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Unisys Touts New Mainframe Systems

Building on IBM’s announcement last week of its most powerful mainframe system yet, the z990, Unisys on Monday unveiled the most powerful mainframe to date for its OS2200 operating environment. A mainstay in the transportation industry and in government, OS2200 gets a new lease on life with a proprietary Unisys architecture -- dubbed CMP -- that supports mixed deployments of OS2200, Windows and Unix workloads.

Unisys’ expectation is that as Microsoft’s Windows 2000 Server Datacenter Edition operating system continues to mature, customers running its legacy mainframes will choose to transition away from MCP or OS2200 to 32- or 64-bit versions of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. In the meantime, customers can run their legacy operating environments along with new Windows workloads.

Unisys refreshed its OS2200-based ClearPath mainframe systems with three new mainframe models, the ClearPath Plus Dorado 110, Dorado 140 and Dorado 180. The ClearPath Plus Dorado models 140 and 180 replace Unisys’ ClearPath models 7402 and 7802 mainframes, respectively; the ClearPath Plus Dorado model 110 is a new, entry-level system.

Unisys’ ClearPath Plus mainframes are based on its Cellular Multiprocessing (CMP) technology, a system architecture that supports a heterogeneous mixture of processors and operating environments -- including Windows and Unix.

Unisys in September brought CMP to its MCP-based ClearPath systems, rechristening them ClearPath Plus Libra. At the time, the computing and services giant indicated that its OS2200-based systems would be rechristened with the ClearPath Plus Dorado brand.

ClearPath Plus systems can be populated with Unisys’ proprietary CMOS, along with Xeon MP and Itanium 2 chips from Intel Corp. The ClearPath Plus models 140 and 180 support 16 and 32 Unisys processors, respectively; the model 110 a single Unisys processor. In addition, up to 24 Intel-based processors can be supported in the ClearPath Plus models 140 and 180; up to eight Intel-based processors are supported in the ClearPath Plus 110.

The Dorado systems also introduce support for a utility computing feature, called Performance Redistribution, that Unisys first introduced with its ClearPath Plus Libra systems in September. Performance Redistribution lets an IT organization redistribute MIPS as needed to address changes in demand.

Unisys has for some time supported Capacity on Demand, which is similar to the On/Off Capacity Upgrade on Demand (On/Off CUD) option that IBM has been introducing into its high-end systems. Last week, Big Blue finally announced On/Off CUD for its zSeries mainframes.

Steve Goldner, director of ClearPath marketing services with Unisys, says that his company will eventually introduce support for so-called “Utility Metering” on its mainframe systems. “This will give customers the capability of paying for MIPs per second above a base-line,” he explains. Goldner declined to say when Utility Metering would be available.

Unisys has also promised to deliver integration technologies that exploit technologies such as .NET, J2EE and Web services to integrate legacy OS2200 and MCP application with Windows, Unix or Linux environments.

IBM has touted its success in getting customers to deploy new workloads on mainframe systems.

Goldner, for his part, says that Unisys’ customers are also deploying new MCP and OS2200 workloads on their ClearPath Plus mainframes. “We have some customers who are putting additional workloads [on new mainframes]. A lot of that activity is the function of an acquisition where one degree of the IT department has a strong comfort in what their application can do for them, and we do find that some customers are moving to the Intel side, Windows implementation, and that’s fine with us as well.”

Indeed, Unisys’ expectation is that as Microsoft’s Windows Datacenter Server operating system continues to mature, customers running its legacy mainframes will choose to transition away from MCP or OS2200 to 32- or 64-bit versions of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. In the interim, suggest Goldner and other Unisys representatives, they can simultaneously support legacy and Windows or Unix applications on the same system.

One customer that is doing just that is Community First Bankshares, a financial institution with over $5 billion in assets. Interviewed at the time of the ClearPath Libra launch, CIO Dan Fisher said that his company also planned to consolidate a number of separate Windows NT 4.0 Servers -- in addition to the company’s existing MCP workloads -- on a ClearPath Plus Libra model 180. Said Fisher: “We’re the largest thin client financial institution in the country, and we’re moving up to Windows 2000 on the new box, which will allow us to blend [Windows 2000] with MCP on the same box.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.