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First HP communique pens up patches 'til 2011

In the first of what Hewlett-Packard says is a series of announcements about the HP 3000, the vendor addressed a handful of issues regarding beta test patches, release of HP's 3000 tools and documentation to the third party community, and restatements of positions the company has already announced for the server's customers. Meanwhile, HP's Invent3k development server will be getting a new home outside of HP by December.

An e-mail message to the HP 3000 newsgroup yesterday drew attention to an HP Web page where the vendor has started to issue a stream of news about its end-game policies for its 3000 business. A plan to release beta test patches led off yesterday's announcement, but the news will keep any beta patch still inside HP's grasp until December 31, 2010 — in the hopes that somehow, some HP support customer will be testing this software up to that time.

Starting in 2011, "the majority" of these HP 3000 patches, in whatever state of beta test, will be available through the HP ITRC, a public Web response center which anyone can access. HP said any beta-test patches which remain untested will be marked plainly when they go into public release at the start of 2011.

The HP announcement also unveiled a "lost license" policy for any HP 3000s which emerge in the market without valid MPE/iX licenses — that is, no proof of ownership which HP requires to transfer ownership of the operating system from one customer to another.

There have also been requests for a process to replace a lost MPE/iX RTU license in the case where an HP e3000 system has no documented history, such as a PO, invoice, or a support contract... We have also created a stand-alone MPE/iX RTU license product (AD377A) that is not coupled with any secondary hardware system sales.

By adding a license policy that gives HP 3000s a way to gain a license, "HP hopes to make the HP e3000 hardware upgrade and software RTU licensing process clearer and more manageable." HP did not specify a cost for this equivalent of a "lost parking garage ticket." But related to that cost question, the vendor did announce that its prices for these Right To Use licenses, sometimes needed for upgrades, have been cut 35 to 50 percent.

HP's officials, from Business Manager Jennie Hou to HP e3000 Lab Director manager Ross McDonald, stressed that yesterday's announcement was one of several to come. "Since this is the first communication, not all the requests have been included in this release. We plan to have another communication release in the near future," said HP's community liaison Craig Fairchild. The vendor realizes, and wants customers to understand, that questions remain unanswered about HP's role after the vendor's 3000 business expires in about two years. Some questions, however, had negative answers yesterday.

No third party support company will be able to use HP's SS_UPDATE or SSCONFIG software tools to service 3000s which need changes such as modified or transferred HPCPUNAME or HPSUSAN parameters. This is a disappointment to the third party support companies who now serve the majority of HP 3000s. HP said customers, support vendors and third parties cannot use these programs to alter a 3000's personality "because of intellectual property leveraged" to protect other HP business servers which use  similar tools. HP also restated that it won't permit MPE/iX to be operated on HP 9000 servers.

As for the beta test patches, the dozens of enhancements and repairs will spend 2009 and 2010 stored on HP's exclusive servers for its support customers. Next year marks the start of Mature Product Support without Sustaining Engineering for the 3000, a status the vendor calls MPS w/o SE. The server's lab closes up at the end of this December, so any patches which have not been tested enough to release to the world will gain a new status: capabable of being tested, but with no clear source of lab resources to implement any changes based on the testing. Or so it would seem, knowing that HP's head of support says "we lose our 3000 lab" when this year ends.

Before December 31, 2010, only customers with a valid HP support contract may request “beta” patches. This strategy will help us keep track of “beta” patch distribution through the MPS w/o SE support period and may allow us to test additional “beta” patches and move them into the “General Release Phase. After December 31, 2010 we will release to the HP ITRC web site, the majority of all remaining patches that are still in what we call the “Beta Test Phase.” These are patches that have had little or no customer exposure since being developed.

After Hewlett-Packard support ends in 2010, releasing “beta” patches ensures that those of our customers remaining on the HPe3000 platform will have the most complete pool of remedies for any issue that may arise. All released “beta” patches will have additional verbiage added to the patch description indicating that they are “beta” rather than certified generally released.

It might be worthwhile to note that there's no promise to release all beta test patches in 2011, but only "a majority." On the other hand, a brief note reports that the CSTM online diagnostics, which HP protects with a password today, will be opened up through an unspecified customer process. The process to unlock CSTM tools will be available "after HP Support exits the Mature Product Support w/o Sustaining Engineering phase." Details on this process will only be available starting in 2011.

HP will continue to make its public documentation available through 2015 via HP Web sites, but a powerful support document is going to remain confidential and out of the reach of 3000 users. "Due to the level of intellectual property information in the handbook, a decision was reached to not release the HP CE Handbook to customers, third party resellers, or support providers." The book describes the 3000 configuration process, according to HP. Similar volumes remain available which cover HP 3000 hardware prior to the latest N-Class and A-Class servers.

The HP announcement also included a notice that the invent3K public access Web server will have its operations turned over to OpenMPE. HP describes invent3K as "a development system for 3000 software developers which contains a full suite of development tools." HP's invent3k goes offline on after November 30. Details on access and what will be hosted on the new invent3k, operated by OpenMPE, can be learned from the OpenMPE system manager at [email protected]