A Korean software company is looking to gain a share of the North American application modernization market with a suite of software designed to “lift and shift” applications off of mainframes and onto open platforms, claiming it will reduce costs.

TmaxSoft, founded in 1997 and boasting of US$100 million in revenue last year, is releasing OpenFrame 6.0, an execution environment for running mainframe applications on Linux or Unix. “It replicated the functionality of core software infrastructure support on the mainframe, such as CICS and VSAM,” said John Plato, vice president of sales and marketing at TmaxSoft.

“We clone that functionality and the APIs on Unix and Linux, and run [the applications] intact. All we have to do is recompile. We don’t have to touch the business logic.

“Mainframe maintenance costs are in some cases borderline outrageous, especially if they’re adding capacity every year,” he said. “The $10 million check [mainframe users] write is based on mps capacity. People are looking to offload to the specialty engines: the Zips, Zaps and IFLs. We’re riding the coattails of that trend.”

Yet Karl Freund, vice president of strategy and marketing for IBM System z, said, “We have found it’s hard to get an apples-to-apples” comparison of the costs of running a mainframe versus building out a data center. “Some costs are just not accounted for.

“[Mainframe migration] companies will tell our customers they can save millions by moving you off the mainframe. But is the data center you’re moving into properly sized? Is disaster recovery and application continuity in place? Often, you end up with a very different answer” about the cost of migrating.

Freund acknowledged there are “certain cases” where mainframe costs “got out of line” with their value based on the workload the computer was required to handle.

To address that, IBM in December released 11 mainframe “solution editions” for specific workloads, such as SAP, disaster recovery and Chordiant CRM, said Freund.

“We were able to drive prices down dramatically and keep it in line with the value it was bringing to the business. There’s no question that [System z] has better attributes” than x86 servers—disaster recovery, security and reliability were but three areas Freund noted—“and now we can justify incrementally higher prices for these things.”

But TmaxSoft’s Plato maintained that moving off the mainframe is “an attractive tactical solution to people who want to stop the [cost of mainframe] bleeding.”

OpenFrame 6.0 provides the platform (transaction processing engine, middleware and more), so applications look and act just as they did on the mainframe, Plato said. The software basically sends the source code via FTP to the open-system box, where it’s recompiled and run on the OpenFrame software platform, he explained.

“We’re not converting COBOL to Java,” he said. “Organizations don’t want to have to retrain 20,000 people to reuse the application. They want to look and act the same.”