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Campus Computing News

By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Associate Director of Academic Computing

Academic Mainframe Services to End After **SPRING** 2003

It was announced in the May 2002 issue of Benchmarks Online that Academic Mainframe services would end as of the beginning of the Summer I session of 2003. Any academic mainframe account holders who have not already moved their files from VM/CMS and MVS should review that article and begin making plans now.

It's important to note that this change primarily affects faculty and some graduate students who use VM/CMS to log on and run statistically analysis programs such as SAS and SPSS.  The academic mainframe is a separate
service from the administrative mainframe which runs SIMS, HRMIS, and
supports the business functions of the university.

The Academic Mainframe is actually a logically separate partition of the University's IBM 9670 mainframe which is used to run registration and other administrative applications at UNT.  While the administrative and academic mainframe operations share one large computer, they function like two separate computers and have no overlapping operations. 

Historically, the mainframe was the only computer that people could use to
teach programming or analyze data for research. When I joined Academic
Computing Services in 1987, my job was to assist faculty who used the
academic mainframe for their instruction or research.  Microcomputers were available at that time, but they were limited in the functions they could
perform (including a limitation of 640 Kilobytes of addressable random
access memory).  Any large-scale computing still required access to the
Academic Mainframe.

Over the years, more and more academic computing activity has moved to
personal computers.  Some activity, however, still remains on the academic
mainframe partition, principally, business computing instruction and some social science research data analysis.  Business computing instruction classes use the mainframe to teach COBOL programming and mainframe database technology because some businesses still use mainframe technology.  Some social sciences researchers still use the mainframe because they have accumulated years of data and programs and it has been easier to keep using the mainframe than to move to using a personal computer.

For years, mainframe computers offered the fastest processing capability
and the most storage space available on any computing platform. Mainframe computers were economically advantageous because the processing power could be shared among a large number of users. Microcomputer technology, however, has greatly outpaced what is available on our mainframe.  Most people don't realize that a typical new desktop PC has a much faster processor, a much larger amount of RAM, and much more disk storage capacity than is available via a mainframe account.  A CD-ROM holds one-half more data than one of our mainframe tape cartridges.

It is now necessary to retire mainframe technology in favor of more contemporary computing platforms. There are several reasons for doing so:

  1. The University is moving away from mainframe technology for
    administrative computing needs and the mainframe will not be significantly upgraded and will eventually be totally shut down once administrative applications are moved to new processing platforms;
  2. Academic Computing Services can provide a higher quality of support for microcomputer applications and those applications incorporate and use the latest computing technology;
  3. The number of academic mainframe users has dwindled to the point that it is no longer economically advantageous to use mainframe technology for academic computing needs.

This change is inevitable and it is hoped that a definitive deadline for termination of academic mainframe services will promote an proactive approach to transferring any data and programs which need to be utilized on other platforms.  If you have questions about how to start this process, feel free to contact me (baczewski@unt.edu).  ACS staff will be available to assist in the process of moving files from mainframe accounts, but since staff time is limited, it is best to get those requests in as soon as possible.