Developers and community members are debating what’s needed to keep interest growing in OpenVMS. On the VMS newsgroup, a discussion is underway, more than a month of it, surrounding openings for the OS. Answers to the question about momentum cover well-traveled ground. Some of the solutions stand out as repeats of the HP 3000’s struggles.
In the discussion inside the group, John Dallman connects VMS Software Inc. (VSI) with the future of the legacy platform’s operating environment. The talk he launched weeks ago now counts more than 225 replies. He starts by wondering where VSI could take the OS. At the moment, it’s heading in VSI’s direction, onto x86 hardware.
“The OpenVMS customer base has been slowly shrinking for quite a while,” he said. “Since VSI lives on support contract income, this is a serious problem. Reasons for organizations to carry on using the OS include:
- High reliability
- OS-level clustering, rather than application-level clustering
- Lack of ability to migrate to another OS at reasonable cost
- Customer staff who prefer it, and have the ability to block change
“There seems to be a potential problem after customers start transitioning to x86: demand for software for many different fields, from a wide variety of customers.”
Then from the top of the discussion comes the suggestion of making more applications appear on OpenVMS.
“Operating systems are sold by applications,” says Arne Vajhøj. “VMS needs more applications, so work should focus on getting more applications developed for and ported to VMS.”
Vendor aid for app growth
Pursuit of new apps on legacy platforms can be a mighty quest. When Hewlett-Packard worked to preserve HP 3000 legacy business, it even supplied hosting. HP called the scheme Apps on Tap. HP’s idea of 1999 was to configure big honking HP 3000s in HP datacenters, then let MPE application providers serve new customers by hosting the apps on the HP 3000s. The Internet was becoming the vehicle to make the magic of no-server computing back then, and now IBM looks like it’s coming to the same conclusion for its iSeries alternative.
OpenVMS isn’t tethered to a hardware vendor any longer. HP sells Integrity servers today, sometimes. But hosts for OpenVMS can come from any supplier, once a virtualization solution like the Stromasys Charon software fires up. The vendor, in the modern version of the quest, is VSI. Applications have been a factor in its futures. Even a company funded by support fees understands that customer retention arrives by way of thriving datacenters.
The chatter across the sprawling discussion starts with an idea for an application targets. LaTex, a document processor. Firefox, the everywhere browser.
Being an open discussion across VMS veterans, the critique has been sharp at times. “Libre Office or Firefox will be especially worthwhile,” Dallman says. “Current GUI apps are likely to need more than the X11/Motif stack. Databases, middleware and the like might well be more worthwhile.”
Another voice, from Simon Clubley, says the scope needs to go much wider than open source. “LaTex and Firefox is not a strategy for VMS. That’s a suicide note.”
Continuing the utility of OpenVMS maintains a legacy stronghold: stability through increased features. Preserving compatibility while adding functionality locks in legacy IT.