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HP Operating Systems

HP Gives OpenVMS New Life and Path To X86 Port 136

Posted by timothy
from the diversity-in-action dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes Hewlett-Packard has changed its direction on OpenVMS. Instead of pushing its users off the system, it has licensed OpenVMS to a new firm that plans to develop ports to the latest Itanium chips and is promising eventual support for x86 processors. Last year, HP put OpenVMS on the path to extinction. It said it would not validate the operating system to its latest hardware or produce new versions of it. The move to license the OpenVMS source code to a new entity, VMS Software Inc. (VSI), amounts to a reversal of that earlier decision. VSI plans to validate the operating system on Intel's Itanium eight-core Poulson chips by early 2015, as well as support for HP hardware running the upcoming 'Kittson' chip. It will also develop an x86 port, although it isn't specifying a timeframe. And it plans to develop new versions of OpenVMS.
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HP Gives OpenVMS New Life and Path To X86 Port

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  • Excellent! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:38PM (#47577613) Journal
    As a qualified Computer Systems Necromancer I've been disappointed by the lack of demand for combine technical aptitude with an ability to work with the undead creatures of nightmare. HP's plans are an exciting development for me and my colleagues!
    • by NotFamous (827147)

      HP's plans are an exciting development for me and my colleagues!

      I assumed it was "me and my colleague". More than that sounds a little ambitious.

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      Operation Oversight will be down on this like ton of bricks
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You joke, but "nightmare" would be an accurate description for today's youth if asked to work with VMS. :-)

      We are talking about a CLI (DCL) which is so out of date you cannot even edit commands which span more than one line.

      There's also no nice modern 1990s technologies such as filename completion as well.

      The filesystem (ODS-2/ODS-5) is robust, if slow, however. It cannot handle upcoming multiple terabyte disk sizes however.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Somehow I fondly remember VMS running on HP hardware back in the 90s. A local university had a dialup guest account. It was fun. Going back to the DOS prompt after a finished session always made me hurt and long for something better than DOS.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Z00L00K (682162)

        Since VMS was my first real operating system (MS-DOS doesn't count since it's a program loader rather than an OS) I see this as good news.

        VMS is actually a lot easier to use for a complete beginner than *Nix, even though it has some quirks.

      • by donaldm (919619)

        You joke, but "nightmare" would be an accurate description for today's youth if asked to work with VMS. :-)

        We are talking about a CLI (DCL) which is so out of date you cannot even edit commands which span more than one line.

        You could run a GUI on VMS as far back as 1992 if you had a Graphics Workstation. It pre-dates Win NT by about a year.

      • by operagost (62405)

        So you're a one or two-issue kind of guy, huh? I find the problems you mention with the CLI pretty small when compared to:
        - Being able to abbreviate commands (SEARCH to SEA, BACKUP to BACK, etc.)
        - Having commands that abbreviate means the commands can make sense in English and still be truncated by experts for speed (e.g., no commands like "ls", "rm", "tar", "man")
        - CLI integrates with system calls, so you can write quick scripts for web services or to obtain system information without doing SEARCHES (exc

    • Mr. Howard would like a word with you...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by donaldm (919619)
      For budding Necromancers and magic users in general, did you know that by incrementing the letters of VMS by one you get the following:

      V --> W
      M --> N
      S --> T

      The original letters summoned and bound the Old Ones in clusters to do your bidding. Unfortunately the incremented symbols have not bound the Old Ones properly so take care not to summon up something that could bind you into the darkest depths were there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I has them. I've been a huge fan of VMS since I first used, then later managed, DECstations at my university. Supported that platform for DECADES, and watched it finally go down the tubes under HP.

    SO glad it's coming back!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Em Adespoton (792954)

      I used to have an account on DEC's Alpha test servers, and remember testing out VAX/VMS back in the day.

      Seeing OpenVMS being pushed for Itanium products though... that's running one doomed OS on another doomed and believed extinct platform.

      I don't really see where they're going to make a profit on this, at least enough to survive until they can port it over to a modern x86 architecture.

