National Computer Center preps for mainframe facelift

The Social Security Administration Last Month Issued A Request For Proposals To Upgrade Mainframes The Agency Uses To Process Everything From Social Security Benefits To Administrative Programs.

Under The Mainframe Acquisition Project (Map), The Cost Of Which Should Reach Well Into The Tens Of Millions Of Dollars, Ssa Will Replace 14 Mainframes At Its National Computer Center In Baltimore With Five Powerful Mainframes.

Ssa Is Purchasing The New Mainframes To Reduce The Amount It Spends On Software Licensing Fees, Which Total Nearly $9 Million A Year, And On Maintenance Costs, A Multimillion-Dollar Line Item.

"We're Going To Save $4 Million A Year [Just Off Licensing Fees] Right Off The Bat And About $20 Million Over Five Years, " An Ssa Employee In The Contracting Office Said.

Ssa Is Requiring Vendors To Supply A Minimum Of 2, 092 Million Instructions Per Second (Mips) Of Processing Capacity, With The Ability To Have A Maximum Of 3, 253 Mips By 2000.

The Only Machines That Can Supply Such Power, Ssa Contracting Officials Believe, Are Those Manufactured By Ibm Corp., Amdahl Corp. And Hitachi Data Systems (Hds). All Three Companies Have At Least One Mainframe Currently Operating In Ssa's Center.

How Much Ssa Spends On The New System Will Depend On What Kind Of Mainframes Ssa Purchases. At Going Rates, Ssa Should Spend About $18, 000 Per Mips For A Water-Cooled System Or About $11, 000 Per Mips For An Air-Cooled One, Said Stephen Josselyn, A Consultant At International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

Using Those Figures And A Requirement Of 2, 092 Mips, A Water-Cooled System Would Cost About $38 Million, And An Air-Cooled System Would Run About $23 Million. Ssa Most Likely Will Purchase Some Peripherals With The System, Adding More Value To The Contract, Josselyn Said.

Ssa Officials, However, Do Not Believe There Is An Air-Cooled System On The Market That Is Powerful Enough To Meet The Mips Requirement.

But Hds' Recently Released Skyline Mainframes, Which Combine Water- And Air-Cooled Technology In A Hybrid Chip, Are More Efficient And Less Expensive Than Traditional Water-Cooled Systems And Have A Large Processing Capacity, The Company Claims.

The Skyline Mainframes Have 780 Mips Per Box, Yielding 3, 900 Mips Over Five Mainframes, Which Is More Than Enough To Meet Ssa's Requirements. Officials With Vion Corp., A Washington, D.C., Firm That Resells Hds Systems In The Federal Market, Would Not Comment On Whether The Skyline Mainframes Would Be Suitable For Map.

Ibm And Amdahl Representatives Could Not Be Reached For Comment.

Because Bids On The Map Contract Will Most Likely Be Technically Similar, Price Will Be The Overriding Factor In Determining A Winner. Ssa Also Will Consider Past Performance And Technical Superiority, In That Order.

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