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Microsoft expands mainframe pitch

Company is upgrading current support and service program to draw more mainframe customers.

Microsoft is expanding a plan to draw mainframe customers to Windows for high-end applications.

Under a program with the internal code name Mission Critical Microsoft, the company is trying to extend its current data center support and sales efforts to a wider range of customers, according to company representative. Microsoft discussed the plan this week at an IBM mainframe user conference in New York.

Mission Critical Microsoft is meant to build off Microsoft's current Datacenter High Availability Program, the support and service offering the company provides to customers with high-end computing needs. The program is designed for Microsoft's Windows server 2003 Datacenter Edition, billed as a competitor to mainframe systems that have very little downtime.

The expanded program will provide a Windows alternative for more of the applications that typically run on mainframes, a company spokeswoman said. Such applications include messaging, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management programs. She said couldn't provide further details yet.

The company is boosting its efforts to land mainframe customers at a time when Linux--the operating system most threatening to Microsoft's low-end Windows server business--is becoming an increasingly viable competitor on mainframe hardware.

Microsoft rival IBM is actively building out its Linux-on-mainframe business and has signed several multimillion-dollar deals with customers that run Linux publications on mainframe hardware.

For several years, Microsoft has been teaming with hardware partners, including Unisys and Hewlett-Packard, to replicate the same reliability and performance of mainframes on Windows servers based on Intel processors. In June, Microsoft extended a partnership with Fujitsu, pledging to deliver mainframe-like Windows servers based on 64-bit Itanium processors.

Microsoft's Datacenter program is targeted at high volume transaction processing and server consolidation.