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Which HP world looks more real?

Techforumcatalog After a week spent at the HP Technology Forum, I found my way back to the NewsWire office, but I haven't been able to pinpoint the definitive location of your community. Is the experience all about expanding technical choice and excising the old systems? It certainly seemed that way in Las Vegas at the Forum, right from the start of the experience when the attendees were handed a 3-pound, wire-bound program to haul back to their hotel rooms. The book was crammed with more than a thousand sessions, keynotes, and hands-on labs, a tome festooned with tabs.

The assembly was so large it took three floors of the Mandalay Bay Convention center to contain it all. A 20-minute walk between two session rooms was not difficult to engineer. Over a day or so, I learned the shortcuts and elevator outlets, as well as where the comfy chairs and quiet, wi-fi-enabled salons were located.

TrickshotThis was a conference devoted to HP's enterprise computer offerings, including the vendor's storage systems. The show floor was broad enough to offer both an HP Store (complete with branded clothing and HP-logoed Leatherman tools) and a trick-shot pool artist playing one customer after another (all men, as you can see why at left) at the QLogix booth. Why not? Just a few years ago, when Interex hosted an HP World, Danica Patrick of race-car fame was the beautiful attraction at the Logical booth.

The conference was so jammed with ideas, new solutions and HP employees that I could believe this vision was the only possible one for a user of HP-built computers. Tromp those three floors, wander that expo hall with foosball table and a DriveSavers booth where disks were being destroyed for entertainment, and the vision of the HP 3000 faded quickly. I could believe the migration expert who said to me, one month before the conference

An IT director or CIO that does not have an active plan to migrate or terminate the HP 3000 applications is doing his company a disservice. I cannot believe that such a thing exists, it's unthinkable, but I'm sure it does exist.

And yet, sensible and responsible IT pros rely on the HP 3000 today. Some of the servers work inside HP's own IT operations, and yes, those do have active termination plans. It's the length of those plans that calls the other HP computer vision to mind, a location without trick shots, three pounds of sessions or the change which HP promotes to aid quick changes in an enterprise computer environment. How much change does a company need to observe and learn about?

Forummap For this other world of the HP enterprise customer, few pictures or three-color maps are needed. Instead of reaching for the novel innovation, the talent in the homesteader's world is learning to focus, like an elder whose heartbeat has become books instead of the 500 changing channels of TV. (For the record, I saw no displays promoting HP flat-screen TVs at the expo.)

Instead, the homesteader gives good reasons why the unthinkable is thinkable. "With 11 locations around the world," says ISIT Director Terry Simpkins of Measurement Specialties, "we have a substantial investment in the 3000's continued operation. At this time we have no plans to leave the HP 3000 platform."

"We are actively installing SAP," says Zelik Schwartzman of Estee Lauder Companies. "However as far as the HP 3000 is concerned, we anticipate this system will be around for many many years to come, as we use it as our MRP engine.

Valley Presbyterian Hospital has migrated away to another hospital information system. But they are doing the unthinkable and homesteading their 3000, too. "It doesn't look like the HP 3000 will be going away," says senior programmer/analyst Catherine Litten. "It has become our data repository for historical reporting. Nothing new going on, just lots of reports and data extracts."

General Manager Gary Shumm at IRA backoffice management firm IER says "we will be upgrading some hardware this year to continue its use." A consultant says his largest client operates more than 30 HP 3000s and will do so until at least 2011. "They are hard at work trying to complete their migration," says Mark Ranft. "The time and effort required to migrate will continue. After that the systems will remain for historical purposes."

More than 30 HP 3000s, most of the latest generation? Healthcare-critical customers making crucial use of MPE/iX systems? Ordering new hardware for a server that lose its HP lab support for in six months? A company with 11 locations using the 3000 with no plans to migrate? These scenes do match the HP enterprise vision I observed, recorded, and photographed in Las Vegas at the Technology Forum.

C7000back In the US over the past six years, just about the same time as the post 9/11 era, we're heard of a Red State vs. Blue State mentality. Diametrically opposed in vision, we have been told. But lately in my country we are hearing a message that we have more in common than we have in difference. Things don't look the same in Lawrence, Kansas as in Las Vegas — but there is an HP liaison to the homestead community in one town, while the other hosted the expertise to configure new blade server replacements (at left) at a conference in the other.

Nothing is unthinkable, however unfamiliar it may seem. I walked down to the expo floor in the waning hours of my Tech Forum visit and tried to explain that the HP 3000 community would be slower to adopt blades, new environments, and asked what steps the vendor could offer to ease the transition to the three-ring, wire-bound carnival of change. The HP employee at the booth struggled to understand that staying with older hardware could be responsible, not radical or reckless.

It's easy enough to acquire the need for the new. A movie about a beloved robot opened this weekend, and the discarded world in WALL-E was entertaining and inspirational. Tossing things away should be a considered action, one where re-use and renewal are options. Hey, HP even has an Alpha ReNew program now, one where you can purchase Alpha enterprise servers from the vendor for use in the VMS environment.

Another animated gem of a movie, Robots, lured its populace with the slogan, "Why be you, when you can be new!" You can be both. You can be an HP computer user whether Las Vegas or Lawrence seems more like home. With some skilled choices, you can find value in both forums for years to come.