The OpenVMS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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1.5.2 OpenVMS Ambassadors?

The OpenVMS Ambassadors are senior HP engineers with advanced technical knowledge and advanced training in OpenVMS, with detailed knowledge of current and future OpenVMS releases and product plans, and with contacts directly with the HP and ISV hardware and software engineering organizations developing OpenVMS and OpenVMS hardware platforms, as well as layered products and tools. Further, Ambassadors are experienced with integrating HP OpenVMS and application-specific products and ISV applications to solve specific business requirements.

OpenVMS Ambassadors are based throughout the world.

Your HP sales representative or HP reseller will be able connect you with your local OpenVMS Ambassador.

1.5.3 Contact for OpenVMS Marketing Issues and Questions?

Please see Section 3.4.

1.5.4 Contact URLs for OpenVMS Technical Issues?

For formal technical issues and technical support, please contact your software support organization, or your local HP Customer Support Center or HP Reseller. In North America, you can call 1-800-HP-INVENT.

For informal (free) support resources, see the newsgroups including comp.os.vms ( news:comp.os.vms ), see the ITRC discussion forums, the James support database search engine (search assistant tool) ( ), and see sections of this document including the platform support information in Section 14.4, sources of software and hardware support in Section 14.15, information on third-party devices and unsupported hardware in Section 14.25, and the many other sections of this document.

Please remember to review and to bookmark the following support URLs:

Chapter 2
General Information

If you are searching for something here, please consider using the text-format FAQ.

2.1 What is OpenVMS? What is its history?

OpenVMS, originally called VMS (Virtual Memory System), was first conceived in 1976 as a new operating system for the then-new, 32-bit, virtual memory line of computers, eventually named VAX (Virtual Address eXtension).

The first VAX model, the 11/780, was code-named "Star", hence the code name for the VMS operating system, "Starlet", a name that remains to this day the name for the system library files (STARLET.OLB, etc.).

VMS version X0.5 was the first released to customers, in support of the hardware beta test of the VAX-11/780, in 1977. VAX/VMS Version V1.0 shipped in 1978, along with the first revenue-ship 11/780s.

OpenVMS was designed entirely within HP and specifically within the former Digital Equipment Corporation (DIGITAL). Two of the principal designers were Dave Cutler and Dick Hustvedt, though with a wide variety of other contributors. OpenVMS was conceived as a 32-bit, virtual memory successor to the RSX-11M operating system for the PDP-11. Many of the original designers and programmers of OpenVMS had worked previously on RSX-11M, and many concepts from RSX-11M were carried over to OpenVMS.

OpenVMS VAX is a 32-bit, multitasking, multiprocessing virtual memory operating system. Current implementations run on VAX systems from HP and other vendors, as well as on hardware emulators; for additional information on emulators, please see Section 13.12 and

OpenVMS Alpha is a 64-bit multitasking, multiprocessing virtual memory operating system. Current implementations run on Alpha systems from HP, and other vendors.

OpenVMS has also been ported to the Intel IA-64 architecture, and specifically to HP Integrity systems using microprocessors from the Intel Itanium Processor Family. This implementation of OpenVMS is officially known as "HP OpenVMS for Integrity Servers" and more commonly as "OpenVMS I64", and it operates in the native Itanium IA-64 architecture and 64-bit environment. OpenVMS I64 provides support for applications requiring 32- or 64-bit virtual addressing capabilities entirely within the native 64-bit Itanium execution environment. (For details on this and related terminology, please see Section 14.4.5.)

For more details on OpenVMS and its features, please read the OpenVMS Software Product Description at:

Additional information on the general features of various OpenVMS releases, release dates, as well as the development project code names of specific releases, is available at:

Additional historical information---as well as pictures and a variety of other trivia---is available in the VAX 20th anniversary book:

For information on the FreeVMS project, and on hobbyist and educational versions of OpenVMS, please see:

Also please see the related software licensing topics Section 2.8.4, Section 2.8.1, and Section 2.15, and (for developers working on commercial applications for OpenVMS) Section 2.8.3.

2.2 What is the difference between VMS and OpenVMS?

VMS and OpenVMS are two names for the same operating system. Originally, the operating system was called VAX-11/VMS; it changed to VAX/VMS at around VAX/VMS V2.0. When the VMS operating system was ported to the Alpha platform, it was renamed OpenVMS, for both VAX and Alpha (and for the Itanium Processor Family), in part to signify the high degree of support for industry standards such as POSIX, which provides many features of UNIX systems.

For those versions with POSIX, an OpenVMS license allows you to install and run POSIX for OpenVMS at no additional charge; all you need is the media and documentation which can be found on the Consolidated Distribution and On-Line Documentation CD-ROMs. Support for the POSIX package on more recent OpenVMS releases is not available, various parts of POSIX such as calls from the API are being integrated more directly into OpenVMS. For more information on POSIX for VMS see question SOFT2

What became confusing is that the OpenVMS name was introduced first for OpenVMS AXP V1.0 causing the widespread misimpression that OpenVMS was for Alpha AXP only, while "regular VMS" was for VAX. In fact, the official name of the VAX operating system was changed as of V5.5, though the name did not start to be actually used in the product until V6.0.

