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Moving off Mainframes: Newspaper Business Systems Vendors Port Products to Midrange Computers; Client-Server Systems Run on HP PA-RISC, DEC Alpha AXP-Based Platforms

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Moving off Mainframes: Newspaper Business Systems Vendors Port Products to Midrange Computers; Client-Server Systems Run on HP PA-RISC, DEC Alpha AXP-Based Platforms

Article excerpt

A FOURTH BIG-NAME computer manufacturer exhibited at Nexpo for the first time this year with a fairly straightforward message: Upgrade by downsizing; or, do more with less iron for less money.

Sporting fast, more compact hardware and operating software, new "midrange" systems, often reduced instruction set computers (RISC), are supplanting mainframes in newspaper business systems configured on the client-server model.

By no means the only supplier adopting the approach, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. took the promotional lead at June's Nexpo, where like-minded downsizer Digital Equipment Corp. and mainframe heavyweight IBM also showed midrange machines to power advertising, circulation and other business (and non-business) systems at newspapers.

Indeed, the same systems used to automate front-office transactions and deliver business information for database marketing also are being tied into back-shop functions to specify newspaper copies to be printed and copies of newspaper and alternate delivery products to be directed to different routes and zones.

HP used the annual newspaper technology exposition to announce agreements with CompuServe Inc.'s Tampa-based Collier-Jackson and with Neasi-Weber International, Northridge, Calif. For their part, both applications partners announced contracts with major metro dailies for products running on HP-based client-server systems.

While IBM still sees a future for its mainstay mainframes, its AS/400 midrange line runs NWI software and its RS/6000 machines run C-J software.

Both companies' products also have run on Digital VAXes for some time, but two months after the newspaper technology show, Merrimack, N.H.-based Digital announced that NWI software is being ported to its new 64-bit midrange system. Those products, too, will soon ship to a major metro publisher.

HP sees data processing evolving from centralized mainframe-based data centers with expert-mediated user access to client-server systems with direct desktop user access, from closed to open architectures, from large support requirements to small-staff, low-cost support, and from costly complex instruction set computing to less-expensive RISC technology.

According to NWI sales and marketing senior vice president Michael Brier, the 30-50 biggest potential customers still running business applications on mainframes can convert to "a significantly less expensive piece of equipment" by moving to RISC-based computers. Savings on operating costs, he said, can reach 80% when floor space, cooling, support charges and staffing are taken into account.

HP claims its high-end Precision Architecture RISC machines can deliver more than 90% of mainframe performance for as little as 20% of the cost of owning a mainframe.

Moving to a Unix-based system is a newspaper's first step from the terminal-based environment to a client-server architecture, according to Vince Gritsch, channel development manager at HP's Commercial Systems Division.

He explained that a Unix-based client-server system is open to other systems (e.g., database marketing, mailroom operations) as long as the various Unix operating system versions in use comply with network communication protocols. Openness to applications, he said, is provided by the IEEE Posix standard.

HP RISC systems that run NWI and C-J products are the Unix-based HP-UX 9000 and its own MPE/iX-based 3000. Both support distributed and client-server computing and comply with Posix specifications for Unix, said Gritsch.

The latter, however, is not a version of Unix, but rather a RISC-compatible version of HP's proprietary MPE operating system, which incorporates overall processing management and system administration features, according to Gritsch.

Brier later described MPE/iX on a 3000 Series as an all-inclusive system, with software components for running large, mission-critical operations built into the operating system software. …

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