Archive for: Product and Services

An Interview with Chris Li on Semiconductors and Legacy Hardware Emulation

Read an interview with Chris Li, Stromasys managing director in Asia Pacific, about the important role of legacy hardware emulation in the semiconductor industry:

SEAJ: What do you understand about Japan’s semiconductor industry?

Mr. Chris Li, Stromasys managing director, Asia Pacific: I have been following the trends of the semiconductor industry worldwide, as I have spent a good amount of time studying semiconductors at university. I was an electronics and electrical engineer, and I graduated from London Imperial College in the early 90s. Semiconductors fascinate me with their ability, with the ever increasing packing of transistors, and their versatility, with manipulation by doping. Japan is the world’s third largest electronics manufacturer and the fourth largest export market for SME (semiconductor manufacturing equipment).

The semiconductor monthly sales figures for Japan are over three billion U.S. dollars. The industry had been facing some stiff challenges in the past few years due to a stagnant economy and the fact that Japan missed the mobile trend. However, consumer trends directly impact the semiconductor industry and the trend is moving towards IoT (Internet of Things). Japan is poised to tap this opportunity over their time.

SEAJ: How could Stromasys contribute to Japan’s semiconductor industry?

Li: Given the long history of Japan’s semiconductor industry and the mission-critical applications that have been in use in various stages of the semiconductor manufacturing process, there are inevitably legacy systems being used. By legacy system, I mean a previous or outdated computer system for which production had been stopped for a long time. There are various reasons for these legacy systems to be kept, perhaps due to the risk of rewriting applications, return on investment challenges, interface with peripheral devices, etc. In all cases, these companies are incurring high maintenance charges on the legacy systems; they are bearing the reliability risk of buying used replacement parts, etc.

Stromasys has a very unique range of products called “Charon,” which emulate (or virtualize) various legacy systems. This means that Charon replaces the legacy hardware. Users can port their existing applications (with no re-installation necessary) to a Charon emulator that runs on Linux or Windows on the latest x86 machine or in the cloud. We preserve our clients’ software investment across hardware generations.

SEAJ: How would this benefit our members?

Li: In the semiconductor industry, precision is paramount, and therefore there are good reasons to keep the existing applications intact. With a Charon solution, users don’t have to make a single change to their applications. Even if they have lost the source code, Charon emulation can help. The time and effort for porting the application to a Charon emulator is minimal.

With no dependency on the aged legacy systems, maintenance costs are reduced significantly. Also, users are able to significantly reduce risk of hardware failure and improve performance. The new system provides a wider range of peripheral devices. Finally, there are savings in operation costs, such as decreased power consumption, heat dissipation, and space occupation.

SEAJ: Any success cases of Stromasys in Japan and worldwide?

Li: Stromasys has implemented cross-platform virtualization solutions for the world’s leading companies in over 70 countries. We have been doing businesses in Japan for well over 10 years. One recent semiconductor client is Renesas (at their Palm Bay, Florida site), where they had five SparcStations,
five Sparc Ultras, and a Sun Blade. The Sun Blade ran on Solaris 8, and the rest ran on SunOS
5.6. Nine of these systems were dedicated to controlling furnaces, and the others played various
roles in controlling the tools and equipment related to semiconductor production.

SEAJ: That all sounds good. How about emulation coverage and costs?

Li: Currently, our Charon emulation covers SPARC, Digital VAX, Alpha and PDP-11 and HP 3000 servers. Within each of these server types, there are a large variety of models that we support. We are also partnering with Oracle to provide our Charon solutions in the cloud. In terms of cost, return on investment to clients is phenomenal. In most cases Charon would be less than one year’s maintenance and operation costs. I strongly recommend your members contact us for a free consultation with no commitment. Please see our contact details below.

