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Building vax systems from scratch

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Steve ward_3

Building vax systems from scratch

Are there any vms tools or software that I can run to recommend what vax or alpha system running openvms is best for a small to large company that might be looking to get a vms system.

Has anyone bild a vms system for a client before, from the ground up, if so what kind of questions did you ask the client before recommending a vax system for them?

Honored Contributor

Re: Building vax systems from scratch

There are no new VAX or Alpha systems; the choices here are New Old Stock where you can find it, used or refurbished systems, or emulation.

Integrity Itanium boxes are the new gear.

1: not that I'm aware of -- there are and have been configurator tools and product catalogs, but nothing close to what I think you're asking for here. System sizing is extremely application dependent.

It is certainly feasible to scale up or down from an existing installation, but AFAIK there's no universal sizing tool.

2: Yep. Built my first VAX order circa 1983; it's one of the capabilities that various folks here offer as a service. (Strangely enough, I'm building a VAX emulation in another window. Go figure.)

The Digital Systems and Options Catalog (SOC) documents and related QuickSpecs are available on-line at:


The HP enterprise configurator tool is around, too.

These are catalogs, and not sizing tools.

I usually work with a couple of refurb and used-equipment sources to locate the most appropriate gear available, depending on the client's budget and application requirements. Knowing the particular requirements -- cross-indexed with what bits can be ported and what hardware can be scrounged -- is key here.

Stephen Hoffman
HoffmanLabs LLC
Steve ward_3

Re: Building vax systems from scratch

Actually, has anyone had expierence with the design and build of VMS server systems based on customer business requirements.

If so do share

John Gillings
Honored Contributor

Re: Building vax systems from scratch


Many people in this forum have built numerous OpenVMS systems of all architectures, from the ground up, or by accumulation.

There are three big issues with your question, the first is it's in the class of "how long is a piece of string".

OpenVMS systems range from tiny desktop VAXes, which can be assembled for 10s of dollars from second hand gear and hobby licenses, to multi site clusters with up to a hundred nodes, terabytes of RAM, petabytes of storage, enough fibre and networking cables to reach the moon, costing the budget of a medium sized country.

The second issue, designing and building a system is a complex decision tree that it's not really possible to "share" in a forum like this.

Third issue - quite a few people here make a living doing this kind of thing, so their first question should be "to whom do I send the invoice for providing this service?".

That said,

These days very few people start with "Hmmm, maybe I should go buy a VAX". More often they start with a business function they want to perform, find an appropriate software solution, then purchase hardware to support that software at the expected load and allow for future growth.

HP have folk who do this - these days they're called "solutions architects".
A crucible of informative mistakes
Robert Gezelter
Honored Contributor

Re: Building vax systems from scratch


Having configured systems from scratch on many occasions, I can only say that sizing is a judgment call.

I always try to get a good idea of how much computing and storage the applications will need, and try to avoid installing a system that has limited expansion potential. That said, I have seen more cases of over-configuration in my practice than under configuration, particularly in small and medium sized organizations.

My general advice is to do science, and work from some reasonable benchmark tests, rather than take random guesses.

In terms of data, I start with an inventory of applications and users, and go from there. The power of even modest sized systems in the Alpha and Integrity line is quite high, particularly when configured correctly.

I hope that the above is helpful. If I have been unclear, please let me know.

- Bob Gezelter, http://www.rlgsc.com
Honored Contributor

Re: Building vax systems from scratch

[[[These days very few people start with "Hmmm, maybe I should go buy a VAX"]]]

Save for exceptional circumstances, I'd not recommend new VAX gear. (I might well recommend acquiring same-type spare VAX gear for some cases, but that's another discussion.)

I'd generally recommend against substantial new investment in Alpha system hardware, given the architecture gone EOL a while back. (Again, save for acquiring spares.)

Hardware emulation isn't a panacea, but can be a viable option for some cases. It can and usually does introduce its own hassles, but the approach can be used to forestall an impending port into an eventual port.

As for the usual current hardware target selected for cases where the target applications are committed to OpenVMS, that's Itanium processors and Integrity boxes. The Itanium boxes are cheaper, somewhere between faster and far faster, and are current-generation gear.

But as for sizing, there's no "magic pixie dust" sizing formulae that I've encountered. Anyway, it's time for me to get back to work for my clients. :-)