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Amdahl IT Services has launched Destination Solaris, a service for customers wishing to migrate from mainframes (of the IBM zSeries or System 390 compatible machines) to Sun Starcat Solaris machines.

Amdahl has decades of IBM mainframe and associated data centre experience and is well versed in the skills necessary to handle large projects of this type. Sun's contribution is to be found in the Starcat Server and its Unikix software which allows mainframe CICs applications to run on Unix servers.

Keith Vickers, the global programme architect for Destination Solaris, believes that many organisations are keen to make the move to Unix from the mainframe and indicates that customers can make a three to seven-fold return on their investments by making such a migration. The mainframe market is now effectively a one horse race as both Hitachi and Amdahl have announced that they have no plans to develop new 64-bit mainframe systems, leaving IBM the only mainframe game in town. Is the mainframe about to die out?

On the other hand, IBM has also seen a lot of server migration taking place from a variety of platforms, including Unix and Windows, to new zSeries mainframe servers. IBM's latest servers can support a number of operating environments, including the open source Linux, in addition the native OS/390.

Over the years, computing infrastructure has been through several evolutionary phases. In the beginning there was only one type of computing server device available, namely the central computer known as a mainframe.

After some time, a number of smaller servers running the new fangled UNIX operating system came into being to tackle tasks that the central mainframe was not addressing. Over the years the numbers of these UNIX boxes grew at a healthy rate until they significantly outnumbered the central mainframes by a very large factor. The final major chunk of the hardware jigsaw witnessed the explosion of the desktop PC into the business place until few offices, if any, exist without the machines being present somewhere.

After all, it is a much less complex task to manage a few big servers and centralised storage than cheaper, distributed, small systems.

Recently though, the total cost of ownership of various computing architectures has become a very hot topic for all organisations. One thing is clear; managing distributed systems is recognised as being much higher than the costs of looking after central systems, regardless of how tight the control of the distributed platforms. The cost of ownership debate and advances in all areas of IT has created an environment where it is now feasible to consider moving applications and data from existing server platforms to other systems. Hence, there is currently a very healthy interest in the area of server migration.

Indeed, server consolidation is a hot topic at the moment and along with storage consolidation is an area under active investigation by many organisations. There have been reports of the death of the mainframe for almost as long as anyone can remember and it has not happened yet. We believe that the mainframe is here to stay.

With companies having so many competing pressures to address and as there exist an almost limitless number of existing architectures in place, it is likely that there will be growing numbers of migration projects, to both large Unix servers and mainframe systems.

After all, it is a much less complex task to manage a few big servers and centralised storage than cheaper, distributed, small systems. It appears that Server Consolidation figures large in the future of computing and this will create a huge demand for migration services.

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