Hewlett-Packard [now called HPE, for the Enterprise half of HP] had 3000 owners hopes in the balance when it first announced it was ending its MPE and 3000 business. A seasoned and well known database tool vendor marshaled financing, enough for a reasonable offer to take over the OS and the hardware.
Just this week I sat in on a call among MANMAN users. There were not a lot of them, but 20 people dialed in or opened a GoToMeeting for a conference call. Regional Users Group meets have disappeared except for the Computer Aided Manufacturing User Society. Unlike some 3000 owners and managers, CAMUS still has something to talk about.
The discussion topic is change. Here in 2019, CAMUS users manage HP 3000s that continue to manage manufacturing. That situation will change sooner or later. Manufacturing software is wired in deeper to a company's nervous system. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can apply to many MPE/iX shops. ERP has the longest lifespan of any application package.
Not long ago, an ERP system was shut down at TE Connectivity. TE is probably the biggest customer by number of ERP 3000s. The system that was powered off for good hosted software that had been running since 1978. Other ERP instances there, not as old, continue to run.
Forty years. One operating environment. A legacy within a legacy community. In essence, though, just the longest lived veteran in a room of greybeard application suites. The shutdown didn't even come up during the RUG call.
The meeting was organized by the CAMUS president Terri Lanza, who led the discussion. One of the more interesting parts was the group’s take on Infor support. The vendor's dropping support altogether for MANMAN customers next year. Some customers on the call were just learning that Infor's support verdict has been out since 2018.
Support disappearances are not exactly news in the 3000 world. This strategy by Infor, though is notable. It's perhaps the last departure from an application vendor.
That might be due to the number of MANMAN sites still paying Infor support fees. Nine, in all, and that was as of last year. Revenue from support is the canary in the mine shaft for vendor decisions like this.
Infor is closing down an operation for MPE/iX that had been available in name only, if the RUG's intel is accurate. In less than a year, even the backup to the best engineers will be working on something else. By May, the app will stop being sold or supported. Go-time for software that's free, right? Not so fast there. The 3000 community has been through this before.
HP said no, despite being so tied to that vendor that the third party product was on HP's own corporate price list. When it's over at a vendor, it's over. The MPE community proved over the next 15 years that they'll decide for themselves, one site at a time, when things are over.
People on the call had a lot of assumptions and some misinformation about how their application code licensing was going to change — because Infor is stopping all sales. "Here comes open source," or "we can do whatever we want with it" were heard. Neither is true unless Infor does what HP could not do in 2002. MANMAN is still not released into the wild, as far as legal is concerned.
There was also some comparison to the license holders of the MPE source code. It is misunderstood, sometimes, that license arrangement. Every line of nearly all MPE/iX routines sits wide open on servers at seven license holders. The database tool vendor Adager, support companies like Beechglen and Pivital Solutions, plus four others can see every line.
They can't rebuild the OS, though, or add features within it. The superpower of source is important, a distinguishing feature for these Super Seven. They can solve support problems like nobody else can. Beechglen thinks enough of its source license that Doug Werth said on that call it's a significant part of their software that can carry a 3000's date operations up to 2038.
Who in the world would be using MANMAN in 2020? Companies that have their software set up for the very long run. Customers who need the app vendor so little that when Infor reported their clock would run out next year, nothing would change. Some MANMAN sites still standing have their source code just as much as the Super Seven have MPE.
Other sites do not, and the news about 2020 arrived just this week for them.
The situation looks good for the sites that have MANMAN source. For awhile, MANMAN's creators ASK sold the app with source. It was a different era in the 1970s.
Terry Floyd of the Support Group, who has serviced MANMAN sites as a first-line resource for 25 years, said everything but two routines is available for the ERP suite owners to modify as they wish. And if they own their source code, it's 100 percent. That's a better arrangement than MPE's existence inside those support and database companies.
ERP does that: it just runs for decades, given community help. A RUG group meeting in November of 2019 fits with that situation like an elderly strongman's grip inside weightlifting gloves.