eCube’s Interview with Eddie Orcutt
eCube Systems is interviewing Eddie Orcutt, Vice President Software Engineering at VMS Software, Inc. Eddie was a long time employee of Hewlett Packard/Compaq/Digital Equipment Corporation where he held field engineering positions for 23 years. Eddie was the person who approached HP with the idea that a company could take over development and support of OpenVMS.
eCube: Thank you for giving us some of your valuable time for this interview. You are very well known in the OpenVMS community and I am sure everyone knows, you started the ball rolling to start VMS Software and getting the software team together. How is it going so far?
Answer: Thank you Kevin, it is always great to meet with you and eCube to talk about OpenVMS. It is going very well. Since our inception 2 years ago, VSI has delivered 2 OpenVMS releases, V8.4-1H1 and V8.4-2, with a soon to be 3rd release planned for July/August 2016. This does not include the 34 BOE products, 6 HAOE products, 23 layered products, and 9 Open Source products that have also been released. We are well on our way of porting OpenVMS to X86, which as you know, is a multi year effort. We are also actively recruiting ISV partners for supporting their application(s) on OpenVMS and we have started our hardware certification lab, for certifying 3rd party hardware, to make OpenVMS even more multivendor capable.
As you can tell, we are very busy adding new functionality, enhancing stability and ensuring the continued high security and availability of OpenVMS and associated products in addition to building the application base and multivendor hardware base to satisfy existing and future customer’s computing requirements.
eCube: Let’s start with following up on Sue Skonetski’s interview in March. She deferred some of the more technical questions in our previous interview to you and engineering, so I’d like to start with VSI’s technical expertise. Can you tell me about your engineering team and if you think your team can stack up against the major OS vendors that are currently out there?
Answer: Yes, VSI has a world class OS development team. Some of our software engineers are the original developers of OpenVMS. We average 25+ years of operating system development experience, mostly in OpenVMS. In addition a number of software engineers also have experience in UNIX and/or Linux development. This cross OS experience allows us a unique look into these operating systems, giving us ideas on how OpenVMS can incorporate other technologies within our framework of high security and availability. Another aspect of operating system development not mentioned is our QTV (Quality, Test, Validation) capabilities. VSI takes a “mindful approach” to testing validation and qualification where we follow practices and methods developed and honed over the past 30+ years including the IEEE 730 standard. Our test suite, run daily, includes User Environment Test Package, Cluster Test Manager, System Integration Test Package, Faulty Towers, Alignment Tests, and Regression suites. In all we put OpenVMS through over 3000 different tests. These test suites are enhanced and expanded as new features and functionality are added to OpenVMS. It is our attention to quality that helps set OpenVMS apart from other operating systems.
eCube: Sue also mentioned planned enhancement to the OpenVMS filesystem; can you tell us about VSI’s plans in this area?
Answer: We are in the process of developing an advanced file system on OpenVMS. The new advanced file system will eliminate the 32-bit boundaries, 2TB volume and file limit, in addition to addressing some performance limitations of the current file system. The advanced file system is 64-bit based, which provides Exabyte scalability, about 2x file create/delete performance improvements, about 2x file open/read/write performance improvements for small files. It solves the performance problem of deleting directories with a large number of files and provides for easier manageability since customers will be able to create fewer larger volumes instead of creating large multivolume bound sets.
eCube: For many years HP didn’t seem to promote the virtues of OpenVMS and instead favored NonStop. After all those years, what are the challenges now and how do you think VSI needs to address them or do differently?
Answer: OpenVMS is VSI’s only product and hence is our only focus. Our organization is centered around OpenVMS from product development, testing, support, professional services, marketing to sales. A major goal is to let everyone, not just our OpenVMS installed base, but the computing market as a whole know that there is a highly secure, highly available and high quality operating system option, namely OpenVMS. The OpenVMS competitive advantages allow customers, old and new, to realize huge savings in operational costs during the lifecycle of their system in addition to reducing their security vulnerability risk by up to 81X (that’s 8,100 %), which reduces the chance of a break-in or a data breach and its associated costs. Our job is to get the technical advantages and the business advantages of OpenVMS out to the market. How do we do that? We have a multi-prong plan going forward to:
- Issue regular press releases on OpenVMS’ competitive advantages to increase awareness.
