AVTware and Vere Technologies congratulate VMS Software Inc. for successfully negotiating with HP to breathe new life into VMS. The entire VMS community will benefit from their efforts. We continue to partner with Nemonix in offering vtAlpha and vtVAX emulation to legacy customers, and we look forward to working with VSI to bring new solutions and new life to loyal VMS customers.
iSCSI is a popular protocol to connect storage across the company LAN, creating a distributed storage infrastructure. vtAlpha and vtVAX already support SAN and NFS network based storage and has now embedded (v2.9.0) iSCSI into its Bare Metal product.
No need to add extra software, everything you want is included in the product. You only have to identify the iSCSI targets that you want to connect to your virtual Alphas and VAXes to make the remote storage elements available to your virtual machines.
Your virtual Alpha and VAX do not need to be aware of all the modern types of storage. They still think they use MSCP, DSSI, SCSI or FibreChannel, while in fact their files are stored on local disks of any kind or somewhere in the company network using SAN, NFS or iSCSI.
Let us know when you want to hear more about this.
Version 2.9 (released July 7, 2014) includes quite a few interesting new features, the most important items summarized here:
- vtVAX can now replace 5 and 6 CPU VAX6000 and VAX7000 systems, addressing the very high end segment of the VAX replacement market
- vtVAX already performed factors faster than the original VAX hardware, this version adds even more virtual CPU performance
- vtAlpha increased its Floating Point performance and added the DE600 Ethernet adapter to its virtual adapter list (= EIx device in OpenVMS).
- FibreChannel storage was already supported, this version adds autosensing of changes in a FibreChannel storage infrastructure. Adding and removing of devices is automatically detected and instantly available for the running virtual Alpha and VAX instances without having to stop/start them.
- Support for iSCSI storage is added in this version. Your virtual Alpha and VAX can use local storage of any kind of network based storage (NFS, SAN, iSCSI).
- vtAlpha resource monitoring. When a virtual Alpha frequently exhausts the CPU or memory resources it has available, the system manager is notified so more host resources can be allocated to ensure the virtual Alpha can work at the maximum speed.
- Multiple DNS servers. Support for up to 3 DNS addresses is included in this new version for maximum flexibility.
There are many more smaller improvements included in this release. If you want to know more about that, contact your local vtAlpha/vtVAX reseller. They will be happy to give you the information you need.
Virtual LAN (VLAN) is not something you will directly associate with Alpha and VAX systems, but in vtAlpha and vtVAX VLAN support is embedded in the product. Now you can simply run your Alpha and VAX communication across your company VLAN infrastructure.
And no extra software needs to be installed, just add a VLAN to your network link with the help of the vtMonitor management tool and use that VLAN in your virtual Alpha or VAX configuration. Easy does it.
Contact us when you want to hear more about this capability.
vtAlpha/vtVAX supports the most frequently used Virtual Machine products: VMware, KVM, Xen and Hyper-V. Recently we received inquiries about the Oracle product VirtualBox for Windows, mainly from people who like to run vtAlpha on the Windows notebook they carry around. So, not for real production, just nice to have.
VirtualBox currently lacks support for an operation that is used by virtual Alpha’s. Fortunately there is a fix available that can be applied to VirtualBox, so you can run virtual Alpha’s in that environment too.
For VirtualBox in Windows, open a command window (cmd), go to the directory VirtualBox is installed in (e.g. cd \Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox) and enter the following command:
VBoxManage setextradata global VBoxInternal/CPUM/CMPXCHG16B 1
That fixes the issue and from now on you should be able to run your virtual Alpha’s in that VM environment too.
vtAlpha and vtVAX are created/supported by AVTware and Vere Technologies who work in close unison to bring virtualization to OpenVMS and Tru64 users to prolong the lifetime of their software.
vtAlpha started as Bare Metal, running Alpha virtualization without the need of a pre-installed operating system like Windows. vtVAX was originally developed on Windows since there was a high demand for that environment. Now vtVAX is also available in a Bare Metal version, able to run side-by-side with vtAlpha on the same host computer. The vtVAX Windows version remains available, updated and supported.
