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US House Decommissions Its Last Mainframe

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the now-go-office-space-on-it dept.

News 152

coondoggie writes "The US House of Representatives has taken its last mainframe offline, signaling the end of an era in Washington, DC computing. The last mainframe supposedly enjoyed 'quasi-celebrity status' within the House data center, having spent 12 years keeping the House's inventory control records and financial management data, among other tasks. But it was time for a change, with the House spending $30,000 a year to power the mainframe and another $700,000 each year for maintenance and support."

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152 comments

Change all IT geeks can believe in. (3, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702305)

From Big Iron to VMs and dedicated Unix machines.

I don't care what part of the political spectrum you fall under, that's change we can all get behind.

Unless your job was supporting old, proprietary big iron.

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702355)

I don't care what part of the political spectrum you fall under, that's change we can all get behind.

Congratulations! You may pick up your IT Peace Prize at the door!

Unless your job was supporting old, proprietary big iron.

Um, on second thought, never mind.

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29704279)

Congratulations! You may pick up your IT Peace Prize at the door!

You mean Nobel right?

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702401)

Either that, or the IBM salespeople forgot to tell the politicians that a mainframe is too big to fail!

If only they'd decomission that bitch Pelosi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702547)

That blow-dried botoxed bimbo made Congress even more hated than when the Republicans ran it into the ground. How is that even possible? Didn't she promise a new era of civility and an end to partisanship? Well? I'm still waiting!

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702753)

From Big Iron to VMs and dedicated Unix machines.

I don't care what part of the political spectrum you fall under, that's change we can all get behind.

Going from VM technology to VM technology - plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose).

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (1, Funny)

Metalloy (1621083) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702785)

How old are you ? I think you're 18'ish ? Huh ? You seem so far off this planet ! You're like a kid who still believes that the US government is striving to reach the moon to build lovely rose gardens and ball pitches and parks to relieve humanity from a crowded and poluted Earth !!! Umphh Umphh He He He ... If you really pull year head out of wherever it is now (uhm!) and understand some real-life shit - please consider that corporates run the show - the politics show, the industry show, the commerce show, and definetly (as a natural consequence) the PEOPLE show, and not only in the US by the way. It is corporates that were fighting tooth and nail for the 'huge' IT and networking multi-hundred-billion dollar market - which eventually yielded the "distributed processing" concept in the early 90's to overshadow the mainframes, simply because if it were mainframes only, then the larger piece of the pie would have been swallowed by IBM with a proud relentless burp following it. The ass-holes in IBM simply joined the same bandwagon that knocked them down (some say that this is smart !). Now eveything is coming back to a model which is again a-la mainframe (call it Mainframe V2) - CLOUD shit. If you dont believe me ask someone who worked with mainframes : was there an OS used in IBM mainframes called VM (VIRTUAL Machine) and which DYNAMICALLY allocated resources to applications/users ON-DEMAND ? Note the caps are identical to those you hear today. You know that he will answer you that these have been around since the 70-80's !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will not address the financial game that has been played - DISTRIBUTED processing = DISTRIBUTED profit (versus mainframe = IBM centirc profit). You get DISTRIBUTED everything : maintenance, deployment fees, security, installation, licences, administration, backup/restore ... OHHHHHH - leave me alone .... its such a big story .... (puffing cigarette and went to the window)

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702863)

- wall of text -

Fuck yeah, go Linux

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (2, Funny)

fishdan (569872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702845)

At least they're getting some money back by selling the disks on ebay :)

Re:Change all IT geeks can believe in. (1)

evilsofa (947078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704107)

William Adama disapproves of your attitude, goes on a bender and waits for the Cylons to attack...

Someone updated computer hardware! Film at 11. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702307)

Really? This is a story? They were running a server from 1997, and now they're running a server from 2009. Really guys?

Re:Someone updated computer hardware! Film at 11. (2, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702725)

Government 0.9.8

We would like your help in testing and improving the pre-release version, but we don't yet recommend its use in production environments.

