Let your community’s support set your legacy lifespan

By way of the Internet Wayback Machine, a record of HP’s intentions and legacy for its enterprise operating systems still exists. The promised land, as HP imagined it 17 years ago, was getting its operating systems to run with the Itanium Processor Family. Intel x86 wasn’t a target for superior environments like OpenVMS and MPE, for example.

HP decided to keep MPE/iX away from IPF servers in 2001, and that choice was the canary in the coal mine for the company’s business plans for HP 3000s. Such a canary often roosted in mines while the coal was removed. If the quality of the air turned poisonous, the canary died and the miners evacuated.

Plenty has changed in all of that time. By now, the Intel x86 platform is almost essential. The chipset is the host for the hardware virtualization solution Charon. It’s also the target for the well-anticipated OpenVMS 9.2, the first release from an independent lab that will bring an HP OS onto new chips. History is going to be made the first time a production-grade OpenVMS system goes online.

In 2002, HP was a single company, instead of a split one with one half being pursued for a takeover. HP said “OpenVMS will be sold and supported long term for our installed base customers who have come to depend upon its proven, “bullet-proof” capabilities, and sold into selected new customers as the basis of specific solutions delivered by our OpenVMS solution partners.”

At the time of HP’s advisory about its legacy OS futures, there were only two models of Itanium processors in working servers from HP. So calling it a family was marketing optimism. Nevertheless, moving to the nascent IPF, as well as a new OS in HP-UX, was HP’s vision of end-of-life for MPE/iX. The life that was ending turned out to be at HP’s MPE/iX labs eight years later, rather than the useful lifespan for MPE/iX. Companies continue to use MPE, especially when they have new hardware options.

There is a current-day lesson in any review of the HP legacy OS plans of 2002. HP noted at the time the vendor created a Business Critical Systems group. That group, HP’s cheerful-but-inaccurate 3000 plans, and HP itself in its classic makeup don’t exist anymore. Users can count on their community, rather than the vendor, to see the conditions for any end of life canary.

To recap, the end of 2006 for MPE/iX at HP became the end of 2010, in part because HP’s “aggressive and innovative migration programs” were undermatched to the needs of the customers. Then Itanium technologies became an also-ran, lapped by Intel’s modernization of x86 processors. Intel announced its departure from Itanium futures in 2015. Now commodity hardware rules the roosts of today mines.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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