(click on the image to get a larger picture)
This image shows the vtMonitor management interface running a virtual Alpha DS10 and a VAX 4000-105 (marked green in the left hand pane) together on the same host system. The console on the right shows the VAX4000, the left one the DS10.
This shows that the vtVAX and vtAlpha products provide the best integration of virtual VAX and Alpha in the market.
vtAlpha Alpha virtualization runs Bare Metal (directly on top of the host computer) and on a Virtual Machine (VMware, KVM, Xen, Hyper-V) delivering the broadest choice in host environments. We even deliver the vtAlpha product as a VM appliance that you can easily import in your VM so you can start using vtAlpha without going through installation and configuration. Easy does it.
Virtual Machine products can offer live host migration (e.g. VMware vMotion). It allows to migrate a running Virtual Machine from one host computer to another. This is a feature that we like to support and offer to our (virtual) OpenVMS and Tru64 customers for improved resilience. We were pretty sure we could make vtAlpha survive such a live host transition, but what about OpenVMS and Tru64? These were not designed with such functionality in mind, so how would they survive the time lapse that is involved with such a host transition?
We can report that we managed to mask such an event from these older operating systems so any running vtAlpha can be transitioned from one host to another using this VMware capability. We have posted a short video showing such a transition here: vtAlpha host migration.
This capability enables you to build virtual Alpha installations with a disaster resiliency that can be better than with the original Alpha equipment. OpenVMS and Tru64 enthousiasts thought things couldn’t get better than with these operating systems. Guess what: they just did!
Proof is good, but customer confirmation is better. We have multiple customers using this capability and JCC, USA recently reported their positive experience on Twitter,
Check it out and let us know when you want to hear more about this capability.
On April 3, 2013 AVTware gave birth to vtAlpha v2.7.
Additional characteristics of this brand new vtAlpha family member:
- Support for legacy storage types (MSCP, DSSI, IDE and RAID).
- Network File Storage (NFS) included. Interesting for “on the fly” off-host backups.
- vtAlpha full system partition backup and restore.
- Email alerts to notify system management of critical issues.
- Virtual PBXDA (Serial Line Adapter) enhancements.
- Full VMware Vmotion support (migrate a running OpenVMS/Tru64 system from one host to another)
- Various improvements in the management tool.
With this new version vtAlpha shows its constant growth in functionality, again including many requests we receive from our customers.
We encourage you to keep us on the edge, improving the product by telling our local representatives about your desires and requirements for vtAlpha.
OpenVMS Bootcamp 2013, in Bedford MA. An important gathering of openVMS experts from all over the world. Four days full of OpenVMS information exchange and knowledge sharing between the participants. Lecture rooms and hallways buzzing with VMS news and facts.
The OpenVMS operating system and community, 35 years of age and still extremely vivid.
In the evenings there is some time for letting your hair down, although always with a business undercurrent. The Roundhouse is a very good example. A buffet dinner on one of the evenings where the dining table are combined with information tables where OpenVMS partners are present to discuss matters with the attendees.
This event is tradionally concluded with a raffle where people can win OpenVMS related prizes. AVT and Vere offered a free Carry-on Alpha, which was won by David Bartz of Quest Diagnostics. Allowing him to run a virtual DS10 on any x86 computer or vitual machine he can lay his hands on.
OpenVMS clustering was already included in vtAlpha from the early beginning and with version 2.6 TruCluster support (Tru64 clustering) is added.
vtAlpha TruCluster support allows moving all Tru64 installations to a modern X86 host platform and form a cluster. Modern storage products (e.g. 3PAR) are supported, without your Tru64 based software knowing about it. Upgrade your storage to the latest level!
vtAlpha supports clustering via FibreChannel, SCSI and logical disks. Implementation examples:
- Replacing a hardware Alpha in a running multi-node FibreChannel based cluster. Mixed Cluster of physical and virtual Alphas
- Replacing a Alpha cluster by a virtual equivalent running on HP Proliants.
