On the path to ubiquitous Intel, Unisys refreshes ClearPath mainframes

Unisys has introduced three new mainframe servers for highly variable performance workload. Two of the new servers use Intel Xeon processors, which signals an effort to make all ClearPath systems Intel based.

Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys Corp. rolled out three new ClearPath mainframes, including two Intel Corp.-based systems in a push to make all its high-end and midrange mainframes Intel based.

The new ClearPath servers are designed for transaction-processing environments, continuous availability, environments with highly variable performance workloads and other enterprise computing tasks that require high levels of security.

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"The base platform is extremely reliable because of the redundancy built in, and it has mirrored memory," said Bill Maclean, the vice president of ClearPath programs, Unisys systems and technology. "If there is a fault in a memory component, it is transparently supported through memory redundancy, so it will not go down, It includes a quick recovery process that can re-establish the functioning environment within moments. We are not claiming it is a nonstop [fault tolerant] system, but it is near-nonstop."

I/O and processor performance improvements
In 1986, Unisys sprang from the marriage of mainframe companies Sperry Corp. and Burroughs Corp. components of which can be found in today's systems. The high-end ClearPath Dorado 700 Series mainframe is based on Unisys' 15-year-old CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) processor and runs Sperry's OS 2200 operating system, while the midrange mainframe, ClearPath Libra, runs the Burroughs Master Control Program (MCP) operating system.

The company has a large ClearPath client base in North America, encompassing a range of market sectors. Clients include Carnival Cruise Lines, FTD (Florists Transworld Delivery), and the San Diego County Office of Education, among many others. Several community banks also use Unisys through its relationship with Information Technology Inc., a financial technology provider whose banking software runs on ClearPath systems.

At the high end, the new ClearPath Dorado 700 Series is the most powerful system running the Unisys OS 2200 operating environment, on CMOS processor technology. The new system supports up to 32 processors, which can be partitioned into one to eight independent hard partitions, each supporting its own operating environment. In total, the Dorado 700 Series offers improvements of 200% in I/O performance and nearly 20% in processor performance over the currently shipping Dorado 300 Series models, the company said.

In addition, up to four fully configured Dorado systems can be clustered together with a Unisys XPC-L (eXtended Processor Complex Locking) record lock processor for a total of 128 total processors.

Pricing for basic configurations of the new Dorado 700 Series mainframe starts at $4.5 million.

Midrange on Intel
Meanwhile, the new midrange mainframes, ClearPath Dorado 4000 and Libra 4000, are now based on Intel's quad-core Xeon 7350 x64 processors. The ClearPath Dorado 4000 Series and Libra 4000 Series run the Unisys OS 2200 and MCP operating environments respectively, and both deliver twice the peak performance of Unisys the entry-level systems based on the same next-generation architecture, the company said. Pricing for basic configurations of the new Dorado 4000 Series models begin at $498,000. Pricing for basic Libra 4000 Series configurations begin at $750,000.

The new ClearPath models make good on Unisys' previously announced plans to offer Intel-based platforms for all Unisys enterprise servers, including the ClearPath systems.

In May 2007, Unisys announced the first Intel-based ClearPath Dorado models and, for several years prior, offered ClearPath Libra models based on Intel processors.

"We're able to leverage Intel's ongoing investment in more powerful processors and focus our own R&D efforts … and, as necessary, the proprietary CMOS processors that power our highest-performance mainframes, such as the new ClearPath Dorado 700 Series," said Brian Daly, Unisys spokesperson. "Intel's processors have continued to grow in power -- and will continue to do so -- and are increasingly able to serve as engines for enterprise-class computing tasks, such as transaction processing."

That said, Unisys believes that Intel processors have not yet reached the levels of power that the highest-performance CMOS systems can deliver, "but they continue to come up the curve."

Even so, "Unisys' long-term direction is to base our entire server architecture on Intel processors," said Daly.

In the meantime, ClearPath customers can run applications written on earlier-generation ClearPath systems, regardless of whether they are based on CMOS or Intel processors, because the applications written for the ClearPath OS 2200 and MCP operating systems also run on Intel-based servers, Daly said.

Metered pricing, new development tools
The new servers also enable customers to get closer to being masters of their own processing power destiny. Unisys said that a function unique to these new servers is metering, which enables clients to pay for the exact amount of processing power they use, as they use it, with built-in usage monitoring. And the capacity on demand option, enables clients who elect to purchase a specific amount of processing capacity to accommodate unexpected performance peaks in the case of, say, disaster recovery.

"We measure performance in millions of instructions per second [MIPS]," Maclean said. "On a monthly basis, say they consume 5 MIPS and half that at night. You pre-paid for a total system capacity, but it only gets used on certain business cycles. Instead, a customer can buy what they use. … It is very cost-effective for our clients instead of just buying the biggest system they need."

Unisys also announced new releases of Unisys Agile Business Suite and Business Information Server software.

Release 2.0 of Unisys Agile Business Suite simplifies installation and enhances the performance from the previous version. Release 46R1 of Unisys Business Information Server (BIS) adds new programmer options using industry-standard technologies and security, an enhanced Developer Workshop and other features.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

And check out our data center blogs: Server Farming, Mainframe Propellerhead, and Data Center Facilities Pro

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