Tassie retailer sticks faithfully with IT it knows

Coogans disdains the cloud to remain grounded with its new mainframe, writes Trevor Clarke.

Coogans disdains the cloud to remain grounded with its new mainframe, writes Trevor Clarke.

Tasmanian retailer Coogans has bucked the trend towards cloud computing and upgraded its Unisys mainframe systems for its mission-critical applications and online infrastructure.

The retailer is one of only a half-dozen organisations in Australia to use Unisys' mainframe systems and has been a loyal client of the IT provider and its predecessor, Burroughs, since before 1965.

Over one weekend recently, Coogans deployed one mainframe - the latest Unisys Libra 460s - at each of its Hobart and Moonah locations in Tasmania and migrated its real-time custom production application, called COSFAR (or Coogans Online Stock, Financial And Rental System), which was written in 1992 and is the centrepiece of the retailer's IT architecture.

"As the whole company is run using a real-time application - every aspect of the company is fed into this application - should we have a disastrous crash of our production machine, we can actually switch, probably within about one hour, to our DR [disaster recovery] environment and carry on going," said IT manager Peter Jandera. "Because they are completely separate we also have an offline backup of our entire environment."

While globally, mainframe market share is in gradual decline and many in the IT market believe mainframe computers are dying out and either virtualised environments on x86 servers or a cloud computing service is the way of the future, mainframe market presence from the likes of IBM and Unisys, and Fujitsu in Japan, remain strong and a viable platform for many industries.

After IBM updated its mainframe line in 2010, mainframe vendors in Australia exceeded their highest yearly revenues in the six months to March 2011 to more than $115 million, according to IDC data.

In Australia there are about 60 mainframe users among large banks, government departments, retailers and airlines.

Internationally, retailers such as Sears and Tesco still use mainframes.

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