When you would like to learn more about this we invite you to let us know (contact request page) so we can follow up on your request.
Aside from being a quick and easy way to prolong the life time of your Alpha applications, applying vtAlpha can be a serious contribution to lowering your energy consumption.
We ran a energy consumption measurement between an AlphaServer of average size and its vtAlpha equivalent. The results were significant.
A four CPU Alpha Server consumed 630 Watts. Its vtAlpha equivalent consumed only 230 Watts.
60% less energy consumption by using vtAlpha!
When you combine two of these Alpha’s on a single host, power consumption will drop from 1260 Watt to 290: 75% less!
Also, the energy candle burns on two ends: power consumption results in heat dissipation, which you have to cool down again, so the gain is x 2. When you have Green Goals to achieve vtAlpha will certainly help you.
And there is more.
We have developed the Eco App, allowing vtAlpha to cut energy consumption even further. Eco App shaves another 25% of your energy consumption. It is packaged with vtAlpha, you only have to add it to OpenVMS or activate it in a Tru64 installation. There are no downsides for its use, no performance loss or anything else, so we recommend to always activate it.
Please check your vtAlpha documentation, your vtAlpha support person, or ask us to contact you.
Tractebel in Brussels, Belgium developed Tru64 and OpenVMS applications for which there is demand outside the current installed base. Using refurbished Alpha hardware for these new installations was not an available option.
Hence they looked at Alpha virtualization that enables them to run the existing Tru64 and OpenVMS software on top of regular x86-type host systems. Multiple Alpha virtualization products were investigated and vtAlpha is their preferred choice.
HP provided the brand new OpenVMS / Tru64 licenses for this installation and everything works like a charm
It shows that with the help of vtAlpha it is still possible to expand the Tru64/OpenVMS customer base, using regular x86 equipment as the host platform.
You too can move your existing Alpha installation to x86-based equipment and prolong its life-time with the help of vtAlpha.
vtAlpha pre-installed and preconfigured on a USB memory stick. Combined with the product license on the same stick this gives you a mobile and instantly usable virtual Alpha, maintaining the Bare Metal approach.
You can plug this mobile device into any system you want to use and run your virtual Alpha’s directly on it, just like that.
It is actually not something totally new.
We have been offering this solution to our resellers from the early beginning of vtAlpha, in order to allow them to demonstrate Alpha virtualization on their personal laptops without removing the existing disk content.
It allows to use the laptop for presentations and reboot it from the USB stick for a product demonstration.
Later, when we added full Virtual Machine support, this function faded a bit into the background. But recently we detected renewed interest for this special implementation in the real Alpha world.
So we dusted off the initial product, added extra functionality and now we have it available for anybody who wants a mobile Alpha solution. You may run one or more virtual Alpha’s from the same USB stick, depending on your license content.
Plug it into a system and run vtAlpha from the USB device. Use all disks in the host as physical disks. Create a diskless Alpha, that takes its storage from the host or the company SAN. Carry your personal Alpha with you all the time (shown key hanger not included since we don’t have anymore real Alpha chips).
Please contact your nearest vtAlpha reseller when you want to know more about this product (they can show it instantly, since they already carry the key with them), or ask us to contact you.
AVT, as a recognized HP partner, participates in the annual HP Discover event, this time in Frankfurt.
-The- major gathering of all IT IQ in Europe.
Numerous breakout sessions to keep the audience interested and educated.
In between there is the opportunity to visit the partners exhibition floor to witness all the theory working in real life.
An event to certainly be present on.
When you are on-site, come and visit us in Kiosk 817 to talk about the future of your VAX and Alpha applications.
Customers who are running multiple virtual Alphas on a single host like to share high speed Ethernet links by multiple virtual Alpha’s. Especially when running on Blade systems that most often only have very few Ethernet connections. For these customers, and the ones with many Ethernet links, we have developed the Virtual Ethernet Switch.
