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Emulator company reaches out to partners

ProgramTiming An HP 3000 emulator -- the software that will permit MPE/iX to boot on Intel's chips -- will require more than engineering to create cross-platform virtualization. The Zelus product from Stromasys will need licensing prowess, even more than HP's license to run MPE/iX on non-PA-RISC hardware.

To its credit, Stromasys is spending time with software and support companies which can enable the transfer of licenses from HP 3000s to emulated systems. One of the first contacts Stromasys made was with the Support Group inc, which supports users of the MANMAN MRP/ERP suites on the HP 3000. The Support Group estimates about 300-400 HP 3000s continue to run MANMAN, so the customer base is a good target for Stromasys.

But TSG is not in charge of the MANMAN licenses; that's the purview of Infor, which bought the app suite and its customers several years ago. John Pritchard, CEO of Stromasys, understands how crucial such license transfers will be to the success of the emulator, scheduled to start shipping next year. Stromasys operates a healthy business in the DEC emulator market, so there's some experience to call upon.

"We do a lot of business in our existing products with Oracle, and they have a licensing model for virtualization," Pritchard said in a conference call with TSG. "The 3000 was licensed by power rating, and we're still working through that. It's one of the discussions we want to have now that we've made the Zelus program announcement."

Pritchard, whose company has been selling such emulators since 2000, said they want to ensure software companies feel comfortable with license transfers to Zelus. "We want to make sure license transfer models are in place for the software vendors that are on the 3000."

"The dominant applications need to have a license transfer policy when they go to virtualization," Pritchard added. We'd also note that key utilities, as well as surround code tools such as PowerHouse and Speedware, will need to have such policies in place. Given the alternative -- a 3000 going dark because an emulator can't be an alternative, due to a lack of license transfers -- well, there's decent motivation for 3000 software vendors to work something out with their customers, as well as resellers of Zelus (firms like the Support Group) about emulation.

HP is in a different strategic position than these 3000 software companies. No more MPE/iX will be sold, as well as subsystems like COBOL II or TurboStore. HP's got no support or license revenue on the line anymore. It's trying to limit Zelus installations to HP's Intel systems, but that's going to be an honor system at best. MPE/iX can't check to see if the Intel chip booting it is inside an HP server or PC.

Pritchard acknowledges that some software companies in the 3000 space "may want extra revenue for the additional performance" that Zelus will bring to emulator users. The users won't find their CPUs crippled, like HP hamstrung its PA-RISC chips during the MPE/iX boot sequence. But the lessons of higher software prices for faster systems -- one of the things that cramped the 3000's growth -- can teach software companies a great deal about how to make this emulator opportunity maintain 3000 revenues. Capturing even more money from this market may not be a reasonable goal.