Charon enables OpenVMS footprint reduction

The most important steel company in Europe needed a recovery plan for IT disasters. Disaster Recovery (DR) is essential to non-stop operations like the one at the ArcelorMittal plant in Sestao, Spain. The challenge was to build recovery infrastructure for an AlphaServer system. Manufacturing of such systems stopped more than a decade ago.

ArcelorMittal has run OpenVMS on an AlphaServer for more than 20 years. The company was facing a shortage of replacement servers, a problem for thriving enterprises that depend on legacy systems. Moving its DR system to an emulated platform was a way to release its hold on legacy hardware. “We scouted four different solutions and tested them extensively,” says Process Engineer Jose Luis Laso. “We finally chose Charon-AXP from Stromasys, based on advantages that we experienced during our testing.”

Emulation-based architecture succeeds when it triggers no changes to applications. An identical platform is the goal, one where more common hardware—easy to procure, maintain, and upgrade—stands in for legacy servers. With more than two decades of solid service from its Meltshop and Rolling Mill software, ArcelorMittal wants to preserve investments in mission-critical technology.

Standing at the heart of the steel company’s meltshop and mill solution is an Alphaserver DS20. The hardware continues to serve, but its future is assured because of the Stromasys Charon emulation. “We found superior stability, ease of use, and no need to change anything in our applications,” Laso says of Charon-AXP.

On the other hand, some new opportunities will enhance the ArcelorMittal operations. “Our problem was the hard drives, because the SCSI discs in the original hardware are now out of stock,” Laso says. “We could only purchase used disks.” Building its DR systems upon standard Intel-based servers, running Charon, means IT operations will use everyday, well-provisioned storage devices.

The options for standardizing components and servers are so rich that Laso believes Charon will replace the operation’s original Alphaservers. The DR system will be leading the way to establish emulation as a production-grade choice. “By using Charon-AXP, we’re able to reproduce the same level of performance of the original systems, but with modern, standard x86 servers,” Laso says.

Adding window-driven interfaces for the legacy software is now within reach, he adds. OpenVMS applications with such a long history were first introduced with legacy user interfaces. Charon delivers windows to OpenVMS apps.

The improvements in IT infrastructure will translate to more cost-efficient operations. Laso estimates that “we’ll reduce our systems’ footprint by 90 percent” using emulated Charon servers. “We’ll be hosting all of our OpenVMS environment in one rack of x86 servers.”