HP's deepest woes: ahead, or just behind?
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Reductions via migration feed 3000 pipeline

RoastbeefIt's a fact of life in 2012 that HP 3000s are being retired by some companies. Migrations are far enough along -- in some cases -- that backup 3000s are finally being turned off and sold. Many migrators report there's a 3000 still running just in case, even after the MPE applications have been replaced, re-hosted, or re-written.

However, the exits of these servers are usually not from service to the community. By this year, the latest-generation 3000s are coming available on the market once they move out of an IT shop. At the US sandwich chain Arby's, an N-Class 3000 is on offer at a price below $4,000.

Speedware, which is now making a fresh mark as Fresche Legacy, moved out more than 730 HP 3000s between 2002 and 2011. Speedware (the fourth generation language) provided the landing platform for Arby's move off MPE, too. Paul Edwards recently announced an entry-level N-Class for sale that once worked at Arby's. Recently, Fresche reports that it's landed a new project to "eliminate the mainframe environment at a major North American railway, providing $10 million in cost savings and improved performance."

Not all of Arby's change in platforms is spinning off of HP's strategy, however. Arby's and Wendy's married up over the last few years. They're splitting up after a short union, and the IT resources are being dispatched as a result. A 3000 that feels stale to one company may look fresh to another.

Edwards reported that a PC-centric, Web-based instance of Speedware was the target for Arby's newer serving of servers.

Several years ago, I was involved in the migration of the Arby's HP 3000 Speedware applications to SpeedWeb on an Intel platform. The system for sale has been used as a historical lookup system by Arby's since then. Now, Wendy's has taken it over and is selling it. Arby's and Wendy's married, and then divorced a while ago.

With new 3000s being limited to such "eliminations," there's a bit of a silver lining in seeing some MPE systems rotated out of companies. People like Edwards, and especially the community's hardware brokers, can offer newer hardware to homesteaders as a result of these migrations. This one is a 440 Mhz single-processor with two internal and 16 external drives. Here's another MPE license that's come online, too.

This silver lining doesn't exist in other legacy modernization projects. Fresche Legacy shared a press release today about the replacement of a mainframe system at that railway. The target for the project is clear: Linux as the OS, along with Sybase as database. It's a commodity solution, something more industry-standard than HP's Itanium/Unix target.

Commodity computing platforms provide high functionality and high performance at a competitive price. The 100-plus applications support multiple business processes in major functional areas. This IT transformation will enhance the railway’s technical infrastructure, reduce costs and improve the efficiency of its IT applications. 

A key step toward getting older systems replaced is convincing the migrator of the overall cost savings while spending capital costs on hardware and OS and migration services. Fresche had to "perform a mainframe migration discovery, assessment and analysis."

This analysis provided the customer with a clear understanding of the challenges including; inventory of objects, re-hosting requirements, re-hosting tools, effort, cost and timeline required to accomplish the mainframe migration. Fresche’s extensive migration modernization roadmap convinced the customer that this migration and re-hosting would create significant value by helping the railway more effectively meet its short and long-term business goals.

However, we don't read this eliminated system as an HP 3000. This is a server IBM's probably still selling, which means the used hardware won't be as unique as an N-Class system whose highest bid -- so far -- is $2,500, plus the fees to ship it.

Wendy's never based its decision to move out the 3000 on the server's service to the company. "I don't think Wendy's used it at all," Edwards said. "The migration was finished long before the merger. I assume Arby's used it only rarely. I believe they merged all the Wendy's data onto the [SpeedWeb] Intel system."

So while these two sandwich giants go through the painful period of separating everything -- including IT staff, now on different floors of the same building -- a 3000 has gone out the building's door. Then onto the market as a bargain for some homesteader. Re-hosting doesn't provide refreshes of hardware availability in other markets yet. That's because the AS/400 and mainframe markets don't face hardware needs that cannot be met by system vendors like IBM. Migration feeding the needs of homesteading -- well, that might be a part of the ecosystem which HP didn't understand when it first estimated the freshness of the 3000.