Feeds

Windows NT grandaddy OpenVMS taken out back, single gunshot heard

HP signals end to legendary big iron beast

High performance access to file storage

Digital Compaq HP has announced the end of support for various flavours of OpenVMS, the ancient but trustworthy server operating system whose creator went on to build Windows NT.

OpenVMS started out as VAX/VMS on Digital Equipment Corporation's VAX minicomputers, then later was ported to DEC's fast Alpha RISC chips – before the Compaq acquisition of Digital led to their untimely demise.

HP, which snapped up Compaq, ported the software to the Itanium, but the tech titan isn't going to bother moving the code to the latest, and perhaps last, generation of IA64 chips: and thus official service support for Alpha and Itanium OpenVMS pre-version 8.4 will finally end in 2015 (roadmap PDF); support for Alpha and Itanium OpenVMS v8.4 will live on to 2016 and 2020 respectively.

VAX-11/VMS started out in 1977 as "Starlet", a new OS for DEC's new 32-bit minis, the VAX range, codenamed "Star". VAX was a 32-bit upgrade to the 16-bit PDP-11 to give it virtual memory capabilities, and VMS derived from RSX-11M, the multiuser version of the PDP's real-time OS.

A very popular business OS in the late 1970s and 1980s, VAX/VMS ended up on minicomputers from small to mainframe-sized as well as personal workstations, running the X Window System and CDE desktop. As the VAX architecture aged, DEC ported it to the new Alpha chip, giving OpenVMS-Alpha a new lease of life in which it supported AGP graphics cards and OpenGL.

We're gonna party like it's nine-nines ... DECwindows CDE running on OpenVMS 7.3-1 (Source)

OpenVMS also sports world-class clustering abilities, allowing a whole group of dissimilar machines to function as a single server, leading to uptimes of many years as individual machines can be taken offline, their hardware or even entire OS upgraded or replaced, then brought back up and to rejoin the cluster. A single cluster could contain mixed hardware architectures and mixed OS versions, allowing a level of flexibility no other OS has ever matched.

It also ran LAN Manager, the basis of Windows NT networking, in the form of DEC's Pathworks suite to act as a server to PC networks.

The architect of RSX-11M and VMS was Dave Cutler, who planned a portable, object-oriented successor, Mica, running on hardware codenamed Prism. When DEC wasn't interested, he and some of his team decamped to Microsoft, where they were given the project of reviving the moribund OS/2 3 project after the IBM-Microsoft split. While OS/2 2 was the Intel 386 version, OS/2 3 was to be portable to non-x86 processors. Cutler drew upon his previous Prism and Mica work to bring Microsoft's OS/2 3 to the Intel i860 CPU, a RISC/VLIW chip Intel had hoped might be a successor to the x86 line.

There were two versions of the chip – the basic i860XR, codenamed the N10, and the enhanced i86XP, codenamed N11. Microsoft built its own i860 workstations for the development effort, based around the i860XTR and consequently nick-named the "N-Ten". The initials of these – NT – is where the eventual name for Cutler's finished OS: Windows NT.

In a way, this brought the family full-circle, as the original progenitor of MS-DOS was Digital Research's CP/M, itself also inspired by a DEC OS – TOPS-10 for the PDP-10. This is where DOS and Windows get command names such as "DIR" and "SET" and their original eight-dot-three-letter filenames from, along with file types such as ".TXT" and ".EXE".

HP never really promoted its acquisition and OpenVMS suffered from a lack of development compared to HP-UX, itself suffering from competition from Linux. It was only a matter of time, but it's a sad end. Many of its old-time fans, your correspondent included, cherished a hope HP would move it to x86-64 – but since development moved to India in 2009, OpenVMS has been living on borrowed time. Now, as HP signalled this month, it's run out. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.