New mainframe emulation option could boost speeds by eight times

Users are set to benefit from major changes to the way mainframe emulation software is charged.

Users are set to benefit from major changes to the way mainframe emulation software is charged.

Until now, users who wanted to offload light mainframe workloads could run an IBM xSeries Xeon-based server using FlexES, a mainframe emulator from Fundamental Software. Due to restrictions set by IBM, emulation speeds were limited to 18mips.

But Platform Solutions, founded in 1999 by a group of former PSI Amdahl mainframe engineers, has developed an alternative approach that could offer users up to eight times the performance of FlexES, according to mainframe analyst Phil Payne of Isham Research.

Emulators are often deployed by mainframe users during migration projects when they are unable to run legacy applications on newer Unix and Intel-based hardware. Often this occurs when the old mainframe functionality cannot be replicated, and so users face the prospect of maintaining the old mainframe system.

Although it runs on HP Integrity servers, which are based on Intel's 64-bit processor, rather than being an emulator, Payne noted that Platform Solutions is positioned by the company as a "plug compatible model". In other words, it is licensed as a hardware-compatible mainframe, like the ones Hitachi and Amdahl used to sell.

"Platform Solutions can provide an equivalent to the IBM z890 range and is potentially eight times as powerful as FlexES," said Payne. This means it could be used to run modern workloads, rather than being restricted to the 18mips limit of the FlexES emulator.

Platform Solutions could potentially be used to run 64-bit workloads too. "A lot of IBM middleware like DB2 v8 only runs in 64-bit mode [on the mainframe]," said Payne. Previously, if a software provider had developed an application to make use of the features in DB2 v8, users would have been unable to emulate the 64-bit environment required. 

Payne expects IBM to offer its own emulator by mid-2006.


Migration alternative

Another approach to mainframe emulation is to migrate legacy code onto new hardware. For example, Express Newspapers has migrated its pre-press production control system from a proprietary mainframe environment to the Windows platform. This has allowed it to remove the mainframe, and so avoid paying the annual maintenance costs of £830,000.

Using the services of MSS International, Express Newspapers has migrated from proprietary Unisys hardware and software, Cobol and a hierarchical database system to HP/Intel Xeon hardware running Microsoft Windows with Microsoft SQL Server for data access. MSS technology provides middleware and Micro Focus Studio and Server is used to run the existing Cobol business logic.

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