Mainframe Migration Alliance Gains New Members, Web Site
by Alex Woodie
While nobody will make the mistake again of declaring the mainframe dead for a while, a group of vendors led by Microsoft is stepping up the call for moving older mainframe applications onto cheaper Wintel servers. Yesterday Microsoft announced the addition of 12 new members to Mainframe Migration Alliance, which also launched a Web site, www.mainframemigration.org, which will be the hub for the distribution of migration-related information and co-marketing activities.
With an estimated 20,000 footprints in the world, the IBM mainframe is not what you would call a volume leader when it comes to computer platforms. But what it lacks in numbers it makes up in scalability and reliability, as the proprietary mainframe is still the king in running the critical business applications that cost companies millions of dollars per hour if they should go offline. This legendary capability comes at an equally legendary price, however, and the prospect of moving certain applications to more affordable hardware must certainly be tempting to some companies.
Depending on the application, it may also run better on X86 hardware and Windows Server 2003, arguably the most reliable Windows server operating system to date (although still not in the mainframe's class). This was the case with one of MicroFocus' customers who was looking to port a COBOL application to run under zSeries Linux. The application actually ran slower after the port, a Microsoft official says, and the customer eventually compiled the COBOL app, using MicroFocus tools and considerable expertise in the COBOL arena, to run under Windows, where it reportedly flourishes.
This could be considered the creation story for the organization. Soon the wheels were in motion, and, in April, MicroFocus and Microsoft cofounded the Mainframe Migration Alliance. At the same time, MicroFocus announced a new Mainframe Transaction Option in its Micro Focus Enterprise Server product that enables the migration and deployment of CICS/COBOL mainframe applications to the Windows platform. This important tool is backed up by other migration and development tools and expertise from 19 other members, including CGI Group, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Covansys, EDS, Fujitsu software and consulting groups, Getronics, Information Analysis Inc., M2O, MSS International, NetManage, ObjectStar, Satyam Computer Services, Sonata Software, Sophisticated Business Systems, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Infotech, and Transoft. (Noticeably absent from this list is Unisys, which makes the big 32-way Xeon ES7000 "mainframes," but which recently found Linux, to Microsoft's detriment.)
Many mainframe customers are taking a hard look at their mainframe investments, says Tim O'Brien, a senior product manager with Microsoft's developer and platform evangelism group. "They're facing a set of decisions for reducing costs, improving agility, and getting better performance" out of their mainframe applications, he says. "Intel machines are getting faster and faster, while the shrinking pool of mainframe resources is pretty well documented. The customers are saying 'I want alternatives. I want help.' We're responding to what customers are asking us for."
O'Brien sees two main opportunities for displacing mainframes. The first involves wholesale replacement of all the applications on a mainframe, and the second involves the tactical migration of specific applications onto Wintel boxes. Microsoft and its partners have put together more than 60 case studies documenting both types of migrations. These case studies, along with white papers and other documents, will be available for download on the Mainframe Migration Alliance Web site.
Before you think that only midsized mainframe shops due for a major upgrade anyway would even look at Windows, consider Bertelsmann. The German media giant analyzed several ways it could rewrite a COBOL application used to manage its book club, including rewriting it in Java, MVS, and Windows, O'Brien says. It found the Java rewrite would have cost between 4 and 5 million Euros, that MVS would have cost 3.5 million Euros (but provided no flexibility), and that a rewrite with Microsoft development tools would cost 1.2 million Euros and provide the needed flexibility, he says.
According to Manfred Zillinger, Bertelsmann's chief development officer, the switch from a mainframe to the Windows platform saved the company 50 percent of its operational IT costs associated with the system and had a return on investment of less than 20 months." Besides that, we expect to achieve a dramatic rise in productivity due to enhanced capabilities and increased efficiency, based on the more agile platform," he says.
There is no cost to joint the Mainframe Migration Alliance. O'Brien says members of the alliance will be able to help fund and participate in co-marketing activities, including speeches and presentations at conferences, and other various activities. O'Brien says the organization is getting its own small operating budget. There is currently no advertising planned, but the association is looking into advertising, he says. "Our goal is to generate awareness and give customers access to resources, case studies, and third-party solutions," O'Brien says.