Running OpenVMS on Virtual Hardware


Last month, we were a sponsor of OpenVMS Boot Camp in New Hampshire, the largest event specifically for members of the OpenVMS community. OpenVMS, along with Solaris, Tru64, and MPE, is one of the legacy operating systems our customers frequently run on their legacy hardware.

As everyone at OpenVMS Boot Camp would attest, OpenVMS is a great OS. One of the reasons so many businesses still use it (since its original release in 1977) is precisely because of how reliable it is. While the VAX and Alpha hardware is no longer produced, the operating system and the applications running on it are doing just fine.

One of many questions we were asked at OpenVMS Boot Camp was whether a company needed to upgrade to a particular version of OpenVMS in order to adopt a Charon hardware emulation solution. There are minimum versions of OpenVMS required, based on the VAX or Alpha model to be replaced, but the vast majority of our customers do not need to upgrade. Here’s why:

Charon Solutions

Our Charon solutions are hardware replacement solutions. We swap out the aging hardware and replace it with a new, industry standard server running our Charon software solution. Charon software allows a modern x86 server to function exactly the same way the legacy server always did. Because this is strictly hardware emulation, the legacy operating system and application(s) continue to run without any modifications or code recompile.

This means that it doesn’t matter what version of OpenVMS, or other legacy OS, you’re running. Those layers are migrated over to the x86, and we don’t change them in the process.

Benefits of OpenVMS

There are a couple of major benefits to this. The most obvious one is that for all intents and purposes, the legacy system continues to function just as it always has. In fact, we’ve had a number of implementations where end users were entirely unaware that changes had taken place. They interact with the system, with the application, exactly as they always did. If end users do observe a change, it’s typically because of a performance improvement, such as a report that can be completed in a fraction of the time it would have taken on the original hardware.

A second benefit is the Charon emulator translation is bit for bit compatible with original DEC systems, including floating point precision.  Stromasys uses Digital Equipment Corp.- developed tools to ensure Charon is 100% compatible with the original hardware, including MDM (MicroVAX Diagnostic Monitor),  UETP (User Environment Test Package, part of VMS),  and AXE (DEC’s VAX and Alpha CPU architecture verification tool).

Another benefit to our legacy hardware emulation solutions is that, because nothing above the hardware level is modified, no recertification is required. For many verticals operating under heavy regulations or compliancy standards, changes to the OS or application would require that the business undergo a lengthy and exhaustive recertification process to validate the system, but our solution makes that unnecessary. By exchanging the aging hardware for a more modern, reliable alternative, Charon solutions mitigate risk while providing a straightforward and low-hassle path to business continuity.