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Cognos hunts licenses as support recedes

At the same time that it's ready to end support of PowerHouse and other development products for the 3000, Cognos has revived its pursuit of companies to get extra license money.

The reports have come from both customers as well as third parties, although the latter group tells relates the stories without commentary. Cognos became notable -- some would say notorious -- in the 3000 world for its severe pricing of upgrades for its software. HP complained, on behalf of its customers during the 1990s, that the cost of upgrading PowerHouse was more than buying a new 3000 in some cases, killing deals and freezing 3000 expansion.

After a quieter period when the company's Automated Development Tools group dealt with customers and even extended support for MPE/iX PowerHouse, the upgrade force is back in the saddle. IBM purchased Cognos in 2008, in large measure for the company's business intelligence operations. But the ADT group is apparently still a revenue generating segment of this IBM colony -- and not just the lucrative support contracts.

Cognos has standardized on the same 8.43 version number for PowerHouse and PowerHouse Web across its platforms. But the letter that follows that number tells the story of a version's age. IBM's Unix, and HP-UX, bear a G in their versions. Those HP 3000 licenses Cognos is pursuing are frozen at version F, with Mature Platform Support set to expire at the end of December.

The fresh license bills are lower than those painful legenday levels, according to Pivital Solutions Steve Suraci. "They're really changed their price structure, going from tier-based to user-based," he said. "Much more realistic." A $50,000 cost has come down to $7-$10,000 on the deals he's seen. But placing a Time & Materials support call to Cognos on an earlier version "threw off the red flag" to licensing. "One customer had multiple license violations on multiple 3000s," Suraci said.

At least Cognos hasn't called its vanishing PowerHouse support for the 3000 "Vintage Support." That lively title is reserved, in a bit of irony, for IBM's own iSeries OS400. Cognos put that version on ice five years ago.

Of course, just because a vendor ends support doesn't mean its software stops working. What seizes up production use is when an upgrade is required because of a bigger 3000 being installed. PowerHouse sites in the 3000 world have been making do with even older versions of the 4GL to avoid the high upgrade fees, even while Cognos collects support money. With the support dollars set to expire, upgrade licenses are the new hot item.

PowerHouse still has a product manager with a public profile among 3000 users. Bob Deskin posts to the PowerHouse mailing list, representing a company that won't return calls from us for this story. He had to restrict what he could say about the future of the product on the 3000. But the Cognos outlook follows HP's official "3000-is-dying" mythology, with a little nod toward adding some features after HP's 2001 announcement.

"HP is ending all support as well," Deskin said of the end of PowerHouse 3000 support. "When HP announced the end of  the HPe3000 in 2001, they gave it five years to end of life. We continued to produce versions for the MPE/iX platform including features specifically aimed at MPE/iX as well as at customers who wanted to migrate. Support for Eloquence comes to mind."

The Eloquence support surfaced five years ago, just about the time that HP was changing its mind about the end date for its 3000 business. HP led Cognos into a longer future once again, when the vendor extended its 2008 deadline to 2010.

As for the rest of the PowerHouse stable -- aside from the IBM iSeries -- Deskin said Cognos is working on new versions.

As for the other platforms, we have continually released versions with  updated conformance, maintenance fixes, and new features. The 8.4xD version was released in 2004. Since then we have released 8.4xD1 in  2005, 8.4xE in 2007, 8.4xF in 2009, and our latest, 8.4xG in March 2010. And  we’re hard at work on the next version.