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HP Discontinue OpenVMS 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
simpz writes "The register is reporting that 'the ancient but trustworthy server operating system' OpenVMS has been discontinued. From the article: 'HP never really promoted its acquisition and OpenVMS suffered from a lack of development compared to HP-UX, itself suffering from competition from Linux. It was only a matter of time, but it's a sad end. Many of its old-time fans, your correspondent included, cherished a hope HP would move it to x86-64 – but since development moved to India in 2009, OpenVMS has been living on borrowed time. Now, it's run out.'"
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HP Discontinue OpenVMS

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  • by Erbo (384) <obreerbo@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:05PM (#43967035) Homepage Journal
    There might be a few insights in that old code worth preserving...
    • by mrr (506) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:14PM (#43967115)

      HP already put those into a new product:

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, R.I.P. to he best OS ever... This makes me sad...

    • by msauve (701917)
      "There might be a few insights in that old code worth preserving..."

      Just look to Windows. Just as IBM(rot -1) = HAL, VMS(rot 1) = WNT. VMS and Windows NT were both developed by Dave Cutler (who hated UNIX).
      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:44PM (#43967423)

        Just look to Windows. Just as IBM(rot -1) = HAL, VMS(rot 1) = WNT. VMS and Windows NT were both developed by Dave Cutler (who hated UNIX).

        The original Windows NT (3.51?) was a pretty good OS. After the first release though it became Microsoftized. I don't know what Cutler's involvement with that was. However, the real beauty of VMS wasn't so much it's architecture (though that had a lot of good points) but the incredible quality of DEC's implementation. Bugs were for the competition.

        "Cutler hated Unix" probably sounds like Neanderthal blasphemy to most Slahsdotters, but there were plenty of reasons to hate Unix in the 80's. The big split (AT&T vs. BSD style), numerous other incompatibilities (later overcome to a large extent by GNU utilities), horribly inefficient, bad security even for (largely) pre-Internet days, and practically non-existent documentation. Take it from an old fart who was there - any Unix of the last 15-20 years is definitely not your father's Unix.

        • by el borak (263323) on Monday June 10, 2013 @08:03PM (#43967977)

          However, the real beauty of VMS wasn't so much it's architecture (though that had a lot of good points) but the incredible quality of DEC's implementation. Bugs were for the competition.

          While I used VMS extensively and liked it in many ways, this is just silly.

          When VMS 4.0 was released (the first version to include DCL command line editing), we had some unexplained crashes in our cluster. We eventually tracked it down to a bug in the command line editor (yes, it ran at least partially in kernel space). We had a local "competition" to see who could find the shortest number of keystrokes that would crash the system. The winner: 4. Yes, you could crash VMS 4.0 by getting an unprivileged command prompt and typing 4 characters (didn't even need to hit RETURN).

          The bug was fixed in 4.1.

          • Windows XP's csrss.exe had a similar feature, triggerable from cmd.exe. If the cursor was on the top row of the terminal and then a tab (0x09) and enough backspace (0x08) characters were emitted the cursor would fail a bounds check and bluescreen the system.
          • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday June 10, 2013 @08:39PM (#43968233)
            IIRC 4.0 was a turkey. We waited until 4.1 because word had quickly gotten out about 4.0. Undoubtedly I exaggerate due to my nostalgic haze, but while DEC occasionally screwed up (e.g. 4.0) it was overall a very reliable OS. Certainly way better than any *nix variety of the day that I had the displeasure to work with.
          • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Monday June 10, 2013 @10:08PM (#43968809) Homepage

            DCL didn't run in kernel space, it ran as supervisor code (the four levels were user, supervisor, exec, and kernel). DCL sat above the stack in the user's address space (the user had two address spaces) so when it ran a command the command code was loaded into the regular user heap and executed without starting a new process. The command would just "return" at the end and you'd be back to the command interpreter.

            Anyway, if you could crash the whole system with DCL the problem was likely in QIO, not in DCL.

          • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:24PM (#43969323)

            I've seen VMS source code. It is not pretty stuff.

