HP 3000 owners who've already taken their computing to another platform might consider themselves lucky. They may be counting their good fortune of being able to afford a project to replace an app or migrate one -- because some willing migrators now have unwilling budget guidelines.
Even in 2013, a year when the stock markets are roaring and Hewlett-Packard shares have rebounded into the middle $20s, companies still struggle toward profits. "If it were up to me, we'd already be off MPE," one IT manager said during his analysis of transition solutions. "But we didn't earn a profit this year, so we can't get started."
HP 3000 users in the trenches, battling for consumer dollars or selling commodity goods, have the most common struggles. Some understand that their companies might be better served with a newer server hardware line -- even though the virtualization options are erasing that worry. Others believe they owe their companies the pragmatism to replace themselves. Out at LAACO in California, the self-storage company made the move to Windows because its 3000-centric IT staff was 65 and 72 years of age, respectively.
It tells you something about a 3000's utility when just two IT pros can maintain and update a mission-critical application for a company selling storage space. On the other hand, that's an industry that's growing as our consumer class keeps looking for places to store its stuff. When closets, like the tiny rooms where older 3000s live in companies, overflow then LAACO has more customers and revenues. If a closet of clothes overflows, there's always a donation truck coming along to relieve the space. At least there is in my neighborhood.
"In the economy that we're in, its the total cost of the [transition project] that's holding us up right now," another manager said. While explaining that migrating to Windows made plenty of business sense, he still had to acknowledge the lack of gusto for IT spending.
"There is that resistance to spending a big chunk of money," one veteran IT manager said. At some companies -- where an assessment is the smartest way to start -- revenues have to build up before the 3000 shop gets a solid start.
In spots like this, the alternative of a 3000 emulator has to overcome speed gaps. In a best case, migrations could come in at prices similar to making a virtualization transition, if you factor in licensing costs for software as well as the adequate top-end Intel hardware. $20,000 is not out of line for replacing the firepower of a top-grade N-Class server with Intel's multi-core chips.
But a free migration assessment could be worth just about what a customer would pay for it. The success of service vendors such as Speedware (now Fresche Legacy) or MB Foster -- both say they've never had a failed migration project -- doesn't counter some bean counters.
"The most accurate way to begin is an assessment," says MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "The second most accurate way, at least to start, is an estimate."
Such initial cost estimates might include replacing MPE applications -- and the shopping that would accompany the choice of a new app. Or expanding the headcount in IT, when 3000 managers retire and their efforts now fall on the shoulders of industry-standard server managers. Some of these bigger-item costs might be estimated by delayed 3000 managers as a way of toting up the bill.
But the success of transitions, say the migration vendors, usually stems from detailed planning. An inventory of an IT portfolio is at least as crucial as estimating costs -- and it eliminates guesswork.
A sliver of hope in this situation is that economies have been on the rise more recently, according to US financial experts. On Friday, a report came out from Bloomberg that stated US consumer confidence unexpectedly increased in July to the highest level in six years, as Americans’ views of their finances improved. A similar kind of review from boardrooms about IT finances could get some delayed 3000 transitions moving again.