About Stromasys

Stromasys is a pioneer in enterprise-class cross-platform legacy server emulation solutions, providing modern infrastructure for legacy applications. Our virtualized environments include:

Charon-PDP: Virtualization/ Emulation of PDP-11 systems.
Charon-VAX: Virtualization/ Emulation of VAX/ VMS configurations.
Charon-AXP: Virtualization/Emulation of Alpha/ VMS/ Tru64 solutions.
Charon-HPA: Virtualization/ Emulation of HP 3000/ MPE technologies.
Charon-SSP: Virtualization/ Emulation of SPARC/ SunOS/ Solaris infrastructure.
Charon on the Cloud: Virtualization/ Emulation of SPARC, Alpha, VAX, and HP 3000 systems in the cloud.

Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with sales, engineering, and research and development offices located around the world, Stromasys has implemented cross-platform virtualization solutions in over 70 countries to help organizations lower costs, protect their investments, improve performance, reduce risk, and provide easier maintenance. To find out more visit www.stromasys.com or follow us on twitter @stromasys_HQ.


Announcing New Version Releases for Charon-AXP, Charon-VAX, Charon-PDP and Charon-SSP

 

We are pleased to announce the release of the new versions for Charon-AXP, Charon-VAX, Charon-PDP and Charon-SSP. The new versions are available immediately and will be the standard on all new licenses. Stromasys is also pleased to inform you that these updated versions are accessible for all customers under Stromasys Support. Below are the key features of the new releases for each Charon product line.

Features of Charon-SSP Version 1.4

  • Increased CPUs and faster performance
  • New graphics emulation as well asaudio emulation
  • Network boots (for starting multiple installations centrally)
  • Serial lines multiplexor emulation
  • Support for Hyper Threading
  • Addition of Solaris 9 support for 4M

Features of Charon-AXP, Charon-VAX, and Charon-PDP Version 4.8:

  • Introduction of Windows 10 support
  • Re-introduction of RHEL 6.5 and above support
  • New graphical user interface on Windows (a single window application which consolidates all Charon management tasks) and text based user interface on Linux
  • Functionality and performance improvements on Charon-AXP

Features of Charon-AXP/SMA/SMA Plus/Station Version 2.3:

  • All the bug fixes and other improvements have been incorporated into the release
  • Introduction of Windows 10 support

For all products, see the latest software product description here.

Contact Stromasys Support to request your upgrade.

 

Click here to view our latest newsletter, where these version releases were also shared.


Five Reasons Businesses Wait to Emulate Their Legacy Hardware

 

Do you have legacy hardware you haven’t emulated yet? You’re not alone. We find that many businesses hold off on emulating their hardware until they absolutely have to. If it’s working, it may seem as if there’s not much of an incentive to change anything–especially when changes cost money and require dedicated time.

Waiting can be risky, and it can also be more costly in the long run. We’ve compiled a list of the top five reasons we hear from businesses about why they put off emulating their legacy systems–and we’ve included some information about why waiting isn’t your best option. Take a look:

1. Nothing’s broken

The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is often hard at work, but waiting to emulate legacy hardware until something breaks can be very expensive. Have you considered what that downtime would cost you?

2. It’s not a priority

Legacy systems aren’t necessarily the most glamorous systems. As your business is modernizing on other fronts, these back-room systems can fall to the wayside. But shouldn’t mission-critical apps be a priority?

3. Sounds expensive

Well, yes, emulation isn’t free. But our solutions are often less that a single year’s maintenance of the original hardware. And customers have seen annual maintenance fees reduced by as much as 90%. Read about it here.

4. It’s a temporary fix

While emulation can be a short-term solution before a full migration, it’s also the long-term solution for many customers. If your business has a time-tested legacy app, it still has a long life ahead of it once you swap out the original hardware for an x86 or cloud environment.

5. What? Emulation?

We’re always encountering customers who thought their only options were to buy spare parts for the legacy hardware or move to an entirely new platform. Emulation is the low-risk, cost-effective option employed by businesses around the world. If you’re ready to consider emulating your hardware, contact us today.


Supporting Tru64 Users with Legacy Alpha Emulation

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.

