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Cloud Emulation (Games)

Vax, PDP/11, HP3000 and Others Live On In the Cloud 62

judgecorp writes: Surprisingly, critical applications still rely on old platforms, although legacy hardware is on its last legs. Swiss emulation expert Stromasys is offering emulation in the cloud for old hardware using a tool cheekily named after Charon, the ferryman to the afterlife. Systems covered include the Vax and PDP/11 platforms from Digital Equipment (which was swallowed by Compaq and then HP) as well as Digital's Alpha RISC systems, and HP's HP3000. It also offers Sparc emulation, although Oracle might dispute the need for this.
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Vax, PDP/11, HP3000 and Others Live On In the Cloud

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  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @11:13PM (#48088681)
    Take a handful of emulators of very old hardware and open a cloud that host laughably small instances. It will probably work too.
  • by attemptedgoalie ( 634133 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @11:24PM (#48088711)

    I will probably be asked tomorrow why I've been saying we should consider a roadmap to replace our 15 year old RISC stuff when we could just do this.

    What should we work on this year sir? The 15 year old billing system that is mission critical and on unsupported hardware, software, and custom code written by employees long gone or a fifth try at implementing SharePoint that nobody will use?

    SharePoint. Got it. Are we going to use consultants paid so well they drive Teslas and Land Rovers again? Let's make sure we don't have clawback for improper billing or properly documented terms or expectations. It is why we're on implementation #5, but you're right, it'll work this time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by jockm ( 233372 )

      And why not? It is easy to say that newer is better, but if you can cut costs of running the legacy hardware, and buy the time to work on other things AND work on replacing the legacy system then why not? It sounds like a perfectly reasonable use of resources to me.

      • by attemptedgoalie ( 634133 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:40AM (#48089187)

        That would be a reasonable thing to do if it bought time.

        Year 5? Maybe it's time to hold off on the shiny stuff for a little bit and do the busy work of shoring up the business.

        Year 10? Two or three stupid multi-million dollar projects scrapped, but still no work on the billing system? It might be time to reconsider priorities. Or at least consider doing both?

        Year 15? I get the feeling that my ability to configure and maintain a resilient system has created a monster. Management assumes it will run forever, and gets to be wined/dined by consulting firms to put up stupid projects.

        If we ever finished ANY of the projects we decided to do instead of fixing the old stuff, it would be one thing. But to continue to retry, and fire consultants every year is just wasteful. (no, we're not the government)

        • by ruir ( 2709173 )
          I suspect you have to pay consultants a little better...I kid. But then, if consultants keep consistently failing at projects, maybe the fault is someplace else?
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Sounds like the hardware is far less of an issue than the OS in this case.
      If you are running on a Unix than a port to Linux might be a good solution it might just be a recompile.
      If you are VMS than I believe that you can still get VMS on X86 today. Wait no it looks like it is only for Itanium.
      Actually running it on a emulation system might not be such a bad idea after all.

      • Stromasys offers an Alphaserver emulator for this. There is a free version called PersonalAlpha. It is accurate, but even running on a modern quad-core 64-bit CPU it's only about as fast as an EV5 by my benchmarks. The commercial product fares a little better.

        There are other options, like FreeAXP, but I had better performance with Stromasys.

        OpenVMS has been licensed by VSI, a venture by Nemonix, so a migration to x86-64 is not out of the question. In fact, it's likely considering it would free VMS from

      • by armanox ( 826486 )

        Currently runs on Itanium, with HP promising to port to x86_64.

        • by afidel ( 530433 )

          No, HP has promised no such thing, they've promised mainstream support through 2020 and minimal support through 2025 for the Itanium 8.4 release. They've also announced that VMS Software Inc. is the sole provider for future versions of OpenVMS and VMS Software Inc. has announced intentions to port to x86_64 but they make no promises, and can make no promises on HP's behalf.

    • the consultants who drive Teslas understand RoI but, man, the guys in Range Rovers? - run away!

    • by tedgyz ( 515156 )

      SharePoint - where documents go to die.

  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @11:30PM (#48088737) Journal

    Up until about the year 2000, I ran a small hardware shop for customers. Gradually, it became clear to me that the value of computers isn't in the hardware, it's in the software and data that they hold.

    In response, I reinvented myself and co-developed a company that hosts data for (now) hundreds of clients and tens of thousands of users. Comparing the total hardware value of all our servers to our annual revenue puts hardware expenses (roughly) in petty cash. Servers host a *lot* of data, it's the data and the software used to manage the data that's valuable.

