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Despite its push to generate a larger percentage of revenue from IT services, Unisys Corp. continues to invest in its steadfast ClearPath lineup of mainframe servers. The company this week introduced the ClearPath Plus Libra 185, perhaps the last true mainframe left in the market to compete head-on with IBM's zSeries.
The Libra 185, which ranges in price from $1.1 million to $22.4 million, offers features designed to let its users take advantage of emerging trends such as Web services and utility-based computing. This latest ClearPath includes an enterprise application development environment that generates Java 2 Enterprise Edition, .Net, or Cobol code, or a combination of the three, once the user defines the business processes that the application needs to support. Early next year, Unisys will include an expanded roster of business processes to choose from, says Rod Sapp, director of ClearPath marketing.
Unisys also has taken the ClearPath's 2-year-old on-demand server capacity capabilities and expanded them to more closely resemble a utility. In the past, ClearPath users could rent additional MIPS for their servers over a contracted period of time. Beginning early next year, Unisys will be able to track exactly how much capacity a Libra 185 customer uses in a given month, and bill the customer for that specific amount.
United Fire Group, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, insurance provider that's part of United Fire & Casualty Co., plans to deploy a new Libra 185 next week as a combination development and disaster-recovery backup server. United Fire, which has been using Unisys mainframes for the past 25 years, will use the Libra 185's ability to create hard partitions to physically separate development work from disaster-recovery functions. Each Libra 185 can be divided into as many as eight physical partitions; each partition can hold as many as four processors.
The insurance provider got a taste of Unisys' on-demand capabilities earlier this year during a database-restructuring project on its ClearPath NX6822 PL7 mainframe running the MCP operating system. The plan was for United Fire's IT department to add fields to its Unisys DMSII database, which contains about 45 million records, over Easter weekend. Fearing he wouldn't have enough capacity to complete the job in time, VP of information services Bob Kenward requested additional MIPS capacity from Unisys. "We ran the database reorganization, then dropped down the capacity again," Kenward says. Using Unisys's new metered performance provisioning capability on the Libra 185, Kenward wouldn't have to request the extra capacity in advance. It's built into the system and used as needed.
Despite the emergence of Intel-based servers in data centers during the past two decades, Kenward is still sold on ClearPath's reliability, noting that, "I haven't had a mainframe outage in five years."