            • When I started out on VMS, the source code was included on microfiche. Never bothered to look at it though...
              Wonder how many fiches would be needed for the current OS'es? Pretty big box, I would think...
          • by Askmum (1038780)
            I experienced some crashes too with VMS. I don't remember te version, but this was around 1999-2000. The console was running X and logging out of X made the machine crash. Every time. The only way to avoid it was to log in to a single shell from the X-Windows login prompt.
            Because that was not really a stable solution and X on the console was useless anyway, we decided to disable X. Which led to all our programmers not being able to link any console program anymore. For some reason, disabling X on the conso
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by simishag (744368)
          It's been a while since I read it, but "Showstopper" is a pretty good history of Cutler & Windows NT: []
        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:33PM (#43969377)

          The real big difference I felt between Unix and VMS was the orientation. VMS was fully intended to be what we'd today call an enterprise system. It was for corporate office to run as a server, for database management, for batch processing, etc. Unix was oriented towards small departmental computing. Late 80s had Unix growing up a bit more but it still had a much looser feel to it whereas VMS felt like you needed a suit and tie. At that time too Unix was pretty efficient, it really depended on what you were doing though; lots of users or heavy duty I/O and VMS tended to win, whereas few users and Unix felt more responsive. Unix was also always more open; cheaper, more third party applications, free development tools, etc. It changed in early 90s though when Unix got that corporate feel and all the big players wanted a piece of the pie and started splitting into factions.

        • ...However, the real beauty of VMS wasn't so much it's architecture...

          One of the questions that comes up all the time is: How enthusiastic is our support for UNIX? Unix was written on our machines and for our machines many years ago. Today, much of UNIX being done is done on our machines. Ten percent of our VAXs are going for UNIX use. UNIX is a simple language, easy to understand, easy to get started with. It's great for students, great for somewhat casual users, and it's great for interchanging programs between different machines. And so, because of its popularity in these

        • by Eg0r (704)

          > The original Windows NT (3.51?) was a pretty good OS.

          I don't disagree, but there were at least a couple of versions of NT before that. Namely (that I remember of) 3.5 and 3.1 before, which I was using around 94-95.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder too. Perhaps some of "Open"VMS can be ported into FreeVMS.

  • Never hacked? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by riverat1 (1048260) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:11PM (#43967083)

    Last time I heard VMS had never been hacked. Is that still the case?

    It was the best OS I ever worked with. It'd be nice if they open sourced it.

    • When I worked on it the main reason was that it didn't support most of the normal ways to remotely log in to systems. You couldn't telnet to it by default for example. Early versions were hopelessly insecure. For example it was easy to tell when logging in whether the username you entered was in SYSUAF.DAT by waiting for the login process to read the file to the end.

    • Re:Never hacked? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shirgall (110235) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:22PM (#43967239) Homepage

      VMS was hacked, but it is certainly rare.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        There was a big VMS worm before the famous Unix one. The early DECnet essentially had zero security. Basically the worm involved telling the remote system to run a command script. The network security design seemed to be "only connect your network to people you trust", which is strange given the security emphasis elsewhere in the OS.

    • The early days had its share of issues (back when it was just VMS). But once those were sorted out it was pretty secure.

      • by EvilSS (557649)
        The early days it didn't need to be hacked, so many companies left the default SYSTEM and/or FIELD account passwords in place you didn't need to waste time trying to hack in.
    • Re:Never hacked? (Score:4, Informative)

      by bobstreo (1320787) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:38PM (#43967363)

      Last time I heard VMS had never been hacked. Is that still the case?

      It was the best OS I ever worked with. It'd be nice if they open sourced it.

      Umm Kevin Mitnick? []

    • Last time I heard VMS had never been hacked. Is that still the case?

      It was the best OS I ever worked with. It'd be nice if they open sourced it.

      When I was at Argonne Labs in the 80's, there was a rumor of someone sending out fake update/patch tapes made to look like they shipped from DEC. I'm not sure if anyone fell for it, or even if they did, what the "hackers" could get. Only universities were on the DECNET at that time.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:13PM (#43967111)
    HP needs to release it under an open source license since they're discontinuing it.

    Is it just me or has it become tradition for HP to kill things lately? It really makes me wonder what they plan on actually selling...
    • It will be in Harvey Normans for 130 bucks in a few weeks time.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Their stock, just as soon as the id10ts on wall street get done applauding them for eliminating all of their expenses.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      HP is essentially a printer ink company. Supporting operating systems or services is a luxury :-)

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Is it just me or has it become tradition for HP to kill things lately? It really makes me wonder what they plan on actually selling...

      The writing was on the wall for a long time. After they bought Compaq (which previously bought DEC), HP got a ridiculous number of proprietary OSes and server architectures under its umbrella, and they had no sane approach to manage them. On day #1 they should have announced that they were going to merge all the major features from Tru64 (Digital Unix) and HP-UX together i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:15PM (#43967127)

    Its always the same when a huge software project moves out of the EU or US to india its bound to die. India has some great engineers but 90% of those graduating have just memorized stuff and passed an exam which has a pass rate as long as you have 33/100. Obviously this creates a lot of worthless engineers.

