VMS ecosystem revisited

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A lot of interesting things have been heard at the Nashua VMS bootcamp 2015. We will give the details later. But one thing is to be retained: the whole VMS ecosystem is now up and running.

A complete reboot in about 8 months:

-          The development and qualification platform up and running,

-          A first version built from scratch, qualified, distributed, respecting all the (VMS) standards of quality,

-          The market channels, catalogs of products, maintenance channel rebuilt and used,

-          Last but not least: the ‘family’ of VMS experts doing their usual job at the traditional bootcamp.

Anyone did think about publishing it on some book of records? Is there another example of such a feat? Usual answer: these things are only due to the intrinsic qualities of the environment. If you think a reboot is an exalting and risky operation, do choose another environment.

The major pieces of information:

The strategy is confirmed: giving the best comfort to the existing base of customers, and porting to x86 in a reasonable time.

The new alliance with HP is working well. It was readable that HP selling task forces were pleased to offer to the VMS community the best of the bride of the new servers, with i4 (Poulson), soon i6 (Kitson). The good collaboration between HP experts and VSI experts was visible.

As it was waited with i4, the performance is here, at least 30% without any tuning.

A new roadmap was presented (http://www.vmssoftware.com/pdfs/VSI_Roadmap_20150924.pdf), not too new, and the reason is: VSI does what was promised earlier. The date of the new release is around February 2016.

A very important point: a new TCP-IP will be part of the new release.

The x86 port is really on-going: qualified, scheduled, trustable.

The compiler strategy is chosen and will integrate VMS in the innovative main stream.

Now VSI works on 3 new topics:

-          Helping the aggregation of the experts companies or consultant, to offer to the customers the tools for maintaining VMS, with the elaboration of a professional alliance, (see: http://www.vmssoftware.com/services_prof.html),

-          Rebooting the training for VMS,

-          Helping for the transition of the huge number of sites which are yet on VAX and Alpha.

And, because VSI is conscious of the weight of the Emea customers base, very soon, an European initiative. Keep in touch!

(The photo is a patchwork of sympathetic VMS images, in a staircase at VSI headquarters. A symbol of patient sewing of time and skills).

VSI succeed to create the bootable distribution DVD for OpenVMS 8.4.1H1 (17th of March):

https://www.facebook.com/vmssoftware/photos/pcb.802671019825461/802670933158803/?type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/vmssoftware/photos/pcb.802671019825461/802670983158798/?type=1&theater

(The second link shows a map of VMS users in the world; Sue and Amanda Skonetski manage this project ; do help them (facebook or mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).)

The field test is about to begin.

The time for which we have to wait before using OpenVMS 8.4.1H1 in our sites is now only caused by administrative and market management issues. VSI, HP and all the partners work together to make the first commercialization a great success.

We will inform you about all these issues as we get news.

Today we have to size up the importance of the event.

In a few months VSI did the exploit of reappropriating the whole product, its validation chain, its distribution technical format, while a kind of several years “fork” was in fact on going and involved the necessity of re-engineering, the analysis of Indian team technical choices, the re-formulation in the new and old VSI philosophy.

I quote Clair Grant (VSI) – written in the usenet group comp.os.vms –

“””A little clarification....the fact that we booted is not a big deal

(as you rightly point out) but building the kit from scratch is huge. I
realize that may be difficult to understand but what we sent to the HP
Team in India six years ago isn't exactly what we got back a few months
ago. Their processes and environment are different than ours were in ZK.
They created what they needed as would have any group. We had to figure
out how they worked and recreate what we once knew. They helped us, of
course, but it was still an enormous job just for us to get back into
our own dev and especially test environments and build anything at all,
let alone the complete installation kit which has many wrinkles in
addition to the base operating system. At least for us internally, it
was indeed and a significant milestone.”””

What is said is not a prejudice about the quality of the work of the Indian team, but it is important to underline the difficulty of the operation made in few months, as Clair Grant explains it.

Imagine a resumption after such a “fork” in other technical environments, and you would size up the capacities of the VSI team, and also the intrinsic possibilities of VMS.

This resumption is a big technical event, even if not already too well known.

Another unprecedented aspect of the event is about business. The experts will have to study about an event which deserves a world used till now for psychology or neural sciences: resiliency.

We expect VSI will soon help us saying how we can help VSI. And we have to help ourselves being a pro-active community. As we have news, ideas for initiatives, we will inform you. Another story begins. Stay tuned.

I wrote here last July an Open letter to Meg Witman. I received an indirect answer with the creation of VSI, which takes over VMS development for the next decades, re-opens the Itanium market to make it a profitable end, gives a smooth transition for HP-UX customers basis, and projects to make VMS on x86 a real new challenger in dependable OSes at the horizon of 2018.

The event is of the same importance of Microsoft taking over the desk OS from IBM. Not billions uncertain acquisition, like we see with big companies, just a right economic alliance. Today Mr Bill Gates is the richer man in the world. We wish the same success for Harry, Sue and Eddie. They deserve it. Perhaps they just hope to demonstrate “doing the right thing” is a good way to success.

