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IBM takes a swing at 9000 migration

HP employees who once attempted to sell HP 3000s now promote HP's Unix servers as a mainframe replacement. But talking heads in the Big Blue community are pushing back in the other direction, using a hardware transition as an example of migration.

Over at Mainframe Executive, an article by analyst Joe Clabby details an IBM mainframe capture of an HP-UX installation. The software and IT services company KMD decided to leave move its software off an HP 9000, Clabby's article says, because HP left the company no choice but to migrate to HP's Itanium Unix servers.

The story is puzzling in its tone of accomplishment as well as sketchy on the details. The software company already operated an IBM z Series mainframe for many years. They decided to move the HP 9000 apps, including some software services business, to an in-house server. There's not nearly as much skin in the game when an IT director consolidates onto an in-house platform. The only risk is whether your flavor of Unix can be moved onto another variation, in KMD's case Linux on a mainframe partition.

We don't know what database powered the HP 9000 apps and services, a significant missing fact for a case study. But that's not surprising when reading Clabby's reports. Early in this decade he was moderating an HP Management Roundtable for the Interex user group. Then he was advising a company to adopt Itanium. Two-plus years ago he began to tout IBM products on the vendor's Web site. Has he been learning, adapting, or just finding another nail to fit the Big Blue hammer? Tossing around the word "migration" even has him mentioning the HP 3000.

There is a migration underway for HP-UX customers. If they want newer hardware from HP, they need to purchase Integrity servers, those powered by the Itanium chips that Clabby first supported and now derides. HP has stopped selling the HP 9000 servers which use PA-RISC chips. That business is just as dead as HP's 3000 sales. The difference? HP has no alternative for new hardware that runs MPE/iX from the 3000 world.

The HP 9000 customers have a path of migration, if you choose to call this shift by that name. HP's done all it can do to make the Itanium architecture a match for HP-UX apps. Our reports from customers show that the major work in moving to Itanium from PA-RISC involves home-grown code. There's a lot of that at KMD, according to the story, but customers who've migrated say they don't see a difference between the server architectures. Except that Itanium gallops like a racehorse compared to the pony-trot of PA-RISC.

Clabby's article appeared in an IBM Mainframe Web site/newsletter, so the hammer he swings at HP probably fits the Big Blue nails nicely. But if this is an exemplary success story for adopting mainframes, then replacing Unix servers with them looks like an idea that's not tacked down completely. Tossing the HP 3000 migrations in with HP 9000 moves is misleading at best. While HP has halted sales of both computers, the 9000 customers have options and HP's swelling discounts in a bad economy to keep them in the fold. The 3000 customers have the same discounts, but a whole other world of migration services and software to pay for.