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VMS follows the journey of MPE onto Linux

Migration lies in the road that HP's enterprise platforms must follow, especially if they have no hardware future beyond Hewlett-Packard's systems. AlphaServers never were part of MPE's path. Alpha was built to power VMS, and then it was acquired along with Compaq's other enterprise products. HP cut down its AlphaSystem futures in 2008, then last year announced that the VMS operating system was going into a sunset at Hewlett-Packard.

Penguin-shorelineAlthough an independent company has acquired the rights to sell and develop VMS, HP's announcement — like the one the vendor made about MPE — has had a chilling effect on the VMS community. The customers have started to take their systems and applications to another platform. Like MPE's migrations, the way forward leads to Linux.

A couple of MPE veteran consultant-developers have checked in to report on the VMS-to-Linux work they're doing. Moving to Linux makes good sense because it loosens the hold of operating system futures. When something like a VMS or an MPE loses the faith if its vendor, migration becomes more compelling. Linux is not tied to a single vendor, and the OS is not proprietary on the operational level like HP-UX or IBM's AIX. If a SUSE or a RedHat Linux distro has its futures dashed, other Linux providers can be swapped in. Unix promised this but rarely could deliver; its vendor implementations were just too proprietary.

MPE migrations have provided experience that the MPE consultants are using in a fresh community. Many things seem the same to consultant Denys Beauchemin.

The VMS group reminds me a lot of the MPE group," he said, "just bigger and even more vociferous, but now all old and grey. The OS is excellent, and in some respects better than MPE, but in others less so." The similarity of the OS objectives has made migrations a bit easier to execute, he added.

"It's been difficult converting to VMS," Beauchemin said, "but the concepts are the same, just different names and a whole slew of new acronyms. It's all moving to Linux, so that makes it easier."

Linux is a good destination because of its flexibility and the scope of its abilities. The OS appears to have the capability to replicate most of MPE's inherent designs and features, although nothing will rival the efficiency of the IMAGE-MPE integration. HP 3000 hardware didn't have to be as powerful while driving IMAGE as HP-UX systems still must be while tapping Oracle, according to many reports. VMS has a cousin to IMAGE, Rdb, that's at the heart of a lot of the community's applications.

Many of these VMS-to-Linux consultants are available to do MPE migrations. Some of them are like Beauchemin, who said that "I was doing migrations of MPE systems, but that's pretty much done now." Migrating those databases from IMAGE to Oracle is one line of work for him — and data migrations are at the heart of the work that MB Foster does with its UDALink and UDACentral solutions.

"We are still asked for HP 3000 consultancy, development, and training occasionally," said Clive Allen at Baillie Associates in the UK, "although lately we have been executing more VMS-based work."

"We called it a day after the announcement by HP of withdrawal of support for the VMS and MPE operating systems," Allen said, "but continue to execute small projects upon request."