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HP's Unix customers aren't so lucky, but the companies that rely on the NonStop OS have been told they're getting an x86-ready version of their fault-tolerant environment. 

SurfingHP“No matter what HP NonStop hardware architecture you choose, you will continue to get 100 percent NonStop value that makes what you do truly matter,” CEO Meg Whitman explained to the installed base. It's a message that might make an HP-UX customer wonder if what they're doing, strictly on Itanium hardware, will truly matter.

What matters to HP is the stickiness of the NonStop customer. They demonstrate the same kind of product and company loyalty that the 3000 customer did, at least until HP announced the end of its MPE business. Technically, there are possibilities for c7000 blades to run the environment first released when Jim Treybig left HP to form Tandem.

There are no promises here, and no roadmap for release of this transitional product. It's much further out than the reality of running MPE/iX on Intel servers -- and that Stromasys solution won't require special Intel hardware from HP. But it's more of a future than the OpenVMS and HP-UX enterprise customers are facing.

NonStop is in heavy use in the banking industry, and the dollars it brings to Hewlett-Packard are rich with profits. There's never been a transition that HP has managed to sweep a legacy -- sorry, proprietary -- OS like NonStop onto the wave of commodity hardware. MPE/iX got its marching papers, HP-UX was kept on the Itanium leash, OpenVMS was leashed until last year -- when its customers learned the OS was going to freeze on the current generation of Itanium chips.

But it's possible that this vendor is finally seeing a way to model another kind of migration, one that delivers more options to a customer instead of declining levels of support and relevance. A broad-brush HP document that waves the flag toward the future is online. NonStop is about three years younger than MPE/iX, and it's been a part of HP since the Compaq acquisition of 12 years ago.

This is what choice might have looked like for three other HP-owned operating systems. It's also the first significant product announcement that could have an impact on the careening fortunes of the Business Critical Systems group. If there's going to be a migration in the future for this group of business computer customers, HP would rather see the transition from one set of hardware with an HP badge to another.