Canonical Kills Ubuntu Maverik Meerkat (10.10) for Itanium (and Sparc)

It wasn’t long ago that Red Hat and Microsoft released statements that they would no longer support Itanium (with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows respectively). Now Canonical has announced that Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Long Term Support) will be the last supported Ubuntu on not only Itanium, but Sparc as well.

Itanium has thus lost three major operating systems (Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Windows, and Ubuntu Linux) over the past year. For HP Itanium owners, this means that Integrity Virtual Machines (IVMs) running Red Hat Linux or Microsoft Windows Server will no longer have support from HP (since the operating system designer has ceased support).

The only bright spot for HP’s IVM is OpenVMS 8.4, which is supported under an IVM for the first time. However, response to OpenVMS 8.4 has been mixed.

Martin Hingley has an interesting article about how the dropping of RHEL and Windows Server from Itanium will not affect HP; I disagree. For HP’s virtual infrastructure – based on the IVM product – the two biggest environments besides HP-UX are no longer available. An interesting survey would be to find out how many IVMs are being used and what operating systems they are running now and in the future.

With the loss of Red Hat and Microsoft – and now Canonical’s Ubuntu – this provides just that many fewer options for IVMs – and thus, fewer reasons to use an HP IVM. OpenVMS could pick up the slack, as many shops may be looking for a way to take OpenVMS off the bare metal, letting the hardware be used for other things.

If HP IVMs are used less and less, this could affect the Superdome line as well, as running Linux has always been a selling point for this product. As mentioned before, this may be offset by OpenVMS installations.

This also means that Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server becomes the only supported mainstream Linux environment on Itanium – on the Itanium 9100 processor at least.

From the other side, HP’s support for Linux seems to be waning: this statement can be found in the fine print on their Linux on Integrity page:

HP is not planning to certify or support any Linux distribution on the new Integrity servers based on the Intel Itanium processor 9300 series.

Even if HP doesn’t feel the effect of these defections, the HP’s IVM product family (and Superdome) probably will.

Why Java is the Future for OpenVMS

Support for Java in OpenVMS has increased over the years, and now Java for OpenVMS on Integrity is part of the basic system, and includes Java JDK 6.0 and JRE 6.0.

Installing the Secure Web Server (SWS) – based on Apache – you also get Tomcat and Perl for free.

As long as OpenVMS remains viable, I personally expect both Perl and Java to flourish on this platform. Especially, when not using Perl for typical administration tasks, I expect that Java will be available for more powerful duties.

I would even expect to be able to put things like Stripes, Spring, or even Scala and Lift onto OpenVMS. With the portability of Java, one could potentially just copy over class files, Java archives, or even web application archives and expect things to (mostly) work.

The support for both Perl and Java on OpenVMS makes for an exciting time – and Tomcat to boot.

Share your experiences with Java on OpenVMS…

Watch Out! Using SFTP to Transfer Files to OpenVMS…

The HP ITRC Forums has a thread on problems transferring files to OpenVMS using SFTP. The symptoms were that transferring files to OpenVMS would result in a corrupted file.

The problem’s cause was rather insidious: due to the way file versioning works, the new file inherits the old version’s attributes, which could be incompatible with the UNIX file format. When this occurs, the result is a corrupted file.

The fix is to convert the file attributes to StreamLF. Steven Schweda recommended this utility:

$! 12 December 1999. SMS.
$! CONVERT a file to StreamLF record format.
$ convert 'p1' 'p2' /fdl = sys$input:
FORMAT stream_lf

Steven also suggests this utility, which finds all files that are non-streamlf – with an optional parameter specifying files to look at:

$! 9 November 2006. SMS.
$! Find non-directory files matching P1 which are not
$! Record format: Stream_LF.
$ if (p1 .eqs. "")
$ then
$ p1 = "[...]*.*;*"
$ endif
$ file_old = ""
$ loop_top:
$ file = f$search( p1)
$ if ((file .eqs. "") .or. (file .eqs. file_old)) then goto loop_end
$ file_old = file
$ if (.not. f$file_attributes( file, "DIRECTORY"))
$ then
$ rfm = f$file_attributes( file, "RFM")
$ if (rfm .nes. "STMLF")
$ then
$ write sys$output "''rfm' ''file'"
$ endif
$ endif
$ goto loop_top
$ loop_end:

The rule is: when working with UNIX files on OpenVMS, create a streamlf file first! This will prevent corrupted files.

