The HP 3000: A Personal Mainframe for Everyone?
Imagine an HP 3000 "virtual workstation" -- a standard 918 or 928 with a four-user MPE/ license and a bundle of one or more compilers and symbolic debuggers priced at a reduced cost -- on the desk of very programmer in your IT department. Imagine such small HP 3000 systems, priced in the ballpark of NT servers or Unix workstations, opening up new uses for the 3000. As long as MPE/iX is sold with user pricing based on a minimum of eight users, the market for such systems will be restricted. What if MPE/iX was licensed in a smaller configuration? Imagine the HP 3000 as a high end PC -- what I like to think of as a personal mainframe.
The joint venture between HP and Intel to produce the Merced chip might eventually usher in a new age of scaleable computer architecture. But if MPE/iX is ever ported to the Merced chip, such systems will not be available for years. Why wait? Sure, the 3000 hardware will always cost several times that of a bargain basement PC clone. But the same is also true of high-end NT servers and Power PCs. It might be just my imagination, but I think there is a viable market today for a limited-user HP 3000.
HP has announced a new package for application developers called the Series 918DX, one that can be leased for as little as $200 per month. As co-chair of SIGCONSULT, the special interest group for HP computer consultants, I had the opportunity to advise HP on the 918DX package. I call the 918DX a personal mainframe, and look forward to seeing my PM sitting alongside my PC in my home office. One of the possibilities that arose from our discussions with HP is the prospect of a four-user MPE/iX license for the 918DX. Once that model is in place, four-user pricing could become available to the entire market.
I don't expect HP to price its software and software support for a four-user system at
half the price of an eight-user system. During our planning for 918DX I heard some
indications that HP's pricing model "flattens out" at the lower end of the
number of users curve. It probably is also safe to predict that a four-user license would
only be offered on the low-end systems such as the 918 and 928. Another idea to cut cost
of ownership is to consider what user pricing might look like if HP offered a volume
discount based on software that a customer already owns and pays support for on a larger
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