Montreal’s Speedware offers mainframe migration

Montreal-based Speedware Ltd. is offering a software tool that can migrate mainframe applications to Unix, Linux and Windows-based platforms. But while smaller companies might see the benefit in moving a few legacy apps off their mainframes, at least one analyst says the solution might not resonate with larger IT shops.

With Xframe, programs written in COBOL, PL/I and C languages can be ported over to a variety of operating platforms. The software tool also contains a transaction server that can execute CICS and IMS/DC applications, as well as, run mainframe batch processes from z/OS and VSE systems. It supports migration to Unix, Linux and Windows platforms.

“It takes your JCL and automatically converts that to the platform in question, so that might be a Windows scripting language or Korn shell or another scripting language,” Garry Ciambella, head of research and development at Speedware, said. He added that Xframe offers full VSAM emulation supporting KSDS, ESDS, and RRDS files.

Along with its customer delivery partner Lead Point Inc., based in Haledon, Nj., Speedware is introducing the XFrame re-hosting tool to U.S. and Canadian customers. As an XFrame reseller, Speedware will provide mainframe customers with integration services. The software was developed by Italy-based HTWC S.r.l.

Ciambella said that re-hosting your mainframe apps on open systems can offer significant cost savings and add more flexibility for enterprises down the line.

Speedware estimated that about 1,500 companies use IBM mainframes in North America. These systems can range anywhere from small scale 100-MIPS (millions of instructions per second) mainframes to large scale 1,000-MIPS machines. The fact that Xframe offers a fully automated migration path will be of particular interest, Ciambella said, to enterprises of all sizes.

“The information we’ve gleamed from market analysts has shown us that upwards of 80 per cent of mainframes are running things like DB2, IMS, VSAM, CICS and COBOL, which is really the a perfect fit for the Xframe product,” he said.

But according to Charles King, a principal analyst at Pund-IT Research Inc., most mainframe re-hosting solutions have had a pretty spotty track record over the years.

“Where these tools tend to find success is with companies that have a few applications running on the mainframe, but are not really pursuing any kind of growth strategy with their mainframe environments,” he said. Smaller companies running an application or two on ancient mainframe systems might be wise to consider the migration option, King added.

The companies that have made significant investments in mainframe computers, King said, are continuing to work dynamically with those systems and don’t see the benefit of migrating from them. This is especially the case with large enterprises in the financial sector.

“The big banks wouldn’t touch this stuff with a 10-foot pole,” he said. “The move really isn’t quite as simple as the re-hosting folks would like it to sound. Usually there’s a good deal of service work involved in either writing or customizing the applications and moving everything over so it works properly. It’s not an exercise for the faint of heart.”

Large enterprises such as banks, King added, typically have environments so complex that even if they were considering a migration, it would probably be shot down by upper management for being too expensive.

“The other thing, and in transaction computing especially, as good as Wintel and Unix systems are, if you need absolutely top-end and reliable computing, there’s no systems in the world that can match the mainframe,” he said.

Ciambella admitted that while a whole box migration might run into some challenges because you have to replace the technology in the entire machine, for clients looking to migrate a select number of applications, there’s no better option.

“It’s only the largest segment in terms of MIPS that is still seeing modest year-over-year growth in the mainframe market,” he said. “If you’re looking at machines that are greater than 1,000 MIPS that I’d agree IBM is still moving those at about eight to 10 per cent a year. But analysts believe that by 2010, that’s going to stabilize and then start sliding down.”

In the smaller machines, he added, the industry has seen declines anywhere from 10 to 15 per cent depending on the MIPS segment.

Speedware is a subsidiary of Livermore, Calif.-based Activant Solutions Inc.

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