SuSE goes 64-bit with IBM zSeries

SuSE's 64-bit Linux Enterprise Server 7 will add features aimed at complex business transactions, and rides the wave of IBM's increasing support for open source

SuSE Linux has moved to tap into IBM's growing commitment to Linux with a 64-bit version of its Enterprise Server software. SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7 will be available for IBM's eServer zSeries by the beginning of May, the company said on Thursday.

SuSE already sells Enterprise Server 7 in 32-bit form for IBM's S/390 and zSeries, but the 64-bit version will benefit online transactions that use complex databases, such as some e-commerce and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. The 64-bit software can address a much larger memory space, while the 32-bit software is confined to a 2GB limit, so large databases can be held complete in physical memory for faster transactions.

The software also allows 32-bit and 64-bit applications to run at the same time, within the same Linux instance on the mainframe, so that 32-bit applications can be retained where they are needed.

SuSE Linux Server 7 uses the 2.4.17 Linux kernel, glibc 2.2.4, Logical Volume Manager and the journaling file system ReiserFS. It supports HiperSockets, an IBM technology for speeding up data transfer among the virtual servers in the mainframe. The ReiserFS journaling file system allows the system to recover quickly after an interruption or crash, and is optimised for data entries containing large numbers of small files, SuSE said.

IBM is spending about $1bn (£700m) a year on various Linux projects, and at the end of this month plans to launch its first zSeries mainframe running only Linux.

The system can run hundreds of versions of Linux, each a separate machine, and IBM believes customers will use it to replace larger numbers of other servers spread out across businesses.

The most likely customer is indeed "the customer who is feeling the pain of having a server farm sprawl," said Giga Information Group analyst David Mastrobattista. The system is likely to replace Unix servers from Sun Microsystems and Windows servers from companies such as Compaq, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, running jobs such as sharing files, managing print jobs or delivering Web pages.

IBM boasts that 11 percent of the mainframe computing processing power sold in the fourth quarter of 2001 was for running Linux jobs. This computing power, which can come either from new systems or from switching on idle processors in existing systems, is measured in the arcane unit known as "MIPS" (millions of instructions per second).

SuSE also recently announced version 8 of its mainstream Linux operating system, and said it will have a 64-bit version of SuSE Linux available for AMD's Hammer chip by November.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

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