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For 10 years, IT managers have heard the promises: cheap server farms will replace expensive mainframe systems, lowering costs and improving competitive advantage through modern applications. And for 10 years, it hasn’t happened.
Vendors are still feeding IT the same sales pitch. This time around, it’s coming from the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems, all companies with vested interests in selling their own boxes and legacy migration tools. Can these modern solutions really deliver on promises first made a decade ago?
As it turns out, the answer is a qualified yes. Distributed server systems can, in fact, replace the mainframe at a lower cost, especially in organizations running lower-end mainframe systems that offer 500 or fewer MIPS (millions of instructions per second) of computational power, according to Forrester Research analyst Phil Murphy. As an organization’s IT infrastructure scales up, however, the answer is less clear, notes IDC Research Director Steve Josselyn. Some large organizations find the mainframe to be a much more efficient and economical platform, whereas others realize dramatic cost savings by migrating away.
A Migration Triple Play
According to Ted Venema, a consultant at legacy modernization vendor BluePhoenix, when an organization does decide to move applications from the mainframe, it typically faces three migration challenges: the hardware platform, the database system, and the application development language.
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Given the Adabas/Natural platform’s 35-year lineage and diminishing market share, DCCA was concerned that its legacy environment would have few support options as time wore on. According to project manager David Graff Nielsen, the agency already had to rely on an outside firm to manage its code. Moreover, DCCA wanted to move to a more Web-enabled transaction environment, which would allow businesses to register and update their information over the Internet -- something the Adabas/Natural platform did not easily support.
So the agency moved its applications onto 16-processor x86 application and database servers running Suse Linux and Oracle 9.2i. The new platform is at least 25 percent cheaper to operate and maintain, Nielsen says, freeing up money and people for the agency’s goal of improving and Web-enabling its services, instead of merely reducing costs.