While legacy hardware is failing, the legacy operating system and the original applications have a much longer lifetime. Typically, they are still in great shape even when the original hardware begins to break down. Charon solutions are a way to move forward and continue using those durable legacy operating systems and applications, but without the pain points of the aging hardware. The below is an interview with Sandy Levitt, Senior Sales Engineer and Director of Sales Operations at Stromasys. Sandy has many years of experience with DEC systems and the Tru64 operating system. Read this interview to learn more about how Charon can help legacy system users move toward Alpha emulation and how Charon supports the Tru64 operating system, as well as others like OpenVMS, Solaris, and MPE.
Sandy, would you describe how you first became involved with legacy systems?
The first Unix I ever worked on was Ultrix, which ran on MIPS and VAX from Digital Equipment Corporation. At first I worked as a presales engineer in the government space, helping sell what was the state-of-the-art BSD-based Unix. It was not enough for me, so I ended working in the Customer Support Center, helping to fix customer problems. DEC was an innovative company at the time, and soon enough they were coming out with a new Unix called OSF/1 that we were going to support on what was going to be the fastest chip out there, the Alpha. (OSF/1 later became Tru64) Business was growing and so was the call volume. Our team kept growing and growing until we had about 30 people.
And you have continued to work with Tru64, Unix, and DEC legacy systems since then?
Fast forward about 15 years. Since that time, Digital was bought by Compaq, and then by HP, which had its own systems, and UNIX- HPUX. It took time, but eventually the number of customers running Tru64 was dwindling. Linux had become the de facto Unix, and X86 the de facto chip. Not to say that there were not other Unix types and chips, but the market had definitely shifted. HPE no longer provided engineering support for Tru64. As of Dec 31st 2016, HPE will no longer support Tru64.
What was remarkable, though, was how many major customers still had Alphas running Tru64. It was and still is a reliable, stable workhorse to critical applications in all different industries.
What brought you over to Stromasys?
When I was let go in 2014, with 20+ years of experience in Tru64, I was not sure where my future was going. I was learning Linux, but it wasn’t the same. How could I continue my love of Tru64 in the modern Cloud/VM/x86 world?
The answer lay in Stromasys. When I found out they were hiring, I was so excited. Would working for a company with about 100 employees be different than working for HP (now HPE)? It definitely would be, but for the better. Within Stromasys, and its customers, is a love for the legacy systems and operating systems. Why migrate an application that runs perfectly fine on a stable operating system? The only problem is that the hardware was starting to fail. But here the OS and application could continue to run on modern X86 systems. At Stromasys, I have watched many customers migrate their Tru64 systems seamlessly to emulated hardware, so that they continue to run mission critical applications. The amazement that these customers have in what we do—that’s why I do this.
Secretly, though, I also do this because I see the operating system that I grew to love for 20+ years continue to live. Working with Tru64 is like slipping on that old sweatshirt. It just makes you feel good.
As a Tru64 expert yourself, how do you see Stromasys addressing the needs of other Tru64 users?
It does so by providing a stable environment for Tru64 to run on. Since Tru64 is stable as an operating system, experience dictates that most crashes and downtime are due to hardware failing. As I mentioned earlier, Stromasys also is able to provide support for Tru64, as HP is discontinuing all support as of December 31, 2016.
So that means Tru64 users and the organizations relying upon the operating system won’t have to worry about downtime caused by an unsupported operating system, right?
Exactly. We have a team of Tru64 experts who will provide the same kind of support for not only our Charon solutions that allow hardware emulation of the original DEC hardware, but also for the Tru64 operating system that runs on top of it.
What advice would you give to engineers still using these platforms daily within their organizations?
Any migration plans will take double the time originally anticipated, so don’t neglect these systems. And, of course, getting rid of the hardware risk and placing the legacy application and operating system on x86 is the safe thing to do.