eCube’s Interview with John Egolf

Nxtware Remote Bootcamp 2015 booth2At the OpenVMS Bootcamp this past September, eCube Systems spoke with HP’s John Egolf about a variety of topics. John is a specialist in OpenVMS and the following is our conversation with him. Since the VSI announcement in June, John has become the primary contact with VSI from HP. With a focus on the relationship between HP and VSI, John communicates and resolves issues between the various HP teams, including Technical Services (TS), Supply Chain, the Business and Marketing teams, and the R&D engineering group.

JohnEgolf

On trends in the OpenVMS Community:

  1. Customers are happy and optimistic about VSI and the future of OpenVMS.

John Egolf: Prior to the VSI announcement, a lot of customers were concerned about the end of HP’s OpenVMS roadmap. The HP i2 Integrity Server sales were extended till end of 2015. They did not want to use after market servers and saw the lack of new hardware as the beginning of the end for OpenVMS. Now, customers look at VSI and HP i4 Integrity Servers and see a brighter future for OpenVMS.

  1. Customers have more time to think about their next steps.

J.E. Companies are considering how long they will stay on OpenVMS. The VSI announcement lessened some of the urgency.

On common customer questions: 2 questions he is commonly asked:

Q: Concerns with VSI staying in business?

J.E. Customers that I talk with want assurance that VSI will be around for a long time. Because VSI is only focused on VMS, some customers are concerned about the long-term future and business longevity of VSI. HP and VSI have a very good partnership. HP wants to do anything they reasonably can to ensure VSI is successful and stays in business. HP is the primary sales channel (reseller) for the VSI products. In addition, HP is a worldwide sales force, and the customers that will buy VSI (at least initially) are install-based customers, meaning we don’t expect any truly brand new customers. These are customers who are growing or refreshing their base.

I4 servers, which VSI runs on, are actually very good servers based on price performance. They are very cost effective. Since VSI software’s availability this past June, we are seeing customers showing interest with purchase orders of HP i4 servers with VSI software, meaning business is off to a good start. While the concern is valid, don’t let that be the factor holding you back.

*When addressing this question, John tells customers Duane Harris, the CEO of VSI, has worked the numbers and sees a strong business opportunity and is confident of VSI’s longevity.

Q: When will the x86 port be available?

J.E. The port is being worked on and should be available in a couple of years. VSI will communicate updates and roadmap deliverables about this. VSI feels that the x86 port is a key part of the overall OpenVMS strategy. However, there are customers who need additional integrity servers and additional computing power now and cannot wait. Customers who are doing hardware refresh or running on older integrity servers (which are not efficient based on power, cooling, and services) need new servers as soon as possible. Some customers will wait on the x86 and that will have some impact, but if VSI delivers on their roadmap, they will buy now.

On the role of open source technology in the future of OpenVMS:

J.E. Open source is software that is contributed to by a community (the world at large). By having open source software, you have many people doing development and support. Customers can choose to get the source of the product that they’re using. Innovation happens much more quickly because you are not dependent on HP or VSI or any ISV for capability since you are working with the overall community. Having more products available on open source gives customers more choices in what they’re looking for and reduces dependency on HP or any single vendor or partner. For these reasons, open source technology is an advantage for customers and the OpenVMS Community. For example, regarding the need for more Unix compatibility, developers could take an open source Unix product, drop it on OpenVMS, and then run it without making major changes. I think close to 100% Unix compatibility with a set of libraries needs to happen.

On the role of integrated development environments (IDEs) in the OpenVMS space:

 J.E. One of the biggest complaints we hear from our customers is that it’s difficult for them to find VMS developers, testers, or systems managers. Many years ago, we had VMS in many of the universities around the world. The students would learn development and computing on a VMS system and when they got out of school, they already had hands-on experience with how to compile, link, run, and debug on OpenVMS. There were lots of potential OpenVMS developers, system managers, etc. Today, students do programming on their phones and laptops. While some still run OpenVMS, the majority of universities have Windows, Linux, and Macintosh as default platforms for students. On the development and testing side, having an IDE that works on multiple platforms and makes OpenVMS a common ground for operating systems reduces the amount of OpenVMS expertise required. Developers can focus on the business problem and not worry about learning a new system. Additionally, IDEs can improve the development environment and make it easier for customers to maintain and develop systems. This is especially true for customers who manage Unix or Linux and aren’t familiar with OpenVMS.

On the impact of virtualization:

J.E. There are two types of virtualization: 1.) HPVM (HP Virtualization Manager), HP’s virtual capability for OpenVMS, and 2.) Hardware virtualization.

HP Virtualization Manager allows multiple virtual machines to be created to run OpenVMS integrity (i64) on a single server. As far as the users are concerned, they’re on one single server and this isolates one user from another from an environmental point of view. Each user can run different versions of OpenVMS.

Although there are not a lot of customers using HPVM, hardware virtualization is popular. There is virtualization of the hardware, either Alpha or VAX, on x86. We have customers who cannot migrate off of Alpha or VAX. However, their Alpha hardware is getting older and new Alpha hardware is not available anymore. One option is to buy an Alpha emulator (virtualized environment) from one of our partners (i.e Stromasys) and run it on an x86 system like Windows or Linux. There are no changes to their code. You basically back up your physical Alpha and restore it on to the virtual Alpha. I run Alpha VMS on my laptop. Customers run this on production environments. The hardware virtualization for VAX and Alpha is quite popular and an option for some customers with aging hardware.

If their concern is about the Alpha hardware breaking or costly support contracts, I would strongly recommend the alpha emulator. While it is not cheap, once you factor in all other costs such as lab space conditioning or maintenance, the alpha emulator makes sense and you can cover the cost within 12-24 months. If the concern is administration, meaning they don’t have system managers or programmers, then they need to reach out into the community or directly with HP or VSI.

Ultimately, for customers running Integrity, virtualization does not have a large impact. Customers who use Alpha/Vax can see a significant impact from virtualization.

On the possibility of a Cloud in the future:

J.E. There is not a demand for cloud computing from VMS customers and it is not currently included in HP’s cloud strategy. I don’t see a future for cloud computing at this time. Customers could use it, but they aren’t asking for it. There is no business need to run OpenVMS on a cloud.

 Why?

 J.E. From everything I’ve read or heard about, the concept of the cloud is pretty cool. I just don’t think there is a demand for VMS in the cloud. One of the main reasons customers buy VMS is security. No matter how secure you make the cloud, the perception, if not reality, is that it won’t be as secure as having the server in your own lab. Because VMS is bought for high security, the cloud is not typically seen as the right environment.

 What news headline would you like to see for OpenVMS in 5 years?

 J.E. “OpenVMS installations surpass Linux installations for the first time”