USDA agency mulls AS/400 consolidation

The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency is mulling the consolidation of more than 2,000 AS/400 systems from IBM.

The agency issued late last month a request for information as it investigates ways to consolidate the servers, which operate at 2,384 state and county service centers. The main use of the agency’s AS/400s is to run System/36 applications that the Farm Service Agency has maintained since 1984, according to the RFI.

IBM’s widely used AS/400 platform debuted in 1988 as the successor to the company’s System/36 (S/36) and System/38 minicomputers. The product line continues today under IBM’s System i label, running Linux, AIX, Windows and i5/OS.

The Farm Service Agency began deploying AS/400s in 2000, rehosting applications and data from its S/36 systems. The RFI states that the agency uses IBM’s DB2 database, WebSphere and MQSeries products in addition to S/36 emulation.

The agency is researching the possibility of consolidating its AS/400s in one to six locations. The RFI cited a lack of physical security at the service centers as the motivating factor behind the push for centralization.

“Due to the cost and timeframe of improving physical security, FSA is exploring the alternative of re-hosting the legacy applications in a small number of secure, central sites,” the RFI states.

The agency said it is investigating a number of variations on the centralized hosting theme. One approach involves relocating the agency’s existing AS/400 Model 170s in as many as six centralized hosting facilities. Another method calls for the rehosting of older applications on a larger computing platform. The RFI states that this rehosting approach may involve creating a virtual partition for each AS/400 system. A third option would recompile applications and migrate them to another hardware platform.

The Farm Service Agency is also open to “any other relevant available options,” according to the RFI. Responses are due Jan. 16.

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