Few debates in a large IT department are more contentious than a discussion about the merits and pitfalls of mainframes and this is equally true when looking at energy efficiency.
IBM and other advocates of mainframes maintain the technology provides an "eco-frame", offering impressive energy efficiency compared to commodity hardware (and I'll be discussing this stance with IBM next week).
In contrast, some commentators insist mainframes are one of the main culprits for IT departments' large electricity bills and argue migration away from mainframe environments is one of the biggest steps a firm can take to reducing its carbon footprint.
However, those firms that do perceive mainframes as unnecessarily energy intensive often find migration away from legacy systems run on mainframes as a near impossible task as their understanding of the legacy code has often diminished over time. There is a sense that they are better off sticking with the legacy environment, particularly if it is running mission critical apps, rather than risking a complex migration.
But UK software vendor Erudine thinks it may have the answer for firms that "want to get off mainframes, but are afraid to do so".
The company began making software maintenance and control solutions specifically for the nuclear industry and has since expanded to offer its legacy migration solution to a wider audience. Martin Rice, CEO at the company, claims Erudine has developed a unique migration technology - called the Erudine Behaviour Engine - that manages to "clone the behaviour in an existing legacy system: without looking at the old code".
According to Erudine, this cloning of "behaviour" rather than code allows the legacy system to be replaced or replatformed and subsequently evolved to meet changing business needs. This new agile system can apparently be produced with just "an extract of data from your system and a level of input from your domain experts". The existing legacy system remains untouched by the cloning process, leaving you with a stable back up throughout the migration, which can then be safely phased out.
Exactly how all this works is explained in a series of Erudine whitepapers.
Of course, anyone who has attempted to migrate from a mainframe to a commodity hardware environment will know that systems promising to streamline and automate the process are both plentiful and largely over hyped.
Hence, the continued complexity that surrounds any mainframe migration project and the overriding feeling in some quarters that if the process could be effectively automated it would have been done already.
But Erudine is convinced it has a viable technology and claims that two customers that have implemented the software have seen energy and maintenance costs slashed as a result with one reproducing a legacy system on a twelfth of the hardware and the other estimating it will soon be running its system on 100th of the electricity and with one third of the support staff.
Wherever the truth lies in the debate about the efficiency or otherwise of mainframe environments a system that promises simplify migration and deliver such impressive metrics is at least worth a look.
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