      After they do THAT, I can see it being viable, especially if they provide legacy binary support. There's still a lot of ir

    • by Billlagr (931034)
      I haven't touched VMS in...well literally, years. Last time I used it was on a VAX 11/780, and MicroVAX(en) II's I think? Wasted many an hour on 'phone' instead of doing assignments. When not at a local terminal, I used terminal mode on a DEC Rainbow 100 (manually-dialled 2400 baud modem) Talk about keep it in the family..
      • by Dynamoo (527749)
        I used to run an 11/750 back in the early 90s. Rock solid, but ancient even then. Our students used it for Pascal programming using a bunch of VT131s which were also relics from another era. When we ditched those and got some (VT320-like) Televideo 9320s instead, everybody thought that the system had speeded up too..
  • by jgotts (2785) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .sttogj.> on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:45PM (#47577653)

    The Vomit-making system returns from the dead in zombie form!

  • OpenVMS will outlive us all. I really can't believe there are that many OpenVMS boxes in the wild. Can anyone list some applications still being run by OpenVMS?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Can anyone list some applications still being run by OpenVMS?

      Let's just say: "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

    • by rahvin112 (446269) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @06:37PM (#47578323)

      I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands of systems out there running on it because the application it runs is essential, runs perfectly fine and would cost billions to replace.

      Sometimes it's not smart to replace something just because you can or it's outdated. If it serves it's purpose, the code is essentially error free because it's been in use so long and the systems work fine there is little need to replace them. I'd argue it's better at that point to keep the original software and build new ways to access it through external applications than it is to recreate the server application.

    • by rastass (618778)
      There are still a few installations around running DCS / SCADA in power stations, refineries etc. We used to put VAX clusters in to run the databases, and used an OS/2 front end for the graphics. In its day (early 1990s) it was miles ahead of anything x86 and many have continued running since then without crashing.
    • I work in semiconductor manufacturing. The very first place I worked out of college ran the manufacturing execution system on OpenVMS. It was a bit of an shock to get a log in to the VMS cluster on my first day as this was in the 2000s and I had only learned about VMS in my operating systems classes as a historical example. I have also noticed that the older Nikon imaging tools [nikonprecision.com] have OpenVMS running the main application controlling the tool.

      I found OpenVMS to be a great zero frills system for doing this type

  • by stox (131684) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:55PM (#47577729) Homepage

    There are applications that VMS does very well in. Clustering under VMS is unsurpassed by anything else.

    • by Jahta (1141213)

      There are applications that VMS does very well in. Clustering under VMS is unsurpassed by anything else.

      Amen to that! It's disheartening that many more modern clustering technologies can't do what VMS could do 20+ years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2014 @05:04PM (#47577793)

    OpenVMS is still used where high availability is needed but rarely at the front of a stack visible to users. Were I work, it's the back end, core application server (OpenVMS 8.4 on Integrity blades in a C7000 chassis), that without much effort stays up in the five or six 9's range, we use 2 or 3 CPUs worth of processing out of 16 and nobody complains about performance. Two of us easily survive 24/365 on-call because there is rarely a call. Changes from the software vendor or our in house programing staff are weekly if not daily, so it's not a static environment. We have no intent or desire to move to something else, there is little incentive: it would take 10 years to convert and certify, and several million dollars that we could us elsewhere (the study was done about 4 years ago when we moved from Alpha to Integrity). All that said, there is a lot of work needed to move to OpenVMS to X86-64: I don't expect anything for 5 years.

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @08:49PM (#47578853) Journal

      The most bad-ass server I've ever had the pleasure of working with was a Digital VAX 11/750 generations ago. It was *built* to be reliable from the very first rivet.

      Oh sure, my pocket phone has far more power, memory, and storage. Despite the ample square footage of my "McMansion" house, It would not have fit in my kitchen. It ate power like global warming really was a myth. But as a server, it was in its own class.

      It would automatically detect memory that was failing and rebuild from memory (like ECC) but then would remap that address so it would no longer be used.

      You could upgrade its CPUs one at a time without shutting it down.

      It was like a hoover with data, versioning files was intrinsic to how the O/S worked.

