November 14, 2001 10:15 AM PST

Hewlett-Packard phases out server line

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday began phasing out its venerable but low-profile HP 3000 line of servers, a victim of a down economy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing stalwart, struggling with an economic downturn and an attempted acquisition of rival Compaq Computer, began advising customers to switch to other HP servers and began offering help for the move. As first reported by CNET News.com, the line will be phased out over a five-year period.

"The rapid evolution of technology away from proprietary platforms and customer and partner decisions to move to other HP platforms led to the transition plan," the company said in a statement. The environment of support, software, sales and customers for the system had eroded over the years.

HP 3000 loyalists will meet in Cupertino, Calif., Wednesday night to bid the server line farewell nearly 30 years after its introduction in 1972, one source said.

The economic slowdown has spurred layoffs and more layoffs at HP. The company is grappling with its proposed merger with Compaq and is focusing on reclaiming momentum in the Unix server market from Sun Microsystems and IBM.

HP's move parallels the difficult choice Compaq made when it killed its line of Unix servers using the acclaimed Alpha chip, vowing to switch its Tru64 version of the Unix operating system to Intel's Itanium family. But such transitions can be difficult; customers facing the task of translating all their software to a new hardware system can move to a different company's servers about as easily as to another line sold by the original server maker.

IBM's iSeries line, long known as the AS/400, is analogous to the HP 3000 line and has long faced rumors of its imminent demise. But IBM continues to express support for the products.

HP made an effort to reinvigorate the HP 3000 line, which runs the MPE operating system, but most of the company's server attention today is directed at its 9000 Unix server line and its NetServer line of Intel server.

Sales of existing HP 3000 systems and upgrades will continue through Nov. 1, 2003, HP said, somewhat longer than earlier indications. HP also will offer migration services, financing options, consulting and outsourcing to HP 3000 customers. Support for the 3000 line will last through Jan. 1, 2007.

Newer 3000 models shared the same hardware as HP's Unix servers, and customers with those systems will be able to switch to Unix for free, HP said. The company will offer trade-in credits for Unix, Windows or Linux servers.

The 3000 line was launched in 1972 to replace the HP 2000, according to author Bob Green, who worked on early designs. The machine stepped in to fill a void after HP backed off an effort code-named "Omega" to compete directly with IBM mainframes.

In 1972 and 1973, early versions of the HP 3000 were temporarily withdrawn from the market because of flaws in the operating system that led to frequent crashes and inferior performance. The Series II, introduced in 1975, was more successful, Green said.

The HP 3000 line of servers has been converging onto the same hardware as the company's 9000 line of Unix servers. The servers have a smaller but loyal following among tens of thousands of customers, in specific industries such as health care, credit unions and retail.

 

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