In hopping chips, will IBM hop Solaris and Windows too?

In hopping chips, will IBM hop Solaris and Windows too?

Summary: How Novell's and Red Hat's versions of Linux came to run on IBM's big iron has always been a mystery to me. About all I knew was that there was some collaboration between IBM and the two companies.

TOPICS: Open Source

How Novell's and Red Hat's versions of Linux came to run on IBM's big iron has always been a mystery to me. About all I knew was that there was some collaboration between IBM and the two companies. This dates back to the days when SuSE was on its own (not a part of Novell), a period of time when I wrote a story that touched on how the effort involved IBM's developers and the resulting code was open-sourced.

Podcast But after doing a podcast interview with IBM's worldwide Linux chief Scott Handy as a part of ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts (download the MP3, or learn how to have them automatically downloaded while you're sleeping), it's clear that, whether intended or not, those efforts three years ago were the seedlings for something much bigger. That something is IBM's Chiphopper.

Chiphopper -- a package of free technologies and services that IBM released at LinuxWorld -- is exactly what it says its. It takes the expertise that went into making Red Hat and SuSE's distributions of Linux portable to IBM's mainframe (z Series) and Unix servers (p Series) and bottles it up into a turnkey porting tool that commercial software developers can use to painlessly port their apps from the x86 version of Linux to IBM's big iron systems (thus "hopping chips").

Said Handy in my interview with him, "We've already chiphopped, if you will, Red Hat and SuSE, and now we're going to automate chiphopping for [commercial software developers]." For IT shops with internally developed code that have an interest in chiphopping, their only choice right now is to go with with IBM's Global Services consultancy. Saying, "Once we do more of this, could this be expanded to customer workloads for customer written code? The answer is absolutely," Handy indicated that there could easily come a day when the technology is available to end users.

The Chiphopping program, which includes the porting tools, support, access to IBM's testing centers (so ISVs don't have to buy their own mainframes), and a compatibility logo (IBM's "Ready For" mark) -- all free by the way -- could have significant impact on everything from Java (previously, the only choice for such portability) to the viability of OpenSolaris as a development target to the continued viability of IBM's big iron. In the interview, Handy discusses Big Blue's unwavering commitment to Linux on x86 and how that's where it's pushing customers. But in light of the way the technology supposedly makes for painless porting to IBM's proprietary higher margin gear, Chiphopper will raise some obvious questions about the company's true motives.

Nevertheless, of all the announcements coming out of LinuxWorld, Chiphopper, in my mine, ties for first place with Scalix as not just being the coolest technology, but one that could be the most disruptive. To give you an idea of what Handy and I talked about, here are some of his quotes:

Most agreeable dig at HP's back to square-1 strategy: HP and Dell are off on a Linux/x86 only. HP has other architectures. They're certainly not promoting Linux on them in the marketplace. They're promoting a migration to -- it was exclusively Itanium but now it's Xeon with 64-bit extensions.

Best Chiphopper benefit statement: Take an existing Linux application that you've already ported to Linux x86 and we'll take the same application and make it run across [IBM's] entire eServer line.

Closest to being FUD: Nobody has ever delivered on cross platform compatibility for an application -- To say that I'll assure you that your application will work on multiple platforms. [Editor's note: Handy did acknowlege in the interview that Java delivers on that promise as well and characterized the Java approach as the ideal way to get cross platform compatibility with no need to recompile.]

Red rover, Red rover, we want YOU to come over (but never go back): We're clearly targeting the Solaris to Linux and Windows to Linux as opposed to actively promoting the movement off our own [platforms]. I think that's just normal behavior.

How to cut Sun's Jonathan Schwartz down to size 101: Now your asking 'Is there room for a third [OS to support on x86]?', and the answer is no. Sun has 1 percent of the x86 market..... But we've also said we'll look at [porting our apps to Solaris]. We do these things when the customers demand it and the opportunity is sufficient.....Let's not discount the fact that we're competitors. We're talking about the same customers. We're very confident that those customers will move to Linux on x86 and Sun is trying to talk them into something else.

Fiorina-talk at IBM's water coolers: Listen to the interview.

Topic: Open Source

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  • Another re-complier?

    What am I missing?
    • recompiling is the easy part....

      The hard part is debugging the library inconsistencies. If you have a set of libraries which are well tested and validated as replacements for the libraries used on the source platform, the re-hosting becomes much easier. Anyone can re-compile a self-contained program, but nobody (well almost nobody) writes all their code....they use dll's and libraries which, if they are not functional equivalent between the two platforms you can spend megatime debugging the introduced errors.
      • But isn't that the idea behind the standard Linux?

