According to Frank Koopman, CEO of UMX Technologies, about three-quarters of all data still resides on mainframe computers. Many of those computers are decades old, but still consume substantial resources in terms of maintenance and software licensing costs.
Although mainframes have been marginalised for most corporate computing tasks since the emergence of Unix in the 1980s,
many companies are unable to migrate to lower cost platforms because of the difficulty of re-writing legacy applications.
The alternative, says Koopman, is to run those applications under emulation on Intel-based servers, using UMX’s Virtual Mainframe software.
Virtual Mainframe supports IBM’s OS/390 mainframe operating system, as well as VSE, z/OS, VM and z/VM. It also supports IBM’s ESCON interconnection standard, which connects IBM mainframes, storage, attached workstations and other devices.
The savings from running mainframe software on UMX platform can be substantial, says Koopman. One company in the oil industry, for example, saved GBP750,000 a year, he claims, moving from a leased, shared mainframe service to a single IBM xSeries Intel-based server.
UMX has just one direct competitor in this market – Fundamental Software. Like UMX, it also has a licensing arrangement with IBM. However, UMX offers Microsoft Windows compatibility, while Fundamental’s product is Unix-centric.
Unix giant Sun Microsystems also offers a low-end mainframe ‘re-hosting’ product called Blue Away. However, Blue Away users must migrate to Sun’s Solaris Unix platform, which is more expensive to buy than an Intel-based machine running either Windows or Linux.
Finally, IBM has also responded to the threat posed by such software, says Charles King, research director at Sageza Research, by releasing the z800 ‘mini-mainframe’, which is aimed at the same market that UMX is targeting.
Despite such competition UMX still scooped up EU2.3 million in second-round funding in May 2003. That money, says Koopman, will be used to help the company expand its European presence.