PA-RISC information - since 1999

Windows NT and NetWare PA-RISC

Overview

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

And there was even an abortive HP-UX on Intel i386 port.

Windows NT

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

Windows NT
© Windows, from archive.org

Several magazine sources and USEnet posts around 1993 mentioned as much – HP was 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 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 apparently was a missing application landscape for PA-RISC on NT.

Consensus seemed to be building within HP at the time to favor the ancipated move to a post-RISC era with the VLIW EPIC/Itanium architecture – which did support Windows NT in the end.

Windows NT apparently supported the following HP 9000 PA-RISC workstations:

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NetWare

In the same era, in 1991, a two-year effort to port the NetWare operating system to PA-RISC was planned by HP and Novell, to be led by Novell with first product shipments targeted for the end of 1992.

Netware
© Netware, from archive.org

Development was supposed to be part of Processor-Independent NetWare (PIN) of NetWare 4.1 that planned to support various 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 of it in 1994 after Novell was unable to deliver Processor-Independent NetWare (PIN) on schedule.

The PA-RISC Processor-Independent NetWare (PIN) was planned to be released in summer of 1994, when HP cancelled its plans to sell PIN on its HP 9000 computers. HP then decided to satisfy the niche need for NetWare with its Intel-based NetServer computers supplemented by continuing Portable NetWare on HP-UX and/or the 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 workstations:

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HP-UX on Intel x86

Apparently there also was a prototype port of HP-UX to x86 hardware in the new century, at a time when the future of HP-UX and the sole surving hardware platform Itanium came in doubt during the early 2010s — PA-RISC was long gone then. HP apparently had a team working in secret (skunkworks) to port HP-UX to x86 away from Itanium.

Some documents were made public through Oracle describing HP efforts on repositioning itself and its server/Unix division in the early 2010s. HP apparently mulled buying parts of Sun and/or Solaris to consolidate its Unix position, when Solaris was the Unix leader 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 be 100M+ between 2010 and 2016. The plan apparently centered on mission-critical x86 systems (ProLiant DL980 and Superdome with x86) and first releases projected in 2011 (developer) and 2021 (Superdome and Linux ABI).

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References

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