HP, Oracle, Intel eye mainframe migrations

Program aims to ease the transition from mainframes to server environments

Eyeing the fertile market of IBM mainframe installations, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Intel on Tuesday detailed a program that incorporates SOA and grid concepts in helping migrate mainframe applications.

The effort is intended to help customers increase business performance, reduce costs, and mitigate risks when moving from mainframes to server environments. Called the Application Modernization Initiative, the program features Oracle Fusion middleware, professional services from HP and HP's Integrity servers running Intel Itanium processors. It was officially announced at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco by HP Chairman, CEO, and President Mark Hurd during a keynote presentation.

"There's a growing challenge which customers face, which is this whole issue around legacy," said Paul Evans, worldwide director of application modernization services at HP. Legacy software is still holding back users, he said.

"The problem is these legacy environments are 10, 20, 30 years old," but customers perceive a risk in moving to an environment based more on distributed services, Evans said.

"What we've done is we've taken pieces from Intel, HP and Oracle and [composed] them into a reference architecture," he said.

Businesses face the risk of not being able to manage change, and many companies trace constraints on businesses to the limitations of older information systems architecture, HP said. A mainframe-based environment can make it difficult to attain the low-cost responsiveness that enterprises need from their applications, especially on older mainframes, the company said. But modernizing also presents risks in the process and final result, HP said.

Although HP wants to encourage migration to the HP-Intel-Oracle combination, the companies only want users to do so if it makes business and technological sense, HP said.

The Oracle Grid Computing Platform will be featured as part of the program as well as the Oracle Database 10g with Real Application Clusters. Also featured from Oracle are Oracle Fusion middleware, including the company's application server, and Oracle Enterprise Manager/Grid Control.

HP, meanwhile, will assess which mainframe applications are critical to a business and which ones can be improved. Decomposition tools will be used to analyze code in older applications. HP Integrity servers will be positioned for redeployments of mainframe applications; the HP Virtual Server Environment Reference Architecture also will be featured. Architectural design and consulting will be provided by HP, Intel and Oracle.

"The HP/Intel/Oracle partnership presents a credible alternative to IBM. But where HP is behind some [of] its competitors is in offering a broader range of technology choices. EDS, for example, brings together Sun, EMC, Dell, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft," said analyst Barry Rubenstein, program manager for Application Outsourcing & Offshore Services at IDC. "To be sure, this alliance represents just one choice for HP customers, so it will be interesting to see if HP does the same with other software vendors, though on the hardware side I'm thinking that HP won't be working with Sun or Dell."

The alliance, though, is missing an industry-specific component, Rubenstein said.

"Having a reference architecture is a good first step, but to enable true transformation (and not just re-engineering) of the application portfolio, a vendor must have vertical solutions that address industry-specific problems. That will be the next step for HP," said Rubenstein.

An initial assessment as part of the program costs US$50,000. But moving to the distributed environment can present significant savings, Evans said.

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