IBM Sells 1000th z800

University of Florida deploys baby mainframe to support grid computing research

IBM Corp. announced last week that it has sold its 1000th zSeries 800 (z800) mainframe. IBM’s latest z800 customer is the University of Florida, which has selected the “baby” mainframe to power the Advanced Computing and Information Systems (ACIS) laboratory at its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Big Blue first began shipping the z800 in March of 2002. Since its introduction, it has proven popular as a platform for hosting Linux images on top of IBM’s z/VM virtual operating environment.

The University of Florida says that it plans to integrate a z800 running z/VM with a 3.36 TB IBM “Shark” enterprise storage server and a 32-node cluster of IBM xSeries Intel servers running the VMWare virtual operating environment and hosting the open source Linux operating system. The configuration will be used to support research in grid computing.

Unlike most grid computing implementations, which exploit discrete systems or system partitions, the University of Florida’s proposed grid project will emphasize the virtualization of technology at the machine, network, data and application levels. The idea, researchers say, is to facilitate the creation of dynamic virtual information grids on a per-user or per-application basis.

The University of Florida received a collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the purchase of its IBM grid configuration. As a result, it plans to expose its grid to communities of scientists and engineers who specialize in nanotechnology and computer science. To facilitate the grid’s unusual degree of virtualization, the University of Florida’s ACIS lab developed middleware—which it dubbed “In-VIGO”—that allows scientific simulations and design to take place In Virtual Information Grid Organizations.

According to zSeries GM Erich Clementi, the University of Florida selected the baby z800 mainframe because of its sophisticated virtualization capabilities. “The superior virtualization capabilities available on the IBM eServer z800, which allow the mainframe to be shared for use by multiple researchers, each with separate and distinct applications on a single piece of hardware, make it uniquely qualified for research in the grid computing arena," said Clementi in a prepared statement.

The University of Florida will also rely on IBM’s Shark server to store the large amounts of information that will be accessed from the IBM servers during grid simulation work.

About the Author

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