Re:Someone updated computer hardware! Film at 11. (3, Insightful)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703911)

They didn't tell me that! I ran it on one of my production servers, and now it's sucking up all the resources it can get. I keep trying to kill the process, but everytime I do, it just takes even more resources. I'm eagerly awaiting the next patch. The 2000, 2004, and 2008 patches didn't help my problems. I'm hoping the 2012 patch is better.

Re:Someone updated computer hardware! Film at 11. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704471)

Abandon all hope - it's a virus. You need to reformat and reinstall.

Re:Someone updated computer hardware! Film at 11. (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704367)

It wasn't just a mainframe, it was a quasi-celebrity mainframe. Whatever the fuck that means.

12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (5, Insightful)

BBCWatcher (900486) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702315)

The article notes that the House of Representatives took at least 5 years to replace the applications on its 12 year old mainframe. The costs (i.e. taxpayer funds) to perform this migration work were not disclosed, but it's a pretty safe assumption those costs dwarfed any others. Moreover, the article seems to suggest that it took at least 20 other servers to replace a single 12 year old mainframe, and that's even using virtualization on the new servers. One wonders how many (more) servers the House could have replaced with a single new mainframe.

But here's a more profound question: why is the House of Representatives running its own, separate data centers (primary and disaster)? Couldn't they at least consolidate with, oh I don't know, the Senate?!?! And, a related question: for all those 12 years, why didn't the House simply move its comparatively tiny mainframe workload to a bigger mainframe anywhere else in the federal government? (Yes, they can do that without also delegating any security control. Mainframes do that.) Quite simply, it sounds like the House was, and is, wasting a lot of taxpayer money. (Shocking, I know.)

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702339)

But here's a more profound question: why is the House of Representatives running its own, separate data centers (primary and disaster)? Couldn't they at least consolidate with, oh I don't know, the Senate?!?!

I'm pretty sure there's something in the constitution about separation of data centres...

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29704081)

No, it's separation of power supplies, so VMs were right out.

In theory... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702343)

But here's a more profound question: why is the House of Representatives running its own, separate data centers (primary and disaster)? Couldn't they at least consolidate with, oh I don't know, the Senate?!?!

I don't know. I kind of like the current situation: Two different significantly powerful political entities (House and Congress) to have their own separate data that the other entity has no control over. I could certainly see potential benefits from that in the times of major political upheavals.

Re:In theory... (3, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702659)

Congress is made up of the House and Senate... thus, you cannot have the "House and Congress". Just sayin'.

Ah, my bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702909)

I'm a bit fuzzy on how those entities relate to each other in the USA so I checked Wikipedia but apparently read too hastily (I went back to check now and the text is pretty clear about the subject). I thought that senate would be made of house and congress...

But anyways, the main point still stands.

Re:Ah, my bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702941)

I call bullshit on this one. You "kind of like the current situation". This situation would make absolutely no freaking difference to anyone outside the US, but then you state that you don't know how things like that work in the US and had to look it up on Wikipedia. I believe you looked it up on wikipedia, but I also believe you are one of the idiots who has not clue how our political system works. It is truly amazing how many Americans really have not clue about their own government. For instance..... what percentage would say they live in a democracy and that they elect their president. Ask them about the concept of representative democracy and the electoral college and watch the blank stares

Re:Ah, my bad (0, Flamebait)

LVSlushdat (854194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704325)

Alas.. that's the sad part.. young people (less than say 35 or so) often have no clue how the US government (Congress/Executive/Judicial branches) actually work.. I blame it on the lack of any real civics curriculum in today's skrools.. In the 50s-60s, when I was in school, the way the government worked was covered in pretty good detail for most years of jr/sr highschool... Hell, even in the 70s they had that cartoon series, schoolhouse rock, that did a pretty good job of teaching how the government operates.. Now, not so much, just liberal indoctrination... We're turning out a next-generation of know-nothings, but who will be good little consumers...

