Keeping OpenVMS Alive With A Modern Job Scheduler

Organizations still use the OpenVMS operating system to run critical processes. OpenVMS is reliable and secure, but expensive to maintain. Modern tools can help.

Written by Cassie Doheny. Last Updated:
OpenVMS can be integrated and even replaced by a technology-agnostic job scheduler

The OpenVMS operating system has been around since 1977. Mentions of its name bring up images of eggshell-white VAX machines and bulky monitors. But OpenVMS, long the standard-bearer of OS reliability, is still running critical interactive processes in major organizations.

For decades, OpenVMS was the go-to OS for critical interactive processes that required 100% up-time, proven disaster recovery features, and iron-clad security. So that even with a string of bad news in recent years —HPE ending its support, Intel ending its Itanium processors, a 30-year-old privilege-escalation bug— organizations that run OpenVMS are unable or unwilling to migrate away from it.

Does it make sense to keep running VSI OpenVMS?

Who Owns OpenVMS?

VSI OpenVMS was first introduced as Virtual Memory System (VMS) from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for its series of VAX servers but was later renamed OpenVMS after adding support for the POSIX standard. Since that time, DEC was acquired by Compaq that was acquired by HP (now HPE).

Recently, HPE announced it will be ending its support of OpenVMS by the end of 2020. HPE sold its rights to support contract renewals to VMS Software, Inc. (VSI). The company has enhanced the operating system to run on the latest HPE Integrity servers, DEC Alpha systems, and is porting the operating system to the x86-64 processor architecture. 

VMS Software, part of Teracloud, reaffirmed its commitment to OpenVMS late last year when it moved its headquarters to Boston, according to vmssoftware.com. 

“OpenVMS is one of the most powerful operating systems ever developed, and thousands of organizations around the world rely on it to manage the most important operations,” said Kevin Shaw, CEO of VMS Software. “ We are deeply committed to supporting this platform, and our expanded leadership team and move to a new global corporate headquarters is driving our ability to meet and exceed our customers’ and partners’ needs. I am excited to welcome the newest members to the company as we continue our aggressive growth strategy.”

[Learn how the Finnish tax agency uses ActiveBatch to manage OpenVMS environments.]

Who Still Uses OpenVMS?

Over 3,000 organizations are still using VSI OpenVMS, including the United States Postal Service and Bosch. How is it that a 40-year-old operating system is still running in major organizations?

OpenVMS is known for its reliability, security, and consistency when it comes to general computing, transaction processing, and batch processing, among other uses. And when running mission-critical interactive processes, having a reliable operating system is imperative.

Today’s more common operating systems attribute many of their capabilities to OpenVMS as it sets the standard for what features an operating system should include, such as layered databases, multiprocessing, clustering, and interoperability between programming languages. In fact, an Information Week article from 2007 stated that OpenVMS customers believed it would be the operating system to outlive them all.

However, there’s no denying that maintaining an older system can prove difficult as new applications and technologies are released, and new interactive processes within an organization are established. Especially when modernized systems have to quickly adapt to new technology trends. The new parent company, VSI, is focused on providing a growing portfolio of open-source software for OpenVMS along with a wide range of services to help its customers get the most from their OpenVMS investments.

Plus, there aren’t many OpenVMS engineers still in the workforce. They’ve retired, taking with them decades of expertise. The few remaining can command very comfortable salaries, increasing the costs of maintaining OpenVMS.

A Modern Job Scheduler for OpenVMS

So where should your OpenVMS strategy go from here?

If you’re still using OpenVMS, chances are it’s been reliably running the same interactive processes for 30 years without a hitch. So that there’s not enough appetite to green-light a disruptive migration.

But the costs are rising and OpenVMS is still an old silo in a fluid, interconnected world. IT needs an easier way to manage and integrate its legacy OSs.

Workload automation solutions can provide much-needed script vaulting, revision histories, and audit trails that make it easier to maintain and protect the custom scripts and batch jobs that have built up around legacy OSs. This includes extensive documentation capabilities to help prevent the loss of system know-how as veteran engineers, who are commanding steep salaries, retire.

With workload automation solutions like ActiveBatch, for example, custom scripts can be turned into reusable building blocks for assembling interactive processes. This enables IT to incorporate data and dependencies from OpenVMS into cross-platform workflows.

ActiveBatch also includes hundreds of platform-neutral integrations that enable users to build end-to-end interactive processes without having to write custom scripts and without needing extensive experience with OpenVMS. It also gives organizations the ability to automate their batch jobs and queue up jobs more efficiently with event-based triggers.

As Gartner presciently put it back in 2002, “…will [OpenVMS] meld with the strategic directions and applications of the enterprise, or will it remain an island of computing, doing its limited jobs well but outside the organic growth of IT?”

With the right workload automation solution, users can bring OpenVMS out of its silo, reducing the need for a costly, high-risk OS migration.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is OpenVMS still supported?

Yes, OpenVMS is still supported by VMS Software. They’ve owned the exclusive rights to develop OpenVMS systems since 2014. The company has enhanced the operating system to run on the latest HPE Integrity servers and is porting the operating system to the x86-64 processor architecture.

Why use OpenVMS?

More than 3,000 organizations use OpenVMS, including the United States Postal Service, United States Steel Corporation, Lockheed Martin and Bosch. Organizations that run OpenVMS cite its extremely reliable environment. With the ability to cluster two or more nodes together and create failover, OpenVMS clusters are highly reliable.

What does OpenVMS stand for?

The name OpenVMS stands for Open Virtual Memory System. It is a server operating system that runs on multiple chip architectures, providing highly-available servers that support mission-critical needs of government and global organizations.

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