IBM says Amdahl migration plan is old hat

Amdahl and Sun are enticing mainframe users to move to Solaris, but IBM believes they will stay put

Sun Microsystems and Amdahl IT Services have launched a bid to entice users of IBM-compatible mainframes to move to Sun's Starcat Solaris boxes, but IBM has dismissed the scheme as out of step with the reality of the mainframe market.

Destination Solaris is a service in which Amdahl, a vendor with a 30-year career at making IBM-compatible mainframes, will provide a single point of contact for those migrating away from IBM zSeries or other 390-compatible machines.

"This is a global programme which we expect to make $750m to $1bn in the next five years," said Keith Vickers, global programme architect for Destination Solaris, "Customers are keen to make the final move." Customers can make a payback of three to seven times their investment over five years, he said.

Amdahl and Sun present this as a bid to end a dying market, which is reverting to a monopoly. For many years, Amdahl, Hitachi and others have offered machines that run IBM 390 code with higher performance, but IBM's recent move to a 64-bit has seen the last two competitors leave the market, rather than develop 64-bit mainframes themselves. "We are still selling boxes till the end of March next year," said Vickers, "but the bulk of our business is services. There is little ISV enthusiasm for OS/390, and software prices can increase 15 to 20 percent a year."

Sun is contributing Unikix software, which runs mainframe CICS applications on Unix machines, which it acquired with Critical Path earlier this year, and the two are offering to rehost other applications. Amdahl has a sales tool called Lucidus, which calculates total costs of ownership for comparable installations.

All this is bunk, according to IBM, however, which claims that not only are mainframe sales growing, but they are being used for non-traditional uses. "Fifty percent of new mainframe MIPs are "new workload"; that is, applications which two or three years ago would have been considered suitable for Unix: Peoplesoft, SAP, web serving and data warehousing," said Peter Norris, IBM eServer consultant at IBM.

Many mainframes are going to new customers, and are reversing the move away from zSeries, said Norris, citing DreamBall, a Korean football site, running Linux multi-user football games, and SAIC, which has replaced 180 Solaris machines with a mainframe to run systems for New York Stock Exchange.

"Amdahl and Hitachi had a declining number of processors installed," said Norris. "They got out because they couldn't match a 64-bit operating system." The Destination Solaris offering is nothing new, said Norris, being essentially the same mainframe migration technology that was offered in the mid-90s, since when Unikix has had a succession of owners.

Norris declined to provide figures for IBM mainframe revenue, but suggested they were so good they might be broken out separately in future quarterly results.

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