HP once had a system it would sing about
Healthcare systems heading to waiting room

ProLiant's speed, price spur 3000's exit

ML 150 HP put a new model of ProLiant server on sale today at a starting price of $599. This isn't a laptop. It's an ML 110 G7 system which can run either Windows or Linux, and it includes a quad-core 3.10GHz Xeon processor and 2 gigs of memory. The total cost to acquire will run under $1,000, including drives and support. If you want to step up to a bigger ProLiant, the ML 150 (shown at left) running the prior-generation G6 chip, with Windows Small Business Server 2011 preinstalled, is priced at a shade over $2,000.

Comparing this HP hardware has never been fair to the HP 3000, because the ProLiant -- created by Compaq and so popular that the brand survived the 2000 HP-Compaq merger -- was built for the commodity market. A $2,000 Series 979 on Amazon is about as close as a business-grade 3000 will get to commodity status. It's also an unfair comparison because the 3000 gets some of its oomph from using an integrated OS-database, pairing MPE with IMAGE/SQL. Microsoft, of course, has been working with Oracle to capture some of that same kind of oomph.

But this analysis is one reason that companies to move on from 3000 hardware built before 2000: the hardware's hard numbers, in GHz and dollars. There's more to compare. Duane Percox of K-12 software vendor QSS compared COBOLs six years ago. Those performance numbers have gotten nothing but more persuasive for Windows- or Linux-bound migrators. (Percox will be on hand at the Sept. 24 HP3000 Reunion. He's helping to arrange the Reunion's menu -- just as he did for the first 3000 meeting outside of a user group, a few months before he benchmarked those COBOLs on 2005 Intel chips.)

To the COBOL numbers: In 2001 Percox measured performance of a Dell PowerEdge 500SC Tower using a Pentium III processor. Against that Series 979, using the Micro Focus COBOL compiler, the Dell server of a decade ago posted a 4:1 speed advantage. The slowest A-Class servers came close to matching the Dell machine. Remember, that Linux server was running a Pentium processor.

Intel is the architecture that got away from the 3000 lineup, a wrong turn that signaled the end of HP's interest as far as veterans like Percox could see. HP's futures chart, posted seven years ago this month at the final Interex HP World, skipped any scheduled introduction of Itanium for the 3000. That omission was big writing on the wall for software vendors serving the 3000 community. Some say HP had already erased the 3000 from its plans; others contend the system was still on the bubble in August of '04..

If the 2005 Pentiums were four times faster than a Series 979, and about equal to an A-Class, what's the gap between a $2,000 Xeon system that's six years more modern? HP 3000 shops have chosen Windows more than any other environment when they migrate. Bruce Conrad of the Dell/Perot Systems EDI group has reported that the service group's "Amisys/HP3000 systems here are soon-to-be replaced by Oracle OHI applications." Oracle Health Insurance (OHI), formerly known as Oracle OpenCare, is just one more reason why that vendor is challenging HP's business-grade servers for sales. Well, challenging some of HP's servers -- the ones locked into any OS which is not Windows or Linux.