Composing the 3000s New
Rene Woc is like many HP 3000 customers making a
handsome career out of surviving. The CEO at Adager, the 3000
markets oldest database solution supplier, directs the business
operations and market strategy for a company that now defies
commonplace computer industry strategies. After more than two
decades, Adager is a company still blissfully obsessed with HP 3000
business. HPs pronouncements of last year about its future with
the 3000 appear to have forced no changes upon Woc or Adager, one of
a select group of companies in the 3000 software community still
dedicated only to MPE solutions.
During the same month when the most recent HP World
show convened, Woc observed the anniversary of another survival: his
own, 10 years beyond his coronary bypass operation. It was a
life-threatening event that has made him stronger and healthier, he
says. The statement seems to apply also to the transition which the
HP 3000 community faces today. Adager still maintains one of the
largest 3000 customer bases outside of HPs own. Unlike the
vendor which created the computer, Adager still sees a healthy future
ahead for its HP 3000 business.
Woc was born in Guatemala, as was Adagers co-founder
Alfredo Rego. The two men began working together on HP 3000 projects
in that country almost as soon as the computer was available.
Telectro, which he was leading in 1974, took delivery of the second
HP 3000 ever sold into Latin America. It was an exercise in
independence from the start. In those days, overseas customers had to
prove to HP they were capable of owning an HP 3000 outside the US,
promising to buy a second HP system for diagnostics and stocking
spare parts. The ownership demanded a level of detail Woc was
comfortable with and typical of the detail that Adager
embraces while helping HP customers with database maintenance and the
occasional nightmare. His quarter-million-dollar commitment for that
first 128K computer showed a faith in the system that hasnt
wavered in the decades since.
Woc is managing a company that serves thousands of
customers across 50 countries impressive numbers when coupled
with Adagers legendary lean staffing and few offices. Although
the company was founded 24 years ago in Guatemala, in 1988 it
relocated with its development brain trust intact to Sun Valley,
Idaho. Its resource consumption is as efficient as any program
designed for those early 128K systems, giving the company the ability
to navigate skillfully through business waters whose depth might be
uncertain in coming years. Instead of sinking resources into large
staff counts and multiple addresses, Woc and his cohorts developed a
company that was quick to the Internet, showing comfort with new
technology that makes those efficiencies possible. Now he and Rego
are exploring new technical opportunities, but not at the expense of
existing HP 3000 customers. Adager doesnt depend on migrating
its customers away from HP 3000s, choosing to build its next venture
on its own merits.
This year has marked many changes in the 3000 community,
including the first time when Adager chose to skip the Interex
exhibit hall at the North American conference. By sticking to its
3000 roots and steering clear of the drain of an expo hall, Adager is
following a path as independent as the 3000s heritage. This was
a computer offered as an alternative to batch processing, after all.
We wanted to peer over Wocs shoulder to share the vision of a
survivor in todays hard times. He answered our questions via
the Internet in the days surrounding the HP World conference, where
he and his colleague Alfredo Rego were often speaking out at
Why hasnt Adager made a push into other markets with
its product following HPs announcement of last November?
If your definition of other markets includes only
the narrow migration of HP 3000 databases and applications to
other platforms, then you are correct in your assessment. We
certainly have not pushed our way into that area.
But there is also life outside of the HP 3000 just
as there is still plenty of life within the HP 3000 community. We
have always actively studied and contributed to technological trends
that we find appealing. And this is a very important word:
appealing. Adager has never acted as a lemming and there
is no reason for doing so now, after HP has chosen to kill the HP
technology, we find two areas extremely appealing:
1) TurboIMAGE. A magnificent DBMS where we can still make
many exciting technical contributions. We have a moral responsibility
to help large users with hundreds of millions of entries and
thousands of concurrent accessors. And we also have a moral
responsibility to help mom-and-pop shops with no IT staff whatsoever.
We have always been proud of our association with TurboIMAGE and we
have always done our very best to complement it in terms of
performance, reliability, and total cost of ownership. There is no
reason to stop researching (and implementing) new ways to do so.
Out-of-the-mainstream technologies that R&D managers dismiss
outright but that happen to fascinate us with their technical
Put another way, what makes the product a good fit for the
MPE environment or what are the perils in porting a
well-designed tool elsewhere?
Adager is a specialized product for a specialized
environment. Just as the HP 3000, Adager (the company as well as its
flagship product) is a workhorse that quietly and consistently works
with one of the worlds fundamental database engines. Adager and
TurboIMAGE fit intimately, glued by MPEs powerful file system.
Our customers experience a rock-solid combination that gives them a
real competitive advantage.
Many of our customers have built their specialized
applications using MPE-IMAGE-Adager as their foundation. After years
of tender loving care, these systems are well-crafted, fast,
economical, and reliable. We get lots of feedback regarding a simple
fact: Our customers are not looking forward to wasting millions of
dollars and years of effort to downgrade their showcase environments
to what they consider inferior OS and DBMS platforms.
Youre not exhibiting at Interexs show for the
first time in more than two decades. Why the shift in approach to the
have always treated the worldwide MPE-Image community as a tightly
knit group of colleagues and friends. We provide software products
and services to enhance their lives.
For decades, we made significant contributions to the HP 3000
International Users Group (HP 3000 IUG) and its many worldwide
National and Regional User Groups (NUGs and RUGs). We were among the
first major sponsors for conferences of all sizes. Then, slowly, as
the relevance of Interex (the successor of the HP 3000 IUG) to HP
3000 users dwindled, we decided to direct our attention elsewhere.
