What VMS Users Get When HP Goes

More than six years ago, HP announced the end of support date for OpenVMS on its Integrity servers. Thirteen years before that day in 2013, Compaq ended its shipments for the VAX systems which built the OpenVMS community.

The announcements were painful departure notices. That’s the fate of every legacy system: its creators have to move on to something newer, leaving customers to manage their own fate. Back in 2013, HP was estimating that it could continue support through 2020 for OpenVMS. The date wasn’t set in stone.

HP’s VP Lorraine Bartlett, in charge of operations for HP’s Business Critical Systems unit, hedged. “While we do have a targeted end date, that doesn’t mean support will definitely end,” she said. The quote from a Computerworld article illustrated how the aftermath of departures should be handled with candor and clarity.

For every moment that Hewlett Packard delays its exit from the world of OpenVMS, one more customer can slip out of the net of opportunity for the future of the OS. HP made many mistakes while it ended its HP 3000 and MPE operations. Maybe the worst mistake was resetting the goal posts twice on its support.

At first, the end of support was going to be the end of 2006. Then the end date was reset to 2008. HP finally stopped renewing MPE/iX support contracts in 2010. Sometimes managers of legacy systems say they’ll only quit using them when somebody pries their cold, dead hands off them. In the last retirement of an HP business OS, somebody had to pry HP’s hands off the profitable support revenues for a legacy product.

Even in the two years that followed 2010, it wasn’t too hard to find an HP 3000 customer using their legacy system with support from Hewlett Packard. VMS users will get a better deal. A better deal is when a vendor steps away cleanly, sending all customers to the independent alternative resource.

This is what VMS users get when HP goes: a clear field for VMS Software, Inc. VSI needs to generate revenues immediately from support contracts. The company’s been performing the support for more than a year already, according to its VP of Marketing Terry Holmes. Support revenue paid to HP in 2019 was passed on to VSI, in some arrangement that probably didn’t include every dollar paid going to Bolton, HQ of VSI.

Starting this summer, HP won’t take any more VMS business of any kind. Contracts that expire for VMS support must be renewed at VSI. That’s a clear field for the company that’s invested in a legacy future for VMS. The clean HP departure signals the arrival of a path to operating profitability for VSI.

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