Amdahl Corporation

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Amdahl Corporation was founded by Dr. Gene Amdahl, a former IBM employee, in 1970, and specializes in IBM mainframe-compatible computer products. It has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu since 1997. The company is located in Sunnyvale, California.

Amdahl was a major supplier of large mainframe computers, and later of UNIX and Open systems software and servers, data storage subsystems, data communications products, application development software, and a variety of educational and consulting services. In the 1970s, when IBM had come to dominate the mainframe industry, Amdahl's plug-compatible and often more cost-effective machines gave "Big Blue" some of the little competition it had in that very high-margin computer market segment. Proverbially, during this time savvy IBM customers liked to have Amdahl coffee mugs visible in their offices when IBM salespeople came to visit.


Company origins

Amdahl Corp. launched its first product, the Amdahl 470 V6, in 1975, competing directly against IBM's high-end machines in the then-current System/370 family. (At IBM, Gene Amdahl had co-designed the groundbreaking 32-bit architecture, 24-bit addressing, System/360 line of computers. Applications written for the System/360 can still run, unmodified, on today's zSeries mainframes four decades later.) At the time of its introduction, the 470 V6 was less expensive but still faster than IBM's comparable offerings. For the next quarter century Amdahl and IBM competed aggressively against one another in the high-end server market, with Amdahl grabbing as much as 24% marketshare. Amdahl owed some of its success to antitrust settlements between IBM and the U.S. Department of Justice which assured that Amdahl's customers could license IBM's mainframe software under reasonable terms.

Always the entrepreneur, Gene Amdahl left the company he founded in 1980, moving on to start a couple of new technology companies.

Market exit

Amdahl Corporation enjoyed perhaps its best sales during IBM's transition to CMOS technology in the early to mid 1990s. At first IBM's new mainframe CMOS processors couldn't perform as well as spare-no-expense bipolar technology, giving Amdahl a temporary advantage. However, IBM's CMOS strategy paid off in the long run, allowing IBM's Poughkeepsie factory to produce even faster mainframes at lower cost as the technology matured. By the time IBM introduced its breakthrough 64-bit zSeries 900 in 2000, it was all over for Amdahl's hardware business, which only had 31-bit Millennium and OmniFlex servers to sell. In late 2000 Fujitsu/Amdahl announced that the company had no plans to invest the estimated US $1 billion (or more) to create an IBM-compatible 64-bit system.

Historically it is unclear whether Fujitsu/Amdahl made the right decision. Despite heavy competition from other server platforms, IBM's zSeries has enjoyed a resurgence due to the widespread adoption of Linux and the escalating transaction volumes (in CICS, IMS, DB2, and other mainframe subsystems) brought about by e-business growth. IBM's zSeries revenues are actually increasing despite declining prices. As of late 2004 IBM is the only manufacturer of production-grade IBM-compatible mainframes, and Fujitsu has not expressed interest in re-entering the (now growing) market.

Amdahl customer options

z/OS V1R5 is the last release of IBM's flagship operating system still able to run on 31-bit mainframes, including Amdahl and older IBM systems. IBM plans to end support for z/OS V1R5 on March 31, 2007 (projected date). However, other operating systems (TPF, VSE, Linux, etc.) may support the 31-bit mainframes beyond that date, so there's still some potential life for Amdahl's hardware. Numerous companies and governments still have Amdahl systems performing useful work as of late 2004, and the company still supports those customers with replacement parts and other services.

Arguably IBM did not have a suitable replacement model for many Amdahl customers until the May, 2004, introduction of the zSeries 890. Other options include running without support, rewriting applications, or running applications under FLEX-ES ( (a mainframe emulator). FLEX-ES is attractive for small workloads that are not mission critical.

External links

  • System/390 Compatible Servers ( – Overview of Amdahl servers from Fujitsu Computer Systems, owner of Amdahl

See also


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