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US House Decommissions Its Last Mainframe 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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US House Decommissions Its Last Mainframe

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  • Re:In theory... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:30AM (#29702659)
    Congress is made up of the House and Senate... thus, you cannot have the "House and Congress". Just sayin'.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @07:30AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @08:19AM (#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...

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