    • I have no problem with your religion until you decide it's reason to deprive others of the truth.

      Exactly what truths are others being deprived of? One thing religion provides is an external arbitrator of truths, an objective, by definition, right or wrong. Without it, there are no absolute truths and everything is subjective or relevant. As such, truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not making a point in favor of religion. I'm simply pointing out that you can't deprive others of truth if there are no absolute truths. Maybe a more accurate statement would be I have no problem with y

    • Gradually, it became clear to me that the value of computers isn't in the hardware, it's in the software and data that they hold.

      unless your name is Apple and you will only sell that software with hardware. Then you can make a lot of money with the hardware also.

  • The world needs more good emulators, such as XMESS and MAME. But where do you get the ROMs from? Check out the internet archive with a good broadband connection! Try the following links: https://archive.org/details/ME... [archive.org] and https://archive.org/details/MA... [archive.org] for some ROMs. There are probably more, if you look at the "software" section and if you also try the "search" ...
  • on last legs? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @11:47PM (#48088809)

    Alpha is still supported by HP, and OpenVMS on Alpha supported until 2018.

    The emulation by Charon of Sparc is 32 bit, not the current 64 bit one. However, you can run 32 bit Sparc code on 64 bit sparc.

  • VAX (Virtual Address Extension) is the name of the OS, not Vax.
    • Re:It's VAX, not Vax (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:25AM (#48088949)

      No, VAX is the name of the CPU ISA. VMS is the name of the operating system that was the primary focus of that platform, although you could also get various Unix-class operating systems to run on VAX systems as well (NetBSD and OpenBSD are the main ones today.)

      • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

        BSD UNIX was born on the VAX. Ultrix was a commercial version of BSD marketed by Digital for the VAX and MIPS-based DECstation machines. NetBSD and OpenBSD are the only currently maintained VAX UNIX distros.

        VMS was cool too though.

        • Re:It's VAX, not Vax (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:39AM (#48088993)

          Incorrect.

          BSD Unix was born on the PDP-11; the VAX-based Unix OSes started being available in June 1979, whilst the first VAX (VAX-11/780) was released in October 1977, with VMS as the OS. VMUNIX (the Unix OS kernel that supported the VAX's virtual memory capabilities) came out at the end of 1979.

          • Incorrect.

            BSD Unix was born on the PDP-11; the VAX-based Unix OSes started being available in June 1979, whilst the first VAX (VAX-11/780) was released in October 1977, with VMS as the OS. VMUNIX (the Unix OS kernel that supported the VAX's virtual memory capabilities) came out at the end of 1979.

            That is correct. It was based on Bell Labs v7 Unix, which DEC ported to PDP-11 and VAX, and renamed V7M. Ultrix was the follow on to V7M and was first released five years later, in 1984.

            Ken Olsen expounded on the DEC's relationship with loved UNIX:

            One of the questions that comes up all the time is: How enthusiastic is our support for UNIX? Unix was written on our machines and for our machines many years ago. Today, much of UNIX being done is done on our machines. Ten percent of our VAXs are going for UNI

            • Re:It's VAX, not Vax (Score:5, Informative)

              by NotSanguine ( 1917456 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @04:26AM (#48089637) Journal

              Apologies. I messed up the link:
              v7 Unix [wikipedia.org].

              Incorrect.

              BSD Unix was born on the PDP-11; the VAX-based Unix OSes started being available in June 1979, whilst the first VAX (VAX-11/780) was released in October 1977, with VMS as the OS. VMUNIX (the Unix OS kernel that supported the VAX's virtual memory capabilities) came out at the end of 1979.

              That is correct. It was based on Bell Labs v7 Unix, which DEC ported to PDP-11 and VAX, and renamed V7M. Ultrix was the follow on to V7M and was first released five years later, in 1984.

