Unisys lands $187m Pentagon mainframe deal
Not exactly wild blue yonder
Mainframe maker Unisys wants a little good news ahead of reporting its fourth quarter 2009, and the US Department of Defense was happy to oblige. The Defense Information Systems Agency, the IT arm of the Pentagon, today inked a deal to shell out $187m to provide managed services for DISA's ClearPath mainframes.
The Pentagon is not terribly specific about how Unisys mainframes are used within its complex of computers, which are distributed around military bases and on ships and planes around the globe. Unisys says that the Air Force has been a mainframe customer since 1983, which predated the merger of mainframe makers Sperry and Burroughs by three years.
DISA had just completed a five-year contract for Unisys to upgrade and manage its prior ClearPath mainframe complexes, and the deal announced today is a five year re-upping of the contract. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon has a stop-loss provision for the indigenous mainframe providers its applications rely upon.
Under the deal, DISA will get upgrades to ClearPath Dorado 700 mainframes, which come from the Sperry side of the Unisys house and which run the OS 2200 operating system. (The ClearPath Libra mainframes come from the Burroughs half of the line and run the MCP operating system.)
DISA is boosting its Unisys mainframe capacity, which is used to support Air Force logistics as well as to run the Pentagon's finance and accounting software and other unnamed Defense Department applications. Unisys is also going to upgrade the storage used by the mainframes, including the installation of virtual tape libraries. The mainframes used by the Air Force also run a middleware stack called MitemView, from Mitem, which links the green-screen Unisys OS 2200 applications to other applications built using Visual Basic, C#, or Java.
The high-end ClearPath Dorado 700 mainframes were announced in October 2008, with lower-end products coming out last May. The Dorado 700s that DISA is installing are based on dual-core mainframe engines rated at 525 MIPS and the machines can span up to 32 engines in a single system image, for a total of 5,700 MIPS.
Unisys has an analog to IBM's Parallel Sysplex clustering for mainframes, called Extended Processing Complex-L (XPC-L). This allows four Dorado 700s to be ganged up to deliver over 20,000 MIPS. As mainframes go, this is pretty big iron.
DISA has tried to establish itself as a kind of independent service bureau, with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines as its clients. It is surprisingly open about what IT services it has to offer. According to DISA's own website, it offers virtualized processing capacity for the armed forces on IBM z/OS and Linux operating systems as well as on Unisys mainframes and on x64 iron running Windows or Unix (presumably Solaris 10, but DISA does not say).
Amazingly, each one of these services has published prices outside of the Pentagon firewall for processor capacity (on an hourly basis) as well as for storage, tape, and add-on services such as database administration, remote operations, high availability clustering, and so on. You can see all the prices DISA charges here. ®
Wow, just had a Tron flashback...
In my book, it's often better to upgrade a proven and reliable system than it is to attempt a rewrite, partiuclarly if so-called "modern" UNIX or Linux platforms don't really have much software available in a customized application area.
We still use Clearpath Dorado boxes in the airline industry for a reason, and it ain't just inertia.
I'm glad I'm not there any more
My part of the Unisys Circus was sold years ago to Lockheed, and what comes to mind is a little lyric from 10cc (yup, I'm that old)
Now time goes marching on
And it won't wait for you
You've gotta take it when it's offered
And get it when it's due
Now a man can move much faster
Without a millstone around his neck
So if you get the chance to lose it
You've gotta drop it and run like heck...