The HP that won’t go away
Why Emulation Doesn't Compute For Us

Emulating the HP end-game

Emulating HP 3000 systems on non-3000 hardware has cleared a checkpoint. Hewlett-Packard will use its Right To Use (RTU) license to enable the 3000 community to run MPE/iX on non-PA-RISC hardware. The company will also offer a $500 license, for customers who don’t have licensed MPE/iX, to put the 3000’s OS on a system such as an Intel-based high-end server.

HP plans to use its existing Software License Transfer process to move RTU licenses from HP 3000s to non-3000 hardware for emulation. The SLT transfer carries a $400 fee today.

HP says that that platform emulator products  — if any emerge — need to run on “HP licensed products.” These products will provide a new platform to host the environment that runs software designed to operate on an HP 3000.

The vendor hasn't worked out the agreement terms between itself and potential emulation vendors and did not want to discuss what's still in play. HP won't comment on which companies it is negotiating with, either.

HP said it’s been in recent talks with emulator companies — which it would not name — and believes that work is underway to create these emulators. HP’s statements released this week say that any emulator developers, such as SRI or Strobe Data and its partners, “are solely responsible for the emulator products they may develop and market at their discretion.”

HP's language on emulators is available in an FAQ at the company's e3000 Web page,

The restriction of running an MPE/iX license on a “HP licensed” hardware platform can’t be enforced with any technical checks. HP said it will rely on the integrity of the customers’ practices to keep the emulator licenses limited to use on HP’s licensed products.

“Throughout the history of the 3000 there’s a lot of faith put in customers that they don’t do things that are against licensing agreements,” said Mike Paivinen, the special contractor to HP working on post-2010 issues. “That’s because they conduct themselves in a matter that follows standard business principles.”

The strategy suggests that the emulator licenses will include the “HP licensed products” clause as a method of binding customers to HP’s selected hardware products. This prospect remains unclear, since HP hasn’t negotiated any agreements with emulator companies yet. But the emulator makers might not be bound to check through any software process for “HP licensed products.” Such technical checks don’t keep today’s 3000 users from practices that violate current licenses.

“You’re not supposed to be able to copy MPE from one system to another,” Paivinen said. “Is there anything that in MPE that prevents you from doing that? No. Do customers do that? Some do, but most don’t, because they understand that’s not the practice the license agreements define.”

As long as the licensing terms allow 3000 emulator users to meet business needs, “we don’t expect customers to violate those terms. The MPE/iX RTU license for platform emulators only licenses MPE/iX to run on HP licensed products. The emulator vendors are aware of this licensing policy.”

HP has been providing limited technical assistance to emulator vendors already, but “these vendors are very knowledgeable,” said e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou. “We’ve been working with them for a while now.”

Emulator vendors can also request a MPE/iX source code license. While support companies have been told they cannot use the source before 2011, HP hasn’t yet set the same requirements for potential emulator vendors. Software development would need to follow an accelerated timeline to be ready for use in January, 2011.

Having the source code, Paivinen said, can aid an emulator vendor “because you can see how the operating system is using the hardware and what the source code says the operating system is expecting out of the hardware. That can give you a leg up successfully creating an implementation that meets those needs.”

HP said it answered a technical question from an emulator vendor as recently as the first week of January. HP’s liaison to OpenMPE  Jeff Bandle said the vendor can’t speculate with any accuracy if any of the emulator companies will succeed in creating a product that can establish a market presence.

Bandle said that “we have a lot of experience out there, and some [companies] who have done it, but I don’t know what it takes to make an emulator so it’s hard for me to judge. If they believe it will be a viable business I would think they’d have something out there.”