              Ken Olsen expounded on the DEC's relationship with loved UNIX:

              One of the questions that comes up all the time is: How enthusiastic is our support for UNIX? Unix was written on our machines and for our machines many years ago. Today, much of UNIX being done is done on our machines. Ten percent of our VAXs are going for UNIX use. UNIX is a simple language, easy to understand, easy to get started with. It's great for students, great for somewhat casual users, and it's great for interchanging programs between different machines. And so, because of its popularity in these markets, we support it. We have good UNIX on VAX and good UNIX on PDP-11s. It is our belief, however, that serious professional users will run out of things they can do with UNIX. They'll want a real system and will end up doing VMS when they get to be serious about programming. With UNIX, if you're looking for something, you can easily and quickly check that small manual and find out that it's not there. With VMS, no matter what you look for -- it's literally a five-foot shelf of documentation -- if you look long enough it's there. That's the difference -- the beauty of UNIX is it's simple; and the beauty of VMS is that it's all there. [emphasis added] -- Ken Olsen, President of DEC, 1984

              • I used BSD Unix on a VAX 11/750 in 1988. It wasn't ready for prime time - to put it nicely. Olsen was absolutely correct. I think a lot of folks who grew up on Linux or the various free BSD spinoffs from the 90s don't appreciate just how far it's come. If you can find an old copy of "The Unix Haters Handbook" browse through it. Some of the stuff is really pedantic, but a lot of it really was problematic.

                Unix had a lot of potential, though, and Linux really helped it reach that potential. It's a more c

                • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

                  BSD was and IS doing just fine. And BSD would be fine without Linux. The only reason Linux gained traction was because of the BSD lawsuit with AT&T that tied things up for years.

                  Does Linux suck? No, not really. Do I prefer BSD? Yeah, it's documentation is better, it performs well under load and runs Linux binaries as well. It's also very clean and minimalist out of the box.

                  Unix more than "just had potential". An entire global network was built on the back of BSD and various PDP10 OS's (the big 36

                  • Dude, I'm the guy who ran our LUG's webserver on a FreeBSD machine 13 years ago. I'm very familiar with BSD. Again, people like you have absolutely no idea what BSD was like before 1990. It was terrible - but it (barely) worked. And the basic paradigm was much better than anything else available at the time that I ever worked with.

                    As for your stupid "rm -rf" comment - "rmdir" is made to remove a directory *as long as it's empty*. That's the point. "rmdir somedir/" would give the world's stupidest erro

                    • by ogdenk ( 712300 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @02:11PM (#48094559)

                      What Linux brought to the table was a whole new generation interested in working on Unix. That's big. It's not directly a technological edge but it translates into that.

                      Not really. A whole generation was already interested as PC's had just become powerful enough to make a full workstation-class UNIX port worth it. BSD got tied up in a big lawsuit and MINIX was a teaching tool. Linux arrived because folks wanted a cheap UNIX clone no one could sue them over. And it was pretty cool for a long time until most distros strayed from being a UNIX clone and adopted BS like systemd that's not even cross-platform..... or even UNIXy.

                      And I have plenty of idea what UNIX was like before 1990 because I directly used it daily, dialing in from my Atari 8-bit at first. And it was a hell of a lot nicer than most alternatives at the time. NextStep was also a fabulous BSD/Mach hybrid that I still use, they just call it OSX now. You know, the only UNIX variant with a desktop environment that doesn't feel like a perpetual beta release as well as being the only UNIX with a significant amount of the desktop market?

                      And silly bugs like you mention still exist in modern BSD/Linux distros. It was also probably fixed in a subsequent BSD release. BSD never died or went dormant. Linux never passed BSD from a tech standpoint. In fact, BSD is cleaner and performs better in a lot of scenarios. Even running Linux or SysV binaries.

          • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

            1BSD for the PDP-11 was simply a few add-ons to AT&T UNIX. 2BSD was really backports of functionality from 4.xBSD. Especially the network stack. The PDP-11 was never a serious platform for BSD development as the CSRG at Berkeley moved to the VAX pretty fast once BSD became a real OS in its own right instead of a few addons for V7. It was THE platform for early AT&T UNIX development though.

            If you consider a Pascal compiler and a text editor a true BSD UNIX release, then yeah, you're right ;-)

            VMS

  • by maynard ( 3337 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {sanileg.dranyam.j}> on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:08AM (#48088889) Journal

    There's lots of useful free stuff for people who want to emulate ancient computers at pdp11.org [pdp11.org].

    • There's lots of useful free stuff for people who want to emulate ancient computers at pdp11.org [pdp11.org].

      Yeah, but that's not in the cloud, and if you're not doing it in the cloud you might accidentally get too much reliability.

