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IBM and HP's battle for bank mainframes heats up

Rik Turner | March 19, 2010
The two largest IT companies in the world are ratchetting up competition for the mainframe market, with financial institutions as the primary battleground.

The two largest IT companies in the world are ratchetting up competition for the mainframe market, with financial institutions as the primary battleground. While IBM trumpets mainframe-centric hybrid environments, HP is seeking to replace, or at least shrink the remit of, those machines with open systems offerings.

Customers and partners stand to gain from this scenario

Banks should exploit the heightened competition between IBM and HP to extract better terms from them, particularly if they are willing to be a reference for the success either of sticking with mainframe or of migrating applications off it.

Meanwhile, both companies will need partners to further their goals in this area. HP in particular uses Clerity for migrations to Unix and Alchemy for .NET environments, but wants others too, while IBM would welcome help porting applications across to System z.

The two giants have crossed swords in this arena for many years, but a new impetus has entered their sales and marketing efforts, not to mention a new realism regarding their respective ambitions now that some major economies are edging towards recovery. In a strange way, there is a kind of convergence to their ultimate messages, in that both advocate a fit for purpose approach.

At IBM, the vision the company is promoting is no longer one of doing everything on the mainframe, nor even, as in recent years, of consolidating workloads from open systems back onto a mainframe using partitioning. Now it is one of allocating workloads to the processing platforms most suited to them, with mainframes at the center of hybrid estates. Decisions can be made as to where different workloads are allocated. Those that can benefit from the massive parallelism of mainframes scale-up architecture can be run there, while those that are more suited to scale out can be run on open systems boxes or, given todays datacenter trends, on blades.

Clearly, HP would love to migrate all mainframe workloads onto its x86-based systems, but it is aware that this goal is difficult to achieve. For one thing, if the customer in question does not have IP rights to the software running on their mainframe, HP cant move it across. In addition, the decision depends on where the customer is in their mainframe contract and, of course, their preparedness to countenance big bang versus partial change.

HP offers more cautious customers reduction of their mainframe environment down to the absolutely necessary, moving easily migratable workloads to open systems. The advantage, it argues, is lower cost and greater flexibility. In other words, it is acknowledging that in a lot of accounts coexistence with the mainframe is going to be the order of the day, at least for some time to come.

 

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