A span of 35 years is pretty much all of the HP 3000's useful lifetime. Birket Foster's company has lived and thrived on the stage of your 3000 community for 35 years this spring, stretching back to the days when his custom-written programs had to reside in a space of less than 8 kilobytes and exchanging information about 3000s was best done in person at a user group meeting.
It's not all just looking backward after 35 years with Foster. When we last interviewed him in 2009, he made predictions about the state of the 3000 community in 2012. He gave a forthright review of how those turned out, including those that could be judged either way.
We spoke with Birket -- a first-name fellow who we consider one of the best hubs for 3000 data -- just before Superbowl Weekend started. A few community veterans have a saying about him. “He was the Internet before there was an Internet. And he's still the Internet.” We like to stay online, and believe you'll benefit from his connections, too, whether it's links to a 3000 foundation, or connecting the dots for the future.
Let's look over your three-year-old predictions for this year. How'd you do on who remains in the market? You said maybe 10 percent of the original installed base is left.
There's still hundreds of machines out there. There might even be low thousands.
You believed PCI credit card security would be an issue in getting migrations underway.
PCI has been an issue with some customers. Some have worked it out by installing a PC between the 3000 and all those PCI requirements, and the PC manages it properly for them.
HIPAA regulations were going to be a factor in migrations, you believed.
More and more people are moving to packaged software there, because the cost of administering healthcare is now being regulated by the amount of funding people get from the government. The government won't give them the money if the administration cost is too high, and the 3000 packages won't necessarily meet that.
It's still harder to get an HP 3000 programmer. Have you tried to find one lately? I know where to find them, but if you were just putting an ad in the local paper, I don't think you'd get as many resumes as you'd get for a Windows, .NET, Java or Linux programmer. For the people who thought they'd cut the expensive programmer positions and leave the operators, even their operators are retiring. They don't even call them operators now; they're sysadmins. But without a programmer you can't make any changes. That means if your business evolves, you're stuck.
You believed there would mostly be small companies using the 3000 by now.
The big guys haven't all moved. But I was told by one company we're dealing with, “Our SAP team, which is replacing all the apps around the world, has us scheduled for this year.” There are some large customers who know they're a merger and acquisition candidate, so they're not going to mess with migration right now.
You were predicting a real embrace of what we call cloud services, and hardware would be becoming irrelevant.
It's no different than any other invention. It started with service bureaus, moved to Application Service Providers which failed, so then we called it Software as a Service, which kind of set some stages that would allow cloud to happen. It's only different because you have much higher speed Internet. People from 1977, when we started business, would think they had unlimited resources. You can roll your own machine, on Amazon or other places on the fly. You can say you want this much memory, this many CPUs, running this OS and these databases. This machine is built and ready to go in 20 minutes now, all virtual.
Do you care what hardware it's on? Hardware is not relevant. The application is the thing that's relevant.