For more information on next steps for your legacy system, visit our Solutions page or contact us for a consultation.


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.


Meeting Performance Goals with Virtual SPARC from Stromasys

For many organizations considering virtualizing their legacy systems, the joy of eliminating the risk of aging hardware is just one piece of the puzzle. Another important consideration is whether a virtual environment can achieve the same performance levels as the original hardware. While hardware emulation often carries with it the implication of a slower system, we work with our customers to optimize our solutions to meet performance requirements — and, in some cases, even surpass them.

Thales Alenia Space used a SPARC system to support the Centre National des Etudes Spatiales (CNES, the French space agency). It processed assembly, integration, and testing data from the IASI instrument before its long journey in space. The SPARC hardware was aging, and in order to protect the applications and data, they needed a solution that could emulate the SPARC hardware without changing the software. It was essential that the virtual solution be able to meet the speed and floating point precision performance requirements of the original system.

Stromasys engineers collaborated with the Thales Alenia Space team to implement CHARON-SSP, our virtual SPARC solution, making sure that it would achieve the required performance. The team found the SPARC emulator from Stromasys to be both high-quality and cost-effective, allowing their application to continue running on new industry standard hardware just as it had on the legacy server. They can now continue to support the research goals of CNES without the risks associated with the aging SPARC hardware.

Interested in learning more? Click here to read the full case study.

We’re exhibiting at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco this week, September 18-22, showcasing our CHARON-SSP solution. Contact us to schedule a conversation and demonstration at the show or to set up a remote meeting.


Announcing CHARON-SSP Version 1.0.36

 

We have now released our newest version of our Legacy SPARC Emulator – CHARON-SSP: Version 1.0.36.

If you are currently running CHARON-SSP and have an active support contract, contact the Stromasys Sales Team or your Stromasys Partner to request your upgrade.

Benefits of CHARON-SSP Version 1.0.36:

  • CHARON Manager layout improvement
  • Introduction of CHARON Director for centralized management of CHARON SSP instances running on many Servers
  • X11 nested server panel with keyboard layout and graphics resolution configuration options
  • Password encryption between CHARON Manager and Agent
  • New Barebone versions based on CentOS with ISO images and USB installers
  • Bugs fixed

In addition, the following updates were released for specific versions of CHARON-SSP:

CHARON-SSP/4U and CHARON-SSP/4U PLUS

  • Performance improvement of approximately 10%
  • Up to 32 Serial Ports support with full modem control

CHARON-SSP/4M

  • Support for 2nd Ethernet Adapter emulation
  • Serial lines support for full modem control

Interested in more information about CHARON-SSP?

Thank you,

The Stromasys Support Team


CHARON-SSP Version 1.0.34 and CHARON-SSP/4U Plus

Improve Virtual Network Management with Legacy SPARC Emulation: CHARON-SSP Version 1.0.34 — and introducing CHARON-SSP/4U PLUS

We have now released our newest version of CHARON-SSP: Version 1.0.34.

If you are currently running CHARON-SSP and have an active support contract, contact the Stromasys Sales Team or your Stromasys Partner to request your upgrade.

Benefits of CHARON-SSP Version 1.0.34:

  • Improved virtual network management on host
  • Improved X11 start-up

In addition, the following updates were released with our 1.0.34 Beta releases earlier this fall:

  • Mapping host hard disk or partition to virtual disk image by hard disk serial ID
  • Better support on SCSI command pass through
  • Improved performance in LOAD/STORE instructions
  • Fixed booting problem in Solaris 10 u4 and u7
  • Added Solaris idle support
  • Optimized DIT for memset()function in C library
  • Improved OpenBoot emulation
  • Big improvement database application performance
  • Optimized page last instruction handling in DIT
  • SCSI: Response with unsupported opcode in mode sense(10) command
  • Implemented dedicated interrupt thread for interrupt housekeeping

 

Furthermore, we are glad to announce the release of CHARON-SSP/4U PLUS, our new solution for SPARC systems that runs on hardware and provides equivalent 1GHz SPARC CPU frequency:

  • CHARON-SSP/4U performance level on Intel v3 Processors @ 3.6 GHz is equivalent to 700+ MHz SPARC CPU frequency.
  • Introduction of new CHARON-SSP/4U+ that relies on Intel VT-x/EPT to provide 1GHz of equivalent SPARC CPU frequency when running on Intel v3 Processors @ 3.6GHz. Refer to SPD for features and SPEC2000 results.

