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Declining sales, decreased interest from outside developers and the increasing industry emphasis on open-standard systems has prompted the e3000 series' demise, said HP.
The company will continue selling certain e3000 servers until 1 November 2003, and will maintain support services, including repairs and ongoing technical training, for the servers until 1 January 2007.
HP will offer trade-in credits and discounts towards the purchase of HP servers running HP-UX, Windows or Linux. Customers who bought the newly released A- and N-class systems from the e3000 line will receive free conversion kits and unlimited HP-UX user licences,
The e3000 series is the successor to HP's 3000 server line, which was launched in 1972. HP 3000 servers run on a proprietary operating system, called Multi-Programming Executive (MPE). Current e3000 servers use MPE/iX.
HP is helping e3000 application vendors transfer their applications and customers to other HP systems. The company is also creating migration applications and services with developers of third-party tools and middleware.
In addition, HP is extending the end-of-support dates for many of its e3000 servers, adding from two months to two years to the servers' life expectancy. The goal is to ensure that customers only have to make the transition once, said Christine Martino, worldwide marketing manager for HP's commercial systems division.
With customers and developers turning their attention in recent years to Windows, Linux and Unix-based systems, HP encountered an "erosion in the ecosystem around the 3000", said Martino.
"Customers are even having trouble finding people with MPE expertise to work in their data centres. We projected five to seven years out, and were very concerned."
HP said it has struggled to generate enough profit from the e3000 line to maintain the level of investment needed to keep MPE/iX current, adding that the decision to discontinue the e3000 line is not related to the company's planned merger with Compaq.
The e3000 user base has always been small, according to some analysts. One estimated that a few hundred companies rely on the line, while another said he thought only 50,000 units had been sold throughout the server series' entire three-decade lifecycle. HP refused to disclose the size of the e3000's installed base.
"[The e3000] series is essentially a maintenance business," said Brad Day, an analyst at Giga Information Group. "The line has always done well for what people care to use it for, but it's a very small percentage of [HP's] enterprise business."
Killing the e3000 is a sensible way for HP to conserve cash, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata.