University's mainframe computer facing retirement

UIS working to ensure that all processes are handled by other systems

The machine that handled most data for the University of Colorado system office for nearly a half-century is ending its run.

The arrival of CU's mainframe computer in the early '60s signaled the dawn of the information technology age. But as new systems and applications have come into use in recent years, there no longer is justification for the cost of licensing and maintaining the central computer, which is scheduled to be shut down June 30.

"Right now, the mainframe is about the size of a large dorm fridge. At one point, it had grown to the size of about three big refrigerators," said Terry Vaughan, analyst with University Information Systems (UIS) and manager of the mainframe decommissioning project. "The thing probably weighed 1,500 pounds. I can remember helping to move it in the late '80s – it was like moving a small car."

The old Student Information System is the last application to be migrated off the mainframe, which is at the Pearl East Circle facility in Boulder. After June, any data now stored on the mainframe will not be accessible on the mainframe storage device, and processes no longer will be run on the computer.

Anyone who works with processes that depend on UIS, but is unsure which computer platform the processes are run on, should contact Vaughan said UIS personnel are especially concerned with determining processes that are run without great frequency – those completed only once or a few times a year – and which employees may not realize are reliant on the mainframe.

Before being completely shut down at the end of June, the mainframe will go dark for part of April as a way of determining unknown effects the eventual shutdown might trigger throughout the system.