Archive for: OpenVMS | Stromasys

“We used to have a guy for that…”

In discussions about aging technology, IT managers often state this. While most companies used to have the skillset to maintain all parts of their infrastructure, there’s a hidden and increasing risk. The expertise is gone but those systems and infrastructure still operate within the organization. Not only do they operate, but they play a mission-critical role and are often proprietary and customized to the organization.

Without the skillset, gaps in support within the layers of infrastructure emerge and usually, at the worst time. In 2017, 146 million individuals’ personal information was exposed at Equifax because “the complexity of its legacy system contributed to a failure to patch a critical vulnerability,” wrote Robert Charette in Inside the Hidden World of Legacy IT Systems. Within Equifax, there was a lack of support knowledge about its legacy systems. In other words, the company used to have a guy for that.

To understand the risks in support, it’s important to first understand each layer of the infrastructure, specifically the hardware and the operating systems.

 The hardware layer

Legacy hardware has played an integral component in IT departments for decades (SPARC servers were first introduced in 1986). As they’re now at end-of-life status, they’re at risk of unplanned downtime, increasing maintenance costs, and a growing security risk. Alarmingly, often the skillset within a company to help mitigate those risks is gone.

IT departments need to deal with this unstable layer, and they’re faced with either rewriting the applications in an expensive and time-consuming migration strategy or finding spare parts on eBay to keep the hardware (and its risks) running. Another solution is a “lift and shift” emulation strategy, which will decommission the hardware and shift the legacy applications to a modern platform or the cloud without any modification or recertification to the application. The risk of downtime is eliminated, maintenance costs decrease, and without the dependence on legacy hardware, IT departments can take advantage of new technologies.

The operating system

Operating systems don’t age the same way as hardware, but without knowledgeable troubleshooting and support, they pose an increasing security and stability risk. These systems have ongoing patches and fixes but when it comes to these older, end-of-life OS versions, the original vendor doesn’t provide the patches.

An IT department needs to have the expertise to troubleshoot, resolve issues, and help a company with their security strategy. Finding a support provider (or training your own staff) that understands the challenges the organization faces, specializes in a system’s specific version and then can also implement workarounds and the patches needed is essential.

There are four main areas for patches: 

  • Stability patches: These patches fix a performance issue.
  • Security patch: These are often the most critical to apply under any type of regulatory framework.
  • Kernel patch: Only provided by the vendor, these usually occur with the first year or two of the system being released.
  • Firmware updates: Vendors typically stop upgrading firmware about one to three years from the release date.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees about what constitutes a patch, and most IT managers believe that if a vendor no longer provides patches, the system must be upgraded. But with the right expertise and support, this is not always the case. Upgrading can often come with a lot of hidden costs, including new storage and migrating the data and metadata. Version locking is one strategy that a proper support vendor would know and continue to keep your environment secure.

It’s important to not wait until an infrastructure layer fails or is exposed but to have the support in place for mission-critical applications. With that proper support, IT departments can keep costs down, their operations running smoothly and the opportunities to take advantage (and reap the benefits) of newer technologies.

For more in-depth information, view our webinar, sponsored by the OATUG, How to close the EOL systems drain and modernize your IT infrastructure


Stromasys support on a lonely Saturday morning

 

At work on a late Friday afternoon, an IT manager at a global company looked forward to a relaxing weekend with his wife. It was going to be sunny and they had plans with good friends. While enjoying a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, his phone rang. He saw it was from the office. His heart sank; it could not be good.  

 

His colleague told him that a Windows server had been shut down yesterday for routine maintenance. However, the mission-critical OpenVMS system, the manager’s responsibility, wouldn’t come back online. At that point in time, the entire Northern European database of customer membership information was not accessible to about 50 agents.

 

The IT manager’s first thought was that it could be the Charon™ emulator by Stromasys. Several years ago, he had aging VAXes with critical applications on them, such as the Northern European system. He had a vendor for hardware support but the service had been unsatisfactory. His counterparts in North America recommended Stromasys’ “lift and shift” software, Charon. Within the North American offices, it proved to be a cost-effective solution to migrate away from legacy hardware. The European manager worked with Stromasys to successfully shift the legacy applications to a Windows server running Charon-VAX emulation. Until that Saturday morning, operations had been running smoothly.  

