Subscription-based OpenVMS licensing draws concern

The new version of OpenVMS — the one VMS Systems Inc. is building for Intel hosting— is getting a new kind of license. Some members of the VMS community worry about a shift they say changes their investment and ownership.

Legacy OS systems do not use subscription models. Traditional licensing for OpenVMS operates as a perpetual contract. The newest versions of OpenVMS product PAKs are arriving with termination dates. “That’s a shift to a SaaS/Subscription model,” says Hoffman Labs’ Stephen Hoffman.

“My interpretation of the PAKs  is that product licenses terminate when support terminates,” Hoffman says. “We will reload VSI PAKs for those servers periodically while we extend support.”

Simon Clubley takes a dim view of the VMS changes. “Time-limited licenses would not be appreciated by any company I ever saw from the inside, Clubley says. “Lots of systems run a lot longer than anticipated. They are often forgotten by the people supposed to operate them. That is especially true for reliable systems like VMS.”

VSI responds to these concerns in a letter from its Chief Revenue Officer Terry Holmes. “It offers customers and VSI benefits not available through the historical perpetual licensing model.  [They can] plan and budget using Operating Expenses instead of Capital Expenses.” Holmes responded to a letter from the VMS Generations group of users.

Customers using VMS on the new license get “a steady commercial model of predictability of what they would pay year over year. With VSI Subscriptions they receive the Rights to New Versions, which can have a financial advantage for customers including those moving to our x86 product.”

Surviving for VSI

The Generations group notes that a subscription-based VMS license calls the survival of VSI into question. The repeated renewal of support to maintain a license “is not a change for anyone who has used or purchased other software products,” Holmes says in his reply. The newest versions of OpenVMS fall under this plan. The reply makes a case for VSI stability, regardless of the renewals from customers.

“We have gone from a start-up to a small sustainable business backed by a significant investor (Johan Gedda) who views VSI as an integral part of the Teracloud Corporation. For the first time in 2020, we achieved a positive EBITDA. This means instead of taking away from our parent company, we gave something back. This ultimately is good for VSI customers, employees and our parent company.

Holmes says that even if  Teracloud Corporation decided not to keep VSI, the VMS owner posted sales of over €20 million in 2020. With any “improvement on this in 2021 and beyond, another entity would see the business as having value.”

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