Adager Corporation, the company whose 3000 products are so omnipresent they held a spot on the Hewlett-Packard corporate price list, believes there may be potential in HP's MPE/iX source code offer to the third parties supporting and developing for the 3000 community.
But at this moment — while HP's offer consists of an invitation to negotiate a reference-use-only license agreement for MPE/iX — it's hard to be sure of any source value, said Adager CEO Rene Woc. HP reports that the source for the IMAGE database will be included in a read-only reference license. It's not the first time third parties like Adager have used HP's source.
"We haven't had access to IMAGE source code for a long time, since the MPE V days, but we have a feeling of what would be involved," Woc said. "I think that it all depends on how [the source] is made available. IMAGE is orders of magnitude more complex today, even though it hasn't had development in close to 10 years."
The source code "is probably a security blanket," Woc said. "In that respect, it's good that it will be available, that they're starting to offer some things. We'll have to see what kind of conditions HP will offer in their license agreements."
But having source access though a license will not automatically make a license holder a better provider of products and services, he added. "You cannot assume, even with good source code readers, that the solutions will pop up," he said. "A lot of the problems we see these days are due to interactions between products. So the benefit for the customer would be based more on the troubleshooting skills that an organization can provide."
Adager has built and maintained a reputation for such troubleshooting in the community, becoming the vendor called first, as well as a last resort, when HP 3000 difficulties arise — especially in database and data corruption crises. Many companies maintain a support contract with the company for the value of this troubleshooting as much as for the management power of the Adager software.
"The basic resources [of source] won't make things better by themselves. It's a matter of troubleshooting," Woc said.
The picture at enterprise sites can be complex, including the IMAGE Transaction Manager which is outside of MPE/iX, plus products such as NetBase for system replication which intercept IMAGE calls, then the IMAGE operations inside the database. This configuration is common to reasonably large shops "which have applications that start misbehaving, and then no source code will tell you what the problem is. You have to do a significant amount of troubleshooting first to know in which ballpark to look."
These kinds of support issues might involve multiple ballparks, something Woc says Adager gets involved in on a regular basis. "That's why our customers are happy to remain on their Adager maintenance, even though Adager is the tool to let them repair the database corruption. They actually get the time of people that can if not provide solutions, at least ask questions that eventually help the users find a way around the problem. And in this day and age if you're running one of those 24x7 shops, you're interested in getting your system back online, even if that involves a workaround."
Yes, he said, "source code is important whenever these kinds of organizations have support from HP, which most of them do." But HP engineers can look at source, just as third parties will do, "and the answers won't come instantaneously. In the meantime, you have to get your business back on track, and I think that's what the customer is eventually interested in. it will be nice to have that additional [source code] resource — especially in the sense that it will not be lost to the community."
HP's terms of license are crucial to determining the value of any release of source code, Woc stressed. "They may be too restrictive, to the point where you say that you are better off not knowing, because then I'm free to use all the methods we've worked with while we didn't have source." After getting a license to source, "you might have to prove that you got your knowledge through a difference source than HP's source code. We will see."