Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

Summary: Many Linux proponents appear to equate Linux with the use of industry standard X86 systems. IBM demonstrated that its Mainframes are a growing portion of the market.

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IBM presented an update on Linux on its mainframe line of computers. It was refreshing to learn about the success Linux has been having outside of the realm of industry standard X86-based systems. Here's a quick summary of the session.

Growth of Linux on IBM System Z

The shipments of IBM's Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) increased 76% between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011.

IBM measures use of its mainframe systems in millions of instructions per second (MIPS). Linux installations consumed 26% more MIPS between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011. Nineteen percent of the IBM System Z MIPS are deployed to support Linux as of the end of the second quarter.

If we look at the overall installed base, 34% of IBM's System Z customers have installed the Linux facility. This includes 63 of the top 100.

At this point, more than 3,000 Linux applications are available on this platform.

z/VM 6.2

IBM's virtual machine facility has a very long track record of supporting production workloads. The major improvements offered by version 6.2 was support of clustering for up to four z/VM instances hosted on mainframe logical partitions (LPARs). These LPARs can be hosted on a single machine or distributed over several machines. Linux guest environments can be relocated from one LPAR to another without disruption of the workloads being supported.

Variable pricing model

IBM also launched an interesting pricing model for Linux on IBM System Z that mimics the pricing used in the wireless telephone market. Customers basically subscribe to a specific computing capacity and pay a monthly fee for its use. If they use more than the capacity that they've subscribe to, they would incur variable fees based upon actual usage. The customer may change the capacity subscription to increase or lower the usage entitlement.

It appears that this pricing model is intended to make it possible for customers or service providers to operate using a private cloud model.

Snapshot analysis

A common assumption I've observed when speaking to those using Linux or thinking about a Linux deployment is that industry standard systems are always the best choice of physical platform. The growth in IBM's System Z Linux deployments demonstrates that the mainframe may be a strong option for some workloads.

Mainframe deployments were seen to offer lower cost of ownership in past studies due to the powerful management and virtualization tools the operating environment supported. It appears that IBM has been working hard to improve the performance of its systems in this area.

Organizations would be wise to consider the mainframe option when designing their Linux-oriented Web, virtual or cloud computing environments.

Topics: Operating Systems, CXO, IBM, Linux, Open Source, Software

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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28 comments
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  • What is this Linux of which you write?

    :/
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • I believe that there are several to choose from...

      Hi Dietrich

      It is my understanding that there is (was) a native IBM Linux (code-named Bigfoot or Think Blue, I don't remember exactly) and that there are mainframe tailored solutions from both Red Hat and Novel.

      The author is not clear on exactly which one he is referring to, so I would presume that he means the article to apply to all subtypes of Linux running on big iron.

      Regards,
      Jon
      JonathonDoe
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @JonathonDoe

        IBM is in the process of <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/open-source/mainframe-ubuntu-linux/9491" target="_blank">certifying Ubuntu</a> also.
        Return_of_the_jedi
      • Ubuntu on mainframe? Sweet!

        Hi Jedi,

        That is good news too. I find Ubuntu to be an excellent distro, and with Debian under the covers it has a nice solid base to work from.

        My big iron days are long past, they were in the age of the IBM 4381 systems with big bus & tag connections and disk farms sprawling through the glass enclosed room, but it is nice to see that the dinosaurs are alive and well in their special niches.

        Regards,
        Jon
        JonathonDoe
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @JonathonDoe

        Its SUSE and Red hat at the moment with the strong rumor that ubuntu will be added soon its short hand is zlinux.

        The article does miss out that IBM also resells linux on their mid range power servers (red hat definitely possibly also SUSE) referred to as plinux for shorthand.
        the.nameless.drifter
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @JonathonDoe You are correct. The post refers to Linux in general rather than to a specific distribution.

        Dan K
        dkusnetzky
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @JonathonDoe

        There are two flavors: RHEL and SUSE (the major Linux distros). The command interfaces, file systems, etc are exactly the same as the x86 versions.
        AdamS12
  • Where does the supperior OS-X fit into all of this?

    ;-)
    kd5auq
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @kd5auq: Hackinframe? :) (instead of "hackintosh")
      Natanael_L
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @kd5auq <br>Nowhere.<br>Mac OSX license forbid running it on Non-Apple hwd.