    From personal experience: One our customers the ESA (European Space Agency) had some servers and storage arrays running on SUN hardware. We just managed the hardware and operating systems. The software/middleware was all responsibility of the customer who had outsourced this part of the job to Tech-Mahindra (and india based outsourcing giant). These guys would mail us asking us how to change their password and how to "copy" a file from the server while having ssh access (and this happend every few days). If you have such guys working on such important systems I don't even want to know whats happening on development level. Its true that in every team you have a few top-scorers but not knowing how to change your password on a unix system and "managing" that system day to day tells me there is something seriously wrong.

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:23PM (#43967251)
      Yeah, it really seems like when it comes to India, their engineers are fine with low-level stuff but when it comes to doing something beyond what they learned in school, they've got no clue. They also don't seem to understand how it all "fits together" and how to actually innovate and make usable features for normal users.

      Indians are fine for grunt work, and there are some truly bright engineers there, but too many companies see that they can get 5 engineers for the price of one and think they'll get 5x the productivity... instead they find out they get 1/2 the productivity.
      • by gman003 (1693318)

        To be fair, there are plenty of Americans like that too. There are people I went to college with that I wouldn't take on as an unpaid intern, since their knowledge is limited exclusively to which "magic button sequences" to push in MSSQL, IIS, Cisco IOS or, if they were really lucky, one distro of Linux. Actually, some of the *teachers* I've known only taught because they couldn't get hired at any company (that would survive long enough to give them a paycheck).

        And it's not just new people - I've been on co

  • by T5 (308759) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:19PM (#43967185)

    I'm not surprised that it took HP so long to figure out


    on the whole O/S.

    After all, it has a dollar sign in it and they're not particularly astute with cash lately.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:26PM (#43967269)

    I sense a really insignificant disturbance in the force as if a few voices suddenly cried out in terror and then went back to stroking their beards.

  • Get your requests in for the hobbyist licenses and for any emulators you want to run. Grab the patches and licenses while they are available.

    A pity HP was so indifferent to VMS. Its user base was as loyal as any I've seen, often foreswearing all suitors. The VMS documentation is enviable to anyone accustomed to Unix. I could appreciate much of its magnificence even if I didn't have the heart to love it.

    Now comes the decent into the long dark.

  • RIP VMS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tore S B (711705) on Monday June 10, 2013 @06:39PM (#43967389) Homepage

    There were few operating systems that handled loose-clustered networking as elegantly as VMS. Want to centralize user credentials? Easy, just place SYSUAF.DAT on a shared volume. And since the files could have structure, you could lock individual user records for editing rather than the whole file.

    Another great feature was the concept of "quorum". Quorum, as in the organizational term of the number of people present at a meeting necessary for it to be an official meeting of an organization, was the number of reachable hosts necessary to conduct business. Say you had a redundant banking site - and the link between them would go down. If they are a redundant configuration, they would continue to process transactions - with their database quickly diverging. Using quorum nodes, you could set up three hosts on three sites - two major server setups and a simple workstation somewhere central - and voila, no single point of failure.

    Besides, there is a magnificent book, "OpenVMS Internals and Data Structures", which so elegantly and wonderfully describes operating system design.

    I really, really hope that OpenVMS could be open-sourced and this codebase might serve as the base for a community-written x86 port.

    • I really, really hope that OpenVMS could be open-sourced and this codebase might serve as the base for a community-written x86 port.

      Forget it. Even if HP did open source it there wouldn't be enough people willing to support it, just a few old diehards. Kids today think that in the beginning God created *nix and all else is man's blasphemy.

    • by Longjmp (632577)

      [...] And since the files could have structure, [...]

      As much as I loved VMS for its design and its features (hello $ENQ, $DEQ) I truly hated its filesystem .
      Opening a few hundred files in a row on UNIX would go with a snap, on VMS you could go on a long vacation and return before the task had finished.
      And that because of its structured filesystem.

      • Re:RIP VMS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday June 10, 2013 @07:08PM (#43967625)

        There are less illiterates than people who can't read.

        No, there are fewer illiterates than people who can't read.

        • by Longjmp (632577)
          Congrats! You are the (I think) fourth person in about 15 years to notice that.
          You just won a washing machine, but I'm afraid you'll have to come and pick it up yourself ;)
      • And that because of its structured filesystem.

        Only files that you chose to make structured were structured. Most files were flat (the only choice in Unix of course). Why did you need to open hundreds of structured files?

