Unisys and NEC are co-operating on a deal to produce high-end servers that may lead to a migration from the mainframe ClearPath CMOS processor to Intel-based chips.

Any migration from CMOS will depend on Intel's ability to provide a processor that delivers performance at least as good as the CMOS chip, said Guy Esnouf, a spokesman for Unisys.

"Obviously, we're not going to do anything until we're happy the Intel processor technology is where it needs to be," said Esnouf. "We foresee a time when customers will be able to make that switch without any degradation of performance. In time, we would plan that ClearPath would run on Intel rather than on the current CMOS. But we're not going there now."

Esnouf also said that if customers want to stay on CMOS, "that's where they will stay - we're not going to try to force them off."

In making the announcement, NEC and Unisys said they had signed a memorandum of understanding to negotiate a partnership and collaborate in research and development.

This would mean that the ClearPath OS2200 mainframe operating systems, which now run on CMOS ClearPath systems, would be ported to run on an Intel system, said Esnouf. He noted that the company intends to continue to offer upgrades for customers and to invest in research and development on the OS 2200 systems - as well as its other mainframe operating system, MCP.