At this year's HP Technology Forum, HP's Alvina Nishimoto said the company is thinking about revising its Right to Use licenses for the HP 3000. The RTU was first introduced in the spring of 2007, when HP said it didn't really believe it would generate much revenue for the vendor.
Flash-forward to this summer. We hear reports now that some HP 3000s are for sale on the open market, but these servers don't have an official, HP-sanctioned license for the MPE/iX operating system on the server. Such 3000s have seen their licenses removed, transferred to HP-UX systems by HP, leaving the 3000 hardware without any licensed version of the OS.
In this case, there's a way to return this hardware to the ranks of a licensed HP 3000 server. Simply purchase an RTU for the hardware, available from former North American HP 3000 distributor Client Systems. Customers and resellers report that an RTU has been quoted at between $80,000 and $100,000 for N-Class HP 3000s. This is a price in addition to the cost of acquiring the hardware from the broker, reseller or owner who doesn't have a license to go along with the box.
The RTU has another use in a case such as this, according to brokers, customers and owners. For a product which HP didn't expect to sell many of, it's bringing a windfall to HP and anybody who has permission sell the license. No license transfer document to satisfy HP? Buy an RTU, simply for the right to return an HP 3000 to the ranks of working systems.
But what the RTU's extra $80,000 expense will do to many plans to buy used 3000s is create a new market: "Good people going under the table," unable to afford anything but running a 3000 without a license. With HP leaving the support business by 2010, and closing its 3000 labs in a matter of months, this kind of ownership really won't have any operational or technical disadvantages. What is the RTU doing? Creating a new kind of 3000 user: customers going underground to stay within budget in a very tough economy. They can't afford to maintain any more contact, or contract, with HP.
HP has official documents on what the RTU does today, but the explanation provides little detail on how the license is used by HP on un-licensed HP 3000s. There's a lot of language about moving 3000s between tiers of performance, and upgrading 3000s.
None of this will trouble a customer who buys a 3000 if they can get the system's license transferred. HP's Software License Transfer group handles this process which can help avoid an RTU. If you think getting a license for a used 3000 system recognized by HP is simple and straightforward, you might believe differently after seeing HP's FAQ on SLT processes.
The licenses themselves must always remain with the HP 3000s, HP reminds you, unless you've found a 3000 with no valid license:
Q31: Can we transfer the User License from its original HP e3000 to another HP e3000?
A: Unfortunately, no. The User License can never be transferred from its original HP e3000 to another HP e3000. The Operating System, the User License, Image, TurboImage and Allbase must stay with the original hardware and can never be swapped between two systems. Other HP3000 application software can migrate.
Let's see if this makes for complete logic. The Operating System must stay with the original hardware, HP states. Of course, being the inventor and IP rights holder to the product gives HP some unique capabilities in license transfers. For the better part of three years now, HP has allowed and encouraged its 3000 owners to transfer their HP 3000 MPE/iX licenses to HP-UX licenses. Here's a case where the Elvis of MPE/iX has left the HP 3000 hardware building.
Although some customers have asked for it, no such policy exists to turn HP-UX licenses into MPE/iX licenses. Who would do such a foolish thing? Who would run an HP 3000 without a valid license? Who would be interested in purchasing an RTU? The answer to all these questions is, "more customers, and bigger companies, than HP ever imagined."