Licenses, PAKs, and a peek into a VMS future

Not long ago, VMS Software Inc (VSI) announced the debut of an annual license for OpenVMS. This PAK structure is new to the VMS community. It’s been using licenses without term limits ever since the first server booted up VMS. (That’s a VAX 11/780 system, for the record, a computer still able to boot using Charon virtualization software).

The arrival of an annual renewal has customers abuzz. Out on the OpenVMS newsgroup, Dave Froble says the best route into the future means “Do away with license PAKs, allow anyone to run VMS, require support for any commercial use of VMS. This would avoid all the issues about drop-dead dates.”

The dropping dead aspect was never in play while HP was holding the leash on OpenVMS. It’s not that the vendor which acquired Compaq, and so Digital’s assets, has never had issues with dropped markets. The HP 3000 community knows more about that than anyone. HP, though, even acting as HP Enterprise, simply didn’t need to ask for a license renewal each year.

Froble suggests that any VMS users using VSI’s latest 9.x releases “will want VSI to be there for them, with new updates, bug fixes, and such, and will pay reasonable support fees. As for those who will not purchase support, they most likely will still be running on HP/Compaq/DEC license PAKs, and would never be a VSI customer, so what’s the loss?”

Licensing holds a hoary place in the 3000 collective memory. In the middle Aughts, the vendor promised a set of emulator-based licenses to the marketplace. The promise was forever linked to an emulator’s release, though. HP timed out the MPE/iX licenses for emulators before the first 3000 emulators emerged.

The concern revolves around what happens if VSI goes bust. Leaving the licenses in a perpetual state still doesn’t assure a customer OpenVMS licensing remains safe. Any vendor can change its mind about a product, even one the size of HP Enterprise.

Froble suggests that ongoing support fees should underpin OpenVMS revenues to VSI.

“Regarding recurring support fees, I think this is the way forward. There can be multiple fees, such as an additional fee for something like clusters. I don’t agree with that, since it will inhibit the use of clusters. Still, support should depend on usage.”

He also addresses the concern of VSI no longer around to issue new licenses. “No entity can take a route that might cause them to fail. No ISVs can gamble on their work being for naught. There must be a way forward for customers/users, regardless of whether VSI succeeds or fails.”

“Before license PAKs, there was still a license to use software. It specified allowed usage. This can still happen.”

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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