Once HP announced its choice to kill MPE-Image without any
consideration for its survival and unbounded prosperity under
new management (when the timing was right, back in November
2001), it made no sense for us to keep marketing IMAGE databases
(something that HP should have done, of course, but we happily
stepped in). We feel that our presence in HP World must now be
focused on discussion groups and informal conversations with
attendees rather than on the exhibit floor.
Is there another marketplace or platform that Adager is
considering for future business?
course. But please remember that we do things because we love doing
them, not because we must do them. The HP 3000 has been a
wonderful platform for us and there is no reason to jump ship
prematurely. We dont have any venture capitalists or
stockholders dictating our future. We actively develop and enhance
Adager because we have a significant backlog of requests from our
customers (and of things that we ourselves always wanted to do with
Meanwhile, we continue to keep our eyes open and to
investigate all kinds of other possibilities. We want to help our
current users as they struggle to downgrade to other platforms. We
are very fortunate, because we are free to select our current and
future environments based on our own internal criteria.
routinely investigate emerging technologies outside of the MPE-Image
arena and apply them to our work as we continue to develop Adager
software for our IMAGE/SQL customers. We strongly believe in
Do Adagers customers say they want a similar product
on their other databases?
Yes. Every time a happy TurboIMAGE user is forced to go to a
different DBMS, we get the question will you be available for
so-and-so. Our objective is to make IMAGE/SQL the very best
DBMS in the world. Adager has made significant contributions in the
past and fully intends to continue making substantial inroads in the
future of IMAGE/SQL databases.
How did HPs announcement change your business plans?
We are very nimble and we have never had any business
plans in the sense of rigidly-managed companies. At Adager, we
have always believed that it is better for us to concentrate on
having first-rate people who love their work. HPs announcement
has not forced us to do anything differently, because we continue to
have first-rate people who love their work.
What we do is not flashy, because its all under
the hood and nuts and bolts. What we do is
essential and it must work flawlessly. We always strive to make
IMAGE/SQL databases better, faster, and more reliable. Adager has a
straightforward mission and Adager uses high-tech tools to make it
work effectively and efficiently. We are the best in the world at
what we do and we are passionate. But dont take our word for
it. Please study what our worldwide customers say on a daily basis at
Whats the essential element youre seeking in
another opportunity for your company?
We continue to explore all kinds of computer technologies.
Who knows? One of these may provide the basis for future business
plans. We continue to do the things that we love to do and
making Adager better and better is certainly something that we love
to do. We sympathize with the urgent need that most mainstream
managers have for doing the things that they must do. Fortunately, we
are not in that position.
Whats the peril in migrating customers to another
This is a question for HP, not for us.
HP chose to abandon the HP 3000 platform. At Adager, we have
never decided to abandon the HP 3000 platform.
HPs announcement caught most HP 3000 customers
unprepared, particularly so soon after the upbeat announcements
just two months before at HP World in Chicago. Users
were making plans to move to newer hardware platforms that would
become available for MPE. Even now, few users know what lies ahead
for their applications. Many of them are buying new hardware,
anticipating they will be on the HP 3000 for a long time.
The frustrating thought for many HP 3000 users is that,
after having spent millions of dollars and several years of their
lives in migrating off the HP 3000, they will end up in the same
position they have right now, having wasted opportunities to evolve
Will your next opportunity convert HP 3000 users to
another platform, or simply rely on their business to be added with a
Its impossible to predict the future, but we have a
tradition of thriving by addressing unfulfilled challenges whose
solutions we find appealing to our sense of technical elegance.
Why do you think so few suppliers have decided to maintain
their focus on the HP 3000 alone?
They probably must answer to unbearable pressures from
stockholders or venture capitalists. We are just a bunch of hard-core
software engineers and we answer only to the needs of our customers.
What made you decide to pick the HP 3000 in the first
place, and how much of that has changed?
I chose and bought my first HP 3000 in 1974, as an end user
and not as a software developer. Even with all the shortcomings of
the early systems, the HP 3000 offered an exciting platform to do
software development and a great community. HP was, even within its
well-known marketing limitations, as aggressive and responsive as it
could have been expected.
What has changed is the attitude of the creator of the HP
3000. Starting around 1990, HP has done everything possible to get
rid of its unloved child, but without allowing the HP 3000 to have
the freedom to grow and prosper outside of HP. Unfortunately, loyal
HP 3000 users ended up footing the bill.
Well, we heard at HP World what HPs willing to pay
for in MPEs future but the vendor admitted it turned
down early offers from outside organizations whose mission would be
to help MPE and Image evolve. What did you observe about how suitable
HPs static future for MPE and Image would be to the 3000
Theres a lot of untapped potential in MPE-Image. As
John Burke so eloquently said at HP World, HP should seriously
consider the win-win option of letting MPE-Image go. HP
would win back a lot of the good will that it lost in the last year,
and MPE-Image users (current as well as future) would love nothing
more than a thriving OS-DBMS platform one that, through
focused tender loving care, goes forward to compete, unfettered, in
its specialized market: heavy-duty OLTP.
This obviously must go beyond HPs allowing
(with lots of restrictions) the current frozen MPE to run
on an emulator. In this very unattractive scenario, HP conveys a
clear message that MPE-Image is ankylosed, a word whose meanings
include a definition of stopped in its evolution.
HP should let MPE-Image go to a good home that is
ready, willing and able to move Heaven and Earth with ONE objective
in mind: The un-handcuffed opportunity to excel. HP should transfer
the MPE-Image torch (without extinguishing it first) to a solid group
of highly motivated technical and marketing people with the
appropriate financial backing to do the job well.