HP sets last liaison, constant migration for 3000
Counting down to changes in strategy

OpenMPE seeks new director for advocacy

News from the only HP 3000 advocacy group reveals an opening on the OpenMPE board.

Noisy volunteers with no sense of circumspection need not apply. OpenMPE operates with a nine-person board of directors, one Web site which costs $50 or less to host, and the experience of a community with three decades of development savvy. The group also operates under a simulation of a Confidential Disclosure Agreement that keeps any director from reporting what HP tells the group. The board has never signed a CDA, but "we have, however, agreed to work with HP under a 'gentlepersons' agreement," according to director Donna Hofmeister.

This virtual CDA is not news, nor is an open seat on the group. Directors have resigned before; just earlier this year Paul Edwards left these volunteers after more than five years of service, listening and advice. This month Chuck Ciesinski had to vacate his position when he went to work for a Maryland firm which had a strict "conflict of interest" policy, he explained. Later on he took a job in New York which limited any time to give to the group. Ciesinski has been managing HP-UX systems for many years, but had several decades of HP 3000 experience and ardor to bring to OpenMPE. He said still operates an HP 3000 in his basement for consulting engagements. His most recent news is that he's gone to work for Hewlett-Packard.

The group revealed a tacit announcement of the opening yesterday in a message on the 3000 newsgroup. John Dunlop simply noted that a new entry of meeting minutes from the Oct. 9 conference call meeting was posted on the OpenMPE site. "The Board will consider nominees over the coming weeks," said the minutes. (You can contact director Hofmeister to volunteer for the spot, or be considered.) Another director added that OpenMPE doesn't elect replacement directors, but names them.

HP's OpenMPE Jeff Bandle went into Executive Session, where those CDA-like rules apply, during that Oct. 9 meeting. On that same day around noon, HP released its first communique about the vendor's end-game strategies for its 3000 business. Conjecture about the timing can be understood, but we hope that more was discussed than a pre-announcement briefing of less than a few hours before HP released its info to the public.

Reading the tea leaves of a set of OpenMPE minutes can inspire the imagination of an HP 3000 customer, especially anyone who's going to need 3000 support and services beyond the end of this year. Director Matt Perdue "checked with the bank regarding its electronic banking capabilities. He reported that they offer a complete suite of services including international wire transfers."

Why ever could expanded banking capabilities, especially of the online nature, be required of OpenMPE — a group which has not collected $10,000 in its six-plus years of existence? Some time ago, HP wanted to be assured that any group which would get a license to develop MPE/iX would have an adequate business model. HP was not clear about what model would be adequate, but the ability to process monetary exchange would be a key process in any good business operation.

Or perhaps the bank services are just a way of making a low-budget organization more efficient. HP says two more messages are forthcoming to the community about the post-HP lifespan of the 3000. The content of these messages is a mystery to the OpenMPE directors today. There's a big issue still not addressed by HP: Turning over the MPE/iX source code under a limited license, a transfer of intellectual property between HP's 3000 labs and somebody, perhaps OpenMPE. Would starting that process in 2009 give anybody a chance at getting a virtual MPE lab running by the end of 2010? "We certainly believe this will happen,"Hofmeister said, "but also have no assurance that it will."

Filling a volunteer position that requires working in the dark with guesses could be an impediment to attracting some caliber of volunteer. The CDA agreement is only in place because Bandle is talking with OpenMPE on behalf of HP. The vendor hasn't told me if Bandle will continue in his work during 2009, after the development lab and the community liaison both retire. The board has not been told, either. No HP talks mean no more CDA for any new discussions. We might expect a lot more exchange at that point between third party firms in the community and OpenMPE.

The frustration with the secret talks remains easy to spot in the community. One former board director, John Burke, railed about the CDA but then accepted the yoke once he volunteered for the board. The meeting minutes are so terse that one 3000 customer, Robert Mills, said the secrecy seems inappropriate for a vendor so close to ending its development decision operations.

Must ‘everything’ that happened during the executive sessions with HP be kept secret, or would they allow you OpenMPE to say what ‘areas’ were talked about, and how much time was spent on it? A feel of how much effort HP were devoting and to which areas might give ‘those of us in the dark’ an idea of how serious they HP are in letting MPE go.

I'm not a party to the executive sessions, but HP will let MPE go once it is finished collecting support revenues for a receding level of services. I would guess the vendor is serious about retaining some measure of control indefinitely, but the date when the reins loosen up is in the realm of Bernard Determe, HP's Worldwide Support Planning Manager. HP Support is the only organization going forward in 2009 and 2010 with anything other than migration planning assistance.