During celebrations at its Poughkeepsie plant of a decade of opening its mainframe to run Linux apps, a Canadian student is recognized as a winner of the 2009 Master the Mainframe Contest. An exec explains why the mainframe is

IBM marks 10 years of Linux on SystemZ

POUGHKEEPSIE, NEW YORK—IBM Corp. celebrated a decade of Linux on its System Z mainframe by recognizing the top winners, one of whom is Canadian, of the annual Master the Mainframe Contest.

Over the years the number of customers, vendors and use cases for running Linux alongside z/OS have grown, said Tom Rosamilia, general manager for IBM’s System Z division, during a presentation at the company’s Poughkeepsie plant and the focal point of much of the development and manufacturing of mainframes.

Since opening the mainframe to run popular open source Linux applications ten years ago, there are today 3,150 Linux applications enabled for System Z and 70 per cent of the top one hundred global mainframe customers run Linux.

VIDEO: Visiting the IBM Poughkeepsie Plant

Rosamilia described the mainframe as middle-aged because “it’s come a long way and has a long way to go.” And it’s timeless. “We made compatible changes so that stuff that ran a long time ago still runs today and yet we’ve still invested in brand new architectures so that we can take advantage of lots of things,” said Rosamilia.

He named two top drivers for Linux on System Z. The speed with which it allows new server provisioning, and the control IT administrators have to maintain over servers while lowering risks in the data centre environment. Linux is the cloud’s future: IBM Canada

Part of the Armonk, New York-based company’s strategy to keeping mainframe skills alive is the 2009 Master the Mainframe Contest, a competition that puts students through progressively complex and time-consuming tasks involving mainframe software products, security protocols and multiple programming languages.

Yeming Hu, a student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia placed third among the North American version of the contest. In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Hu said the opportunity to learn about the mainframe, an area in which he had no previous experience, attracted him to participate.

“I had the chance to solve real-life applications although they were just small projects,” said Hu, who is especially partial to Linux now that it can boast a friendly graphical user interface.

“I think it’s a great idea for IBM to port Linux on the z/OS,” said Hu of the company’s 10-year milestone. “I think it provides more power as a server for the z/OS system and attracts more users.”

Last year’s contest drew 3,000 students which is the most attention it has ever attracted in the five years it has been held. “The contest encourages people to get more skill around System Z,” said Rosamilia.

IBM’s investment toward opening the mainframe to Linux over the decade totals approximately $1 billion. “The money we’ve spent has been on changing the infrastructure around Linux to make it a better Linux, but not changing the Linux code itself,” Rosamilia later told ComputerWorld Canada.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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