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Aug 08 2014

A Legend Lives On: OpenVMS Has a New Home

Server market co-leader HP has picked VMS Software, Inc. as the new "sole developer" for future versions of its famous OpenVMS operating system and related programs.

Following a decade of insecurity, the story of OpenVMS finally seems to come to a positive ending: Late last month, HP and VMS Software, Inc. (VSI) entered an agreement that ensures the one-time star among mainframe-oriented operating systems will survive at least another 10 years. Starting immediately, VMS Software becomes the exclusive developer of the software and its "layered product components." Technically speaking, this means that VSI will obtain the necessary source code licenses from HP in order to extend the product roadmap over the medium and long term. More specifically, the plan is to tune up the aging OS in such a way that it may support some of the 'young punks' in the processor market, beginning with Intel's 8-core Itanium® Processor 9500 Series from 2012 (aka "Poulsen") through its immediate successor "Kittson" – scheduled for release in 2015 - and ending with the most recent x86 architectures at a later date. In other words, OpenVMS users will have to stick with HP's Integrity product line for the next couple of years before they can switch to industry standard servers. A detailed "Rolling Roadmap" (PDF) is available for download from the VSI website. Meanwhile, HP's own support for existing OpenVMS installations will begin to expire at the end of next year, as you can see from its latest roadmap published in January 2014.

The fact that OpenVMS continues to exist brings substantial relief not just to the user and developer communities, but also to the general public. After all, this is an OS that powers many so-called "critical infrastructures", including nuclear power plants, railway and subway systems (among them parts of the Paris Métro), healthcare facilities, and distributed control systems in manufacturing and various other industries. Originally developed in the mid-70s for Digital Equipment Corporation's legendary VAX machines, OpenVMS later fell to Compaq during their 1998 merger with DEC, and subsequently landed in HP's portfolio when they acquired Compaq in 2002. While HP has always maintained they would support OpenVMS "until the last customer jumps ship," long delays in Itanium releases and Intel's somewhat waning interest in its original line of 64-bit CPUs have made that promise increasingly tough to keep. As a result of the new agreement, VSI now shares that responsibility, which should make it easier to adapt the original source code for x86-64 processors/machines – especially since the company claims to employ "a team of veteran OpenVMS developers, many harking back to the core DEC team responsible for the technical excellence that has been the hallmark of OpenVMS." So sit back and enjoy – this may well turn into an interesting journey for all involved!


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