OpenVMS Notes: x86-64 Porting Diaries

edit: 2024-02-24
Executive Summary
  • Platforms like PDP, VAX, and Alpha employ a firmware-based BIOS where you could boot the system with commands like "b dua0" to boot from disk 0 on controller ua
  • All modern computers, including Itanium and X86-64, now employ a firmware-software-hybrid technology, known as UEFI, which executed by an internal management processor (some sort of x86 thingy that is always running as long as power supply available, even if the server is powered off)
  • You can do a lot of stuff from a locally connected VGA terminal and keyboard but this does not include installing OpenVMS on a disk for the first time. That activity must be done over the serial port, or iLO, which act as terminal device OPA0:
    serial this will require a serial null-modem cable connected between your Itanium and your laptop (or a VT100 compatible monitor if you can find one). Connecting a serial cable to your laptop may require the purchase of a third-party dongle (USB-to-DB9). See my notes here.
    CAVEAT: You do not want to be doing this for the first time on a weekend, or national holiday, or during an emergency. Learn how to do it now, then make many notes for future reference.
    iLO obviously no special hardware is required to connect to an iLO port. But you would need to set the iLO address, then connect it to your network, then connect to the port via another computer on the network.

Bare-metal install of OpenVMS-9.2-2 x86-64 on HPE DL380_gen9

Prepping the media

using the iLO (rather than the serial port)


  1. unplug the USB-DVD
    • Why? power-on diagnostics have been known to clobber writable USB media. Oh why didn't those early USB developers include a write-protect switch?
  2. power up the server
  3. wait until you see the prompt for keys: F9, F10, F11
    • hit the F10 key:
      •  if you wish to setup your RAID controller and/or iLO port graphically
        • Note that one drive (or RAID set) needs to be designated DEFAULT in order for it to be exposed to console firmware.
    • hit the F9 key:
      • if you wish to setup your RAID controller and/or iLO port non-graphically
        • Note that one drive (or RAID set) needs to be designated DEFAULT in order for it to be exposed to console firmware.
      • to run any console programs including UEFI Shell (which you will use to find/start VMS_BOOTMGR)
Common Legend:
<ur> = user response
<sr> = system response
<enter> = hit the "Enter Key"
[[ View ]] = some higher level activity
<ur> [[ Physical Action ]] Plug in the USB-DVD then wait for the drive LEDs to stop blinking
<ur> [[ GUI Action ]] Select "UEFI Shell"
<sr> Shell>
<ur> map -r
("-r" forces the map command to rescan all the hardware)
<sr> [[ View ]] displays a list of block structured devices (BLK0, etc)
if any of these contain a file system then you will see a second entry (FS0, etc)
FS0 should point to your DVD if this is your first time
if you do not see any FS devices then your DVD burner failed to preserve the EFI partition
<ur> fs0:<enter>
<sr> fs0:\>
<ur> dir
<sr> [[ View ]] directory listing (efi must be one of them; this is where the UEFI/EFI files will be found)
<ur> cd efi
<sr> fs0:\efi\
<ur> dir
<ur> [[ View ]] directory listing
<sr> cd vms
<sr> fs0:\efi\vms\
<ur> [[ View ]] directory listing
<sr> vms_bootmgr
<sr> View: GUI-based tool
<ur> On the computer connected to the iLO port, connect to Virtual Console Port
<ur> dev
<sr> dna5020
<ur> boot dna5020
<sr> Graphics i/o is now suspended. Installation continues on COM1 (which should be VCP)
<sr> VMS installation menu is presented (choose "item 1" for INSTALL)


If everything works properly over then next few reboots, then use ...
... the VMS_BOOTMGR command "AUTO" to configure your system for an automatic boot.
Note: This is different from what you might do on an Itanium

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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.