      One time, the A/C in the computer room went out. It mapped *everything* in RAM to disk as the temperature rose and the chips became unreliable. We literally pulled the plug on it because it was completely unresponsive, as all operations were working directly off HDD. When the A/C was fixed and it was powered up late that night, it spooled all of RAM out of the HDD swap, and everybody's workstation resumed exactly where they had left off that afternoon - we couldn't find any data loss at all.

      I will forever bow in deference to the greatest server I have ever had the pleasure of working on. How HP managed to acquire such a legacy and turn its back... part of me cries inside.

      • by bungo (50628)

        And you're forgetting the wonderful wall of manuals.

        Those VMS manuals were the greatest set of system documentation I've ever had the pleasure to work with. Combined with the on-line help system, you could be come an expert just by reading and trying things out.

        One of the greatest disappointments I had was when I had to use MS Windows for the first time, there was no manual that details all of the commands possible. How can you know what a system can do, if you don't detail all of the features?

      • The most bad-ass server I've ever had the pleasure of working with was a Digital VAX 11/750 generations ago. It was *built* to be reliable from the very first rivet....You could upgrade its CPUs one at a time without shutting it down.

        You must have been using a cluster—the VAX-11/750 only had one CPU. I used a 750 when developing EDT; we called it “MAYTAG”.

  • I'm sure someone's crunched the numbers and this makes sense on paper, but seriously? Porting to Itanium before x86? I know HP wants to prop up its teensy niche CPU server line, but I just can't see how to justify that. Who's going to migrate software from old VMS systems to a new one on very highly vendor-locked hardware? It seems like anything likely to ever be updated before the heat death of the universe would probably have made the jump to Linux-on-x86 years ago.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > I'm sure someone's crunched the numbers and this makes sense on paper, but seriously? Porting to Itanium before x86?

      It is already ported to itanium, that happened years ago.
      They are just talking about qualification testing of VMS on the latest itanium chips.

    • VAX was already on 64-bit for ages when Linux was still in it's earliest versions. It's not going 'x86'. It's going 'x86-64', which didn't exist when Itanium was created. IA-64 was Intel's vision of the future - a complete overhaul of the instruction set. It bombed, but AMD64 wasn't written until several years later - and AMD does nice chips, but they don't really compete in that segment. (Or they didn't in 2001, at least.) It made perfect sense to port to what was supposed to be the new enterprise-cl

      • VAX was already on 64-bit for ages when Linux was still in it's earliest versions.

        VAX -- the CPU architecture -- was always only 32-bit. If you mean VMS -- the operating system that was ported to 64-bit Alpha and then eventually to Itanium -- then we're good.

    • by Shimbo (100005)

      I'm sure someone's crunched the numbers and this makes sense on paper, but seriously? Porting to Itanium before x86? I know HP wants to prop up its teensy niche CPU server line, but I just can't see how to justify that.

      The reason is they hardly have to do any work for Itanium; they just have to QA a 8-core system instead of a 4-core one. The original port was done over a decade ago. With 20/20 hindsight it was a wrong move, the right one being presumably to tell Intel to shove it and wait a few years for the x64.

      Who's going to migrate software from old VMS systems to a new one on very highly vendor-locked hardware?

      Someone that has a 2 or 4 core processor Itanium system already. If anything is a non-starter it's the x86 version.

  • As an old DECcie I loved VMS, but then I was coming from RSX-11m. It made for a pretty good software development system. One thing that can really hold it back though is its file system. While it is a robust FS, it is very closely coupled with the OS. There could be some real problems if/when people want to run it on something like ext4 or ReiserFS. Bodes for a whole new set of drivers and fs converters. Sigh.
    • One thing that can really hold it back though is its file system.

      You bring up a good point. It's been forever since I've played with VMS (v7.1 I think). What would happen if you put a case sensitive file system? How much would break? Or did they do that in the intervening years?

      • by axp_bofh (930745)

        One thing that can really hold it back though is its file system.

        What would happen if you put a case sensitive file system? How much would break? Or did they do that in the intervening years?

        ODS-5 has been case-sensitive w/long filenames since version 7 came out around the turn of the millennium. Not much of anything breaks; you just need to be a bit careful.

  • Why stick with VMS when you can get the same Dave Cutler design [windowsitpro.com] by rotating everything one letter forward, forming the WNT at the core of Windows Server?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      NT is no VMS. It wishes.

