Last week came another dramatic announcement from a major mainframe vendor – “New ClearPath Systems Achieved a Historical Milestone”. The actual story was that Unisys have released new models of their mainframes that are based on Intel Xeon chips rather than bespoke CMOS that, up to now, were required to give the highest performance levels offered by the company. Unisys has been on a decade-long quest to achieve this goal and are justifiably proud of achieving it. We Unisys-watchers are left wondering “what does this mean to me?” Does it mean that I can suddenly run my applications in a different way, under WebSphere rather than COMS for example, or perhaps use Oracle instead of DMS? Sadly, no. What we run on the mainframe is constrained by the operating system and that is still MCP or OS2200 using instruction sets identical to those provided by the original CMOS chips. Does it then mean that the cost of these new models will be substantially lower than I am used to? Well, unless the laws of the market have suddenly changed, Unisys will charge what the market can bear regardless of the undoubted cost-saving that will accrue ““ they are the only supplier that you can buy the Libra or Dorado mainframe and software from and are thus a monopoly. However, having said that, lowering the manufacturing cost base does potentially give Unisys more flexibility. The way that any mainframe vendor sees the market is that there is an extraordinarily high barrier to exit ““ to ditch the mainframe environment and move into the mainstream where costs are subject to real competition would require a risky rewrite or an expensive and lengthy ERP implementation. We have seen this view modified in individual instances by a specific action ““ that of commissioning a migration study. We define a migration in this context as using automated software tools to transform programs, databases and operational software into their commodity equivalents capable of running on any Linux/Unix/Windows platform, and the study as a short term exercise that will deliver a fixed time/cost proposal to replace the application system with a functionally identical one but ported to a mainstream environment. When the customer has real choice, the vendor is forced into negotiating realistically. And, of course, the choice offered by the migration may turn out to be more valuable than the legacy alternative in other ways – innovation, integration, staff, strategic risk – no matter what discount is offered. Want to keep the conversation going? Join us on LinkedIn!