Lapels and shirts all around the HP Technology Forum sported a jaunty badge this week. HP, having purchased Digital through its Compaq acquisition, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of VMS. DEC users who have endured wrong-headed management and unlucky timing on technology innovations should be proud. They use one of the last vendor-built operating environments, an OS with acolytes so ardent they gather for a Boot Camp each year in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Of course, the badges recalled the many pins HP 3000 customers wore with pride in the waning days of HP's 3000 business. Hewlett-Packard did not celebrate the 35th anniversary of MPE this year, even though the company uses the OS in its corporate datacenters to this very day.
This week's conference showed a lot of historical pros on display among much younger colleagues. Patrick Thibodeau called it the "salt and pepper crowd" in his story for Computerworld. You need salt and pepper to get to 30 and beyond. I genuinely wish more years to the VMS community. It perseveres on classic momentum, even while HP makes more noise about the IT strategies that do not revolve around operating environments.
And while the week celebrated something old, at least in IT timeframes, there was also a much younger anniversary. This 3000 NewsWire blog moved into its fourth year of service to our community and our committed sponsors. It's been a great thrill to be able to report within hours, like we did on Tuesday night, about 3000 news like the liberation of long-cloistered patches. The blog is a powerful tool for a journalist with loyal sources and a long memory. Thank you for your interest in our stories and inside information, data spinning ever farther from the home planet of HP.
At the Tech Forum we heard one VP anticipating another milestone, ready to celebrate the 25th anniversary of HP-UX. But the vendor putting HP-UX concerns up at the top of the keynote might have sent a mixed message about that history. HP was assuring the hundreds of thousands of UX users their environment isn't going extinct. As we noted earlier this week, Executive VP Ann Livermore reminded those salt and pepper folks that HP-UX still did $10 billion in business last year for HP.
But when technology climbs into the quarter-century and beyond demographic, it fights an uphill battle on a vendor's product line. These products fight to show growth, an attribute that a vendor desires far more than the customers of the product. There have been exceptions. IBM has made AS/400 and mainframe customers an indelible part of its computer legacy. Will HP do the same for HP-UX and for OpenVMS, or NonStop? The monetary momentum at HP is rolling away from vendor-built environments. Unlimited virtualization and its software gyrations, deep flanks of service experts, hardware built with industry standard components — all are ramping up much faster at HP than any of those environments which are old enough to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the chip architecture that started this revolution, x86, celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, too. HP still pays homage to the x86 designs in every Itanium processor it purchases from Intel. After all, the Itanium was built to float upon the vast sea of x86 code passed from DOS to Windows to XP to Vista.
The 25 anniversary of a mediocre design like x86 only proves that elegance and ardor are not the essential elements to longevity. Computing has been a business ever since it crawled out of university and government labs, and so what sells is what stays on to celebrate more anniversaries. Treasure and polish what you own, and care for its future. Only the community of an OS has the dedication to keep relighting the candles on the anniversary cakes.