HP returns to the OS business?
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How 45 grand can create HP rogues

HP 3000 owners want to honor license agreements, but the current state of the 3000 community can make pirates of anyone with a corporate mandate to keep relying on the system. For some customers, HP's two-year-old upgrade pricing on beefing up 3000 systems — the Right To Use license fees — might be a roadblock, something to encourage off-the-books modifications to HP 3000s.

That RTU cost is an unfortunate fact of life for a 3000 customer who cannot afford to migrate, either today or anytime soon. But there's even more cost, also in the realm of usury, which a 3000 homesteader must weather — or navigate around. Creating a licensed new system as a hot spare in a disaster recovery site, complete with third party licenses to match a production box, will trigger a license fee from Cognos (for PowerHouse). The Cognos cost can be as high as $45,000 for a low-end 9x7 server.

That's the opening bid from Cognos, anyway. There's been a court of corporate appeal, as it were, inside the Cognos (now IBM) management. Charlie Maloney has taken ownership of these kinds of negotiations, sometimes injecting a dose of reality into a vendor price list that seems frozen in 1999. But if there's 45 grand in the way of a hot spare, customers who lose in the court of appeal will do their jobs to keep a 3000 always available. That's the fork in the road where a customer enters rogue status, duplicating HP model strings to enable their spare system to be a hot, plug-and-go 3000.

More than two years ago the 3000 community first heard about a program to enable this kind of 3000 modification. We say modification because that's how HP describes the process and its policy, as in "a customer cannot modify any information in HP 3000 stable storage. That's only HP's job."

Nevertheless, the 3000 is not a magic box which can keep changing its technology. The ss_update program inside PA-RISC servers of recent vintage is now in change of such changes, and earlier this year Steve Pirie and his partners opened up business to enable such modifications for support emergencies where HP doesn't support the 3000.

The magic codes inside of ss_update may or may not have changed. We don't find it easy to discover this kind of information, but back in 2006 we heard of examples which we documented once they were offered as proof. Earlier this year, we got an update on the gateway to this kind of process. We don't condone violating a license agreement. On the other hand, as a journalist I just report what I see and hear. This kind of thing has got to be expected in a market where the vendor is heading for the door in a hurry, and the third parties still want to cash in on customers struggling to keep computers online.

People can make judgment and adhere to their principles in situations like this, if they have the room in budget and understanding from their management. Obviously, HP has a solution: abandon the homestead notion and invest in a new HP system (a task not accomplished overnight, or even in a year for most 3000 owners.) However, some companies face $45,000 of new expenses for a system which they can purchase at eBay this month for $2,000. An injection of common sense pricing into the 3000 marketplace, from both system and some software vendors, could reduce a need to turn onto the road of rogues.