- Release White Papers to industry sources outlining OpenVMS’ advantages and how using OpenVMS actually reduces costs.
- Publicize our Integrity and X86-64 migration plan for VAX and older Alpha architectures.
- Engage our existing installed base to realize even more competitive advantages over Linux and Windows.
- Provide Open Source interoperability with Linux and Windows to tout OpenVMS costs, security and availability advantages.
- Make porting Linux/Windows applications to OpenVMS more seamless, which ties in to the next point.
- Work with our ISVs to increase the number of commercially available applications available on OpenVMS.
eCube: OpenVMS is often viewed as a legacy OS that does not support modern features by neophytes or upper management. What do you say to that? Maybe you can give us a quick history lesson on the major innovations of VMS and its virtues that differentiate it compared to contemporary Operating Systems in use today?
Answer: Well, technically speaking, “legacy OS” just means it is in production mode currently. By that measure, Windows, Linux and Unix are all legacy systems; some are better designed than others. Unfortunately, “legacy” also denotes a connotation of being buggy, out-dated, antiquated or incapable of modern performance. That is not the case here. OpenVMS is far from antiquated as OpenVMS is run in the most demanding environments that require a high degree of security, availability and disaster tolerance. You find OpenVMS systems around the world in banks, stock exchanges, healthcare, oil and gas production and distribution, power stations, railways, governments and so on. One of the features of OpenVMS, that provides a buffer to becoming legacy, is forwards and backwards compatibility. This means a customer can take an application that was originally built on OpenVMS V8.2 Integrity and they can run it unmodified on a VSI OpenVMS V8.4-2 Integrity system. The reason is OpenVMS provides binary compatibility between older versions and the latest versions on Integrity. In addition, a customer can take the latest release of VSI OpenVMS and run it on old Itanium server models. This is unique with OpenVMS, as commodity operating systems do not provide this level of investment protection.
OpenVMS has built-in enterprise class system management tools, rather than having to purchase add-ons. It has a rich development environment, which includes programming languages, debug facilities, run time libraries and system service routines for taking advantage of the enterprise level capabilities of OpenVMS. These features combine to reduce the complexity of applications. Applications developers can focus on the application alone and not worry about having to account for security or high availability capability. OpenVMS provides these services automatically. OpenVMS also provides a calling standard that allows programs written in one language to call a program written in another 3G language. This greatly improves application portability and code debugging which reduces development costs.
OpenVMS includes stable versions of commonly used Open Source software such as Java, Python, Perl, Lua, Apache, cURL, XML, Ruby, git, Subversion, ZeroMQ and etc.
OpenVMS is the standard by which all other “cluster” solutions are measured. OpenVMS clusters provide an active – active shared everything cluster environment where applications on different nodes in the cluster can share the same disks, local or on a shared interconnect, and can also share the same files and the records within the files. This saves infrastructure costs, as peripheral devices and their resources can be shared across all nodes of an OpenVMS cluster. Commodity operating systems cannot do this.
OpenVMS has unsurpassed security mechanisms that are built into OpenVMS and not added or layered on as with commodity operating systems. A proof point of the OpenVMS advantage is that OpenVMS has an average, over its 39-year history, of 1.03 security vulnerabilities per year where commodity operating system vulnerabilities average in the hundreds. This alone is a game changer in terms of total cost of ownership and one of the reasons OpenVMS can provide 5 nines of availability when appropriately configured.
eCube: Wow – that is impressive. One of the things we hear is that OpenVMS clients say their upper management isn’t willing to spend money on OpenVMS since the HPE announcement, and yet some are willingly spending hundreds of thousands to migrate to Linux. What can change that dynamic?
