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Migration consternation: Back support fees

There might be more customers who don't have to remain on HP 3000s if vendors such as Cognos didn't change so much to upgrade. While that's been the story of consensus in the 3000 community for years, even PowerHouse users in other environments are getting back-payment pain while they try to remain a hostage to the language.

Up on the PowerHouse newsgroup, an OpenVMS consultant said his client was quoted $4,115 Canadian dollars for five extra licenses on a server. The client dropped PowerHouse support in 2004, since they'd never used support in five years of owning the language. The real sticking point comes when Cognos, now owned by IBM, demands back support fees for a chance to sell those five licenses. Etienne Rompre said

The license price is okay for five users, but they also said that I need to get back on support for two years back and one year forward for an additional $9,900 CAD. So for five additional users, this sums up to $14,015 or $2,800 per user. At this rate, even Microsoft licenses seem cheap.

Many a HP 3000 site faced with this kind of pricing will find a way to step away from PowerHouse. Core Migration uses both Java and Microsoft's .NET framework to liberate customers from this kind of business practice. After all, vendor lock-in is so 1980s. And the new Cognos ownership has apparently changed nothing about this kind of pricing practice.

For the 3000 homesteading community, the Cognos approach just keeps companies in the "continue to use" mode, since they might be able to cost-justify migration's new hardware and the surround code programs, but can't pay the price in return-to-support fees. Migration candidates have to pay to remain on PowerHouse, even on a new platform like HP-UX, where they also might have to swallow upgrade fees.

Vendors are entitled to charge whatever works for their business plans, but OpenVMS, just like HP 3000s, is a platform with a dwindling lifespan at Cognos. It's easy to understand why back support makes sense for a supplier who's going forward with your platform. It's baffling to see how this kind of business could do anything but drive a customer into an alternative — or freeze them onto a platform they might otherwise leave.

Etienne anticipates a chilly reception to a Cognos offer that looks hot to grab cash from a receding product line.

If I present this to the customer, they will show me the exit pretty fast, and find another car rental package running on the web or on Windows. Any suggestions on how to pass this to the customer? Or any suggestion to move away from PowerHouse to another open source tool to redo the rental package?

HP recognized this kind of pricing would hold up HP 3000 migrations and said they would try to work things out with third parties. But the vendor realizes it cannot force a company to deal in a way to retain customers and encourage migrations that stick with the language or solution. Cognos isn't the only company dealing this way, but the stories never seem to cease about the product that's still running in more than a thousand HP 3000 sites.