HP e3000 Migration Gathers Steam

Bye-Bye Mini

When Hewlett-Packard Co. announced last year it would discontinue its HP e3000 minicomputer, it hardly planned to abandon its customers. It rolled out a number of incentives to customers to make the switch to its HP-UX Unix.

Believing it is no longer cost-effective to maintain its MPE /iX operating system, HP announced last November that it would stop selling new HP e3000 machines next year and stop supporting customers in 2007. The original HP3000 machines debuted in 1972 and gained a loyal following that continues today.

Loretta Li-Sevilla, HP e3000 product manager at HP, says that although MPE was designed for transactional systems from the ground up, HP-UX (which was designed for scientific applications) now offers a better value going forward, with much of the same computing power. She points to studies that indicate common MPE applications already see better performance on HP-UX.

To generate interest in HP-UX among HP e3000 customers, the company has initiated an incentive program to retain customers. HP will offer free initial consultation on how to best migrate from MPE to HP-UX, training programs about the switch, timeshare access to a HP-UX system for developing and testing applications, and a “loaner” HP-UX server for evaluation purposes.

Moreover, customers may not need to purchase new hardware to make the transition from HP e3000 to HP-UX. The latest HP e3000 machines use the PA-RISC processor used in most HP-UX server and use the same I/O system, so, in some cases, customers only need to install the new operating system to take advantage of HP-UX. “The migration path is pretty smooth,” Li-Sevilla says.

In addition to HP-UX, Li-Sevilla says HP will help customers move to Windows 2000 or Linux, if those environments better suit the customers’ needs. “We want to have minimal disruption for the customer base,” she says.

Upon hearing about HP’s plans to drop the HP e3000, Clark Farabaugh Jr., assistant director of IT at Virginia International Terminals Inc. (VIT), realized it was time to ditch their HP3000. VIT is a private company that works with the Virginia Port Authority to manage the commercial ports in the state of Virginia. It uses an HP3000 to track over a million container shipments each year and supports as many as 300 concurrent sessions.

According to Farabaugh, the machine was at the core of the business. “All of our major operational systems are on the HP3000 today, “ he says. Not surprisingly, reliability and performance are a key concern for the company, which was already beginning to consider a migration to open systems when HP announced the e3000’s end-of-life.

Farabaugh attended a workshop on migration to HP-UX in San Jose, Calif. and borrowed one of HP’s “loaner” boxes, which sealed the deal for the company. He expects VIT will move its processes to Unix in at most two years.

VIT uses homegrown applications written in Speedware Inc.’s 4GL transactional language. Speedware offers 4GL for HP-UX and kits for porting MPE applications to HP-UX with a minimum of fuss. Farabaugh says VIT will use these tools, as well as Turboimage to move the HP3000 native database to Oracle 9i.

Li-Sevilla says about half of HP3000 users have homegrown applications. She believes some customers will toss the applications in favor of off-the-shelf applications for HP-UX, some will keep their old applications and emulate MPE on HP-UX, and some, like VIT, will port their old applications to HP-UX.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.