The system manager can create one or more Virtual Ethernet Switches inside vtAlpha that can serve multiple purposes:
- Allow multiple virtual Ethernet adapters to share a single host adapter
- Assign multiple physical Ethernet adapters to a Virtual Switch for fail-over capability
- Interconnect multiple virtual Alphas in one host without the need for a physical Ethernet link.
Depending on the line load and the capacity of the host links, many virtual Ethernet adapters can share a single host connection.
Creating Virtual Switches, adding/removing host adapters and managing these things can be simply done from the Toolbox/Network tab in vtMonitor.
Contact us when you want to learn more about this feature.
vtAlpha v2.5 is available now.
- Virtual Network Switch for optimal use of low profile and blade host systems,
- Eco App support for Tru64 v5, cuts down the energy consumption of your virtual Alpha environment
- Additional performance improvments
Check with your vtAlpha provider for details or contact us.
With version 2.4 vtAlpha gets stronger in two different ways:
– performance increase (appr. 30%)
– the full implementation of virtual FibreChannel support.
You can now connect virtual Alpha’s with a FibreChannel SAN. The principle is simple: first we added support for FibreChannel (hardware) adapters to the vtAlpha host environment (vtAlpha v2.3), allowing you to connect the vtAlpha host to the FibreChannel SAN. As the next step we created the virtual FibreChannel adapter (KGPSA) that you can add to the virtual Alpha configurations you are using.
Image 1 shows the vtAlpha FibreChannel architecture and the capabilities it offers. You have vtAlpha changing your x86 system into an Alpha environment, where in this case you have two virtual Alpha’s running, a virtual ES40 and a virtual AlphaServer 4000. Both virtual Alpha’s have (virtual) KGPSA FibreChannel storage adapters included, like you would have in a hardware Alpha (visualized by the physical DS25 at the right hand side).
vtAlpha includes the drivers that handle the traffic with the FibreChannel adapters (FCA) in the vtAlpha host. Which on their turn are connected to a FibreChannel switch that interconnects all FibreChannel elements in your company storage architecture.
This setup leaves all options open for you, from only using the company SAN as a storage provider up to more complex Clusters based on FibreChannel. The latter you can (continue to) organize from your OpenVMS or Tru64 environment.
Image 1 could present a FibreChannel Cluster between two virtual and one physical Alpha (or Integrity, if you like). Or it could be three independent Alpha’s, connected to the Company SAN. Or anything in between.
With the full virtual FibreChannel adapter implementation vtAlpha stands out from all other solutions in the market. vtAlpha does not require any special (and expensive) hardware for the host computer, or a special precautions at the software side.
This is more work for our developers, but it is easier and better for the customers. And a lot less expensive too.
Want to know more? Let us know and click here
The Alpha computer was considered more secure and reliable than other environments.
For this reason potential customers frowned upon running a virtual Alpha on top of a foreign operating system like Windows or Linux. This is perceived as not reliable/secure enough and the virtual Alpha has in fact no control over that foreign environment.
One of the design goals of vtAlpha was to maintain the secure and reliable status of the Alpha and avoid the vulnerability issues a foreign operating system introduces.
By embedding the Operating System Functions and Peripheral Drivers into the vtAlpha product it exercises full control over the host environment it runs on, while preventing foreign influences that can compromise the reliability and security of your virtual Alpha.
This is an important protection by design, but there are other security holes to watch out for.
To connect the Alpha and x86 worlds and to allow the virtual Alpha’s to make optimal use of the modern hardware, adding some management capabilities for the virtual Alpha environment was inevitable.
Everything is protected by user-id password of course or sometimes by physical access, but management over the network is preferable and therefore included. Unfortunately the network is always an area where you can screw up your security, so we paid extra attention to that.
By default vtAlpha opens up the following network ports only:
|22350||vtAlpha license key|
|Which you can expand by enabling the following capabilities (disabled by default):|
|139/445||SMB (files sharing)|
As a system manager you can also choose to open other network ports, for example to support console line access over the network. vtAlpha offers extra protection for your console lines.
