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Got OpenVMS?

by John Browne, on Dec 21, 2016 2:32:51 PM

About a million years ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth, I used to have to troubleshoot a PDP-11 with a multimeter at the backplane. PDPs are gone and nobody anymore fixes their Windows laptop or Macbook by measuring voltage (at least I hope they don't have to) but VMS--unlike T-Rex--is still with us. 

Brief history lesson: Dave Cutler et al wrote VMS at DEC starting in 1975; in '88 VMS was already old (and minicomputers as they were then called were rapidly being surplanted by Wintel client/server lashups) and Cutler moved to Microsoft where he was in charge of creating Windows NT (the guts of which still reside in this Windows 10 Surface Book I'm using right now). Digital Equipment Company was a great company with some regrettable unusual theories about sales which eventually led to their being acquired by Compaq (who had pioneered the idea of a DOS clone), basically ending DEC as a separate entity. And yet VMS continued to live. Compaq, of course, more recently was eaten by HP under the somewhat controversial leadership of Carly Fiorina, leading to the demise of the Compaq name and tens of thousands of jobs, including Carly's. And yet VMS lived on. And finally a couple of years ago HP dumped licensed OpenVMS (as it's now called) to VMS Software Inc (VSI) which appears to be dedicated to the mission of ensuring that IBM doesn't get a monopoly on obsolete legacy iron. 

Anyway like all these paleolithic platforms it's harder and harder to get the developers who are familiar with them to come to work what with  having so many great-grandchildren having pizza parties all the time. We certainly see this with VB6, Unisys 4GL, ASP, and some of the workloads we specialize in. OpenVMS is no different except there were maybe 100 VB6 programmers for every VMS jockey in the day.

If you've got OpenVMS we can't help you, but we have an awesome partner who can. Advanced is a largish UK-based systems integrator (SI) with a strong modernization practice that includes helping get people off OpenVMS to Linux or Windows, either of which would constitute a big improvement on a number of fronts. Now there's nothing fundamentally wrong with old and creaky legacy operating systems--heck I remember fondly using IBM CMS and PROFS to send messages (we didn't call them email then) over a dedicated 9600 baud line. Just like there's nothing fundamentally wrong with a 1962 Dodge Dart like my Dad had with a slant six and manual transmission. But it also had drum brakes, no airbags, and a steering column you would impale yourself on if you rear-ended the Ford Galaxy in front of you. Thanks but I prefer my 2013 Jetta (ok, it has its own software issues but that's another story). And if I'm trying to keep systems running it's nice to know I can hire developers without prowling the halls of the local assisted-living facility. 

Some things improve with age (like good wine); some things from long ago may even be better than new (I have a Stanley #4 smoothing plane from circa 1895 that's better than anything Stanley makes today); but some things, like operating systems, don't get better as their teeth get longer. If you're still running OpenVMS it isn't because there aren't better choices: there are, and we'd be happy (along wtih Advanced) to help you get to one.

Topics:application modernizationlegacy modernization


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