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Fancy trying the granddaddy of Windows NT for free? Now's your chance

VSI releases OpenVMS 9.2-1 and x86 hobby licenses

VMS Software Inc (VSI) has opened its hobbyist licensing scheme for the x86-64 version of one of the most reliable OSes in the business.

The slow-but-steady migration of OpenVMS onto commodity x86 kit has passed a couple of significant milestones. A year ago, we covered the release of OpenVMS 9.2, the first production-ready version of the OS for x86-64 kit. In that story we mentioned that the VMS equivalent of a point release was coming, probably at the end of 2022. Well, it's here, and there is also a way to get hold of the new OS and try it for yourself.

Progress is slow, but that is a good thing: this is one of the most reliable and stable OSes in the IT industry. A measured, thoroughly tested release cycle is what you want when some clusters have uptimes measured in decades.

Last month, HP spin-off VMS Software Inc. started the field test of OpenVMS E9.2-1. This version means two significant new milestones for this 46-year-old enterprise OS. It's the first update for the new x86-64 edition: if you were running 9.2 on Intel-powered tin, you can get the 9.2-1 update and do an in-place upgrade.

However, there is also a good reason for performing fresh installs of version 9.2-1: this is also the first release to directly support AMD chippery. So you can both update some existing Intel installations, and also add some new AMD ones. Slightly less exciting but also worthwhile improvements include OpenJDK 8, SSL 3, and a DHCP client.

The release notes [PDF] have the full info, spread over 82 pages, but then VMS has long been infamous for being verbose. The product homepage has seven separate sections of documentation for you to peruse – a pale shadow of the legendary "gray wall" of documentation that accompanied VMS in ancient times, replacing the orange wall enjoyed by users of older DEC OSes.

Alongside copious amounts of documentation, DEC was also famous for its hobbyist program, which allowed fans to get and run DEC OSes on their own non-production machines for free. After Compaq bought DEC, an early Reg article covered the extension of the hobbyist program to Alpha machines. Very nearly a quarter of a century later, VMS Software is in the process of extending its equivalent, the community licence program, to include x86 alongside Alpha and Itanium. Blogger Remy van Elst reports that although he hasn't received the notification himself, another hobbyist forwarded the email, and Remy was able to log in and download the x86 edition.

You will need a login for VSI's service portal, but if you've already got one, the files to look for are X86E921OE.ZIP for the software itself, plus for the license PAK. Remy has also published a handy guide on how to install the OS on VirtualBox – which, if you're running on Windows, requires disabling Hyper-V. The Reg FOSS desk hasn't tried the x86 edition just yet, but we've applied for a license and we'll report back if we get one.

Here's a video you might find useful in the meantime...

Youtube Video

According to VSI's roadmap, version 9.2-2 should follow in the second half of this year. As we reported last time, 9.2-1 was expected in late 2022 so this timing is provisional and could slip. Some of the delay could be due to the sad death of CEO Kevin Shaw, who died in a traffic accident in October at just 44 years old. ®

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