Unisys to offer mainframe cloud services

The ClearPath cloud offering will be initially geared toward test and development applications

Unisys plans to offer a hosted test and development environment later this year for users of its ClearPath mainframe systems, a precursor to offering hosted production environments in the future, the company said this week.

The initial offering is geared toward businesses that already have a ClearPath test and dev environment, and who need to expand that environment for a brief period of time.

"We are trying to address the issue of agility, because customers have requirements for short bursts of resources for development and test. What this allows them to do is avoid the cost if they had to buy another system," Bill Maclean, vice president of ClearPath portfolio management at Unisys, said on Friday.

ClearPath users tend to be large organizations such as airlines, telecom operators or financial institutions. They are likely to be interested in the cloud offering to test new software or catch up on projects that they have fallen behind on, he said.

Partly due to the nature of the offering, the service comes with an unusual pricing model. While most platform- or infrastructure-as-a-service offerings are priced based on CPUs and memory, the ClearPath Cloud Development and Test Solution has a set price for use over a three-month period.

"We license it for a period of time and they get the full capability. It's like a full virtual server with a complete set of development technologies," he said. The entry-level price, US$13,000 for three months, includes a full set of development tools such as compilers, editors and database software. It also includes memory, storage and support.

Pricing it like the rest of the infrastructure-as-a-service industry "wouldn't provide a whole lot of benefit because in the ClearPath environment, the software comes with the platform," Maclean said.

Unisys will offer additional pricing tiers for more CPU resources, although Maclean expects that most will take the entry level since it's large.

The company decided to offer the service to customers after using it internally for about two years. It set up an on-demand service for Unisys engineers who needed quick access to compute power. "We did it internally because we had a business problem," he said. The company realized that if it had this problem, its customers probably did too.

Unisys expects to add other ClearPath cloud services in the future, including a hosted production environment. That might make sense for a small customer that wants to host its entire environment at Unisys, or for larger companies that want to host a specific application. It also expects to add data replication and recovery services, and select application-as-a-service offerings.

The test and development offering is expected to be available worldwide in September. Unisys will be hosting it out of its data center in Eagan, Minnesota.

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