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Microsoft courts mainframe shops, pushes Windows use

Microsoft courts mainframe shops, pushes Windows use

Swapping out big-iron boxes in favor of Windows servers may not be the hottest of IT trends. But at its first Mainframe Migration Conference, Microsoft Corp. said it's making steady progress with its efforts to court mainframe users.

Swapping out big-iron boxes in favor of Windows servers may not be the hottest of IT trends. But at its first Mainframe Migration Conference, Microsoft Corp. said it's making steady progress with its efforts to court mainframe users. Three mainframe-to-Windows converts at the Chicago event pointed to expected cost reductions, one of the main benefits that Microsoft has been touting since it forged the Mainframe Migration Alliance with Micro Focus International Ltd. in April 2004.

Microsoft said the alliance now includes over 50 software vendors, systems integrators and other companies that offer products and services aimed at helping users migrate off mainframes. The vendor noted that the conference drew more than 200 attendees.

But Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said users are more likely to switch to Unix than Windows if they move off the mainframe. He rated Microsoft's chances of making a big impact on mainframe users at less than 20 percent. "It's a completely different culture," Vecchio said. "Shifting from a multitasking mainframe environment running mixed batch and online (jobs) to Windows is a big shift."

Some mainframe users were ripe to make a change, though. For example, Glen MacGregor, assistant vice president of business systems at Lombard Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said the firm's IT department proposed replacing its IBM mainframe at budget time last year. Lombard's analysis showed that IBM's z/OS operating system and various mainframe tools would cost about US$1 million per year more than running a Windows-based environment would, he said.

So the company hired Cratos Technology Solutions Inc. in Oakville, Ontario, to migrate 4,800 programs running on the mainframe to Windows. Cratos CEO Andrew Wickett said 92.3 percent of the Cobol code remained intact when the first application was migrated using Micro Focus tools.

The company plans to do a "grand slam" conversion next March, MacGregor said. He added that Lombard expects a return on its investment in the first year after the switch.

Willem Gorter, a Paris-based program manager at AtosEuronext, a joint venture between the Euronext trading exchange and IT services firm Atos Origin SA, said the biggest costs associated with mainframes are the salaries of the workers needed to run them.

AtosEuronext's Amsterdam office recently moved six applications, including securities referential data administration for the Amsterdam exchange, from a mainframe to two clustered single-processor servers running Windows. The overall migration also included a shift of its core clearing and cash trading applications to a Hewlett-Packard NonStop system in Paris and its derivatives trading systems to Sun Solaris servers in London.

The company calculated that it would have spent close to $454,000 per month if it had kept the remaining six applications on the mainframe, Gorter said. Running them on Windows will cost $88,000 per month, with the savings coming largely from the elimination of 30 mainframe staffers. Only six are needed to support the Windows systems, and they can also do other tasks, Gorter said. -- Computerworld (US)

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