The University Record, May 24, 1993

Move from mainframe to distributed computing begins

By Rebecca A. Doyle

University computing users will soon begin moving away from reliance on one mainframe computer to accessing a web-like network of services that will be provided by several machines.

The infrastructure that will allow the changeover from a mainframe to a distributed computing environment will be in place by September 1994, according to Douglas E. Van Houweling, vice provost for information technology.

“I believe that the University needs a distributed computing environment if we are to successfully meet the information technology needs of the future,” he said. “Even more surely, I believe that the Information Technology Division (ITD) is responsible for facilitating the transition.”

The move has already begun for many who previously accessed the mainframe computer to provide data from surveys and census files, as the Population Studies Center has done. Albert F. Anderson, assistant research scientist, accesses census and survey information for the Population Studies Center, which sometimes took weeks or even months since the data was stored on tapes that had to be mounted and run at night.

Now, Anderson and other researchers do their statistical and data processing, management and analysis on Unix machines and extract data through the Institutional File System (IFS), a process which saves them an enormous amount of time.

A menu of services will be available in the new computing environment, and ITD has named Kitty Bridges, associate director for ITD’s consulting and support services, to coordinate the transition to the new environment.

Documents available on MTS as IFS files or through ITD’s documentation support services that explain the principles and user requirements of the transition: “Guiding Principles for the Transition from the Present MTS Computing Environment to a Future Distributed Computing Environment,” a 20-page guide, and “User Requirements for Implementation of Michigan’s Computing Transition,” a 64-page guide. For more information on how to get the files, call 764-HELP or send electronic mail to online.consulting@umich.edu.