Operating Systems

Mainframe Linux on $2 a Day

6 Pages

- Uninstall the software

- Purchase the upgrade protection for all your installed systems

- Continue using the software, but without access to maintenance.

Note that most, if not all, third-party suppliers that certify their software on SLES require that Novell’s upgrade protection be in place. They want you to be able to keep your systems updated or they won’t consider your use of their software to be supported.

Novell/SUSE recently offered another no-cost evaluation option: Fill out the Web form at www.nov-ell.com/linux/ibm. You can fill out the Web form and have physical media mailed to you for both S/390 and zSeries. Along with that comes installation support and six months of maintenance. The Website doesn’t explicitly state that the offer can be changed or withdrawn at any time, but that’s the case, according to Novell. Again, you’ll need to create a Novell user account and password to access the form if you don’t already have one.

In the past, SUSE has been rather flexible about both the price and length of time for evaluations. While leading in the mainframe market, they’re a distant second with the Intel-based platforms. They seem to have been trying to use their mainframe market lead and flexibility to make inroads in the Intel market.

So, if you need more than 30 days to get everything set up and tested, Red Hat may not be workable. Depending on your needs, Novell/SUSE may not be an option, either, which brings us to the no-cost alternatives mentioned earlier. You can use any of them for as long as you want, in any way you want, with access to maintenance, to try to develop the best possible business case for your particular situation. Remember, it’s unlikely that third-party software suppliers will certify their products to run on these distributions. If that’s important to your intended use of Linux, then treat these as stepping-stones to a business case to purchase one of the certified commercial distributions.

Debian: At least one of the Debian for S/390 developers works for IBM as a Linux for S/390 and zSeries developer. This makes Debian unique among the mainframe Linux distributions. Several shops have installed Debian/390 and find that it works well. Debian has more than 8,000 packages available. Many have no use on a mainframe system, but large numbers do. Originally created using IBM’s Linux Community Development System (LCDS), the 31-bit platform has been available for several years; the 64-bit version is in development. One of the attractions of Debian is that you can install a truly small/minimal system, consuming little in terms of system resources. That’s because the Debian developers try to minimize inter-package dependencies as much as possible. This gives you the flexibility to install as few or as many packages as needed. Debian doesn’t use the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM) tool to install and manage software. Instead, it has its own package format (.deb) and package management tools. There are also tools to convert packages to and from other package formats, if necessary. Note that this doesn’t mean the packages will always work well when transferred to your system, just that it’s possible to do so.

Debian can be obtained from one of the Debian download servers located around the world. Debian has a unique tool named “jigdo” for “jigsaw downloader.” With a little setup and one command, jigdo lets you download pieces of Debian CD images from various servers, which are then reconstructed into complete CD images on your system’s hard drive. This is an interesting approach to the problem of very large and long downloads being interrupted and having to be restarted. Sine Nomine Associates, a research, consulting and IT services company, has used Debian for S/390 to produce a “drop-in” Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) server for z/VM, as well as SSH and SSL proxies. These are available for free download from the Sine Nomine Website and can greatly enhance your z/VM functionality.

Fedora: For shops interested in buying Red Hat Linux, Fedora might look attractive, since it’s developed by Red Hat with considerable community support. However, according to Alan Cox of Red Hat, Fedora for S/390 and zSeries is really not tested much, if at all. He also believes the Fedora installer probably won’t work on the mainframe. Also, Fedora isn’t an analog of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux product. Fedora is intended as a proving ground with a rapid development cycle for packages and features that may or may not wind up in the supported RHEL product line. There have been no reports in the Linux390 mailing list hosted by Marist College of anyone installing and using Fedora on the mainframe. If this doesn’t discourage you, Fedora for S/390 and zSeries can be downloaded from the Fedora download servers or one of its mirrors.

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