At LinuxWorld, Much Ado About Mainframe Linux

IBM and CA turn back the clock as they introduce new Linux-on-mainframe solutions; IBM announces new native Linux-on-pSeries systems

The mainframe took center stage at this week’s LinuxWorld trade show, as IBM Corp. and Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) announced a host of new Linux-on-mainframe solutions, including pre-configured Linux-on-zSeries e-business offerings from Big Blue.

IBM’s new Integrated Platform for e-business on zSeries bundles Linux software and middleware with mainframe hardware at what John Sarsgard, IBM president of worldwide Linux sales, calls “significant” price discounts. “It’s a very nicely integrated platform for zSeries and includes the middleware that most customers will use who are running Linux on zSeries, potentially integrated together. It’s preconfigured, pre-built, includes a year of support, kind of all of the things that you’d need for a year’s support.”

IBM plans to offer integrated zSeries bundles for both its z800 “baby” mainframes as well as for its more powerful z900 systems. The zSeries bundles are based on Big Blue’s Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) engine and include the latest version of z/VM (v4R3) along with WebSphere Application Server version 4.0.4 and IBM Directory Server version 4.1. The pre-configured offerings are powered by SuSE’s Enterprise Server version 7 and include installation and one year of hardware and software maintenance support from IBM Global Services.

IBM hasn’t disclosed official pricing for its new zSeries bundles, but they're expected to start at less than $200,000 for an integrated configuration based on Linux system software and mainframe hardware.

IBM, CA Unveil Linux-on-Mainframe Management Tools

Also at LinuxWorld, IBM unveiled Tivoli System Automation for Linux, a policy-based tool that identifies and attempts to proactively fix failing Linux clusters, or which sends an alert to administrators. Explains IBM GM of Linux Jim Stallings: “What Tivoli gives you is more ability to identify what’s failed and automatically notify the operations people of which components have failed. With its self-healing capabilities, it will begin to actually alleviate the problem and substitute other resources that haven’t failed.”

According to Stallings, Tivoli System Automation for Linux is available for all IBM eServer platforms with the exception of iSeries.

Computer Associates announced 12 new products at LinuxWorld, including at least four designed to support both distributed- and mainframe-based Linux applications and middleware. John Pincomb, VP of CA’s Linux Technology Group, notes that the new products that CA is announcing this week at LinuxWorld bring its total portfolio of Linux solutions to more than 60.

For starters, CA introduced a WebSphere-on-Linux management component for its Unicenter systems management framework, the aptly named Unicenter Management for WebSphere. “That runs on both distributed and mainframe [Linux systems],” says Pincomb, who adds that “probably about 30 percent of the world’s application servers are WebSphere, and a lot of those are running on Linux, so this provides the ability to manage the EJBs themselves.”

In other Unicenter-related news, CA released Unicenter Network and Systems Management Job Management Option, a cross-platform job-scheduling tool for Linux and mainframe operating environments. Pincomb indicated that CA will unveil Unicenter Management Portal, a portal layer that runs on top of Unicenter, for both mainframe-based and distributed Linux systems. “Basically, what it gives you is a portal interface to be able to bring up and personalize the management environment for the applications and databases in a Linux-based enterprise.”

The software giant also unveiled a Linux-ready version of its CleverPath Aion Business Rules Expert, which Pincomb says can apply business rules “to multiple data sources in mainframe and distributed [environments].” The upshot, Pincomb explains, is that the CleverPath Aion Business Rules Expert can “tap into mainframe data and help you to make better management decisions by parsing that data.”

He says that CA already offers several products that facilitate integration services between the Linux and mainframe operating environments, including a Linux pluggable authentication module that CA developed for its Top Secret and ACF-2 mainframe security products to enable them to authenticate Linux users. Mainframe shops that use CA’s CA-1 backup software can also exploit the latter’s integration with CA’s BrightStor Enterprise Backup running on Linux to backup Linux to mainframe tape drives.

IBM Fleshes Out Native Linux-on-pSeries Offerings

In December, 2002, Big Blue introduced a version of its pSeries p630 server outfitted with a native version of Linux. At the time, IBM representatives said that the elimination of AIX software licensing costs could in some cases save customers 27 percent over the standard list price of the same pSeries system.

At LinuxWorld this week, IBM introduced additional native Linux pSeries systems—including its eight-way p650. In time, anticipates Sarsgard, IBM will make even larger pSeries servers available as native Linux options. “The 2.6 kernel that’s going to become the production kernel later this year is capable of efficient scalability all the way up to about 16-way, so we’re really looking toward that market with very big, very high performance Linux implementations. You’re not going to see hundreds of customers over night here, but we’re moving towards some.” Sarsgard notes that customers can also elect to segment their pSeries systems with mixed AIX and Linux partitions.

Big Blue also announced a new program—“Speed Start your Linux Apps”—to encourage ISVs and business partners to develop Linux applications for 64-bit Power4-based pSeries hardware. IBM’s Sarsgard says that developers who register with the program will receive a “Software Evaluation Kit for Linux” CD that includes evaluation copies of DB2, WebSphere and Tivoli, along with free technical support from IBM software. In addition, IBM will provide application development tools that support pSeries running Linux. These tools include IBM's JVM and 64-bit Power4-enabled C/C++ and FORTRAN compilers, which are packaged as a “Web services Development Kit.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.