Sun’s Not-Quite Mainframes
Sun Microsystems has taken an aggressive approach to the mainframe space, urging customers to rehost IBM mainframes on its mainframe-like Solaris 9 SPARC systems. “Sun has proven there are real value points for mainframe features in the Unix world, developing innovations … that others are now trying to copy,” Sun vice president of marketing Steve Campbell said.
Campbell emphasizes that Sun’s systems are not mainframes. At least not in the sense that “mainframe computers are costly, complex, closed systems that our companies are finding to be a tremendous expense.” Migration to a Sun “Unix ‘mainframe'” means “no more programmers specializing in COBOL.”
Recent Unix “mainframe” victories for Sun include Transamerica Life Canada, which moved its applications to Sun SPARC servers and cut costs by 50 percent. It also achieved ROI in six months, and boosted system performance by 25 percent, Campbell added.
On the IBM rehosting front, German steel magnate Böhler Edelstahl GmbH, recently migrated from IBM zSeries 900s to Sun Fire servers running Solaris 9. “Böhler Edelstahl expects to realize a substantial return on investment and reduce operational costs up to 40 percent,” Campbell said.
Moving Toward Modularity
Sun is pushing its mainframe approach as more modular, and Unisys and IBM are moving their mainframes to more open standards with respective Windows and Linux options.
This puts the three vendors in more similar boats than Sun would probably care to admit. Sun is still touting its Solaris operating system as a salve to proprietary problems, while also having hedged its bets and moved toward the x86 architecture with its Sun Fire server and April announcement of a closer relationship with Microsoft. Unisys and IBM today also offer, and rely heavily on, non-mainframe options.
But all three (as well as various other vendors) continue developing mainframe solutions, and real-world enterprises are finding value in them. The key, of course, is finding which solution makes the most sense for your organization.