Phoenix News

Closure of Phoenix

The Phoenix service closed on 1 September 1995, after nearly 23 years of service since going into public operation in January 1973.

In December 1971 the University had taken delivery of an IBM 370/165 to replace the previous home-grown Titan system. The 370/165 initially used IBM's MVT operating system, with batch operation and punched cards, and had no multiple-access facilities. Phoenix was built on top of IBM's MVT/TSO system, initially to provide users with some of the facilities and ease of use to which they had become accustomed on Titan since 1967.

In 1973 Phoenix was available only for six hours a day, because large batch jobs could not be run at the same time. The disc capacity of the 370/165 system was 1000 MB and the main memory was 1 MB. Subsequent developments were as follows:

1973: Main memory doubled to 2 MB; three-shift working introduced; maximum simultaneous online users increased to 34.

1974: Communications system enhanced by addition of a PDP11/40; user passwords introduced; Phoenix language available for offline jobs as well as online; dialup facilities released.

1975: Disc store enhanced to 1800 MB; four tape drives added, making ten in all. Number of simultaneously active users increased to 80

1976: New scheduling system (the Larmouth scheduler, later to influence development of scheduling systems worldwide) introduced; file protection introduced.

1977-9: Invention of the resource unit, which combined processor, memory, disc and tape use into a single measure; main memory enhanced to 4 MB and disc storage to 2,800 MB. Passwords made compulsory.

1980: After eight years of development of Phoenix/MVT in Cambridge, IBM funded a joint project to develop a prototype for use with MVS, and Service staff took it to IBM Poughkeepsie for evaluation.

1981-82: Development of Phoenix to run under MVS continued; IBM 3081 delivered June 1982; 370/165 scrapped August 1982.

1984: changeover to MVS: 36,500 user files transferred over one weekend.

1985: The Eagle scheduler went into service

1986: Electronic mail facilities provided on Phoenix, replacing the much earlier "message" system.

1987: 3081D upgraded to a 3084Q; mail link to and from JANET.

1990: Main memory upgraded to 96MB; archive service launched

1991: IT Syndicate formally agreed that any IBM 3084 replacement should not run Phoenix/MVS

1992: Planning for the Phoenix closedown and migration procedure started

1995: Closedown of Phoenix: Final configuration includes 128 MB of main memory and 32,500 MB of disc storage; support for three hundred simultaneous online users. Phoenix service closed at 09.17 on Thursday 1 September; just before shutdown there were 74 users logged on, not all of whom were still trying to retrieve files. We believe that three of these were among the original 20 users given access to the system in January 1973.

Post-Phoenix Arrangements

For anyone who missed the boat and failed to retrieve files which were needed from Phoenix before the shutdown, some rescue mechanisms exist:

Disc files: An archive copy has been taken of all the files that still remained on Phoenix discs and in the HSM archive, at the point of shut-down of the public service. No copies have been kept of Phoenix filing systems backups (i.e. of things already deleted before closedown).

In case of extreme need it will be possible to rescue files from this archive, and in most cases to convert mail folders to pine format, but the service will be charged at £35 per hour of staff time involved, and it will be done at low priority. In the first instance, all such requests should be made through the Help Desk. Files will only be given back to their owners. Files not in straightforward text formats (for instance SPSS system files) will of course still be unreadable even if recovered.

Tapes:All the 1/2" magnetic tapes that remain unclaimed are being packed up in boxes and shipped off to the High Cross site. Anyone wanting to recover one of these tapes will be charged up to £35 per hour for the staff time involved in locating and bringing it back, and doing so will be low priority. On September 1 1997, all unclaimed tapes at High Cross will be scrapped.

Tape recovery: Sometime in the Michaelmas term it is hoped to announce a service whereby people's data on 1/2" tape can be recovered, including files in TLS format (but not including Phoenix mail folders stored on tape). This will be an operator-run service, like the disc transfer service, and in the first instance is likely to involve data from tape being transferred to disc, from which users will be able to transfer it to their own systems. Any staff time involved in the transfer will be charged at up to £35 per hour. When this service becomes available it will be handled through Computing Service Sales.

University of Cambridge Computing Service Newsletter, October 1995