For good security you should always use HTTPS to handle the remote management via vtMonitor, protecting the information exchange between the system manager and the vtAlpha host system.
So try to not use the HTTP protocol.
Access to the vtMonitor tool is protected by user-id password.
Use FTP and SMB wisely, having them active at all times is in fact a potential security hole.
During the HP event in Vienna I attended a presentation about HP’s project Odyssey and that looked like a very interesting development to me, especially for the owners of Tru64 and the older OpenVMS systems.
What is project Odyssey, for those who haven’t heard of it yet?
HP-quote: “customers will be able to run mission-critical workloads on HP-UX on Intel Itanium®-based blades while simultaneously running workloads on Microsoft Windows or Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Intel Xeon-based blades in the same Superdome 2 enclosure”.
So in fact this is a blade concept, supporting Itanium and Intel Xeon processor based blade boards that will be seamlessly integrated in one box.
“And what does that bring me?” you might say as owner of one of these retired Alpha or VAX systems.
When you consider the combination with vtAlpha and vtVAX it can bring you a lot. Your current Alpha and VAX-based systems got a more and more isolated position due to the retired status of that hardware, but now they can be brought back in a recent and company wide platform, without changing your software.
vtAlpha and vtVAX are thin layers on top of an x86 based host computer creating an Alpha or VAX environment wherein you can run the virtual equivalent of your hardware Alpha or VAX system.
It are actually Alpha and VAX hypervisors (or Virtual Machine Managers, if you like) creating multiple Alpha and VAX systems on top of the x86 host. And that x86-host can now be part of the Odyssey infrastructure.
This means that with project Odyssey and vtAlpha/vtVAX you can reunite your older OpenVMS and Tru64 systems with your other, more current Itanium-based, HP-UX, Linux, Non-stop and Integrity/VMS systems on the same platform.
Odyssey, Hypervisors, Virtualization, no this is not an episode of Star Trek. It is a real opportunity to update your retired Alpha and VAX installation to a more modern platform and (re-)combine it with the rest of your IT-infrastructure, with little effort.
There are more people that follow the same thought-line, see for example this article.
Time to beam-up your existing Alpha or VAX installation?
We like to hear your opinion about this subject.
Installing vtAlpha on a Virtual Machine host, like VMware (Also KVM, Xen and Hyper-V are supported) requires some extra attention, since you have to deal with VM defaults and organizational procedures that are in place. This list helps you to plan ahead and clear obstacles prior to the installation day.
- Define suffient memory. VMware’s default for the virtual machine is 384 MB. vtAlpha requires the size of the virtual Alpha memory +25% + 1 GB.
- Virtual CPU definition. Every virtual Alpha CPU needs one host CPU + some overhead. As a rule of thumb we recommend to multiply the number of virtual Alpha CPU’s by 1.5 (and round upwards).
- Use DVD for installation. vtAlpha can be installed from DVD or USB stick, but not all virtual machine products or versions support USB. Booting a virtual machine from a USB-stick is often prohibited at all. Therefore we recommend to use DVD or an .iso image of that DVD to connect to the virtual machine and boot from that virtual DVD device. When using an iso-image make sure to deactivate the “connect to DVD at power on” or switch the VM settings back to physical DVD connect after installation, otherwise it will start the installation cycle again at next boot
- Ensure you have N+1 Ethernet adapters available in your virtual machine. N for the number of adapters you need in your virtual Alpha(s) and 1 extra to manage the vtAlpha host.
- Preparation meetings. Other than installing on a physical machine where you are in more direct control of the host system and have direct access to it, virtual machine environments require more careful planning and preparation. You have likely no access to the physical host of the virtual machine (where do I leave my license key?) and you have to honor the (sometimes very strict) policies and procedures regarding network access and authorizations. We recommend to discuss the vtAlpha installation and requirements with the people responsible for the virtual machine and network environment prior to the installation event to avoid unscheduled delays.
