Microsoft Targets IBM i, z/OS Migrations With PMA Program
November 26, 2012 Alex Woodie
You may recall that, several years back, Microsoft ran the Midrange Alliance Program (MAP) and Mainframe Modernization Alliance (MMA), two marketing and awareness campaigns focused on moving applications and workloads off IBM‘s iSeries and mainframe servers. While the MAP and MMA fizzled away, Microsoft has a new group called the Platform Modernization Alliance (PMA) that is gaining attention with IBM partners and customers.
It is not news that the so-called “distributed” Wintel and Lintel server platforms are dominant in the IT industry. They have been for a while now; the war ended years ago. Consider these numbers:
Out of the $12.5 billion spent on servers during the second quarter of 2012, Windows servers accounted for about $6 billion, or 47.9 percent, of that total, according to IDC. Linux servers accounted for another $2.8 billion, or 22.3 percent. Unix-based machines accounted for another $2.3 billion, or 18.4 percent of the worldwide server revenue pie. That leaves about $1.5 billion, or 11.9 percent, for the “other” server category, which is where IBM mainframes, IBM i servers, and assorted other proprietary systems fit in.
When you cut the server revenue figures by processor architecture, non-X86 machines (a category that includes mainframes, Power Systems servers, Oracle Sparc servers, and Itanium servers) accounted for $3.9 billion in revenues, or 31 percent of the $12.5 billion during the second quarter.
At the turn of the century, the Windows NT operating system wasn’t quite a joke, but few large companies were using it for critical business systems. Fast forward 12 years, and a lot has changed. Microsoft has to be pleased with how the war turned out, although its system partners–IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and the others–have to work harder today and get less profit out of the new distributed world than when mainframe, AS/400, and the RISC-based architectures were pre-eminent in Fortune 1000 companies’ data centers.
While Microsoft won the war and dominates the server racket with its Windows Server stack (in terms of revenues as well as shipments), there is still the pesky mater of the 31 percent of server revenue going to holdouts, those applications that continue to run on IBM i, AIX, Solaris, mainframe, and OpenVMS servers. Some of these servers are running big workloads, and getting them onto Windows Server would be major victories for Microsoft and its partners.
The 31 Percent
This is where Microsoft’s PMA comes. Whereas the precursor organizations, the MAP and the MMA, were more vocal in espousing the need to migrate, the PMA appears to take a more hands-on and action-oriented approach, explains Scott Rosenbloom, a member of Microsoft’s worldwide modernization team, which is run by Bob Ellsworth. Ellsworth is a systems engineer who spent 24 years at clone mainframe maker Amdahl (which was absorbed into Fujitsu) who came to Microsoft in 2001 to manage the Windows Server Enterprise and Datacenter Edition. Rosenbloom, who was a senior product manager in Microsoft’s Server and Cloud division, is the guy who runs the PMA group.
“The old MMA and MAP were focused on marketing primarily in the form of awareness–to help educate the market on the capabilities of distributed platforms for running traditional Tier-1, mission-critical workloads, as well as methods for preserving existing assets as they moved to x86 based infrastructure,” Rosenbloom tells IT Jungle via email. “As is reflected through IDC market numbers, the movement of organizations from mainframe, RISC, and midrange systems (System i, HP3000, OpenVMS) has accelerated with the market deciding on distributed architectures based on Windows and Linux. Therefore, the PMA has moved from awareness/marketing to more focus on support and execution of existing modernization projects.”
According to the PMA’s website at www.platformmodernization.org, the program is a “Web-community” designed to accomplish several goals, including: helping members collaborate about midrange and mainframe migrations; to help businesses learn about the Microsoft application platform (i.e. Windows Server, SQL Server, and related middleware); to provide co-marketing, sales, and support to PMA members and their customers; and to serve as a clearinghouse for white papers, videos, and other documents and collateral.
You will find several interesting videos on the PMA website, including presentations by experts like Gartner analyst Dale Vecchio, HP’s enterprise architect Stan Murawksi, Micro Focus director of modernization Andrew Wickett, and Ellsworth, the worldwide director of platform modernization.
Vecchio’s presentation on mainframe migrations is particularly insightful. He makes the point that mainframes (and IBM i servers, we can infer) had to be rock-solid and well-managed because they contained all the key applications and data. Distributed systems require a completely different mindset, because they have no single point of failure, although they, too, require management discipline. “We think this discipline can easily be brought to distributed environments–highly available, high performing environments.”
Less FUD, More Filling
Judging from the PMA website, Microsoft seems eager to dive into the nuts and bolts of platform migrations–to geek out on the different options available and the advantages and disadvantages of each–which is refreshing. Presentations like Vecchio’s, and the access to subject matter experts that the PMA facilitate, show that the group is taking migrations seriously.
Microsoft seems to have moved a little bit beyond FUD with the PMA, which began in 2010. The tech giant has spread its share of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the past–namely concerning the coming demise of IBM “big iron” platforms. It shouldn’t be held against Microsoft, since all system vendors do it, and to be honest, there is still a little FUD with the PMA. But when you already own 48 percent of the market’s revenue (which is about where Unix peaked in the late 1990s), there’s something to be said for letting your actions do the talking and broaching the topic from a point of power. Microsoft seems to be waiting for the migration deals to come to it, and the PMA is the place where opportunities trickle in.
Partners are integral to the PMA. In the IBM i space, Microsoft is working with well-known tool vendors like ASNA, Fresche Legacy (formerly Speedware), LANSA, Micro Focus, and Transoft; some less-well known tool vendors like ATX Technologies and Unicon; and tool vendors specializing in certain areas, like Vision Solutions. There are also lots of consulting groups hooked up with the PMA, ranging from small firms like Packaged Business Solutions International to big ones like Accenture to Wipro Technologies. There are 64 partners listed on the PMA website; the program is free for partners to join.
The PMA acts as a referral program for these partners, who can rely on Microsoft to provide them with subject matter experts, technical white papers, and other resources to get proof of concept programs off the ground. The PMA also participates in several events every year, including the Microsoft Partner Conference, the Gartner Application Architecture, Development, and Integration Summit, and the PMA Summit.
“The PMA has had tremendous success over the last several years,” Rosenbloom says. “There has been high double-digit growth in projects moving from IBM mainframe, midrange, Oracle/Unix and Sybase to Windows and SQL Server through this partner ecosystem.”
Don’t expect the PMA to fade away any time soon, especially as Microsoft goes after the remaining 31 percent of server dollars that aren’t spent on X86 gear.