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October 09, 2013

HP completes 3000 transition, 12 years later

One week from today, according to our sources in the HP IT community, the last four HP 3000s will go off the Hewlett-Packard production grid. The shutdown is scheduled to take place on Oct. 16, which will put it just a few weeks shy of 12 years after HP said it was ending its HP 3000 business. 

N-Class 220There can be many reasons why a transition away from the 3000 could take more than a decade. The most obvious one is that it doesn't make business sense to turn off an application that's still doing yeoman service. We don't know if that's the case with these 3000s and their applications.

But these 3000s run in the HP corporate datacenter based in Austin, Texas, the hometown of the 3000 Newswire. It doesn't take much search to learn that this datacenter is more than 20,000 square feet of office space that was once an outpost of Tandem Computer. HP acquired Tandem's business when it purchased Compaq. Years after HP swallowed its biggest acquisition, these 3000s were being managed into a new datacenter -- one of six targeted to consolidate the 85 HP datacenters.

Even with an opportunity to take 3000s offline in a datacenter reorganization, MPE applications prevailed. That datacenter reorg started in 2006.

"The last 4 internal HP 3000s located at the HP Austin (Old Tandem) datacenter will go lights-out October 16th," said our source. "No special events are planned, since no one within HP understands the significance anymore."

At one point in the 3000's not-too-distant history -- okay, less than 20 years back -- more than 600 3000s were driving company operations. In 1996 we reported that every sales transaction flowed through the HEART application, hosted on 3000s. HEART was replaced by SAP software early in the 21st Century, a switchover that had enough bumps to draw notice in HP's own investor reports at the time.

The Austin datacenter, which can be managed remotely, is actually two physical sites with mirroring capability. One is in the Tandem facility, and the other is at a site 15 miles south which once operated the Freescale (nee Motorola) wafer fabrication operations. We're just guessing here, but it's possible those 3000s going lights-out are replicated in some way at the Freescale building.

If there remains a value policy at HP that would retain MPE apps for a dozen years, it's a good bet these N-Class boxes are going onto the used hardware market soon. The vendor has proven they're a good investment -- having used them for nearly three years beyond its own legendary "end of life" deadline for the server.

01:06 PM in Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink

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Customers should not be buying cast-off 3000s if they can help it. Instead, they should be ramping up for the future and buying Stromasys hardware.

Posted by: Tim | Oct 9, 2013 3:21:26 PM

Wow - Like thousands of high school kids in the 1970s, I learned programming on an HP2000, the 3000's little brother.

Later, I remember hacking into the HP3000 Series III at Virginia Commonwealth University in October 1978.

I wrote a two line BASIC program that would crash the system, displaying HARDWARE FAILURE - SYSTEM DOWN" on the operator's console:

Program A
10 PRINT "A";
20 CHAIN "B"
30 END

Program B:
10 PRINT "B";
20 CHAIN "A"
30 END

Save and run. Wait for ABABABAB to be displayed, then go to another terminal and 'KIL-A' or 'KIL-B'...

Blammo - total system failure.

After seven crashes during midterms week, HP was called in and completely disassembled the hardware seeking the phantom fault.

Someone finally got around to reading the system dump in detail and I was banned from the university computing center under threat of arrest.

I loved my HP3000 computer operator job for Media General in 1980.

MG still had an IBM/360 which the HP3000 took over duties from. Seven HP3000s networked the company's operations nationwide.

Amazing to me that the OS is still being used. I have a virtual HP2000 running on my MacBook and would love to also have the HP3000 as well.

Posted by: Bryan Brodie | Oct 11, 2013 10:41:47 PM

It is very troubling that someone openly admits to hacking of the type which some would term a crime, and which some of us are required to prevent. My unix system was recently victimized by a hacker whose identity was concealed and protected by those who witnessed it, but I received the blame for not preventing the hacking. Meanwhile, HP conceals code
(MPE patches) which could help to prevent MPE hacking.

Posted by: Tim | Oct 16, 2013 4:21:55 PM

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