- Ensure you have defined sufficient storage space: 20 GB + amount of GB for the data from the physical Alpha(s). Create a seperate 20 GB disk wherein you install vtAlpha and keep it seperate from your data disks. This way you can always upgrade or reinstall vtAlpha without affecting the Alpha data storage.
These suggestions also apply for vtAlpha installations on other Virtual Machine products.
We welcome other recommendations that make life easier.
The AVTware team.
The idea of replacing an AlphaServer by a virtual Alpha running on a modern and more common host computer is welcomed by most IT managers. The concept of computer virtualization is a functional and financial very attractive solution. The main advantages are that Alpha virtualization is a very quick and inexpensive way to move your existing applications to a newer platform.
It lets you prolong the lifetime of valuable and important applications by replacing the supporting hardware platform. Not having to change your delicate and expensive software is a very important benefit.
The importance of their applications makes people very wary when they hear that potential solutions run on a foreign operating system like Windows or sometimes Linux. The main concerns focus around security and reliability.
Alphas and VAXes are known to run uninterrupted for years in a row, so their successor faces the same expectations. A foreign host operating system is a reliability risk since the virtual Alpha has no control over it. Changes made to the host operating system are outside the scope and influence of the virtual Alpha. Bug-fix or service pack updates of these host operating systems sometimes cause compatibility problems with the execution of the virtual Alpha, resulting in unscheduled down-time for the virtualized Alpha system(s).
vtAlpha addresses these concerns by running the Alpha virtualization native on a standard x86-type host.
Bare Metal Approach
vtAlpha can run directly on the x86 host. It includes an integrated operating system kernel that supports a broad range of peripheral devices, ensuring the vtAlpha solution supports and will continue to support most available x86 related peripherals.
It is an x86-based Alpha, a unique proposition.
vtAlpha also runs on virtual machines. Virtual machines are increasingly becoming the IT infrastructure of choice with our potential users, therefore our solution is designed to support that environment.
In fact vtAlpha has the broadest range of host system support available:
- It will run directly on the physical host hardware
- It will run on virtual machines
- It will run on top of other host operating systems, when required
The more layers, the more CPU performance vtAlpha has to share with these other layers. Bare Metal is the optimal option
When replacing your physical Alpha by its virtual equivalent in vtAlpha you will cut down your energy bill quite some since the Alpha computers were not exactly ‘Green Machines’. You can cut the energy bill even more by combining multiple virtual Alpha’s on a single host system.
To further cut down the energy consumption we developed the vtAlpha Eco App (Energy Conservation Application).
The vtAlpha Eco App (freeware) detects inactivity in the virtual Alpha CPU-usage and releases the host CPU(s) when this is the case. This downsizes the energy consumption (power, fans, cooling, heat dissipation) a great deal. Running the Eco App has no negative side effects and we recommend to install and activate it at all times.
Other virtual Alpha products run the Host CPU at full throttle, consuming lots of energy and wearing down the physical host fast, forcing early replacement. Using the Eco App on vtAlpha prevents this from happening.
The installation and activation method depends on the type and version of the guest operating system (OpenVMS/Tru64). For Tru64 v5 installations the Eco App can be activated by executing the ‘set ecoapp‘ command in console mode. For OpenVMS we developed a client package that needs to be installed in OpenVMS. A similar client for pre-v5 Tru64 versions will become available in the near future.
Ask your vtAlpha provider for the vtAlpha Eco App or contact our support people for more details.
Welcome to the Virtualization Weblog (Vlog) that we will maintain on our site.
With the help of this Vlog we want to keep you abreast of all kind of news related to the world of Alpha and VAX virtualization we operate in.
We will publish relevant articles or share articles we are aware of with you. But foremost we would like to use this Vlog as one of the ways to communicate with you.
Learn from your feedback and use it to improve ourselves.
We are looking forward to meet you on this Vlog.
The AVTware Team