Fresh OS can lead HP Unix users to refreshed HP-PA

In the years when Tru64 was finding some doors closed to it, alternatives emerged that can now help other HP Unix shops find a fresh path. One such alternative has become a standard by today. Linux has captured nearly all of the growth in the Unix market space.

Most companies choose commodity hardware to host Linux. That means AMD or Intel chipsets in what legacy managers used to call PCs. A ProLiant server that costs $15,000 isn’t really a PC, of course. Such a system can match the needs for a Stromasys Charon virtualization instance.

While shopping for the right ProLiant or Dell system, to name a couple, departing from HP-UX might be a longer-term choice. Something existed beyond Tru64 for Unix users running AlphaServers. That something turned out to be Linux for the shops that could move their applications.

It’s a Unix migration with a long history of success. In 2009, Hilti Corporation migrated from Tru64 to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Its systems ran SAP applications — including SAP Business Suite and SAP ERP, CRM, and the SAP NetWeaver technology platform. Since Hilti needed the magic of Tru64 clustering and file services, the migration included Red Hat Cluster Suite and Red Hat Global File System.

Linux continues to be refreshed, month after month. It’s become an enteprise standard, an IT platform that operates on nearly all hardware. That supported Linux hardware includes many systems built upon PA-RISC.

PA-RISC, for the manager new to HP choices, is the 32-bit chip design powering the Series 800 and K-L Class HP 9000s, as well as the HP 3000s in the Series 900 and A-N Class lineups. PA-RISC is emulated by the Stromasys Charon software, so a chip architecture that might be well dug-in at a legacy shop can go forward to preserve investments.

Virtualized PA-RISC has a long lifespan ahead of it, as measured by the success Charon customers achieved. It appears to be fully within the realm of the Charon design to have several Unix instances run on it. For example, an open source project placed Linux on PA-RISC more than 10 years ago. A few years later, Hewlett-Packard sponsored a Linux port to the PA-RISC family, which resulted in some HP proprietary PA-RISC documentation being released, even though HP’s target was a different class of 9000 machines back then.

There are more details about the PA-RISC platform-ready Linux versions, information that’s available at the OpenBSD.org web page devoted to the release. “Full distro snapshots are made periodically,” the page reports, “and work is ongoing to provide better hardware support.”

The distro is called OpenBSD/hppa, whose latest release to PA-RISC is version 6.6, not a shabby choice among BSD Unix distros. Full details on the PA-RISC hardware that’s unsupported by OpenBSD/hppa are also at the web page. Alas, the HP 3000 PA-RISC systems won’t support a Linux distro. The 3000 uses a proprietary boot-up process — one that Stromasys emulates in its Charon product for MPE/iX legacy environments.

Another way to think about Linux for PA-RISC is that it’s an option for the HP-UX user who’s moving away from HP’s Unix in the longer term — but wants a virtualized host that serves both HP-UX today and Linux tomorrow.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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