VSI shows off its proof points for x86 VMS

Hundreds of people dialed in to the latest VMS Software Inc. briefing on OpenVMS for x86. The 101-minute talk, available on VSI’s YouTube channel, is the first 2020 briefing on VSI’s 9.x work to port OpenVMS to x86 hardware. The release of 9.o and beyond gains specifics as of the latest briefing. Chief Technical Officer Clair Grant says of the VSI project, “It’s real, it’s alive, and we’re not done yet. I think you can see now that it will be.”

One goal remains a port of the operating system to native x86-hardware. The list of VSI’s pre-tested systems will be short at first, with OpenVMS 9.2 running on Dell and HPE servers. VSI assumes there will be issues in most cases and will work with customers where appropriate. The problems will usually involve booting the system (UEFI and ACPI). Once up, most will run with few issues.

The briefing sets up virtualization as a key goal. Grant calls the non-native hardware work of the porting project, leading to Intel processors, “enhancing VMS to run on various virtualized guests. We will boot on VMware just like we boot on anything else.” Early work on 9.0 focuses on virtual machines KVM and VirtualBox. Customers in contact with VSI about using OpenVMS say, “We run our entire IT operations on VMs, except OpenVMS. Don’t be different.”

The bottom line on using native Intel and AMD x86 hardware: OpenVMS support will depend largely on the customers. “We will encourage customers to try other platforms and let us know the results,” Grant says.

No VAX vehicles

The journey to x86 for OpenVMS runs through Itanium-based HPE servers, in particular the i6 models.

“We basically don’t deal with VAX at all,” Grant says of OpenVMS 9.x. When starting from an Itanium version of OpenVMS, “You will have to recompile to move to x86.”

What’s in the box for 9.0

The 9.0 release, just emerging into the open world, has a deep list of what VSI calls Proof Points. These are the features and functionality of OpenVMS which already runs on Itanium processors.

  • RealBoot
  • KVM and VirtualBox booting are equivalent
  • Installation from webserver and DVD
  • CrashDumps, SDA
  • Conversational Boot –SHOW and SET parameters
  • Create User Accounts with AUTHORIZE
  • MOUNT/DISMOUNT disks
  • RunBatch Jobs
  • BACKUP
  • Run a threaded (Posix) application
  • TCPIP: FTP, Telnet

Grant notes one significant proof point that’s missing this month: a user-mode symbolic debugger. Delivering DEBUG is a high priority, he adds.

Clustering, shadowing, SMP, and reserved memory are not yet in the 9.0 release. Grant says summer months will include announcements about new 9.o releases with new features supported in each. “I don’t want to wait six months to say, “Here’s 10 new things.”

Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

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