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Microsoft, Micro Focus target mainframes

The two companies strengthen a partnership aimed at snagging IBM mainframe customers by offering tools and services for migrating to Windows servers.

Microsoft and mainframe software company Micro Focus International have strengthened an alliance aimed at luring away IBM mainframe customers.

At a customer event Thursday in New York, the two companies are expected to announce an extension to their existing partnership and to tout the benefits of moving mainframe applications onto Intel servers that run Windows. In particular, the partnership is designed to provide an alternative to customers who run Customer Information Control System (CICS), a widely used mainframe transaction system.

Tony Hill, CEO of United Kingdom-based Micro Focus, said that by moving a CICS application to Windows, companies can save money and more easily modify software programs. In addition, he said, current mainframe customers can avoid further risk of IBM, ending support for older systems.

IBM declined to comment.

Microsoft has singled out IBM mainframe customers as "ripe" for moving over to Windows.

"I believe (Windows) is a very serious threat to IBM's traditional mainframe base," Hill said. "For both partners, this is a huge strategic opportunity."

Microsoft and Micro Focus will offer products and services for moving mainframe applications to Windows.

Micro Focus server software allows a CICS application to run unchanged on an Intel server running Windows, Hill said. Once mainframe applications written in Cobol are moved over, customers can further maintain and alter the applications using Microsoft's development tools.

Tulane University is one IBM customer that has already shifted to a Windows server. It expects to save $240,000 per year by moving one mainframe application to Windows.

The migration was not "absolutely seamless" but was relatively smooth, said John Lawson, Tulane's chief information officer. Overall, the university expects to save $500,000 per year in licensing costs by moving all its mainframe applications to Windows and Unix servers over the next two years, he said.