IBM's mainframe Linux hosting service

A few months back I researched and wrote a story on mainframe Linux . (Now I wish that story were hosted on mainframe Linux, because the link currently reports: Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error '80004005'.) I continue to find this technology alliance fascinating. Moving parts are the enemy, in my mind. The fewer the better. Provisioning a server farm in software, rather than as a collection of physical blades, seems like a great idea. The mainframe always had the raw virtualization capability, now in Linux it has something that's really worth virtualizing. One outcome, as this story notes, is a new kind of competition for the RackSpaces of the world:

IBM last week announced a plan to create "virtual servers" for corporate users connected to mainframes running in its data centers, provided that the users are willing to run applications on a Linux operating system.

The Linux Virtual Services offering takes advantage of a virtual partitioning technology that's built into IBM's zSeries mainframes. IBM said it will partition processing, storage and network capacity for multiple virtual server users on zSeries machines, isolating applications to provide the same level of separation that companies would get in setting up their own physical systems.

Applications can be hosted on mainframes running Version 7.2 of Nuremberg, Germany-based SuSE Linux AG's Linux distribution at IBM's 170 data centers around the world. Pricing will be based on IBM's "service unit" formula, which takes into account the amount of processing resources being used and data center costs such as power and floor space. [ Computerworld ]

Nobody seems to know how popular this will become. But it sure looks like a better way to deliver a managed instance of Linux. And "managed" in this context means, among other things, that your apps can run variable workloads without having to pay for max capacity that's mainly idle.

Addendum: This LinuxWorld story offers a critical and cogent look at the claimed vs. real benefits of mainframe Linux. It's an excellent report. To be clear: I don't think people are going to buy mainframes as alternatives to PC server farms. I do think there is a lot of existing mainframe capacity and knowhow, inside and outside IBM, that Linux can profitably utilize.

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