Updated Unisys mainframes connect with iPhones

Unisys has released five new ClearPath models and introduced an engine that lets mobile workers use an iPhone or iPod Touch to access applications running on the mainframes

Unisys has updated its ClearPath line of mainframe servers and has added a new ePortal engine that allows iPhone users to access applications running on mainframes.

The five new ClearPath Libra and Dorado models introduced on Tuesday range from entry-level to high-end, the company said. The machines use new chips and I/O subsystems designed to provide performance improvements. The Libra 780 and Libra 790 use Unisys's proprietary Cmos processors, as do the Dorado 740 and 750. The lower-end Dorado 4050 uses an Intel Xeon x64 chip.

The company also released new versions of its MCP and OS 2200 operating systems, which can be used on all of the new mainframes and on Unisys's existing ClearPath models. The operating systems include support for the ePortal Specialty Engine that promises to let mobile workers use devices such as iPod Touch and iPhone to get into ClearPath applications.

"There isn't a big installed base of iPod users just waiting for this. We're definitely a step ahead of our customers," said Bill Maclean, vice president of ClearPath programmes at Unisys.

Using the ePortal Specialty Engine, mobile workers will be able to access critical business data while still benefiting from the scalability and security of the mainframe, according to Unisys.

"We also expect customers will look at the possibility of developing new applications for mobile workers and also for their organisations," added Maclean.

The ePortal engine could be of interest in industries such as air transport and financial services, where Unisys has a strong market share, says Nathaniel Martinez, a programme director with IDC.

"You can already do this with most servers, but it's not something you'd necessarily think of doing with a mainframe, because the iPod is so consumer oriented," said Martinez. "However, I can see it being used for accessing customer-account details, or pulling up policy details. If organisations start to think about how they can develop applications for their own customers, it could be very interesting."

Overall, Unisys appears to be positioning itself as part of the increasing move towards web services and cloud computing, said Martinez, creating a mainframe-based infrastructure that organisations can develop within.

"In the current economic climate, you don't want to rip and replace any mainframe applications, even if you were confident that you could. This is about letting customers benefit from Moore's Law and build services around their mainframes, while also retaining that scalability and computing power."

Pricing for the ClearPath Libra 780 and 790 starts at $3m (£1.9m), for the Dorado 740 and 750 from $2m and for the Dorado 4050 from $420,000.