HP responds to e3000 user pressure

Hewlett-Packard has reconsidering the possibility of enabling users to migrate the e3000 MPE operating system and applications to...

Hewlett-Packard has reconsidering the possibility of enabling users to migrate the e3000 MPE operating system and applications to a newer hardware platform: its midrange Unix server line, the HP 9000. 

HP stopped selling new e3000s last autumn, so the systems can now be purchased only from dealers of used equipment. The company had previously rejected the option of offering users the means to run MPE on the HP 9000, but in a recent letter to the OpenMPE user advocacy group, HP said it has "reopened" the topic for consideration following input from users. It promised an update in June, but not necessarily a final decision. 

Moving MPE to the HP 9000, however, helps only one aspect of an e3000 migration. Users also want HP to turn over the MPE operating system source code to a third party to maintain, update and possibly enhance with new features. 

Users, who are feeling increasing pressure to make migration decisions as the deadline draws closer, have been pushing HP to decide this year whether it will release the source code. In a recent survey by Interex, a California user group said a decision on third-party source-code custody is their top priority this year. 

However, HP in its letter said no decision on the source-code issue will be made until the second half of 2005. The company cited a list of reasons, including "significant planning and investigation" involving a range of technical, legal and business factors. 

The e3000 user community is very active and mailing lists receive a lot of traffic. Users pushing for ways to extend the usefulness of the e3000, as well as minimise the risk involved with "homesteading" - running the system beyond 2006 - are pushing HP to provide definitive answers. 

Running e3000-based software on the HP 9000 is possible because the two systems share a similar architecture and use PA-Risc processors, said HP e3000 business manager David Wilde. 

However, that conversion ability does not necessarily apply to every generation of the HP 9000 system. Differences in firmware and various components may make it impossible in some cases, said Wilde. "It is something we are investigating." 

Patrick Thibodeau writes for Computerworld

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