The train which will officially start in spring 2015 can be named upon Ken Olsen. VSI people, a majority from Boston high universities area, know a lot about Ken’s inheritance. “Doing the right thing” has been the maxim of Digital which placed users interests at the first place. And Digital has been a huge success in the history on computers companies. Science and hearing of users as a key for success. It is this type of development strategy that VSI takes giving a new future for an OS, VMS, which has been of equal importance as Unix sometimes.

This project is a win-win-win-win.

  • Oracle was right thinking the “only Itanium” strategy was wrong.
  • HP was right thinking declining VMS ecosystem deserved another way of investment.
  • US court was right making Oracle moderate its way out of Itanium.
  • The fourth win is probably even better. OSes for dependable systems became a not-so-huge market, but they serve very important sites (health systems, transportation, financials, large resellers,…) and the huge reaction from the users of VMS last year proved the vitality of these ecosystems. The VMS ecosystem needs a very-long-term engagement (VMS on x86 or VMWare), and, in the same time, a very conservative path using the existent line of products (Itanium). The one actor who was missing: just an investor. With VSI we have together a non-only Itanium VMS, but also a huge profit for all actors with the last decade for Itanium, a specific investment for a not-so-huge-today market, allied with huge companies acting in the main stream. A new train, joining glorious pasts with innovative futures, deploying specifics for dependable systems as neighbors of global hyper-scaled lesser exigent systems.

This letter is a command. One of the new friends my work for VMS opened for me, Mr Olaf Leonhardt, is worrying about a potential lateness for our train. Olaf is manager of an IT system on VMS and Oracle database for a company in Europe with more than 12000 employees. Beside our exceptionally friendship, Olaf is not so exceptional:  VMS sites use often Oracle databases, and VMS sites are often at the heart of big companies.

However, it seems Oracle is at risk of missing the “rendez-vous”. Olaf and us are waiting for official engagements for Oracle 11g, Oracle 12, Oracle rdb on the new versions of VMS supported by VSI. It seems it is not a technical issue, just some organizational delays, or perhaps the impossibility of thinking about new alliances with actors among them they are ancient “enemies”.

So Safra, Marc, just think about it. The database market is evolving, the Open Source solutions are more and more present, new actors appear and want to put away the too weighted ancestors. You have got with VMS or HP-UX a very loyal customers basis. Yes, they are yet on Itanium, and you could imagine that you help them only constrained by law. Not too sexy, isn’t it? Taking the VSI new train you have the opportunity to prove that Oracle had a very interest for its customer when it warned about Itanium, and that, because for now there is a real future after Itanium, it is time to help your loyal customers to live where they are and to think about futures with you.

And, moreover, the whole IT world needs a signal. Yes, some main stream is wealthy, and, somehow, useful. But some other IT domains must be supported, the ones who were at the foundation of the IT uses, uses on which a lot of very useful functions exists: health systems, large range resellers, transportation control, financials… IT is a serious domain, in which support for very high quality is necessary, even when immediate profit is not here. As PC line of investment has been a very good bet, VMS line of investment is a good bet. Do take the train.

Somehow it is a paradox. What Olaf and us are demanding from Oracle, as what that was decided with creation of VSI, is “at no cost”. Publishing engagements about Oracle databases is at no cost, because the technical issues are not too far from being already resolved. HP taking over VMS to VSI is a no cost solution for HP. And it seems these two no cost solutions involved a very hard decision making process, which had to be encouraged by open letters from customers. In the same time Oracle or HP could pay billions for more uncertain bets. Meg, Safra, Marc, are we too inexpensive? If you think it will be more serious to spend money, do create foundations for the resiliency of dependable systems, just reconciliate on such projects, promote VSI line of products, found universities enabling transmission of knowledge between IT founders and young geniuses, think about preserving multi-paces lines of investment… Our European think tanks miss perhaps yet some little more decisions from you, but we don’t miss innovative ideas. Do take the old-new train with us.

A very good new year for everyone, and, do remember, Safra and Marc, for our little gifts, just an agenda, please.

Best regards,

Gérard Calliet, Olaf Leonhardt

Dear Meg Whitman,

Do you take trains, drive cars? Do you ever need health services? Do you have good furniture? Sleep well near nuclear power plants because they are well contained? Do you buy things in supermarkets?

For every dependable service or product, and in many other contexts, somewhere there is a well-controlled software, running on a well-controlled Operating System – OpenVMS.

These software products are the result of decades of precise programming, inscribed in precise coding imperative for such functional necessities. A majority of them use functions specific to OpenVMS and still run on OpenVMS, as these custom features are hard to find elsewhere.

In June 2013, however, it was announced that OpenVMS would be reaching its end-of-life and no longer be used with new hardware, with all support ending around 2020; this is a nightmare for all of the companies using OpenVMS.

Hewlett-Packard has added to these difficulties by making the whole community wait for information for over a year. Rumors, small trickles of information to chosen customers, and insignificant steps announced as “last concessions” have characterized this period. Not only are big companies anxious about functional risks and huge investments, they have also been immobilized by over a year of expectation.