      After UNIX/Linux, VMS is my favourite OS followed by RSX and TSX 11 from the PDP-11. I'm old, but DEC rules!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because DEC/Compaq/HP never screwed it up by insisting that mundane software run with ring 0 privileges?

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        Exactly. NT3 was cool, NT4 was turned into Windows and hid the WNT foundation as much as possible. And put the graphics in ring 0, shudder.

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @07:33PM (#47578579)

      Because they're not at all the same thing, they're not even close. There's only a superficial resemblance, very high level concepts only. Also the concepts they have in common are very often very common in many operating systems! I think the article was written by someone who'd only ever seen VMS, NT, and Unix and failed to realize just how much variety there really was out there.

      (and Cutler was called in originally to do OS/2, which is also not like VMS)

      • by Lproven (6030)

        You're wrong, and the poster to whom you're replying was more accurate than you.

        Dave Cutler was the lead architect for Windows NT, after being headhunted, along with his team leads, from DEC to MS.

        He did not work on OS/2 as you claim. He was given the OS/2 v3 project, which is to say Portable OS/2. (IBM kept OS/2 v2, which was the 386 version and which got released under that name and then later had its version number incremented. OS/2 2 was 386-only and IBM's efforts to produce a version for the POWER proc

        • by VAXcat (674775)
          You are only middlin' right. WNT is like VMS as far as the general design of the kernel goes - but most of what makes VMS the wonder that it is is missing. No versioning file system, no DCL (DEC Command Language), no Distributed Lock Manager, no clustering (WNT clustering isn't even in the same league as VMS clustering), no logical name support, no RMS (Record Management System), no sophisticated Batch and Print environment, the list goes on and on. Without these things, WNT may schedule tasks and manag
        • by Gob Gob (306857)

          H.A.L -> I.B.M

          ?

          M.S -> N.T

          Spooky.......!

    • by hey! (33014)

      Implementation makes a difference. Early versions of NT were quite good, but unpopular because you needed 16MB of RAM (if I recall correctly) to run them in an era when a high end personal computer shipped with 4MB of RAM. Over the years they tried to hold the line, at one point getting the minimum down to 12MB of RAM, but perhaps not coincidentally stability got really bad.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Why stick with VMS when you can get the same Dave Cutler design by rotating everything one letter forward, forming the WNT at the core of Windows Server?

      And when you want a SpaceX rocket, why not go buy a Tesla car instead?

  • The sound of hands clapping by all zero remaining Itanic lusers.

  • Strategy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by manu0601 (2221348) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @07:55PM (#47578677)

    Declare a platform dead one year, support it again the next year once customers had time to think about migrating away. Product strategist at HP seems to be a very nice job.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      This is HP through and through. They acquire a business then ruin it. We used to use a (very expensive) piece of software from a company that HP bought, immediately when HP bought the company (for a hugely overinflated amount too) the customer service turned so awful that we dropped them along with many other customers.

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      To be honest this is not new. Remember the story of MS-DOS 3.1 for the DEC Rainbow?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been using VMS non-stop for 22 years, starting in college (on a real VT-100 terminal in a lab full of them in the basement of my dorm; used VAXPHONE to talk to friends back home; VT640s were pretty neat too) to today, writing new Fortran applications and supporting legacy FORTRAN applications that have their roots in the late '60s. We have a mixture of "old" Alphas, EV68s that still rock and have uptimes measured in years, as well as some new Itaniums. The older I get, the more I am amazed at how very

  • Aproximately 1000 years ago, in a galaxy far far away, I learned my trade on VMS on an old Vax mainframe doing cobol. Horrible horrible stuff. But it was a rock solid operating system with features that you just don't see anymore, and more to the point having the code out there so coders can see another way of doing operating system far from the Unix or windows mainstream has a lot of value in and of itself.

    Heck maybe people might port it around (Difficult job though. The old VMS had a .... unique...... way

  • to those of us who know and love this OS. Very big. VMS is secure, stable (can run for years - yes I said years - without need of reboot), and the UI is about 99% intuitive (unlike unix/linux, windows, and others). Sometimes I think I'd un-retire for a chance to work in a good vms shop ...

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