Up on the 3000 newsgroup, a gathering of customers and vendors is debating the merits and restrictions of MPE/iX licenses. The licenses to run MPE/iX are supposed to stay with the hardware forever, but somehow HP has managed to orphan some HP 3000s with no license at all anymore. A few of these top-line servers have been offered for sale by Brett Forsyth of CTS, a reseller based in Arizona.
There's no foul play going by trying to sell these servers. But it's notable that the MPE/iX license, stripped from the system by HP, can be replaced by HP — for a hefty sum by purchasing a Right to Use (RTU) license. As EchoTech's Craig Lalley said,
As with the Catholic church, if you pay a lot of money HP will do just about any thing you ask. One of them being give you an RTU.
Rumor has it they still support the HP 3000. And in fact you can ask for and get a quote for support. However, without an RTU, HP is not allowed to add it to a support contract.
But is there unfair intent in HP insisting on tens of thousands of dollars for reviving the life of an HP 3000? As Forsyth said, "the issue here is 'dead' 3000 systems — what is their status, what is their purpose, and are they actually unusable just because HP says they are (this week)?"
Keeping 3000 systems out of the market with costly re-licensing fees (c'mon, 80 grand and more?) sure sends a clear HP message to the still-purchasing-3000 customer: Just don't do it. But several customers on the discussion believe the HP fee is what comes with a choice to buy an unlicensed 3000. These kinds of customers won't come near a 3000 without an MPE/iX that HP recognizes — even though HP will exit the 3000 community by the end of 2010.
Art Bahrs, a security consultant and speaker at HP 3000 events, says running with no license, regardless of HP's timeline to exit, runs risks he wouldn't be willing to shoulder.
Even if it is a low risk, if the moving of the software is not allowed under HP’s rules and the law, is it worth the risk? (Think disgruntled employee ‘dropping a dime’ about this to the BSA.)
Bahrs expressed the view of the 3000 customer whose life might include audits, compliance checks during an acquistion or more. "I know not having the appropriate paperwork for audit or due-diligence during an acquisition would present major problems," said Abtech's Jack Connor.
But Connor expressed another common view: Today's price of an RTU is out of line in a marketplace where the vendor won't ever offer complete support in a few months, a period more than five years after it ended sales.
HP’s RTU program presents a means of resetting the owner of record and attendant licenses for 3000s that have entered the market without any of the license transfer paperwork. I think this was a positive move on HP’s part; however, I feel the pricing is a bit out of line.
If there is no licensing information available with a box, there is no guarantee that the software hasn’t been pirated/cloned from other systems. In my opinion, this is a disservice to a purchaser, in that they may have to purchase their entire software complement at full price or close to it.
Forsyth weighed in this morning with message that outlines a business case for why HP's recognition of a license might not look like the most important item on an IT director's mission list.
Is a 3000 (with latest supported OS only) no longer valid just because a paper trail of ownership has been lost? And worse than that, since HP has all the docs on file as to who and where a 3K has been, is it fair for them to not be forthcoming with this information, and require an RTU to be purchased at great expense?
The current policy shows that HP doesn't care what ownership paperwork you have for any system you already own. Buy one, though, and now there's the HP Software License Transfer group to deal with — at least if you care about HP support, or that audit-compliance scenario.
HP has been reported to be less than helpful in resolving ownerships, too. Some resellers report the HP SLT database, which tracks the last-supported customer for every 3000, is a one-way information street. Bring HP the ownership paperwork, and HP confirms it. But ask who last owned the system under support, to track down the paperwork, and you're driving the wrong way on that one-way street. So, it's on to buying that "revival" RTU license at $80,000. Forsyth posted
From a $400 transfer fee to an $80K RTU — that’s quite a penalty for losing a piece of paper that SLT still has on file. Nice chuck for profit for HP too, considering they have brought nothing to the table. How about if I pay HP for the time to track down this information instead?
And then the kicker, from a frustrated Forsyth, who's been routed by HP's SLT department to Client Systems to get that $80,000 RTU. "Can you spell monopoly? Can you spell Sherman Anti-trust Act? C-l-i-e-n-t S-y-s-t-e-m-s."
If I was in kindergarten, I would be stomping my foot and saying “This just isn’t fair” and probably most of my class would agree — probably my teacher too. (reference: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) There are things that make you go “hmmmmm”....
Right To Use: I bought the box, paid for it, keep updating the OS as per HP protocol, and now wish to sell it. HP has already been paid once for the right to use this machine and the associated OS. Why should they get to hit the next guy (and the next), and if that is the case, where is my return on that investment? Surely not coming from HP...
One note: Software licensed to one 3000 can be transferred to another owner via the usual E36S form, independant of the OS. Many companies, such as Canvas Systems, make a good living properly moving software from one machine to another, and often purchase a machine for the software installed, as opposed to the hardware involved.
So to my 988 with 7.0 running on it - lost the SLT forms long ago, never had it on contract - totally bought and paid for the proper (HP) way. I can run it until the cows come home; no interferance from HP. I can put it online and even let you run production on it. Can I sell it to you to use without HP involved, or do I just lend it to you, charge you a monthly fee and keep it under my name?
If the rules are being changed midstream (constantly) where are the grandfather clauses? The agreement I got when I bought this 3000 still applies, regardless of what HP does post-purchase. Again, use the GM car analogy: There are new EPA standards - do I need to put a new engine in my ‘64 Barrcuda to run it on the road? Arizona DOT may get involved, but GM has no right — I bought the car's RTU upon original purchase and it travels with the vehicle from then on in.
In a coincidence, HP used that same "license plate and registration for a car" allegory when it laid down the law about tampering with a 3000 personality in 1999. Nobody in the discussion wants to defraud HP like that, since these 'dead' systems already has an "HP3000" nameplate on the front, not an "HP9000" plate. Maybe this year's increased traffic in selling used 3000s — and the outdated license policies built in an era when HP sold the system — are the reasons HP thinks it will reprice the RTU product, especially on the high end.