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Unisys cranks out kicker CMOS and Xeon mainframes

Yes, Virginia, companies still use mainframes

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The Dorado 700 began quietly shipping to customers at the end of September and is priced at a whopping $4.5m in a base configuration, including processors, disks, I/O subsystems, and a complete OS 2200 software stack. Unisys says that, depending on the customer scenario, these Dorado 700 machines nonetheless offer from 50 to 200 per cent more bang for the buck compared to predecessors.

The other two new x64 boxes, the Dorado 4000 and Libra 4000, flesh out the line with midrange mainframes. They fit between the CMOS mainframes above and the entry Dorado 400 and Libra 400 x64 boxes running OS 2200 and MCP, were announced last year and which do not pack as much of a punch on card-walloping COBOL workloads. The Dorado 4000 and Libra 4000 machines are based on the quad-core Intel Tigerton X7350 processor. These mainframes don't use the newer "Dunnington" six-core Xeon 7400s just announced and shipping in the NEC-Unisys "Monster Xeon" box announced a few weeks ago that spans to a maximum of 96 cores.

The Dorado 4000 has a maximum of 800 MIPS of processing capacity using the instruction emulation atop that Linux kernel, which is more than double that of the entry Dorado 400 machines. More importantly for OLTP workloads, the I/O subsystem in the newer x64 box can handle 72,000 IOPS, which is four times that of the Dorado 400 machines that sit below them in the product line. (This is obviously a lot less than the bigger mainframes can do.)

The Libra 4000 boxes are based on the same processor technology - the first time Unisys has been able to do this - and are rated at the same 800 MIPS in a full configuration. But MCP requires a different I/O subsystem, so this is different on the Libra boxes. Both machines have mirrored main memory for high availability, and Maclean said that in the first quarter of next year Unisys will deliver mirrored Dorado 4000 and Libra 4000 systems that come preconfigured with high availability clustering for OS 2200, and MCP workloads based on Unisys' own software.

The Dorado 4000 will begin shipping on October 31, and base configurations with storage and software will cost $498,000. The Libra 4000 will ship on November 17 and base setups cost nearly twice as much at $750,000. Considering the similarity of the iron, this seems a bit unfair. But, when you have your own legacy mainframe business, you can set your own prices.

For years, IBM has tweaked its zSeries and System z mainframe engines to support Linux, Java, and DB2 database workloads using so-called speciality engines. These engines have much lower prices - often a quarter the price of a real mainframe engine dedicated to z/OS work. The idea is to offload Linux, Java, and DB2 work to these cheaper engines to keep mainframe shops from dumping mainframes entirely and going with cheaper iron.

Now, Unisys is going to do something similar. But instead of using mainframe engines, it's going to create outboard appliances that hook into ClearPath mainframes to do some work not well suited to expensive mainframes. So there's now a 1U server appliance dedicated to cryptographic processing for Dorado and Libra mainframes, and the Libra customers are getting another appliance to run Java and Web services. These plug into the mainframes through normal network connections, and mainframe applications have no idea that OS 2200 and MCP are offloading this work to appliances. ®

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