Re:In theory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703015)

You seem a bit confused about the difference between a set and the elements of that set. When you've studied some math, it will become more clear.

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

ekimd (968058) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702647)

And that's the difference between the government and profit driven corporations--because the government has no problem spending other people's money.

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702931)

One of the articles stated that they took 5 years to move the data and port the codes. And the reason they went
with x86 / unix servers versus a main frame was stated mostly for the reason of the support. The staff does not
have as many people with main frame experience, and they had a lot of x86/unix experience.

However, the code probably needed some updating after 12 years also.

As for the primary and disaster center, I don't think it mentioned if these were shared with other organizations, just
stating they had one.

I am just happy that after 5 years of planning and work to migrate the data and codes that it is now complete.
Kudos to getting this done.

Mark

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702939)

I'll be convinced when and IF the alleged savings eventuate and the other system is reliable. (Remembering that Presidential records and emails were lost on other systems).

Privacy on IBM mainframe is better than anything else - cant plant anything on Mainframes without it being fingered.

The old Vaxes and IBM ECL logic will take an EMP or nuclear event better than the new PC chips. Mainframe does linux - so what is the hardware angle?

I hope it is Linux, because London Stock exchange is about to show .Net the door. Thereagain, Reps are nowhere near as important.

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703113)

Presidential records and emails were lost on other systems

That was by design. Then the sysadmin died under suspicious circumstances right before testifying about it.

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703823)

That's the first I've heard of anything like that, and a quick Google search for "white house sysadmin email" didn't turn up anything interesting (except for a whistleblower study from 2000 about then-Vice President Gore using the White House email system for unethical campaign work). Got any references for this allegation?

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703039)

When I was in the Government, replacing local computing resources with centralized resources was always pushed as a cost-saving move, and always cost more money. Always.

Remember, there is no competition in the Government cloud. (Having one big mainframe somewhere was the 20th Century version of cloud computing.)

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703125)

Sometimes it's beneficial to have a lot of smaller servers vs a big consolidated one. It's the same principle that's behind RAID: you independently upgrade, repair, replace the smaller servers and it's easier to add capacity. Also mainframe expertise is a dying art and so will get more expensive, so in the long run maintenance costs will probably be lower and access to skilled administrators assured.

Re:12 Year Old Mainframe = 20+ Other Servers (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703199)

It's frequently hard the move off a mainframe as it's quite proprietary. And 700K/year is very low in the world of mainframe support. That level of uptime can be had orders of magnitude cheaper with Linux clusters. In the real world of course, you rarely get that uptime because of human error.

Re: There's more to life than direct costs.Moreove (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703505)


Moreover, the article seems to suggest that it took at least 20 other servers to replace a single 12 year old mainframe, and that's even using virtualization on the new servers. One wonders how many (more) servers the House could have replaced with a single new mainframe.

Talking about costs makes good news. If you want to pick it apart with speculation, go right ahead. You might be right, but without real numbers and real analysis we'll never know. I think the real reason they switched is this:

But the House decided not to buy another mainframe in part because its IT staff has more expertise running x86 and Unix boxes.

"We really don't' have those [mainframe] skill sets in house anymore," Zanatta says. "We try not to maintain architecture that we can't support ourselves."

How many people have you known throughout your IT career that have mainframe experience? I've known exactly two. One of which was my next-door neighbor while growing up who worked as a programmer for Unisys (now retired). The other was a young kid who was hired by company who still had mainframes, and was trained by the old guys who knew how to operate and maintain them. The other several dozen people I've known throughout my career have no real world experience with maintaining them. I knew one guy who had to learn AS400 in tech school (this was only maybe 10 years ago), though never applied any of it and now works with Windows and Unix.

