Unisys' Forward Platform Aimed at Migrating Workloads Off Unix

The company's new Intel-powered servers will help businesses reduce expenses by moving crucial jobs onto Windows- and Linux-based systems.

Unisys officials want to make it easier for enterprises to shift their mission-critical workloads from expensive Unix-based systems to high-end servers running Windows and Linux.

The company on Oct. 7 unveiled its latest server platform, called Forward, that combines Unisys’ s-Par partitioning technology with the virtualization capabilities on Intel’s Xeon x86 server processors to create a fabric architecture that can handle high-end applications while reducing by 70 percent the number of physical servers needed and cutting capital expenses by as much as 60 percent.

“This gives [enterprises] the opportunity to consolidate their data center without sacrificing performance and scalability,” John Kunzier, director of marketing for Forward for Unisys, told eWEEK.

The Forward platform, announced during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013 in Orlando, Fla., is designed to help businesses that are looking to save money while running cloud-based and big data workloads, increasing the performance of back-end enterprise applications from vendors such as SAP, and reduce the number of servers running in their data centers, according to Unisys officials.

The platform, which Unisys officials first talked about in August, will be available in early December, starting at $89,000.

Unisys officials for the past several years have been shifting their ClearPath family of systems onto Intel’s x86 processors. Along the way, the company released specialty engines for Windows- and Linux-based applications to help them run better on the ClearPath systems. The combination of the s-Par technology and specialty engines made it possible for the servers to run the full version of Windows and Linux, Kunzler said.

Bringing in the features in Intel’s Xeon chips—such as Turbo Boost 2.0 for performance and Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions for encryption—will create secure, reliable and high-performing environments that can handle mission-critical enterprise jobs, he said. Each partition is essentially a “containerized” server that is created for a specific workload, according to Unisys officials. They have their own dedicated processors, memory and I/O channels, offer greater performance, security, scalability and availability than what can be found using virtualization technology from vendors like VMware and Microsoft alone, Kunzler said.

And such capabilities are in demand, according to Unisys officials, citing analyst reports that say the market for cloud computing, big data and Unix-RISC migration is more than $23 billion. Pointing to a survey conducted by IDC for Unisys, the company noted that the key barriers to IT professionals migrating mission-critical applications to virtualized environments were performance and security.

With the Forward platform, “they get the best of both worlds, with the performance of Unix and the flexibility and costs of virtualization,” he said.

Those cost savings are significant, Kunzler said. Along with the 50 to 60 percent drop in capital expenses when compared with Unix systems, the total cost of ownership can drop by 40 percent. When compared with physical Linux or Windows environments, a partitioned Forward system can reduce the number of physical servers needed by 70 percent and reduce the software licensing and hardware maintenance expenses by as much as 70 percent.

It also reduces the time to provision servers for mission-critical workloads from weeks to hours, he said.

The first of the Forward systems will run on Xeon E5 chips, with future models running on the Xeon E7 processors.

Along with the new servers, Unisys also is offering consulting services around planning, designing and implementing the platform and such use cases as Unix-to-Linux application migrations, SAP applications and platform migration, and data center consolidation.