When MPE's Experts Vied at Trivial Pursuit
3000 vet votes for his IMAGE replacement

A-Class servers bid to retain some value

When HP released the A-Class HP 3000 models, the computers represented a new entry point for MPE servers. This lowest-end machine, including an MPE/iX license and the IMAGE/SQL database, sold at retail for $15,900. It ran about 70 percent faster than the 3000's previous low end unit, the Series 918. The customer base was hungry for something this small. HP product manager Dave Snow walked the first one down the aisle at the SIGPROF user meeting.

That was more than 12 years ago. The A-Class was built upon PA-RISC processors, chips that are several generations behind HP's latest Itanium-class CPUs. You might expect that the A-Class boxes could be worth less than one tenth of what they sold for during the year that HP curtailed its 3000 plans.

Cypress Technology has got three of these A-Class servers available via eBay, selling them for $3,400 each. They've been out on the auction website for awhile now -- more than 10 days -- but the Buy It Now price hasn't come down. So far, the sellers are still arranging for a transferrable license for these boxes. That's something that runs up the price of a used 3000. But then, so can the extras.

Let's pause here for a moment and consider the value retention of this piece of IT equipment. A robust PC, tricked out at the top end of 2001 technology, couldn't even manage the price of a doorstop in today's marketplace.

Take HP's fastest laptop of 2001, the Omnibook 6000. Listed at a minimum of $1,799 on its release, the computer

...combines the power of Intel's fastest mobile processor with HP's tradition of providing reliable, manageable, stable, secure and expandable products. Its sleek styling with magnesium alloy cover, rubberized corners and grips, and spill-resistant keyboard, help make this a durable machine that holds up well for people on the go. 

Today on the same eBay website, that $1,799 computer is selling for $95. You can get one as cheap as $40.

HP's computers, whether laptop or rack-mounted, were built to last with above-the-norm components. No, you won't mistake the drives and memory in that Omnibook with those that have the quality of an A400-100-110 HP 3000. But after a dozen years, without a license that would satisfy an auditor, the 3000 sells for more than 20 percent of its list. The Windows-based laptop, portable in a way that only the 3000 user could dream about, is selling for about 5 percent.

These A-Class systems each have a 9GB boot disk (yeah, smaller than a thumb drive's capacity) and a 300GB main storage disk, along with a whopping 2GB of RAM. The sellers report that they're working on getting an auditor-happy license for the pre-installed MPE/iX 7.5 on the A-Class, too.

These came from HP as part of the e3000 trade in program. I am still in the process of getting all the license transferred on all these A400 and A500 boxes that we got. So to answer your question about a licensed copy of MPE/iX, not yet but yes soon, hopefully.

HP took the value protection of its 3000 line a little too seriously. The horsepower on these A-Class boxes was hobbled by MPE/iX, so a chip that ran at 440MhZ was made to perform at 110. But with MPE/iX as its core value, and the fact that these were the ultimate generation of HP-crafted 3000s, several thousand dollars for trade-in servers that are more than a decade old proves a point about value protection.

When you can find someone offering an Omnibook for $195, running the latest Linux and PostgreSQL installed, you'll have something to compare.