First HP communique pens up patches 'til 2011
Yes, HPSUSAN, there is a transfer

An FAQ view of HP's news

Wednesday's Web page about Hewlett-Packard's 3000 decisions ran about 850 words long, but HP's message was dense with subtext and strategy. While we arrange a follow-up interview with HP's e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou about the announcement, I thought an FAQ on the developments would help clarify new positions and identify same-song strategies.

I'm migrating, but we won't finish by the end of HP support at the start of 2011. Anything changing in here for us?

A company which needs to upgrade a 3000, or purchase a bigger one, to tide them over during migration gets some help from the announcement. HP said it has cut prices for a Right To Use license 35-50 percent, although the document said HP did this as of July 1. There was no announcement of reduced pricing on these RTU licenses before Wednesday.

Also, any migrating customer who finds a 3000 without a valid license — and HP itself has stripped MPE/iX licenses off 3000s during trade-in programs — will be able to buy an MPE/iX license through a new "Lost License Replacement" policy and fee.

We need HP support to keep our top management satisfied with relying on the 3000. Anything change there?

No. HP still intends to shut off an ever-more-limited version of vendor-branded 3000 support on December 31, 2010. That date is key to several other announcements, but this Web page affirms the HP exit deadline. A few other points on the HP page will hamper third party 3000 support, too.

What has HP decided about all those patches for the 3000 that are not generally released?

They are going to remain not generally released until December 31, 2010. HP will keep these fixes and enhancements outside of general use — but available only to its support customers by request  — in the hope that somebody in the customer base will test a few of these engineered projects. HP said the patches have had little public exposure. But that's because only HP support customers could test these enhancements and fixes. On January 1, 2011, all the 3000 patches go into the public-access, free use HP IT Response Center Web site, whether the patch has been tested or not. So, no change in the patch status for another two years, with the exception of those patches which might be tested and general released.

This announcement was signed by the HP 3000 Lab Director Ross McDonald. Is that lab going to last until 2010?

Not in any way that HP has ever operated a lab. HP didn't announce any extension of its Sustaining Engineering for the 3000 through 2009 and 2010. This "SE," as HP calls it, provides the technical know-how to create patches and fixes for HP 3000 problems. In a customer briefing this year, the head of support for the HP 3000 said "we are losing our lab" at the end of 2008.

What's the point of keeping patches inside the HP test loop without a lab on hand?

This is not clear, in part because HP never reveals the size of its 3000 headcount. Nobody knows just how "lost" the 3000 lab will be, or who might be left on staff to do any 3000 work like this. But the vendor said that 2009 and 2010 "may allow us to test additional “beta” patches and move them into the “General Release Phase.” HP has released conflicting messages this year, ranging from "if you have a bug, we can only attempt a site-specific workaround" to "we might be able to test and release patches."

What are we homesteaders getting now that we didn't have up to this week?

A promise to make online diagnostic tools available to everybody is somewhat new, or at least restated. There's one new date, December 31, 2015, when HP will stop offering all 3000 patches and documentation through any HP Web site — a sort of reverse way of saying that both the MPE/iX docs and the general release patches will be downloadable through that date. HP advised customers to start downloading now.

What's gone off the table, or been refused?

Mostly the internal hardware documentation and crucial 3000 personality software tools for configurations. SSCONFIG and SS_UPDATE, needed to restore CPU boards in system failures or configure HP hardware to enable boot-up as a 3000, will not go outside of HP's support staff or labs. Third parties won't get to work with these, ever. A CE Handbook won't ever be released to the community, either.

Will these two things matter to using a 3000 in 2011?

It depends on a customer's ownership policies, really. The most thorough support providers have tools and workarounds for both of these missing items, although there's some debate over the customer's rights and HP's ownership rights surrounding the function of the personality tools. But nothing has been announced to reduce the ownership rights of companies using the 3000.

Anything else offered up to the community out of this?

Two things, one old and restricting, the other new but with some possibility. You still cannot turn any HP 9000 systems into HP 3000s, HP says, by "enabling the MPE/iX operating system on the HP 9000 platform." Buy used 3000s on the secondary market instead, HP says.

But HP's free Invent3K timeshare system will go to the OpenMPE advocacy group. The group doesn't have a server picked out yet, and the HP Web page doesn't say what software that HP has been offering for free use on Invent3K will be transferred to OpenMPE. But there's a deadline on the shift of Invent3K responsibilities — not resources — out of HP. Hewlett-Packard will shut down Invent3K at the HP labs on November 30, 2008.