 

He needed the system back online ASAP, and in a panic, he sent an email to the Stromasys support team. With his past experience of customer service, he didn’t have much hope for help. To his surprise, a Stromasys engineer, Alexandre Souf, replied within an hour with eight other engineers CC’d on the email. 

 

Working with Alex, the manager figured out it wasn’t the Charon emulator and yet, the system was still offline. Alex stayed on the phone with him to troubleshoot the problem and they eventually found that it was a VMS system issue. Alex continued to work with him as he ran the checks to get the system back online.  

 

“It’s a lonely situation to be told on a weekend that a system you’re responsible for, is down,” stated the IT manager. “It was such a relief to get an immediate response from the Stromasys support team, even though the problem was not Charon. Their software is a great solution for legacy hardware and their support makes the product outstanding.” 


Emulation in disaster recovery plans: How and why it works

 

Martin Novak, IT Manager at Professional Target Marketing (PTM), needed to protect one of the company’s main assets. A large database of customer information was mission-critical for the company and Martin knew he needed to ensure business continuity and put a strong disaster recover (DR) plan in place. Based in Toronto, PTM is a marketing firm primarily servicing the pharmaceutical industry.

We sat down with Martin to find out the “hows” and the “whys” he got to the DR plan he ultimately put in place.

Tell us about your company and why it was a priority to have a DR plan
PTM, formerly Formedic Communications, helps pharmaceuticals target Health Care Professionals (HCP’s) as part of their go-to-market strategy. With ongoing work with a dedicated team of data professionals, we continue to update our growing database of HCP’s and their information for marketing campaigns on behalf of our clients with their consent. So, essentially, the customer database forms the “bread and butter” of what we do. If it’s gone, our main asset is gone.

I knew I needed a strong DR plan and it was up to me to find it.

What were the different options you looked at before choosing Stromasys?
At that point, most of our production VM servers were backed up to the cloud. Except, I had an OpenVMS system running on two Alpha servers. OpenVMS was being used as the critical application server to update data in our Oracle database.

I knew I could buy another Alpha server used, set it up in a cold location and create a connection. But then, I would still be dealing with hardware and I would still have to back up the data in the cold location both locally and then remotely back to our head office. This would also require additional hardware for the local backup.  It wasn’t a good long-term plan for DR…and I would still have hardware including a new backup device for local backups!

How did you find Stromasys?
In a January 2019 at an Oracle seminar, they were looking for beta testers to migrate VMS systems to the Oracle cloud. Stromasys was recommended as an expert in migrating away from hardware to the cloud and Stromasys already had experience in migrating to the Oracle cloud.

How did the implementation plan go?
As this was my DR plan, I had a lot of questions about back-up. But the Stromasys team, particularly Greg Reut, were patient, helpful, and extremely responsive. Greg even wrote a script for me for the back-up plan. And it didn’t matter when I would email him, he would respond promptly. I never had to wait long. I felt like I was in good hands with Greg and the whole team.

How has the Charon solution helped with your overall IT strategy?
I finally have a real DR solution! The alternative still had hardware in the plan and it was expensive. I feel confident with Greg and the Stromasys engineering team and I’m sleeping at night knowing there is a business continuity plan in place. The customer database, our “bread and butter” is protected.

 

Are you facing challenges with your legacy system? Contact us today for a free consultation of our Charon software solution or to migrate to the cloud.

Use our FREE ROI calculator to get a quick snapshot on how much you could save in budget and resources.


Leading Classic Hardware Emulation Provider, Stromasys, Leverages Expertise to Enhance Support Options for OpenVMS Clients

RALEIGH, NC — April 18, 2018 – Stromasys, Inc., the global leader in legacy system virtualization solutions, today announced the launch of its OpenVMS Operating System support on both the original VAX hardware and emulated platforms. This new initiative complements its virtualized Charon VAX platform. It is a seamless service solution that guarantees the legacy hardware clients an outstanding ongoing service experience.

