Last Half Looks: News beats future guesses
Series 42, from '80s, heads for 2010's net

HP flashes UX futures on freshest roadmap

RoadmapUXMay2010 HP has started a Twitter feed for its news about HP-UX, the operating environment recommended for 3000 sites that have no passion for opening more Windows servers. While following a Twitter feed from @hp_ux might not be the most comfortable way to get news from HP, the enterprise server group is pointing to some strategic documents through the feed, like this year's futures roadmap. (Click it above to expand for easy reading.)

Even though HP 3000 customers have learned the hard way that a roadmap isn't a promise, planning the lifespan of a server is not an easy task. HP's PowerPoint slides for the future of HP-UX help. The vendor is extending the sales life of the HP-UX 11i v3 generation an extra two years, until 2014. HP will have been selling the same enterprise release of its Unix for more than seven years by this end-of-life -- a lifetime in Unix years. 11i v3 support continues through 2017, according to the HP document.

Flashed as a footnote early in those slides is a link to PDF file that warms the heart of a hardware jockey. The Hardware Support Matrix for HP-UX hardware reports "expected support continuation" end-dates, as well as end of sales dates, system intro dates (not easy to find) and a column called Final End of Support Life. That's the "Dec. 2006" date that HP has moved up twice for the 3000. As you might expect, there's a lot of To Be Determined notes in that column for HP's Unix servers. No news can be good news.

The newest May 21 version of the Support Matrix shows HP is ending support for some Montecito-based HP-UX servers no earlier than March, 2013. These are the rx7600 lines, but many of the rx2600 and 4600 models will be supported at least through 2014. That's more than 10 years of HP support for some of those Itanium-based systems which were popular with early migrators, a lifepan which indicates HP's dedication to the support relationship with customers. Oh, and devotion to the support revenues, too.

HP-UX and Itanium hardware support is available from many of the same independent companies supporting the HP 3000 and MPE/iX, so the vendor's support is no more crucial for operations and workarounds that it has been for the 3000. There are more similarities in the HP process for developing patches and extensions to a Unix operating environment. End of sales signals the end of enhancements. After all, HP wants a customer to move up to the newer environment, a move that usually makes HP sticky again as a player a Unix enterprise.

3Update6FeaturesIf your choices for migration include using HP's new Integrity server blades, then the March 2010 Update 6 of 11i v3 is the minimum you must install to deploy that low-impact, high performance server. (HP assures all 11i v3 customers that going to Update 6 lets you apps unchanged on the latest servers.) Packaged software customers don't need to manage any of this, of course. The support and license fees they pay to suppliers such as Amisys or Summit, for example, are funding app vendor resources to keep all of this in harmony at their sites.

This kind of advice, delivered one-on-one, can be hard to locate from HP directly. That experience you enjoyed with an HP rep phoning or visiting your site is a bit of nostalgia by now. It's also useful to note that the longer HP supports an OS release, the more resource it must devote to all of the HP-UX line. This is the kind of backward binary compatibility that got the better of HP when it managed it across 20 years of MPE/iX releases. You want the compatibility, but you also want the vendor to keep its business in line with corporate objectives. The alternative delivers a nasty, unexpected end of support.

Any company that manages its own in-house apps, moved from the 3000 to the HP-UX environment, needs to monitor these 11i release maps -- or pay a support supplier to do it for them. Considering that most key pages of the HP roadmap include the phrase "Dates and content subject to change without notice," independent support can provide more planning options. Or you could just follow that Twitter feed from the HP-UX team, and hope you get wind of changes in dates and content.