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HP's 3000 legacy includes A, N-Class details

In our recent report on the seventh anniversary of HP's 3000 exit notice, we referred to a shining moment for the community. We captured the first-ever introduction of A-Class and N-Class HP 3000s on February 7, 2001. Although HP introduced its final generation of 3000s over and over for the next six months, that spring morning showed off the new design in extensive detail.

Product Manager Dave Snow is introduced by General Manager Winston Prather at the e3000 Solutions Symposium in our video, waltzing down the meeting room's aisle with an A-Class server under his arm. He's borrowed one of the few that were testing-ready that day from HP's MPE/iX labs. In a separate movie of 5 minutes, Snow leads a tour of the advantages the new design still offers over the 9x9 and 99x 3000s. HP pulled the covers and cabinet doors off to show internal hardware design.

HP hasn't manufactured these N- and A-Class models for more than six years, but they remain popular among community members who need to upgrade 3000s. They were built to a standard of reliability and durability that gives the computers a longer lifespan than many business servers. It's not easy to find this video's level of configuration detail here in 2009, even while the servers continue to be bought and sold

Snow discusses the length of that 3000 lifespan as he starts his advantages tour. The term of useful service of an HP 3000 gave customers an advantage in the short term -- but some say that that same service level contributed to HP's departure from your community.

Snow points to a missing future to start his tour. During his introduction he notes that "we do have a future beyond today's A- and N-Class server, in large part because we have a lot to talk about today." At least at the moment of the computer's introduction, HP seems to be intent on driving forward its 3000 business with technology advances. It was about to start reaping the years of technical work sowed to bring a 28-year-old server into the most current business server design.

3000s didn't wear out or fall so far behind computing needs as soon as other HP solutions. Useful life could easily be 10 years, a rate of churn that didn't fit with HP's new business model during 2001.

Many of the improvements in this ultimate HP 3000 came at the MFIO and processor board level. The servers used networking and peripheral support that provided speed and value that the server never had before 2001. The advantage tour video was shown to a room of 100 developers, 3000 partners and customers. HP hadn't changed the 3000 this much since its PA-RISC rollouts of the late 1980s.

There were to be even more striking changes to a 3000 customer's solutions and future about nine months away from that 2001 morning. By some estimates, judging from the first customer ship dates, these servers had only six months to contribute to division revenues before HP pulled its 3000 plug. No one can be certain how they might have succeeded for a customer base running 3000s 8-10 years old, systems hungry for power and cooling and falling short of CPU needs.

But those same distinctions matter today, even after more than eight years, to community members who need an upgrade before they finish using their 3000s. HP will finish its 3000 business before commerce ends around the A- and N-Class. Waiting for all these years to acquire one delivers a massive discount by now, in addition to the technical advantages.