OpenVMS Still Has Road Ahead of It, HP Says

The vendor calls the 30-year-old OS a 'key product.' But will software makers continue to support it?

Hewlett-Packard Co. is marking the 30th anniversary of the release of its OpenVMS operating system by telling users that the software still doesnt have an expiration date on it.

To deliver that message, HP has turned to some of its top executives, including Mark Hurd, the companys chairman, CEO and president. Hurd recorded a video that can be viewed on the OpenVMS 30th anniversary Web site. In the video, he says that the venerable operating system remains a key product and that HP will continue to support it for the foreseeable future.

Also, during an Oct. 26 webcast for members of the Chicago-based Encompass user group, Martin Fink, senior vice president and general manager of HPs business-critical systems group, tried to assure users that software vendors will continue to develop products for OpenVMS.

HP is moving forward on development as well. It announced an updated version of OpenVMS to coincide with the anniversary, adding new Itanium processor support, tools for managing blade servers and other features. The company also said it plans to add support for the JBoss and MySQL open-source technologies in a release next year.

OpenVMS was introduced on Oct. 25, 1977, and initially was just called VMS. It was developed by Digital Equipment Corp., which laterwas acquired by Compaq Computer Corp., which in turn was purchased by HP in 2002.

The acquisitions made the OpenVMS user community nervous as did HPs subsequent decision to end development and sales of its AlphaServer systems, the hardware line that was synonymous with OpenVMS.

HP, which stopped selling AlphaServers last April, is encouraging users to switch to its Itanium-based Integrity servers. But some users are worried that pulling the plug on the AlphaServer line sent a signal to independent software vendors that OpenVMS is just a poor second cousin to HP-UX, the companys version of Unix.

Charles Tollett, an OpenVMS systems administrator who asked that his company not be identified, said hes waiting to see if the actions match the statements made by Fink and Hurd. Tollett added that he wants HP to do more to keep software developers from giving up on OpenVMS.

Im not convinced that they are putting that message to the vendors strongly enough, and often enough, to get the vendors to buy into it, he said.

Aaron Sakovich, a systems, network and security administrator at a financial software company that he asked not be named, said HPs effort to reach out to OpenVMS users indicates that they are in it for the long haul, most definitely.

But, Sakovich said, the amount of resources that HP is committing to the operating system may not match what some users would like to see. In particular, HPs marketing plan remains a question mark, he said.

Ann McQuaid, general manager of HPs OpenVMS systems division, said 90% of the vendors that support OpenVMS have ported applications to the Integrity line. Altogether, some 1,200 applications from about 600 companies are available on Integrity systems, according to McQuaid, who said HP is also seeing a lot of movement to the Itanium-based machines by users.

Robert Gezelter, an OpenVMS consultant in Flushing, N.Y., said he has been very satisfied running OpenVMS on Integrity servers. The operating system has been highly stable and usable on that platform, Gezelter said, adding that moving to the Itanium-based hardware has lowered his OpenVMS operating costs.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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