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HP's 3000 support clears away for indies

Even though HP this week announced its Insight Online enhancement for enterprise support, the changes won't be of help to 3000 owners. The remote management technology, designed to improve response times, is another example of new support products HP won't deliver to the MPE sites it's retained over the eight years since the server's sales ended.

After a full year of absence from the HP 3000 community, the support arm of Hewlett-Packard has been disappearing from customer choices for 3000 maintenance. Hardware is the only public offer that the company pushes on its old clients, according to reports from the field. But HP hasn’t retracted its reach entirely for the insurance-only support dollars backed by a declining set of resources.

“Most people have aligned themselves with an independent provider at this point,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. His shop that’s completely devoted to supporting MPE/iX and HP 3000 systems runs across straggler accounts when customers say they’re in the last 18 months of a migration and therefore stick with HP. But it’s a rare encounter by now, at least in public.

“It’s not as much as it had been,” said Pivital Solutions president Steve Suraci. “In this new year I had two customers come to me that they never received a message from HP on support renewal — for the first time ever. In other cases I’ve continued to see HP.”

The departure of HP support options still comes as news to a few customers. Last month a manager running 3000s at fuel-pump manufacturer Gilbarco queried the 3000 newsgroup for an update. "Our HP 3000 maintenance contract is up for renewal on June 30th, but HP have told us that they will not be renewing the contract," he said. "Is this commonplace across the globe?"

It might be commonplace, but HP's exit isn't yet universal. Suraci adds that when Pivital does run across HP trying to sell 3000 support, “it’s on a sales office-by-sales office basis, because that’s who’s doing support at this point. When you get your supported equipment list from HP today, there’s three things on it. HP’s being very selective about what they’re actually covering.”

Software support for the systems is just about non-existent, at least on a public basis, Suraci said. “It’s really just been limited to hardware aspects of support.”

Newer CPUs and chassis are most likely to make it onto HP’s supported devices list. N-Class or A-Class servers might be offered from a local sales office as supportable items. MOD 20 storage units are another example of cherry-picked items that would match only a small part of an independent support vendor’s coverage lineup.

But that HP coverage can be wildly uneven. “A lot of times they’re supporting the disk arrays, but not the drives in the arrays,” Suraci said. HP offered to support just one of the two internal disk drives in a customer’s Series 928, and not the internal tape drive.

In a case such as that, a service call could devolve into determining which disk drive may have failed, with the case ending with a report of unsupported devices. Lower-end 3000 systems are rarely on an HP support account by now. Higher-end accounts are more likely to fall into the HP folds after years of more extensive attention.