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Call off the firing squad: HP grants stay of execution to OpenVMS

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In a surprise move, HP has granted OpenVMS a new lease on life, effectively reversing last year's decision to mothball the venerable server OS.

HP hasn't changed its mind about its latest OpenVMS roadmap, which has it ending standard support for some versions of the OS next year and pulling the plug completely by 2020. Rather, it has granted an exclusive license to another company, VMS Software Inc. (VSI), to take over after its own support ends.

That doesn't just mean providing hospice care for geriatric servers, either. VSI says it plans to produce new builds of OpenVMS for newer hardware architectures, beginning with the latest Intel Itanium chips and eventually crossing over to the x86 architecture.

"We are grateful and thrilled that HP has granted us stewardship over the future of this marquee operating system," VSI CEO Duane Harris said in a press release. "Our passion for taking OpenVMS into future decades is only matched by the many developers and customers who have relied on it to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years."

The move comes mere days after a French OpenVMS user group published an open letter to HP urging it to reconsider its decision to abandon the OS, which began life as VAX/VMS in 1977 and has survived in one form or another ever since.

"It is impossible to think that HP could not actively maintain support for dependable systems that are such an important part of its portfolio," read the letter, which was penned by Gérard Calliet of HP-Interex France. "OpenVMS is one of its most crucial systems in quality and industrial impact. Like other major IT players, HP must adapt itself to different speeds and varying policies between large, fast-paced markets and specialized, slower-paced markets."

Under the new arrangement, current customers will continue to receive support for OpenVMS 8.4 and earlier from HP, as specified in the company's roadmap.

New hardware support billed

VSI doesn't plan to offer extended support for those versions once HP's support expires. Rather, it will use OpenVMS source code licensed from HP to produce new versions of the OS. These will also include support for newer hardware, beginning with HP Integrity i4 servers based on the Intel Itanium 9500 "Poulson" processors.

The forthcoming "Kittson" Itaniums will be next on VSI's list, followed at some point by a version of x86 processors, which VSI has dubbed OpenVMS v.Next. VSI has committed to providing standard support for each new OpenVMS version for a minimum of five years.

No release dates have been given for any of these builds, mind you, but VSI has published a preliminary "rolling roadmap" [PDF] explaining its plans, which it says it will update every three months.

VSI was founded by the principals of Nemonix Engineering, a company that has provided support services for OpenVMS systems for the last 30 years. The company, which is based in Bolton, Massachusetts, says it has assembled "an onshore team of veteran OpenVMS developers," many of which it says have experience dating back to the Digital Equipment Corporation days.

In announcing the partnership, Ric Lewis, VP and general manager of HP's enterprise server business unit, said customers now have "a complete long-term solution" for their OpenVMS servers.

"Customers who would like to deploy OpenVMS on current and future HP technologies now have additional options, and those who choose to stay on their existing OpenVMS platform will be protected by the extended HP support services announced previously without interruption or change in process," Lewis said. ®

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