HP's new roster: same minds, old mission
Checks on MPE's subsystems don't happen

Software That Checks Who Is Using It

Detective-with-magnifying-glassHP 3000s have been outfitted with unique identity numbers for decades. In the '90s a scandal arose around hardware resellers who were committing fraud with modified system IDs. People were jailed, fines were paid, and HP made the 3000 world safe for authorized resellers. Until it crashed its 3000 futures and those resellers' businesses two years later. We've not heard if those fines or jail terms were rolled back. 

It's probably not fair to think they would be, since those resellers stole something while they fabricated ID numbers. That sort of fraud may still be possible. We heard a question last week about what sort of checking would ever be done regarding the HPSUSAN number. In the recently-curtailed emulator freeware model, an enthusiast could type in an HPSUSAN they avowed they had the right to use. Verification of that number wasn't part of the process. This is called the honor system.

The question: Did HP ever check HPSUSAN numbers, and what format would they have to be in? Is it like a 16-digit credit card number and expiration date checksum?

"There are only digits, no letters," said a veteran of the HP SE service, one who's worked for many third party vendors as well. "I don’t think there any certain number of digits. I don’t think HP ever checked the HPSUSAN, only the third parties."

The question came up as the process of upgrading a 3000 was on the discussion docket last week. (You bet, some people are still upgrading 3000s. Some are upgrading to an emulation/virtualized 3000.)

Me, I don't believe that using any number that didn't match HP's issued list of HPSUSANs would prevent MPE from booting up. The off-the-shelf apps and the things like Powerhouse, not so., though. They don't start if the HPSUSAN doesn't match that software. Probably the HP subsystems like COBOL and TurboStore would check for a number, too.

This starts to matter as MPE software rolls forward, off old servers where it's been registered and onto bigger, newer 3000s. Maybe support has been dropped in cost-saving measures. (Not a savings if you ever have a vendor-caliber software failure.) Given their support-less existence, some 3000 sites want to keep a low profile about where their software is heading. There are vendors left in the world who'll try to collect 3000 license upgrade fees, based on usage tiers for a server which HP hasn't built for more than 11 years.

Every company is entitled to charge what's in the contract, of course. How effective is that practice? It depends. Does a failure to pay a license fee push the software's user away from the vendor? We hear about emulator prospects who add up their licensing upgrade costs and have to delay their migration to the virtualized 3000 they desire.

HPSUSAN is an important number that third party software verifies, checking to see who's using it. Stromasys will be providing a new way to secure HPSUSAN numbers once it installs some cloud-based Charon emulators. A dongle, currently the key to using Charon, doesn't float into the cloud easily. Maybe Rackspace can make an exception, but Stromasys says it's working to eliminate the dongle requirement.

Clouds are important to keeping the cost of MPE computing low, because hosting an emulator requires beefy Intel hardware to run as fast as a 3000. The faster the better, says Stromasys Product Manager Doug Smith. Charon HPA in the cloud lowers cost of ownership, but it'll require putting HPSUSAN up there, too. MPE probably won't check if it's the right HPSUSAN. But as soon as you fire up HP COBOL, or another subsystem, or third party software, that'll need to be the correct number.