Unisys introduces new mainframe

Unisys Corp. introduced the ClearPath Plus Libra 185 on Monday, the company’s newest high-end mainframe featuring built-in support for Microsoft Corp.’s .Net and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application development.

The support for .Net and J2EE has been added to the mainframe’s enterprise application environment (EAE) – a software development toolset that will allow users to create applications combining ClearPath COBOL, .Net and J2EE modules.

United Fire and Casualty Group, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based insurance company, has been a Unisys EAE customer for the past 15 years and upgraded to the Libra 185 two weeks ago.

Scott Minkel, director of information services at United Fire and Casualty, said currently the insurance group doesn’t have a lot of integration options to take full advantage of the .Net and J2EE support, but he is pleased the feature is available.

“Having that as a basis of their EAE direction and the ability to deploy that on the Libra 185, I think it just gives us the roadmap to the future,” Minkel said.

He added that the EAE environment allows the company to deploy the same applications created on the mainframe onto the Internet, a project the insurance company has already done in a couple of applications.

“And we didn’t need to hire any experts in Web languages or anything like that. We could just develop it for the mainframe, use and deploy it on the Internet,” Minkel said.

He added that the decision for upgrading from the ClearPath NX4800 mainframe to the Libra 185 was two-fold. The first factor in the purchase was that the 185 was the latest technology that Unisys could offer the company. Secondly, Minkel was impressed with the performance on-demand feature, a feature that is still in the beta-testing phase.

According to Unisys, this on-demand feature – metered performance provisioning – allows organizations to increase or decrease performance as business needs change, enabling them to only pay for the performance used.

“We’ve implemented it in a development and disaster recovery environment, so we can purchase a lower performance level and then be able to increase that performance should we have to declare a disaster and move to that site,” Minkel said.

Rod Sapp, director of ClearPath marketing for Unisys said the Libra 185 is a completely new design to that of its predecessor, the Libra 180.

“We’ve introduced a new CMOS (complimentary MOS) processor technology, we’ve also totally redesigned the I/O (input/output) subsystem and we are offering new memory. So, from a technology perspective it’s new at virtually every level,” Sapp said.

At the platform level, the Libra 185 supports 32 processors – the Libra 180 supported only six – that can configure over 10,000 million instructions per second (MIPS) in a single platform, Sapp said.

“From an I/O perspective, we have increased the I/O capability three to five times and the memory capacity has gone from 9GB up to 64GB total on the platform,” Sapp added.

He said that customers currently running the Libra 180 can still benefit from the new technology included in the new model.

“When we announced the Libra 180, we had put the infrastructure in place in the Libra 180 system so that customers can add all these elements – the new processor technology, the new I/O and the new memory – into their existing infrastructure,” Sapp said.

Minkel said he has experienced very little downtime from a hardware perspective, with the 185 and the software support “is just phenomenal.”

The ClearPath Plus Libra 185 is priced from US$1.1 million to US$22.4 million, depending on configuration.

Unisys can be found online at www.unisys.com.