So the point is, how well do you think a piece of technology is going to work if you can't find anyone who knows how to work with it and maintain it? Sure, salaries are cheap in comparison to migrations.. but what are the costs of not being able to do what you want to do because you can't find enough people familiar enough with the technology to accomplish what you want?

Technology always has been, and always will be about the people. Someday all our modern technology, operating systems and the like will die not because it's not "good enough", or is "too expensive" but because the people of that era will have moved on to New Technology Z, and hardly anyone understands Old Technology Y.

Re: There's more to life than direct costs.Moreove (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704343)

While it's apparently a dieing concept, that's what on the job training used to be about. If you have even one well skilled mainframe person and someone else from the *nix world, you can have two skilled mainframe people in short order.

Re: There's more to life than direct costs.Moreove (1)

vjoel (945280) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704547)

If you have even one well skilled mainframe person and someone else from the *nix world, you can have two skilled mainframe people in short order.

I've always wondered how mainframe people reproduce.

Linux on the mainframe (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704789)

It's worth remembering, though, that they could have chosen to run up to 60 Linux LPARs on a mainframe. That way they'd get the five nines reliability of mainframe hardware, the lower power requirements and reduced maintenance pain from having everything on a single box, and they'd be able to maintain it all using familiar Linux tools.

There's also a 31 bit version of Linux for System z, so they might not even have had to replace the hardware.

I hope someone did some solid cost/benefit analysis.

[Opinions mine, not IBMs.]

$700K/yr not out of line (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702317)

$700K/yr for software support and hardware maintenance isn't really out of line for a high-capacity system with 99.999% uptime.

Maybe they don't need that level of reliability, but if they do five-9s, they will probably find that whatever system or group of systems replaces it will have similar support costs.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (2, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702437)

Sadly though, many of the management types just read "$700K/yr" and think "I like $350K/yr better, let's do that". Ignoring what they're actually getting for that money.

It would be no problem to cut the cost by half for the mainframe... if you're willing to go down to average Windows server service levels.

$700K/yr gets you how many people with how many workstations, hardware, software, facilities, managers, support people, etc.?

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (2, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703851)

The worst thing is, going from $700k a year to $350k a year doesn't just halve your uptime, it takes it from 99.999% to 99.99%. Or from 52 minutes to eight hours and 45 minutes. The first time they can't access their records for an entire work day, maybe they'll realize what they were paying for before.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29704787)

"doesn't just halve your uptime, it takes it from 99.999% to 99.99%"

Now why would you jump to this conclusion?

These "number of nines" guarantees are pretty meaningless too. It has nothing to do with actual uptime, it's just a number that indicates the amount of confidence somebody has. Might as well just rate it on a scale from 1 to 5.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (1)

Mojo66 (1131579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702479)

Unfortunately the article doesn't mention what exactly makes the $700k. I'm not into mainframes, maybe someone else has details on what makes mainframe maintenance so costly?

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702661)

Unfortunately the article doesn't mention what exactly makes the $700k. I'm not into mainframes, maybe someone else has details on what makes mainframe maintenance so costly?

It's the 99.999% uptime that is a typical requirement of mainframe apps. That means things like remote monitoring by the vendor via a direct link to the system so that the diagnostic subsystem can tell the vendor that parts are failing before they fail and then the vendor will usually have a 4 hour or less requirement to get new parts on site, the logistics of which are a lot more expensive than they appear at first glance (gotta have local hardware depots with enough spare parts to cover all contingencies, including multiple simultaneous failures at multiple sites at different side of the city, etc). Then there is the cost of the human expertise - mainframe customers expect 1st-line support to be one level away from engineering - absolutely no scripted phone support weenies. The on-site hardware techs are also a couple of orders above the typical vendor hardware tech who is frequently a jack-of-all-trades and master of none - the mainframe guys are dedicated to mainframe support and are typically on a first-name basis with the engineers who designed the hardware.

So in summary - extremely rapid response plus top-flight human talent equals big bucks.

