DWI to stick with mainframes

The Department of Work and Income's plan to continue using Unisys mainframes for its core Swiftt applications for at least another five years has alarmed Rational Software vice-president Roger Oberg.

The Department of Work and Income's plan to continue using Unisys mainframes for its core Swiftt applications for at least another five years has alarmed Rational Software vice-president Roger Oberg.

The Swiftt system is in need of a “radical revision” to take it away from the mainframe direction, Oberg claims, and to delay much longer would mean it trying to redesign systems in a high-pressure atmosphere. The department is a user of Rational's software development methodologies and products.

There are “no current plans” to ditch the mainframe in favour of a move to any environment involving networks of medium-scale machines, says DWI spokeswoman Kate Joblin. “However, longer-term options will be considered as part of strategic [IT] plans.”

DWI recently upgraded its Unisys mainframe to a Clearpath model. Technical forecasts from services provider EDS indicate that this will give the department’s computer operation another five years’ life in a mainframe-centered environment, Joblin says. The mainframe, furthermore, has “significant” upgrade potential, which could further extend that five-year span. Unisys has assured DWI that there are no plans to discontinue any of the core software DWI relies on – the MCP/AS operating system, the Linc programming language or the DMS II database management system.

DWI's CIO Stewart Watson says "Obviously the Swiftt system (or parts of it) will need to be replaced in the future, as no system lasts forever. However, there is no pressure to do this in the immediate future and the Department will, as part of its strategic planning process, determine an appropriate and timely migration strategy for Swiftt.

There has been no comment from industry monitors like Gartner on any "inevitable requirement to move from mainframes," he says.

"Swiftt has been successfully modified over the last ten years to accommodate major legislative, organisational and technical changes including those required to ensure year 2000 readiness. The drivers for Swiftt replacement that existed in 1995, no longer exist. There are no compelling business or technical reasons to replace Swiftt today."

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