Thought for the day: Big is bountiful

The trend of consolidating several smaller servers into what can only be described as a Windows 'mainframe' seems to be catching...

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The trend of consolidating several smaller servers into what can only be described as a Windows 'mainframe' seems to be catching on, says Simon Moores.




Another day, another case study, and this time it’s a large German financial institution and how it tackled the challenge of securely managing client and partner access to its applications over a large IP network. 

A useful aspect of writing so many case studies involving some very large and high-profile businesses is that under non-disclosure, one sees what is really happening, where the application of technology can make a difference and even where it can’t.

Take the Skipton Building society as an example. A Unisys and Microsoft customer, it reduced its annual IT costs by £3m through replacing a mainframe and 70 line-of-business servers with eight of Unisys’ big ES7000 servers, a mix of eight-way and 32-way SMP units with 208 Intel processors between them, making this the largest ES7000 implementation of its kind in the UK.

Stories like this are not just about consolidation and cost saving, although this represents a strong factor in the decision process. They are also about storage, disaster recovery and security and, just as importantly, using the consolidation principle to facilitate a return to running a successful business rather than a large and constantly expanding IT shop.

The same is true elsewhere. One company I’m studying at the moment has a thousand servers, which they are sensibly consolidating into two "Windows mainframes" and another European city government is streamlining its administration in much the same way.

When I first explored the idea of a Windows mainframe four years ago, I was a little cynical. After all, this was still barely Windows 2000, and if you discussed its scalability and reliability in contrast with Unix with other analysts, they giggled.

Today, it is a rather different story, because the ES7000-Windows Datacenter combination works incredibly well. Add an EMC or Symmetrix storage solution and a disaster recovery programme and you have IT directors happily offering comments like, “We now have the resilience of a mainframe system combined with the flexibility of Windows," or, “It proves that Microsoft can produce mission-critical systems”.

Stepping back for a moment to reflect, comments like these are coming from businesses that frequently underpin the economy of their countries. I can think back to the launch of Windows NT years ago at the first NT show at London’s Olympia, when NatWest presented its case for choosing the product.

The more informed journalists in the audience whispered among themselves knowingly and, sure enough, NatWest’s enthusiasm for NT looked decidedly premature when things started to go expensively wrong a little later.

At the time, Windows NT was clearly not up to the job in terms of scalability or reliability and, at one point, you could see the visible result in Nat West cashpoints when they crashed, but today it is a very different story.

If you ask the customer where the problems were, then you are more likely to receive a "culture of change" reply rather than one that identifies a scalability or reliability problem.

So I’m sold, if only because I’m being told that consolidation works because it solves the expensive administrative problem of server creep.

Of course, you can have hundreds, if not thousands, of cheap commodity servers if you wish, but visit the large organisations trying to manage them and they will tell you that a single datacentre with a few large "Windows boxes" is much easier to administer and can save the business millions in IT costs.

So bigger appears to be better, and every large company should have its own large Windows box. Unless, of course, managing a thousand different servers sounds like a good idea.

What do you think?

Have you considered consolidating onto high-end Windows servers? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit

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