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(Japanese Site)

  • Mainframe Computer Replacement Business Heats Up
  • February 17, 1998 (TOKYO) -- The mainframe computer business has expanded since late last year because Japanese corporate users of large computer systems are eager to buy new compatible machines to replace older models.

    Even IBM Japan Ltd. has gone on the offensive with its System/390 (S/390) as a "counter-replacement" against mainframe computers of Hitachi Ltd. and Fujitsu Ltd.

    Fujitsu is promoting sales of the Millennium series provided by Amdahl Corp. of the United States.

    And Hitachi has had lackluster business results in Japan with its IBM compatible computers, the Skyline series.(See table.)

    IBM Utilizes SMAF for Replacement Business

    The S/390 G4 server was introduced in June 1997, and clients started operating the server in October. This server is the machine that IBM Japan had presented as the counter-replacement in the sales war. The S/390 G4 features CMOS processors and it has a strong performance rating. IBM accelerated its sales promotion of the server as a compatible mainframe to clients using bipolar-type computers made by Hitachi and Fujitsu.

    "IBM Japan has been increasing the number of contracts by 50 percent a year in the last three years," said Kazuo Tezuka, a director of S/390 products at IBM Japan.

    System Assist Migration Feature (SMAF), an assistance function to shift from an old machine to a new one, is a key program for a replacement operation. It serves as a tool to run two operating systems of IBM and Hitachi or Fujitsu at the same time on a single machine, to realize a smooth upgrading.

    Although bipolar computers require optional hardware components, such components are now offered as standard features in machines with CMOS processors. Therefore, the CMOS processor type S/390 has built-in functions to execute command sets that are uniquely specified by Hitachi or Fujitsu.

    In addition, IBM Japan suggests that clients using multiple- suppliers (including IBM Japan) integrate their various mainframes operating together on one S/390 server. These clients are main targets of the SMAF sales promotion campaign. The company has signed contracts with more than 10 clients, including more than one Hitachi user.

    Fujitsu Pushes its Millennium Series

    Since last autumn, Fujitsu has been pushing sales of its Millennium series. The products are manufactured by Amdahl, one of Fujitsu's U.S. subsidiaries. The Millennium series is the first S/390-compatible computer series in which Amdahl has applied CMOS processors.

    Fujitsu has hosted several seminars for major IBM clients, and the company said it is confident about its sales promotion efforts.

    "We will have gained contracts numbering more than 10 by the end of March," said Masaki Kamioka, general manager of the system marketing division of Fujitsu's marketing group.

    When introducing an IBM-compatible machine, clients usually operate a compatible mainframe in parallel with existing IBM computers. Fujitsu is now trying to sell its machines to clients that have only one IBM mainframe.

    In March, Amdahl will launch the Millennium 700 Series in the U.S. mainframe market, where it hopes to expand market share. The new series will be a countermeasure against IBM's S/390 G4. Fujitsu said its performance is 70 to 75 MIPS, or faster than the S/390 G4's level of 63 MIPS. Fujitsu has not yet decided if the 700 Series should be offered in Japan.

    Hitachi's Skyline in a Domestic Sales Slump

    In Japan, Hitachi has not competed on par with Fujitsu and IBM Japan. However, Hitachi is enjoying business success in the United States with its Skyline Series.

    The company started to deliver the series in Japan in December 1995.

    "Although we ship several products of this series every six months, they are mostly for replacement of Hitachi machines for our existing customers," said Mitsuo Tanami, manager of the marketing planning center of Hitachi's general purpose computer division.

    The imbalance between the sales results in Japan and the United States is probably due to the different uses of mainframes. U.S. customers tend to select high-performance machines because they want maximum computing power. On the other side, deregulation in Japan is gradual, and users perform system tuning by introducing parallel processing into data base management, for example. This trend still allows mediocre mainframes to be kept in use.

    Hitachi has obtained many U.S. clients for Skyline, a high- performance mainframe that surpasses the comparable systems of IBM and Fujitsu. Skyline realizes this capability by utilizing a special type of processor that integrates bipolar circuits and CMOS circuits on a single chip.

    In December, Hitachi introduced the GP7580 (Skyline) E Model machines with four to eight processors used in one system, and the unit performance of each processor was enhanced by some 20 percent.

    Fujitsu Reinforces Support System for Replacements

    The main issue in introducing a compatible mainframe is software support, including tuning of the operating system. Substantial differences also are seen in this area as involves Japanese and American practices.

    Many experts in this field are available in the United States. Users aren't reliant only on IBM, because those experts are often well equipped with detailed information on IBM software, including OS and middleware.

    However in Japan, few outside experts are available. The computer makers have their system engineers work in client companies using their large-scale mainframes. This service often includes maintenance of application programs.

    But system engineers will be withdrawn if a client switches an old mainframe to a new compatible model of another maker. This often leaves the client without support of the same quality.

    This trend has accelerated since the software copyright conflict with IBM Corp. was settled in May 1997. Today, there are no special obstacles that prevent Fujitsu from supporting IBM- compatible mainframes.

    Table: List of original OS corresponding to each compatible mainframe of other makers
    *1: Time when SMAF became available to run the OS of other makers


    Type of Machine

    Delivery Date in Japan

    Usable OS of Other Companies

    IBM Japan

    S/390 G3, S/390 Multiprise2000

    Nov. 1996 *1

    Hitachi VOS3/AS, VOS3/ES1

    Fujitsu MSP/ES, MSP/E20, XSP, X8/FSP

    S/390 G4

    Oct. 1997 *1

    Hitachi VOS3/AS, VOS3/ES1

    Fujitsu MSP/ES


    Pilot (GP7560)

    Oct. 1996


    Skyline (GP7580)

    Dec. 1995



    Millennium400, Millennium500

    Autumn 1997





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    (Nikkei Computer)

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    Updated: Mon Feb 16 11:14:21 1998