PA-RISC information - since 1999

Windows NT and NetWare PA-RISC

Overview

Parallel to the well-known Unix and Mach operating systems for PA-RISC, some rather odd operating system ports were attempted over time. Forgotten since, HP and PA-RISC were part of several corporate development projects for commercial operating systems in the 1990s: Windows NT was ported by HP to PA-RISC as a demonstration and NetWare on PA-RISC had a serious product roadmap planned.

And there was also an abortive HP-UX port to Intel i386.

Windows NT

There were development efforts in the mid-1990s to port Microsoft Windows NT to PA-RISC. HP wanted to hedge its bets in the workstation market and especially the anticipated NT workstation market, which threatened Unix workstations.

Windows NT
© Windows, from archive.org

Several magazine sources and USEnet posts around 1993 point to HP pursuing a PA-RISC port to NT, modified the PA-RISC architecture for bi-endianess and even conducted a back-room presention at the ’94 Comdex conference of a (modified HP 712?) PA-7100LC workstation running Windows NT. Mentions of NT on PA-RISC continued in 1994 with some customer interest but ended around 1995.

Sources at HP (from the Unix division no less) spoke of dim prospects for NT on PA-RISC in October 1994 and a dead-end architecture in 1996. The final nail was the missing application landscape for PA-RISC on NT. Consensus at HP at the time seemed to favor the ancipated move to the post-RISC era with VLIW EPIC/Itanium – which did support Windows NT.

Windows NT apparently ran the following HP 9000 PA-RISC computers:

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NetWare

In the early 1990s, a two-year effort to port the NetWare operating system to PA-RISC was planned by HP and Novell. It was to be led by Novell with first product shipments targeted for the end of 1992.

Netware
© Netware, from archive.org

Development was part of Processor-Independent NetWare (PIN) of NetWare 4.1 that was planned to support other computer architectures besides Intel x86 like Alpha, Sun, MIPS and later PowerPC. The porting effort at NetWare for PIN and HP for the PA-RISC part took longer than planned (got bogged down), and HP finally pulled out in 1994 after Novell was unable to deliver Processor-Independent NetWare (PIN) on schedule.

PA-RISC NetWare was planned to be released in summer of 1994, until HP cancelled its plans to sell PIN on HP 9000 computers. HP decided to satisfy the niche for NetWare with Intel-based NetServer computers supplemented by Portable NetWare on HP-UX, NetWare 4.1 Services and Novell Directory Service (NDS) ports to HP-UX.

The delay of PIN and cancellation of PA-RISC were a major disappointment when PA-RISC was one of [the] prime choices for NetWare.

NetWare apparently supported the following HP 9000 PA-RISC computers:

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HP-UX on Intel x86

Apparently, HP conducted a prototype port of HP-UX to x86 hardware when the future of HP-UX and the Itanium platform were in doubt during the early 2010s. PA-RISC was long gone then and HP had a team working in secret (skunkworks) to port HP-UX to x86 away from Itanium.

Some documents were made public through lawsuits; Oracle described HP efforts on repositioning itself and its server and Unix division in the early 2010s. HP apparently mulled buying parts of Sun and Solaris to consolidate its Unix position. Solaris was the Unix leader at the time in the US and HP-UX everywhere else, even though on a death march due to inevitable Itanium trajectory.

Parts of the conversation in these documents mention a successful boot of HP-UX on x86 in December of 2009, with porting efforts projected to cost 100M+ between 2010 and 2016. The plan was for mission-critical x86 systems (ProLiant DL980 and Superdome with x86) and first releases projected in 2011 (developer) and 2012 (Superdome and Linux ABI).

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References

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