Having sewn up IBM and AD/Cycle, Micro Focus is now as close as this to ICL as well Following Tuesday’s unveiling of ICL Plc’s new OpenFramework architecture (CI No 1,678), the company announced at its Computer Users Association annual conference in Birmingham a long-term agreement with software house Micro Focus Ltd, granting ICL worldwide marketing […]
Having sewn up IBM and AD/Cycle, Micro Focus is now as close as this to ICL as well
Following Tuesday’s unveiling of ICL Plc’s new OpenFramework architecture (CI No 1,678), the company announced at its Computer Users Association annual conference in Birmingham a long-term agreement with software house Micro Focus Ltd, granting ICL worldwide marketing rights to supply its latest Cobol/2 products on all its strategic hardware systems (CI No 1,681). The new products include a Cobol/2 compiler and run-time support for VME, the same for Unix as well as Toolbox, Dialog Systems, Co-Writer and application generation tool Sourcewriter; and for MS-DOS, the new products include Cobol/2 Workbench, incorporating Toolbox and Co-Writer, and the Dialog design tool. ICL will continue to support and promote on-going use of the existing VME C2 Cobol (ANSI ’74) product under VME, including Workbench support, as well as providing the Micro Focus Cobol/2 (ANSI ’85) products that are compliant with Issue 3 of the X/Open Portability Guide. When Micro Focus started up in 1976, it supplied CIS-Cobol for ICL’s 1500 system. Since then ICL has marketed CIS-Cobol on the DRS20 range, Level II Cobol on CDOS systems and since 1988 Cobol/2 on its Unix systems. The conference was also the venue for the announcement of the Series 39 FDS20G Data Module, a disk system combining up to 20Gb of storage, the disk controller, and ICL’ CAFS file searching engine in one cabinet. Claims the company, compared with existing disk configurations, the FDS20G provides up to 600% footprint reduction, 20% improvement in access times, 300% improvement in reliability, and a 70% reduction in power consumption. The system comes in 5Gb, 10Gb, 15Gb and 20Gb modules which can be enhanced using 5Gb storage upgrades. The basic cost of an FDS20G Data Module with 15Gb of disk storage is UKP161,000, or UKP2,600 per month under ICL’s exchange-hire scheme.
ICL outlines its new directions in the field of software engineering
John Franklin, who runs ICL’s CASE Partners effort, feels that traditional CASE is being superseded by a new strategy of software engineering that looks at the whole lifecycle of applications – a shift prompted by the increasing use of client-server architectures and the demands of doing prototype work on systems from different vendors. Franklin’s vision of a successful CASE strategy – outlined in the May edition of the ICL Unix Update publication – includes assessing the best methodogy for a customer’s needs – government organisations, he says, are now adopting the well-defined SSADM – the Central Computer & Telecommunications Agency’s Structured System and Design Methodology. In addition to SSADM, ICL supports other CASE methodologies including Information Engineering, LSDM and Yourdon. ICL’s CASE Partners Programme is designed to support customer’s choice of methods, by linking various development workbenches to ICL’s DDS Data Dictionary System. ICL’s DDS runs under VME, with a Unix version supplied by Sema Group – the Ingres RDMS-based ADD Advanced Development Dictionary. The Dictionary forms the core of ICL’s CASE system, as it controls the software being developed. Softlab GmbH is an example of an ICL CASE partner whose product, Maestro II, exploits client-server architecture as a development environment – as opposed to developing in a central mainframe environment – on the DRS 6000, front-ended by a personal computer. While Ingres is ICL’s strategic database product, the company also markets the Informix database, as well as supporting Oracle. With programming languages under Unix, says Franklin, the way forward is through C, though he points out that ICL is currently working with Dublin-based Glockenspiel Ltd’s C++ object-oriented product – ICL intends to offer object-oriented capabilities in the future and has announced that its dictionary will be enhanced to include object-oriented technology on the DRS 6000. Pascal and Fortran are also available, as is Cobol. ICL reckons that most commercial customers run the toolsets on personal computers linked to a U
nix system, as opposed to workstations, but maintains that although products are gradually moving across, users may still not want to have the power of Unix on the desktop. This was the motivation behind ICL’s establishment of a CASE exploitation centre in West Gorton, Manchester. The centre checks the interfacing done by third-parties to ensure that it works with ICL products. ICL has also brought Dutch firm Westmount’s ISEE integrated development environment, which offers a set of workbenches under Unix to design and generate complete applications for the Ingres relational database management system. A version is also under development for the Informix database.
Addressing the uncertain future of the monolithic corporate data centre
At the ICL CUA ’91 user conference last week in Birmingham, Bob Aylott, a consultant with London-based Nolan, Norton & Co spoke on the subject of data centres and whether they have a future given the threat of the rise of facilities management and corporate de-centralisation. The threat to the traditional data centre is severe because in a mature business, it can represent 80% of the information technology spend, accounting for as much as 25% of a company’s operating costs – particularly in financial institutions. Aylott’s opinion was that data centres will become profit centres in the future, sinking or swimming on the cost and quality of their services. He depicted three possible scenarios of how the data centre may progress. Firstly, he suggested, the centre could be down-sized, moving to smaller and less costly computing environments – proprietary to Unix for example – but Aylott’s comment to this was beware – it’s not actually cheaper to change computing environments. Bringing in a facilities management company was the second alternative let others do the costly work, but then there’s the problem of loss of control, and the fear that quality may suffer. The strategy favoured by Nolan Norton & Co was to examine the infrastructure – to go beyond the concept of data centre management towards a total infrastructure management – providing all the company’s facilities and processing services, in order to control the effective use of computer technology. The infrastructure should be operated as a utility, he said, supporting the business vision as well as the computer architecture and, in practice, this should work as a franchise, a co-operative, where external suppliers can be brought in if need be, but only at the choice and under the control of the internal management. But, for the large data centre, the external supplier would have to be up to 40% cheaper to be competitive, Aylott warned, so it’s not advisable to opt for external services on the basis of cost, as this would usually result in poor quality. The way forward, according to Nolan Norton, is for the data centre to make its services competitive in terms of added value – Aylott held up the Japanese as examples of quality service providers. He went on to say that the accounts manager would have an increasingly important role to play in the survival of the data centre, being responsible for building a partnership with the customer – the customer being someone that was able to shop around and make a choice of whose resources he would use. The data centre, therefore, must form a relationship with the business manager, earning the right to become his partner, and then making sure that the right technology is implemented in the right way by the user. When a strong relationship has been established between the accounts manager and the business manager, then the data centre can have the confidence to buy services in from third parties in areas where skill is lacking. Strange isn’t it, five years ago, bureaux seemed as dead as dodos, now they are threatening to return with a vengeance. – Susan Norris.