The article did say that the mainframe was old and thus support costs were even higher which is common - as hardware is obsoleted it becomes more and more expensive to stock replacement parts (and engineering staff). So maybe they could shave a hundred grand or two off that price if they were using a mainframe that had not been end-of-lifed a while ago.

had to because ibm dropped pre-64bit compatibility (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702815)

The article says the retired mainframe is from 1997 so it's almost certainly a G3 or G4-based model.

If it was a G4 then replacing it with a mainframe that wasn't end-of-lifed would have entailed all the complications of migrating mainframe apps from 31-bit to 64-bit that are described in this article http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2003/12/15/199268/mainframe-users-face-upgrade-dilemma.htm [computerweekly.com]. If it was a G3 then they would have faced even more obstacles...

Re:had to because ibm dropped pre-64bit compatibil (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704823)

The article says the retired mainframe is from 1997 so it's almost certainly a G3 or G4-based model.

If it was a G4 then replacing it with a mainframe that wasn't end-of-lifed would have entailed all the complications of migrating mainframe apps from 31-bit to 64-bit that are described in this article http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2003/12/15/199268/mainframe-users-face-upgrade-dilemma.htm [computerweekly.com].

The article speaks of a "31-bit compatibility mode" in z/OS, but that's a mode that allows it to run on the 31-bit-address/32-bit-data pre-z/Architecture machines. Dropping that would be the equivalent of Windows 8 requiring x86-64 but still running 32-bit apps, or {pick your distribution} dropping its i386 version but still supporting 32-bit apps, or OS X 10.n, for some value of n > 6, running only on x86-64 Macs but still running 32-bit apps, or....

The article also quotes somebody as saying "Migrating in-house applications onto z/OS is almost like Y2K all over again."; I'm not sure what they mean by that - I'd be a little surprised if 32-bit-data/{24,31}-bit-addressing apps didn't largely Just Work on 64-bit z/OS.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (1)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703837)

Try calling to one of the support lines for the current non-mainframe solutions, including *NIX, and you'll see the difference. Mainframe support at that price is top-of-the-line engineers, not some call-center guy reading a script.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29704881)

It's like most other overpriced services. The answer is "because they can". Once they've got you sold on a mainframe, it's a pretty solid lock-in. You're going to keep that thing for a decade at least, since you invested so much money on it in the first place.

Then, after a decade, all your original coders are gone, nobody knows how it all works anymore, and every time somebody looks into migrating off the thing, it's a monumental task and they shitcan the plan.

Companies like IBM KNOW this, and they'll just happily gouge you for whatever they can while you flop around like a fish on the beach.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702811)

For those IBM mainframes the five-9s uptime excludes scheduled downtime.

So it's not as impressive as the clustered openvms or tandem sort of stuff. For those they just keep on going. I believe there was a site where they moved the cluster gradually to a different physical location, and the users just complained that stuff was a bit slower at one stage.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703131)

For all computers, your uptime excludes schedule downtime. Doh!

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703543)

You can have 99.999% uptime without wasting $730,000 a year on it. I'm pretty fucking pissed off to learn that I have been funding shit like this with my tax dollars. Makes me wonder what else is going on that is "trivial" enough for them not to mention, but that they can steal my money to fund.

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (1)

crazyjimmy (927974) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703795)

$700K/yr for software support and hardware maintenance isn't really out of line for a high-capacity system with 99.999% uptime.

Maybe they don't need that level of reliability, but if they do five-9s, they will probably find that whatever system or group of systems replaces it will have similar support costs.

They probably don't need 99.999% uptime, considering the House schedules itself for downtime 2 months out of 12. :)

Re:$700K/yr not out of line (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704219)

And that's when it's not an election year. The other year they have about a 50% uptime. Possibly they need five nines of uptime for the server because otherwise there's a good chance that some of the downtime will overlap with the five minute of the year when they're actually working...

Replacement? (3, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702319)

But the key question is: "Does the replacement run Linux"?

