JCCO AS/400 Platform Consolidation By: David Summerfield, Director of IT Back in the early 1980’s the IBM computer manufacturing plant in Rochester, Minnesota was in trouble. IBM’s mid-range computers that were made at the plant, the System/36 and the System/38, weren’t selling. Over five thousand people would lose their jobs if the plant closed, and the economy of the southeastern Minnesota city would be devastated for decades to come. To make matters worse “Project Fort Knox”, a very public effort designed to replace IBM’s aging System/36 and System/38 product lines and calm the nerves of shareholders, was years behind schedule and millions-of-dollars over-budget. Things looked grim. But, in early 1985 IBM’s chief computer scientist, Dr. Frank Soltis, came to his corporate bosses with an idea for a new product line. The idea was to create a unique type of business computer that would use the latest processing chip technology, and a brand-new operating system, to combine the computing horsepower of IBM’s successful mainframe machines with the low cost and ease-of-operation of its struggling mid-range products. The project was code-named “Silver Lake” and was based at IBM Rochester. After a two-year development cycle, on June 21, 1988, IBM introduced the first AS/400 computer. The new computers were a big hit, especially with financial institutions and government agencies. Over the years the IBM marketing gurus have tried to re-brand the successful system under several names designed to boost sales: eSeries, iSeries and currently IBM Power Systems. But, the systems people who have worked with the reliable machine over the last three decades still fondly refer to it as an “AS/400”. The AS/400 has been a big hit at the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, too. According to Shawn Merrick, Information Systems Manager at the Elections Center, the JCCO acquired its first AS/400 in June of 1992. Back then the powerful computer was primarily used to run the JCCO’s land records operations in the Deed Room. But, in the years that followed the AS/400’s role at the Clerk’s Office expanded to include document imaging, marriage licenses, and accounting operations. Back when the Election Center was the Jefferson County Board of Elections, that agency acquired its own AS/400 that ran voter registration and other administrative functions. But time marches on, technology rapidly evolves and the role of the AS/400 at the JCCO is changing. The organizational merging of the Board of Elections into the JCCO resulted in our Office having two AS/400 computers to pay for and maintain. The JCCO’s recent move of its land records system and marriage license application to a hosted solution by Business Integration Systems means that there are fewer critical functions of the Clerk’s Office running on an AS/400. Operating a computer platform cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. And, we can no longer justify the operational expense of maintaining two separate AS/400 computers. Over this coming summer, members of the JCCO Information Technology Staff will be working with our IBM business partner, Systems Integration Services, on a project to merge the two JCCO AS/400s into one. A brand-new AS/400 computer dedicated to the project has already been delivered and is up-and- running in the Election Center computer room. Over the next few weeks Shawn Merrick, Dennis Durham and Rick Renfrow will be working to move the applications from our two “old” AS/400s to the “new” AS/400. Once the systems are combined on the “new” AS/400, the two older machines will be retired. Users of JCCO AS/400-based applications will be glad to know that they will be able to keep using the same systems that they use now. They shouldn’t notice any difference. The consolidation of our existing AS/400s will reduce operating expenses while keeping the legacy of AS/400 use at the JCCO alive for the foreseeable future. 4