Although many retailers and wholesalers are finding new uses and value in mainframe computing, some distributors remain unconvinced that the older platforms have a future with their companies.
"It's the intention of this office to get rid of the mainframe," said one New York-based retailer. "We've gotten our money's worth out of it."
The retailer said its mainframe has been plagued with slow processing and rigid program structures, and is in the process of moving all applications, including its data bases, to a new client-server system.
Lawrence Bros. Management Services, a 20-store chain based in Sweetwater, Texas, scrapped and sold its mainframe in favor of a personal computer-based network.
"We did maintain the mainframe for six months after moving to PCs," said Jay Lawrence, director of management information systems and electronic data processing. "But we weaned ourselves away from it and sold it to another [firm] using the same system.
"The mainframe was pretty much inflexible when it came to creating reports," he said. "Our new system, especially with Windows software, has given us a tremendous amount of flexibility in generating reports for management."
Lawrence Bros. can now run comprehensive reports comparing the performance of various stores and departments and can generate financial reports much faster.
"The mainframe used to run all night long to generate a general ledger for us," Lawrence said. "We had grown substantially over the last five years, and it was taking all night and most of the next day to get all that information generated. Now [processing] can be done in a fraction of that time" via the network.
Larry Elias, senior vice president of management information systems at Pueblo Xtra International, Pompano Beach, Fla., agreed that some technology initiatives are not meant for mainframes.
"The things our mainframe doesn't do well are graphics, presentation or any kind of summary," he said.
"I think client-server will help us get better information to [our stores] because it's more concise and presents information in an intelligible fashion, rather than in traditional lines and columns," Elias said.