2.3 What's in a Name? Terminology and Products?

The proper names for OpenVMS on the various platforms are "OpenVMS VAX", "OpenVMS Alpha", and "OpenVMS I64". Use of "OpenVMS AXP" and of "VAX/VMS" are deprecated.

The VAX and Alpha terms are largely interchangeably used as the names of platforms, of processor or microprocessor implementations, and of the respective computing architectures.

Somewhat confusing to long-time OpenVMS users, Intel IA-32, IA-64, and EM64T, and AMD AMD64 are the names of various computing architectures and of architectural extensions. Only. These are not the names of any implementations, nor of any platforms.

Intel Itanium is the name of a family of microprocessor implementations of the Intel IA-64 architecture, as Intel Pentium and Xeon are the names of families of microprocessor implementations of Intel IA-32 and (potentially) of the EM64T extensions.

I64 is the generic name for the various HP Integrity platforms supported by HP OpenVMS for Integrity Servers (and more commonly as "OpenVMS I64"); for the platforms supported by OpenVMS I64. (For additional related terminology, please see Section 14.4.5.)

2.3.1 How do I port from VMS to OpenVMS?

You already did. Wasn't that easy? Please see Section 2.2 for details.

2.4 Which is better, OpenVMS or UNIX?

This question comes up periodically, usually asked by new subscribers and new posters who are long-time UNIX or Linux users. Sometimes, the question is ignored totally; other times, it leads to a long series of repetitive messages that convince no one and usually carry little if any new information. Please do everyone a favor and avoid re-starting this perpetual, fruitless debate.

That said, OpenVMS and the better implementations of UNIX are all fine operating systems, each with its strengths and weaknesses. If you're in a position where you need to choose, select the one that best fits your own requirements, considering, for example, whether or not the layered products or specific OS features you want are available, and considering the expected cost-of-ownership over the lifetime of the system installation.

If you are asking this question, you are probably comparing OpenVMS to UNIX. It was once certainly true that OpenVMS and UNIX were quite different. In more recent times, there are tools and C APIs on OpenVMS that directly provide or that easily support porting UNIX programs and commands, and there are equivalent packages bringing various OpenVMS features and mechanisms to UNIX platforms.

If you seek UNIX tools on OpenVMS rather than the more philosophical discussion found in this section, please see the GNV package and other GNU discussions in Section 13.2.6, and please see the plethora of C calls currently available in the HP C Run-Time Library documentation, briefly discussed over in Section 13.2.1.

2.5 Is HP continuing funding and support for OpenVMS?


Active development of new OpenVMS releases is underway, as well as the continuation of support.

Please see the following URLs for details, roadmaps, and related information:

2.6 What OpenVMS distribution kits are available?

Various distributions are available.

For the most current information on the available part numbers and current products (OpenVMS distribution kits, media, documentation, etc) and the most current associated licensing information, please see the current OpenVMS Software Product Description (SPD) document, available at:

The CD-ROMs listed in Table 2-1 contain just the OpenVMS Alpha operating system. The operating system distribution kits are bootable, and can be used to run BACKUP from the optical media, as well as performing an installation or upgrade.

Table 2-1 OpenVMS Alpha Media Kits
Part Description
QA-MT1AG-H8 OpenVMS Alpha V6.2-1H3 hardware release CD-ROM; also requires QA-MT1AA-H8.6.2
QA-MT1AR-H8 OpenVMS Alpha V7.1-2 maintenance release CD-ROM
QA-MT1AT-H8 OpenVMS Alpha V7.2-1 maintenance release CD-ROM
QA-MT1AU-H8 OpenVMS Alpha V7.2-2 maintenance release CD-ROM
QA-MT3AA-H8 OpenVMS Alpha and VAX products and documentation on CD-ROM
QA-MT3AE-H8 OpenVMS Alpha and VAX documentation on CD-ROM

OpenVMS I64 is distributed on DVD-ROM media, and is bootable. OpenVMS I64 licensing is implemented on a per-processor-socket basis, with the classic license tiers based on the numbers of processor sockets that can be present. Further, three general product and licensing groupings are optionally available with OpenVMS I64, the Foundation Operating Environment (FOE), the Enterprise Operating Environment (EOE), and (as/when/if available) the Mission Critical Operating Environment (MCOE). Seperate per-product licenses are generally also available for various of the products within the Operating Environment groups.

Table 2-2 OpenVMS I64 Order Numbers
Part Description
BA322AA#??? OpenVMS I64 FOE Product
BA323AA#??? OpenVMS I64 EOE Product
BA324AA#??? OpenVMS I64 MCOE Product

The product suffix required for the order numbers listed in Table 2-2 can be found in Table 2-3.

Table 2-3 OpenVMS I64 Media Suffix
Suffix Description
A18 OpenVMS I64 FOE V8.2 DVD media
AJR OE media kit on DVD media
0D1 Factory installation

The OpenVMS VAX, OpenVMS Alpha and OpenVMS I64 source listings sets referenced in Table 2-4 include the source listings of most of OpenVMS, and these machine-readable distributions are invaluable for any folks working directly with OpenVMS internals, as well as for folks interested in seeing examples of various OpenVMS programming interfaces.

