Bull pins recovery on proprietary OS lock-in

High-end server and IT services company Bull is pinning its hopes for a return to profit in 2003 on legacy mainframe customers...

High-end server and IT services company Bull is pinning its hopes for a return to profit in 2003 on legacy mainframe customers tied to its proprietary GCOS operating system.

Bull is planning an assault on the high-end server market with a new architecture based on 64-bit Intel processors.

The company's proprietary GCOS operating system will be offered as the main choice of platform, although Bull said its servers would also support alternative operating systems.

"Never again will we help a client migrate away from GCOS," said Bull chairman Pierre Bonelli. "GCOS will still be around in 2021," he added, dismissing reports of its demise.

GCOS has found favour with banks, insurance companies and industry. Bonelli said Bull would continue to serve that market by offering hardware upgrades to deliver better performance at lower cost.

Bull believes it has a head start over its competitors in delivering high performance computing thanks to its Flexible Architecture for Multiple Environments (Fame) platform.

The architecture uses Intel's new 64-bit Itanium 2 processors configured as four-processor servers, linked together using a proprietary chipset and a high-speed switching technology, the Bull-Scalability Port Switch (B-SPS).

Servers based on the Fame architecture can be partitioned virtually or physically to run multiple operating systems such as Windows, Linux or GCOS simultaneously.

While the Fame architecture's ability to run multiple operating systems opens up new markets for Bull, the company is keen to maintain the revenue stream from its GCOS service business.

Existing GCOS users will be encouraged to stick with it, rather than move to open operating systems such as Linux.

Servers based on the new Bull architecture are not expected until late 2003 or early 2004.

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