IT Management

Linux on System z: Waltzing Matilda

First quarter 2010 has been relatively quiet in the Linux on System z world. Both Novell and Red Hat seem to be concentrating on enhancing the distributions and application certifications, as well as extending the reach of the enterprise distributions to new customers—pretty much business as usual. That said, there have been a few interesting developments in the ecosystem around the Linux on System z world. 

The first interesting item is that it’s internship season at the colleges. I received my first résumé the other day from a college job fair with the IBM Academic Initiative for System z prominently featured as professional experience. If you aren’t aware of this program (or your local IBM representative hasn’t mentioned it to you), IBM has been sponsoring colleges and other educational institutions to provide training in System z (mainly z/OS) skills. We’re starting to see younger people with an interest in developing and maintaining the System z environment, and more of them are aware there’s a world beyond the typical Intel desktop they’ve been dealing with literally all their lives. This year’s crop also seem to be returning to some knowledge of batch processing as a way to scale large systems, so there’s a positive direction in the preparation of the next generation. Well done, IBM and academia. 

Second, the Sun/Oracle saga continues to develop and generate uncertainty around the enterprise Linux market. In late February, Sun announced the withdrawal of its confusingly named OpenSolaris distribution for Intel. The source code (and the OpenSolaris distribution for System z) continue to be available, but the withdrawal of service and the distribution contents free up the marketplace to expand the development of Linux and Linux-related solutions by others. IBM has been taking advantage of the continuing confusion by aggressively marketing Linux and “Linux accompanied by z/OS” solutions to enterprise customers, with some success. Many of the enterprise customers I’ve talked with discuss the Linux option directly without any concern for the future—it’s reached the mainstream acceptance we were anticipating all along. It’s also interesting that the discussion presented a few issues back on the future of commercial Solaris on SPARC and Intel is playing out in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment. Guess Larry Ellison and company pay more attention to z/Journal than we thought, eh? 

In other Linux-related news, Insight Consulting released a new server operating system report that indicates Linux is shipping on four times as many systems as any other UNIX variant, on any platform. There’s no breakdown of what percentage of those servers are non-Intel, but the acceptance of the pundits will also drive some additional opportunities for both application engineers and the Linux distributors in the near future.  

An advance note for developing and thinking about infrastructure that may influence the direction of application design is a new approach to designing applications based on biological models.  There’s some interesting reading on this approach and the role that large-scale Linux environments are playing in the evolution of the idea in the agenda of the 5th International ICST Conference on Bio-Inspired Models of Network, Information, and Computing Systems scheduled in  Boston in December 2010. It’s worth looking into to learn more about the evolution of very-high-speed internal memory-based networks (e.g., HiperSocket-like devices) to connect applications and data.   

I’ll sign off with a wish to meet up with any of you who will be attending WAVV. In addition to the recent SHARE conference, WAVV represents your best and least expensive way to get more education. 

See you there!