IBM Loads Linux on Mainframes
17, 2000 [Source: IBM] Linux software, services are available for S/390
to demand by S/390 users, IBM is now providing Linux software and services
for the S/390 enterprise server. This is the latest initiative in IBM's
strategy to complement the Linux operating system throughout its offerings.
Linux for S/390 will be offered by the companies SuSE and TurboLinux.
In addition, IBM Global Services will offer complete Linux for S/390 services
and support. IBM is also making available key middleware.
major advantage of Linux for S/390 is the access that mainframe users
will have to the applications being written for Linux, including hundreds
of open source applications already available on the Internet. In addition,
major software developers such as BMC and Software AG are supporting the
effort with applications. Computer Associates and Compuware also are planning
to support Linux for S/390.
decision to provide support for Linux for S/390 is a key element of the
company's application sourcing strategy to allow users the freedom to
choose operating systems, middleware and programming languages best suited
to their e-business applications. IBM's enhancements to Java, XML, the
WebSphere software platform and the upcoming new version of OS/390 are
being developed to provide customers the maximum in choice.
This is a continuation of IBM's strategy of providing Linux, top-to-bottom,
on its server products. [Note: IBM calls the S/390 a server, much of the
market thinks of it as a mainframe.] Dell computer is (arguably) ahead
of IBM in its implementation of Linux, but we believe IBM takes the prize
for breadth of offering. Compaq has implemented Linux, but has a narrower
product set than IBM, and HP appears still to be solidifying its Linux
strategy. (Sun "allows" Linux to support UltraSPARC hardware, but otherwise
does not support Linux.) Breadth of offering is not an advantage in-and-of-itself,
but it does allow IBM to provide more potential solutions to customer
needs. Although this strategy is still in its early stages, we believe
it will provide competitive advantage in the long term.
more tangible benefit will be the ability to partition the S/390 to allow
something like the Apache Web Server to run from a separate "virtual machine"
which is actually part of the 390. This potentially saves the customer
from needing to buy another system to act as Web server. Of course, combining
two (or more) disparate functions/servers on one system means you now
have a single point of failure for all those functions. Although IBM's
mainframes are known for their reliability, this may be a higher-risk
scenario than some users are willing to accept.
take the next step, IBM needs to provide factory-installed Linux as a
"standard option", i.e., selectable through online ordering. IBM has plans
to do so for the Netfinity series of servers, but it is not clear whether
that will extend to the other server lines, nor to other products (e.g.,
notebooks), in a timely fashion. Clearly it is in IBM's best interest
to do so, but organizational inertia is expected to be large.
Users planning Linux implementation(s) will be heartened by IBM's continuing
commitment to provide it across the product line. Once IBM takes the next
step (as described above), it will make life even easier for Linux-philes,
especially if they are current IBM customers.
other area of interest is the S/390. Although mainframes are not for everyone,
they clearly serve a purpose for large "back office" installations, such
as that for the central database for an e-commerce site. IBM's ability
to partition the S/390 into multiple "virtual machines" provides flexibility
to customers, allowing them to derive multiple partitioned uses from the
one large, reliable system.
shops, Windows-only shops, and Solaris-only shops will have little if
any interest in this announcement. IBM has made it clear they are trying
to supplant Sun in the Internet infrastructure, so we expect that more
Solaris-only shops will be hearing from IBM Sales in the future. However,
we are not certain there is (presently) a compelling reason for current
Sun users to switch from Solaris to IBM-based Linux. There may be other
reasons to move from Sun to IBM, but we do not see Linux itself as a key
reason, except as part of a larger strategy.