Whereby the underlying question needs to: "Hopefully it's not replaced by a Microsoft 'solution'".

/.

Re:Replacement? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702765)

MS understands the need for a "Rose Mary Stretch" default setting
The congress critters have learned a lot from the "terrible mistake" of email backups.

Re:Replacement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702897)

The good news is it was x86 and Unix according to one article. (so probably linux, bsd or solaris).
So we can rest well knowing it well knowing it was NOT a Microsoft solution.

Also as a general FYI.. this was started 5 years ago (for planning, porting and migration of the data).

Support costs (3, Interesting)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702333)

Wow, that's some support bill - or was the House doing the usual Government thing and buying its 'Government Grade' punch tapes at $500 for a pack of 5!? I expect there was also one very highly paid guy who was the only living person left who knew the correct sequence of toggle key entries to start the IPL!

A corporate for which I once did some consulting was transitioning their code from an ancient mainframe to a group of PC-based servers. For some bizarre reason, the Company decided to make their in-house hardware engineer/support guy redundant BEFORE they had finished the change-over! Suffice to say, his consulting daily (or part daily) rate to come back in and kick the old system back to life as needed during its last few months was *very* high as he was the only one who knew how to sweet-talk some of the bespoke hardware. I heard of times where a 10-minute site visit was netting him a 1/2 day fee of something mad like 700UKP

No doubt the House mainframe's replacement is the $900 Dual Xeon unit previously used as a front-end processor for the mainframe's 32-port serial mux!

Re:Support costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702553)

I heard of times where a 10-minute site visit was netting him a 1/2 day fee of something mad like 700UKP

For some reason, the UK's currency is "GBP" (ISO 4217 [wikipedia.org])

Re:Support costs (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702739)

For some bizarre reason, the Company decided to make their in-house hardware engineer/support guy redundant BEFORE they had finished the change-over! Suffice to say, his consulting daily (or part daily) rate to come back (...) was *very* high (...). I heard of times where a 10-minute site visit was netting him a 1/2 day fee of something mad like 700UKP

In other words, he sold himself cheap. There was recently a big case in media now about the media consulting bill after a big scandal that they were called in to handle, the leading senior advicer - and he really is senior though - was 3500 NOK/hour or about 390 GBP/hour, that's his standard rate. Noone disputed the prices, they were just arguing over who would be paying the bill. If I got laid off and you wanted to hire me back in, I think me "WTF you got to be kidding me" rate would be even higher than that...

Re:Support costs (1)

buckeyeguy (525140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703189)

This server and its software has likely been off of normal support for a long time. The remaining choice left to the House is to sign up for 'extended support' with IBM, which is their high-rate time-and-materials gouge. I know first-hand from working with them recently that IBM will NOT bend on supportability; at IBM, renewable support contracts are not just their bread and butter; it's the whole damn sandwich. Or the House could have contracted with a 3rd party support vendor, cut their bill by 60% or more, and taken their chances.

Where will the tubes connect now? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702371)

And why does my bank go through those like diapers on a fat baby?

Cloud? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702429)

get rid of the mainframe..... spend some time on high end wintel servers and then .. move to the cloud... which seems to be nothing more than Mainframe V2.0

Re:Cloud? (1, Interesting)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702461)

The Cloud = Mainframe V2.0?

'scuse me while I try and calm down my hysterical laughter.

(what U smokin'?)

Re:Cloud? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702665)

They call them high capacity application servers these days and some of them run linux. But they are mainframes. NGOML!

Re:Cloud? (1)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703901)

The Cloud = Mainframe V2.0?

'scuse me while I try and calm down my hysterical laughter.

(what U smokin'?)

The concept is almost the same. Just switch away custom-made hardware for commodity hardware running clusterized applications and you have a sort of "virtual mainframe" called "cloud" just because it isn't in your datacenter. The final costs can be just as high, it all depends on how good at negotiating agreements the company is.

