Programming Languages on OpenVMS

Looking at OpenVMS administration, and investigating the possible languages to use on OpenVMS, there are many options – some supported by HP and some community open source options.

One of the first options is Perl; apparently Perl was originally designed as a way to write scripts that worked under UNIX and VMS both. Bernd Ulmann wrote an article for OpenVMS Technical Journal 13 about Perl on OpenVMS and gave a presentation on it in the spring of 2009 at an HP Connect OpenVMS Meeting (English translation) in Germany.

The HP version of Perl appears to be tied to the Secure Web Server (SWS) but it can stand alone.

Another language that is growing on OpenVMS is Java. Jean-Yves Bourles and Thierry Uso wrote on Java and OpenVMS in OpenVMS Technical Journal 10. Netbeans is available from HP to facilitate Java development on OpenVMS.

With Java available, that opens up the possibility of perhaps using a language that runs on the Java JVM as well. That brings to mind JRuby, Jython, Groovy, Scala, and Clojure. Information on most of these is rather scarce unfortunately; only Scala and JRuby have ports (both by the aforementioned Thierry Uso). Personally, these two are the most interesting to me; Scala has unmatched integration with Java itself as well.

Python is also available. Python seems to be the new administration tool of choice; at least, Red Hat seems to think that way.

As part of the Secure Web Server (SWS), you also get HP’s version of PHP. However, this does not seem to be a separate product as Perl is, and there is no description of using PHP as a scripting language (which you can do by running PHP against a file from the command line).

Lua is graciously made available for OpenVMS by our friends over at Hoffman Labs. Lua is a fantastic scripting language that doesn’t get the cover that it deserves.

Lastly, Tcl/Tk is available as well.

So which do I recommend? Well, Perl, PHP, and Java are all HP supported products, so one could start there. With Java, I see Scala and JRuby being fantastic languages as well, although they are not supported by HP. Lua is also a favorite of mine; an OpenVMS version is wonderful; however, Lua is not as widely available for other platforms as is Perl and Java.

I should mention that PL/I is still active on OpenVMS; it is commercially sold and supported by Kednos. PL/I was an interesting language, but it doesn’t have modern capabilities.

At the German site there is also a big list of OpenVMS ports (including languages).

Are you ready for programming on OpenVMS? I am!

Scripting on the Java Virtual Machine

Now that OpenVMS has Java, and that HP-UX has Java, I started wondering about the possibility of running a scripting language on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) as a way of supporting all these diverse environments with the same code and tools.

Choosing a language can be difficult, especially when there are so many good ones to choose from. I’ll assume for purposes of discussion that one is already familiar with at least one or more computer languages already (you should be!).

So what are the criteria a system administrator should use to choose a language on the JVM?

  • Does the language have a strong and vibrant community around it? The language might be nice, but if no new development is being done on it, it will eventually fail and stop working on the newer JVM. Bugs will not be fixed if development has halted. It also helps to have a large variety of people to call on when trouble arises, or when your code has to be maintained in the future.
  • Does the language support your favored method of programming? If you have no desire to learn functional programming, then don’t choose a language that is a functional language. Find a language that thinks the way you do (unless you are specifically trying to stretch your mind…).
  • Is your preferred langauge already available for the JVM? There are implementations of Ruby (JRuby), Python (Jython), LISP (Armed Bear Common Lisp), Tcl (Jacl) and many others. A language that you already know will reduce your learning time to near zero on the Java Virtual Machine.
  • What are the requirements? For example, JRuby requires a dozen libraries; Clojure and Armed Bear Common Lisp have no outside requirements. Which is simpler to install onto a new machine?

So what languages am I looking at? I am looking at these:

  • Clojure – a LISP-like functional programming language which seems to be taking off handsomely.
  • JRuby – Ruby is my all-time favorite scripting language, and having it available whereever the Java VM is is a very tintillating prospect. It’s also directly supported by Sun, the makers of Java.
  • Groovy – this is a new language that takes after Ruby and Smalltalk, and it is growing in popularity at a dramatic pace.
  • Scala – this is a language with a strong developer base and an object-oriented and functional design. Don’t know much more about it yet.
  • Armed Bear Common Lisp – ABCL is a full Common LISP implementation for the Java VM, and is used as part of the J editor. Unlike ABCL, development on J seems to have stopped; development on ABCL has gone through a resurgence after not quite dying for several years. ABCL is the closest thing to LISP on the JVM, and is usually the first mentioned – even though its development community is not nearly as strong as Scala or JRuby.

These are only the ones I’ve chosen to focus on; there are many, many more.