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Unisys lands $187m Pentagon mainframe deal

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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. ®

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