        • by Longjmp (632577)
          If I remember correctly, plain text files were structured by default, i.e. stored in a Pascal-like string system.
          There were more, I don't remember anymore, been a while after all.
          All I remember is, I ended up caching file channels for frequently used (flat) files using raw $QIO for open/read/write operations.
      • I remember in 1986 this scientist I worked with had a data reduction procedure he did by hand with a pocket calculator. Took about a week. So I wrote him a fortran program to do the lot on a VAX 11/730 (the slowest computer in the world). It still took three hours to run.

        • by Tore S B (711705)

          The 11/730 was mostly made for small software developer houses who couldn't afford either an 11/750 or an 11/780, but needed access to VMS and the fairly comprehensive, 32-bit architecture of the VAX. It really was a terribly slow machine, but a neat hack.

          • I recall on that 730 it was so easy to work out where in SYSUAF.DAT my account was located by the delay between Username: and Password: when logging in.

  • by tyme (6621) on Monday June 10, 2013 @08:07PM (#43968001) Homepage Journal

    When the amount of development your OS gets suffers "compared to HP-UX" you are in astonishingly deep trouble. I have had three run-ins with HP-UX, first in 1998, next in 2004, and finally in 2010 (when my current job retired all it's existing HP servers and moved to Solaris). When I encountered HP-UX the first time, in 1998, it seemed to be at least 10 years behind the times. Very little had changed in 2004, which meant that it was falling farther and farther behind each year. In 2010 it seemed little better than it had been in 2004, and I guess that management agreed, since we finally cut the cord and moved on to something that was, at least by comparison, more up to date.

    I also used OpenVMS in the early 2000s, and it was capable, but idiosyncratic (record structured files were a PITA, and the file versioning was no replacement for proper version control. I really liked logical names, however, and the global symbol table was useful). It had a head start on lots of other OS's with respect to clustering features (cluster wide file system, message queues, and distributed lock management was all built-in), but much of the userland was GNU stuff ported over on the POSIX layer. DEC seemed to have given up on the whole "innovation" thing and was just milking existing big contracts.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      HP/UX wasn't really developed as had all manner of acquired and licensed third-party bolt-ons (often 'lite' version too) thrown on, Perl 6's flounderings have nothing on the slow motion train wreck that is HP/UX urban sprawl of directionless feature bloat

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        They must surely have developed their IPSEC implementation in-house, for it is too bad to have originated anywhere but inside HP.

    • When the amount of development your OS gets suffers "compared to HP-UX" you are in astonishingly deep trouble.

      This is so very very true. HP-UX hasn't had any meaningful update for over 10 years now, since v11 came out. And the hardware is obsolete, and appears to be on its way out as well - I've heard nothing regarding new IA64 chips from intel, and HP stupidly bet the farm on Intel not being more focused on destroying competing RISC business than they were on new technology.

  • by hessian (467078) on Monday June 10, 2013 @08:18PM (#43968069) Homepage Journal

    development moved to India in 2009

    That's how they always kill it: they outsource to the perceived cheaper labor, which lets them claim that the product got discriminated against by the market, when the market is reacting to the fact that the project got farmed out, thus is unlikely to have frequent updates, thus is a dead-end project because users won't get the support they need or a competitive product. RIP

  • About 5 years ago, an HP instructor told us that the US Military wanted VMS to never be sunset.
    I wonder what changed.

    • Probably nothing changed. The US military may not have been a big enough VMS customer to justify HP maintaining it. Shame HP didn't open source it, or even turn it over to some small company that could maintain it for less money (and sell to the military, etc.).
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      five years ago to five years from now is a decade of support from HP from then. military replaces systems too...

    • Maybe HP decided that they didn't really care what the US military wanted. Even the US military isn't a big enough customer to carry a commercial-grade general-purpose OS all by itself.

  • I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience such a wonderful operating system. I'm probably very young compared to most VMS system managers, my first experience of VMS was about 7 years ago. My first impressions were that it seemed quite antiquated (mostly due to the lack of a modern shell) but as I began to learn more, it became a breath of fresh air compared to anything I had ever used. I began to discover features, flexibility and power that make other modern opera
    • I began to discover features, flexibility and power that make other modern operating systems seem primitive.

      It frustrates me that most people these days think *nix is the be all and end all of OS'es. Other things and other approaches are possible! Don't get me wrong, I know that VMS is a lost cause (and frankly I haven't used it in many years), and I like the better modern *nixes (the ones in the 80's were awful though). However it seems like there is nothing left but Windows and various *nixes, which limits people's thinking. Okay, somewhere in the bowels of various computer rooms are also z/OS machines, but I k

      • by bored (40072)

        Don't forget IBM's as400/IBM i/or whatever its called this week. Plus HP still has the nonstop too.