CHARON-SSP/4U PLUS requires dedicated hardware and cannot be installed in a Virtual Machine. It is distributed as barebone on a customized Linux.

 

Interested in more information about CHARON-SSP?

Thank you,

The Stromasys Support Team


SPARC Emulation: Prevent the Costs of Unplanned Downtime

 

Unplanned system downtime on your legacy systems can be costly. In a recent post, we shared a few statistics about just what those figures might look like, but the costs of downtime in dollars, in time, in productivity, and in repercussions in general look different from one business to the next. Here at Stromasys, we know that downtime has real and substantial costs, and we make it our goal to alleviate the risk of downtime and the costs it has for organizations.

CHARON-SSP, Legacy SPARC Emulation Solution

For many years, we’ve been providing hardware virtualization solutions for PDP-11, VAX, Alpha, and HP 3000 systems, and we entered the legacy SPARC emulation market to provide the same relief to businesses running their applications on Solaris. Our CHARON-SSP solutions eliminate the risks of downtime that rise as hardware ages.

Over time, the hardware’s reliability declines. Though there is generally a long period of stability, there comes a point when the hardware is no longer quite so consistent: parts begin to fail, downtime becomes more frequent, and maintaining the hardware is not a sustainable option. This is depicted in the graphic below. Though the applications continue to run effectively and efficiently, the hardware has a shorter lifespan and cannot support those applications any longer.

Prevent unplanned system downtime

 

For businesses running early models of SPARC, CHARON-SSP eliminates the need for the declining hardware and enables the applications to continue running long into the future. Last week, we hosted a webinar on this very topic. With CHARON-SSP, our legacy SPARC emulation solution, businesses are finding a way forward for their aging applications. This is a way forward without unplanned downtime due to hardware failure and without the risks and costs associated with a full migration. It’s for these reasons, and many more, that so many companies around the world have chosen to virtualize their systems with CHARON from Stromasys. To learn more about CHARON-SSP, you can view the recorded webinar here.


Legacy Transformation for SPARC Systems

 

This week, a Stromasys team is at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco demoing Charon solutions and showcasing CHARON-SSP, our virtualization solution for Oracle Sun SPARC systems. As with our other Charon families, CHARON-SSP is designed to meet the needs of legacy system users, in this case SPARC users, creating a virtual SPARC environment and eliminating the aging hardware as it becomes less reliable and difficult to maintain.

SPARC virtualization from Stromasys offers a method of business continuity previously unavailable to SPARC users. CHARON-SSP, launched in April of this year, allows Sun Solaris applications that ran on SPARC systems to continue to run, unmodified, without the burden of the original hardware. For companies with proprietary applications, this is a major benefit. Why invest time and money in moving to a new system and new application when you already have one that is customized for your organization?

For companies with a data center filled with systems, virtualizing with CHARON-SSP means no massive migration, and for companies with huge staffs, there’s no retraining required. Applications run exactly as they did on the original hardware, and users interact with them just as before.

So how does it work?

CHARON-SSP creates a virtual replica of the original SPARC hardware inside a standard 64-bit x86 compatible computer system. It will run the original SPARC binary code, including operating systems like SunOS / Solaris, their layered products, and applications.

As far as Charon virtualization is concerned, the benefits are numerous: reduce risk, save money, lower costs, and improve performance with CHARON-SSP.

Visit us at Oracle OpenWorld to see a demo, or contact us for more information.