Since Armonk, New York-based IBM Corp. opened the mainframe to run popular open source Linux apps 10 years ago, there are today 3,150 Linux apps enabled for System Z and 70 per cent of the top one hundred global mainframe customers run Linux. The company celebrated the milestone at its Poughkeepsie, New York, plant where much of the company’s mainframe development and manufacturing happens. ComputerWorld Canada visited the plant and spoke with Tom Rosamilia, general manager for IBM’s System Z division, about the past, present and future of Linux on System Z. See our video footage of the Poughkeepsie plant.
ComputerWorld Canada: What are the top benefits of running Linux on the mainframe?
Tom Rosamilia: The value of running Linux on the mainframe are really many, but they start with the ease of portability. People can move their applications from Linux running on any platform to Linux running on Z very quickly, very efficiently. We’ve seen people port this thing in no time at all. But they have to build the support structures in order to run and support their clients but the speed to porting is very key. The second is thing is the speed to provisioning, how quickly can I get a Linux server up and running. In fact, we have customers who say they can do it in a minute. So by the time the phone rings and someone says we need a server, we can get them a server in one minute. If we want to load it up with all the software maybe it takes an hour to get the software written to that server but it doesn’t take three to four weeks to go through procurement to buy a new server and then to have to manage that server for its lifecycle. These servers are all managed, they are virtual images and they can be created very quickly.
CWC: IBM just celebrated 10 years of Linux on the mainframe. What’s the significance of this?
TR: Ten of years of Linux on the mainframe. Wow, that’s a long time. We started back in the very late 90s, near 2000. The team over in Germany actually did the port of Linux to the mainframe. They called me up and said ‘Wow, we’ve got some news for you. We ported Linux.’ And my first question was why? And they said ‘It was easy, we got university students to do it for us.’ We began to think, what value would this have and I think we got some of it but we didn’t get all of it until, as I’ve seen this progress in the last 10 years, we’ve added a lot of things underneath Linux. We don’t want to change Linux, it has to be that quick port that I mentioned. We want people to be able to move their applications to Z/Linux easily. But what we wanted to give it was some of the capabilities, some of the qualities of service that we get from Z/OS, our other operating system that runs on the mainframe. This co-operation between Z/Linux and Z/OS is tremendous. People can run their front end Web apps servers connected to their backend databases and transaction servers and get the benefit of co-location and sharing that resource.
CWC: IBM invested approximately $1 billion to opening the mainframe to Linux. How was that money allocated?
TR: We’ve spent a good deal of money on Linux over the last 10 years. And a lot of it, again, not making any changes to the Linux operating system itself although I do have people that contribute into that source pool. But really making sure it can be a great environment in which to run Linux. So think of it as the virtual image that we provide, what kind of things to make it so you can run 1,500 of those images on a single computer. This way, customers can consolidate lots of their images, lots of their server images onto one System Z. imagine the power savings, the energy savings they get from that. We see people get up to 85 per cent energy reduction, up to 90 per cent floor space reduction by not having that server sprawl and by bringing them all into a Z/Linux environment. So the money we spent has been on changing the infrastructure around Linux.
CWC: What do you see is the future of Linux on the mainframe?
TR: I think Z/Linux has a very significant past, and it’s wonderful today and even more so in the future as we bring Z/Linux and Z/OS even more closely together to manage it and to run these heterogeneous workloads, these hybrid type workloads, some of it on Z/OS and some of it on Z/Linux. I see the value continuing to grow for our clients who want to run in this kind of heterogeneous environment and most of our clients do. They don’t just run on mainframes, they run on many systems connected to their mainframes.
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