HP ITRC to Enter Read-Only for Three Days

HP announced that the HP ITRC is to undergo maintenance late in May, during which time the ITRC will be read-only.

Maintenance will start on May 19 at 6:30 am GMT, and end on May 22 at 3:00 pm GMT. During the time that ITRC is read-only, no new forum messages can be posted, and no changes to user profiles, favorites, or notifications will be possible.

All of those that use HP support should be using HP ITRC as much as possible; I’ve found that the HP-UX and OpenVMS support is fantastic. There is quite a lot of expertise behind the readers and responders of the forums.

Perl 5 Development Resumes: 5.12 Released

Perl 6 development began in 2000, and ten years later it remains unready for production; thus several developers have come along and kick-started Perl 5 development once again – and now Perl 5.12 has been released.

Jesse Vincent made the announcement on the Perl development mailing list; he also announced the new release schedule for Perl 5, which is a production release in the spring and a development release monthly. The official release page for Perl 5.12 is over at CPAN:

Over at ActiveState – the best-known supporter of commercial scripting languages such as Perl, Ruby, and Tcl – the ActiveState blog announced the release of Perl 5.12, followed by the release of ActiveState Perl 5.12.

For HP-UX, Merlijn Brand announced he was building Perl 5.12 for HP-UX, and the HP-UX Porting Centre already has Perl 5.12 packaged for download.

HP uses ActiveState Perl for HP-UX, but uses standard Perl on OpenVMS. I don’t see any word about 5.12 on OpenVMS, but no doubt it will come. Likewise, Perl 5.12 on HP-UX will have to run through the vetting process before it is officially introduced into HP-UX.

I see that Ubuntu has not rolled out Perl 5.12 into Karmic Koala. Their software roll-outs also depend on Debian, so we’ll see how long this takes.

Part of the reason that Perl 5 was revived is because the development of Perl 6 – a complete rewrite and redesign from scratch – is taking so long. Arguably, the complete redesign of Perl is contributing to the stagnation of Perl development (until this year). A complete redesign is a difficult thing, and some people believe that the redesign of the Netscape browser lead to Netscape’s downfall.

It really does appear that a complete redesign of a successful software project is rarely successful; more successful is the evolving process that most software goes through – including, in some cases, refactoring and subsystem replacements (for example, replacing the virtual memory subsystem in the Linux kernel or the replacement of the Ruby execution interpreter for 1.9).

We’ll just see what the future holds for Perl 6 – but I’m not holding my breath.

TECO as a CGI Language??

Now this is just downright scary…

Tim Sneddon made a wisecrack about running TECO in a CGI environment – then decided to make it happen just for fun.

Aside from the fact that TECO on Itanium is notoriously unstable – this is totally insane (and wonderful!). As a language, TECO is almost certainly powerful enough; EMACS was originally written in TECO. It was this fact that got me started looking at TECO.

Tim shows how to set up WASD to run *.TEC files as TECO command files, and then provides an example.

Microsoft Joins Red Hat in Dropping Itanium Support

Red Hat announced at the end of 2009 that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will not support Itanium, and now Microsoft has announced that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version to support Itanium.

This is not good. HP is the largest vendor of Itanium systems – they should be, since Itanium was an HP-Intel joint venture. Intel just introduced the new Tukwila chip in January, and now Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will not be found on the chip.

Most pertinently for HP, this means that Integrity Virtual Machines running Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will neither be available nor supported.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is still available for Itanium, as is HP-UX, and OpenVMS is due soon. Time will tell if this bailout by Red Hat and Microsoft will affect HP’s bottom line; Intel should be relatively unscathed.

UPDATE: Fixed factual error.

Alpha Emulators

Emulators are an excellent way to replace aging hardware, saving electricity, rack space, and support costs. (Don’t think you’ll save on administration costs though: the operating system still requires support….)

However, finding emulators for architectures other than the i386 and its ilk can be difficult, particularly for recent orphans. The really old processors are emulated more often (such as the PDP series and others emulated by the SIMH emulator, or the System/370 and its ilk emulated by the Hercules emulator).