Full circle ? (1, Insightful)

Keruo (771880) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702453)

Hasn't the mainframe business already done full 30 year cycle?
From what I've seen lately, virtualization is kicking in even on desktop field and normal PC's are being replaced with more power efficient thin clients.
I know thin clients aren't same as simple terminals were with mainframes since they connect to the vm-servers using gigabit ethernet instead serial cable, and instead serving unix shell, they now provide entire desktop experience to end-user.

But what's interesting for me is to see if the thin client concept really kicks in and restarts the cycle again.
What will those PC devices be like in 10-15 years when the cycle continues and returns to favor personal computing devices again, instead just personal desktop, being hosted from some cloud colocation service.

Re:Full circle ? (3, Insightful)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702599)

IMO what drove the cycle to favoring desktop PC's away from dumb clients was being able to have applications with around as much power, only with a vastly richer user experience. I.e. there was a cycle at all because it replicated mainframe's positive and replaced mainframe's negative. I'm not sure what the impetus could be for another full cycle. Security management considerations and the ability to serve up that rich user experience might induce another half cycle. But it would take something that only decentralized computing could provide (at least initially and for a while), that we never knew we needed, to have another complete cycle. And then energy or other constraints (real or psychological) may prevent that -- the prior cycle occured during the prior mindset/assumption in America of limitless everything.

Re:Full circle ? (1)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703915)

As I can see it, the circle is driven by the capacity of the personal hardware to run the needed applications. When the app outgrows the hardware's power you begin to centralize computing again. Mainframe is just a physical representation of centralization, just as client-server was to a degree and the current VM-centric scheme is.

Re:Full circle ? (1)

mgbastard (612419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703661)

We've proven that the people are by and large too stupid to have complete control over their "PC" in a networked environment. So, why not have a managed thin client instead of a desktop? Anywhere that the unit is captive to an enterprise / office / school, F the "PC" model. It's done. Waste of power to run. Waste of resources to build each unit. Waste of money to manage and troubleshoot the 'workstations'. I laughed the first time I heard a "PC" called a workstation. The fad is coming to an end.

Of course, developers and bastards like me will continue on using our UNIX however we see fit, whereever we see fit. UNIX on a fast laptop...how about that? Hell. UNIX on a phone? (the iPhone)

They will be sorry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702649)

when their dedicated cluster of Walmart E-machines dies on the next Windows update reboot cycle... haven't they heard of Bloated Capacitors!!!!

Re:They will be sorry... (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704231)

when their dedicated cluster of Walmart E-machines dies on the next Windows update reboot cycle... haven't they heard of Bloated Capacitors!!!!

"Bloated Capacitors? Didn't they play just before the Stones at Altamont?" is about the level of reaction I'd expect from congresscritters.

Units (5, Insightful)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702797)

The mainframe was consuming 10,000 to 15,000 watts an hour

Uh... what? No wonder they had to pull this thing offline, that's 1.68 - 2.52 GW per week!

It's been online for 12 years, so by the time it was shut off it must have been using at least 1.57TW.

Re:Units (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702963)

Who taught you guys units? Watt is a unit of power, not energy. You dont multiply power by time and express the result as power. Go back to your high school textbooks.

Re:Units (1)

AgedLion (1591543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702983)

watts per hour? What school has mr. Zanatta visited. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watt [wikipedia.org]. If he means 10,000 to 15,000 Joule per hour that must be far more efficient than the replacement machines.

Re:Units (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703575)

That paragraph isn't quoted, so it may have been the author of the article that mangled the units (really, if he had the faculty to notice the problem, he should have gone back for clarification, so he is mostly responsible anyway).

Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29702861)

I'm sure the US government will just as efficient running our health care system :(

Keep the Mainframe (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29702943)

Decommission the representatives. Then put the mainframe in charge. I'm sure it is much more efficient at processing bribes, though it probably lacks sex scandal capabilities.

