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3000s don't add up in migration

Whose life is ending, and when

You hear the phrase "end of life" a lot in the 3000 community. Usually it's Hewlett-Packard talking about its HP 3000 product. It's as if once HP stops supporting the system and working on MPE/iX, then the server is dead.

We also hear "end of life" from some partners in the HP 3000 community, especially those with a heavy migration quota to fill. By heavy quota I mean a lack of business such a partner can conduct with a customer who won't migrate anytime soon.

Come to think of it, that's really the perspective HP seems to approach every time the vendor uses phrases like "as the 3000 comes to its end of life." Whatever is ending, it's unlikely to be the HP 3000 use at a good number of good HP customers. If that were not true, then HP would say its 3000 support will reach its end of life, without a doubt in 2010.

Products outlive their creators. A user group sprang up in the 1980s to support the beloved Osborne PCs, after the company that created them had gone belly-up in 1983. The First Osborne Group (FOG) held their system and its included software close to their hearts, long after Osborne fell to the competition of Apple and Kaypro.

Ancient history, some might say, adding that the market is completely different 20 years later. But the customers aren't that different. Keep in mind that the 1980s is the time when many of the strongest HP 3000 advocates and its most durable customers adopted the 3000. For these companies, the end of life that's approaching soonest is not for a server that runs well in their enterprises and is supported by a growing third party ecosystem.

Not only does this "end of life" concept fly in the face of customer habit, it is also difficult to predict or track. HP said at its latest appearance at the GHRUG meeting that migrations are winding down now. The attendees were thus enticed to surmise that being un-migrated meant they were behind the majority of 3000 owners.

Robelle has pledged to keep its HP 3000 business running through 2016. Vesoft, which still can count on several thousand support-paying customers, won't even discuss an end of life date for its business. Adager, The Support Group, Pivital and the many hardware resources — you won't hear them talking about the 3000's end of life.

No one can dispute that the field of 3000 owners is dwindling in size. That makes for opportunity for the partners who sell migration solutions. This is the ecosystem that HP dreamed up when it started one end of life in 2001: The end of its HP 3000 business. It's not hard to imagine, given the FOG-like support for the 3000 concept: A computer designed to run for years without need for repurchase, upgrade or extra expense.

Systems offered today have a certain end of life, planned by their makers, who have a follow-on product in design and test even while the older systems sell well. We're careful to call HP's ending its "exit from the community," a group that will still be using the systems to efficient effect, years after HP ends its 3000 life.