One final Forum bow?
Blades on parade

Critical mass makes CEO access

HP celebrated the 30th birthday of VMS at this month's Tech Forum, marking the end of a third decade of service of the operating system that has bulwarked the user group now known as Connect. Before there was Connect there was Encompass for HP enterprise system users, and before that the DECUS user group represented customers to the vendor. The oldest operating system still sold by HP makes the backbone of the vendor's largest user group.

Comingoffstage This year's meeting must have been especially satisfying to Nina Buik, president and leader of the new Connect group, as she lavished praise on the new allied group's members during Connect's coming out party at The House of Blues. "There," I said to Transoft's Rene Nunnington "is a person who was born to be a user group president."

After passing out awards and thanks for the many volunteers who give a user community backbone, Buik beamed during a short chat while she related her news of the day: HP CEO Mark Hurd gave her a 20-minute meeting at the conference, their first together.

WOnstagebluesith appropriate pride, Buik showed me her cell phone photo of her and Hurd together. I asked what he was like one-on-one, and she reported that he's all he appears to be onstage and in public. "And he expressed his strong support for the user group," she added.

The CEO of the world's largest computer firm can carry that kind of celebrity clout, impressing those whose job is to impress the opinions and decisions of HP's executives.

Such support is more important than ever for an organization that realizes its chief benefit is a link to HP's chief executives. With the alliance of three user groups into the single Connect, the entity "now has the critical mass" to earn more attention from HP than they might have had as individual user groups.

Critical mass is an important element in HP's valuation of its enterprise products. VMS achieved the critical mass which MPE didn't, even though the 3000's operating environment sold more than 80,000 systems in its HP lifetime. Once Hurd's predecessor, Carly Fiorina, looked over the enterprise assets of a merged company during 2001, the 400,000-plus customers using OpenVMS looked more critical to HP's business plans.

Of course, Fiorina wrote her own message of praise in support of the Interex user group, a document so widely distributed that it was still on the Greater Houston RUG Web site within the past year — years after both Interex and Fiorina left the HP stage. Connect will be doing its work in a different era and with a different style in the coming year. And just like OpenVMS, with a lot more critical mass.