Links last longer in latest survey for 3000
Living with Licenses All Around (Tech) Life

HP's 3000 License Time, Then and Now

PA-RISC-clockFive years ago this week HP rolled out the first new 3000 product in more than four years. As it turned out the Right to Use (RTU) Software License Update was the last MPE/iX product ever placed on HP's corporate price list. And the lifespan of HP's interest in this product? Certainly less than two years. Even HP said it didn't expect measurable revenue from its bid to get additional money from owners more than five years into HP's 3000 afterlife.

Measured by the interest and behaviors of this February's market, the RTU seemed to be written to serve lawyers instead of IT managers. Many HP 3000s are sold today without regard for license validity. This is one reason you see a Series 9x8 on eBay for well under $1,000, until you don't see it, because it's been purchased. Sometimes a server like that -- which once had a valid license -- is being bought for parts. Some of the time this kind of 9x8 is being bought to replace an existing 9x8, or a 9x7 server. In that latter case, HP expected some RTU money to lift the license level.

It didn't make a difference to many companies, but some still want to stay inside the rules. HP said at the time it knew the RTU licenses would only make it into the budgets of some customers. Perhaps those who had internal auditing which would want to include system licenses. There are also resellers -- though not that many in this February -- who only sell licensed 3000s. It costs them some sales, but as Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions says, "I sleep better at night, knowing HP won't be calling to ask about the lost revenues."

The likelihood of such a call gets slimmer with every February. At one point during the post-exit-notice era of HP's 3000, an engineer left a reseller with diagnostic internal manuals in hand. The kind of things that HP reserved for its own repair force. They were posted for sale to the open market, and in one report, didn't even draw a reaction from Hewlett-Packard. It's a very large corporation, and by 2007 the 3000 business had receded to support checks. So long as those manuals didn't ruffle feathers in HP Services, nothing would be done.

HP used to say, while it was drawing up this Update License and presenting it for sale, that a price on a used 3000 that seemed too good to be true probably was. The definition of truth was consistent for some of the really inexpensive systems: resellers have been candid from the start when selling 3000s sans-license. Others, not so much. No lying, but the unlicensed nature of a 3000 isn't part of the public offer. As it turns out, License Time has expired in a lot of 3000 shops. For a server the customer is migrating away from, a computer not sold or supported by the maker anymore? Even auditors could be induced to overlook that. It's a stopgap solution.

Those few years of License Time might turn out to be a very small percentage of the 3000's Afterlife, however. Migrations to SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials and worse take a long time. Often longer than planned, so hardware's got to be replaced. The systems not only have an Unlicensed discount now built in, they sometimes can be clocked up to the full speed of their processors. HP never had any license offered, five years ago or even 10, to let a 3000 N-Class use eight processors, or run the PA-RISC chip at full bore. The market has expanded to what we might call Simulated Licensing, as if HP has stopped the clock on License Time. Until we hear about the HP Development Company -- the owner of the 3000's patents, copyrights and licenses -- reaching out to bill for an unlicensed machine, we can assume the clock has stopped.

If License Time ever restarted, however, it might look like another February, the one in 1999. That was the month when HP was busy suing resellers accused of back-door switching HP 9000s to 3000s, or extending power and users beyond licenses. Some were cleared or negotiated settlements, while others lost their suits. Jail time was levied to a select few. A $15,000 server would genuinely cost $120,000 during License Time. Suraci says he's glad no time will ever arrive when he'll have to wonder how to raise a missing $105,000.