Japanese IT giant Fujitsu has confirmed the end of the road for a veteran piece of data processing technology, the mainframe.

Fujitsu announced it will end mainframe sales in 2030, and support for ‘big iron’ will end in 2035. Fujitsu also confirmed that by 2029, it will discontinue its Unix SPARC servers – support for which will end in 2034.

Fujitsu is a noted mainframe maker, alongside the likes of HP, Unisys, and Groupe Bull. But IBM is perhaps most associated as mainframe supplier.

An IBM Z mainframe. Image credit: IBM

Mainframe sales

Mainframes are still commonly used in the banking, insurance, healthcare, government, aviation, and retail sectors.

Indeed, mainframes are said to be still be used 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies, and mainframes are thought to handle 90 percent of all credit card transactions.

All of this comes despite the fact that mainframes typically outlast humans, which has lead to mainframe skills shortages that the industry is still addressing.

Want to know more about mainframes? Read Silicon UK’s Tales In Tech History piece.

But the arrival of HPC and cloud computing is providing an alternative for some organisations.

And now Fujitsu has clearly signaled its long-term intentions in the big iron space.

“To support customers and partners on this journey, Fujitsu has created a new roadmap that includes a timetable for shifting its mainframes and Unix servers to the cloud, gradually enhancing its existing business systems to optimise the experience for its end-users,” wrote Fujitsu.

“To promote the modernisation of its customers’ systems and ensure sufficient time and consideration for this transition, Fujitsu has indicated that it will discontinue sales of mainframes in fiscal 2030, concluding support services in fiscal 2035.” it said.

“Additionally, the roadmap plans for the discontinuation of sales of Unix servers in fiscal 2029, and the end of related support services in fiscal 2034,” it added.

The Japanese firm it said it was announcing the roadmap, in order to give customers ample time to transition to new technologies.

Fujitsu of course is the firm that gradually took control of British mainframe maker, ICL (International Computers Ltd) during the 1990s.

Way ahead

The announcement about the ending of Unix SPARC servers will not overly trouble many IT departments, as there are Linux-based alternatives.

But mainframes are deeply embedded in many organisations and industries, and remain in use over surprisingly long periods of time.

That said, cloud service providers are now offering mainframe migration services and alternatives.

And Fujitsu is only one of a number of remaining mainframe suppliers. IBM for example intends to launch its next generation Z-Series mainframe in the first half of 2022.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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