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How many DEC VAX servers are left?

Occasional Visitor

How many DEC VAX servers are left?


I'm doing a research about declining platforms and need to estimate

- the number of DEC VAX servers installed today

- the number of clients (organizations) who use them today


Worldwide and in the key countries: US, Europe, and UK.


The other question is the speed of replacement. In what time period will the number of installed servers become 50% of that of today?


If anybody has any data, quotes, articles or personal professional opinion, I would appreciate them.


Honored Contributor

Re: How many DEC VAX servers are left?

You'll probably need to be a bit more specific about what you mean by "DEC VAX". Real VAX hardware hasn't been manufactured since last century, and, by today's standards it's very limited in things like speed, memory and disk capacity. However, there are a number of emulator products which implement a VAX in software on modern hardware. You also need to consider what you mean by "left". Do you mean those doing real, productive work? Or do you mean any system that is, or is capable of running?


If your question refers to "real" VAX hardware, I'd hope the answer is "very few" because they must all be well past their useby dates, and consume prodigious amounts of power and cooling, especially relative to the amount of work they're physically able to perform. Such systems would represent an increasing risk of failure, so one would hope they're not used for anything really critical.


For myself, how many (real) VAXes do I own? Personally, about 5. How many have have been powered on in the last 5 years? None. How many would work if powered on? Not sure.


For my corporation? None for more than 10 years.

A crucible of informative mistakes
Honored Contributor

Re: How many DEC VAX servers are left?

Personally I own 2 VAXstations of which none has been powered on this year.

One of the companies I do business with, still has 4 VAXstations operational (and doing real production work with them).

They do have a 5th VAXstation somewhere in storage that can act as a replacement should one of the operational ones fail.

Various spare parts are also available.

Just my 2 (euro)cents.


Kris (aka Qkcl)


I'm gonna hit the highway like a battering ram on a silver-black phantom bike...
Occasional Visitor

Re: How many DEC VAX servers are left?

Thanks for your replies!


Let me clarify the question. The market I am analyzing is Migration and Modernization. So what I am interested in is:

1) Of course, number of up and running DEC VAX servers

2) Number of servers running OpenVMX on Alpha and Itanium 


Your stories about DEC VAX servers which stay idle are actually very relevant for my research. That means that the data I found so far includes them, but it doesn't mean that the companies which own them will require migration or modernization services.


Honored Contributor

Re: How many DEC VAX servers are left?

The plural of anecdote is not data, and you're not likely going to get any particular data here.  You'll get anecdotes, certainly.  


I'd be very surprised if anybody has or posts any data that's going to be worth anything to you, and that some Google searches and some Google trends and related tools couldn't already have told you.


Why?  HP likely doesn't and won't release this data (and particularly not for their active customer base, and for what parts they know of it), and the other folks with (some of) this OpenVMS and this hardware data are generally loathe to release it without some form of consideration.  If the folks are willing to release this data at all.   


In all likelihood, you're going to pay for real data and for the addresses of real OpenVMS sites, if you really need it.


As for porting, the OpenVMS sites that have not ported (whether from older OpenVMS hardware (VAX, Alpha) to newer OpenVMS hardware (Alpha, Itanium, emulation), or from OpenVMS to another platform) are the sorts of projects that aren't looking to port (for any of various reasons, including they're happy with what they have), sites that don't have the budget to port, or that can have applications that are tied into OpenVMS programming interfaces or have dependencies on tools and products that aren't widely available, and thus comparatively difficult to port without skills in both the original and the target platform and a substantial budget.  


How much effort is a port?  There are sites that are reportedly five and ten years into a six-month platform port, and there are folks that have ported substantial applications from OpenVMS VAX to OpenVMS I64 in a year and less, and there are folks that have moved from hardware to emulation in a month and sometimes less.   And there are folks around with environments that will require a wholesale rewrite to migrate off of OpenVMS.  


"It depends" being the usual refrain, when porting.  


Given there's apparently little budget here for purchasing customer data, and given the comparative unfamiliarity with the platform that can be inferred from your initial postings, the chances of this "migration and modernization" working out for your potential target customers doesn't seem all that high, either.  If you're not going to pay for the data, then you'll probably end up switching from this current strategy based on data collection to working with the user community and reading other forums to find and reach your target customers, and reaching your target customers individually, or through partners.   And then (obviously) investing in figuring out how to port OpenVMS code around; on what you're looking to sell here.

Respected Contributor

Re: How many DEC VAX servers are left?

Nothing but anectdotal commentary here either.  The number that you want is close to nailing Jell-O to a tree for several reasons:


  1. As others have said, real VAXen are getting old but that leads to the following associated facts
  2. Old gear is difficult to put on contract for maintenance meaning
  3. Customers often either go to a 3rd party or self-maintain (whole spare systems, etc)
  4. Some of the remaining customers on VAX may not publicize the platform they use for security reasons
  5. There are stories that VAXen have been cloned so while they're not DEC-built they're mostly VAX-ish.

Any numbers you'd get, unless you can get contract information from 3rd party maintainers (who are unlikely to share), would be guesses.  In some cases those guesses might be fairly well-informed but they'd still be guesses.  I'm confident that the number is not zero but I can't even begin to give you an educated guess at the number.  Just watching the job market should support the non-zero answer because there are quite a few employers in the US (and elsewhere) asking for VAX experience.