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HP gives OpenVMS new life

Patrick Thibodeau | Aug. 1, 2014
Hewlett-Packard has changed its direction on OpenVMS, giving the operating system -- and users -- something of a reprieve.

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.

HP isn't calling its action a reversal, however, even it completely changes the previously announced roadmap for the OS. An HP official said the partnership proposal arrived on its own months ago from VSI, and company officials became convinced it was good one.

"I think it's going to get the customers what they want," Randy Meyer, vice president and general manager of Mission Critical Systems at HP, said in an interview.

What many OpenVMS customers want is to stay on the OS. HP stirred up complaints among OpenVMS users with its earlier announcement that it would not validate OpenVMS beyond Integrity i2 services running the Tukwila quad-core processors. That decision effectively put the OS on an end-of-life path.

An OpenVMS user group based in France recently went public with its complaints, calling HP's decision a mistake.

VSI is new, but then again, it isn't. It is funded by the investors of Nemonix Engineering, a longtime support and maintenance firm of OpenVMS systems.

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.

VSIpublished a roadmap ( download PDF) Thursday.

Duane Harris, the CEO of VSI, said his firm decided to approach HP about OpenVMS because of its strong customer base. OpenVMS is used in nuclear power plants, in process control systems in all industries, by the U.S. Navy and in transportation and finance.

"It's a marquee piece of software; its strengths are just legendary," said Harris, citing disaster recovery, security and clustering.

OpenVMS is largely invisible in a world dominated by Windows, Linux, cloud-based systems, and even Unix systems such as HP-UX, AIX and Solaris. But it runs critical systems and its IT managers consistently praise it for its reliability, engineering and capabilities.

HP has about 2,500 OpenVMS customers on support contracts. That does not include independent support vendors, such the Parsec Group, which has 350 OpenVMS customers running some 7,000 systems. This agreement doesn't change the support arrangements customers have with HP.


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