The primary role of this additional support offering is to assist this passionate community of software professionals in keeping their mission-critical applications and systems running smoothly around the clock. The classic VAX/ OpenVMS OS clients will benefit from the launch of the new Support platform through:

1) Industry- leading service levels and response times.
2) Support during standard business hours on a global basis.
3) Multiple support channels to make sure any event is logged, processed, and resolved.

“We approached the new offering as a way to support a thriving software community,” said John Prot, CEO of Stromasys. “We welcome all OpenVMS OS customers to the Stromasys family and are excited to provide support to those customers still utilizing VAX physical or emulated hardware to run mission-critical applications. By providing ongoing support to classic systems, the organizations can keep moving forward with their company’s key business initiatives and with increasing their footprint.”

The leading provider of legacy hardware emulation solutions in the world with an installed base of more than 70 countries, Stromasys has the skills, experience, personnel and resources to support the OpenVMS customer base. With the addition of the new support offering, Stromasys will have the capabilities to service and support organizations utilizing VAX physical and emulated servers running OpenVMS globally.

About Stromasys, Inc.:
Stromasys is a pioneer in enterprise-class cross-platform legacy server emulation solutions, providing modern infrastructure for legacy applications. Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with sales, engineering, and research and development offices located around the world, Stromasys has cross-platform virtualization implementations in over 70 countries to help organizations lower costs, protect their investments, improve performance, reduce risk, and provide easier maintenance.

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 environments in the cloud.
For more information on Stromasys, call 919-239-8450, or visit at https://stromasys.com/.

Contact:
Matt Barker
Chief Marketing Officer
Stromasys, Inc.
919-239-8452
matthew.barker@stromasys.com
www.stromasys.com


Stromasys Names VMS Software Guru Susan Skonetski to the Director of Customer Development Position

RALEIGH, NC — April 3, 2018 – Stromasys, Inc., the global leader in legacy server virtualization solutions,

has named Susan Skonetski to the position of director of customer development. Ms. Skonetski will be responsible for assisting Stromasys with user modeling, forming a legacy hardware and software ecosystem, expanding growth opportunities, and helping to execute the company’s product strategy.

Ms. Skonetski was most recently employed as vice president of customer advocacy at VMS Software Incorporated. Sue has extensive experience in customer relations, client development, and community building within the OpenVMS user base.

“Stromasys continues to grow at a record pace,” said John Prot, CEO of Stromasys. “Charon is now deployed in 70 countries, offering conclusive evidence of the benefits it brings to our customers: preserving classic applications with faster performance and at lower cost. Sue will enhance our growing team, which is focused on reaching even more companies and organizations, through new channels.”

Sue Skonetski added, “Through my experience, I’ve seen up close the critical role that these legacy systems play in daily business cycles. Helping to ensure the availability of these applications is imperative with decreasing service and support options for SPARC, Alpha, VAX, and HP 3000. Stromasys’s innovations—along with their strong team of software designers, solution’s executives, and account management professionals—made joining the organization a natural fit. I’m proud to help bring to market both cutting-edge solutions and the user communities of these systems. It will create efficiencies for the unique business needs of organizations while also driving improved performance.”

Sue will be focused on the market success of the product portfolio, developing and executing a communication strategy to engage with the Stromasys customers and potential clients. In addition, she will utilize her deep knowledge of the market to drive a well-rounded ecosystem for users of legacy hardware and software. Through the knowledge gained, Skonetski will be aiding the organization’s product strategy into a new phase of integration.

Ms. Skonetski has extensive software training and provides a passion for applying technology automation to enhance business processes, reduce costs, and provide tools to allow companies to capitalize on investments they use every day.

About Stromasys, Inc.:
Stromasys is a pioneer in enterprise-class cross-platform legacy server emulation solutions, providing modern infrastructure for legacy applications. Founded in 1998 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with sales, engineering, and research and development offices located around the world, Stromasys has cross-platform virtualization implementations in over 70 countries to help organizations lower costs, protect their investments, improve performance, reduce risk, and provide easier maintenance.

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 environments in the cloud.

For more information on Stromasys, call 919-239-8450, or visit at https://stromasys.com/.

Contact:
Matt Barker
Chief Marketing Officer
Stromasys, Inc.
919-239-8452
matthew.barker@stromasys.com
www.stromasys.com


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.