Why has this happened? In June 2013, HP made a decision that failed to comprehend the particularities of the OpenVMS market. The lifecycle for OpenVMS sites is ten or twenty years. Profits that were once high have declined in recent years. Product quantities have been suffering as well. HP, on the other hand, has been focused on laptop and desktop computers, on entering the “cloud,” and proposing new hardware to generations playing with large quantities on a very fast-paced market. OpenVMS has become an insignificant accessory by comparison, unprofitable and old-fashioned.

The IT world, however, is more complex than this picture leads us to believe. Dependable systems are not always the most profitable, and many important human and business needs depend on them. The foundations of a house are not as interesting as a beautiful facade; but without them, the facade cannot exist.

It is impossible to think that HP could not actively maintain support for dependable systems that are such an important part of its portfolio. OpenVMS is one of its most crucial systems in quality and industrial impact. Like other major IT players, HP must adapt itself to different speeds and varying policies between large, fast-paced markets and specialized, slower-paced markets.

It seems contradictory to the HP image to sweep dust under the rug in this fashion. Yes, the decision was a complicated one, as it pertained to one of the last OS systems running on Itanium –itself a source of problems – but the wrong decision was made. Why force hundreds of companies to wait for over a year for a decision so crucial to their futures, freezing industrial decisions in very important economic sectors?

A truly justified solution must be found and explained with transparency.

It seems HP inherited OpenVMS by accident. And, by the same sort of inadvertence, was prepared to let it die. HP should, on the contrary, integrate it into a special, innovative proposal for slower-paced ecosystems, thus preserving system health, security, and investments.

When you discarded the previous decision to leave behind laptop and desktop computers, everyone thought it was a realistic decision. The craziness of our times shows itself in ideas such as IT companies being maintained without computers, industrial profits being made without factories – some hyper cloud-based, brave new world. You, however, proved that HP is a concrete company.

The same goes for OpenVMS: although it seems merely to be a strange legacy from the East Coast and MIT, it is a concrete ecosystem that HP has a vested interest in maintaining. Please, accept the challenge of maintaining one of your best sustainable systems. Perhaps OpenVMS will ultimately outlive today’s modern operating systems, as it is robust, simple, easy to maintain, and dependable. Your present decision will be rewarded in the future.

In concrete terms: OpenVMS effectively functions on Itanium i4, so please validate it. OpenVMS is your future long-term Itanium i4 market, perhaps outlasting even HP-UX. Additonally, OpenVMS must be ported to future sustainable hardware created by Intel or its competitors. A realistic pool of competence for OpenVMS must be maintained either inside HP or outside HP with its help. A real effort to port modernization frameworks or interface frameworks to OpenVMS must be made.

We know that some of these components represent money and investments, and that neither quantities nor margins are currently very high for OpenVMS. But you cannot compare fast-paced (uncertain) markets with low-speed (certain) markets. Economics is a game where keeping some extra cards in your hand might appear unnecessary at the time, but prove worthwhile in the long-run and guarantee a huge final victory. As we know, you are an excellent player.

Don't hesitate to send us an answer, it will be an honour to publish it on our site.

Regards,

Gérard Calliet, for HP-Interex France

[[To OpenVMS community : This Open Letter is an initiative of HP users club in France. Please send us your critics, comments, suggests and / or supports This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ]]

At 2013th end of year, for us in France, two events feet :

  • for HP-Interex France, the ending of a semester of work with our publication of the first results of our survey, focused on France (First results for the fall survey ),
  • for the OpenVMS community in general a rewrite of the June 2013 announce, which refines some data (leters to OpenVMS customers that indicate notabily a new end of support for 8.4 in 2025 ; see ; we will come back in detail about these corrections later).

For sure, we ought to analyse in detail the new announce from HP, for every type of customers and needings. Alltogether we have to evaluate in details the nature of reactions we collected.

But a more synthetic approach might be proposed.

The french public we contacted is in a major part upset about the June announces, and a trust crisis against HP is also a majority. Most of the actors we interviewed are members of big or very big companies (steel, transport, phone, energy), and there are some Small or Middle companies.

For the firsts they see future heavy risks and costs. The seconds are scared about vital risks.

In parallel, the correction announced by HP witnesses it is involved by its customers feelings. And this action cannot result from anything else than strong complains from customers. But the aspect “a minima” of the rewriting has to be underlined.

So, a question is pending. How such a dissemblance between an violent reaction on a side and some “gentlemen agreement” on the other side ?

The answer is probably to search for in the very nature of the OpenVMS ecosystem.

This system is well known by technical managers, but remains for the CEOs only an important tool, a little bit subaltern and old fashioned. And the public we can interview is more in the technical domain (we used as a basis to get contacts lists of Paris TUD attendees). On the contrary important managers in HP are more used to speak with their counerpart in big companies.

There is here the beginning of a serious problem : HP could involuntarily made worse structural differences of interests inside the OpenVMS ecosystem, between general management and IT management, and between “big customers” and Small or Middle size companies market.

To be remembered : the OpenVMS community does exist, and HP is able to hear it. Two positive mesures which are to be aknowledged as promising beginnings.