Mainframe Propeller Head

Oct 14 2009   5:19PM GMT

U.S. House ditches mainframe

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

There’s been some news this week that the U.S. House of Representatives has gotten rid of its last mainframe. From the story:

“It’s a symbolic transition into the latest and greatest in terms of green technology, virtualization, consolidation and all those things,” says Jack Nichols, director of enterprise operations at the House of Representatives. “The mainframe plug was pulled, but it was pulled in favor of something that was started in the mainframe world.”

The House had been using mainframes since at least the early 1970s, and at one time had a 13,000-square-foot data center dedicated to mainframe and mainframe operations. As mainframes grew stronger, the House moved down to just one machine, in addition to other types of servers.

The mainframe had apparently been there since 1997. According to the story, the House spent $700,000 per year to maintain it, and another $30,000 to power it. They’re holding those numbers up as potential savings, but haven’t actually said how much the new infrastructure — including x86 and Unix servers — will cost for power and maintenance.

“It wasn’t the fastest box in the world,” says Rich Zanatta, director of facilities for the House. “Some of our blades and some of our standard servers have more capability than that entire 8-cubic-foot box has. Technology-wise, it’s obviously been surpassed.”

No kidding, Rich. The mainframe was there for 12 years. You do know that mainframe technology has advanced since then, too, right? Another paragraph in the story says:

Turning off the mainframe is a big step in reducing the House’s server footprint. Already, the House consolidated about 150 test servers down to 20 through virtualization, and consolidated about 120 production servers onto 15 or 20.

Um, what? The mainframe does not consist of 270 production and test servers. Those can be consolidated down and still continue to communicate with a mainframe.

Anyway, the best responses came from the IBM-Main listserv, which is full of mainframers. Some tidbits from posters:

“If the US government is migrating away from IBM mainframes, they must have found something more expensive”

“If Congress is getting rid of their last mainframe, this only proves the VALUE of a mainframe.  Lord knows they get everything ELSE wrong up there…”

“is this one of those “great savings” from someplace that hadn’t upgraded their mainframe system in 20 years? and I love this part: The last mainframe was an IBM model in place since 1997…1997, let’s see, so we’re talking either the 9021 family or the early generation cmos…yea, okay, I just answered the q”

By the way, Congress’ job approval rating in August was 31%, according to Gallup.

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