    • This isn't a bad time to post a link to SIMH [trailing-edge.com], too. It simulates:

      Data General Nova, Eclipse
      Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1, PDP-4, PDP-7, PDP-8, PDP-9, PDP-10, PDP-11, PDP-15, VAX
      GRI Corporation GRI-909, GRI-99
      IBM 1401, 1620, 1130, 7090/7094, System 3
      Interdata (Perkin-Elmer) 16b and 32b systems
      Hewlett-Packard 2114, 2115, 2116, 2100

    • SIMH does a good job. I've got BSD 4.2 running on a Vax on my PC. Don't know what the cloud ones do differently except enable them to have a post that implies they invented the whole concept.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:12AM (#48088899) Homepage Journal

    Running VAX software just ain't no fun unless you're causing a city-wide brownout with the power drain... :P

  • by flu1d ( 664635 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @12:16AM (#48088915) Homepage
    Having been in a small/medium business consulting realm I have seen many companies go far to long using old technology because "it works". The issue being of course that there is no support from any vendor when something doesn't. Usually my best argument for companies to get off these old systems is that the hardware will certainly fail and spare parts are increasingly difficult to find and expensive. Its great to have an option of emulation of this sort to allow companies to not have to have the huge burden of being forced to use a modern tool with most likely some considerable amount of downtime due to waiting to the last second. On the flip side of that the hidden long term costs of limping by with old, unsupported software will be even more challenging to present to those with the checkbook.
  • A nit but faithful emulation is all about tiny details (potentially even emulating chip errata)

    Nothing in the article explained the OS licensing issues. If the point is to keep critical apps running making sure it's legal isn't a nit

  • Get back to me when it can run CICS or TSO. That'd be perfect for the occasions when I'm at a loose end and can't find any needles, broken glass or mole grips.

    • Technically, there is an emulator (Hercules) that can do that now. Unfortunately, it can't run them legally due to IBM licensing restrictions. I think it would be nice to be able to run the latest versions of mainframe software on Hercules on x86. It would make for a fantastic learning/training platform.

      • Not quite true. There is Turnkey MVS. Older versions of MVS are public domain. There TSO but no CICS, unfortunately. Get a copy of Turnkey MVS and run it on Hercules

        • Yes, I should have been more specific. The IBM software that can be run legally is from the 1970's. MVS 3.8J (IIRC) and VM/370 R6. It's possible there may be others from that same era (DOS/VSE) too. I've toyed with VM/370 on Hercules and it's a hoot. It would be a lot more useful if it had XEDIT (instead of EDIT) and REXX (I think that there may be a version of REXX now available with the VM/380 stuff).

      • then there is what naughty people do, torrent the Z/OS or Z/VM Application Developer CD (ADCD) sets and run the full mainframe monty in Hercules.

        A friend told me about that, that's it, a friend. Copyright pirate scum friend. yeah.

      • For lawless criminal scum, torrents for the ADCD (Application Developers Controlled Distribution) sets for Z/OS, Z/VSE and Z/VM are out there as well as instructions for setting up a full mainframe on Hercules. But only very, very bad people use those. Good people who live by the word of IBMs pieces of paper and who respect their home state's blue laws prohibiting oral sex would never do such a thing. You've been duly warned.

    • You can run TSO, look at Turnkey MVS. Its a distribution of the last public domain MVS OS from 1981, Alas, there is no CICS (yet) as a part of this, but TSO is there. also look at http://www.z390.org/.

  • on a VPS connected to HECNET, right?

  • Charon VAX and Charon Alpha have been around for years. Those DECies that are hard core will know that TOPS-10 lives on on emulated DECsystem10 software. A emulated VAX on a modern low end desktop PC runs faster than fastest physical VAX. Want your VAX/VMS application to have the advantages of SAN attached SSD storage? Easy. Allowed to use Gigabit? Done. VMS doesn't think it has any of that, but the host has it and the emulator presents it as older gear to the OS. For those that don't want to be 32b

  • ... and plunged it deep into the VAX.

  • I downloaded the HP-3000 VM for VMWare about 6 months ago to check it out. It seems to work pretty much as expected. It really brought back some memories. Now, if they would include a copy of Warp from the CSL tape, it would really rock.

    Someone had an HP-3000 online that you could telnet to and play Warp online a few years ago. I'd host one of those if I could get it working.

    Central Plaza.
    You are standing in what appears to be the central plaza
    of a small seacoast resort. There is a large fountain in

    • I downloaded the HP-3000 VM for VMWare about 6 months ago to check it out. It seems to work pretty much as expected. It really brought back some memories.

      We did the same thing. Unfortunately the performance was terrible and roughly 25% of what was required. I hate having this legacy crap in our DC, but would have felt a little better if it could have been virtualized to at least mitigate hardware issues going forward.

  • The driving need for sparc emulation is avoiding Oracle. Seems like a real need to me, and a real service in fulfilling the need.

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