One team of people who have been pushing back HP's retirement for the 3000, OpenMPE, have announced a new board of old members and fresh faces. Three volunteers chose not to continue as directors for 2010-11, which brings the fresh blood of Jack Connor, Keith Wadsworth and Connie Sellitto into a group that operates without a building, sales and revenue models, or much respect from some community corners.
The last two elections for the board's open seats have been held with no opposition: candidates equaled the positions in play. The group's secretary Tracy Johnson said "a voter asked why not just acclaim the candidates, since each was guaranteed a seat on the board? My simple reply was that OpenMPE’s By-Laws don’t have an acclamation procedure." He said even an uncontested election was a necessary step.
Our next board meeting was scheduled for after the election, so we might as well let the election take its course. A Candidate might have decided at the last minute to drop out of the race. Then we’d have to draft someone again. Besides, it was an incredible adventure to log into our hosting provider and update OpenMPE’s Candidate and Balloting Web pages! As some have noticed, some of our Web pages have not been updated since May of 2009, so I was able to fix many of those.
This year's voting through the Web site netted fewer than 50 ballots, including those from some current board members. One support provider in the 3000 community noted that several firms with new MPE/iX source code licenses service more current 3000 customers than the total of 2010's OpenMPE voters.
"The reality is that at least four of the US-based licenses already have support operations with more paying customers than OpenMPE will have voters in their election," the CEO from a support company shared with us via e-mail. "How about an article targeting the realities of their situation? They have no business plan, no operations, no investors, and more importantly no income: yet they aspire to be a support provider?"
THAT'S AN IDEA for an article whose time has arrived. The clock has been started by the arrival of MPE/iX source code in the OpenMPE group. This is the first durable asset that this collective of volunteers has been able to count upon. But those millions of lines of source may need almost as many operational dollars to make an impact in 2011, when HP leaves all support to independents.
OpenMPE chair Birket Foster has already arrived at that same formula while the HP source code was arriving in an independent engineer's office for validation. But the organization doesn't propose to provide support like a Pivital, Beechglen, Allegro or Abtech, he said.
"The first thing we had to do was to get a source license, so we could determine what we could do a patch plan for," he said. "The license is for selected pieces of the source code," meaning that a source license holder didn't even know for certain which parts of MPE/iX they were purchasing.
"People need to come up with suggestions for what they'd like [OpenMPE] to do, and then those projects need to be funded," Foster added. "A suggestion can come from a free membership, but those projects won't happen unless they're funded."
When OpenMPE explained this model last September, the concept was to build patches funded by members, then make those patches available to other 3000 support companies. A few support companies have talked to OpenMPE's directors about this model, but no alliances have been announced.
In a custom-patch model, Foster explained, once acclamation of interest arrives around a patch idea, "you can get an engineer to put together a rough cost model over a half-day of work." This pre-development might also include a preliminary investigation and proof of concept. This is the point where the revenue generation needs to kick in, a process that pays for enough testing "to be able to put the patch in a common source code repository."
Revenue models have never been a strong mission initiative among OpenMPE's volunteers. A pair of drives to raise development capital fell short of goals in the middle of last decade, and the group hasn't pursued anything but contributions to purchase a source code license over the last three years. There's been talk of paid memberships solicited over the year to come, where a company subscribes to a patch creation service in addition to support fees they'd pay to the established 3000 support provider of their choice.
One of the new members of the board has long considered OpenMPE's pursuit of commercial gain and sustainable operations. Keith Wadsworth joins the group in a similar role as previous board member John Burke: skeptical and pragmatic about the current resources. In 2008, Wadsworth submitted his answers to our questions posed to candidates in the group's final contested election. We asked, "What can OpenMPE do to convince HP that the expertise is in place to do patch testing, and so release the HP improvements and engineering to the full 3000 community?"
Wadsworth, who takes his seat this month, said two years ago that infrastructure looked like a key issue.
This raises many questions about the needs of the users, and the OpenMPE organization as well. For example, is there any hard data that strongly indicates that a large number of remaining users, or even a small number, need these patches? I believe the OpenMPE board needs to raise, explore and answer such questions thoroughly.
Addressing the question of testing, although the OpenMPE board members and members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to conduct such testing.
OpenMPE needed volunteers from all viewpoints to fill five open board seats. Johnson said that "Up until the last day of the Call for Candidates phase, there were only four candidates, until Connie Sellitto stepped up to run." The hard work of moving from advocacy to operations remains ahead of OpenMPE. Terry Simpkins, the IT director at Measurement Specialties, posted he "would like to thank in advance the new board members for stepping up to help." EchoTech consultant Craig Lalley replied in another posting that "I would like to publicly console the incoming board members. You don't have to sell your soul... It is okay to disagree."