Answer: Number one is that VSI had to prove itself in having the expertise and ability to develop, release and support new versions of OpenVMS. We have done that. Number two, as previously stated, is to make the market aware that there is a highly secure, highly available and high quality operating system option; OpenVMS. The competitive advantages OpenVMS provides is a game changer in the operational lifecycle costs, 50% less expensive than competitive products and is 81X less likely to be infected with a virus or to have a break-in or a data breach. These are real tangible risk reduction OpenVMS features and it offers a huge cost advantage. Our job is to get this message out to the market. We, as OpenVMS professionals need to shed that complacency that comes with taking OpenVMS advantages for granted. We need to inform other IT professionals, managers and organizations that these features are a minimum requisite for safe and reliable computing for the future.
eCube: What changes when OpenVMS is supported on the X86/64 platform?
Answer: OpenVMS is OpenVMS whether it is on Integrity or X86. Having said that, there are features we are putting in OpenVMS to make it scale to support larger core and larger memory x86 systems. In addition we plan to support OpenVMS on a virtual machine like Xen, KVM and/or VMware. With the introduction of new X86 platform support for OpenVMS, we will support a wider array of I/O options that are available.
eCube: We keep hearing that one of the options available to OpenVMS customers is to migrate to Linux. How does Linux compare head to head with OpenVMS in total cost of ownership, performance, compilers, hardware compatibility and functionality?
Answer: Not very well. I’ve mentioned previously that OpenVMS has the lowest total cost of ownership of any commonly used OS on the market. The OpenVMS cost advantages are not just a few percentage points but by 50% better than the competition. Windows and Linux systems not only cost significantly more to operate than OpenVMS, but the risk of infection and a data breach is significantly increased by 81 times on those other platforms.
OpenVMS performance on the Integrity Poulson (HPE i4 server line) is very good. Integer and floating point performance is 20% – 57% better, model dependent, than on previous server models. Memory performance is 2X faster and Oracle 11g performance, compared to Oracle 10G, is 10X faster on newer i4 servers running VSI OpenVMS than on previous server models.
OpenVMS has a range of commonly used Open Source languages available, like R, RUST, Erlang, Lua, Python, Ruby, Perl, etc. in addition to third generation languages like ADA, BASIC, C, C++, COBOL, Fortran, Pascal, Bliss and macro.
eCube: The other hardware vendors (HP, IBM and Oracle) seem to be jettisoning their proprietary versions of UNIX in favor of Linux. Why would a company want to stay with OpenVMS and not follow this trend?
Answer: Great question Kevin. The answer is because OpenVMS provides real tangible benefits to the customer in terms of significantly lower costs of ownership, (over 5 years, the typical mission critical system lifecycle), significant reduction in the risk of security vulnerabilities (by 81X), reduced risk of a data breach, reduced staffing costs due to reduced OpenVMS security patch rate, 5 nines of availability (99.999%) and business continuity support.
OpenVMS was designed to be crash proof and virus proof. OpenVMS “firewalls” system components to limit the impact of a bug, it isolates trusted system code from untrusted user code. It does this by using 4 access modes (kernel, executive, supervisor and user), using a descriptor (a data structure) for passing data between OpenVMS modes and providing fine grain privilege levels (39) to name a few. There are over 54 technical features in OpenVMS that provide OpenVMS its competitive advantage in the market.
It is these unique OpenVMS features and benefits that companies are trying to build by layering various point solutions on to Linux, however it is the deficiencies in the OS itself that diminishes its effectiveness. With OpenVMS, these features are built in to the OS.
eCube: Can you mention the White Paper on the comparison between OpenVMS, Linux and Windows on Operating Systems maintenance. Can you give us the highlights of that paper?