  • One of my favorite features of VMS was file versions. Each file had a version number. As many of you probably remember, each file had a version number. So you could have:
    That feature combine with some logical commands, such as PURGE/KEEP=2, would keep the two most recent versions of the file. I wish there was such a command in OS X instead of having to delete all older versions manually.

    This is a sad day, and I miss and will miss VMS.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Uhm, Tops 10/20 as well as RSX-11 (father of VMS) had that before VMS and they were borrowed from Generation Data Groups (GDG) on Mainframes. TSS and RSTS AFAIK also had it.

      • by KC1P (907742)

        If you mean TSS/8, it didn't have file versions, and neither did RSTS/E (and actually I don't remember it on T10 either but I barely used that). But yeah T20 definitely had versions and was the inspiration for the later systems (RSX/VMS quietly accept T20 filename syntax too -- <dir>file.ext.ver instead of [dir]file.ext;ver). Very very useful feature -- saved my ass plenty of times.

        • I started out using vms and only later did I learn (and move to) unix. I worked at DEC for over 5 yrs and my last 2 were at the mill (mlo). when I eventually moved from vax/vms to unix, I could not get used to NOT having the semicolon versions there to save your ass. I had to write wrappers around things to create the illusion of versions ;)

          I later gave that up and now I'm thinking in unix terms. I would not even remember the old vms commands anymore, even though I lived by them for many, many years.


      • by cstacy (534252)
        The file "versions" feature originated on ITS (the PDP-10 operating system at MIT).
  • There was a reason why it was originally called VAX/VMS -- the operating system and the Vax architecture were developed simultaneously; the hardware supported KESU (Kernel, Executive, Supervisor, User, for those of you who are non-aligned), the x86 chip didn't. I think this is the root of the security problem that WNT suffered when VMS was ported to Microsoft's product. Each mode allowed a subset of the total instruction set, with certain instructions (such as writing to device drivers, for example) deni

  • by kybred (795293) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @12:45AM (#43969749)

    VMS VERSION 4.1: (An official DEC memo)

    Please stop submitting SPR's. This is our system. We designed it,
    we build it, and we use it more than you do. If there are some
    features you think might be missing, if the system isn't as
    effective as you think it could be, TOUGH. Give it back, we don't
    need you. See figure 1.

    (slashdot whitespace filter won't allow the ASCII art middle finger graphic that should be here)
                                                            Figure 1.

    Forget about your silly problems, let's take a look at some of the
    features of the VMS operating system.

    1) Options. We've got lots of them. So many in fact, that you need
          two strong people to carry the documentation around. So many
          that it will be a cold day in hell before half of them are used.
          So many that you are probably not going to do your work right
          anyway. However, the number of options isn't all that important,
          because we picked some interesting values for the options and
          called them...

    2) Defaults. We put a lot of thought into our defaults. We like
          them. If we didn't, we would have made something else be the
          default. So keep your cotten-picking hands off our defaults.
          Don't touch. Consider them mandatory. "Mandatory defaults" has
          a nice ring to it. Change them and your system crashes, tough.
          See figure 1.

    3) Language Processors. They work just fine. They take in source,
          and often produce object files as a reward for your efforts. You
          don't like the code? Too bad! You can even try to call
          operating system services from them. For any that you can't, use
          the assembler like we do. We spoke to the language processor
          developers about this, they think a lot like we do. They said
          "See figure 1.".

    4) Debuggers. We've got debuggers, one we support and one we use.
          You shouldn't make mistakes anyway, it is a waste of time. We
          don't want to hear anything about debuggers, we're not
          interested. See figure 1.

    5) Error logging. Ignore it. Why give yourself an ulcer? You don't
          want to give us the machine to get the problem fixed and we probably
          can't do it anyway. Oh, and if something breaks between 17:00 and
          18:00 or 9:30 and 10:30 or 11:30 and 13:30 or 14:30 and 15:30 don't
          waste your time calling us, we're out. See figure 1.

    6) Command Language. We designed it ourselves, it's perfect. We
          like it so much we put our name on it, DCL - Digital's Command
          Language. In fact we're so happy with it, we designed it once
          for each of our operating systems. We even try to keep it the
          same from release to release, sometimes we blow it though. See
          figure 1.

    7) Real Time Performance. We got it. Who else could have done such
          a good job? So the system seems sluggish with all those priority
          18 processes, no problem, just make them priority one. Anyway,
          realtime isn't important anymore like it used to be. We changed
          our groups name to get rid of the word realtime, we told all our
          realtime users to see figure 1 a long time ago.

    In conclusion, stuff your SPR. Love VMS or leave it, but DON'T complain.

    R.I.P. Malcolm

How much net work could a network work, if a network could net work?