HP writes obituary for the e3000

Although its impending death comes as no shock to them, loyal users of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s (HP) e3000 server line say they’re not eager to part ways with an IT industry stalwart.

Robert Hilverth, a database administrator at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., which has employed e3000 servers since the early ’80s,said HP’s recent decision to discontinue sales of the product by the end of 2003 was expected, but also a disappointment.

“I was not surprised,” he said in an e-mail interview. “HP MPE clients have lost their fervent loyalty to HP and I think that HP sees this trend and is no longer willing to expend resources on diminishing returns.”

Multi-Programming Executive (MPE) is the proprietary platform that runs on the e3000 servers, which were first launched in 1972. Hilverth said declining support for that platform in part led to HP’s decision.

According to Christopher Koppe, director of marketing at one of the largest application developers for the MPE platform, Montreal-based Speedware Corporation Inc., users of the e3000 and its OS are fanatical for good reason. “It has an incredible low total cost of ownership, and it has a reputation of staying up and running for four or five years (without having to reboot),” he said. “Plus, you don’t need to have a lot of system administrators administering it.

“It’s like Old Faithful – it’s always there, always running, never crashing.”

Most of Speedware’s 3,000 customers use the e3000s, which have a particularly large following in the manufacturing and health care industries, said Koppe. He expects 10 per cent of them to migrate away from it immediately, and others to hang on for various lengths of time. “The platform will live on for 10 years, but a good 40 per cent will be gone in two years,” he said.

Koppe also doubts HP’s migration incentives will save its customers much money. “It’s going to cost them something. It’s not going to be free on the hardware and OS side.”

HP blames “erosion” of its e3000 install base as they slowly migrated to other Unix, Linux and Windows-based systems, for the decision. The company will continue selling certain e3000 servers until Nov. 1, 2003, and will maintain support services – including repairs and ongoing technical training – for the servers until

Jan. 1, 2007.

Kees denHartigh, systems and network analyst supervisor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said the passing of the e3000 marks a sad day for HP, but adds that the company made the right and only decision under the circumstances.

“It does . . . mark the end of an era for HP (but) to continue to support such a dinosaur is no longer cost effective. This is a message to e3000 users – get over it, get on with it,” he said

by e-mail.