Hewlett Packard Enterprise, now in its second full week of business, continues to sell its proprietary OS environments: NonStop, HP-UX, and OpenVMS. MPE/iX was on that list 13 Novembers ago. A business decision ended HP's future MPE developments, and the 3000 lab closed about nine years later.
There's another HP OS lab that's powering down, but it's not the development group building fresher Unix for HPE customers. The HP OpenVMS lab is cutting its development chores loose, sending the creation of future versions of the OpenVMS operating system and layered product components to VMS Software, Inc. (VSI). The Bolton, Mass. company rolled out its first OpenVMS version early this summer.
This is the kind of future that the 3000 community wished for all those Novembers ago, once the anger and dismay had cooled. The HP of that year was a different business entity than the HP of 2014, when Hewlett-Packard first announced a collaboration on new versions of OpenVMS.
What's the difference? HP has much more invested in VMS, because of the size of the environment's installed base. Some key VMS talent that once worked for HP has landed at VSI, too. Sue Skonetski, once the Jeff Vance of the DEC world, told the customer base this summer she's delighted to be working at the indie lab. "I get to work with VMS customers, partners and engineers, so I obviously still have the best job in the world," she posted in a Facebook forum.
The 3000 and MPE probably would've gotten a nice transfer of MPE talents to independent development labs. But there was a matter of the size of the business back then. Today, HP's falling back and splitting itself up.
The Hewlett-Packard of 2001 could not imagine a time when its proprietary systems might be supported by independent tech talent. But what ensued with 3000 homesteading may have led to a lesson for HP, one that's being played out with the VSI transfer. Enterprise customers, it turns out, have longer-term business value tied up in proprietary systems. HP will be at the table to support some OpenVMS sites in the future. But they have an indie alternative to send their customers toward, too. When HP's ready to stop supporting Itanium-based VMS, an outside company will take up that business.
VSI has licensed the source code of the OpenVMS operating system from HP with the intent to further develop the OpenVMS product roadmap by adding new hardware platform support and features, beginning with a version of OpenVMS on HP Integrity i4 servers based on Intel Itanium Processor 9500 Series. It took VSI less than a year to roll out the OpenVMS release it calls Bolton. CEO Duane Harris is proud of a rollout that puts OpenVMS onto the latest Itanium 9500 processors. VSI intends to eventually extend support for HP Integrity servers based on all prior versions of Itanium platform.
In less than 12 months, we have not only assembled a strong team of OpenVMS developers and customer support personnel but we have also developed a roadmap with an aggressive schedule that includes support for new platforms, features and technologies. We are excited about our plans to continue improving this marquee operating system and meeting the needs of a loyal customer base that has relied on OpenVMS to faithfully run their mission critical applications over the last 30 years.
The MPE/iX faithful have been running mission-critical apps for more than 40 years, although the last five have been with no HP involvement. But this has never been about how long a product is useful. It's about numbers of support customers.
HP's walked away from its crucial role in preserving 3000s like the ones at manufacturing firms. Independent support companies now do this work. HP's become inscrutable.
"I’ve honestly given up trying to figure out HP anymore," said Pivital Solutions CEO Steve Suraci. "They are one big giant empty shell of their once formidable selves."
It might be a much better fate to leave these highly integrated environments in the hands of independents. "I certainly hope HP is out of the MPE support business," said Allegro's Steve Cooper. "There is nobody in the company that can even spell MPE at this point."