HP's decision to drop its e3000 OS was unpopular with users, who are fighting back with a plan to keep the midrange line's MPE operating system source code alive so they can continue running the e3000 beyond December 2006, HP's end-of-support date.
But OpenMPE, the group formed four years ago by e3000 users to gain access to the source code in order to provide ongoing support and patches, may face the classic chicken-and-egg problem.
OpenMPE would need about $1.5 million in user fees to provide support for the operating system in its first year and $1 million annually in subsequent years. But users aren't likely to commit to paying fees until HP decides the fate of the source code, which it's scheduled to do by year's end.
If HP releases the code to OpenMPE, "it would enable us to go to the people we need to go to and actually have something to talk about," said John Wolff, vice chairman of the organisation. Wolff, CIO at Laaco, which operates self-storage facilities and private clubs, said he's concerned that HP will tie its decision about the code to OpenMPE's ability to raise money.
'Not a priority'
But David Wilde, HP's e3000 business manager, said in a written response to questions that OpenMPE's fundraising progress "is not a primary consideration in our decision-making process." He added that HP officials "are looking at a variety of options, including access to source code by one or more partners other than OpenMPE."
OpenMPE officials believe that access to the MPE source code, as well as the ability to change it and develop patches, will be critical to users who plan to continue using their e3000s after HP support ends.
Birket Foster, OpenMPE's president and head of consultancy MB Foster Associates estimated that about 2,000 companies will still be using e3000 systems after support ends. In some cases, migrations will take several years to complete, he said.
But, Foster added, many firms that are migrating won't be able to move all their data off the e3000 and will need continued access to the systems to satisfy auditing and regulatory requirements.
Support may suffer
Even if HP gives OpenMPE access to the source code, support may suffer if the vendor limits the group's ability to make changes and update the software. Foster said patch-level support is a minimum requirement for e3000 users.
HP stopped selling the proprietary mini-computers two years ago. Wolff and others involved in OpenMPE said that releasing the operating system's source code to the group would help the company improve its relations with the remaining e3000 users.
However, HP sent a note last month to certified MPE systems administrators notifying them that the certification was no longer recognised and that they no longer hold the title of "HP certified professional."
That action drew an unhappy response from consultant Paul Edwards who, along with Alden Research, recently reached an agreement with HP to provide ongoing MPE training. Edwards said the situation is similar to a university telling graduates "that their degree is no longer valid."
Wilde said HP is "reinvestigating" the certification issue, but the company has no timetable for making a decision on the matter.