HP Development Company signals HP exit
Enterprising IMAGE ideals arrived from outside

3000 resources held by HP's IP division

The 3000 community thinks of Hewlett-Packard's 3000 operations and sees faces it knows and voices it has heard. While the master of R&D Ross McDonald made a career of staying out of sight, the computer has had business managers since 2005 in Dave Wilde and Jennie Hou, and liaisons such as Jeff Vance, Jeff Bandle, Mike Paivinen and Craig Fairchild. Every one was at least a part-time employee of the HP 3000 division, or virtual CSY as they liked to call it.

All these faces and voices are now gone. HP's 3000 operations are run by two overseers. Bernard Detreme manages the Worldwide Support ops, just about the only place a customer can still buy something 3000-specific from HP. Determe made a conference call appearance last spring, but he's not a face well-known by your community.

The other overlord of 3000 intellectual property is the Hewlett-Packard Development Company. The CSY staff always had to deal with HPDC, and four initials trumped two. In a matter for lawyers and licensing, the Development Company has insisted on hanging on to copyright and property rights for software that HP will not support by 2011 — as well as software HP never supported, like the freeware programs from the Jazz server.

    There’s some good luck in what’s happened to the programs of Jazz. But there’s also bad precedent being set, even as good companies arrange to re-host Jazz contents. Good is the cost in dollars, and the fact that 3000 friends outside HP have wrangled licenses to share. Bad is the concept of open source getting branded as HP goods, as if the Jazz server’s disk drives don’t have enough space for the idea of giving something away with a generous license to share.

    HP is staking a claim on some Jazz programs which live a life outside the vendor’s reach. LDAP, Java, perl, sendmail: the list of what HP says it “produced/ported” includes almost every standard utility or subsystem. These fine-print, split-hair portions of software rights represent inviolate opportunity and control for the vendor.

   The software of Jazz that HP produced/ported was “supported” by HP, according to its own language. HP added the quotes around support, even for integrated parts of MPE/iX like Apache and Java/iX. If quote-marks support seems a tad below the 3000’s league to you, well, the 3000 wandered in that HP netherworld for more than a decade: not dead, but not alive in the sense of the rest of HP’s enterprise systems. So, even though HP created a special, remote neighborhood for its 3000 software, the unique status of the system isn’t recognized by HPDC. It’s all HP’s IP, even if some of it only runs on a system HP has been urging you to dump for years.

   All of Jazz ought to be free, as free as the Gnu license that controlled the open source where things like Apache and BIND began. In one extreme bit of down-the-rabbit-hole policy, BIND/iX re-hosting is controlled by HP, even while the vendor refused to close a security hole in that software in January.

    BIND might not ever have been worth much to many 3000 customers. But I remember the software starting its 3000 version many miles away from an HP lab. Mark Bixby built it when HP would not, gave it away to the community like good open source. Then HP hired him for 3000 work, taking BIND out of a free market in the process.

  The law gives HPDC the right to do all these things with its IP. Hewlett-Packard isn’t violating any copyright with its re-hosting police action. Saddest of all, the most ardent group of 3000 backers inside HP, the CSY faces and voices, got handed the job of laying down the IP policies — that bad precedent toward good customers.

    There’s no way to calculate how much damage in dollars HP’s business exit has cost 3000 owners. Think a host of hurricanes and you might be estimating on target. You can even subtract the cost of migrations which customers wanted to do, but needed HP’s nudge. It still adds up to millions in forced spending.

    What did all that spending buy the customer in HP’s goodwill, the no-strings donations to ease the exodus away from the vendor’s well-crafted creation? You got HP’s seven-year itch, scratching away at a migration strategy that should have been carved out clearly on the day HP made its 3000 music die.

    The community also gets one copy of MPE/iX to watch at the Computer History Museum, along with a donation of a 3000 that can run version 7.5. The system and its customers deserve more than HPDC’s rummaging under every rock for loose change out of community pockets. You deserve to have your system set free on the day HPDC frees itself from 3000 responsibility.

    Because there’s that old song about a hound dog crying all the time, the vendor’s version insisting that MPE/iX licenses get transferred for a fee. Elvis said that dog never caught a rabbit, and you can’t say that about the 3000 people who’ve been pushed into other work to keep HP jobs. They caught plenty of hares since 1974. But the other HP, that DC crew? Like the King said, they ain’t no friend of mine.

   So say goodbye to all the HP jazz about the 3000. The HP Services team still has some experience to deploy that knows that a 3000 is not just an HP printer. What has left the building altogether is any tangible sense of gratitude for helping Hewlett-Packard create its first business computer business. Thanking customers, like HP has, for that business is polite. The notes which are missing are the HPDC respect for the value in customers’ co-creations — and paying that forward to the community with a forward-thinking coda to the 3000’s song, the ending that it deserves.