HP Grants OpenVMS New Lease Of Life

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

HP gives the mainframe-oriented operating system OpenVMS, a new lease of life

Hewlett-Packard has had a change of heart regarding the future of a server operating system that started life as VAX/VMS with Digital Equipment Corporation back in the 1970s.

Last year HP effectively put OpenVMS out to pasture when it said would discontinue support for some versions of the OS by 2015, and cease all development and support of it by 2020.

Veterans Assemble

But now HP effectively changed its mind on the matter, when it was announced that it has given an exclusive licence to the OpenVMS source code to a new entity, namely VMS Software Inc (VSI).

Under the terms of the agreement, VSI will expand the OpenVMS product roadmap, by adding new hardware platform releases. This includes a new version of OpenVMS for HP Integrity i4 servers based on Poulson, Intel Itanium Processor 9500 Series (rx2800i4, BL8xxi4). And VSI said that in the future it will support other hardware platforms, including X86-based servers.

It also said that it has assembled an onshore team of veteran OpenVMS developers, many harking back to the core DEC team responsible for it, back in the day.

“This is a great day for VSI and for the thousands of customers who rely on the stability and security of OpenVMS,” said Duane P. Harris, CEO of VMS Software. “We are grateful and thrilled that HP has granted us stewardship over the future of this marquee operating system. Our passion for taking OpenVMS into future decades is only matched by the many developers and customers who have relied on it to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years.”

VSI said that customers can continue to purchase new Itanium-based OpenVMS licenses and support through HP. But they can also purchase licenses and support for new releases directly from VSI.

HP meanwhile will continue to support older versions of OpenVMS under its current (limited) roadmap.

DEC Operating System

“With a complete long-term solution from HP and VMS Software, customers will now have the flexibility to choose which OpenVMS platform is right for their business,” said Ric Lewis, VP and general manager, Enterprise Server Business segment at HP.

Ken Olsen, DEC founder“Customers who would like to deploy OpenVMS on current and future HP technologies now have additional options, and those who choose to stay on their existing OpenVMS platform will be protected by the extended HP support services announced previously without interruption or change in process,” he said.

The news that OpenVMS is being saved would have pleased tech pioneer Ken Olsen, who died in 2011.

Olsen founded Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in 1957, after leaving MIT. Under Olsen’s leadership, DEC became a pioneer of many of the technologies we take for granted today. It developed tape back-up systems, and was also a major player in the evolution of Ethernet networks, developed originally by Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Parc).

And the saving of OpenVMS will also no doubt please Dave Cutler, who developed the OS all those years ago. That was before he left DEC in 1988 and joined Microsoft, where he subsequently developed Windows NT.

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