HP's New Ideas Have An Old OS At The Core: OpenVMS - InformationWeek

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HP's New Ideas Have An Old OS At The Core: OpenVMS

The success of Hewlett-Packard's new Itanium push will be based on a very old operating system: OpenVMS.

The success of Hewlett-Packard's new Itanium push, announced Tuesday, to a large extent will be based on a very old operating system: OpenVMS.

"OpenVMS is the operating system that wouldn't die," said Terry Shannon, veteran HP observer, in an interview. "It's a real big day for OpenVMS users." Shannon, who wrote a best selling book on VMS 20 years ago, said the ancient operating system developed at Digital Equipment Corp. still has a huge base of admirers.

"They tried to move users to Windows, but they weren't drinking that Kool-Aid," he said, noting that HP and, before that, Compaq Computer, weren't enthusiastic about OpenVMS. The operating system was initially developed for Digital's VAX family, and then upgraded for its 64-bit Alpha line. HP inherited the Alpha base with its acquisition of Compaq and has been trying to move its Alpha users to its Itanium family.

The availability of OpenVMS v8.2 should help that cause. "HP has been running OpenVMS on Itaniums for a year, and it's been in field tests, too," said Shannon. "It's absolutely the best commercial operating system around. For mission-critical applications, it's perfect."

Also endorsing OpenVMS Tuesday was Computer Associates, which announced that its Unicenter Console Management for OpenVMS is now available. "OpenVMS is playing an important role in mission-critical IT environments worldwide, where performance, availability and security are of paramount importance," said CA vice president of product development Aline Gerew in a statement. CA said it is using its Unicenter Console Management to manage heterogeneous implementations of Integrity servers, AlphaServer systems, and VAX systems.

Also on Tuesday, Acucorp said it is offering support to enable OpenVMS users to run their COBOL business systems on Integrity server platforms. Acucorp said it is offering support for collaboration also with HP-UX, Linux, and Windows Itanium 2-based systems through its COBOL Virtual Machine.

Conspicuous by its absence in support of OpenVMS, HP-UX, Windows, and Linux is TRU64. Shannon, who is publisher of the "Shannon Knows HPC" newsletter, said TRU64 Unix users are being shortchanged with the move to the Itanium family.

"TRU64 users feel jilted," Shannon said. TRU64 was developed at Digital, and HP has been downplaying the Unix operating system. Shannon said that, as an option, TRU64 users could move to HP-UX.

Most Alpha users, however, will welcome OpenVMS availability on the Itanium 2 family, for it represents a smooth transition path using a familiar operating system. "There are at least 400,000 users of VMS," says Shannon. "And there are probably 10 million users if you count all the people on terminals who don't know what they're using."

The Alpha base has attracted some poaching by HP competitors, primarily by Sun Microsystems, with its "HP Away" program. Sun claims it has convinced more than 175 Alpha users to leave HP and join Sun. Rich Marcello, senior vice president and general manager of HP's Business Critical Servers, has said HP's Alpha Retain Trust program has kept Alpha users in the HP fold to well within the industry average of 2 percent attrition to competitors.

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