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Fujitsu confirms end date for mainframe and Unix systems

Once Japanese giant's main squeezes, they're being ditched at end of decade

Fujitsu has confirmed the end of the road for its mainframes and Unix server systems. It will cease to sell both by the end of this decade, with support services continuing for a further five years.

Customers are by then expected to have migrated to the cloud.

The tech giant's plans were revealed in a notice posted to the Japanese IT giant's website on February 14th, which does not appear to have been widely publicised.

Linux has replaced Unix, basically. But that replacement isn't there for mainframes. When the hardware goes, what do you do with the applications?

The notice outlines Fujitsu's future vision to offer "resilient digital infrastructure" to customers for "accelerating the creation of new value."

As part of this new hybrid IT roadmap, Fujitsu will cease manufacturing and selling its mainframe systems by 2030, and will also discontinue its Unix server systems by the end of 2029. Support services for both portfolios will continue for five years afterwards, meaning these will end in 2034 for Unix servers and 2035 for mainframes.

A roadmap graphic seems to indicate that Fujitsu still plans a new model in its GS21 mainframe line-up in 2024, despite the fact that it intends to cease sales six years later.

Likewise, the roadmap shows enhancements to the Fujitsu Sparc M12 Unix server lineup later this year and in 2026. It also warns that "this roadmap is subject to change without notice."

The plan includes a timetable for shifting Fujitsu's mainframes and Unix servers to the cloud, as part of a new business brand, Fujitsu Uvance, under which Fujitsu aims to provide access to computing resources like HPC under an as-a-service business model, offering users access to advanced capabilities whenever needed, the company said.

However, the reality for most Fujitsu mainframe customers is that they now have a deadline by which time they need to have migrated their mainframe applications to another platform, or take the opportunity to rebuild the applications from scratch on more modern infrastructure.

And while it may seem like a long way off, mainframes were a large, long-term investment for most of the organisations that use them, typically handling the most mission-critical applications, and so dealing with the end of life may be a big deal for some customers.

"Many of these mainframes are still around because the code is still running, and the business logic is tied to the hardware," said Philip Dawson, vice president at Gartner Research.

Dawson said that the situation will be somewhat different for Unix server users, as their workloads can be transitioned relatively easily to Linux.

"Linux has replaced Unix, basically. But that replacement isn't there for mainframes. When the hardware goes, what do you do with the applications?" he asked.

Fujitsu mainframe users have basically been put on notice to migrate their workloads somewhere else, look at alternatives, or look at starting afresh with new code and modern infrastructure.

"People have sweated their assets, and now they need to do something, soon. If you let it get to 2030 and you haven't started, you'll probably have left it too late," Dawson said.

Into the Big Blue... or beyond

Meanwhile, Omdia chief analyst Roy Ilsley told The Register that while the mainframe business is still profitable at present, it is in decline and predicts that by 2025 it will represent only 3.9 per cent of total server revenues.

"Customers will face a significant challenge as migrating from a mainframe is not a simple operation, so 2035 does give them time to plan and action any migrations," Ilsley said.

Moving to a different mainframe – such as IBM – may be an option for some, and would be cheaper and less disruptive, but may not be a wise choice when the mainframe market as a whole is on the downward curve, he warned.

"The other possible option is that a spin-off may provide some kind of mainframe-as-a-service and will continue to run and maintain these systems for a few more years, but again this would only be short term," he added.

Among those who may be forced to consider their options is the UK Home Office, as the Police National Computer system is based on a Fujitsu BS2000 mainframe, although this is an architecture that was inherited by Fujitsu when it acquired the data processing division of Siemens and differs from the Japanese mainframe models.

The Unix market looks in better shape, with Sparc and Power systems expected to ship 31,000 units in 2025. This is still declining, but at a slower rate, according to Omdia. In contrast, X86 and Arm systems are expanding.

The end-of-support date of 2034 for Fujitsu's Unix servers may not be a coincidence. This is also the cut-off date of extended support for Oracle's Solaris operating system, which runs on the same Sparc processor architecture as Fujitsu's servers.

Oracle effectively halted Sparc design work back in 2017, when it laid off the engineering teams responsible following the completion of work on the Sparc M8. Fujitsu has continued to produce its own Sparc chips for the M12 servers. ®

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