Emulators for the DEC Alpha are out there, but are not that easy to find. Stromasys has several, including the PersonalAlpha that can be used for personal use and the Charon-AXP which is a commercial product. For Charon-AXP, they now offer the Charon-AXP NCE (Non-Commercial Edition) which runs on Linux. Charon-AXP has for a long time been the best-known Alpha emulator out there, and there is a lot of recommendations for this product from those in the know.

There is also the open source project ES40, which aims to create an open source ES40 emulator. ES40 has a presence on Ohloh and on Sourceforge. There doesn’t seem to have been any activity on the project over the last year, which is unfortunate.

There is another emulator, FreeAXP, now entering beta status. FreeAXP emulates an AlphaServer 400 and is a prelude to a commercial Alpha emulator product from Migration Specialties, and FreeAXP will be available for commercial and non-commercial use. The current FreeAXP beta appears to be for 64-bit Windows only; the 32-bit Windows version was to come later.

Both FreeAXP and PersonalAlpha appear to be for Windows XP or Windows 7 only; neither list Windows 2000 as an option, and neither run on Linux or Unix. There is a Charon-AXP for OpenVMS, however.

News about Alpha emulators can often be had over at the OpenVMS Hobbyist Portal. After all, what better to run on an Alpha than OpenVMS?

Mainframe Linux: Pros and Cons

Why would one want to move Linux to the mainframe (such as IBM’s z10)? There are many reasons – and many reasons not to. Computerworld Australia had a good article describing (in part) some of the reasons the insurance company Allianz did just that. IBM has been pushing Linux on the z series for some time, and Red Hat and SUSE offer Linux variants for that purpose.

One common reason to move to a mainframe is that Linux servers have proliferated in the data center, taking up valuable space and becoming quite numerous. When all you need for a server is the hardware and a low-cost or no-cost Linux, then servers start popping up all over the place.

A single mainframe such as the z10 can handle thousands of servers (a test done in 2000 put 41,400 Linux servers on one IBM mainframe). The replaced servers can then be eliminated from the data center, freeing up valuable space and reducing the workload of current system administrators.

A common instance is where the company already has a mainframe in-house, running COBOL applications. Thus, the purchase cost of a mainframe (in the millions of dollars) has already been absorbed. Such a scenario also makes the case for a new mainframe much more appealing, as it puts the enhanced power to work immediately.

Replacing thousands of Intel-based Linux servers with a single mainframe will reduce cooling costs, power costs, physical space requirements, and hardware costs.

So why would anyone not want to use a mainframe?

If there is not already a mainframe in the data center, purchasing a mainframe just for the purpose of consolidation can be too much – mainframes typically cost in the millions of dollars, and require specially trained staff to maintain. Adding a mainframe to the data center would also require training current staff or adding new staff. A new mainframe also requires a new support contract. All of this adds up to not just millions of dollars of additional cost up front, but additional costs every year.

Another consideration is the number of Linux servers in the data center that would be moved. If there are dozens – or a hundred or two – it may not be entirely cost-effective to focus a lot of energy on moving these servers to the mainframe.

A supercomputer such as HP’s Superdome (with its attendant iCap and Integrity Virtual Machine capabilities) would probably be a better choice to consolidate dozens of Linux servers. The costs are lower, and the power requirements are lower – and you can purchase as much or as little as you need and grow with iCap. Most companies also already have UNIX staff on hand, and adapting to HP-UX is not generally a problem if needed.

Another benefit is that a server such as the Superdome offers virtualization of not just Linux systems, but Microsoft Windows and HP-UX as well – and soon, OpenVMS as well.

Using a large Intel-based server can virtualize a large number of servers with software from companies like VMWare and Sun.

These options won’t necessarily allow you to virtualize thousands of servers – but then, do you need to?

Subversion joins Apache

ApacheCon 2009 ended recently – and like other good conferences, there were a number of announcements of interest.

One of the interesting announcements was on 4 November 2009, when the Subversion project (currently hosted at announced that they would become absorbed under the Apache Foundation umbrella as part of the Apache Incubator. (Subversion has an excellent online book available).

There doesn’t seem to be any licensing change. It should not affect other projects based on Subversion; most notably for this author is SVNKit, the Java-based client library – which, in theory at least, will run under OpenVMS with Java.