Nissan consolidates its mainframe apps

While many IT departments are looking to replace ageing servers with newer, more generic hardware, Nissan is consolidating applications on its platform of choice – the mainframe.

Steve Hogan, Nissan’s IT manager, said the company has been a mainframe shop for the last 20-plus years.

“All of our core systems run off the mainframe which has only had three or four upgrades over the years,” Hogan said. “We have partitioned the mainframe into different environments for different tasks. For fault-tolerance we have a disaster recovery machine which does not need to be a direct cut-over as every I/O is replicated.”

Nissan has a single Amdahl (now owned by Fujitsu) mainframe – an IBM zSeries clone – running Z/OS.

“Technical support looks after the mainframe and we have had no problems so far,” Hogan said. “Dealers and core partners can access the mainframe via NetWare logins, therefore, during any one day there can be six to seven hundred users accessing the mainframe in Australia and New Zealand. The bulk of the work done on the mainframe is transaction based and users haven’t demanded a GUI.”

IDC’s 2003 Server Workloads Research report predicts mainframe shipments will plateau between 2003 and 2006 at around 300 shipments a year.

However, IDC’s 2003 Server Forecast sees mainframe capacity increasing linearly from about 2,000,000 MIPS in 2003 to over 3,250,000 MIPS in 2007. The same report predicts mainframe CPU cost per MIPS to fall below $US1000 in 2007, down from more than $US3500 in 1999.

With Nissan’s core systems running off a mainframe for such a long time, Hogan is reluctant to compare the performance between mainframes and more modern servers; however, he believes the TCO is in the mainframe’s favour.

“About seven years ago we investigated moving from the mainframe to a Unix environment based on cost,” Hogan said. “With the amount of Unix processors and associated support costs required, we concluded it was better to stay with the mainframe. We do run Unix for our SAP financials; however, the mainframe is more robust and stable.”

Nissan is using in-house applications on Adabas Natural from Software AG for its core systems.

“Adabas consumes less memory and I/O than a relational database,” Hogan said.

Michael Hawkins, product marketing manager at Software AG Australia, said a lot of customers have investigated Unix and Windows but stuck with the mainframe.

“There’s no way large banks could migrate off the mainframe as the support costs would be too expensive,” Hawkins said. “Now newer technology, such as J2EE, allows a better user experience on the mainframe.”

According to Hawkins, Adabas is the fastest database for transaction processing and can be ported across the mainframe to the PC.

“A lot of customers are putting more money into mainframes as they are stable and secure,” Hawkins said. “Mainframes are not affected by viruses and are generally a more tightly controlled environment.”

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