Re:Keep the Mainframe (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704019)

Well mainframes take up a lot of physical space. It wouldn't be unheard of if one had a wide stance...

Re:Keep the Mainframe (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704041)

it probably lacks sex scandal capabilities

They could interface this [welookdoyou.com] to it. (Warning, NSFW).

Re:Keep the Mainframe (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704263)

Decommission the representatives. Then put the mainframe in charge. I'm sure it is much more efficient at processing bribes, though it probably lacks sex scandal capabilities.

While Rule 34 exists, don't be so sure.

"Congressional mainframe found downloading drawings of it raping schoolgirls."

Is it really more efficient? (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703005)

Werent there some studies shown that a mainframe was actually more energy efficient than a cluster? I wonder if they did any actual scientific studies of efficiency or if the people in charge here just made some assumptions, and went along with the hype.

Re:Is it really more efficient? (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704689)

Werent there some studies shown that a mainframe was actually more energy efficient than a cluster?

Studies have shown that marketers are 75% more likely than the average person to use the word "myth."

I remember when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703315)

I remember when I decommissioned the last mainframe in my house...wait...this isn't someone's house?

Government 2.0 (1)

fistagon7 (1562057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703335)

hmm guess Big Electricity wasn't lobbying hard enough. So wow next thing you know they'll stop accepting bribes from K Street...

So what was it? (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703555)

What kind of box was it? My guess goes for a VAX...

Re:So what was it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29703717)

DEC VAX computers were 32-bit minicomputers. The largest and fastest VAX ever built was slower, and had less memory and disk capacity than a robust PC of current manufacture. In fact, the 5-year-old PC I'm typing this on approximately 1500 times faster, has 1000 times more memory, and 3000 times more disk than the typical VAX-11/780 of 25+ years ago.

Re:So what was it? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704241)

SimH can simulate a VAX well enough to run OpenVMS now. On a modern laptop, it runs faster than any real VAX that was ever made.

Re:So what was it? (3, Insightful)

Lorens (597774) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704029)

No, it was an IBM (RTFA).

As for price, well, some people have money, earn money using the tool that a computer is, and consider *correct* performance worth their money.

Seen from a business view, it is *good* to know that if your system breaks down there *will* be a really competent guy (or two) on site in less than a hour. I've seen it happen. At 2300 hours on a Friday evening. It is *good* to know that if something really bizarre happens, and the front-line guys really don't know what to do, mobile phones and beepers are sounding on the other side of the world to assemble a team of the people who designed the system, and that if necessary their plane tickets *will* be waiting for them at the airport, and that a complete replacement system is being loaded on a truck as we are speaking.

Don't get me wrong, I love Linux. Virtualized, redundant, load-balanced, backed up, and with the stamp of approval from "everyone who's looked at the code". But when your printing system breaks down, and your in-house engineers have eliminated your custom software and are having problems determining whether the problem is in the printing software or the drivers or the printer firmware or the printer hardware, and you can't send out your truckloads of bills representing hundreds of thousands of dollars a day, I'll wager you'll feel much better waiting for the guys from IBM than waiting for someone to reply to your "VERY URGENT PLEASE HELP" on the CUPS mailing list.

Bet IBM is mad (1)

theendlessnow (516149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29703727)

I bet IBM is mad they didn't spend more time on their BlackBerry integration piece to PROFS.

Final score

IBM: 0
Obama's BlackBerry: 1

did that ever show a blue screen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29704309)

reliability comes at a price.

they are losing on reliability by downsizing to any other platform...

It won't be the last (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29704755)

Like the moon-landing missions, it's just the last remaining one.

The age of the mainframe will rise again!

OK, seriously, I don't know if the mainframe will come back to the House of Representatives, but mainframes are particularly good at many 21st-century tasks, and it would be just as arrogant to presume they won't ever come back as to insist, as I jokingly did above, that they will.

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