Unisys Touts New Mainframe Systems

ClearPath Plus Dorado supports heterogeneous mix of processors and operating environments

IBM last week unveiled its next-generation mainframe system, the z990, billing it as the most powerful mainframe ever (http://www.esj.com/news/article.asp?EditorialsID=544).

Yesterday it was Unisys's turn. The company refreshed its OS2200-based ClearPath mainframe systems with three new mainframe models: the ClearPath Plus Dorado 110, Dorado 140, and Dorado 180. The ClearPath Plus Dorado models 140 and 180 replace Unisys’ ClearPath models 7402 and 7802 mainframes, respectively, while the ClearPath Plus Dorado model 110 is a new, entry-level system.

Unisys’ ClearPath Plus mainframes are based on its Cellular Multiprocessing Platform (CMP) technology, a system architecture that supports a heterogeneous mixture of processors and operating environments.

In September, Unisys brought CMP to its MCP-based ClearPath systems, rechristening them ClearPath Plus Libra. At the time, the computing and services giant indicated that its OS2200-based systems would be rechristened with the ClearPath Plus Dorado brand.

The ClearPath Plus Dorado model 180 systems support as many 32 proprietary Unisys processors running in a single system image, along with support for as many as eight OS2200 system images. The model 140 supports as many as 16 processors and four OS2200 partitions.

The entry-level model 110 supports one Unisys CMOS processor, along with another chip held in reserve. It can support one OS2200 partition.

ClearPath Plus systems can be populated with Unisys’ proprietary CMOS, along with Xeon MP and Itanium 2 chips from Intel Corp. Up to 24 Intel-based processors can be supported in the ClearPath Plus models 140 and 180 and up to eight in the ClearPath Plus 110.

The Dorado systems also introduce support for a utility computing feature called Performance Redistribution that Unisys first introduced with its ClearPath Plus Libra systems in September. Performance Redistribution lets an IT organization redistribute MIPS as needed to address changes in demand.

“It lets you reallocate the total performance among processors. During the day you’re doing OLTP, you’ve got your performance divided among three processors. At night you’ve got some heavy batch, which usually does better with a single processor, so you’re literally able to put it on a single processor and increase the performance on the fly,” explained Rodney Sapp, director of ClearPath marketing for Unisys, during the Libra launch last year.

Unisys has for some time supported Capacity on Demand, which is similar to the On/Off Capacity Upgrade on Demand (On/Off CUD) option IBM has been introducing into its high-end systems. Last week, Big Blue finally announced On/Off CUD for its zSeries mainframes.

Steve Goldner, director of ClearPath marketing services with Unisys, says that his company will eventually introduce support for so-called “Utility Metering” on its mainframe systems. “This will give customers the capability of paying for MIPs per second above a baseline,” he explains. Goldner declined to say when Utility Metering would be available.

Unisys has also promised to deliver integration technologies that exploit technologies such as .NET, J2EE, and Web services to integrate legacy OS2200 and MCP application with Windows, Unix, or Linux environments.

New Workloads for an Aging Workhorse?

IBM has touted its success in getting customers to deploy new workloads on mainframe systems.

Goldner says that Unisys’ customers are also deploying new MCP and OS2200 workloads on their ClearPath Plus mainframes. “We have some customers who are putting additional workloads [on new mainframes]. A lot of that activity is the function of an acquisition where one degree of the IT department has a strong comfort in what their application can do for them, and we do find that some customers are moving to the Intel side, Windows implementation, and that’s fine with us as well.”

Indeed, Unisys’ expectation is that as Microsoft’s Windows 2000 Server Datacenter Edition operating system continues to mature, customers running its legacy mainframes will choose to transition away from MCP or OS2200 to 32- or 64-bit versions of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. In the interim, suggest Goldner and other Unisys representatives, they can simultaneously support legacy and Windows or Unix applications on the same system.

One customer doing just that is Community First Bankshares, a financial institution with over $5 billion in assets. Interviewed at the time of the ClearPath Libra launch, CIO Dan Fisher said that his company also planned to consolidate a number of separate Windows NT 4.0 Servers—in addition to the company’s existing MCP workloads—on to a ClearPath Plus Libra model 180. Said Fisher: “We’re the largest thin client financial institution in the country, and we’re moving up to Windows 2000 on the new box, which will allow us to blend [Windows 2000] with MCP on the same box.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.