Mainframe Propeller Head

Mar 5 2009   4:20PM GMT

Linux on z/VM a big topic at Share this week

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

There are more than a dozen sessions here at Share in Austin this week on running Linux on the IBM System z within z/VM, big iron’s virtualization operating system. Nationwide, John Deere, the list goes on and on.

Yesterday I sat in on one of those sessions, where a systems engineer for a large financial institution (she declined to be named due to corporate policy) echoed the sentiments that Bhanu Rai from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina told me in an interview the day before: Executive buy-in is crucial.

“Upper management buy-in is way easier than grassroots efforts,” the engineer said, adding that you need to “realize that success won’t happen until upper management buys in.”

This company started testing Linux on System z back in 2001, so they were early adopters. They run Novell SuSE 9 on top of z/VM 5.4 on their mainframes in two data centers, the primary in Minnesota and a disaster recovery site in Arizona. One of the major applications they moved to the mainframe handles ATM transactions, and the engineer said they shrunk response time at the ATM machines from “in the seconds” down to 156 milliseconds by putting it on zLinux and tuning it there.

Among a bunch of other applications, they also run a Web application on the mainframe that records secondary mortgages, which the engineer joked was “probably very low utilization right now.” Now, she says, Linux on the mainframe is the default, and if you want to do something else, you need to make a good business case for it.

At least part of that has to do with the increasing energy costs of continuing to build out a server farm, something they can stall with zLinux.

“We even have a power committee now,” she said. “If you want to put in a new piece of hardware, you have to go to the power committee to get it approved.”

Installing a new Linux image on z/VM requires no such visit.

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