Table 2-4 OpenVMS Source Listings Kits
Part Description
QB-MT1AB-E8 OpenVMS Alpha Source Listings kit and license
QT-MT1AB-Q8 OpenVMS Alpha Source Listings Updates
BA422AA OpenVMS I64 Source Listings kit and license
QB-001AB-E8 OpenVMS VAX Source Listings kit and license
QT-001AB-Q8 OpenVMS VAX Source Listings Updates
BA422AA OpenVMS I64 source listings kit and license

Additional OpenVMS packages and technologies including NetBeans, XML, SOAP, UDDI, JDK, Perl, Tomcat, SSL and such are discussed within the OpenVMS e-Business Infrastructure Package SPD 80.58.xx. Again, please see the OpenVMS SPD and the documents and parts referenced there for the most current information.

For information on non-commercial software distributions for use by and for OpenVMS Hobbyists, please see Section 2.8.1.

2.6.1 Where can I download OpenVMS and Layered Product Kits?

HP customers with commercial licenses and support contracts can download software product distribution kits from the following HP website:

You can also find pointers to the Software Rollout Report and to the OpenVMS SPD listings via the above SQP website.

Information on obtaining and transfering licenses is available in Section 2.6 and Section 2.8.4, while information on the OpenVMS Hobbyist licensing program and on obtaining hobbyist product distribution kits is in Section 2.8.1.

2.7 In what language is OpenVMS written?

OpenVMS is written in a wide variety of languages.

In no particular order, OpenVMS components are implemented using Bliss, Macro, Ada, PLI, VAX and DEC C, Fortran, UIL, VAX and Alpha SDL, Pascal, MDL, DEC C++, DCL, Message, and Document. And this is certainly not a complete list. However, the rumor is NOT true that an attempt was made to write pieces of OpenVMS in every supported language so that the Run-Time Libraries could not be unbundled. (APL, BASIC, COBOL and RPG are just some of the languages NOT represented!)

There are a large variety of small and not-so-small tools and DCL command procedures that are used as part of the OpenVMS build, and a source code control system capable of maintaining over a hundred thousand source files across multiple parallel development projects, and overlapping releases.

2.8 Obtaining and Transfering OpenVMS licenses?

The following sections describe hobbyist and educational license programs, as well as information on commercial licenses and transfers.

For information on the available commercial OpenVMS licenses and for information on license transfers, please see Section 2.8.4. OpenVMS Hobbyist licenses are discussed in Section 2.8.1. For information on the licensing implementation, troubleshooting licensing problems, on the License Unit Requirements Table (LURT), and other related details, please see Section 5.39. For configuring and troubleshooting LMF, see Section 12.4.

2.8.1 Questions asked by Hobbyist OpenVMS licensees?

If you are a member of an HP-recognized user group (eg: Encompass, Enterex, DECUS), and are considering acquiring and using a VAX, Alpha or (soon) IA-64 system for hobbyist (non-commercial) use, (free) license product authorization keys (PAKs) for OpenVMS VAX, OpenVMS Alpha, and (reportedly) OpenVMS I64, and layered products are available.

In addition to the license keys, OpenVMS VAX and Alpha distribution CD-ROM distribution kits are available with OpenVMS, DECwindows Motif, DECnet and TCP/IP networking, compilers, and a variety of layered products. (A hobbyist distribution for OpenVMS I64 is expected.) (While the hobbyist CD-ROM distributions are intended for and tailored for OpenVMS Hobbyists, the contents and capabilities of the Hobbyist installation kits included within the OpenVMS Hobbyist distribution do not differ from the standard distribution installation kits. The products are chosen to reflect the most popular products and the space available on the media.)

If you have questions on what else is authorized by the license agreement and on what other distribution media is available to you, well, please read the applicable software license agreement(s).

For further information, please link to:

On the OpenVMS Hobbyist license registration form at the above website (as of August 2005), you are offered the choice of the "OpenVMS VAX" license(s), the "OpenVMS Alpha" license(s), and the "Layered Products" licenses. You will want the operating system license for your particular OpenVMS platform and you will want the "Layered Products" licenses. You will want to select and to acquire two sets of license PAKs.

For vendors wishing to license products specifically for hobbyist use (and to not issue hobbyist PAKs), the program provides hobbyists with the license PAK OPENVMS-HOBBYIST.

If you plan to use a hardware emulator (eg: VAX emulator) on a Microsoft Windows platform, make sure you have an OpenVMS distribution kit that can be installed and/or booted with the particular emulator package you plan to use. For additional information on emulators, please see Section 13.12 and particularly please see the emulator-related documentation. Vendors offering Hobbyist Licenses

Hobbyist license product additions, and any updates for products already listed here are welcome. Please contact the FAQ Editor

2.8.2 OpenVMS Educational and CSLG licenses?

For information on OpenVMS licenses for educational customers, please see the HP Campus Software License Grant (CSLG) license program and the OpenVMS Educational license program:

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