      And we are talking about hwd that costs mln of $$. One procesor in newest z costs 2mln $$, and is sold in pack of 6.
      przemoli
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @przemoli Not sure where you are getting that information. The System z114 starts at $75,000. Each IFL engine (processor cluster) is in the range of $45,000. It is a really great deal.
        AdamS12
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @kd5auq

      OS X is a Unix based OS as, I suppose, is Linux. IBM makes a Unix OS (AIX) for mid-range Power systems.
      AdamS12
  • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

    http://url7.me/Zlk4
    lsiehi
  • Slow Mainframes

    I dont get it. Why virtualize x86 servers on Mainframes? The Mainframe cpus are extremely slow in comparison to a decent x86 cpu.

    For instance, you can emulate an IBM Mainframe on a x86 using "TurboHercules" emulator. An old 8-socket Intel Nehalem-EX server gives 3.200 MIPS under emulation. But software emulation is 5-10x slower than running native code. Thus, the 8-socket x86 server actually would give 16.000-32.000 MIPS. Use two such x86 servers and you have 32.000-64.000 MIPS.

    The biggest and newest IBM z196 mainframe sporting the newest z196 cpu, gives 50.000 MIPS. The z196 IBM Mainframe has 24 such z196 cpus.

    IBM claims the biggest Mainframe can virtualize 1.500 x86 servers. How can that be true, when the biggest mainframe has 24 cpus, each slower than a decent x86 cpu?

    Here are references:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_%28emulator%29#Performance

    http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/32414.wss
    Orvar
    • Also says:

      It is difficult to determine exactly how Hercules emulation speeds correspond to real mainframe hardware. This is partially due to the difficulty of comparing real mainframe hardware to other PCs and servers as well as the lack of a concrete performance measurement. AND For every mainframe after the 9672 Generation 1, Hercules would generally be the lowest end system.

      Much of the value of z/series is in the virtualization of everything (C&C, communication, storage, memory, cpu capacity, I/O channels, etc).
      JimboNobody
      • @JimboNobody

        "...For every mainframe after the 9672 Generation 1, Hercules would generally be the lowest end system..."

        According to the founder of TurboHercules, he claims that a 8-socket Intel Nehalem-EX server gives 3.200 MIPS. IBM has recently released new Mainframes, for instance the new zEnterprise 114 which gives 3.100 MIPS.

        "IBM is offering 130 different speed settings across the M05 and M10 machines, ranging from a low of 26 MIPS on the entry M05 to 3,100 MIPS on the largest M10. If you need more oomph than that, you'll need to upgrade to the zEnterprise 196 M15"

        Thus, if you need more Mainframe power than an 8-socket x86 server, you need to upgrade to the largest z196 Mainframe. I would hardly call that "Hercules would generally be the lowest end system"? Instead, Hercules gives more power than mid sized Mainframes.
        Orvar
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @Orvar

      Firstly the latest mainframes can take up to 64 CPU's.

      Secondly you aren't visualizing x86, this is a completely recompiled distro like linux on Power (IBM mid range server) does it look like red hat/SUSE (soon to be Ubuntu)? Yes but it isn't x86, its completely separate and referred to as zLinux

      The comparison is a bit lazy IBM is claiming that a mainframe with just IFL chips can virtualize 1,500 LPARs (Logical partitions) running linux (zLinux) and this is comparable to 1,500 x86 linux servers
      the.nameless.drifter
      • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

        @the.nameless.drifter
        So, if the latest Mainframe gives 50.000 MIPS, and an 8-socket x86 server gives almost 10% of that, under software emulation, we can draw the conclusion that IBM Mainframe cpus are really slow. Even though it is using 64 cpus. Or below, someone says 96 cpus. It seems that no one knows. So I say 24 cpus - as people have explained to me.

        So if an x86 is much faster than an Mainframe cpu, I dont see how an IBM mainframe can run 1.500 x86 servers, virtualized or not?
        Orvar
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @Orvar
      Slow?
      5,4GHz is SLOW ????

      Give me that guide on overclocking CPU of yours... ;)
      przemoli
    • RE: Linux on Mainframes - an IBM update

      @Orvar I believe that you have missed the point. Linux does not have to run on X86 hardware. Linux is available run on a number of hardware platforms. A goodly number of Linux applications are available on those platforms as well.

      The point was that IBM is seeing some success supporting Linux workloads on its mainframe systems.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky