Brand-new Joins the Hearts of Old
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One year later, HP resolved one 3000 issue

May09CoverIn May of last year we tracked a list of HP 3000 issues that remained unresolved by the vendor. HP had announced it was closing its 3000 group operations, including its lab. It expressed the belief that it had addressed all outstanding issues concerning 3000 ownership.

One year later, nearly all of the list of unresolved issues remains in limbo. The lone exception is the identity of the parts of the MPE/iX source code HP licensed for outside use. But only the eight licensees have learned what's included in the millions of lines of 3000 OS code. At least someone outside of Hewlett-Packard has discovered something of the 3000's secrets.

What remains secret, or undiscovered this year, are issues around support in 2011, as well as the fate of dozens of 3000 enhancements and fixes finished by the lab in 2008. There's also the matter of HP's assistance to creating an emulator -- in the event that an emulator emerges for cross-hardware virtualization.

Among the support questions without a response are those related to HP's post-2011 services as well as independent support assistance.

1. The process to unlock the HP 3000 diagnostic software hasn't been outlined. Some of these programs were built for the HP Unix servers, both HP 9000 as well as Integrity systems. As of the last report from the independent support community, some diagnostics require HP-supplied passwords.

2. The HP 3000 knowledge base from the HP Response Center has no plans announced to become available to the independent support providers. HP has said that the database includes customer-specific comments throughout, a privacy issue. But you'd think that the world's top enterprise computing company knows how to remove such comments, so known problems can be identified quickly.

3. HP's services to restore an HPSUSAN number for a system board seem to be landing in the exclusive realm of Client Systems in 2011. This kind of disaster recovery will need to continue to be available to all 3000 owners by next year, and 2011 has no HP support offers for the community. Client Systems competes with several HP 3000 resellers who also offer support. That means Client Systems will best serve the community by responding to these disaster requests as if they don't compete with some customers.

For example, Cerro Wire's HP 3000 support, for both hardware and software, comes from Genisys. Client Systems is in competition with Genisys for hardware upgrade sales. HP divided up this kind of conflict by separating system sales from support in two divisions, but that kind of separation is hard to maintain for a small company like Client Systems.

4. Throughout the past year, HP's charges to restore HPSUSANs on a per-call basis have been inconsistent, according to resellers. Published flat rate pricing seems fair, but it's still a dream.

The above unanswered questions can be resolved by HP's Worldwide Support team. An announcement of the post-2010 policies from HP Support could clear up major issues related to homesteading on a 3000. Places like the 80-year-old Cerro, which has been using 3000s since 1980, will homestead for years beyond HP's exit date.

Then there's the development and enhancement issues. Dozens of HP patches to several versions of MPE/iX remain in limbo today. This engineering passed alpha testing but didn't get enough testing from the customer community to pass beta. Some of the problem lay in HP's methods: only HP Support customers could test and report.

HP's release policy remains unchanged about patches it's created. The beta-test limbo since 2007 has seen a lot of patches check in to be built, but far fewer checked out for public release. HP was supposed to be considering reducing the test requirements. But the vendor closed its lab early in 2009 without altering the policy.

Finally, there are requests that went unresolved for years on the list, wrapped more around HP's operating policies than strategic HP exit plans. The community asked for the test suites HP used while developing MPE/iX. Denied. The community has asked for years that Series 9x7 3000s be allowed to boot up on the more modern MPE/iX 7.0. Denied. The community asked that the CPU throttling that cripples processors on 3000s be removed. This is a simple software command sent during boot-up to the 3000 system-specific stable storage. Denied.

We don't even need to get into assistance on bringing SSH security for the 3000 up to Secure Copy Protocol standards. HP started the work but didn't finish in the labs. Risk is a part of every IT solution, even HP's 3000 replacements. Remaining on the 3000 is an alternative HP understands but doesn't recommend. Resolving issues like this list from last year would show some support of homesteading. In 2009 we could still say, "There's always next year." In 2010 that's not true anymore.