Answer: That paper and its follow-on presentation focus on the cost of security for operating systems most commonly used (Linux and Microsoft Windows) in comparison to OpenVMS. These other operating systems are woefully short of providing a stable, highly available or a secure environment for data that must be available 24×7 and secured. These commonly used operating systems today may have the lowest initial costs, but their total cost of ownership is the highest. The OpenVMS advantages include:
- Reduced OS security patch rate by >10X
- Reduced daily OS security vulnerabilities by 66X – 81X
- Reduced yearly per system OS patch costs by ~30X
- Reduced system management costs by 20% – 60%
- Reduced yearly & 5 year lifecycle operational costs by 70% – 90%
- Reduced wasted system management time by 12X – 15X
- Reduced TCO by 44% – 50% (1.78X-2.0X OpenVMS systems for 1 Microsoft Windows/Linux)
- Reduced data breaches (at the OS level) and their associated costs
eCube: With the constant pressure from the business people to change the business logic, enterprise developers are using Agile Development and Agile Infrastructure on Linux systems to roll out new versions quicker. How can OpenVMS keep up with Linux in this area?
Answer: By offering multiple ways to develop code on OpenVMS to fit the particular needs of a developer. The goal is to make the developer as efficient in development as possible. For more experienced developers, OpenVMS has a rich set of editors like EDT, EVE and EMACS accessible through a GUI or a text terminal interface. OpenVMS also has a language sensitive editor with other tools for source code profiling and performance and coverage analyzing.
Kevin, as you know, for the more windows oriented developers and agile development environments, OpenVMS has partnered with eCube Systems for including NXTware Remote, a modern cross-platform Eclipsed based IDE. NXTware remote, which is included in the OpenVMS software distribution kit for customer convenience, brings remote agile development and continuous delivery capability to OpenVMS. This simplifies remote development for multiple languages like BASIC, C, C++, COBOL, Fortran, Java, Pascal, and even scripting languages like DCL, TDF, IFDL, GDF, as well as SQL and SQLMOD.
eCube: OpenVMS has tackled integration with Open Source tools many years ago with tools like GNV and WSIT. What are the plans for Open Source in OpenVMS in the future?
Answer: VSI is expanding the role and reach of Open Source software in OpenVMS environments. VSI is actively updating the versions of Open Source software supported on OpenVMS in addition to porting Open Source software that is new to OpenVMS as well. To make it easier for VSI and our Open Source community to port software to OpenVMS, we are updating the C run-time library to make porting UNIX/Linux based software to OpenVMS easier and more transparent. VSI has also provided direct access to git and Subversion, Open Source repositories, making it easier to build and support Open Source software on OpenVMS.
eCube: Oracle is releasing Java 1.9 this year and Java 1.7 will go into maintenance mode. Since OpenVMS on Integrity only supports Java 1.6, what are the plans to support new Java platforms in the future?
Answer: VSI is in the process of porting Java 1.8 to OpenVMS. We expect to release in the Q4 calendar year 2016 to Q1 calendar year 2017 timeframe. We are also providing newer versions of Java related products.
eCube: What about modernization tools? Can modernizing the development environment help OpenVMS grow in the future?
Answer: Yes, it can definitely help. VSI has put together a series of training classes for customers and our ISV partners that develop applications for OpenVMS, to not only introduce them to modern tools but to make them proficient on OpenVMS using these modern tools. Modern tools allow developers to code from their local desktop device where they can compile, debug and deploy the application on remote OpenVMS systems. The advantage of using modern tools is reduced development and support time, which saves development costs.
eCube: What are the obstacles that VMS Software faces down the road and how can that be resolved?
Answer: Complacency in the market place, meaning that customers will continue to use lowest common denominator operating systems in terms of security, availability and total cost of ownership. VSI OpenVMS is a better and lower cost solution. Our job is to get the word out to customers so they can make a more informed decision.
eCube: OpenVMS is extremely stable and durable platform. In today’s market where young kids hack together operating systems with no regard to memory, CPU or IO usage, are these features of OpenVMS an advantage or disadvantage?
Answer: There is a price to pay on commodity systems, in terms of speed and efficiency, when you waste CPU and memory and it becomes apparent when you have large-scale applications. OpenVMS has huge competitive advantages in terms of security, availability and total cost of ownership, which all users of computers desire whether you are a corporate entity or young kids looking for an application development platform. The disadvantage is that people forget what they have, the function it is performing and why they have it. OpenVMS is truly lights out computing where OpenVMS systems receive little attention, due to its inherent high availability and security features.