justice about maintenance. Especially when they consider the question of maintaining a relationship with a vendor who has one last proprietary environment — HP-UX and HP Integrity servers — which it means to sell you as a 3000 replacement.
Remember, you're not purchasing HP-UX, just a right to use it. And every vendor-specific product has an end-game. Watch what HP does right now with the HP 3000 and MPE/iX in the vendor's end-game.