Digital's strategy for the survival of its OpenVMS operating system is integration with Windows NT, says Mark Gorham, director of Business Management for Digital's OpenVMS Systems Software Group.
Digital has vigorously promoted an “affinity” program to help OpenVMS users integrate their systems with Windows NT. According to Gorham, a key factor in a pickup in sales of OpenVMS in the last three quarters, was the “affinity” strategy.
“The 'affinity' strategy really helped us turn back. Now we are focusing on commercial high-end markets. Business partners are also telling us that more midrange accounts are also looking at OpenVMS,” said Gorham.
The 20-year-old OpenVMS -- originally called VMS for the Virtual Memory System that worked with VAX computers -- is one of Digital's oldest operating environments. Its installed base of 434,000 systems, is one of the company's largest and most loyal user bases, historically dominating the Digital Equipment Computer Users Society (DECUS).
In the pipeline are plans for the next version of OpenVMS 7.2 to have tighter integration with NT. Digital's new NT clustering strategy sees Digital working closely with Microsoft, to integrate high-end OpenVMS clustering technology with Microsoft Cluster Server.
Currently, Microsoft's Cluster Server software enables users to only do simple functions, such as linking up two servers for failover operations. Among the functions to be added is job scheduling, a mainframe-style application that allows users to distribute applications over multiple servers.
There also will be enterprise-level data sharing and storage applications added, to increase reliability and availability of servers.
“For OpenVMS 7.2, a large chunk of the work is based on NT integration and VMS on the high-end,” said Gorham.
Microsoft's and Digital's continued development of add-on products aims to make NT as reliable as OpenVMS.
Other plans for OpenVMS include the Galaxy Software Architecture for highly scalable OpenVMS clustering technology. Galaxy is supposed to solve multi-central processor unit (CPU) scaling and cluster interconnect bottlenecks. This is achieved by partitioning CPUs, memory and I/O into separate OpenVMS “instances”.
The Galaxy software eventually will let users cluster up to 256 Alpha CPUs. It will support up to 200 I/O devices within a single server, according to Digital.
With Galaxy software, OpenVMS customers can build separate clusters of processors within the same server box, said Gorham. For example, a 32-CPU box can be arranged internally into a “virtual” cluster of eight separate nodes of four CPUs each. The approach dramatically increases the speed and the volume at which data can be passed from one cluster to another.
Digital has also announced new and enhanced products designed to facilitate Digital Unix/Windows NT interoperability, including:
* Digital Enterprise Toolkit for Visual Studio, which lets Visual C++ and Digital Visual Fortran developers code applications on Windows NT for deployment on both Digital Unix and Windows NT systems.
* Digital DCE V2.0 for Windows NT, Windows 95 and V2.1 for Digital Unix, which is designed to offer distributed functionality on Digital Unix, Windows NT and Windows 95.
Digital will also be working to offer Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) on the next release of OpenVMS, partnering with Bristol Technology. COM is middleware used to coordinate communications between object-oriented applications.
“We are porting COM to run native on OpenVMS, to allow VMS to serve NT applications or NT front-ends,” said Gorham.
OpenVMS has 20% of its business in Asia-Pacific, and despite many users claiming its superior reliability and scalability, OpenVMS in Asia has been steadily losing ground to Unix and Windows NT during the past few years, according to Saleem Bikanerwala, principal industry analyst at GartnerGroup Inc.
“OpenVMS is unfortunately losing steam in Asia. Digital is pushing users to migrate to NT, Unix, and Alpha servers, away from OpenVMS and old VAX installations,” said Bikanerwala. “End-user research shows that a lot of Windows NT is encroaching onto the OpenVMS space.”
In fact, a cloud hangs over the very future of OpenVMS.
“Since Compaq's acquisition of Digital, they may feel that it is not feasible for Compaq to maintain too many operating systems, especially since they have Tandem's NonStop kernel, Tandem and Digital Unixes and of course, Windows NT,” said Bikanerwala.