        What is it called? Linux Standard or something like that? You know, where all the distros have agreed that libraries will be consitent and in the same place?
        • But we are talking about dealing with the hardware layer here ...

          Certain libraries are affected in various ways by the hardware layer. I think you would find the same thing true of Windows. I doubt if you could take a stock PC application designed for say, XP, and run it out of the box on a mainframe or PDA running Windows. Its not a matter of standards, its a matter of a dealing with a completely different hardware platform that presents a different set of resources and a different set of assumptions. For example an IBM mainframe may have a large array of processors, the application in question might have to be aware of that in order to function predictably. These are things that OS standards can't address because OS standards are built around a single known platform. This is just one reason why Microsoft has been loathe to support non-Intel platforms. It can get pretty nasty. But now Microsoft will be forced to support multiple platforms in order to compete with Linux.
          George Mitchell
  • From 2002: Why Linux will conquer the world

    2002-09-29:Why Linux will conquer the world
    Why Linux will conquer the world - Expanded AntiFUD

    Listen to the statements Scott Handy makes in the podcast in regards to Linux as a cross vendor and cross platform OS, then reread the above linked article.

    Bonus link, concerning Convergence of Grid and Virtualized LSB:
    David Mohring
  • Just the smoke and mirrors

    to cover the bait and switch! Once you have a P-series box, and are running Linux - you will find how WOEFULLY inadequate IBM support for Linux really is. They will promise many good things - like autonomics - but ONLY for AIX! Hey, that Linux box you have can RUN AIX - and it will still run you Linux stuff too . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • CELL plus Chiphopper = Linux in the Consumer Market

    Some people have argued that the CELL processor will
    be a non-starter because there'll be no software that is supporting it. But slowly it becomes clear that CELL is based upon the Power architecture and with the Chiphopper technology, all the Linux people will be able to cross-compile their software on CELL. So Chiphopper will pave the way not only for Linux to the mainframe but also for IBM et al. for the consumer market, right?
  • This isn't new

    The kit for customers is a new wrinkle, but the DEC Alpha would take native Windows EXE's, run them in emulation mode and compile the code to native Alpha while it was running. One of the many things that made Alpha a cool architecture.

    x86 to big iron for the same OS isn't that big of a deal. I think the talk of migrating Windows applications is a bit premature, however. You have a fundamentally different set of things users and administrators of windows boxes expect vs. those that a *nix user or administrator expects. Solaris may be something long term that is doable, but I don't think most windows applications of importance will ever make the leap. If they do, writing a *nix version with an interface and features those users appreciate would make a whole lot more sense than porting over a big pile of GUI eye candy.

    Or you can just write all your apps in Python or Java or just about any other programming/scripting language with good cross platform support. Most people that support a variety of platforms do this already. I guess I'm short sighted, but I don't see how this will be incredibly disruptive.

    Definitely cool, though.
    mike surel
  • Ho hum ...

    Yeah, it sounds good but you know what? There is always 'a catch' ... UNIX was born out of a promise of cross-platform portability in 1969. Windows promised it in the 1990's and Linux offers a few non-x86 ports but true portability remains a pipedream. Except for Java, which relies on a platform-specific virtual machine, no true portability exists. Why? Because every vendor wants to make THEIR version of an OS unique so they can take business away from someone else selling the same OS.

    I just don't buy it when IBM says it is all that easy.
    M Wagner
  • Podcast transcript

    Yes, MP3 is nice enough. However, it's not exactly accessible.

    ZD isn't obligated under ADA, but it's still a good idea to present plaintext for those who can't hear.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • My thoughts exactly...

      Podcasts are a turnoff for me as well... Not accessible in the least. Would be nice if it were a fad that would pass, but with increasing bandwidth it looks like its here to stay...
    • It's a bandwidth situation

      thanks for the feedback. Our podcast series is an experimental format. If I could transcribe every word of every interview, I would. It's a lot of words. I think the audio provides something you don't get to hear to often: the actual interviewees.
      • Have you heard of Voicetype? (NT)

        Update victim
  • Porting apps to mainframes is like

    Putting those spinning wheels on a 18 wheeler. Why?
  • Without an Enterprise OS itself, IBM may use Solaris10

    We may expect IBM to use Solaris 10 on their hardware. Why not? IBM is about selling hardware and services, and Solaris 10 is years ahead of all other OSes