Legacy support demands support for vendors in future

The term progressive rose up in the early decades of the 20th Century, when it signified something that envisioned a better future. Some progressive moves might compare to removing old versions of compilers to replace them with newer, more capable ones. There’s also the progressive tactic of devising something new to meet a need where no solution is in place, old or otherwise.

An HP 3000 equivalent might be MPE/iX source code licenses. Nobody could imagine why the market would need access to the innermost code for the 3000’s OS. When HP’s business changed, dropping 3000 future development, more internal designs needed to become open to the support vendors. Independent support companies, as well as some well-schooled utility vendors, earned the right to read trade-secret code for MPE/iX.

There’s very little need now for that sweeping kind of progressive behavior for an HP 3000 customer. The other kind of forward-looking plan has become too short in supply, though. Running an HP 3000 in a production environment with mission-critical duties isn’t an automatic trigger for support anymore. This isn’t true in every production case, but the decline of this progressive investment outlook is costing the 3000 community, even while it saves some dollars in operating expenses.

Stepping out of 3000 support

Another point of evidence of losing progressive management is in the air. One long-time support vendor, Pivital Solutions, is shifting resources away from the HP 3000 starting in January. Other support companies have already sidetracked or ended their offerings. Pivital held on longer than nearly all of 3000 expert companies. It remains well-stocked with know-how, not to mention one of those rare MPE/iX source licenses. Source solves problems HP did not anticipate. But the growth of its 3000 customer ranks stopped several years ago, president Steve Suraci reports.

“We will continue to honor our obligations to support our remaining base through 2027,” he says, “but we can no longer limit ourselves by our 3000 tethers. The sites that remain are no longer looking to be progressive. The vast majority of the remaining customers still use the 3000 for mission-critical functions, but they no longer invest in the platform. They make no pretense when it comes to budgets.”

Moxie in the face of HP’s change

Suraci and his company have been ardent supporters of the 3000’s mission ever since the company entered the market almost 30 years ago. Early in the 2000’s, Pivital joined the ranks of vendors who sold new HP 3000s as an authorized reseller. HP didn’t reward anyone who stepped out like that, especially so in the case of Pivital. The company was the last one to join the reseller ranks. HP called an end to Hewlett-Packard futures for the 3000 within a year. It didn’t rattle Suraci and his team much. They stood their ground on support and remained exclusive to the HP 3000.

It’s commonplace to support more than one OS in an independent company. Specialties like OpenVMS-only service from VMS Software Inc. tend to deliver better support.

The exits from support work may have happened more gradually without the vanishing progressive strategy. A site committed to a support budget, with some designs on refreshing architecture where they can, will still be able to rely on the HP 3000 for a good long while. There are seven more full years of MPE/iX use before the 2028 date decision looms.

What’s not been done, however, is a customer-wide adoption and practice of supporting every mission-critical 3000. That would include the archival systems holding key data, the kind that regulators demand. Since the progressive tactics have faded, the plans are sending 3000 vendors into new directions.

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