Microsoft, Micro Focus team up for mainframe migration alliance

Program taps Wintel architecture to reduce costs, but is not scalable enough for all mainframe environments

In a week fraught with mainframe-related news, Microsoft and Micro Focus are the latest companies to join the ruckus.

Microsoft and Micro Focus teamed up on Thursday to detail a program designed to help customers migrate away from the mainframe.

Earlier this week, IBM celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first mainframe computer by unveiling the e-Server zSeries z890 .

Rival Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, took the wraps off a program to help customers move away from mainframes. Sun claimed that migrating off of a mainframe via its program enables customers to use the same applications and data on lower-cost systems.

Taking a similar stance to Sun's, Micro Focus CEO Tony Hill explained that his company's offering uses a collection of technologies from Microsoft, Intel, and Micro Focus to create a lower-cost environment for running the same applications that now reside on a mainframe.

The company uses Intel-based hardware, Windows,.Net, and its own products at the COBOL layer and for CICS transactions.

"Once you move the application, it will run at 50 percent of the cost of a mainframe," Hill said.

Moving from a mainframe to the Wintel platform is appropriate for some companies, but not all, according to Dale Vecchio, an application development research director specializing in legacy issues at Gartner.

"Is Wintel sufficient to perform as well as a mainframe? The answer is yes, in certain mips [million instructions per second] ranges," Vecchio said.

Vecchio said that for companies with mainframes that have fewer than 500 mips, moving to a Windows environment can be more cost-effective, but for those with 1,000 mips, migrating is not practicable.

He added that cost and performance are not the only factors customers consider when deciding to migrate.

"Cost is always a big deal, but there's a perception that skilled developers on the mainframe are in decline, so companies don't want to get caught in [an] environment where there are no skilled workers," Vecchio said. "That skills perception is a driving force behind migration."