OpenVMS in The Cloud

The OpenVMS and Cloud world have long been seen as very different and not made for each other.
Where OpenVMS was designed to drive the (proprietary) hardware directly, the Cloud is a more fluid environment and OpenVMS would not be able to cope with that Cloud-software world really easy.

However, under market influence these two worlds will likely have to merge at some point in time. The question to combine them rises more and more often. How to achieve that?

AVTware, having lots of experience running OpenVMS on X86 based platforms, provides a good solution to run OpenVMS in the X86 Cloud. In fact – any – version of OpenVMS, not just the latest one. So, you would be able to transplant your OpenVMS environment from the special (and old) hardware to The Cloud, regardless whether you are running VMS version 8, 7, 6, 5, or even 4!

The AVTware solution creates a dedicated and protected OpenVMS-area inside the Cloud environment wherein you can run your OpenVMS systems without any problem. It is also supporting the special VMS network protocols like DECnet and Cluster traffic that are non-routable and cannot run just like that in the TCP/IP environment of the Cloud (especially not with the older VMS-versions).

This AVT VMS-in-the-Cloud area is protected and encryped, avoiding any interference or evesdropping from anyone else outside this VMS area. Also the network link to your company is encrypted and protected, so no outsiders can get access to it, not even we. To you and your users it will still look like the VMS-systems are still in your computer centre or basement, while they actually run somewhere out there, in the Cloud.

The AVTware solution runs in any Cloud environment and we tested on quite a few across the globe, big ones and small ones, with different technical architectures. However the larger and robuster providers have a preference, were it alone to make sure your OpenVMS environment runs on a sturdy platform, because the application software on OpenVMS is important to your operation.

AVT cooperates closely with Oracle and VMSsoftware to provide Cloud solutions to the OpenVMS community. However, when you have another preferred cloud-provider this will work as well.

AVTware also supports a combination of host platforms. It will run on X86 hardware, any kind of Virtual Machine product (e.g. VMware, KVM, Hyper-V) and any Cloud-solution that you may choose. And it can combine all these host technologies in one installation. The following image shows a situation where such a hybrid host environment is used.

This is a screen-capture of the vtMonitor management interface that on the left-hand side shows a list of different host systems. Resp. a VMware host (Apollo), a physical X86 host (i7) and an Oracle Cloud host, somewhere in the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Each of these hosts runs a single virtual VMS system as matter of example, but there could be many on each of those hosts.

And this is a 3-node VMS-cluster, running across a TCP/IP bound hybrid environment, something that VMS 7.3 was never able to support! With AVTware this can be accomplished quite simply

Please contact us when you like to know more about how to bring your OpenVMS environment to the Cloud,
all without making changes to your existing software.


VirtualBox support

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.

OpenVMS and Tru64 Live Host Migration

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.

Springtime, the birth of a new vtAlpha version

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.

Let us know what you like to see in the next version.

 

vtAlpha Virtual Network Switch

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 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.

Alpha and VAX Blade systems

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.

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.Alpha and VAX Blade

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.

Time to beam-up your existing Alpha or VAX installation?

We like to hear your opinion about this subject, Contact us.

6 Tips for a smooth vtAlpha installation on VMware

Installing vtAlpha on a Virtual Machine host (VMware, KVM, Hyper-V, Xen) requires some extra attention. 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.

  1. Define sufficient memory. VMware’s default for the virtual machine is 384 MB. vtAlpha requires the size of the virtual Alpha memory +25% + 1 GB.
  2. 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).
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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 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 virtual machine managers before installation.
  6. Ensure you have defined sufficient storage space: 20 GB + amount of GB for the data from the physical Alpha(s). Create a separate 20 GB disk wherein you install vtAlpha and keep it separate 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.