OpenMPE list tracks unresolved challenges
June 17, 2009
The OpenMPE advocacy group worked with HP for almost seven years on post-HP support issues. The volunteer work was hamstrung from the start by two conditions dictated by the vendor. First, discussions directly with HP were confidential. Second, the volunteer group had no leverage with a vendor which was leaving a marketplace behind. In leaving the development lab business this year, HP's best effort still left unresolved challenges for homesteaders.
In source code matters, the vendor has not revealed which parts of MPE/iX code can be licensed for read-only access. It also offered no assistance in license talks with companies that own rights to internal parts of the OS such as the streaming module, Posix interface or basic-level ODBC middleware. (The last piece of software has rights owned by MB Foster Associates, whose chairman Birket Foster sits on the OpenMPE board, so talks should be uncomplicated on that module.)
Other aspects of creating an emulator — which would extend the lifespan for MPE/iX on newer hardware — haven’t gotten any public response. The HPSUSAN number for HP 3000 systems, wired into stable storage on HP’s gear, will need an equivalent in software for any emulator to use third party applications. HP will sell an emulator license for MPE/iX whenever an emulator hits the market. But such an emulator would provide no mechanism for app vendors to enforce licenses, unless HP opens up technical details.
OpenMPE requested the HP 3000 test and development machines from HP’s lab, but the vendor answered no, although these 3000 devices have no clear use to a 3000 lab which is so shut down not even HP support can use it. OpenMPE worked closely with the lab during 2007 to review the MPE/iX build process, hoping to ensure the OS could be unpacked later in the 3000’s life for fixes and patches. But HP didn’t finish proposed stages to complete this review, which would ensure outside engineers could decipher the code written in an HP variant language called Modcal.
The SSH security shell for MPE/iX is also on the OpenMPE issues list. The vendor has provided little assistance in bringing the tool up to industry standards for the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP). The SSH/SCP issue is a good example of lab work that’s been requested by OpenMPE but didn’t get addressed enough by HP to become a tool for 3000 homesteaders.
While HP did address a request for HP 3000 hardware internals documentation — again, with a ‘no’ — the vendor has reported nothing about making its Response Center’s knowledge base for 3000 problems available to the community in the future.
OpenMPE chairman Birket Foster says although his group is now facing a closed 3000 lab at HP, the unresolved issues may still benefit from resources elsewhere inside the vendor. “Just because HP’s  division has gone away doesn’t mean there are no more advocacy opportunities for OpenMPE,” he said. The group can petition HP’s support organization, he said, as well as the software license transfer group. SLT will be operating inside HP for the foreseeable future and can address the CPU board issues, Foster said.
“OpenMPE got a formal recognition from HP that they need to have the ability for someone in the field to change the stable storage on a 3000’s board,” he said, “in the case of an emergency where a machine blows up. These are things that would be of service to a community that paid HP’s [3000 expert] paychecks for years. There are still people inside HP whose checks come from the fact that they know how to spell HP 3000.