By: Simon Perry, Principal Associate Analyst - Sustainability, Quocirca
Published: 18th September 2008
Copyright Quocirca © 2008
If you were asked to "open the window" there would be little confusion in the request. Similarly a request to "shut the window" would normally be interpreted to mean that you should swing or slide the pane all the way to its rest and probably lock it too. However to "close the window" might be interpreted as being the same as "shut the window", or it might mean to simply swing it halfway. "Close" and "shut" aren't always exactly the same, but "open" is always "open" and is always the opposite of "closed". Do you agree?
Well things are not quite so clear it seems in the somewhat murky world of HP's Mainframe Alternative Programme. Fresh back from HP's European analyst briefings, Quocirca finds itself more than a little unclear as to the merits of the high focus programme. HP's efforts to switch workloads away from mainframe platforms is a major sales and technical initiative within the company, even as it swallows EDS (well most of it anyway). The main target of the conversion efforts are IBM zOS and VSE-based workloads, though other vendors such as Unisys and Bull are also on the hit list.
HP labels the programme as offering a low cost, open systems alternative to what the vendor labels IBM's "closed" and "legacy" mainframe platform and claims a flawlessly delivered record of 40 customer conversions in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. HP points to a proven and honed delivery methodology, executed through its Madrid-based centre of excellence as being the reason for the successful conversion project track record.
HP also labelled the programme "unique" and a market differentiator that provides key competitive advantage over other open systems vendors. Keen readers will pick up on the flaw in the logic immediately. "Unique" means "the only one" which by definition means "there aren't other open systems alternatives" which seems to mean that "open systems alternatives" really means "Swap out IBM for...let's see....eeny meeny miney mo....HP hardware with HP Unix!".
Of course every IBM mainframe is also running a wide assortment of third-party software too and that will need to be swapped out too for an "open systems" alternative. While Oracle and Microsoft get a look in as replacements for DB2, and Oracle/BEA's Tuxedo is the choice of one to replace CICS/IMS, HP software stands first in line for everything else. The choice de jure for any Compuware, BMC, CA or other systems management software will be HP.
The notable exception to that selection strategy will be an open systems alternative to IBM's RACF, or CA's ACF2 or TopSecret, because with the end-of-life of HP's Openview Select Access product, HP doesn't offer a host-based access control solution. The recommended alternative is indeed a far lower-cost option.
Pause for effect.
Nothing! Don't need it apparently. Both the assembled set of HP Mainframe Alternative experts, and the reference customer who took us through his experiences assured us that "open systems don't need anything like RACF". Even more reassuringly, reportedly none of the 40 customers who have already swapped out their legacy mainframe for some new HP kit even asked for an alternative. You read it here first! Hackers—find a new hobby because that pesky old problem of security is done and dusted. We are at risk of harping on this point so we'll leave the (now happily solved) topic of security behind.
But not before mentioning that the supplied reference customer runs core banking workload, as do several others on the "name drop" reference list of 40.
More reassuringly, the financial case does look attractive. HP's hardware costs, and the costs of the various HP and third-party software packages are claimed to be substantially less than that paid for all those legacy mainframe ones typically running today. Even factoring in the conversion costs themselves, return on investment (ROI) is claimed in the third year.
If nothing else these numbers are worth looking at and then waved in the direction of your mainframe software and hardware providers to see if the wheels of negotiation are greased. The HP alternative might indeed be cheaper—if you can manage to actually decommission the mainframe completely that is. If you can't, and you probably can't unless all you run on your mainframe is a fully transportable workload, then you're going to end up running both systems in parallel. Easily and fully transportable workload includes off-the-shelf packages such as SAP, CICS or IMS workload (which goes to Tuxedo, including the ability to retain all those 3270 screens you currently adore) or batch (which goes to Shell scripts).
Unfortunately one potential pesky side effect of having to run both the legacy mainframe and the new open HP kit is that your energy bill, and therefore your datacentre emissions, will go up. HP was helpfully able to show us its ROI calculator which in the test case they walked us through proved that such an outcome was indeed to be expected. No confusion and no denial by HP on that point.
In short, HP deserves an "A" for managing to deliver 40 successful mainframe swap-outs. However the vendor gets a "D" for grammar due to its confused use of the word "open" in describing the benefits of the alternative. It also gets a "D-" for driving up a datacentre's energy use. Lastly, HP gets an off-the-scale "G" for the security story, mainly because the word "gobsmacked" comes to mind when thinking about it. "Hewlett is a bright and inventive lad, but must apply himself harder in his execution if he is to realise the full potential of his ideas".
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