Post by John Dallman
The current "open source on OpenVMS" caused me to wonder how VSI's
strategic plan for OpenVMS and its applications works. Some bits are
fairly easy to deduce, but others are far less clear.
The OpenVMS customer base has been slowly shrinking for quite a while.
Since VSI lives on support contract income, this is a serious problem.
* High reliability.
* OS-level clustering, rather than application-level clustering.
* Other specific features of OpenVMS.
* Lack of ability to migrate to another OS at reasonable cost.
* Customer staff who prefer it, and have the ability to block changes.
None of those reasons can overcome a prolonged lack of hardware that can
run OpenVMS, so VSI are doing the right thing by making it possible to
run the OS on commodity hardware, and providing the programming languages
and other tools needed to port a lot of customers' software to x86.
Exactly which languages and tools should get priority depends on what
will get VSI the most income, and they know far more than us about what
their customers are using.
But the reasons for carrying on using OpenVMS don't obviously indicate a
particular field or market segment of computing where OpenVMS usage is
concentrated. It seems likely that the existing customers are a somewhat
random selection of the organisations that took up VMS in the 1970s
through 1990s. That creates a problem.
DEC was a large organisation, capable of having expert teams in most
fields of computing. VSI probably can't manage that. Their efforts to
grow the customer base will presumably have to be focused on one or two
areas. There seems to be a potential problem after customers start
transitioning to x86: demand for software for many different fields, from
a wide variety of customers.
Porting open source is one answer, but there's an awful lot of it out
there, making for a huge task, and doing it is at least as complicated as
porting Linux software to Windows. That suggests that a Linux
compatibility layer/library might be a good idea, but there have been
several past attempts at that, and none seem to have got established.
It's not obvious to me what VSI should concentrate on once OpenVMS is
working on x86 and customer transitions have become routine. It is clear
that should be some kind(s) of server work, but not which ones.
I have been waiting for such a thread for years. A VMS user who dares
open questions about the VMS supplier strategy.
I'm not kidding. The VMS ecosystem culture is not about collaboration
between the suppliers and the users to determine their common future.
I have been thinking about differences of paradigms between IBM,
Free-World and VMS. In the Free-World everyone is the leader. In IBM
world the board is the leader, and the customer is the king. In VMS
world the board is the leader, and he does'nt need any advice from
anyone, because he knows what is good :)
What makes me happy is the time did change somethings. Decades of
utilisation of the very-well-thought Digital products created
wery-well-formed users. And perhaps they can now help the board.
My opinion is that a successfull strategy has to be founded - also - on
an accute analysis of the identity of the ecosystem.
The first question could be: why did VMS survive? I remember discussion
here in 2013. Everyone was thinking VMS will die. And it was a very well
founded opinion. VMS could have die like sun, for example: old things
die, new things take their place... I'm not sure we have totally
understood why VMS escaped the common rule. And it seems we have to
understand that to continue escaping the common rule.
There are two pieces of answer on that. First we have to understand what
have been the major things which explain the success of VMS in the
beginning. And second, understand how theses specific qualities match
our time needs and trends.
My hypothesis is twofold. The bet for mini-computer - against the main
frame, and more ingenieered than the unix constant rewriting - was about
locality and for mastery. VMS survived because it offers at the place
where it is needed a way of mastering the computer usage.
- A parenthesis for the new VMS ceo, who had been leader in a company
helping main frame users : VMS ecosystem is not at all the same world.
IBM & co did succeeded with a strong value for service. VMS users are
more individual masters, who are a little bit suspicious about the
marvelous offers of service -
Locality and mastering, which involves temporal stability, are the new
major needs of the future decades. It is yet a little bit clandestine,
because the huge investments are all about miracoulous service. However
the x milions invested on Vms are just a tip compared to the billions
invested to serve us, it is not the same world. And it is possible that
VMS is beginning to build something more humbly usefull, which would
resist even to the storms.
To be able to cope with the long cycles, maturing tools because of real
needs, being able to analyze the successes and the failures, thinking
structurally, avoiding waste, thinking about reusability... all that is
the major (future) trend of our time. It is that trend which has been
met with the revival of VMS, and which is at least one of the conditions
of the revival.
So I think VSI strategy will be a success if VSI knows about that, and
conforms with the actual potential of the ecosystem. And also if the
users themselves analyze why they are successfull with VMS, and dare
express their advice.
I have to say until today the VMS ecosystem strategy is not at all on
such a way.
You are talking about what will be the future with the transition to x86
done. I dare say let's work for this transition to be a success, because
it is a huge challenge, and perhaps don't think only in terms of
transition, but in terms of respect of the passage of time. And even we
could emit critics, if we think they can help... but it is another thread.
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