Another migration looms for HP's users
HP airs its cloud-speak at higher levels

HP demands developer justice from Oracle

HP has sent Oracle a "formal legal demand" that Oracle reverse its decision about abandoning Itanium development. It's the kind of protest that some HP 3000 customers dreamed about during the prior decade.

The Hewlett-Packard letter said that the Oracle decision, announced in March, "violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers. Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle's own platforms."

Support for Oracle didn't materialize for the HP 3000 while Hewlett-Packard was selling the servers. A strong IMAGE database platform, included with every 3000, made selling Oracle a proposition which had to compete with a bundled, well-tuned alternative. Oracle focused on the dozens of Unix platforms instead, including the one it's about to drop, Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX.

When the 3000 announcement came down from HP, customers talked about mounting a legal challenge to the business decision. The court of last resort never saw such a suit, even though 3000 advocate and developer Wirt Atmar hired a Chicago legal firm to research grounds for a class-action suit to reverse HP's plans. Angry customers who'd been told the 3000 was healthy, only months before the pullout, believed such a suit would be justified.

In a 2002 article for the 3000 NewsWire, Atmar wrote that a free license for MPE/iX -- along with the ability to run the OS on low-cost hardware -- was the vendor's best recourse to being called out in court. "This model is also in HP’s interest," he wrote. "The level of user anger that exists over this decision is deeper than [the 3000 division] believes it to be. I do not consider class-action lawsuits to be out of the question."

Keeping costs significantly above the norm, as MPE has been over the last decade, has caused an ever-increasing downward spiral in use and users. Keeping costs below the norm and maintaining a quality much better than expected should very pronouncedly promote quite the opposite response.

Will HP cooperate? This is the final question, and the most important. In this model, the source is not being given out to everyone, willy-nilly. It isn’t being able to see the source code that is important in this model. It’s simply critical that the user community knows soon that someone competent is diligently working on their behalf.

Will HP cooperate? I believe so. I spoke with one of the senior management people at CSY at some length. In regard to OpenMPE, he said, “Why do people automatically assume that we won’t cooperate? Why would we want to do any harm to MPE?” Based on that statement, I think everything else is eminently feasible.

It took another six years to agree to license the source code to the community, which turned out to be companies like Pivital Solutions, Adager, and others. Atmar was indentifying the essential issues of supporting a marginalized environment, long before the community could do so. Running MPE on Intel hardware would be key to a New CSY, an independent company spun off from HP with a focus on the 3000's critical mission.

Nine years later, Stromasys has tested a creation which Atmar wrote about just three months after HP's pullout notice. "If the virtualization of the MPE emulation is done well enough," he wrote, "the rules could become nothing more than, 'If Linux runs on it, so will MPE.' " Linux will host the Zelus emulator for MPE-PA-RISC. The technical solution will arrive 10 years after Atmar dreamed of it. HP doesn't want to wait around on tech workarounds to maintain its customers' choices of Oracle environments, so the legal ploys will now begin.

Atmar, who passed away in 2009, simply wanted an honest effort from Hewlett-Packard to repair the rift it created between itself and HP 3000 customers. Those customers didn't want to end a decades-long relationship with HP. Nearly a decade later, Hewlett-Packard doesn't want to end its decades-long relationship with Oracle. But the 3000 customers who were left behind in 2001 now get to see how well a legal dispute can pull a partner closer who wants to leave.